Kiev Armed Uprisings of 1917 and 1918

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kiev Armed Uprisings of 1917 and 1918


uprisings by workers and revolutionary soldiers under the leadership of the Bolsheviks in order to establish the power of the Soviets in the Ukraine.

The uprising against the bourgeois Provisional Government of Oct. 29–31 (Nov. 11–13), 1917. Preparation for an uprising in Kiev, as well as throughout the country, began after the Sixth Congress of the RSDLP (Bolshevik), which was held in August 1917. By the end of October the number of Red Guards in the city had reached 3,000 and on the day of the uprising, 5,000; there were about 7,000 in revolutionary detachments. Revolutionary work in the garrison was directed by the military organization of the Kiev Committee of the RSDLP (B), headed by L. L. Piatakov. The center of counterrevolution in the city was the staff headquarters of the Kiev Military District, which relied upon the military colleges and the schools for ensigns, as well as the cossacks and troops summoned from the Southwestern Front. The total number of well-armed (in contrast with the revolutionary detachments) troops of the Provisional Government within the city exceeded 12,000. The Central Rada (with its General Secretariat led by M. S. Grushevskii, V. K. Vinnichenko, S. V. Petliura, and others), which also had considerable military forces at its disposal, took an antirevolutionary position. It maneuvered back and forth and carried on negotiations with the leaders of the uprising as well as with the staff of the military district, but in fact it supported the latter.

The uprising in Kiev began under the direct influence of the October Armed Uprising in Petrograd. On October 27 (November 9) at a joint session of the Kiev soviet of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies with the participation of representatives from the military units, factory and plant committees, and trade unions of Kiev, a resolution was adopted in support of the uprising in Petrograd. At the same time the power of the Kiev soviet was proclaimed and a revolutionary committee was elected; the committee was composed of ten members, including la. B. Gamarnik, A. V. Ivanov, I. M. Kreisberg, I. Iu. Kulik, I. Puke, G. L. Piatakov, and L. L. Piatakov (chairman).

On the evening of October 28 (November 10) a detachment of Junkers and cossacks surrounded the Mariinskii Palace and arrested the revolutionary committee, which was staying there. Early on the morning of October 29 (November 11) at a conference between representatives of the plants and the military units a new revolutionary committee was formed (A. V. Ivanov, V. P. Zatonskii, I. M. Kudrin, A. E. Karpenko, M. S. Bogdanov, A. B. Gorvits, and F. Nusbaum). The Arsenal Plant became the center of the uprising. It began at 5 P.M. on October 29 (November 11). Insurgent soldiers from the 3rd Aviation Pool attacked the Nicholas Military School and captured the artillery depot in Pechersk and the garrison guardhouse, thereby freeing 350 revolutionary soldiers that were under arrest. The workers at the Arsenal Plant beat back several attacks by counterrevolutionary units.

In Podol, Shuliavka, and other worker sections of the city Red Guard detachments went into action at the Junkers’ rear. Fighting continued all night. On October 30 (November 12) the uprising was supported by a strike that involved more than 20,000 workers from all industrial enterprises, the railroads, the trolleys, and the waterworks. After storming and having seized the military school and the Butyshev Ensigns’ School by 4 P.M. on October 30 (November 12), the revolutionary detachments smashed the enemy’s strongpoints. At noon on October 31 (November 13) an attack was begun against the district staff headquarters, the commanding officers of which fled from Kiev during that same night. The uprising against the Provisional Government was victorious. But during this period the Central Rada gathered nationalistic units together in Kiev; captured the government institutions, railroad station, post office, and telephone; and seized power in the city. On November 7 (20) the rada proclaimed the formation of the so-called Ukrainian National Republic and declared itself to be its supreme organ.

