08:03, 29 January 2020
This was a part of the Ukrainian Revolution 1918 when Ukraine was fighting for its existence against Soviets and Royalists
On January 29, Ukraine commemorates the heroes of the Battle of Kruty. The battle took place on Jan. 29, 1918, when a 400 soldiers unit of the Ukrainian forces (300 of them were students) briefly halted the advance of a 4,000 Red Army under Mikhail Muravyov marching towards Kyiv. This was part of the Ukrainian Revolution 1918 when Ukraine was fighting for its existence against Soviets and Royalists. More than half of the Ukrainian soldiers perished in the unequal battle.
The opposing sides: the Bolsheviks and the Ukrainian People’s Republic. The fighting began in mid-December 1917 and after the Fourth Universal of the Ukrainian Central Council (and the actual declaration of independence of the UPR) on January 22, 1918, Ukraine and Bolshevik Russia were de facto at war.
Ukrainian People’s Republic (UPR) hoped for federal relations with Russia – that is, it wanted to gain independence in decision-making. The Bolsheviks were against it. The result was an ultimatum to the Central Council, the implementation of which would essentially be permission to intervene in internal affairs.
Without waiting for an answer, the Bolsheviks decided to engage the army.
The advance moved in two groups: one along the Kharkiv-Poltava- Kyiv railway, the second in the direction of Kursk-Bakhmach-Kyiv.
The fighting near Bakhmach station went on for several days. After that, the Ukrainian army had to retreat to Kruty station, where the students and cadets fought against the regular Bolshevik army.
Commanders. The UPR forces were headed by a former personnel officer of the tsarist army Averkiy Honcharenko. During the Second World War, he joined the SS division “Galicia” and fought against the USSR. After that, he emigrated and lived the rest of his life in the USA.
The organizer of the massacres in Kyiv Mikhail Muravyov headed the Bolshevik army.
28 students were re-buried at Askold’s Grave in the centre of Kyiv after the return of the Tsentralna Rada (Ukrainian government at the time) to the capital in March 1918. At the funeral, the then President of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, Mykhailo Hrushevsky, called every one of the 400 students who fought in the battle, heroes.
Battle of Kruty
The battle lasted five hours. The Ukrainians repulsed several attacks of the Bolsheviks. However, other Muravyov’s detachments began to come (in particular, the 1st Petrograd detachment), and Soviet armored train arrived from the Chernihiv railway gauge and began shelling the defenders from the rear.
When the hostilities began to subside, the Ukrainian command received a telegram from Nizhyn, which said that Taras Shevchenko kuren located there declared support for the Soviet government. After that, the students were ordered to retreat to the train, which stood on the other side of Kruty station in direction of Kyiv. Most fighters managed to retreat on the train that was waiting for them. However, it turned out that 30 young men were captured in the turmoil.
The red commander Yegor Popov, enraged by the significant losses from the Soviet troops (about 300 people), ordered the liquidation of the prisoners. It is reported that the captured students were first tortured and then shot dead. A student of the 7th grade Hryhory Pipsky began to sing Ukrainian anthem and the rest of the students picked up the song.
After the execution, the locals were forbidden for some time to bury the bodies. Later, the victims were solemnly reburied at the Askold grave in Kyiv.
At the cost of their lives, students and cadets delayed the advance of the enemy for 4 days. This made it possible to suppress the rebellion of the Bolsheviks in Kyiv, to prevent the enemy from seizing the Ukrainian capital at one go, and to sign a peace treaty with Germany and its allies in time (Brest-Litovsk Treaty), which stopped the seizure of Ukraine by the Bolsheviks. This battle is compared to battle that occurred a century later in Donbas, – the defense of Donetsk airport.
In Soviet times, the events near Kruty were either hushed up or overgrown with myths and guesses. These are mainly accusations against the Central Council and the Ukrainian military command, which allowed the death of cadets and students. At the same time, the Ukrainian poet Pavlo Tychyna dedicated his poem “In Memory of Thirty” to the heroic act of students.
In 2006, Kruty Heroes Memorial was opened at Kruty station. The main element of the structure is a 10-meter red column – a copy of the columns of the facade of the red building of Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University, where the majority of the immortalized student heroes came from. A railway station with a steam locomotive and wagons was recreated near the memorial, in which an exposition dedicated to the struggle for the independence of Ukraine in 1917-1919 was opened. The memorial complex also has a chapel. A small lake in the shape of a cross was made near the memorial.
On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the events near Kruty, the National Bank of Ukraine issued a jubilee one hryvnia coin.
Also, people’s veche and reconstruction of the battle near Kruty are held.
© 112 UA 2020