Ukrainian Village on the Eve of Disaster: Epistolary Self-portrait (1926-1928)

Keywords: Ukrainian post-revolutionary village, Ukrainian SSR, NEP, history of everyday life, history of mentalities, peasants’ letters, history of the Ukrainian press


The purpose of the research paper is to call into question the notion that the Ukrainian post-revolutionary village was a backward, illiterate, apolitical brake on social progress.

Scientific novelty. The author offers an alternative to the long tradition of studying the consciousness of the Ukrainian peasantry according to documents, materials and narratives of the Communist Party leaders, Soviet officials, the communist press and departmental statistics.

An attempt was made to recreate the mental map of the village and the value system of the Ukrainian peasantry based on the texts of the peasants themselves. Aptitude, wit, colorfulness, practicality of the peasant's thought and the peasant's word are demonstrated.

Conclusions. Analysis of peasants’ letters to the newspaper ‘Soviet Village’ in 1926-1928 allows the author to state that the Ukrainian post-revolutionary village was: totally Ukrainian in its language, culture and outlook; masculine; deeply individualistic; modernized at the level of operational activity and patriarchal psychologically; full of self-respect; hardy; disadvantaged and ironic; anti-communist; anti-Moscow; loyal to the state and at the same time hypercritical of it; with his own vision of the necessary changes.

Summarizing the numerical suggestions of several hundred peasant correspondents shows a well-thought-out program of demands, a kind of peasant constitution. Its main provisions: rejection of the «class principle» in taxation; rejection of the «price scissors» policy and return to an economically justified price policy; abolition of the state monopoly on foreign trade; proportional representation of workers and peasants in all authorities; real implementation of the announced general primary education program, wide access to secondary and higher education; actual implementation of the Ukrainization of the administrative apparatus.

The confrontation between the poor and wealthy part of the peasantry was not a ‘class struggle’ of rural communards against the world of capital. At the root of the enmity of the poor towards the ‘kurkuls’ was the desire to expand their land use and become full-fledged owners themselves. Since the spring of 1928, in the face of full-scale state terror, the village united and showed open hostility to the Communist authorities. Anticipation of war and a «new revolution» became widespread.


Boiko, A. & Plokhii, S. (Comps.). (2005). Dzherela z istorii Pivdennoi Ukrainy [Sources from the history of Southern Ukraine]. Vol. 5 (1, 2): Memuary ta shchodennyky. Zaporizhzhia: RA «Tandem-U» [in Ukrainian].

Hanzha, O.I. (2000). Ukrainske selianstvo v period stanovlennia totalitarnoho rezhymu (1917-1927 rr.) [The Ukrainian peasantry during the formation of the totalitarian regime (1917-1927)]. Kyiv [in Ukrainian].

Kalinichenko, V. (1997). Selianske hospodarstvo v Ukraini v period NEPu: Istoryko-ekonomichne doslidzhennia [Peasant economy of Ukraine during the NEP period. Historical and economic research]. Kharkiv: Osnova [in Ukrainian].

Kovalova, Yu.V. (2016). Simeini istorii pivdennoukrainskoho rehionu perelomnoi doby (dosvid interpretatsii selianskykh shchodennykiv pershoi tretyny XX st.) [Family histories of the southern Ukrainian region of the turning point (experience of interpreting peasant diaries of the first third of the 20th century)]. Naukovi pratsi istorychnoho fakultetu Zaporizkoho natsionalnoho universytetu, 45, 212-220 [in Ukrainian].

Kornovenko, S. & Lazurenko, V. (2004). Selo. Khlib. Hroshi. Podatkova polityka radianskoi vlady v ukrainskomu seli u period NEPu [Village. Bread. Money. The tax policy of the Soviet authorities in the Ukrainian countryside during the NEP period]. Cherkasy: «Vash Dim» [in Ukrainian].

Kotliar, Yu.V. (2004). Selianstvo Pivdnia Ukrainy: doba novoi ekonomichnoi polityky (1921-1929 rr.) [The peasantry of Southern Ukraine: the era of the new economic policy (1921-1929)]. Odesa: TOV «ViD» [in Ukrainian].

