People in Russia, which generously endows its neighbors with the puppet "people's republics" in the contemporary world, do not like to remember how an independent, unwilling to be the part of a "united and indivisible" state was created on their territory a hundred years ago. Today's Russians remember even more reluctant that the Cossacks have raised the rebellion against "Big Brother", always considered to be the bulwark of centralized government. And the "great-powers" entirely fall into a state of amnesia when it turns out that the decidedly dissociated from Russia Kuban worked side by side with the Ukrainian People's Republic at the beginning of the twentieth century and even intended to join the UPR on the rights of autonomy.
A quarter of our former people
Meanwhile, the "Ukrainian Spring" in Kuban began long before 1917. Russia recovered almost all the Northern Black Sea Coast from Turkey as a result of the Russo-Turkish war of 1768-1774. Zaporizhian Sich which was the first line of defense for a long time found itself in the home front and lost its strategic importance. For this reason Catherine II, recklessly believing that Ukrainian sabers would no longer be useful for her, gave the order on the complete demolition of Zaporizhian Cossacks in 1775. At the same time, the confrontation with the Ottoman Empire continued. Less than 10 years later Russia once again needed the help of the Ukrainian Cossacks who had a rich experience of anti-Turkish struggle, who fled beyond the Danube after the destruction of Zaporizhia and founded the Danubian Sich. The Danubians were offered to return to Russia, muster "eager people" out of the Ukrainians and form the so-called "Host of faithful Cossacks ", later renamed the "Black Sea Cossack Host".
New "trouble spot" appeared in Russia soon. It was the North Caucasus which started to be "mastered" by the insatiable empire. Highlanders desperately resisted the coming of the "Russian world" to their lands, so the decision to populate the Kuban Valley with always ready-for-battle Ukrainian Cossacks was taken. About 14 thousand Ukrainians were resettled there in 1792-1793. The lands between the Kuban and Sea of Azov were given to the Cossacks as token gift by the decree of Catherine, so the first administrative center was called Yekaterinodar (now – Krasnodar). According to the "First census of Cossacks-migrants to the Kuban in the late XVIII century", the foremen of the former Zaporizhia were the first in the lists. They maximally preserved the peculiarities of sounding of the purely Ukrainian surnames. So the first governor of Yekaterinodar was Little Russian Danila Volkorez.
There is no doubt that it would be wrong to assert that the Kuban Cossacks are Ukrainians. A lot of migrants from the Russian backs migrated here over time. But, putting Vladimir Vysotsky in other words, we should admit that "a quarter of our former people are there".
Getting out of the "prison of nations"
After the overthrow of tsarism and October Revolution of Bolsheviks in Petrograd in 1917, the Parade of Sovereignties began on the national outskirts of the collapsed Russian Empire, including the Cossack ones. The Kuban People's Republic became one of the new states at the end of February 1918. The Kuban Regional Military Rada headed by Nikolay Riabovol became its legislative body, Luka Bych headed the government. The Constitution of the KubPR was adopted on the operational basis, the republic sent an application for membership in the League of Nations (the forerunner of the current United Nations). The main problem of the young republic was that the Kuban region became a desperate battlefield between the Bolsheviks that wished to establish Soviet power here and White Guard that embraced a cause of a single indivisible Russia. In order to resist the ones and the others, Riabovol set a course for the rapprochement with Ukraine which also fled from the "prison of nations" and did not want to become the branch of the Sovietdom.
A delegation of the Ukrainian Central Rada came to Kuban soon. Nikolay Riabovol welcomed it in Ukrainian. "Ukraine has sent its ambassadors to visit us. Cossack brothers! I am sure that you will understand with your hearts those feelings that fill the souls of all the Black Sea Cossacks. We congratulate the ambassadors of Mother Ukraine in the language of our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers", - he began his speech, then starting to speak in the Ukrainian language. "Stepmother fate tore our grandfathers-Cossacks of maternal bosom and threw them to the Kuban. More than a hundred years we have lived here as orphans at the steppes, flooded areas and mountains without mothering… Kings did everything in order to knock out of our heads and souls the memory of Ukraine and love of the Mother. Kings wanted to make us murderers, they wanted us to crush the will with our own hands when the right time will come, the time of liberation of Ukraine, to make our sabers drown in the Mother's blood". And the issue is certainly not that the head of the Regional Rada was a polyglot and could speak different languages. Ukrainian was simply a mother language for the Kuban. This term – "mother language" - was officially introduced into the language policy of the Kuban People's Republic in relation to the Kuban dialect, called "balachka". It was the local dialect of spoken language based on the Ukrainian language. It was planned to be made obligatory for studying in the schools of the Kuban with the help of specialists from Ukraine.
However, the Ukrainian-Kuban relations were not limited to humanitarian issues. The head of the Regional Kuban Rada Nikolay Riabovol arrives in Kyiv at the head of the Cossack delegation in May 1918. The issues of the establishment of interstate relations and provision of assistance in the fight against the Bolsheviks by the Ukrainian State of Hetman Skoropadskyi were the subject to negotiation. As a result, Kuban received from the Hetmanate almost a thousand rifles, 5 million ammunition and 50 thousand shells for 3-inch guns. The issue of the entry of the Kuban People's Republic into the Ukrainian State on the parity basis of federation or on the rights of autonomy was also discussed in secret regime. According to the arrangements, the army of the Hetmanate intended to storm ashore on the Azov coast, and the Kuban s, for their part, had to support it with the anti-Bolshevik uprising. It was planned to proclaim the unification of Ukraine and Kuban after the liberation of the entire region from the Soviet regime. These plans were not realized because of the onset of the Anton Denikin's Volunteer Army, which took Yekaterinodar on August 17. The premises of the Ukrainian embassy under the Kuban Krai Government were searched, and the embassy secretary was arrested.
