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Ukraine - Historical Flags (1917-1918)

Last modified: 2014-08-12 by andrew weeks
Keywords: ukraine | hutsul | verkhovyna |
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20 November 1917 Flag
image by Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001

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The first opportunity for Ukrainians to adopt the blue and yellow as a national flag came with the break up of the Austrian and Russian empires as a result of World War I. The Ukrainian National Republic (UNR) was proclaimed on 20 November 1917. This was planned as a republic within a (future) Russian federation. However, because of the Bolshevik takeover in Russia and the war launched into Ukraine, independence was declared 22 January 1918. On the same day, the national flag of yellow over light blue was adopted 22 March 1918 . A naval ensign with a trident had been adopted a few days earlier, on 18 January 1918 [Encyclopedia Ukraine].

On 29 April 1918, a coup overthrew the UNR government. General Pavlo Skoropadsky set up the 'Hetmanate of Ukraine' ('Hetman' is an old title used by certain military leaders). The flag was now changed to light blue over yellow.
Jan Oskar Engene, 7 September 1996

State flag adopted 22 March, 1918, existed until May 1918.
Victor Lomantsov, 1 July 2001

Historical Facts: After the Russian revolution and the creation of the provisional government (March 1917) the Ukrainian nationalists assumed the control of many institutions and on 3 April they constituted the National Council or Central Rada, while Bolshevik groups created the Soviets of Soldiers and Workers. The Rada requested full autonomy on 26 April. On 13 July, with the nationalists growing stronger and stronger, it was proclaimed the autonomous territory of Ukraine within Russia and a provisional government was formed. The Russian government sent delegates to negotiate the future status, but no agreement had been reached when the Bolsheviks took the power. The Rada refused to recognize the Soviet government and on 20 November 1917 it was proclaimed the Ukrainian Peoples Republic with the governments of Kiev, Podolia, Volinia,Chernigov, Poltava, Jarkov, Yekaterinoslav, Jerson and Tauride. The yellow and blue flag was adopted on 29 December 1917.
On 17 December Lenin recognized the Republic. In December France and in January England also recognized it. Nevertheless the Ukrainian government declared that its aim was a federation of republics emerged from the ancient Russian empire.
The Bolsheviks of the Soviet Republic of Ukraine occupied Kiev (2 February) thanks to the fact that many Ukrainian forces changed sides and other refused to fight. The government of the Rada, chaired by Binechenko, that was negotiating a separate peace with the central Powers, was arrested. The Ukrainian forces concentrated in Pechek, South of Kiev, and the government of the Rada moved to Jitomir under the presidency of Golubovich. On 9 February 1918 they signed the peace separately with Germany and Austria: Ukraine kept its frontiers and got the territory of Kholm. The German armies broke the ceasefire with Russia on 18 February and entered in Ukraine on 19 February. Golubovich, who was in Jitomir in adesperate situation due to the unstoppable Bolshevik advance, requested help from Germany (19 February) . The German troops crossed the Dnieper on 1 March and advanced in all fronts and headed to Kiev that was occupied the following day. On 3 March Russia signed an armistice (that leaded to the peace of Brest-Litovsk on 8 March) and the combats stopped in Russian territory but not in Ukraine. The Treaty of Brest Litovsk assigned to Ukraine a part of Belorussia (8 March), that however lost part of Kholm. On 12 March practically all Ukraine was under Austrian or German control.
The President of the Rada, Golubovich, collaborated with the Germans but they favored the landowners and conservative classes while the government was socialdemocratic. As the anti-German agitation was increasing and the Rada was expressing more and more opposition to the occupation regime, the German Army performed a coup d'état. On 29 April the Parliament or Rada elected Michael Hrushewsky as first president of the Republic. The following day the German forces, with the collaboration of the cossaks of the Hetman Skoropadsky, performed a coup d'état. Hrushevsky and other members of the Rada were jailed. It was proclaimed the martial law. At the head of the government was put the Hetman Paulov Skoropadsky.
Led by the anarchist Nestor Makhno. In the area of Guliay-Pole it was created an 'anarchist state' (sic!). Makhno fought against the Germans, against the white armies (on the side of the Red Army), and against the Bolsheviks. The flags of the 'makhnovtzy' were black with inscripions "Anarchy is the mother of order" [Anarkhiya - mat' poriadka] and other inscriptions, or plain black or red-black.
Soviet Republic of Ukraine (December 1917): On 23 December the Bolsheviks took Jarkov in the Eastern Ukraine. They also controlled Shmerinka in the West. The first Congress of all the Soviets of Ukraine gathered in Jarkov on 12 December 1917 and decided the establishment of the formally proclaimed Soviet Republic on 25 December (Ukrainian Peoples Republic of the Soviets of Workers and Peasants, or Soviet Federal Republic of Ukraine or Soviet Peoples Republic of Ukraine) that had as its capital Jarkov. The Soviet republic encompassed theoretically all the Soviets of Ukraine, each one having established their own republic. It subsisted until May 1918. It used red flag with the national flag in the canton, adopted at the beginning of January 1918. In this month Yekaterisnoslav was occupied. In February the Bolshevik forces entered in Kiev, but the arrival of German forces (March) forced them to vacate it, losing practically all Ukraine. The Republic of Donetzk-Krivorog was established simultaneously with capital in Jarkov, probably as one of the constituent subrepublics.
Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001

