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31 May, 2013  ▪  Dmytro Kalynchuk

The Hetmanate: Accomplishments and Failures

Accomplishments and failures of the 1918 Pavlo Skoropadskyi reforms


Accomplishments: The Military Ministry, General Headquarters and the Separate Border Guard Corps were established under the hetman’s rule. He saved the Central Council’s Zaporizhia Division and the Division of Sirozhupannyky (Greycoats) from dissolution, and established the hetman’s Serdiutskyi Life Guard division. Also, he established eight corps of the regular army, launched the enrolment of commanders, and provided them with uniforms and weapons. The first conscription was scheduled to begin on November 15, 1918.

Failures: The Military Ministry’s human resources policy was ineffective. Commanders were enrolled based on their professional skills without taking into account their political preferences. As a result, the hetman army ended up with many adherents of socialists and one undivided Russia. In hard times, the former switched to Vynnychenko and Petliura, while the latter jumped ship to Denikin.

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Government structure

Accomplishments: Local government branches ruined under the Central Council were restored from old Russian bureaucrats with province offices reporting to Skoropadskyi’s headquarters. The State Guard (police) and the Special Department of Hetman Headquarters (security service) were established. Security Hundreds operated locally. Law enforcement authorities struggled with criminals, bandits, anti-state activities of Bolsheviks, anarchists and Russian chauvinists. Even Skoropadskyi’s opponents admitted that local administration of the hetmanate were effective.

Failures: Discipline was weak at the law enforcement units. Reports of Security Hundreds were controversial. Socialists accused them of terror against peasants, while memoirists loyal to the hetman wrote that they either exaggerated the scale of the terror or did not take into account the situation in that time. Local administrations were operated by old tsarist bureaucrats. Many of them were opponents of the Ukrainian state.

Industry and finance

Accomplishments: Private ownership of facilities and equipment, commodities exchanges and free market were restored. The state brought several major segments of industry back to life. Tax collection and customs service resumed operation, and state monopoly on sugar and wine making were introduced. Coupled with railways, they brought the most revenues to the state. Ukraine exited the ruble zone and national currency – karbovanets and hryvnia – became the only way of settlement. Ukrainian Public Bank was founded and the first national budget established.

Failures: Social initiatives of the Central Council, including an eight-hour workday and the right to strike, were abolished in the Hetmanate, infuriating the workers. Tax collection was ineffective in 1918 as the population found ways to massively evade paying taxes.

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Science and education

Accomplishments: Education process was resumed and Ukrainization thereof began. 150 Ukrainian gymnasiums and many real schools were opened; two Ukrainian universities were founded in Kyiv and Kamianets-Podilsky, as well as the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.

Failures: Since cities had large shares of Russian and Russian-speaking population and Skoropadskyi was forced to hire many officials of non-Ukrainian origin due to the lack of qualified civil servants, the choice of the language of education was delegated to local councils. As a result, education remained in Russian in all big cities.

Social sphere

Accomplishments: In 1918, Skodopadskyi’s government faced soaring unemployment (up to 500,000 of the officially registered unemployed), unorganized demobilization of soldiers and officers of the Russian army, massive return of servicemen from German and Austrian captivity, and a flood of refugees from the Bolshevik Russia. To employ all these people, the Council of Ministers took efforts to develop production, arrange public works, and plan the development of infrastructure, including floodgates, channels, and hydroelectric power plants at the Dnipro and Bug Rivers. The expansion of armed forces was expected to push unemployment down significantly. The families of those killed in the war and injured during the Bolshevik assault received benefits from local councils.

Failures: The government had no time to apply all possible tools to eliminate unemployment. The jobless joined mobs of anarchists and Bolsheviks. Meanwhile, people grew more and more frustrated with the impudence of German requisition units and Hetman’s Security Hundreds in villages, while workers refused to work for 12 hours as set by the government.


Accomplishments: Private ownership of land was restored and the Central Council’s “socialization” provisions allowing people to take land arbitrarily were abolished. Land plots ended up in free trade. The Land Bank was established to issue loans to buy the plots and carry out related transactions. Despite huge resistance from land owners and part of the government, the Hetman prepared an agrarian reform restricting land ownership to a certain size and allowing the excess to be bought and re-sold to peasants. The reform was supposed to lay the foundation for the class of middle land owners – a rural social pillar for the Hetman’s regime and a driver of farming.

Failures: Restoration of land ownership was accompanied by pressure on peasants to force them return land patches grabbed during the revolution to their previous owners and reimburse their losses. The Hetman’s government did not have enough time to complete the agrarian reform.

Culture and arts

Accomplishments: Over seven and a half months with Skodopadskyi in power, the Public Drama School and Mykola Lysenko Public Music and Drama Institute were opened; the National Opera House, Ukrainian Public Choir, National Symphony Orchestra, First and Second National Choirs, the School of Kobzars, the First Bandura Ensemble, Ukrainian National Theatre, National Gallery of Images, Ukrainian Public Art Academy, National Archive, National Library, Historical Museum and more were founded.

Failures: The Hetman lacked qualified patriotic staff to implement his wide-scale ideas in terms of culture.

READ ALSO: Pavlo Skoropadskyi: Torn Between Dual Loyalties

Foreign policy

Accomplishments: Skoropadskyi found a fairly favourable form of cooperation with Germany and Austria-Hungary. Ukraine was linked with both by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed by the Central Council with both. 30 countries all over the world acknowledged the Ukrainian State. It had permanent embassies in 24. Skoropadskyi established links with the Oblast of the Don Cossack Host and Ukraine supplied it with weapons and volunteers to fight against Bolsheviks (to prevent them from reaching Ukraine and Ukrainians from having to fight with them). Plans were negotiated with the Cuban People’s Republic to be annexed to Ukraine as a federative republic. Negotiations continued on the annexation of Chelm Land and Podlachia to the Ukrainian State. As a result of customs and diplomatic war in October 1918, deals were reached to annex Crimea to Ukraine as an autonomous republic. A number of facts prove that the Hetman was preparing to provide military assistance to ZUNR, West Ukrainian People’s Republic. For this purpose, the Konovalets unit of Sich Riflemen was established. It was supposed to leave for Halychyna. It switched to the UNR (Ukrainian People’s Republic) Directory when the anti-hetman coup broke out.

Failures: The population was barely informed of the Hetman’s accomplishments in foreign policy. People considered him to be Germany’s man. The declaration of the Federative Decree with Russia on November 14, 1918 (a forced move demanded by the Triple Entente according to some sources) triggered the anti-hetman coup that ended Skoropadskyi’s rule.  

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