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A Battle in Ukraine Echoes Through the Decades

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BerichtGeplaatst: 06 Jul 2014 14:30    Onderwerp: A Battle in Ukraine Echoes Through the Decades Reageer met quote

A Battle in Ukraine Echoes Through the Decades

MOUNT MAKIVKA, Ukraine ó In a conflict that cost millions of lives, destroyed four empires and introduced Europe to the horrors of chemical weapons and total war, the battle on a pine-covered mountain in what is today western Ukraine was a modest affair. A few hundred soldiers died, and the outcome was so muddled that all sides claimed victory.

For Ukrainians, however, the battle nearly a century ago was a singular event not only in World War I, but also in a longer conflict with Russia that rumbles on today at the eastern end of their country.
For it was at Makivka, according to a Ukrainian version of events that is celebrated in museum displays, monuments, patriotic songs and a recent movie, that Ukrainian soldiers achieved an extraordinary feat: They held their ground against the Russian Empire.

Makivka was a turning point,Ē said Andriy Tkachik, a forest ranger in the mountainous area southwest of the city of Lviv who has set up a small private museum to display rusty rifles, bayonets and other war detritus dug up from the battlefield. ďIt showed we could fight.

It was also early evidence of the divided loyalties, or at least the conflicting demands on those loyalties, that a century later cast a long shadow over Ukraineís efforts to create a functioning and united state.

Their historic lands claimed by both the Russian czar and the Hapsburgs, Ukrainians fought on both sides of World War I. Some, like the 800 or so members of a unit called the Sich Sharpshooters that held off the Russians at Makivka in April 1915, served as volunteers for the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Hapsburg dynasty, which had governed the western part of Ukraine since the late 18th century. An additional 250,000 served the Austrians as conscripts.

About 3.5 million Ukrainians, a vast majority of them conscripts, fought for the Russians, who controlled the central and eastern parts of what is now Ukraine

Of the three powers that did most of the fighting on the eastern front during the war ó czarist Russia on one side, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the German Empire of Kaiser Wilhelm II on the other ó none survived the cataclysm. For Ukraine, however, World War I delivered not only catastrophic suffering but also its first modern experience as an independent state. It was an experiment that lasted only a few months and was scarred by anarchy and infighting, but it laid the foundations for Ukraine today.

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A Battle in Ukraine Echoes Through the Decades
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