Ukrainian People's Army

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Ukrainian People's Army
Roundel of Ukraine.svg
CountryFlag of the Ukrainian State.svg  Ukrainian People's Republic
Allegiance Ukrainian People's Republic
Role Land warfare
Size100,000 personnel at its peak
Commander Symon Petliura

The Ukrainian People's Army (Ukrainian : Армія Української Народної Республіки), also known as the Ukrainian National Army (UNA) or as a derogatory term of Russian and Soviet historiography Petliurovtsi (Ukrainian : Петлюровці) was the army of the Ukrainian People's Republic (1917–1921). They were often quickly reorganized units of the former Imperial Russian Army or newly formed volunteer detachments that later joined the national armed forces. The army lacked a certain degree of uniformity, adequate leadership to keep discipline and morale. Unlike the Ukrainian Galician Army, the Ukrainian People's Army did not manage to evolve a solid organizational structure, and consisted mostly of volunteer units, not regulars. [1]



Creation: Military congresses

When the Tsentralna Rada (Central Rada) came to power in Ukraine in spring of 1917, it was forced to promptly put together an army to defend Ukraine against the Bolsheviks. Nearly all units of the newly created army were detached from the Imperial Russian Army. On March 29, 1917 the first organization of military forum the Ukrainian Military Club was organized at the Kiev Military District on the initiative of Mykola Mikhnovsky. Also during 1917 there were three All-Ukrainian Military Congresses that elected their representatives to the Central Rada. After the first such congress that took place on May 18–21, 1917 in Kiev, the Ukrainian General Military Committee was created. [2] The committee was placed in charge for creation and restructuring of the army. The head of the committee was elected the future first General Secretary of Military Affairs, Symon Petlyura. [2]

The next congress, defying a ban placed by the Russian Provisional Government, took place on June 18–23, 1917 in Kiev. At this congress the 1st "Universal" of the Central Rada was read and the first elections to that institution took place. The last congress took place on November 2–12, 1917 and also in Kiev. Due to the civil unrest that was initiated by the Bolsheviks across the country also known as the October Revolution the congress took longer than its predecessors as it was interrupted for a few days in order to create the first Ukrainian Regiment for the Defense of Revolution (headed by Colonel Yuri Kapkan). The main requests of the congress were proclamation of the Ukrainian Democratic Republic, full Ukrainization of army and navy, and an immediate peace treaty.

At the time, the Central Rada did not see the need for a standing army, reinforced by conscription. Instead, a 'Free Cossack' concept (which was no different from a militia) was introduced and ratified in November 1917. [1] Only when the Bolsheviks invaded the Ukrainian People's Republic, in December 1917, was the need for a regular standing army appreciated. The new organization was to include; eight infantry corps and four cavalry divisions. But these plans were never realized, as the Rada was overthrown in a coup led by Pavlo Skoropadsky, who brought the Hetmanate to power in Ukraine. [1] A temporary peace treaty with the Bolsheviks was also signed on 12 June 1918. [3]

Head of the Ukrainian Central Rada, Mykhailo Hrushevskyi, at a military parade in Kiev in 1917 Grushevskiy parad.jpg
Head of the Ukrainian Central Rada, Mykhailo Hrushevskyi, at a military parade in Kiev in 1917
Ukrainian soldiers in Kiev in 1917 Polubotkivtsi.jpg
Ukrainian soldiers in Kiev in 1917
Soldiers of the Ukrainian People's Army in 1917 Voyaky unr.jpg
Soldiers of the Ukrainian People's Army in 1917
Kiev unit artillerymen with a howitzer SS kiyivs'ki.jpg
Kiev unit artillerymen with a howitzer
The 1st Ukrainian Division was formed in the spring of 1918 by Ukrainian POWs in German camps. Since they wore blue coats they were generally called Sinyozhupanna. Ukrainian-bluecoats-1918.jpg
The 1st Ukrainian Division was formed in the spring of 1918 by Ukrainian POWs in German camps. Since they wore blue coats they were generally called Sinyozhupanna.
Uniform of a soldier from the Blue Coat Division Ukr army1.jpg
Uniform of a soldier from the Blue Coat Division
Troops from the 1st Zaporizhian Detachment with a Garford-Putilov Armoured Car called "Haidamaka" Pantsernik Gaidamaka.jpg
Troops from the 1st Zaporizhian Detachment with a Garford-Putilov Armoured Car called "Haidamaka"
3rd Haidamatsky Infantry Regiment of Sloboda Ukraine troops with an Austin Armoured Car called "Shvidkiy" Gajdamackij kish-2.jpg
3rd Haidamatsky Infantry Regiment of Sloboda Ukraine troops with an Austin Armoured Car called "Shvidkiy"
Newly enlisted volunteers swearing an oath of allegiance in 1919 UNR Army Oath.jpg
Newly enlisted volunteers swearing an oath of allegiance in 1919
Ukrainian POWs released from Serbian captivity swear the oath of allegiance to Ukraine and the Ukrainian Brigade on August 3, 1919 Ukrainian-brigade-1919.jpg
Ukrainian POWs released from Serbian captivity swear the oath of allegiance to Ukraine and the Ukrainian Brigade on August 3, 1919
UPR soldiers who participated in the 1919 First Winter Campaign Uchasniki Pershogo zimovogo pokhodu.jpg
UPR soldiers who participated in the 1919 First Winter Campaign