20 November 1917 Flag

image by Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001

On 20 November 1917 it was proclaimed the the Peoples Republic of Ukraine's flag used is yellow over light blue adopted oficilly 29 December 1917. Arms were adopted only in 14 March 1919.
Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001

25 December 1917 Flag

image by Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001

On 25 December 1917 , the Bolsheviks at Kharkov proclaimed the Soviet Republic (Ukraine Peoples Republic of the Soviets of Workers and Peasants). Both governments disputed territory until that the german invasion ended the Soviet government in March 1918.
Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001

Revolutionary Insurgent Army

image by Jaume Olle, 26 August 2001

Note: there are spelling mistakes in this image
image by Jaume Olle, 26 August 2001

In those years the Revolutionary Insurgent Army led by Makhno operated in Ukraine. Several black flags were used and the this one is only a exemple of this kind of flags.
Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001

The text on this "death's head" flag reads "smert'" (death) . I understand that this is an example of various black flags.  I have a book on Air Force markings which says the Ukrainian AF in this era often used "skull and bone" markings on their aircraft (I believe it was Y skull & bones on a W roundel with a B- border).
Dean R. Mc Gee, 26 August 2001

Gary wrote: "In the second flag with the skull and cross bones ("smert'" death) the last word is with a "P", but it should be with an "L" according to my Ukrainian wife."
It is obviously so.  The last line, "trudovomu lyudu" would then mean "for the working people."  The rest of it transliterates as (approximately) "Smert' vsim, khto [Death to all who] na pirishkodi dobut'ya vshchnost!" whatever that may mean. 
Joe McMillan, 11 Febuary 2003

Many grammatic mistakes in small phrase:
Smert vsim - Death to all 
khto na pirishkodi  -  who prevents
dobuttya vil`nosti  -  receiving of freedom
trudovomu lyudu   -   for working people
You may see photo of this banner on my site at <>.
Victor Lomantsov, 11 Febuary 2003

I take it that the second letter in the last word of the second line below the skull should be I (Ukrainian I with dot, not the other Cyrillic i that looks like a backward N), followed by "L."  At present, the image shows the letter transliterated as "shch."  And the last letter of that word should be the same Ukrainian dotted I, not an exclamation mark.  Any other misspellings?
Joe McMillan, 11 Febuary 2003

Republic of Hutsul (November 1918)

On November 1918 the National Council established its control in Jasina forming a government known as Republic of Hutsul. The flag purportedly used was the blue over yellow of Ukraine. By mid June 1919 the region was occupied by the Rumanians and the Republic was dissolved.
Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001

Republic Verkhovyna (November 1918)

In November 1918 the National Council established its control in Uzghorod forming a government known as Republic of Verkhovyna, that later joined other local Councils to create the government of the National Council of the Subcarpatian Russia or Podkarpatska Rus that negotiated and obtained its union with Czechoslovakia as an autonomous province (15 March). The flag used was the blue over yellow of Ukraine. The union with autonomy was recognized by the Treaty of Saint Germain of 10 September 1919.
Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001

