Push and hold

It is written to believe

Leaflets of the Ukrainian People’s Republic were keeping the hope alive.

They were keeping the hope alive… the hope for a better fate for Ukraine – free, prosperous, independent, unified and happy country.

They were carrying the truth … the truth about the life in Ukraine, the fate of ordinary people, their violated rights and malfeasance of the authorities.

There was a horror of them… Those in power had a horror of them. They had a horror of the truth, which could excite the human mind and deprive them of boundless and shameless ruling.

For their publishing and distribution the people were persecuted, arrested, thrown into prisons and even killed. Because there was a horror of them! Because they were spreading the truth! Because they did not allow the hope to die!

Short, succinct, full of irrefutable and deadly facts, striking and emotional, they were addressed to the heart and mind of every Ukrainian. They were secretly written and copied by hand, printed on primitive typewriters away from curious eyes or underground in the secret places, in secret printing press or simply multiplied at Xerox.

Perhaps, nowhere in the world as in Ukraine the leaflets were so widespread, in-demand, popular and needed. Because there were the tsarist government, Bolshevik dictatorship, forced collectivization, Holodomor, occupation, persecution of dissidents here in this country. And there was the constant rebellion.

What it would seem to be the words?

The history of the Soviet special services is replete with numerous facts of fight against the leaflet authors and distributors. There were thousands, tens of thousands of signals, operative testing, development, investigation, surveillance and tracking cases. And more – preventive interviews, formal warnings, criminal cases, trials, verdicts, maimed destinies … All this was in our distant and, there is no much to hide, not so distant national history.

For years the best professionals of Cheka-GPU-NKVD-MGB-KGB had been searching the most vehement anonymous authors of leaflets against the leaders of the ruling Communist Party, they collected the handwritings, prints fonts out of all typewriters that they could find and verified them through, registered copiers and their owners, infiltrated agents into the printing houses. So much effort, time, paper, money was spent on all this!

I was smacked of these thoughts by a small envelope with an archival case № 1812 of the departmental archive of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine. In this multivolume case the materials on the intelligence activities of the State Center of the Ukrainian People’s Republic in exile in 1920-1930s are collected. Including the work of propaganda sector of the special service of the UNR, which existed on a par with the intelligence, was called Nastup (Offensive)”Offensive” and the counterintelligence section was called  Oborona (Defense). The propaganda sector, or the desk, was called Studii (Studies) by its leaders.

According to the archival documents, communications work and counter-propaganda work were attached exclusively great importance and were performed vigorously enough.

These ” Studii” comprehensively studied the situation in Ukraine in all spheres of political, economic and social life. Required information had been collecting both through intelligence provided by the agents who were transferred through a specially organized intelligence facilities on the border with Soviet Ukraine, and through the study of the Soviet press, various statistical, propaganda and other printed sourcess, which in different ways came to the UNR emigration. On this basis, the materials on the situation in Ukraine, representing in international forums, in the foreign press were used in issuing the own Ukrainian newspapers abroad, and in writing leaflets as well.

The couriers and intelligence agents of the UPR tirelessly brought these leaflets to Ukraine exposed to the direst dangers, they distributed them through the local insurgent cells, scattered and posted at railway stations, in the markets, in transport, where people eagerly devoured every word of truth. Since, there was a lack of the truth both on the territory of Soviet Ukraine and abroad.

To expose in order to win

There are very interesting recommendations of how to make propaganda. They are set out in the relevant regulations, which states: “… In terms of foreign propaganda: a) … to paralyze all hostile attacks of the strangers, mostly Muscovites and their supporters as well as their agitation among the Ukrainians; b) to deal with performances of Muscovites and their supporters, especially in these perilous times of the reinforced Soviet agitation and common foreign sovietophilism at the international forum.

Offensive: a) to disclose to our people the real imperialist, selfish and enslave goals of Muscovites and their devious means to obnubilate the minds of the cravens; b) to inform about these Muscovites’ purposes and means and to give them a rebuff for the deception and violent means of Muscovites; c) to inform the foreigners on Ukrainian Cause…

… In order to develop to the full extent the ardent propaganda along full width and depth, as required by the very essence of modern up to date propaganda, psychological warfare on all fronts … it is necessary not only to strengthen still quite weak techniques and means practiced by us, but to fully utilize all current improved and updated outreach techniques … ” ( The State Committee on Archives of Ukraine. – F. 269. Personal documents of B. Filonovych. – Case 181 a).

After reading these recommendations I could not help but think how they are relevant today, in the conditions of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. In general, now all events of modern and ancient Ukrainian history are perceived through the prism of the events in the East of the country. They are seen from a whole new angle.

I read and re-read these leaflets being found in an envelope and sewn into the archive case over the UNR intelligence activities with thoughts for here and now. I failed to accurately investigate the nature of their appearance. Probably, they were written by the propaganda sector of the special service’s of the UNR experts or journalists from Ukrainian emigre newspapers and later were delivered to Ukraine by the intelligence couriers. All are dated 1930.

But that’s not the main thing. The main thing is the content of the leaflets, which touches a nerve, causing to think more and more about the nature of Russian-Ukrainian relations within the different historical stages, to interpret and reinterpret them.

Targeted support

The appeal “For the Ukrainian workers” asks: “You have already seen, that the Moscow predatory government in Ukraine acts as hawkish owner-exploiter, having turned our region into the slave colony and you, Ukrainian workers, into dumb defenseless slaves. Is it clear for you that under the cover of “socialist construction” the alien authorities in Ukraine introduced and introduces the alien and hostile to the people Moscow state capitalism?”