After taking power, the Hetmanate government established its own plans for a standing army. These were to consist of 310,000 military personnel divided into eight territorial corps, with an annual budget of 1,254 million karbovantsi. [1] However, this army did not develop beyond the organizational stage, due to many dissident movements and gross unpopularity of the Hetmanate amongst peasants and civilians. In November 1918, the Directorate came to power in Ukraine, bringing with it yet another vision for the structure of the army. During this time, most units simply crossed from the Hetmanate to the Directorate with little organizational change occurring. [1]

War of Independence

The Bolsheviks first invaded the Ukrainian People's Republic in January 1918. [4] After several weeks of battle, the Red Army overwhelmed the fairly small Ukrainian force, and took Kiev on February 9. This forced the Central Rada to seek help from the Central powers of World War I. After signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Ukrainian Army was to receive assistance in fighting the Red Army. A German-Austrian Operation Faustschlag offensive removed the Bolsheviks from Kiev in early March, and the Rada government returned to the capital. In April, the Red Army was forced to completely retreat from Ukraine, and a peace treaty was signed. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] The German/Austro-Hungarian victories in Ukraine were due to the apathy of the locals and the inferior fighting skills of Bolsheviks troops compared to their Austro-Hungarian and German counterparts. [8]

In December 1918, after the Directorate's coming to power, the army reached its peak at an estimated 100,000 recruits. [9] These armed forces proved to be neither battleworthy nor well-organized. [10] At the time most of Pavlo Skoropadskyi's Ukrainian State forces changed sides and joined the Directory. [10]

In January 1919, Ukraine declared war on Soviet Russia, after the latter established a provisional government in Kharkiv, proclaiming the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Simultaneously, the West Ukrainian People's Republic had taken Lviv, thereby beginning a war with the Second Polish Republic. [3] In January 1919, the Ukrainian People's Army and the Ukrainian Galician Army united, after the West Ukrainian People's Republic had been completely occupied by Polish forces, and Kiev by Soviet forces. [4] [11] Symon Petlyura became the commander in chief of the new Ukrainian Army; this improved the order and discipline in the army. [10] Special inspectors with wide authority were introduced, similar to Bolshevik commissars. [10] The army grew as 35,000 soldiers of central Ukraine were joined by 50,000 Galicians. [10] Having this force, the army of the UNR launched a successful raid on Kiev and Odessa in August 1919. [10] But eventually the united armies suffered severe casualties in their suicidal war against the Polish army, Denikin's Whites and the Bolsheviks. [10] An epidemic of spotted fever contributed to this defeat. [10] Therefore, Ukraine signed an armistice with the Entente and later with Poland in May 1919. [12]

After failing to capture Kiev on their own, the Ukrainian army signed the Treaty of Warsaw with Poland, in April 1920. [13] Under the treaty, Ukrainian forces fought side by side with Polish forces against Soviet Russia and other Ukrainian 'Red' movements (Denikin, the Germans and the Entente had long since been expelled from Ukraine). Following a decisive failure in the Kiev Offensive, Ukrainian presence only decreased in the seesaw Polish-Soviet war. [14] Until finally the newly founded Soviet Union and Poland signed the Treaty of Riga on March 18, 1921, ending the war. The small remnants of the Ukrainian People's army either resorted to Guerrilla warfare or joined the Polish Army. [1]


The headquarters of the Ukrainian Armed forces was called the General Bulawa. The original structure of the army, as designated by the Tsentralna Rada, planned to organize an optimistic eight infantry corps and four cavalry divisions. But these plans were never realized due to the internal struggle for power in Ukraine. Instead, the army was hastily formed of various armed volunteer units and 'Free Cossacks'. [1] But in May 1919 (long after the Directorate assumed power), the Ukrainian people's army was forced to reorganize after its manpower dropped from 100,000 to 15,000 in just five months of warfare with Soviet Russia. [9] According to then Ukrainian politician Volodymyr Vynnychenko mainly because of communist propaganda. [10] The new, semi-organized structure was made up of five brigade-sized "army groups" and a large number of 'Free Cossacks':