Kotliar, Yu.V. (2008). Transformatsii v psykholoho-mentalnomu svitospryiniatti selianstva Pivdnia Ukrainy (persha tretyna XX st.) [Transformations in the psychological and mental worldview of the peasantry of Southern Ukraine (the first third of the 20th century)]. Naukovi pratsi Mykolaivskoho derzhavnoho humanitarnoho universytetu im. Petra Mohyly kompleksu «Kyievo-Mohylianska akademiia». Seriia Istorychni nauky, 88 (75), 67-70 [in Ukrainian].

Kulchytskyi, S.V. & etc. (Eds.). (2009). Narysy povsiakdennoho zhyttia radianskoi Ukrainy v dobu nepu (1921-1928 rr.) [Essays of everyday life in Soviet Ukraine during the NEP era (1921-1928)]. Vol. 2 (1). Kyiv: Instytut istorii Ukrainy NAN Ukrainy [in Ukrainian].

Marochko, V.I. (2006). Uklad zhyttia selianyna-fermera: metodolohiia doslidzhennia [The lifestyle of a peasant farmer: research methodology]. Ukrainskyi selianyn, 10, 38-47 [in Ukrainian].

Melnykiv, R. (Comp.). (2018). Serhii Pylypenko. Vybrani tvory [Serhii Pylypenko. Selected works]. Kyiv: «Smoloskyp» [in Ukrainian].

Mykhailiuk, O. (2007). Selianstvo Ukrainy v pershi desiatylittia XX st.: Sotsiokulturni protsesy [The peasantry of Ukraine in the first decades of the 20th century: Sociocultural processes]. Dnipropetrovsk: Innovatsiia [in Ukrainian].

Morozov, A.H. (1993). Selo i hroshi. Ukrainska kredytna kooperatsiia v dobu NEPu [Village and money. Ukrainian credit cooperative in the days of NEP]. Cherkasy [in Ukrainian].

Noll, V. (1999). Transformatsiia hromadianskoho suspilstva: Usna istoriia ukrainskoi selianskoi kultury 1920-30 rokiv [Transformation of civil society: Oral history of Ukrainian peasant culture of the 1920s-30s]. Kyiv: Tsentr doslidzhen usnoi istorii ta kultury RODOVID [in Ukrainian].

Prysiazhniuk, Yu. (2007). Ukrainske selianstvo Naddniprianskoi Ukrainy: sotsiomentalna istoriia druhoi polovyny XIX – pochatku XX st. [The Ukrainian peasantry of Dnieper Ukraine: socio-mental history of the second half of the 19th – early 20th century]. Cherkasy: Vertykal, PP Kandych S.H. [in Ukrainian].

Sarychev, V.I. (2004). Okremi aspekty khlibozahotivel 1927-1929 rokiv na Pivdni Ukrainy [Certain aspects of grain procurement in the South of Ukraine in 1927-1929]. Naukovi pratsi istorychnoho fakultetu Zaporizkoho derzhavnoho universytetu, XVII, 124-132 [in Ukrainian].

Sviatets, Yu.A. (2006). Istoriia shchodennosti v selianskii epistoliarii periodu NEPu [Ukrainian peasant economy and new economic policy (cliometric analysis of the socio-economic process)]. Ukrainskyi selianyn, 10, 152-156 [in Ukrainian].

Sviatets, Yu.A. (2007). Ukrainske selianske hospodarstvo ta nova ekonomichna polityka (kliometrychnyi analiz sotsialno-ekonomichnoho protsesu) [The history of everyday life in the peasant epistolary of the NEP period]. Dnipropetrovsk [in Ukrainian].

How to Cite
Lyakh, S. (2023). Ukrainian Village on the Eve of Disaster: Epistolary Self-portrait (1926-1928). Eminak: Scientific Quarterly Journal, (3(43), 221-238.
Modern History