Republic of Przemysl (November 1918)

Small ethnic groups within the Austro-Hungarian Empire created their national Councils in 1918. With the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian front these national Councils proclaimed various republics: Baranya, Eastern Slovakia, Hutsul, Przemysl, Lemko...
Information on thosr republics can be found in C.A. Maccartney, Hungary and Her Successors: The Treaty of Trianon and Its Consequences, 1919-1937 (Oxford, 1937); and Ladislav Tajtak, Narodno-demokratic revolucia na vychodnom Slovensku v roku 1918 (Bratislava, 1972).
The Ukrainian National Council of Przemysl proclaimed in November 1918 used the blue over yellow flag. Few weeks later it joined the Republic of Western Ukraine that at the same time joined the Peoples Republic of Ukraine, but little after it was occupied by Poland.
Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001

Republic of Komancza (November 1918)

The eastern region of the Lemkos identified itself with Ukraine but the western region had more links with Russia. In the eastern region an assembly was held at the beginning of November 1918, summoned by the Catholic Church, and chaired by pro-Ukrainians. The Assembly proclaimed the Republic of Komancza, whose flag is unknown, but as the goal was union with the Peoples Republic of Western Ukraine proclaimed only some days before in Lemberg (Lvov), is can be supposed that it used the blue over yellow flag. On 23 January 1919 the Republic was occupied by the Poles.
Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001

Republic of Lemko Rusyn (December 1918)

In the western Lemko region Councils were formed in several towns (27 November 1918). In Gladyszow it was created the Rusyn National Council (Ruska Rada) that rejected the union with Western Ukraine and declared their intention of uniting the territory with Russia. On 5 December 1918 the National Council grouping all local councils was established in Florynka. This body decided the establishment of self-government (Republic of Lemkivshchyna) and the creation of an executive Council chaired by Rev. Mykhal Iurchakevych, with the presidency of the Ruska Rada in the person of Dr. Iaroslav Kachmarchyk. It was created a national guard and the civil administration was organized. The Poles supported this initiative in the hope that the new republic would collaborate against Westerm Ukraine and thus allowed the establishment of the government in Grybow, giving weapons to the national guard of the republic. On 13 December the leaders of the Republic nevertheless declared its desire of joining the Greater Russia. But since Russia was torn by civil war, the authorities sought other solutions. In January it was negotiated the creation of a National Council for the administration of all the region of the Rhutenian Carpathians with the aim of a union with Czechoslovakia. These decisions were approved in March in an Assembly in Florynka and the delegates sent to the Peace Conference of Paris were authorized to accept the project, that was fulfilled in the memorandum signed in Paris 20 April. The autonomous State of Carpathia-Rus would encompass the region of Lemko, the region of Presov, and the Subcarpathian Russia. Poland was committed itself not to interfere but little after arrested Rev. Iurchakevych by his pro-Czech activities. On 8 May 1919 the Rusyn South of the Carpathians declared themselves in Uzhhorod in favor of the union with Czechoslovakia but the union of the region of Lemko was considered problematic because the question of its limits was not solved and thus in June 1919 the Peace Conference authorized Poland to occupy temporarily Galitzia but at the disposal of the Allies. The Lemkos then returned to the idea of a union with Russia that was involved in civil war. On 12 March 1920 it was held the second Lemko National Congress that created formally the government of the Republic with Dr. Iaroslav Kachmarchyk as President and Rev. Dmytro Khyliak as Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Congress authorized the government to negotiate with Czechoslovakia. But Czechoslovakia and Poland had established good relations and the issue of Lemko was disturbing the process. Around the end of March the Poles arrested Kachmarchyk and other leaders, under accusation of separatism. Judged in June they were acquitted, but the Republic was definitely dissolved in January 1921. In March 1923 Galitzia was recognized as a Polish possession with no autonomy for its Rusyn or Ukrainian inhabitants.
Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001

Red Cross Flags

image by Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001

National Red Cross (only in Montells [mjm94]), Hospoitals used the white flag with red cross (International red cross organization).
Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001

by Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001

image President of the Ukranian Red Cross (only in Montells [mjm94]).
Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001

Rescue Society  

image by Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001

Rescue Society  (only in Montells [mjm94]).
Jaume Olle, 31 August 2001