On January 29, Ukraine commemorates the heroes of the Battle of Kruty. On January 29, 1918, 130 km to the north-east from Kyiv, the battle took place between a 400 soldiers unit of the Ukrainian forces (300 of them were students) and 4,000 Red Army servicemen led by Colonel Mikhail Muravyov.
The opposing sides: the Bolsheviks and the Ukrainian People’s Republic. The fighting began in mid-December 1917 and after the Fourth Universal of the Ukrainian Central Council (and the actual declaration of independence of the UPR) on January 22, 1918, Ukraine and Bolshevik Russia were de facto at war.
Ukrainian People’s Republic (UPR) hoped for federal relations with Russia – in other words, it wanted to gain independence in decision-making. The Bolsheviks were against it. The result was an ultimatum to the Central Council, the implementation of which would mean the permission to intervene in internal affairs.
Without waiting for an answer, the Bolsheviks decided to engage the army.
The advance moved into two groups: one along the Kharkiv-Poltava- Kyiv railway, the second in the direction of Kursk-Bakhmach-Kyiv.
The fighting near Bakhmach station lasted for several days. After that, the Ukrainian army had to retreat to Kruty station, where the students and cadets fought against the regular Bolshevik army.
Commanders. The UPR forces were headed by former personnel officer of the tsarist army Averkiy Honcharenko. During the Second World War, he joined the SS division “Galicia” and fought against the USSR. After that, he emigrated and lived the rest of his life in the USA.
Organizer of the massacres in Kyiv Mikhail Muravyov headed the Bolshevik army.
Battle of Kruty. Main points
The battle lasted five hours. The Ukrainians repulsed several attacks of the Bolsheviks. However, other Muravyov’s detachments began to come (in particular, the 1st Petrograd detachment), and the Soviet armored train arrived from the Chernihiv railway gauge and began shelling the defenders from the rear.
When the hostilities began to subside, the Ukrainian command received a telegram from Nizhyn, which said that Taras Shevchenko kuren located there declared support for the Soviet government. After that, the students were ordered to retreat to the train, which stood on the other side of Kruty station in direction of Kyiv. Most fighters managed to retreat on the train that was waiting for them. However, it turned out that amid the turmoil, 30 young men were captured.
Red Army commander Yegor Popov infuriated by considerable losses of Soviet forces (about 300 people) ordered to kill the prisoners. It is reported that students were first abused then shot dead. A pupil of 7th grade Hryhoriy Pypsky before execution started to sing Ukrainian anthem and other students sang along.
After the execution, the locals were forbidden for some time to bury the bodies. Later, the victims were solemnly reburied at the Askold grave in Kyiv.
At the cost of their lives, students and cadets delayed the advance of the enemy for 4 days. This made it possible to suppress the rebellion of the Bolsheviks in Kyiv, to prevent the enemy from seizing the Ukrainian capital at one go, and to sign a peace treaty with Germany and its allies in time (Brest-Litovsk Treaty), which stopped the seizure of Ukraine by the Bolsheviks. This battle is compared to the battle that occurred a century later in Donbas, - the defense of Donetsk airport.
In Soviet times, the events near Kruty were either hushed up or overgrown with myths and guesses. These are mainly accusations against the Central Council and the Ukrainian military command, which allowed the death of cadets and students. At the same time, the Ukrainian poet Pavlo Tychyna dedicated his poem “In Memory of Thirty” to the heroic act of students.
In 2006, Kruty Heroes Memorial was opened at Kruty station. The main element of the structure is a 10-meter red column - a copy of the columns of the facade of the red building of Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University, where the majority of the immortalized student heroes came from. A railway station with a steam locomotive and wagons were recreated near the memorial, in which an exposition dedicated to the struggle for the independence of Ukraine in 1917-1919 was opened. The memorial complex also has a chapel. A small lake in the shape of a cross was made near the memorial.
On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the events near Kruty, the National Bank of Ukraine issued a jubilee one hryvnia coin.
Also, people’s veche and reconstruction of the battle near Kruty are held.