V. I. Lenin

Manifesto To The Ukrainian People

With An Ultimatum To The Ukrainian Rada[1]

Written: 3 December, 1917
First Published: 18 December, 1917 in Pravda No. 206; on 6 December, 1917 in Izvestia No. 244.
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 361-363
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov and George Hanna, Edited by George Hanna
Transcription & HTML Markup: Charles Farrell and David Walters
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive November, 2000

Proceeding from the interests of the unity and fraternal alliance of factory workers and the working and exploited masses in the struggle for socialism, and also from the recognition of these principles by numerous decisions of the organs of revolutionary democracy, the Soviets, and especially the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets, the Council of People’s Commissars—the Socialist government of Russia—reaffirms that the right to self-determination belongs to all nations oppressed by tsarism and the Great Russian bourgeoisie, up to and including the right of these nations to secede from Russia.

Accordingly we, the Council of People’s Commissars, recognise the People’s Ukrainian Republic, and its right to secede from Russia or enter into a treaty with the Russian Republic on federal or similar relations between them.

We, the Council of People’s Commissars, recognise at once, unconditionally and without reservations everything that pertains to the Ukrainian people’s national rights and national independence.

We have not taken a single step, in the sense of restricting the Finnish people’s national rights or national independence, against the bourgeois Finnish Republic, which still remains bourgeois, nor shall we take any steps restricting the national independence of any nation which had been—or desires to be—a part of the Russian Republic.

We accuse the Rada of conducting, behind a screen of national phrases, a double-dealing bourgeois policy, which has long been expressed in the Bada’s non-recognition of the Soviets and of Soviet power in the Ukraine (incidentally, the Rada has refused to convoke a territorial congress of the Ukrainian Soviets immediately, as the Soviets of the Ukraine had demanded). This ambiguous policy, which has made it impossible for us to recognise the Rada as a plenipotentiary representative of the working and exploited masses of the Ukrainian Republic, has lately led the Rada to steps which preclude all possibility of agreement.

These, firstly, were steps to disorganise the front.

The Rada has issued unilateral orders moving Ukrainian units and withdrawing them from the front, thereby breaking up the common united front before any demarcation, which can be carried out only through a formal agreement between the governments of the two republics.

Secondly, the Rada has started to disarm the Soviet troops stationed in the Ukraine.

Thirdly, the Rada has been extending support to the Cadet-Kaledin plot and revolt against Soviet power. On the patently false plea of “the Don and the Kuban” having autonomous rights, a plea that serves to cover up Kaledin’s counter-revolutionary moves, which clash with the interests and demands of the vast majority of the working Cossacks, the Rada has allowed its territory to be crossed by troops on their way to Kaledin, but has refused transit to any anti-Kaledin troops.

Even if the Rada had received full formal recognition as the uncontested organ of supreme state power of an independent bourgeois Ukrainian republic, we would have been forced to declare war on it without any hesitation, because of its attitude of unexampled betrayal of the revolution and support of the Cadets and the Kaledinites—the bitterest enemies of the national independence of the peoples of Russia, the enemies of Soviet power and of the working and exploited masses.

At the present time, in view of the circumstances set forth above, the Council of People’s Commissars, with the full cognisance of the peoples of the Ukrainian and Russian Republics, asks the Rada’[2] to answer the following questions:

1. Will the Rada undertake to give up its attempts to disorganise the common front?

2. Will the Rada undertake to refuse transit to any army units on their way to the Don, the Urals or elsewhere, unless it has the sanction of the Commander-in-Chief?

3. Will the Rada undertake to assist the revolutionary troops in their struggle against the counter-revolutionary Cadet-Kaledin revolt?

4. Will the Rada undertake to stop attempts to disarm the Soviet regiments and the workers’ Red Guard in the Ukraine and immediately return arms to those who had been deprived of them?

In the event no satisfactory answer is received to these questions within 48 hours, the Council of People’s Commissars will deem the Rada to be in a state of open war with Soviet power in Russia and the Ukraine.


[1] The Ukranian Central Rada was a counter-revolutionary bourgeois-nationalist organisation set up at the All-Ukraine National Congress in Kiev in April 1917 by a bloc of Ukrainian bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalist parties arid groups. The ideologist of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie, M. S. Grushovksy. was its chairman, and V. K. Vinnichenko, his deputy. The Rada had a social base of urban and rural bourgeoisie, and petty-bourgeois nationalist-minded intellectuals. It tried to build up the power of the Ukrainian business class and landowners and set up a Ukrainian capitalist state with the aid of the national liberation movement in the Ukraine. It waved the banner of national independence in an effort to lead the Ukrainian masses away from the all-Russia revolutionary movement, subordinate them to the Ukrainian bourgeoisie and prevent the socialist revolution from winning out in the Ukraine. It supported the Provisional Government in spite of contradictionis over the issue of Ukrainian autonomy.

After the Great October Socialist Revolution, the Rada proclaimed itself the supreme organ of the. I.Ikrainian People’s Republic and launched an open struggle against Soviet power. It was one of tbe centres of the counter-revolution.

The First All-Ukraine Congress of Soviets, held in Kharkov in December 4917, proclaimed the l~kraine a Soviet republic. The Congress declared the Central Rada overthrown. The Council of People’s Commissars of the R.S.F.S.R. recognised the Ukrainian Soviet Government as the sole legitimate government of the Ukraine and decided to give it immediate help in fighting tire counter-revolutionary Rada. Armed uprisings against the Central Rada for the re-establishment of Soviet power took place all over the country in December 1917 and January 4918. In January 1918, Soviet troops in the Ukraine launched an offensive and on January 26 (February 8) occupied Kiev. The Rada was overthrown.

Defeated and ousted from the territory of the Soviet Ukraine, deprived of any support among the working people, the Central Rada joined the German imperialists in an alliance to overthrow Soviet power and restore the rule of the bourgeoisie in the Ukraine. It sent a delegation to Brest-Litovsk and secretly concluded a separate peace giving Germany the Ukraine’s corn, coal, raw materials in return for military aid in the fight against Soviet power. In March 1918, the Rada returned to Kiev as the puppet of the Austro-German armies who dispersed it in late April when they realised that it was absolutely incapable of suppressing the revolutionary movement in the Ukraine and delivering the goods.

[2] The rest of the text was written by L. D. Trotsky and edited by Lenin and Stalin.