THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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Exploring Europe at the British Library

Introduction

Discover the British Library's extensive collections from continental Europe and read news and views on European culture and affairs from our subject experts and occasional guest contributors. Read more

24 August 2016

The 1919-1921 Ukrainian Diplomatic Mission in London

24 August 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the day when the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of the then Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) declared Ukraine’s independence and the creation of today’s sovereign state of Ukraine. This decision was endorsed in a referendum held in Ukraine on 1 December 1991. The United Kingdom officially recognised Ukraine at the end of the year, and on 10 January 1992 diplomatic relations between Ukraine and the UK were formally established. Later in the year the Ukrainian Embassy in London began to function. This was not, however, the first time that diplomatic representatives of an independent Ukrainian state were based in London.

In the years 1919-1921 there was a semi-official diplomatic mission in London representing the government of the Ukrainska Narodna Respublika, or UNR (variously translated as Ukrainian People’s Republic or Ukrainian National Republic), established in the revolutionary period after the fall of the Russian Empire. A law providing for the dispatch of a ten-member mission to England was passed on 23 January 1919. Part of the text of this law is shown in the following image from a collection of laws and resolutions concerning Ukrainian government institutions abroad, published unofficially in 1919 in Vienna.

Zbirnykzakoniv5759.aa.17From Zbirnyk zakoniv i postanov Ukrainskoho Pravytelstva vidnosno zakordonnykh instytutsii, compiled by Ivan Khrapko (Vienna, 1919) 5759.aa.17.

The mission was not officially recognised by the British government and initially had difficulties in obtaining clearance to enter the UK. It finally arrived in London, via Vienna, Stockholm and Copenhagen, in May 1919. The first head of the mission was Mykola Stakhovsky, a practising doctor and, from May 1917, administrator of the Podillia region of Ukraine. In September 1919 he resigned owing to ill health. To succeed him the UNR government appointed Arnold Margolin, a prominent Ukrainian-Jewish political leader who was the UNR government’s deputy minister of foreign affairs from January to March 1919. Margolin headed the London mission from November 1919 until his resignation in August 1920. His successor was Jaroslav Olesnitsky, a lawyer from Western Ukraine, who was already on the staff of the mission.

UNR mission
Members of the initial staff of the London mission. From Istorychnyi kaliendar-almanakh “Chervonoi Kalyny” na 1939 rik (Lviv, 1938)

The mission’s two main tasks were to urge the British government to recognise the Ukrainian republic and to provide information on the state of affairs in Ukraine. The mission also appealed for moral support for Ukraine in its struggle against Soviet forces, and sought to establish commercial relations between Ukraine and the UK.

Shortly after arriving in London, the mission established a Ukrainian Press Bureau which published a weekly bulletin entitled The Ukraine. This covered topics such as events in Ukraine, activities of the UNR government and its delegation at the 1919-1920 Paris Peace Conference, and opportunities for trade with Ukraine. 35 issues in total were published, between July 1919 and February 1920, before it was discontinued, probably owing to a lack of funds. A complete set of The Ukraine is held by the British Library (LOU.LON 628 [1919] and LOU.LON 580 [1920]).

TheUkraine1919 Page 1 of the first issue of The Ukraine (London, 1919) 

The British Library also holds a copy of a 64-page booklet, published by the mission, entitled Ukrainian Problems. A Collection of Notes and Memoirs Etc. This contains the texts of various letters and memoranda addressed to British officials between March 1919 (when the mission was still seeking permission to enter the UK) and September of that year.

UkrainianProblemsCoverCover of Ukrainian Problems  (london, 1919). 8095.g.35.

In the second half of 1920 members of the London mission were closely involved in an unsuccessful attempt by the UNR government to gain the admission of Ukraine to membership of the newly-formed League of Nations. In November 1920 the UNR government, having suffered military defeat, was forced to leave Ukraine for exile in Poland. This, and the increasing consolidation of Soviet power in Ukraine, made it ever more difficult for the mission to fulfil its purpose. Its head, Jaroslav Olesnitsky, returned to Ukraine in 1921.

Although Ukraine’s struggle for independence in 1917-1920  was short-lived, it played a pivotal role in the formation of the modern Ukrainian nation. It was also a key reason why the Ukrainian SSR was initially established as a nominally independent state, even though in reality it was controlled by Moscow. Ukraine’s distinctiveness was emphasised again in 1945, when the Ukrainian SSR, along with the Soviet Union as a whole and the Belarusian SSR, became a founding member of the United Nations, the successor of the League of Nations. In this story, which culminates in Ukraine’s declaration of independence 25 years ago, it is worth remembering the part, albeit small, played by the London diplomatic mission of the UNR.

