January 29 is the 102nd anniversary of Kyiv Arsenal January Uprising, which accelerated the fall of the Central Council and the Ukrainian People’s Republic. It lasted 7 days, while Soviet troops were advancing to Kyiv. The situation in the capital of Ukrainian People’s Republic at the beginning of 2018 was difficult - Central Council even though it announced independence, it did not have the forces to fight the Bolsheviks, who had supporters in every city. In the morning on January 29, 1918, representatives of Kyiv Council of Workers' and Soldiers' Delegates made Ukrainian Central Council an ultimatum: to transfer power to the councils and disarm Ukrainian military units. Central Council declined them – instead, it demanded unconditional surrender. Overnight, armed clashes restarted in the city. Ukrainian authorities could not make order in the capital. There were few reliable troops that supported the Central Council in the city.. The troops of Symon Petliura saved the day, which returned to Kyiv under the guns of Mikhail Muravyov’s troops. on February 2, the uprising on the streets of Kyiv was crushed, only its main stronghold stood – Arsenal Factory. After a bloodshed assault, the factory was seized by the troops of Symon Petliura in the morning on February 4. Nevertheless, it did not save the Ukrainian People’s Republic – in several days Ukrainian authorities were forced to leave Kyiv. These events are reminded to residents of Kyiv for the 4th year in a row with the historical reenactment of Battle for Arsenal Factory, which attracts over 1,000 viewers every year. 112.ua also attended it.
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Kyiv center of Svoboda Party, the organizer of the event, announced that it would start at 4 o'clock on Saturday, but by that time, the Arsenal Square was filled to the brim: people were standing in a solid wall around the area, fenced with signal tape, wooden sidewalk signs and National Guards with their phones ready to film.
Many came here with their families, preparing in advance for the announced event, and some were drawn in by the hype around the makeshift battlefield and the presenter’s solemn speech. Oleh Tyahnybok was on stage, and he announced that his party had decided on its nominee for the local elections in Kyiv this fall, and presented to the public Andriy Illenko, who was a candidate for the position of Mayor in 2014.
The presenters, historian Bohdan Halayko and Petro Kuzyk, both members of Svoboda Party, explained to the audience the situation in the country more than a century ago: to prevent the formation of a young independent Ukrainian state, the Bolsheviks throughout the country staged an uprising, drawing an already small army of nationalists from the front line.
Sharp single shots sounded: the re-enactors “fired” their blank round at either side of the stage.
- The Bolsheviks had very strong positions. Machine-gun nests are placed on the barricades, all the approaches are exposed to shooting. Previously, there was no such large-scale construction, so it was very important to attack these fortifications from the street. Now, Ukrainian soldiers have cleared Podil from rebels, are liberating the building of the Central Council, which was also under siege, and hurry here. Windows on the 2nd and 3rd floors the factory’s building were used for shooting, so it is very difficult for Ukrainian soldiers to move under such a mass barrage, - Petro Kuzyk described the events from the stage.
The brick wall of the former warehouse of the Armed Forces and the Arsenal Factory also reminded of those events: on this side, along Moskovska Street, it was covered with holes from bullet and grenades. These traces were left by the weapons of Ukrainian soldiers who tried to eliminate the sniper positions of the Bolsheviks in the building.
Finally, a group of Ukrainian intelligence officers appeared before the stage, and they were immediately “wounded” by blank rounds of the “reds.”
However, the performance does not seem artificial: real weapons of the time was used in the production, and some soldiers even had authentic centennial greatcoat.
- A family I know lent me this coat. Now this kind of thing cannot be sewn in the studio and can be found nowhere, - told us Olesya who played sister of mercy in the production. She, together with one of the teams of re-enactors, came from Vinnytsia, bringing a real Austin armored car and a Maxim machine gun. The wool coat got all rough over the time, and the weapons did not seem to change at all.
