This piece in written on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Ukrainian Free University, today located in Munich, but originally in Vienna, then Prague and in Munich only after the Second World War. The history of this remarkable institution has been written many times and by many authors, mostly in Ukrainian. My purpose is not to reiterate, but to offer a glimpse into its contribution into the legal realm of International Law.
The Ukrainian Free University (UFU) is proud of its long history and rightfully so. It remains today a European institution of higher education and a centre of Ukrainian scholarship. The focus has not changed. The enrolment today consists primarily of students from Ukraine with a desire to experience Western learning. Its faculty is both from the West and Ukraine.
The UFU was founded in Vienna in 1921 by leading Ukrainian exiles, intellectuals, professors and politicians. In the same year, the UFU moved to Prague, where it expanded and functioned successfully in collaboration with the Charles University and the German University in Prague. In 1945,
when Soviet troops entered Prague, part of the UFU moved to Bavaria, where the university resumed its activities in Munich. In 1950 the Bavarian Ministry of Higher Education allowed the UFU to issue master’s, doctoral and habilitation diplomas. Today the UFU is one of the oldest private universities in Germany and the only higher educational institution outside Ukraine, where education is conducted in Ukrainian. It functions in the German and English languages as well.
The UFU is structured on democratic European traditions and encourages intellectual freedom and critical thinking. It is active within the international
academic community in Germany, and as such professes and disseminates through education European values of freedom, justice and tolerance which combines the humanities and social sciences, strengthens the principles of openness and free access to information, works to form transparent learned opinions, which serve as a basis for the democratic development of society and the welfare of its citizens. This is a paraphrase from its By-laws.
The preamble to its current By-laws reads specifically as follows:
“The task of UVU in Germany is multifaceted: to provide quality education to students; form ethically responsible and competent individuals who are able to build a healthy civil society and lead the process of further social and economic change to create a more just and viable society; create prerequisites for the development of Ukrainian scholarship in Germany through research; deepen mutual understanding between Europe and Ukraine initiating and conducting discussions on the historical and contemporary role of Ukraine; serve
as ambassadors of Ukrainian scholarship and culture in Europe.” and the rest of the world, I might add.
My focus is on a specific curriculum and its proponents at the University, in particular two individuals, scholars and major contributors to the University, albeit quite disparate, but having much expertise in International Law, perhaps the most underdeveloped area of the law with little or no power of executive action irrespective of myths and singular accomplishments. This is an area of the law entirely subservient to political pressure. Yet, in the world of the XXI century where wars and conflicts are to be decided by diplomacy, this area has to be at the very least functional and perhaps, somewhat effective.
It is precisely in this area that the UFU has done some of its best work, if only because the very essence of its founding was a product of international failure. It was established by people who were overwhelmed by the military might of their numerous enemies. The international community came to the side of the oppressors instead of those needing it the most. Might was right not only in the political world order but in all spheres of life including academia. Thus the name – Free as in free from political influence. While in Western Ukraine the Poles constructed their version of academia treating Ukrainians as second class students and scholars and in Eastern Ukraine the Soviets did the same or even worse, in each instance presenting a world view through their own imperialistic prism, Ukrainians decided that despite not having a country, they would present, nevertheless, a view not subject to imperialistic colouring but with a message from the captives.
Mykhailo Lozynsky was a Ukrainian statesman, diplomat and jurist born in what is now Western Ukraine in 1880. He was a member of the government of the Western Ukrainian People’s republic and participated as its representative to the Paris Peace Conference as well as the talks later with Poland. His law degree came from Vienna and from 1921-1927 he served as a professor of International Law and History of Political Thought at the Ukrainian Free University in Prague.
He was intent on protecting the Ukrainians residing under Polish rule and had an ideological predilection, clearly naive, and in 1927 went to the USSR, teaching in Kharkiv and promoting Galician reunification with Soviet Ukraine. His ideology became a curse, leading to his own demise, as he was arrested in 1930, served time in Kem and Solovki and then was summarily shot on November 3, 1937 in the Karelian ASSR (Sandermokh) along with many Ukrainian intellectuals.
