On january 29, Ukraine commemorates the Heroes of the battle of Kruty 102 years ago!

29 січня 2020 року

At Askold's Tomb
They buried them –
Thirty tormented Ukrainians,
Glorious and young...
At Askold's Tomb
There is Ukrainian color! –
Along the bloody road
We have to go out into the world.
P. Tychyna, 1918

     Kruty is one of the tragic and at the same time legendary pages in the history of Ukrainian liberation competitions of 1917–1921.

     In late December 1917, the Soviet government launched an open aggression against the Ukrainian People's Republic (UNR). The Bolsheviks were extremely annoyed with Ukraine's proclamation of independence (IV Universal 9 (22) January 1918). Initially, Moscow established a separate "Ukrainian Red Government" with its capital in Kharkiv, which in fact declared war on an independent part of the state, and then armed forces – Baltic sailors, Red Army thugs from Moscow, Petrograd, Pskov, Smolensk, and others – also armed. It was presented as a "civil war".

     The Battle of Kruty took place on January 29, 1918, between Nizhyn and Bakhmach in Chernihiv, 130 kilometers northeast of Kyiv during the offensive in Kyiv of Bolshevik Russia troops led by Ukrainian-Colonel Mikhail Muravyov. Since the end of December 1917, the detachment of the First M. B. Khmelnytskyi Kyiv Youth School under the command of the centurion Honcharenko defended Bakhmach station, an important railway junction at the border of the UPR and the RSFSR. On January 27, 1918, they received reinforcements from Kyiv – the first hundred new students made up of volunteers – students of the Ukrainian National University, St. Volodymyr Kyiv University (now named after T.H. Shevchenko), high school seniors of Ukrainian high schools led by the centurion Omelchenko.
      A. Honcharenko's troops were tasked with holding off the Bolshevik troops' assault on Kyiv, while the main Ukrainian military forces, headed by Symon Petliura, set off to quell the uprising at the “Arsenal” plant in Kyiv.

The wood painting of UPA artist Neil Hasevych, where Kruty’s are mentioned among other heroic victims

     Ukrainian troops took up defense near Kruty Station. On the January morning, 29, 1918, an assault on Ukrainian positions by more than 5,000 Bolshevik detachments of the Petrograd and Moscow Red Guards began. The Ukrainian army, which was destined to enter into a bloody battle with this horde, numbered about 300 students of the Student team, 250 – the First Ukrainian Military School, and nearly 40 Haydamaks.

Leonid Perfetskyi, The “Kruty-Station”

     The battle lasted until the evening, several attacks were fought off, and the casualties amounted to 300 killed, wounded and captured. Commander Averkiy Honcharenko ordered to go to the echelon, which waited 2 km farther. In retreat, one troop (platoon) of students at dusk lost the landmark and came to the station. Kruty was already occupied by the Red Army. 27 young men (students and high school students) were shot dead. Before the shooting the captives sang the Anthem of Ukraine!
     At the cost of their lives, the heroes halted the onset of the enemy for two days, which became crucial for Ukrainian diplomacy to gain from the international community the recognition of an independent Ukraine. According to the Brest-Lithuanian Peace Treaty, Russia pledged to recognize the right of the Ukrainian people to self-determination, the legitimacy of the Central Rada authorities, conclude peace with it, and immediately withdraw the formation of the Red Guard from Ukraine.

“For freedoml of Ukraine. To the Fallen Sons in the fight near Kruty» – 1918 Kyiv poster.

     After the shooting, the Bolsheviks did not allow local peasants to bury the bodies of the dead. Only after the liberation of Kyiv from the Reds, on the order of the Ukrainian government, on March 19, 1918, a solemn funeral of the dead in the Battle of Kruty at the Askold's Tomb in Kyiv took place. At the funeral of the fallen heroes, the Chairman of the Ukrainian Central Rada, Mykhailo Hrushevskyi, called the young men who died in the unequal struggle heroes, and the poet Pavlo Tychyna dedicated the poem "Memory of the Thirty" to the heroic act.
     In Soviet times, the graves of the fallen under Kruty were destroyed. For decades, the history of battle has either been silenced or overgrown with myths and fictions, both in foreign and in national historiography.
     After Ukraine gained independence, the heroes' heroic deed took a worthy place in the pantheon of national glory, became a symbol of patriotism and sacrifice in the struggle for state independence. At the national level, this day has been commemorated since 2003. The annual commemoration of the Heroes of Kruty is enshrined in the Verkhovna Rada Resolution of May 16, 2013 “On commemoration of the heroes of the Battle of Kruty”. In 2006, the Kruty Heroes Memorial Complex was opened at the Kruty Railway Station.

Monument to the Battle of Kruty 1918 (by Anatoliy Haydamaka, 2006) copy of one of the columns of the portico of the Red University building 10 meters high

     Every year, the indifferent people come to the memorial complex in memory of the heroes of Kruty (Chernihiv region, Borznyanskyi district, Pechivska village council, village of Pamyatne, Heroiv Krut street, 38) or gather at Askold's grave to remember the fallen heroes! They are alive as long as we remember them!

Action to commemoration of Kruty Heroes, January 29, 2011, Kruty

Maria Polyvach,
Director of the Museum of History of NULES of Ukraine


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