29 January 1918, a historical battle between Bolshevik forces of thousands and small, mainly students’, Ukrainian unit of several hundreds took place near Kruty railway station in 130km from Kyiv.
EMPR continues telling about important pages of Ukrainian history.
5 December 1917, Bolshevik Lenin-Trotsky government declared war on the Ukrainian People’s Republic. Military action started in mid-December 1917, and after the Ukrainian People’s Republic declared its independency, on 22
January 1918 the country was de facto at war with Bolshevik Russia. In his Manifest to Ukrainian People Lenin clearly said that Soviet Russia wouldn’t put up with independent Ukraine.
Bolshevik forces far exceeded Ukrainian ones and by end of December 1917, Soviet army had already occupied Kharkiv, Katerynoslav and Poltava provinces. Kyiv was the next.
At that times Ukrainian students were as conscious and active as their successors during Maidan events in XXI century. In the face of war with Soviet Russia, on 5 January 1918, students of ST. Volodymy Kyiv University and Ukrainian People’s University decided to create volunteer Sich Riflemen Kurin.
Majority of students had never undergone military training, they were short of weapons and ammunition.
On 29 January 1918, 400-men unit mainly consisting of students from the Sich Riflemen Kurin, a unit of the Khmelnytsky Cadet School and up to 100 volunteers from local Free Cossacks got into combat with around 4,000 Bolsheviks.
Despite such unequal numbers, the fight continued for 5 hours. More than half of Ukrainians was killed, 27 students were taken prisoners and later shot. But the act of bravery of the volunteer Sich Riflemen Kurin was able to stop the enemy. Ukrainian soldiers organized retreat and destroyed all railways and bridges on their way. It took 4 days for Bolshevik army to restore its combat efficiency.
Tragic death of the part of Ukrainian students’ Sich Riflemen Kurin near Kruty became a symbol of patriotism and sacrifice in struggle for Ukrainian independence, which has become a burning issue again.
The bodies of 27-30 killed students were reburied at Askold’s Grave in Kyiv in March 1918.
For more than 70 years the true story of the Kruty battle was hidden by the Soviet government, but Ukrainians continued remembering that heroic deed.
In the modern period, Ukrainians mark the historical event every year on 29 January.