Harvest of Despair



The Ukrainian Communist Party, properly named the Communist Party of Ukraine (Komunistychna Partiya Ukrainy – CPU), was known until 1952 as the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine [CP(b)U].  In April 1918, Mykola Skrypnyk, with the support of the Kyiv Bolsheviks, overcame opposition from the Russian membership and succeeded in setting up the CP(b)U as an independent party with no organizational subordination to the Russian Communist Party . At the Party’s congress in July 1918 this resolution was revoked and the CP(b)U declared itself to be an integral part of the Russian Communist Party and subject to its Central Committee.

The CP(b)U established its dominance over Ukraine only with the help of the Red Army; the party was neither large nor popular. In 1926 only 19 percent of its membership was Ukrainian. The party’s grip on power became total only during the NEP period (1921-27). A conflict soon developed with Moscow and within the party over the policy of Ukrainization; the pro-Russian wing of the party eventually won out. With the defeat of Trotsky and then Kamenev, Zinoviev and Bukharin, Stalin assumed dictatorship over the CPSU and the Soviet state. Members of the CP(b)U who supported more autonomy from Moscow were accused of nationalism, removed from the party and either sentenced to labor camps or shot. During the first half of the 1930s, as famine raged in Soviet Ukraine, 46 percent of the Party’s membership was expelled and repressed, as was 49 percent of its Central Committee.

In 1936-38 the CP(b)U, as part of the Great Terror that swept the USSR, underwent another great purge. This time even the membership loyal to Stalin was not spared. In 1937 almost the entire membership of the Central Committee of the CP(b)U and the government of the Ukrainian SSR were shot. In 1938, Nikita Khrushchev and a large group of Russian cadres came from Moscow to take over the leadership of the party. By this time the CP(b)U was simply an instrument for the extension of Stalin’s will in Soviet Ukraine.