Pictured - Ukrainians gather to hear a speech from socialist independence leader Mykhailo Hrushevsky in Kiev.
In an unprecedented act of divisiveness, Ukrainian politicians demanded autonomy within the Russian Empire on April 24, 1917. Their move came in the midst of a total breakdown of Russian military strength: all across the Eastern Front, soldiers were forming military councils, demanding peace, and fraternizing with the enemy. One regiment shot their commander when he refused to remove his shoulder-boards, which denoted higher rank.
In Ukraine, a pro-independence government formed out of a coalition of liberals and socialists. Called the Central Rada, it elected socialist politician Mykhailo Hrushevsky as its president. The speech he gave on April 24 was a rallying cry for all Ukrainians to unite: Ukrainian people! The time has come for your awakening, a new life after a more than
200-year sleep. Such unity would not last, however. During the Russian Civil War, Ukrainians found themselves fighting on countless different sides.