Roman Krawec, editor of Ukrainians in the United Kingdom: Online encyclopaedia 

 Further reading

Dyplomatiia UNR ta Ukrainskoi Derzhavy v dokumentakh i spohadakh suchasnykiv, ed. by I. Hnatyshyn, O. Kucheruk and O. Mavrin, 2 vols (Kyiv, 2008). ZF.9.a.7417

Arnold Margolin,  From a Political Diary: Russia, the Ukraine, and America (New York, 1946). 9011.g.15.

D. Saunders, ‘Britain and the Ukrainian Question (1912-1920)’, The English Historical Review, vol. CIII, no. 406 (January 1988), pp. 40-68. P.P.3408.

22 August 2016

The First World War, Ukraine, and the Birth of Independence?

In 1914, when the First World War broke out, the Ukrainian lands were split between the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires. Ukrainian soldiers fought on both sides of the conflict; 4,500,000 Ukrainians fought in the Russian armies and 250,000-300,000 in the Austro-Hungarian armies.

In August 1914, while the global conflict was beginning to take shape, a small group of political exiles from the Russian-ruled area of Ukraine, who were living in Vienna, began an independence movement. It was founded on 4 August 1914 by six men who called themselves the ‘Union for the Liberation of Ukraine’ (Soiuz Vyzvolennia Ukrainy): Oleksander Skoropys-Yoltukhovsky, Marian Melenevsky, Andrii Zhuk, Volodymyr Doroshenko, Dmytro Dontsov and Mykola Zalizniak.

The Union’s first attempt to reach out to the West is held in a collection of printed ephemera at the British Library. The four page leaflet is entitled ‘To the Public Opinion of Europe’ and details their views on the need for Ukraine to be liberated from the rule of both the Russian and Austro-Hungarian governments.

To the public opinion 1

 D. Donzow [et al.] To the public opinion of Europe: on behalf of the ‘Bond for the Freeing of Ukraine’. ([Vienna], 1914). British Library Tab.11748.aa.4.(15).)

To the public opinipn 2

The leaflet was dated 25 August 1914 and it appears that the Union began to distribute them immediately. The New York Times commented on this, saying:

The Ruthenian inhabitants of Galicia, one-half the population of the country, founded a League for the Release of Ukraine and flooded Europe from the 25th of August with notifications and descriptions hostile to Russia.

In actual fact this report is a little misleading, there were not very many employees of the Union (only 42) and it was not particularly well supported by the public. What it does indicate is that the Union, and its publication, reached the ears of far-flung America.

Although this foray into printing was successful, their next attempt, a manifesto that was to be signed by the rulers of both Germany and Austro-Hungary was rejected by both countries, and the half a million pre-printed copies they had made to distribute among the public had to be destroyed. Neither Germany nor Austro-Hungary wanted to support an independent Ukraine openly, at the risk of making the political situation with Russia worse. Although the countries would not sign the manifesto, both sent the Union money to help spread the message about an independent Ukraine. After this failure to be officially recognised by the two countries, the Union moved to Berlin, and the members limited themselves to printing propaganda leaflets and distributing them along the Eastern Front. The Union had offices in neutral Switzerland, as well as Romania, Sweden, Norway, Britain and the United States, to help pass along information about their cause.

Znachinnie samostiinoi 8095.ff.86Title page of Oleksander Skoropys-Ioltukhovskyi, Znachinnie samostiinoi Ukrainy dlia ievropeiskoi rivnovahy [The Importance of independent Ukraine for European stability]  (Vienna, 1916). 8095.ff.86.

In 1915 the Union began to fight for the rights of Ukrainian prisoners of war. Originally these prisoners were detained with people from other countries, but the Union fought for separate, Ukrainian, camps. These Ukrainian prisoner of war camps were established, and captured soldiers could choose whether they wanted to move into these special camps with their countrymen. The Union went around the camps delivering citizenship classes, in order to try and win sceptical soldiers over to support for an independent Ukraine.

Ukrainian League songs
From: Sim pisen’. Hostynets dlia ukrainskykh voiakiv vid “Soiuza vyzvolennia Ukrainy [‘Seven Songs. A Present for Ukrainian soldiers from Union of Liberation of Ukraine’], with the stamp of the Union on the left-hand page (Vienna, 1915) 011586.aaa.10

But in March 1917 the Ukrainian Revolution began. It was begun in Ukraine, by people who lived there, and the Union (still in Berlin) had no connection to the revolution. In actuality the Union had little, if any, connections in Ukraine during the years 1914-1917. Despite the Union fostering national pride among prisoners of war, and gaining some (financial) recognition from the Austrian and German governments, the revolution has overshadowed their efforts, and they have largely been forgotten in the history of Ukrainian independence.

