Harvest of Despair



b. 25 January 1872, Yasynutava, Katerynoslav gubernia, d. 7 July 1933 Kharkiv.

Skrypnyk was a Bolshevik leader and a Ukrainian politician and statesman. In 1901, Skrypnyk left his studies at the St. Petersburg Technological Institute and became a full-time Marxist revolutionary. By the time of the Revolution, Skrypnyk had been arrested more than a dozen times and exiled some seven times. During the Bolshevik coup in Petrograd in November 1917, Skrypnyk was a member of the command of the military-revolutionary committee.

Until January 1919, Skrypnyk was a member of the Cheka (Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counterrevolution), a predecessor of the OGPU and the NKVD. In 1920 he returned to Ukraine and served as commissar for internal affairs (1921-2), justice (1922-27), general procurator (1922-27), and education (1927-33). He became a member of the Central Committee (CC) of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine [CP(b)U] in 1925 and a member of the Politburo of the CPU (b) in the same year. He was an outspoken supporter of Ukrainization, and as commissar of education played a vital role in ukrainianizing the press, secondary and higher education.

While Skrypnyk remained a staunch Leninist and condemned opposition to Soviet rule, he remained a defender of Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian sovereignty and opposed the increasing centralization of Soviet rule during the first years of Stalinist dictatorship. He saw Ukraine as an equal partner in the Soviet state and fought in defense of her political and economic rights. In January 1933, Stalin sent Pavel Postyshev to Ukraine to establish stronger control over the republic; Skrypnyk’s policies were denounced and he was removed as commissar of education. Foreseeing his inevitable liquidation as an opponent of Stalin, Skrypnyk committed suicide in July 1933.