Yuriy Tyutyunnyk

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Yuriy Yosipovich Tyutyunnyk
File:Tjutjunnyk 1929.jpg
Photo of Tyutyunnyk made after his arrest by the OGPU
Born (1891-04-20)20 April 1891
Zvenyhorodka county, Kiev Governorate, Russian Empire
Died 20 October 1930(1930-10-20) (aged 39)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Allegiance Russian Empire (1904–1917)
Ukraine Ukrainian People's Republic
Service/branch Ukrainian People's Army
Years of service 1904–1921
Rank Otaman Khorunzhy
Commands held Kiev Division
Battles/wars World War I
Ukrainian–Soviet War
File:Tjutiunnyk Jurij.jpg
Photo of Tyutyunnyk made after his arrest by the OGPU (complete Russian Cyrillic reads Tyutyunik Yurii Yosifovich)

Yuriy (Yurko) Yosipovich Tyutyunnyk (Ukrainian: Юрій Тютюнник) (20 April 1891 in Budyshche, Pendivsky district, Zvenyhorodka county, Kiev Governorate of the Russian Empire (currently Zvenyhorodka Raion, Cherkasy Oblast, Ukraine) – 20 October 1930 in Moscow, Soviet Union) was a general of the Ukrainian People's Army of the Ukrainian People's Republic (UNR) during the Ukrainian–Soviet War.[1]

Early years

Yuriy Tyutyunnyk was born on 20 April 1891 to a peasant family, former serfs Yosyp and Maryna, in the village of Budyshche, near Kiev.[2] Remarkable is the fact that he was the grandson of Taras Shevchenko's sister Yaryna on the mother's side. His older cousins Levko and Ananiy Shevchenkos were one of the organizers of the Free Cossacks, later joining the UPSR. Only five out of nine children in his family reached adulthood. Tyutyunnyk finished primary education at the village school and later an agrarian school in Uman. He was married, and had two daughters.

Military Service in World War I

Tyutyunnyk was drafted into the Imperial Russian Army in 1913 and initially served in the 6th Siberian battalion in Vladivostok. With the outbreak of World War I, in 1914 he became a non-commissioned officer and was wounded during the Battle of Lodz, in Poland in October of that year. For his recovery Tyutyunnyk was transferred to a reserve regiment in Kremenchuk. Upon recovery he came back to the 6th battalion which at that time was fighting near the Lake Narach (today in Belarus).

Later Tyutyunnyk was offered command of the 6th Siberian battalion by the regimental command, but because he was interested in military strategy, the army suggested he undertake formal military studies. Tyutyunnyk successfully took entrance tests to the 1st Kiev gymnasium, but soon he was sent to the Caucasus where he finished a military school in Gori (today in Georgia). After completing his studies, he was again offered command of the 6th battalion, which was still actively fighting during the war. Tyutyunnyk was wounded a second time, and after recuperating, he was sent to Simferopol, where he joined the 32nd Auxiliary battalion.


With the coming of the February Revolution, Tyutyunnyk's military acumen caught the attention of Alexander Kerensky, who was in Crimea at the time. Kerensky offered Tyutyunnyk command of the Headquarters of Odessa Military District, however Tyutyunnyk did not place much faith in the future of the Provisional Government, and declined the post. In Spring of 1917 he participated in creation of the 1st Simferopol Regiment of Hetman Doroshenko.

Tyutyunnyk left for Kiev as military representative for the 2nd All-Ukrainian Military Congress, the meeting of which was unsanctioned. There he became elected as a non-partisan member of the Central Rada, and chairman of the Kiev Revolutionary Committee. Officially Tyutyunnyk was transferred to the 228th Reserve Regiment in Yekaterinoslav.