Lozynsky presented International Law in simple terms, not only according to his own perspective but because at that time International Law was viewed simply but with both hope and cynicism, not unlike today, although seemingly we have come a long way. Here are a few of his basic precepts taken from his Syllabus as professor of International Law at the Ukrainian Free University in 1922:
“International Law is law that serves to bind states in their relations amongst themselves…States who bind themselves through International Law, form an international community of States…The legal nature of International Law is distinct from the legal nature of State Law…The creators of International Law are the very subjects of International Law…” and perhaps, most significantly,
“At this point of development the guarantors of International Law are: 1. The legal convictions of civilised nations of the world…2. The mutual dependencies of the States…3. Fear from political isolation …4.Fear from the collective attack of interested states…5. Fear of war…6. Decisions of international organs. The results of these decisions for a state against which they are addressed , depends upon the efficacy of the international community of states…”
A generation later after World War 2 when the UFU had relocated to Bavarian Munich, it became an oasis, an opportunity for a unique generation, no lesser than America’s greatest generation to acquire higher learning disrupted not only by the war, but by dislocations. That generation viewed International Law with great hope and perhaps less cynicism. Initially because of the founding of the United Nations there appeared to be good reason for hope. Nevertheless, the basic premise remained the same. The subjects of International Law continued to be strictly member states. Hope was derived from the fact that there was a believe that parties other than only governmental states would become subjects of International Law.
His name was Borys Vitoshynsky. He was a political prisoner of Poland when it occupied Western Ukraine and then of the Nazis at their most notorious concentration camp at Auschwitz. He had been educated in law at the Warsaw University but, more importantly he was honed by his revolutionary activity and the persecution suffered by his Ukrainian people.
The topic of his master’s thesis was “International protection of civilians during war and occupation.” This was probably a topic very close to the author’s heart because he and his family experienced just that lack of international protection. The topic of the doctoral dissertation was “Insurgent movements and liberation wars during and after World War II in the light of international law.” The latter topic was also very close because the author was an active member of the Ukrainian liberation movement, a leading member of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists. He wrote these works not immediately after the war but twenty or twenty-five years thereafter, so there was a lot of not only material but also research, ideas and personal experience.
Vitoshynsky later taught these and other topics of International Law at the UFU. Other topics included “Terrorism or the struggle for liberation – a problem of international law”, “Self-determination – a trampled principle of International Law”, “International Public Law”, “Genocide and International Law.” There are many subtopics, but for the sake of brevity, it should be clear that Vitoshynsky wrote not only on the basis of his education and research, but on the basis of his own experience as a Ukrainian patriot and nationalist.
Vitoshynsky died in the vortex of his political and scholarly work a few months after Ukraine’s declaration of independence, almost as if he only wanted to witness that day, so important for him and his people. His works require thought, introspection and they are not complete because the topic of International Law is so very incomplete.
For example, the term Genocide is defined in the United Nations Convention, but the recognition of Genocide remains a political matter, not a legal one. The state of Israel does not recognise any Genocide only its own. Ukraine does not recognise the Armenian Genocide for the sake of friendship with Turkey, and Armenia has not recognised the Holodomor as Genocide because Ukraine has not recognised the Armenian Genocide, and probably because of Russian opposition. This is such a political game. Similarly, there is still no international definition of terrorism, because terrorism for some is a liberation movement for others. Vitoshynsky was part of a liberation struggle which Poles, Soviets and Russians termed terrorism.
Why are the writings of socialist jurist Mykhailo Lozynsky and nationalist jurist Borys Vitoshynsky important today? Because we live in an era of global politics available to constant public view and thus judgement despite methods used by authoritarians to inhibit pervasive familiarity. There is nothing local today, everything has world coverage and International Law, which has probably the least practical implementation of all legal sectors, is becoming very important every day. Its failures today are seen by billions. For a nation, in particular a long-enslaved and one that is in constant anxiety even as it pursues an independent existence now for thirty years, the international community and its norms are very important. Law students and lawyers have equal or greater responsibilities than politicians, diplomats, and states themselves because of ethical considerations. Politicians,diplomats and states do not bother with ethics. This is a topic not only for academic discussion but also for further effort at practical implementation and international solution.
October 11, 2021 Askold S. Lozynskyj
The author is the President of the Ukrainian Free University Foundation, an American structure formed in 1973 and incorporated under the laws of the State of New Jersey in 1975. It is recognised as tax exempt for purposes of contributions by the U. S Treasury. The UFUF finances much of the activities of the UFU, offering, in particular scholarships to financially needy and talented students. The author, upon information and belief, is not related to Mykhailo Lozynsky, although no effort has been made for an informed determintion.