Vynnychenko Volodymyr Kyrylovych was born on
July 28, 1880, in the village of Velyky Kut of Yelysavetgrad povit, Kherson
province (Kirovograd region) into a peasant family. After finishing primary school
he entered Yelysavetgrad gymnasium but could not finish it because of a lack
of funds. He passed examinations for gymnasium as an outsider and then
entered the Law faculty of Kyiv University. He took part in the work of
Revolutionary Ukrainian party (RUP), then USDRP. He carried out agitation and
propaganda among the workers of Kyiv and Poltava province. In 1903 he was
arrested, expelled from the University and put in one-man cell in the
Lukyanivka Prison. He survived
through the escape, arrests, penalty battalion, illegal emigration, numerous
crossings of frontiers (to bring illegal revolutionary literature) and
emigration again. In the beginning of the World War I he came back to Russia
and lived under an assumed name, being engaged in literary activity.
On the eve of the February revolution V. K.
Vynnychenko was a popular writer and well-known revolutionary with a long
record of party membership, one of USDRP leaders. He was elected a deputy head
of Tsentralna Rada, headed its central executive body – General Secretariat –
the first national government of Ukraine since June 1917. He was the author
of almost all the declarations and legislative acts of Tsentralna Rada of
V. K. Vynnychenko was one of few politicians who
had his own position in extraordinary situations, he had his own vision of
the prospects and how to orient oneself to achieve the main purpose – the
state of Ukrainian people, the renewal of its national consciousness. At the
same time he was permanently attacked by his political opponents and first of
all, the Ukrainian party of Socialist Revolutionaries who carried on a broad
campaign of political compromises against him.
A competent General Secretariat was created
through his efforts. V. Vynnychenko persuaded the Provisional Government to
give the General Secretariat a status of the highest executive organ in
Ukraine. V. Vynnychenko did his best to order relations with the Provisional
Government, which had a plan to imprison the Ukrainian leaders and disperse
their Tsentralna Rada.
V. K. Vynnychenko stood for the expansion of the
General Secretariat power to all the Ukraine provinces, for the cessation of
hostilities in Kyiv, disbandment of the officer and voluntary detachments.
The Third Universal, written by V. Vynnychenko himself and announced by
Mykhailo Hrushevsky at the meeting of the Minor Rada, proclaimed Ukraine to
be the Autonomous People’s Republic.
Late in December 1917, the political situation
in Ukraine became more complex. On the one hand the Council of People’s
Commissars (CPS) of the RSFSR declared war on Ukraine and sent their armed
forces. On the other hand – Ukrainian Socialist Revolutionaries established
relations with the left SRs of Russia, who supported Bolsheviks with the aim
to capture General Secretariat. Having the biggest fraction in Tsentralna
Rada they thought the realization of their plan to be too simple. V.
Vynnychenko, whose authority and popularity
among politicians and broad strata of people were exceptionally high,
served the only obstacle for them.
The Tsentralna Rada, pressed by the external and
internal factors, approved the Fourth Universal, according to which the
Ukrainian People’s Republic became an independent, sovereign state of Ukrainian
people. The executive organ of power – General Secretariat turned into the
Council of People’s Ministers. At that time the Social Democratic fraction
accused SRs of making advances to Bolsheviks and called their representatives
from the Council of People’s Ministers. On January 15, 1918, V. Vynnychenko
sent his Cabinet resignation to M. Hrushevsky, and on January 18, the Minor
Rada had to accept the resignation.
When the Bolshevist army began to attack
Ukraine, V. Vynnychenko with his family left for Berdyansk. Under the
hetmanate he lived on the farm Knyazha Hora in the Kaniv province, when he
had written a play Between Two Forces. In August 1918 he headed The Ukrainian
National Union that opposed Skoropadsky’s hetmanate. He soon became the head
of Directoria, suggested an idea to call the Ukrainian Labour Congress, which
also elected him to this post. But conflicts with S. Petlyura, who was the
member of the Directory and headed the military formations of UPR, resulted
in V. Vynnychenko’s resignation on February 10, 1919 and his going abroad.
When staying in Vienna, V. Vynnychenko has
written a memoir-publicistic work Rebirth of a Nation: The History of
Ukrainian Revolution. March 1917 – December 1919 in three volumes, which is
an important source for studying the then revolutionary process.
Late in 1919 V. Vynnychenko left USDRP and
organized the Foreign group of the Ukrainian Communist Party in Vienna. Late
in May 1920 he arrived in Moscow and was offered to occupy the post of the
deputy chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Ukrainian
Socialist Soviet Republic with a portfolio of People’s Commissar of Foreign
Affairs and co-optation to the Central Committee of CP(B)U. The Soviet
authorities wanted to use the name of V. Vynnychenko for political purposes.
Becoming familiar with the economical and political situation in the state
and comprehending that he was invited for tactical reasons V. Vynnychenko
rejected the offer and returned to Vienna. There he criticized the national
and social policy of RCP(B) and Soviet government, but made no efforts to
lead the movement for consolidation of émigré elements for the
struggle with the Soviet power.
During German occupation in France V.
Vynnychenko was put into a concentration camp for the rejection to cooperate
with fascists. At the end of the war he called to disarmament and peaceful
coexistence of people all over the world. The literary legacy of Volodymyr
Vynnychenko is huge. It impresses not only in terms of the quantity of the written
works but by the diversity of genres. His plays were staged not only in
Ukrainian theaters but also abroad.
V. Vynnychenko spent his last 25 years in Mujen,
a French settlement near Cannes, where he died in 1951.