22 January – Ukrainian Unity Day

Officially, January 22 in Ukraine is a holiday established by the Decree of the President of Ukraine ” Ukrainian Unity Day ” as of January 21, 1999 № 42/99.

The proclamation of the Unification of the Ukrainian People’s Republic and the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic on January 22, 1919 is a historic act of Ukrainian lands’ unification in one state, an event fundamental to Ukrainian statehood. However, due to the failures of the Ukrainian revolution of 1917-1921, statehood could not be preserved. And as a result, during the XX century Ukrainians were forced to renew it several times in the struggle.

There are a number of meanings of the term ” unification “. The most common of these are: the unification of all lands inhabited by a particular nation in a single territory; spiritual consolidation of all the state’s inhabitants, unity of citizens, regardless of their nationality. Finally, unification is inseparable from the statehood, sovereignty and real independence of the people – the foundation for building a democratic state.

The idea of the unity of all Ukrainian lands “from the Sian to the Don ” has always been relevant in the Ukrainian intellectual environment. From the middle of the XIX century these statements are crystallized in the policy documents of various political groups. In particular, for the first time the statement about the unity of the multimillion Ukrainian people, divided between the Russian and Austrian empires, was made on May 10, 1848 in the manifesto of the Main Russian Council – the first political organization in Galicia.

Since the end of the XIX century unification became the cornerstone of ideological declarations, programs and manifestos of Ukrainian political parties. The idea of the unity of the Ukrainian people was developed by Yulian Bachynsky in 1895 in Ukraina irredenta and Mykola Mikhnovsky in 1900 in Independent Ukraine. In the following decades, the idea of unification remained an integral factor and almost the only non-debatable position of the program goals of all currents of the national liberation movement.

The Ukrainian revolution of 1917-1921 made it possible to finally realize the original desire of Ukrainians to gain an independent nation-state. As a result of the fact that the Ukrainian lands were part of two empires, there were also two Ukrainian national state formations. The Ukrainian People’s Republic was the first to be proclaimed on the ruins of the Russian Empire, and later, in November 1918, the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic was formed on the territory of the former Austria-Hungary.

At the turn of 1918-1919, favorable circumstances arose to unite the two states into one. On December 1, 1918, at the Fastiv railway station, a “preliminary agreement” (ie a preliminary one) was signed between the representatives of the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic and the Ukrainian People’s Republic on the unification of the two states and their intentions for future unification into one state. The articles of the agreement stated that, first, the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic declared its “unshakable intention to merge into one great state with the Ukrainian People’s Republic in the shortest possible time.” On the other hand, the UPR proclaimed that it agreed to “accept the entire territory and population of the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic as part of the state integrity of the Ukrainian People’s Republic.” That is, the agreement also noted that the Galician Republic receives territorial autonomy within the UPR. The December treaty in two originals (one for each republic) could be published with the consent of the governments. It was signed by: from the Ukrainian People’s Republic – Volodymyr Vynnychenko, Symon Petliura, Fedir Shvets, Panas Andriievskyi, from the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic – Lonhyn Tsehelsky and Dmytro Levytskyi.

Ratification of the Preliminary Treaty was hampered by the unfavorable course of the war. The Western Ukrainian government was forced to move from Lviv to Ternopil, and later to Stanislaviv. There, on January 3, 1919, at the very first meeting of the Ukrainian National Council, the “Resolution of the Ukrainian National Council on the unification of the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic with the Ukrainian People’s Republic” was unanimously approved. A representative delegation (36 people) headed by the Vice-President of the National Council of the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic Lev Bachynsky was sent to Kyiv to proclaim it and complete the legalization of the unification of the two republics.

On January 22, 1919, on the first anniversary of the proclamation of the Fourth Universal in Kyiv, a solemn meeting was held on Sofia Square, at which the Universal of the Directory of the Ukrainian People’s Republic on unification with the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic was proclaimed.

The Act of Unification of January 22, 1919 crowned the conciliar aspirations of Ukrainians in both parts of Ukraine – the Dnieper and Transnistria.

The unification of the Ukrainian People’s Republic and the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic into one state was not completed for a number of reasons. The main one is the difficult situation in which the Directory and its government soon found themselves, which were forced to leave almost the entire territory of Ukraine under pressure from Soviet troops. The Western Ukrainian People’s Republic was not in the best situation either, being in a state of constant military action with the Polish armies. In practice, the Resolution of the Ukrainian People’s Republic of January 3 and the Universal Directory of January 22, 1919, only declared that state unification would take place in the future. It was to be consolidated by the All-Ukrainian Constituent Assembly, which in those conditions proved impossible to convene. Until then, a confederate state relationship had been established between the two Ukrainian states entities with individual governments, public administration systems and the armed forces. This organizational separation persisted even when the territory of the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic was completely occupied by Polish troops, and its government, together with the army, found itself in the territory directly controlled by the Directory.

At the same time, although the unity of Ukraine failed to be approved, the Act of Unification remained a significant event that was of great historical significance for Ukrainian society. He declared to the whole world the indivisibility of Ukrainian lands, the unity and solidarity of the people, became a prologue to the emergence of a modern conciliar sovereign Ukraine.

In the context of the present, unification is not only a remarkable act of the past, which we honor every year on January 22, but above all a set of urgent tasks to create the future – our own and our state, which must be worked on daily. National unity is not only a basic value of the country’s citizens, but also a prerequisite for successful resistance to external aggression. Today, Ukraine continues to fight for independence and unity. Therefore, unification remains on the agenda of national tasks.

The information was prepared based on the materials of the UINP