After the occupation of Western Ukraine by the Red Army in September 1939, the Soviet authorities sought to be seen as “liberators” of the Ukrainians inhabiting these territories from the Polish bourgeois imperialist yoke. To this end in the first weeks and months of the occupation, Soviet authorities abolished several discriminatory laws that had been part of Polish rule over these lands. Educational instruction in elementary and secondary schools, as well as the University in Lviv, whose name was changed to the Ivan Franko University was changed from the Polish to the Ukrainian language. Banks, trade and commercial businesses were nationalized, and land was redistributed to the peasants.

On 22 October 1939 General Tymoshenko, commander-in-chief of the western front, organized elections to the Popular Constituent Assembly of Western Ukraine. In the grand tradition of Soviet elections, the overwhelming majority of mandates went to the candidates supported by Moscow. On 26 October, the Constituent Assembly unanimously adopted a motion requesting that the Supreme Soviet of the USSR unite Western Ukraine with Soviet Ukraine. The Supreme Soviet graciously acceded to this demand and Western Ukraine was incorporated into the Ukrainian SSR.

Despite initial optimism about Soviet rule by some segments of the population of Western Ukraine, after the incorporation of Western Ukraine into the Ukrainian SSR a two-year period of terror and repressions gripped the region, interrupted only by the German invasion of the USSR in June 1941.