In Memory of the 100th Anniversary of Ukrainian Revolution. Intelligence of the UPR. How It All Started


Against the background of the pathetic celebration on December 20, 2017 in the Russian Federation of the 100th anniversary of the Russian state security agencies, we realize once again that we are so different from them: mentally, spiritually, and historically. Despite the fact that in 1991, in Lubyanka, the monument to Felix Dzerzhinsky was demolished, his spirit has not disappeared either from the Lubyanka offices, or from the squares and streets of Russian cities and villages.

His creed is alive and thriving. It is not surprising that during the last quarter of the century the current Russian intelligence services have been proudly calling themselves successors of the Soviet state security agencies – the VChK-GPU-NKVD-KGB, respectively, from which they bear their genealogy, are proud of their predecessors, every time they publish memorable signs before the anniversary dates that differ little from those that decorated the chests of honoured Chekists of forty, sixty, eighty years ago.

Between the history of the Russian and Soviet intelligence and counterintelligence has long been the equals sign. To be exact, the chroniclers and current Russian creators of this history themselves deliberately put this sign. And so the whole plume of the negative, all this karma is still there, it invisibly accompanies the current “knights of the cloak and dagger” in all their work to this day. And the FSB chiefs’ attempts on the occasion of the centennial anniversary somehow to justify the Chekists for past repressions and crimes, and all the talks about  any rationale are complete blasphemy.

In contrast, in 1991, the Security Service of Ukraine as a whole, and the units of the Ukrainian Foreign Intelligence, in particular, resolutely stated that they were not the successors of the Soviet state security agencies. Instead, they began to carefully and accurately write their history, meticulously observing their lineage, trying to objectively portray their history – even if it had not always been cloudless in the past.

Historical periods of research are made clear in the 5-volume scientific publication “Special Services of Ukraine from Ancient Times to the Present”, which is being prepared for  publishing under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, the Institute of History of Ukraine and the National Academy of the SBU: Kyivan Rus’, Cossack Ukraine, national liberation movement of 1917 – 1921, Special Service of the State Center of the UPR in the exile, intelligence and counterintelligence of the OUN and UPA, special services during the recent history of Ukraine. The period of activity of the Soviet intelligence services on the territory of Ukraine is outside the scope of this study, a separate publication will be devoted to it, which is quite logical. That was a different state – the USSR, and the units of the Ukrainian intelligence and counterintelligence at that time had been working in the interests of the Soviet Union.

Today, when the 100th anniversary of the Ukrainian Revolution of 1917 – 1921 is celebrated at the state level, there is a good opportunity to recall that it was precisely at that time that the national intelligence services were created, or rather, were revived. After all, the basis of their activities, the core of the core were the spirit, virtue and heroic deeds of the agents of the times of Kyivan Rus, Cossack scouts, Bogdan Khmelnytskyi’s patrollers and omnipresent agents. On the patriotic wave of proclamation of the Ukrainian People’s Republic all this arose with renewed vigor and for the eternal goal of Ukrainians – to maintain, build and defend their independence and statehood.

In Soviet times any originality, for example, of the Ukrainian intelligence, its own special way, character were out of the question. And even the very expression “a Ukrainian intelligent officer” was treated differently. For decades, it had been absorbed by the concept of “a Soviet intelligence officer”, and this had its logical explanations. In Soviet times few dared to look beyond the timeframes (not Soviet ones) let alone to try and portray a representative of the intelligence of Ukrainian emigration structures. Therefore, often prominent heroes – intelligence officers lost their national identity. In the society’s conscience lived a positive image of the intelligence officers such as Makarov-Koltsov, Isaev-Shtirlits, Belov-Weiss, Burlakov-Vikhr, Abel-Fischer, Molody-Lonsdale…

Speaking about the birth of the Ukrainian intelligence, in Soviet times was cited the instruction of the Foreign Department of the OGPU under the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR, which was received by the GPU of the Ukranian SSR on March 4, 1925, and concerned the necessity of organizing intelligence work in the republic, in particular, creation of foreign residenturas in Poland and Romania. Given this, most often the answer to the question “When was intelligence created in Ukraine?” was as follows: “circa 1925”.

