b. 10 May 1879, Poltava, d. 25 May 1926, Paris.

Petliura, more than any other Ukrainian leader, personified the struggle for Ukrainian independence during and after WWI. He began his political activity at a young age; in 1901 he was expelled from the Poltava Theological Seminar for belonging to an underground Ukrainian organization. From 1901 he was active in the Revolutionary Ukrainian Party; he was arrested in December 1903. He was released in May 1904 and lived in Lviv for a short time, where he was editor of the RUP’s press organ Selianyn.

After the general amnesty that followed the 1905 Revolution, Petliura moved to Kyiv and later to Moscow, where he continued his work as an editor and publisher. From 1916 to 1917 he was deputy plenipotentiary of the All-Russian Union of Zemstvos aid committee on the Russian front. After the February 1917 Revolution Petliura became the head of the Ukrainian Military Committee. In June 1917 he became general secretary of military affairs in the General Secretariat of the Central Rada. During this time he built up the Ukrainian armed forces.

Petliura was instrumental in the popular uprising against the Hetmanate regime of Skoropadsky, and in February 1919 he was elected president of the new Directory government that re-established the Ukrainian National Republic. He led the Ukrainian armies against the Red and White armies of Russia, and in 1920 after the UNR signed the Treaty of Warsaw with the Polish government Petliura led the UNR armies that liberated Kyiv from the Red Army in May 1920 but was forced to retreat in June. In October 1920 Poland and Soviet Russia signed an armistice; Petliura and his armies were forced to retreat into Polish-held territories and submit to internment.

The UNR government went into exile in Poland. The Polish government was faced with increased pressure to hand Petliura over to Soviet Russia; as a result he had to flee to Budapest. He settled in Paris in 1924, where he founded the weekly newspaper Tryzub and oversaw the activities of the UNR government-in-exile. He was assassinated in 1926 by a Bessarabian Jew who claimed vengeance for Petliura’s supposed responsibility for the pogroms in Ukraine of 1918-20.

Petliura throughout his entire political and editorial career was uncompromising on the issue of Ukrainian independence. There is no evidence that he was responsible for the pogrom activities by UNR troops; in fact, all documented evidence points to the fact that he tried to stop pogroms carried out by UNR troops.

Petliura has remained a symbol of the fight for Ukrainian independent statehood, both in the diaspora and the Ukrainian population despite concerted effort by the Soviet government to present him as a cynical opportunist and a traitor of the Ukrainian people.