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Skrypnyk, Mykola Oleksyovych


(18721933), Ukrainian Bolshevik leader and advocate of ukrainization.

Born in Ukraine, Mykola Skrypnyk joined the revolutionary movement in 1901 as a student at the St. Petersburg Technological Institute, from which he never graduated. Until 1917 he lived the life of a professional revolutionary, organizing the Bolshevik underground in Saratov, Odessa, Kiev, and Moscow. During this period, Skrypnyk was arrested fifteen times and repeatedly exiled to Siberia, and spent more than a year in voluntary exile in Switzerland. During the October Revolution he was a prominent member of the Military Revolutionary Committee in Petrograd. In 1918, on the suggestion of Vladimir Lenin, Skrypnyk moved to Ukraine to counterbalance the Russian chauvinism of the local Bolshevik leadership. He served there as people's commissar of labor and later as head of the People's Secretariat, the first Soviet government in Ukraine, and in April 1918 he was instrumental in the creation of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine. After the Bolsheviks were forced to withdraw from Ukraine by the terms of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, Skrypnyk joined the Cheka, but he returned to Ukraine when the Civil War ended.

As people's commissar of justice of the Ukrainian Republic (19221927), Skrypnyk helped to build a Soviet Ukrainian state and ensure its rights within the Soviet Union. Starting in 1923, when the Kremlin introduced the policy of nativization, he actively promoted the implementation of its Ukrainian incarnation or ukrainization. During his tenure as people's commissar of education (19271933), he was active in ukrainizing the republic's press, publishing, education, and culture. Although Skrypnyk remained an orthodox Bolshevik and an enemy of Ukrainian nationalism, he stood out as the Ukrainian leader who was most vocal in his opposition to Moscow's centralism and great-power chauvinism. He also distinguished himself by engineering the standardization of Ukrainian orthographythe socalled Skrypnykivka system (1927)and founding the Ukrainian Institute of Marxism-Leninism (1928). In 1933, when Josef Stalin condemned his ukrainization policies as nationalistic, Skrypnyk committed suicide. He was rehabilitated in the mid-1950s, and in post-Soviet Ukraine he is respected as a defender of Ukrainian culture and sovereignty.

See also: bolshevism; nationalism in the soviet union; ukraine and ukrainians


Mace, James. (1983). Communism and the Dilemmas of National Liberation: National Communism in Soviet Ukraine, 19181933. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute.

Martin, Terry. (2001). The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 19231939. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Serhy Yekelchyk

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