Harvest of Despair


SVU – (Spilka vyzvolennia Ukrainy, or Union for the Liberation of Ukraine)

The SVU was a fictitious political organization, trumped up by the OGPU in order to create a pretense to end the policy of Ukrainization. The SVU was supposedly made up of 45 Ukrainian intellectuals, who were subjected to a show trial in Kharkiv in March-April 1930.

The members of the SVU were charged with plotting to overthrow the Soviet regime and restoring capitalism in Ukraine through a fascist dictatorship under the leadership of academician Serhii Yefremov. The revolt was to be headed by an armed uprising by kulaks and other “class enemies.” The prosecution claimed to have uncovered cells of the SVU in the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, the school system and the management of rural cooperatives.

All 45 defendants were convicted. However they received fairly light sentences – from 3 to 10 years in prison. Almost all were rearrested in the following few years and died in prisons or the Gulag.

The show trial of the supposed members of the SVU was a political maneuver by the leadership of the USSR to create a pretense to end Ukrainization and the demands for more cultural and political autonomy by Communist leaders in the Ukrainian SSR. By linking the Ukrainian educational system, the Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and the rural cooperative movement to subversion against Soviet power, leaders in Moscow had a reason to begin the total subjugation of the Ukrainian SSR to the central Soviet leadership. In 1989, the Supreme Court of the Ukrainian SSR admitted that the charges against the 45 defendants in the SVU show trial were groundless, and all the defendants were rehabilitated.