In the conditions of the White Guard occupation, the majority of members of the Kuban government renounced the union with Ukraine and decided to focus on Denikin.
This was a fundamentally wrong decision, since the main task of the White Guard was the revival of a united Russia within the boundaries of the former empire, therefore Anton Denikin in every possible way limited the independence of the Kuban, which he regarded as an integral part of Russia. Denikin did not conceal his plans, and at one of the banquets said a program toast: "Yesterday the Bolsheviks reigned here in Yekaterinodar. A red dirty rag fluttered over this house... Damned yesterday... Today something strange is happening here – you can hear the sound of glasses, the wine is poured, the Cossack hymns are sung, strange Cossack speeches are heard, the Kuban flag is fluttering over this house... Strange today... But I believe that tomorrow a national tricolor Russian will flutter over this house, only Russian conversations will be heard here... A wonderful "tomorrow"... Let us drink for this happy and joyful tomorrow... ". It is not surprising that the Kubans opposed the "Russian tomorrow". Nikolay Ryabovol was the head of the anti-Denikin front. In June 1919, at the South Russian conference in Rostov he severely criticized the alliance with Denikin. At the same night he was shot in the hotel lobby, where the delegation of the Kuban republic stayed. Most likely, the murder of the pro-Ukrainian Kuban Cossack was a matter of Denikin's counterintelligence. Anton Denikin himself repeatedly stated that "Ryabovol was the most vivid and stubborn Cossack", "the impulse of Kuban separatism". After his death, the Kuban began to massively leave the Volunteer Army, and the leadership of the Kuban Rada resumed its search for ways of rapprochement with the Directorate of the Ukrainian People's Republic, which replaced the Hetmanate of Pavlo Skoropadskyi.
Unfortunately, the two republics failed to unite. In March 1920, the territory of the Kuban People's Republic was occupied by Bolshevik troops, and the republic itself was abolished. The Kuban together with Chernomoria became part of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic in the form of the Kuban-Chernomorsk oblast.
The native spirit of the Soviet Kuban
After the establishment of Soviet power in virtually the entire territory of the former Russian Empire, the Bolsheviks faced the task of achieving loyalty of the national elites and peoples that became part of the Soviet Union formed in 1922. The Bolsheviks have taken a course toward the so-called localization policy. Its essence was limited to the official use of the language of the indigenous people of a given territory in office work, education, media and so on. Naturally, for Ukraine this policy took the form of Ukrainization.
But the fact that the Soviet government equated the Kuban balachka to the Ukrainian language is most likely an indication that the Bolsheviks took into account Denikin's mistakes. As a result, until 1932 the Ukrainian language was used on a par with the Russian language in Kuban-Chernomorsk oblast. In 1925, the regional party newspaper Soviet Cossack began to be published in Ukrainian. There appeared statements of some chauvinists that “you cannot spoil the newspaper with a copped language". The Kuban farmers replied to that in a letter to the editor: "You, highbrows, lie that we are Russians, because we are Ukrainians and this newspaper is not only in the Ukrainian language but also has a Ukrainian spirit. For us it is better to learn a hundred of new Ukrainian words than to learn the Russian language from scratch". Another periodical newspaper Chervona Gazeta openly agitated for the entry of the Kuban into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. "Why should we live under Moscow's rule? Let us join Ukraine. It is really close to us, near the Sea of Azov. We want to join Ukraine, but under a condition that Kuban does not turn into an ordinary region. Well, if you want, on the grounds of federation or a confederation".
It is obvious that the Kuban balachka, seen in local newspapers, cannot be considered Ukrainian language in the full sense of this word. That is why at that time great attention was paid to the Ukrainianization of school education at the Northern Caucasus. According to the Kuban district department of public education, in 1925 there were 900 thousand Ukrainian-speaking people. Only in Krasnodar (former Yekaterinodar), one third of the population (about 50 thousand people) spoke Ukrainian. Based on this, 150 Ukrainian elementary schools functioned in the Kuban. This rapid Ukrainization of the Russian Kuban caused a certain dissatisfaction in Moscow. The People's Commissar of Education of the Russian SFSR Anatoly Lunacharsky personally came to Krasnodar and at the pedagogical council in one of the schools said that there is a danger that "the Russian school will be Ukrainianized, and thus the Russian language will take the position of the language that disappears in the Kuban". He "reassured" everyone that this will not happen and in the future "it will be possible to transfer the educational process into Russian".
Lunacharsky was absolutely right – in 1932, when Stalin feared for the strength of his authority, the localization policy and Ukrainization were abolished. Naturally, this also affected the Kuban. The special resolution demanded to "immediately transfer the work of the Soviet and cooperative bodies of the "Ukrainian" regions of the North Caucasus, as well as all existing newspapers and magazines from the Ukrainian language into Russian as more understandable for the Kuban people, and prepare for the transfer of educational process into Russian". The activities of the Ukrainian media were terminated, the Krasnodar branch of the State Publishing House of Ukraine with its representations in the Kuban and the North Caucasus stopped the distribution of Ukrainian literature and periodicals.
In such a way, 200 years of "Ukrainian Spring" ended in the Kuban...
Yuriy Bovkh, OstroV