Petlyura, Simon°

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PETLYURA, SIMON° (1879–1926), Ukrainian nationalist leader held responsible for not having stopped the wave of pogroms which engulfed the Jews in the Ukraine in 1919 and 1920. Petlyura, who was born in Poltava, was active in the Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers' Party. During the Russian Revolution in 1917, he was one of the leaders who organized Ukrainian soldiers into nationalist battalions. When the Ukrainian puppet state, set up by the Germans, fell in November 1918, Petlyura was among those who established the "directorium" (provisional government) to protect the independent Ukraine against its many enemies. From February 1919 he was chairman of the government and also chief atamàn (commander) of its army. With the retreat of his forces before the Red Army in the winter of 1919, his units turned into murderous bands and perpetrated mass killings of Jews in the Ukrainian towns and townlets (*Zhitomir, *Proskurov, and elsewhere). Petlyura did little to stop the wave of mob violence which became endemic within the Ukrainian army and the gangs of rebellious peasants, connected with his government. In October 1919 the remnants of Petlyura's forces fled to Poland. The following year he made a treaty with the Poles, set up his headquarters in *Kamenets-Podolski, and joined in the Polish war against the Soviet Union. After peace was made between the U.S.S.R. and Poland, Petlyura continued to maintain his government and the remnants of his army in exile. In the summer of 1921, Vladimir *Jabotinsky conducted negotiations with Petlyura's representative for the establishment of a Jewish militia to defend the Jewish population, should Petlyura's forces return to the Soviet Ukraine (the "Jabotinsky-Slavinsky Agreement"). From 1924 Petlyura was a political émigré in Paris, where he headed Ukrainian anti-Soviet organizations. On May 26, 1926, he was assassinated in the street by a Jew, Shalom *Schwartzbard. In 1927, after a dramatic trial, in which the Jewish tragedy in the Ukraine was amply documented, Schwartzbard was acquitted by a court in Paris. Ukrainian nationalists consider Petlyura an outstanding leader and claim that he personally could not be held responsible for the pogroms, because of the anarchical conditions of the revolutionary period.


Committee of Jewish Delegations, The Pogroms in the Ukraine (1927); E. Tcherikower, Di Ukrainer Pogromen in Yor 1919 (1965), index; J.B. Schechtman, Rebel and Statesman, 1 (1956), 399–415; A. Revutsky, In di Shvere Teg oyf Ukraine (1924); A. Shul'gin, L'Ukraine et le cauchemar rouge (1927); J. Reshetar, The Ukrainian Revolution (1952), index; Hunczak and Szajkowski, in: JSOS, 31 (1969), 163–213.

[Yehuda Slutsky]