In May 1920 in the middle of the Polish-Soviet War, the army was once again forced to reorganize, after its strength more than doubled in size. [9] The new structure included: six infantry and one cavalry division. Each infantry division was to have three brigades armed with artillery, a cavalry regiment and an engineer regiment. The single cavalry division had six mounted regiments. The formation of six reserve brigades was also attempted, but this was only partially successful. The reinforcement brigades were later made into an under strength, two brigade machine gun division. Thus, the structure was, as follows: [15]

Ranks and insignia

Following the reformation that took place among the Ukrainian military units the older Russian rank structure and insignia were dropped and replaced with those of the Hetmanate times. Most notable is the introduction of the rank of Otaman that replaced the General ranks of the Russian army. The army headquarters became known as the General Bulawa. The military representative in the Directorate of Ukraine, Symon Petliura was given the rank of the Chief Otaman. The new position was introduced by the former Russian General and later Otaman Oleksander Hrekov.

Ranks (in descending order) since end of 1917:

General ranks
  1. Otaman Frontu
  2. Otaman Armii
  3. Otaman Korpusu
  4. Otaman Divizii
  5. Otaman Brihady (Brigadier general)
Other officers
  1. Polkovnyk (Colonel)
  2. Osavul (Lieutenant colonel)
  3. Kurinny (Major)
  4. Sotnyk (Captain)
  5. Pivsotenny (Lieutenant)
  1. Bunchuzhny (Company Sergeant)
  2. Chotar (Platoon Sergeant)
  3. Royovyi (Sergeant)
  4. Kozak (see Cossacks)

Ranks have altered in June 1918, but only for officers:

General (Heneral)
  1. Heneralnyi Bunchuzhnyi (General)
  2. Heneralnyi Znachkovyi (Lieutenant general)
  3. Heneralnyi Khorunzhyi (Major general)
  1. Polkovnyk (Colonel)
  2. Viyskova Starshyna (Lieutenant colonel)
  3. Sotnyk (Captain)
  4. Znachkovyi (Lieutenant)
  5. Khorunzhyi (2 Lieutenant)

Main military formations (UPR)

Main military formations (WUPR)

List of generals

See also

Related Research Articles


Ataman was a title of Cossack and haidamak leaders of various kinds. In the Russian Empire, the term was the official title of the supreme military commanders of the Cossack armies. The Ukrainian version of the same word is Hetman. Otaman in Ukrainian Cossack forces was a position of a lower rank.

Kuban Cossacks Ethnic group

Kuban Cossacks, or Kubanians, are Cossacks who live in the Kuban region of Russia. Most of the Kuban Cossacks are descendants of different major groups of Cossacks who were re-settled to the western Northern Caucasus in the late 18th century. The western part of the host was settled by the Black Sea Cossack Host who were originally the Zaporozhian Cossacks of Ukraine, from 1792. The eastern and southeastern part of the host was previously administered by the Khopyour and Kuban regiments of the Caucasus Line Cossack Host and Don Cossacks, who were re-settled from the Don from 1777.

Zaporozhian Sich former proto-state

The Zaporozhian Sich was a semi-autonomous polity and proto-state of Cossacks in the 16th to 18th centuries, centred in the region around today's Kakhovka Reservoir and spanning the lower Dnieper river in Ukraine. In different periods the area came under the sovereignty of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Ottoman Empire, the Tsardom of Russia, and the Russian Empire.

Registered Cossacks Military unit

Registered Cossacks comprised special Cossack units of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth army in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Kiev Arsenal January Uprising

Kiev Arsenal January Uprising, sometimes called simply the January Uprising or the January Rebellion, was the Bolshevik-organized workers' armed revolt that started on January 29, 1918 at the Arsenal factory in a Kiev (Kyiv) during the Ukrainian-Soviet War. The goal of the uprising was to sabotage the ongoing elections to the Ukrainian Constituent Assembly and to support the advancing Red Army.

Colonel (Eastern Europe) Military rank equivalent to Colonel

Polkovnik is a military rank used mostly in Slavic-speaking countries which corresponds to a colonel in English-speaking states and oberst in several German-speaking and Scandinavian countries. The term originates from an ancient Slavic word for a group of soldiers and folk. However, in Cossack Hetmanate and Sloboda Ukraine, polkovnyk was an administrative rank similar to a governor. Usually this word is translated as colonel, however the transliteration is also in common usage, for the sake of the historical and social context. Polkovnik began as a commander of a distinct group of troops (polk), arranged for battle.