Instead, only during the years of Ukraine’s independence, people caring about the objective description of the history of national special services, scientists, in particular, Doctors of Historical Sciences V. Sidak, D. Vedeneyev, T. Vronska and others began to write the true history of the national intelligence. Persistent study of documents in domestic and foreign archives made it possible to write the previously unexplored facts of our history.

So, as the starting point of the history of the Ukrainian intelligence in that period should be taken not 1925, but 1918. Then, under the Central Rada (Council), the Armed Forces and Special Services of Ukraine were built. Especially important this issue became after the UPR’s signing the Brest Peace Treaty with the countries of the Central bloc (January 27, 1918). At that time, the threat of the Soviet Russia’s aggression remained quite real, despite the fact that the Brest Peace Treaty signed with the countries of the Austria-Germany bloc (March 1918) had the following paragraph: “Russia obligates herself to conclude peace at once with the Ukrainian People’s Republic and to recognize the treaty of peace between that State and the Powers of the Quadruple Alliance. The Ukrainian territory will, without delay, be cleared of Russian troops and the Russian Red Guard. Russia is to put an end to all agitation or propaganda against the Government or the public institutions of the Ukrainian People’s Republic”.

In March 1918, as Professor V. Sidak points out in his studies, the new Chief of the General Staff of the UPR Army Colonel O. Slyvynskyi conducted a structural reorganization. Henceforth, the General Staff consisted of two Quartermaster-General Offices: the first of them managing the operational activities of the army, and the second – the problems of building up the armed forces themselves. In addition to these key Offices, the General Staff also had separate structures, which had to provide the army with confidential official information, namely: “intelligence” Sub-Department, headed by Lieutenant Colonel V. Kolosovskyi, and a Sub-Department of foreign communication headed by General O. Berezovskyi, which had to organize the work of the UPR’s Military Attache Office [1].

March 10, 1918, Volodymyr Kolosovskyi was appointed the Chief of the Intelligence Sub-Department (according to the data from his track record) [2]. At the order of the Minister of Military Affairs of the UPR from April 11, 1918, the Intelligence Sub-Department became the Intelligence Department of the 1st Quartermaster-General Office.

Thus, formalized dates of the creation of units of Ukrainian intelligence have been found. The documented information on this is available in the relevant facilities of the Central State Archives of the Supreme Bodies of Power and Government of Ukraine [3].

As of 19 April 1918, the above-mentioned Intelligence Department, as shown in V. Sidak’s studies, had the following posts: chief, his assistant, two officers for assignments, two translators and one official. There was a division of official duties between the officers of the Department. The Chief of the Department Kolosovskyi carried out the general management of the work of the Intelligence Department. His assistant Osavul Matviyenko had in his competence the organization of the work of agents of the Military Intelligence (“the management of Secret Intelligence”). One of the officers for assignments (Kurinnyi Mazur-Lyakhovskyi) conducted interrogations of prisoners of war and people who came from the territory of Soviet Russia, and the second (Kurinnyi Marchenko) maintained contacts with “political bureau for counter-intelligence”, collected valuable for intelligence information accumulated by the bureau. One of the translators (the second position was vacant) translated materials from German and French. The official served as the clerk of the Department [4].

At that time, the Ukrainian intelligence focused on analyzing the situation on the fronts of Soviet troops in the Don and Kuban, given the direct adjacency of those regions to the borders of Ukraine. Also, intelligence was working on Romania, whose leadership did not hide its intentions to occupy Northern Bukovina and Southern Bessarabia. These directions of work were considered top-priority; the second important task was to collect intelligence about the armies of other states. The secret information received by the Department was included into daily intelligence reports for the Command of the UPR Army. At the same time, the Department was developing recommendations for the UPR’s Military Attaches abroad.

Gradually the main methods of work of the Intelligence Department took shape: collecting intelligence through agents, through interrogating prisoners and citizens who were in the territory of a potential enemy, analysis of foreign publications, which contained information important for the Ukrainian security services. As one of the fruitful methods of operational work, was considered the exchange of confidential information with intelligence agencies of Ukraine’s allies. In the situation of the Austro-German military presence in the UPR, the military intelligence of the Republic depended on the intelligence services of this bloc. Besides, the Intelligence Department was experiencing difficulties due to the lack of skilled personnel and material and technical shortages. Despite this, a solid foundation was laid for the further building and development of national intelligence agencies.

