Among the military officers of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UPR), Vsevolod Zmiienko is known as an organizer of the Ukrainian troops in Odesa region in 1917–1918, a chief of the military intelligence of the UPR in exile and an active member of the Ukrainian emigration.
Vsevolod Zmiienko was born on October 16, 1886, in Odesa. He graduated from Kyiv Starshyna (Officer) School and Mykolaiv Academy of the General Staff. During the First World War, he took part in combat operations in Tsar’s Army. For courage, was awarded three orders and the St. George’s Weapon.
In autumn 1917, Zmiienko, having returned to Odesa, was wrapped up in atmosphere of Ukrainian revolution. Along with other renowned public and military figure Ivan Lutsenko, V. Zmiienko formed Odesa Haidamaky division, the headquarters of which was situated in building of Odesa military district. Colonel Mazurenko was appointed as the commander of division, and Lieutenant Colonel Zmiienko – the chief of HQ.
Since April 1918, V. Zmiienko discharged responsibilities of the Chief of Staff of 3rd Kherson Corps of the Ukrainian Troops, and since December of 1918 – the Chief of Staff of Kherson Huberniia’s Forces. During advancing Denikin’s Army on Odesa, Vsevolod Zmiienko personally managed by the combat actions of haidamakys in the streets of Odesa. Then, by an order of the Directorate of the UPR, he along with Ivan Lutsenko withdrew the Ukrainian units to Rozdilna.
March – May 1919, Zmiienko withdrew his division on Volyn through Romania and Poland. There he was appointed as the Chief of Staff of 1st division of Sich Riflemen’s Corps, headed by Ye. Konovalets. Zmiienko along with his division till autumn of 1919 was fighting against the Bilshovyks, the Poles, the Denikins. Having been taken bad in November, he was taken Polish prisoner, and when was recovered from sickness – he found himself in the detention camp in Lantsut town.
On January 1, 1920, Symon Petliura appointed M. Bezruchko as the commander and V. Zmiienko – as the chief of staff of newly formed Sich rifle division which became a successor of Sich Riflemen’s Corps. M. Bezruchko and V. Zmiienko with this division in association with 3rd Zaporizhzhia division and 3rd Polish Army initiated attack on Kyiv and on May 7, liberated the capital of Ukraine from Red Troops. However, the Ukrainian along with the Polish soon forced to retreat. In September, division’s units under the command of M. Bezruchko and V. Zmiienko defended Zamostia fortress, stifling offensive of Budionnyi’s Red Army on Warsaw. Budionnyi had five times more bayonets and sabres than Bezruchko and Zmiienko. But the commanders of Sich Riflemen compensated for a shortcoming of bayonets by their tactical competent defensive layout of town. Bezruchko and Zmiienko were bestowed the title of Khorunzhii (Ensign)-General for this victory.
For a long time, Budionnyi’s deeds rang through the USSR, but almost nobody knows the Ukrainian Bezruchko and Zmiienko.
After the assassination in 1926 of the Main Otaman Symon Petliura, activities of the Intelligence Service of the UPR had undergone substantial restructuring. A key position was that of the second section, which was developing tactics and conducting intelligence and counterintelligence activities of the State Center of the UPR in exile. It consisted of the Intelligence Sector called “Offensive” which dealt with collecting information on the general situation in Ukraine, selection, training and penetration of agents, chiefs of residenturas and couriers there.
The Counterintelligence Sector called “Defence” was tasked to protect UPR’s organizations from penetration of “communist agents” as well as to carry out the related work among other immigrant organizations, especially those which were on political positions contrary to the UPR. The third sector “Studios” was engaged in analytical work on the basis of open published sources and those collected by representatives of the first section. Based on this, reports were prepared for the leadership of the General Staff of the Military Ministry of the State Center of the UPR, leaflets and other propaganda literature were made to be illegally sent to the Ukrainian SSR, and spread among Ukrainian emigrants and at international forums.
The Intelligence and Counterintelligence Services operated especially effectively when they were headed by Khorunzhii (Ensign)-General Vsevolod Zmiienko in 1928-1936. Even in the era of national and liberation movement, Zmiienko’s activity as that of an active participant countering the Soviet power was the reason for including his name into the list of political criminals sought by the State Political Directorate (DPU) in 1924.
In 1932-1933, the government of the UPR already knew about the famine in Ukraine but there was not enough information on its scale. In this connection a task was set to collect as much information as possible about the situation in the republic. It was necessary to revitalize residenturas, to provide couriers’ crossing the border, and most importantly – to get documentary evidence of the real situation. This was necessary in order to draw the world community’s attention to events in Ukraine and thus to influence the high party leadership of the Soviet Union. The fact that the UPR’s Intelligence Service was using journalists as a cover, is confirmed by an extract from another declassified document: “Zmiienko has received an instruction: to prepare two candidates–intelligence officers of the UPR, who would make a trip to the Soviet Union in the group of Polish journalists”. Such visits of foreign journalists in 1932-1933 were few. But after the appearance in the British newspaper “Manchester Guardian” of series of journalist Malcolm Muggeridge’s articles on the famine in Ukraine, the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (b) signed a Resolution “On Foreign Correspondents’ Trips to the USSR”, dated by February 23, 1933. It limited journalists’ access to certain areas.
Amidst such bans and increased border and counterintelligence regime, the UPR’s Intelligence Service had to look for new ways to gain information about the real state of affairs in Ukraine. The declassified Briefing Paper “Operational Activities of Foreign Ukrainian Intelligence and Insurgent Centers” from the case of 1933 reads: “Zmiienko has divided Ukraine into areas within the borders of old districts. Each district has a code. The encrypted presentation describes presence of institutions of public, cooperative and other importance…”.
It was difficult to collect even general open information on Ukraine. It got to the point that the UPR’s intelligence officers sent to certain districts sometimes could not even get into some towns, which were found blocked by Militia (Police) units and DPU. What was happening there, one could only guess. The agents who had not been properly taught and prepared for fulfilling the tasks were often arrested. It had to look for new people and new, unconventional infiltration routes to Ukraine.
Vsevolod Zmiienko was inconsolable for the loss of each of his people. But he did his best for the UPR’s Intelligence Service’s priority tasks under any circumstances to remain those dictated by the needs and interests of the Ukrainian nation.
In 1928, Khorunzhii (Ensign)-General Vsevolod Zmiienko became the Head of Public Court of the Ukrainian Central Committee in Poland, simultaneously was responsible for Intelligence and Counterintelligence Services. Moreover, Zmiienko actively helped the Ukrainian military emigrants to find themselves in new life conditions, getting them job, education or helping them with money.
Vsevolod Zmiienko died on October 26, 1938, in Warsaw. Today, the streets bear his name not only in Odesa but also in Kyiv and other towns of Ukraine.