Ukrainian–Soviet War

In the Autumn of 1917, Tyutyunnyk organized a unit of "Free Kozaks" in Zvenyhorodka, and became its leader. After the fall of Kiev to Bolshevik forces in 1918, Tyutyunnyk transformed the unit to a kish-size of 20 thousand and engaged in battles throughout central Ukraine. He had a number of victories over the Bolshevik forces, including winning battles against the Bolshevik's 8th Army and 8,000 group of Mikhail Muravyov, while reclaiming the towns and cities like Birzula and Vapniarka from Bolshevik forces. Later, in 1918, Tyutyunnyk's unit waged a guerilla warfare against both the occupying German forces and the forces of the new Hetmanate.[1]

In February 1919, Tyutyunnyk merged his unit with that of Matviy Hryhoryev. Hryhoryev became the Commander in Chief while Tyutyunnyk became the Chief of Staff. The combined force was formidable, numbering over 23,000 soldiers, 52 cannons, and 20 armoured trains. The force cooperated through various battles, including with and against Bolshevik forces, against Entente forces and the White Army, taking under control cities of Kherson and Odessa.

Later, however, Tyutyunnyk concluded that the Bolshevik's aims in Ukraine were not beneficial, he united with the units of Ukrainian People's Army near Zhmerynka. In summer of 1919 along with the 3rd Steel Rifle Division, 2nd Volyn Division, and 2nd Halych Brigade conducted series of successful military operations liberating several cities such as Zhytomyr, Bratslav, Uman, and others. By the end of the summer his forces were faced against the Southern group of Iona Yakir and later in the fall dealing against the White movement General Yakov Slashchov.

From 6 December 1919 to 5 May 1920 he took part in the First Winter Campaign[1] under the command of Mykhailo Pavlenko, leading the Kiev Rifle Division with which he fought against the Bolsheviks to the fall of 1920.

Tyutyunnyk remained undaunted by the failure of the campaign, and participated in planning of the Second Winter Campaign.[1] This campaign took place in 1921, and although there were some early victories, it ultimately ended in failure. The unit was overrun, and over 300 soldiers were executed by the Red Guard near Zhytomyr. Tyutyunnyk, together with a small number of soldiers, escaped.

Soviet Ukraine and execution

A 1921 Soviet recruitment poster with the Ukrainization theme. The text reads: "Son! Enroll in the School of Red Commanders, and the defence of Soviet Ukraine will be ensured."

Because of the Ukrainization policies of the Soviet government at that time, Tyutyunnyk was able to return to Soviet Ukraine after he was arrested on 16 June 1923 after crossing Dniester. The Soviet government invited him to work cooperatively, and he agreed, lecturing at the School of Red Commanders in Kharkiv. Later he co-wrote a movie script for the film "Zvenigora" by Alexander Dovzhenko[3] He also played himself in an anti-Symon Petliura propaganda film.

Later, however, there was a reversal of Ukrainization policies in Soviet Ukraine and many Ukrainians became victims of political repression by the Stalinist regime. On 12 February 1929, Tyutyunnyk was arrested in Kharkiv, and deported to Moscow where he was put on trial. On 3 December 1929, he was found guilty of anti-Soviet agitation and sentenced to death. On 20 October 1930, he was executed by firing squad in Lubyanka, Moscow.


Tyutyunnyk's family was secretly transferred by the Cheka from abroad to Kharkiv, then after the death of Yurii they lived in Kuban until 1932. The further fate of Tyutyunnyk's family is unknown.

  • Wife: Vira Andriivna Tyutyunnyk
  • Children: two daughters

Tyutyunnyk in popular Ukrainian culture

Through playing himself in various movie films, Tyutyunnyk created an image of himself as a dashing revolutionary in popular Soviet Ukrainian culture. This image was captured in verse by the Ukrainian writer Ivan Bahrianny and set to music by Hryhory Kytasty. The song "Pisnya Pro Tyutyunnyka" (Ukrainian: Пісня про Тютюнника — "Song about Tyutyunnyk") describes a popular image of his unit rushing to Ukraine from Siberia to help the Petliura government of the Ukrainian National Republic in 1919.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 'Yuri Tiutiunnyk' at the Encyclopedia of Ukraine
  2. Багацький Л. 'Героїка двадцятих. Людина — проблема' Вечірня Газета (in Ukrainian)
  3. Dovzhenko, A., trans. and annotated by. Carynnyk, M. 'Alexander Dovzhenko's 1939 Autobiography'. Canadian Journal of Ukrainian Studies 19, no. 1 (Summer 1994).