Sotnik or Sotnyk was a military rank among the Cossack starshyna, Strelets Troops in Muscovy and Imperial Cossack cavalry, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the Ukrainian Galician Army, and the Ukrainian People's Army.

Pavlo Skoropadskyi Ukrainian Cossack military and political official; Hetman of Ukraine (1918)

Pavlo Petrovych Skoropadskyi was a Ukrainian aristocrat, military and state leader, decorated Imperial Russian Army and Ukrainian Army general of Cossack heritage. Skoropadsky became a conservative leader in Ukraine following the Russian Revolution of 1917, a founder of a hetman dynasty and Hetman of Ukraine.

Nikifor Grigoriev Ukrainian military leader (1885-1919)

Nikifor Aleksandrovich Grigoriev was a Russian and Ukrainian paramilitary leader noted for numerous switching of sides during the Russian Civil War in Ukraine. He was commonly known as "Otaman Grigoriev", as "Matviy Hryhoriyiv", "Matvey Grigoriev", or "Mykola Grigoriev".

Sich Riflemen Military unit

The Sich Riflemen Halych-Bukovyna Kurin were one of the first regular military units of the Ukrainian People's Army. The unit operated from 1917 to 1919 and was formed from Ukrainian soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian army, local population and former commanders of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen in Austria-Hungary.

Battle of Kruty 1918 battle of the Ukrainian–Soviet War

The Battle of Kruty took place on January 29 or 30, 1918, near Kruty railway station, about 130 kilometres (81 mi) northeast of Kyiv, Ukraine, which at the time was part of Nezhinsky Uyezd of Chernigov Governorate.

Kurin is a military term that was established by the cossacks.

Danubian Sich

The Danubian Sich was an organization of the part of former Zaporozhian Cossacks who settled in the territory of the Ottoman Empire after their previous host was disbanded and the Zaporizhian Sich was destroyed.

Oleksandr Udovychenko

Oleksandr Ivanovych Udovychenko, was a General of the Army of the Ukrainian National Republic and a military administrator. Later, he served as the Vice-President for the Government-in-exile of the Ukrainian National Republic.

Semen Hryhorovych Hryzlo was a Ukrainian military and civil activist, one of the organizers of the Free Cossacks military formations, and a participant in the uprising on the battleship Potemkin.

Battle of Kiev (1918)

The Battle of Kiev of January 1918 was a Bolshevik military operation of Petrograd and Moscow Red Guard formations directed to capture the capital of Ukraine. The operation was led by Red Guards commander Mikhail Artemyevich Muravyov as part of the Soviet expeditionary force against Kaledin and the Central Council of Ukraine. The storming of Kiev (Kyiv) took place during the ongoing peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk on February 5–8, 1918. The operation resulted in the occupation of the city by Bolshevik troops on February 9 and the evacuation of the Ukrainian government to Zhytomyr.

Danylo Ilkovych Terpylo Otaman commander

Terpylo Danylo Ilkovych widely known as Otaman Zelenyy – was a famous Otaman (commander) of a Ukrainian peasant rebellion in Ukraine during the Russian Civil War from 1917–1923. He and his forces fought almost all the major military-political forces in Ukraine during the Russian Civil War at some point or another.

Ukrainian Peoples Republic Socialist republic in Ukraine from 1917 to 1920

The Ukrainian People's Republic (UPR), or Ukrainian National Republic (UNR), was declared in Ukraine following the February Revolution in Russia. In March 1917 the National Congress in Kyiv elected the Central Council composed of socialist parties on the same principles as throughout the rest of the Russian Republic. The republic's autonomy was recognized by the Provisional government of Russian Republic. Following the October Revolution in Russia and aggression of the newly formed Bolshevik Russia against Ukraine, it proclaimed its independence from the Russian Republic on 25 January 1918.

Soviet–Ukrainian War

The Soviet–Ukrainian War is the term commonly used in post-Soviet Ukraine for the events taking place between 1917–21, nowadays regarded essentially as a war between the Ukrainian People's Republic and the Bolsheviks. The war ensued soon after the October Revolution when Lenin dispatched the Antonov's expeditionary group to Ukraine and Southern Russia.

Tsarist officers in the Red Army

During the Russian Civil War of 1917-1923, a number of former Tsarist officers joined the Red Army, either voluntarily or as a result of coercion. This list includes officers of the Imperial Russian Army commissioned before 1917 who joined the Bolsheviks as commanders or as military specialists. For former Tsarist NCOs promoted under the Soviets, see Mustang.


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  11. Abbott p.19
  12. Abbott p.18
  13. Davies, White Eagle..., Polish edition, p.99-103
  14. Abbott, p.20
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Abbott, p 19, 20
  16. In honour of the disbanded Sich Riflemen