It is natural that from the beginning the intelligence was a military one. Such priorities were during the Hetmanate and the Directorate of the UPR. This was due to the fact that at that time the armed confrontation inside the republic and on the foreign fronts never stopped, and that required regular flow of intelligence data on the enemy, especially military ones.

That was a difficult time both for the Ukrainian state and for those who were at the root of the creation of national intelligence agencies. At that time, the leaders of the country did not yet have a proper understanding that the Intelligence could become a serious special tool in the struggle for the statehood of Ukraine. Not all had a clear idea of ​​the limits of its capabilities and competence, which forms and methods they could use, not always were allocated the necessary funds for a large-scale work abroad, the information provided by the Intelligence was often ignored, and in general,  military building up was not paid proper attention to, which eventually resulted in the defeat of the liberation movement. The Soviet special services, for which the then leaders did not spare either money or equipment, of course, had more chances in this unequal confrontation.

Yet even under such circumstances, the Ukrainian Intelligence showed its capability, efficiency and enormous potential at the expense of true patriots, brave and courageous, ready to sacrifice themselves  for the sake of a better future of a free, independent and sovereign Ukraine. An impartial glance at the biographies of bright representatives of national intelligence services helps understand what motivated them to certain actions and deeds, giving strength to overcome the enemies of Ukraine in the unequal confrontation, not to break, not to despair, not to give up even when the last hopes were on the wane.

Having looked behind the scenes of archival cases, one reads with new eyes the long ago events of our history. And then it becomes even clearer why, in Soviet times, they were interpreted in a distorted light, why the images of representatives of the secret legion of the Ukrainian revolution are still distorted and damned by Russian propaganda.

At the same time, knowledge of those events gives impetus to understanding what is happening today around Ukraine, the nature of Russian aggressive policy and the activities of its special services. After all, what happened in 1917 – 1921 on the territory of Ukraine, those “hybrid” methods of conducting Bolshevik-Ukrainian wars in various forms can be observed today. And this is another argument to confirm how important it is to know and understand history, to learn from past mistakes, not to repeat them again and again, to make corrections to our genealogy, to add to our arsenal the best that was in the history of national intelligence services and what we should know as its main milestones.

Undoubtedly, to current employees of the intelligence agencies of Ukraine, the remarkable dates associated with the creation and development of the Intelligence in recent history are more memorable, closer and more understandable. For example, for Military Intelligence, it is September 7. On this day in 1992, the President of Ukraine’s Decree “On the Directorate of the Military Strategic Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine” was published, and since then a professional holiday – the Day of Military Intelligence of Ukraine has been celebrated. Employees of the Ukrainian Foreign Intelligence remember December 28, 1991 – the day of approving by the Head of the National Security Service of Ukraine Ye. Marchuk of the structure of the Central Intelligence Directorate of the National Security Service, October 14, 2004 – the date of the signing by the President of Ukraine of the Decree “On Establishment of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine” and December 1, 2005 – the day the adoption by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the Law of Ukraine “On the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine”.

But very seldom is recalled in Ukraine the date of the formation of the Soviet intelligence – December 20, 1920, when the Foreign Department of the ChK was established under the NKVD of the RSFSR. This shows that we inevitably are moving away from the Soviet past and that the process of rethinking the history of intelligence services in Ukraine is inevitable. Today, before our eyes, a new history is being created, and we are its direct participants.


1. Sidak V. S. National special services during the period of the Ukrainian Revolution of 1917-1921 (unknown pages of history): monograph. – K.: Alternatives, 1998. – P. 62.

2. Tynchenko Ya. Officers Corps of the Army of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (1917 – 1921): scientific publication. – K.: Tempora, 2007. – P. 210 – 211.

3. The Central State Archives of the Supreme Bodies of Power and Government of Ukraine. – F. 1074. – List 2. – Archival Case 29. – P. 23

Ibid. – F. 1077. – List 1. – Archival Case 27. – P. 2-3.

4. Sidak V. S. The above-mentioned work – P. 62.


Oleksandr Skrypnyk,
the researcher of the history of special services