Ann-Marie Foster, PhD Placement Student in the British Library

Further reading:


Oleh S. Fedyshyn, Germany’s Drive to the East and the Ukrainian Revolution, 1917-1918 (New Jersey, 1971) X.800/7830.

Georg Brandes, “Fate of the Jews in Poland” (From The Day, Nov 29, 1914) in The New York Times Current History: the European War, February, 1915, by Various. ([New York], 1915). PP.4048.bd. (Available online via Project Gutenberg)

Ivan Pater, Soiuz vyzvolennia Ukraïny: problemy derzhavnosti i sobornosti.  (Lʹviv, 2000). YA.2002.a.27084

Soiuz vyzvolennia Ukraïny 1914-1918 Videnʹ (New York, 1979). YA.1987.a.2971

Orest Subtelny, Ukraine: a history.  (Toronto, 1994).  95/11578

Ann-Marie Foster is a PhD placement student at the British Library cataloguing the First World War Ephemera collection. Her research examines the ways in which families used ephemera and memorial objects to remember loved ones who died during war or in a disaster.

19 August 2016

Olympictures

As the 2016 Olympics draw towards their close, in the spirit of Olympic internationalism and respect between nations, we thought we’d pay a BL European Studies homage to the successes enjoyed by Team GB with images from our historic collections showing some of the sports in which British athletes have won gold this year.

Britain’s very first medal in Rio was a gold – for swimmer Adam Peaty. Clearly he didn’t learn from the clumsy figures in Melchisedech Thevenot’s manual L’art de nager, first published in 1696, some of whom appear to be drowning rather than swimming successfully:

Olympics Swimming 1568-4677 pl.1 Olympics Swimming 1568-4677 pl.7

Olympics Swimming 1568-4677 pl.18 Olympics Swimming 1568-4677 pl.21
Melchisedech Thevenot,  L’art de nager ...Quatrième édition (Paris, 1782)

The last of these looks as if he might have just executed a rather clumsy dive – not something you would find synchro diving winners Jack Laugher and Chris Mears doing. Diving developed as a sport in Sweden and Germany in the early 19th century, and was linked to the development of gymnastics, a sport where Britain won Olympic gold for the first time in Rio. In honour of Max Whitlock’s two winning disciplines, here are some 19th-century German pommel horse and floor exercises:

Olympics gymnastics 785.f.29 Pommel Olympics gymnastics 785.f.29 floor
Illustrations from Hermann Robolsky und Adolph Töppe, Abbildungen von Turn-Uebungen (Berlin 1845)

It’s been a good year all round for British tennis, with Andy Murray’s second Wimbledon singles title and successful defence of his 2012 Olympic one. In 18th-century France, his sport would have been jeu de paume, illustrated here, with some of the tools involved in racquet making, from an encyclopaedia of arts and professions:

Olympics tennis 1811.c.20 pl. 3
François Alexandre de Garsault, Art du Paumier-Raquetier, et de la paume, from Descriptions des Arts et Métiers, vol. 7 (Paris, 1767) 1811.c.20.(7.)

Tennis is a rather stereotypically British sport, as is anything to do with horses, which brings us to dressage. Many of our books on ‘horse dancing’ are more haute école than modern Olympic dressage, but we think Charlotte Dujardin might recognise these moves from an 18th-century Spanish manual: 

Olympics Dressage 7907.e Circulo Olympics Dressage 7907.e pasear
Salvador Rodriguez Jordan, Escuela de a cavallo dividida en tres tratados… (Madrid, 1751) 7907.e.

Equestrianism has long been seen as the sport of kings, but if there’s one discipline where Britain has ruled in Rio, it’s cycling. This illustration from a late 19th-century German book suggests that this too was once the pastime of princes, here Ludwig Ferdinand and Alfons of Bavaria, though Britain’s lycra-clad winners – too many to name individually – with their lightweight, high-tech machines, might find it harder going with tweeds, bow ties, boaters and heavy bikes.

Olympics cycling  YA.1989.b.4724
Two Bavarian princes and their bikes, from Der Radfahrsport in Bild und Wort (Munich, 1897) YA.1989.b.4724

Finally (and with apologies to all the wonderful medallists whose sports we’ve had to miss out) a reminder that the modern Olympics were the brainchild of a Frenchman, Pierre de Coubertin, and that the first modern Games in 1896 were held, like their ancient predecessors, in Greece – although in Athens, not Olympia, as this souvenir album, with Coubertin’s likeness on the cover, makes clear.

Olympics Anamnestikon 1896 1788.d.3
Cover of Anamnēstikon leukōma tōn Olympiakōn Agōnōn tou 1896 (Athens, 1896) 1788.d.3.