Mykhailo Hrushevsky (1866–1934) lived in a time of many historic events, not only in Ukraine, but the world. The First World War, then the Revolution and Civil War on the territory of the former Russian Empire, emigration and return. That’s how turbulent his life was. He distinguished himself as a prominent historian, publicist and political figure.
Thanks to his activity as an academician and the head of the History and Philology Department, which was among the largest at the time, the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (AUAS) saw its heyday. Hrushevsky’s creative heritage is comprised of around 2,000 works on history, sociology, literary studies and ethnography. His publicistic and epistolary works still have not been sufficiently studied. One of Hrushevsky’s largest works of history is the “History of Ukraine-Rus”, in which he described the history of the Ukrainian lands from the beginning of their formation to modern times. He was virtually the first historian to write a major work concerning the history of Ukraine covering such a long period.
Hrushevsky’s public and political life was very bright and busy. During the turbulent times of the February Revolution of 1917 in the Russian Empire, on the territory of Ukraine, the Central Rada emerged in Kyiv – a representative body that later became a superior legislative body. Hrushevsky was elected its head in his absence. The Central Rada operated for 14 months. With its Universal of June 23, 1917, the Central Rada headed by Hrushevsky declared Ukrainian autonomy within a federated Russia. Seven months later, on January 22, 1918, it issued its Fourth Universal, which declared Ukraine a “completely independent and sovereign state of the Ukrainian people”. This event became a serious step toward Ukraine’s freedom and independence after the War of Liberation led by Bohdan Khmelnytsky. That is why Ukrainians often call Hrushevsky the first president of Ukraine. In fact, Hrushevsky was president of the Central Rada, both legally and historically. This position can be equated with the modern-day post of Parliament Speaker. Despite this, Hrushevsky’s contribution toward the formation of Ukraine as an independent state remains very significant.