The authors of the leaflets write, that “predatory Moscow authorities unleashed war against the Ukrainian People’s Republic with the only purpose – to take hold of our fertile soil and our huge factories and plants.” “Bread was not enough” for those Moscow hosts as far back as 1918. The Moscow beggarhood needed Ukrainian coal and iron. The wild northern horde knew, that with its true slogans – “Give us bread! ‘,’ Give us coal!”, “Give us iron!”, “Give us sugar!” it would not find the supporters in Ukraine, so it had to cheat and deceive “the cooped”* and it had thrown the slogans “Peace to the cottages! War on the palaces!” – for the Ukrainian peasants, and “All Power to the Workers!” – for the Ukrainian workers. But what did the Muscovites put in force in actual practice?

… The Russians have turned Ukraine into their colony and rob her as no colony in the world is plundered now.

… Wild terror, provocation, “strike-breaking” or so-called “shock working” and “promoted working”, policy of humiliation of local Ukrainian working class in favor of the visitors, seasonal Muscovites, – are the consequences of the Moscow occupation “(the Departmental State Archive of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine (hereinafter – DSA SZRU), f. 1, case 1812, vol. 2, pp. 146_1).

In the appeal “For the intelligentsia in Ukraine” there is a call upon the educated, thinking Ukrainians, and it is noted, that “the Ukrainian national revolution is as inevitable as tomorrow day, and the Ukrainian people will fight for the national independence till a decisive victory. All competitions of great-power chauvinists will just tighten a bloody armed struggle and exacerbate inter-ethnic relations in Ukraine.

Especially the intelligentsia of national minorities in Ukraine faces difficult but inevitable question: whom it should be with: with the Ukrainian people in their struggle for a democratic republic, consistent with the highest rights of national minorities, or against the Ukrainian people for Moscow despotism, red or white? There is no third: general-Russian democracy, federation – are excluded, which was coherently proved on paper by the Soviet Union Constitution “(DSA SZRU, f. 1, case 1812, vol. 2, pp. 146_2).

In the leaflet “To the Ukrainians – soldiers of the Red Army” the main focus is on the slogan, staged under the picture -”Know, that in the Kremlin the worst enemies of thy people are sitting!!! “And the final part of the emotional text states: “Remember, that the task of every son of the Ukrainian people, and especially the soldier, is to defend his people, and therefore always appear in arms in defense of the nation, when it will be hurt by the commissars, GPU and other scum.

… When in the lands enslaved by Moscow the people will rise up against the tyrants and beat and kick them to take charge in their lands – remember that your land is enslaved as well. Do not fight with the rebels and do not defend your enemy – the Soviet Moscow power. Remember, that Georgians, Tatars, Circassians and Turkmen – are all your friends and allies, because they, like you, want to free themselves from the yoke of Moscow. Join the rebels and help them.

Meanwhile, conspire with your comrades, friends and relatives be ready to help the damn it Moscow authorities’ death in Ukraine. It is a foreseeable future.” (DSA SZRU, f. 1, case 1812, vol. 2, pp. 146_3).

It has happened before

 If a little paraphrased, it will be very relevant today, not only in Ukraine, but also in the former Soviet Union, and in Russia itself despite the fact, that it was written 85 years ago.

In response to all kinds of provocations and disinformation, which the Kremlin propaganda is still massively replicating in the foreign media, at the time the security services of the UPR produced leaflets titled “Another provocation”. It was warned in one of these proclamations: “World provocateurs – Moscow Bolsheviks launched through their overseas agents the latest lie on the government of the Ukrainian People’s Republic…

Our “dear” neighbours would like the “U.N.R. collapse”! … The enemy knows best which side it faces danger. The enemy knows the meaning of unity and perseverance in the fight.

So let the enemy remember, that there is no force, that would have roused the strength and hardness of our national and state leadership! Let it remember, that our struggle will end only at the boundaries of the liberated Motherland! Let it be terrified of our yellow-blue flag, because very soon our bloodstained flag will ret on the streets of free Golden-Domed Kyiv! Let the enemy understand finally, that we do not need any dictatorship, because our dictator is the heart of every patriot, every fighter for the liberation! Only such a dictatorship will give the victory to Ukraine, and immortal glory to the Knights fighters” (DSA SZRU, f. 1, case 1812, vol. 2, pp. 146_4).

Patriotic Ukrainian intelligence was trying by all means to appeal from abroad to wide layers of the international community and the people of Ukraine. Unfortunately, the Soviet secret service, much more numerous, organized and aggressive, hindering the true word, and its carriers were severely punished.

Today, this form of raising public awareness as leaflets, may seem inefficient. But it is necessary to make allowance for the time and circumstances, under which it occurred. Moreover, we must be able to draw lessons from the past. More than that, while examining artifacts from the archives of the security services, now it is important to emphasize not so much on the form of working at that time, as on the content of it, in particular, on the content of the same leaflets.

In the conditions of the global television and Internet dominance, the information war unleashed by the Russian Federation against Ukraine is not comparable to that led by the Bolsheviks in the past. At the same time, the countermeasures to it must be flexible and efficient on all fronts. In truthful, honest, clear and convincing words. And decisive actions. Such work is already underway and gaining momentum. Probably, it is not enough. But not everything is still possible to tell people about…


Oleksandr Skrypnyk,
Advisor to the Chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine,
”Ukrayina Moloda”

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