Lenin and The Ukraine
4 March 2022
From Lenin’s Essay The Ukraine (1917)
… Ukrainian people do not wish to secede from Russia at present. They demand autonomy without denying the need for the supreme authority of the “All-Russia Parliament”. No democrat, let alone a socialist, will venture to deny the complete legitimacy of Ukraine’s demands. And no democrat can deny Ukraine’s right to freely secede from Russia. Only unqualified recognition of this right makes it possible to advocate a free union of the Ukrainians and the Great Russians, a voluntary association of the two peoples in one state. Only unqualified recognition of this right can actually break completely and irrevocably with the accursed tsarist past, when everything was done to bring about a mutual estrangement of the two peoples so close to each other in language, territory, character and history. Accursed tsarism made the Great Russians executioners of the Ukrainian people, and fomented in them a hatred for those who even forbade Ukrainian children to speak and study in their native tongue.
Russia’s revolutionary democrats, if they want to be truly revolutionary and truly democratic, must break with that past, must regain for themselves, for the workers and peasants of Russia, the brotherly trust of the Ukrainian workers and peasants. This cannot be done without full recognition of Ukraine’s rights, including the right to free secession. We do not favour the existence of small states. We stand for the closest union of the workers of the world against “their own” capitalists and those of other countries. But for this union to be voluntary, the Russian worker, who does not for a moment trust the Russian or the Ukrainian bourgeoisie in anything, now stands for the right of the Ukrainians to secede, without imposing his friendship upon them, but striving to win their friendship by treating them as an equal, as an ally and brother in the struggle for socialism.