The uprising against the counterrevolutionary bourgeois-nationalistic Central Rada of Jan. 16–22 (Jan. 29-Feb. 4), 1918. Having seized power and entered into struggle against Soviet Russia, the Central Rada turned into a center for the breeding of counterrevolution throughout Russia. The rada began reprisals against Red Guard detachments and revolutionary units in the Ukraine; it also tried to interrupt the convocation of the First All-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets by assembling in Kiev numerous members of kulak “factions” (“alliances”) and military councils that had nothing in common with the soviets. These self-appointed “delegates” were in the majority in the congress. However, 129 delegates from 49 soviets of the Ukraine walked out of this mob meeting and went to Kharkov, where the Congress of the Soviets of the Ukraine was held on Dec. 11–12 (24–25), 1917. After proclaiming the Ukraine to be a republic of soviets, the congress called upon the toilers to engage in a decisive struggle against the counterrevolutionary Central Rada.

The rada continued its terrorist activities: L. L. Piatakov, the chairman of the revolutionary committee, was arrested and killed; haidamaki (anti-Bolshevik Ukrainian cavalry detachments) and cossacks carried out mass arrests and confiscated about 1,500 rifles from members of the Red Guards; the 3rd Air Detachment was disarmed; and the Arsenal Plant was seized. On Jan. 5 (18), 1918, Soviet Ukrainian troops, supported by revolutionary detachments from the central provinces of Russia, began an offensive against Kiev. On the evening of January 15 (28) the Soviet of Working People’s and Soldiers’ Deputies in conjunction with representatives from the factory and plant committees and trade unions resolved to begin an uprising in the city. A city revolutionary committee was elected (A. V. Ivanov, Ia. B. Gamarnik, A. B. Gorvits, M. V. Kostiuk, I. M. Kudrin, N. N. Lebedev, I. M. Kreisberg, M. S. Bogdanov, and others). The number of Red Guards and soldiers in revolutionary units reached 6,000. The rada had from 8,000 to 10,000 “free cos-sacks” and haidamaki under Petliura’s command.

The uprising began at 3 A.M. on January 16 (29). Its strong-point was the Arsenal Plant. The workers of the plant occupied it and appointed as its commanding officer Battalion Commander S. Mishchenko, who came over to the side of the insurgents with 450 soldiers of the Sagaidachnyi Regiment. The rada’s major forces were thrown into an assault on the plant. On January 16 (29) and 17 (30) their attacks were repulsed. The workers of the Arsenal Plant, together with soldiers of the 3rd Aviation Pool and Pontoon Battalion, captured several weapons depots on January 16 (29), as well as the Pechersk Fortress, and they seized control of the bridges across the Dnieper. On January 17–18 (30–31) the Red Guards of Podol, Shuliavka, Demievka District, and the Main Railroad Workshops, pressing the counterrevolutionary troops before them, moved toward the center of the city. The uprising covered all of Kiev.

But on January 21 (February 3) there came into the city the “kureni (Zaporozh’e Cossack units) of death,” under the command of Petliura; these were troops that were transferred from the front to reinforce the “free cossacks” and the haidamaki. The position of the insurgents seriously deteriorated; the Arsenal Plant was cut off from the city and was subjected to heavy artillery bombardment. After uninterrupted fighting for six days the ammunition and food supplies of the besieged men were exhausted. On January 22 (February 4) by a resolution of the revolutionary committee the workers of the Arsenal Plant ceased fighting; part of them left the plant by secret passages and joined up with Soviet troops. After bursting into the plant, Petliura’s men dealt cruelly with the insurgents; more than 300 Red Guards were shot.

On January 26 (February 8) the Red Army had moved up to the outskirts of Kiev; after drawn-out street fights aided by detachments of workers, the army completely cleared the city of the Central Rada’s troops. Soviet power was established in Kiev. During these January days the insurgent Kievans had lost as many as 1,500 men, and on February 4, 750 of them were buried with honors in Mariinskii Park. A monument was constructed in the area in front of the Arsenal.


Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia na Ukraine: Sb. dokumentov i materialov, vols. 1–3. Kiev, 1957.
Ocherki istorii Kommunisticheskoi partii Ukrainy, 3rd ed. Kiev, 1972.
Istoriia Kyeva, vol. 2. Kiev, 1960.
Suprunenko, M. Peremoha Velikoi Zhovtenevoi sotsialistychnoi revoliutsii na Ukraini. Kiev, 1957.
Shmorgun, P., B. Korol’ov, and M. Kravchuk. Kyiv u tr’okh revoliutsiiakh. [Kiev] 1963.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.