- I ordered the wimple of a nun, a bottle and a bag at the studio at my own expense, - Olesya tells, showing her things. - It is our hobby. You know, some people buy expensive biking gear, so do we, the re-enactors spend money on costumes too. I sewed the elements of my costume based on sketches...
Olesya ran with a group of soldiers to the square - she had to protect the “wounded.” Sometimes, she said, she had to provide real first aid - she has all the tools in her pharmacy bag - because accidentally, re-enactors can get injured.
The Ukrainian army was forced to retreat but still does not give up: this year a real armored car appeared in the act, which turned out to be a “surprise” for the rebel workers of the factory.
Kuzyk and Halayko have taken on the role of presenters, and were similar to the commentators of the football match:
- We are observing the latest instructions from the commander...- Bohdan Halayko says excitedly from the stage.
- You can see the unique replay of the battle ... - said Petro Kuzyk. - The Bolsheviks seem to be running out of ammunition; they start throwing random things but it does not scare our army…
- Our troops are finally reaching the Bolshevik barricades and setting up the Ukrainian flag, - the first commentator noted with relief.
Despite the presenters’ description of everything that was happening, it was not enough for people: parents held their children on their shoulders, and some climbed cement beds to see the scenes.
- Three organizations took part in the whole production: the military-historical club Insurgent, Vinnytsia History Center and the 172nd Infantry Regiment, whose members played the Bolsheviks this year. The professionals are working here, we have repeatedly organized such event, so this time everything went well and according to the script. But the biggest complication was actually something we couldn't influence: there was no snow. In previous years, the snow could be used to hide from the enemy's “bullets” and maneuver, but this year the winter is very warm, so the traverses between the “shelters” had to be arranged in the open, - said the scenarist and re-enactor Vladyslav Zaporozhets.
After the establishment of the Ukrainian flag in the “enemy” territory, behind the barricades of bags and machine gun muzzle showing from the embrasure, the National Guardsmen retreated from the signal tape which meant the end of the performance.
The children first rushed forward: they had to collect blank rounds to remember the event.
The presenters announced that anyone can now climb on an armored car and take a memorable photo with the re-enactors and technicians, but asked not to disperse: residents of Kyiv and the guests of the capital were invited to take a memorable torch-walk to Askold's grave, where the heroes of the Battle of Kruty are buried. The battle took place on January 29, 2018 - where about 400 Ukrainian students were killed in an unequal battle with Muravyov's troops near Kruty, a village in Nizhyn district. Reinforcement never came to them because of the uprising that broke out in Kyiv.
“Idiots,” sighed old passer-by, who stopped for a while to watch what was happening. - And who is buried in Mariinsky Park? Why do you not speak about how the Bolshevik rebels were shot?
However, there were few such discontent people, mostly the viewers came just to watch this event.
- Thank you very much! Do it more! I am very proud of you! - said the woman with a smile, who approached the stage and thanked the organizers. They also, thanked her with a smile, proud of the organized event.
- Everything is done here on our own enthusiasm; we got no money from the state. Everything is done at our expense. We spent about 2-3,000 dollars, mainly on the purchase of blank rounds, hay for the bags. And we have our stage, screen and the equipment – we have it since the Maidan, - said Petro Kuzyk later.
After the act, about a quarter of the people remained for the march, and there were enough torches for almost everyone. The torchlight procession looked much more mysterious from the sideline. Drops of melted wax fell down on asphalt, clothes and shoes, but no one seemed to care: even small children carried fire in their hands.
- Bakhmach. Kruty. Heroes cannot be forgotten!, – young man in front of the column chanted to the sounds of the drum march.
The city administration temporarily blocked the traffic all the way from Arsenal Square to St. Nicholas Church. Before the façade of church decorated for New Year, priest Oleksiy was already waiting. He was to sing a prayer in honor of the young soldiers who were killed. Gradually, after honoring the fallen heroes and igniting patriotic feelings, the people began to disperse. The loudspeaker with the microphone switched off, the banners turned off, and the people united around the national idea went on with live their daily lives.