Vasyl Vyshyvanyi
Hetman of Ukraine
Reign 14 December 1918 – 13 November 1939
Predecessor Pavlo Skoropadskyi
Successor Monarchy abolished
House House of Habsburg-Lorraine
Father Archduke Charles Stephen of Austria
Mother Archduchess Maria Theresia, Princess of Tuscany
Born 10 February 1895
Pula, Austria-Hungary Flag of Austria-Hungary (1869-1918).svg
Died 18 August 1948 (aged 53)
Vienna, Germany Flag of German Reich (1933–1935).svg

Background and early life[edit | edit source]

Born as Archduke Wilhelm was the youngest son of Archduke Karl Stephan and Archduchess Maria Theresia, Princess of Tuscany. He was born in a family estate on the Lošinj island, Austrian Littoral (present day Croatia).

Accommodating the 19th-century rise of nationalism, Archduke Karl Stephan decided that his branch of the Habsburg family would adopt a Polish identity and would combine a loyalty to their Habsburg family with a loyalty to Poland. Accordingly, he had his two children learn Polish from an early age and tried to instill in them a sense of Polish patriotism. His oldest son, Karl-Albrecht, would become a Polish officer who refused to renounce his Polish loyalty. Karl Stefan's two younger daughters would marry into the Polish noble families of Radziwill and Czartoryski. Wilhelm, the youngest child, rebelled, and came to identify with the Poles' rivals, the Ukrainians. He developed a fascination with Ukrainian culture, and as a youth escaped from his family's estate, travelling incognito to Hutsul villages in the nearby Carpathian mountains and Bukovyna (the Land of Cheremosh and Prut). This interest in the relatively impoverished Ukrainian people earned him the nickname of the "Red Prince". Eventually the Habsburgs came to accept and encourage this interest, and he was groomed by them to take a leadership role amongst the Ukrainian people in a manner similar to the one in which his father and older brother were to take amongst the Habsburgs' Polish subjects.

Activities in Ukrainian nation-building[edit | edit source]

Eventually approved by his father, his as well as his father's ambition became for Wilhelm to become the king of Ukraine. Despite his youth, he played an important historical role. As a member of the Habsburg imperial house he came to work closely with Ukrainian deputies to the parliament of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in an effort to gain more rights for the Ukrainian minority, serving as a liaison between the Ukrainian community leaders and Austria's emperor Charles I. During the First World War he commanded a detachment of Ukrainians from Halychyna, serving as a Lieutenant with the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen. During the German and Austrian occupation of Ukraine in 1918, he commanded a Ukrainian Sich Riflemen regiment that liberated the Southern Ukraine from the Bolsheviks forces.

During the time of his stay in Southern Ukraine, Wilhelm became the focal point of a quiet struggle between the two allies, Austria-Hungary and the German Empire, for the future of Ukraine which they both occupied. The Habsburgs hoped for Ukraine to be a politically self-sufficient ally in order to counter German power. Accordingly, they planned for Wilhelm to eventually become Ukraine's king and supported his efforts to gain popularity among Ukraine's people as well as to promote Ukrainian patriotism. The Germans, on the other hand, were primarily concerned with obtaining grain, and supported Pavlo Skoropadskyi's rule.

Promoted to the rank of captain, Wilhelm was made commander of "Battle Group Archduke Wilhelm," created by the Emperor Charles I, and provided with approximately 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers and officers under his command. His troops occupied a small area near the site of the old Zaporozhian Sich, and were tasked with supporting the Ukrainian national cause in any way possible. This was done by screening officials by ethnicity, creating a newspaper, and engaging in cultural work with local peasants. Wilhelm mixed easily with the local peasants, who admired his ability to live simply like his soldiers. Within Wilhelm's personal occupation zone, peasants were allowed to keep the lands that they had taken from the landlords in 1917, and Wilhelm prevented the Habsburg armed forces from requisitioning grain. Ukrainians who had resisted requisitioning elsewhere - including those who had killed German or Austrian soldiers - were given refuge within Wilhelm's territory. These actions outraged Germany and Austrian officials in Kiev, but increased his popularity among local Ukrainians, who referred to him as affectionately as "Prince Vasyl." The Germans feared that Wilhelm would create a coup and overthrow the Hetmanate. Indeed, several attempts by Ukrainians were made to make Archduke Wilhelm a sovereign of Ukraine, transforming the country into a monarchy. Each time he deferred to the opinion of the Austrian Emperor, who at the time denied Wilhelm's requests for diplomatic reasons. Nevertheless, Charles I resisted German pressure to have Wilhelm removed from Ukraine.

Following the conclusion of hostilities on the Western Front, Wilhelm ordered his men to travel from the south to Kiev to fight for the Ukrainian cause. He himself met with Emperor Charles I in Bukovina, were he was told that his services were needed in Ukraine, and proceeded to overthrow the Skoropadski regime. As a Habsburg, he had to be granted permission to assume the throne of any country first. After pledging loyalty to the Ukrainian people, in 1919 he was made a Hetman of the country. Initially the Germans were furious over this action but Wilhelm and the Ukrainian government pledged concessions to appease them.

Ruler of Ukraine[edit | edit source]

Titles and styles[edit | edit source]

Monarchical styles of
Vasyl Vyshyvanyi
Alex K Ukrainska Derzhava.svg
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style My Lord
Vasyl Vyshyvanyi
Born: 10 February 1895 Died: 18 August 1948
Ukrainian royalty
Preceded by
Pavlo Skoropadskyi
Hetman of Ukraine
14 December 1918 – 13 November 1939
Monarchy abolished
Titles in pretence
Loss of title
Hetman of Ukraine
1 September 1941 – 18 August 1948
Succeeded by
Karl Albrecht of Austria or Danylo Skoropadskyi
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