Every year, on January 22, Ukrainians celebrate the Day of Unity, dedicated to the unification of Ukraine, which took place in 1919.
The holiday was first established in 1999 in memory of “the great political and historical significance of the unification of the Ukrainian People’s Republic and the West Ukrainian People’s Republic for the formation of a unified (conciliar) Ukrainian state”.
In 2011, it was canceled, offering Ukrainians to combine two holidays: Freedom Day and Sobornosti Day. Combining these holidays not only shifted the emphasis, but also completely changed the meanings, historians say.
On January 22, 2014, the feast of Sobornost returned to Ukrainians.
“UP.Zhyttia” spoke with Ivan Stychynskyi, the chief specialist of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, about what happened on the Day of Sobornosty more than a century ago and what events should be remembered on this date.
Why is the Day of the Congregation celebrated on January 22
On the morning of Wednesday, January 22, 1919, two parts of independent Ukraine united: the Ukrainian People’s Republic and the West Ukrainian People’s Republic.
Historian Ivan Stychynskyi calls the date of the merger of the Ukrainian People’s Republic and the Ukrainian People’s Republic of Ukraine the most important date of the liberation struggle of Ukrainians in those years.
“Since Ukrainians have always had a unifying idea, it turns out that the Day of Sobornosti immediately became the crown of liberation struggles“, he continues.
When the Russian Empire disintegrated in 1917, independent movements began in the Ukrainian territories that were part of it.
Trans-Dnieper Ukraine, represented by the Ukrainian Central Council, adopted the third Universal, by which it separated itself as a territorial autonomy. It included 9 gubernias: Kyiv, Volyn, Podil, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Poltava, Katerynoslav, Odesa and Tavri.
|ZUNR and UNR in 1918/Screenshot from the project “10 Days of Independence”
Subsequently, on January 22, 1918, the Ukrainian SSR voted for the fourth universal, which declared the Ukrainian People’s Republic independent.
The then Western Ukrainian People’s Republic (ZUNR) was formed only a year after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and included 5 regions: Lviv, Ternopil, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk and Zakarpattia.
“Already from that time, when ZUNR was announced, there were talks in Ukrainian cultural and political circles about uniting it all into one country“, says the chief specialist of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance.
It was possible to realize this only in 1919, when such a political opportunity appeared, the historian says.
“There were political warnings on both sides about how this would happen: because these are different political systems, different models of government. Therefore, only the preliminary Act of Zluka was signed at first.
It was not just the signing of one document, but the renewal of an integral state mechanism, which was different before that.”– adds Ivan Stychynskyi.
Currently, Ukrainians celebrate the Day of Sobornosty as a symbol of unity and unity. On January 22, 1918, the Ukrainian People’s Republic won independence, a year to the day – two parts of Ukraine united.
But, according to the historian, after the first unification of Ukrainian lands in history, difficult times came for the state of Ukraine.
“Ukrainians waged war on many fronts with various opponents, the territories were shrinking. In the end, the Poles occupied Galicia, and then the Bolsheviks occupied the rest of the territory. And the whole state of Ukraine ceased to exist.
The western lands were under the occupation of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania, and most of the territory became the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.– says Ivan Stychynskyi.
Read also: The path to the formation of the Ukrainian State: 5 books about freedom and indomitability for the Day of the Assembly
|Rally on January 22, 1919/Photo: Historical truth
The historian explains that the disintegration of the territories after 1919 later gave the Bolsheviks reason to speculate that it was they who united Ukraine after 1939.
“This is one of the Russian myths: about the annexation of the western territories by the Bolsheviks and the awarding of the title of unifier. But Ukraine was already united in 1919, but our unity did not last due to the military defeat. Ukraine then found itself in extremely difficult conditions.”the expert continues.
How Ukrainians formed “Chains of Sobornost”
At the end of the existence of the Soviet Union, Ukrainians began to arrange so-called “chains of unity”. People held hands along the roads and formed long lines to demonstrate the unity of the Ukrainian people.
On January 21, 1990, Ukrainians formed a chain of unity from Kyiv to Lviv. It was one of the most massive actions in Central and Eastern Europe, which symbolized disagreement with the policies of the Communist Party.
|“Chain of Sobornost” in 1990/Photo: Historical Truth
“In this way, people demonstrated the unity of Ukraine and the memory of the liberation struggle.
It is interesting that the repressions of the USSR did not destroy the idea of a cathedral Ukraine since 1919. She lived until the 90s in particular through these chains of unity.
Especially among Ukrainian youth, these chains were widespread until recently. For example, in Kyiv, such actions took place every year on bridges across the Dnipro“– says Ivan Stychynskyi.
According to the expert, in the first years of independence, there was no clear understanding that the current Ukraine is the heir of the Ukrainian People’s Republic and the People’s Republic of Ukraine. Some mistakenly believed that she came from the Ukrainian SSR.
“Later, in 1999, in order to emphasize the originality and unifying meanings, they decided to restore the holiday. Thus, they began to celebrate the Day of the Congregation“, – explains the chief specialist of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance.
Why was the Day of the Congregation canceled and restored
In 2011, the fugitive president Viktor Yanukovych decided to combine Freedom Day and Unity Day into one holiday, which should be celebrated on January 22.
Before that, Freedom Day was celebrated on November 21 and was started during the time of the third president of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, as a symbol of the beginning of the Orange Revolution.
“During Yanukovych’s time, they tried to change the meanings.
One of the slogans of the Day of the Congregation – it is East and West together. Because some people think that East and West came together only in 1939, which reinforces the myth about Stalin as the unifier of Ukrainian lands.
Probably, Yanukovych wanted to sit on two chairs and reduce, in his opinion, the nationalistic color of the Day of Sobornost and make it a “day of sobornost and freedom”– Ivan Stychynskyi shares his thoughts.
|Assembly Day is dedicated to the unification of Ukraine, which took place in 1919/Depositphotos:[email protected]
Later, in 2014, the Day of Sobornosti returned to Ukrainians with the same meanings that were embedded in it earlier.
And the Day of Freedom became the Day of Freedom and Dignity, which symbolizes the beginning of two revolutions – the Orange and Dignity revolutions. Every year, the holiday is celebrated on November 21.
“On the Day of Sobornosty, it is worth recalling the events of Ukrainian history, analyzing what was successful and what was not. Those events were the end of a difficult and long process. The Ukrainian movement was united then, and everyone managed to unite despite difficult conditions“, adds Stychynskyi.
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In New York, 335 sunflowers were planted for the Day of Sobornosty in Ukraine. PHOTO