Day 37: Nizhyn, Ukraine to Baturyn, Ukraine

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Start: Nizhyn, Ukraine
End: Baturyn, Ukraine
Distance: 96.2km
Elevation Gain: 721ft
Elevation Loss: 686ft
Time: 7h26m
Reading Material:Ukraine: A History, 4th Edition – Orest Subtelny
Audio Material: Russia the Wild East – BBC 4 Series by Martin Sixsmith on 1000 years of Russia history; Nerdist (Billy Crystal interview); WTF podcast (Kristen Schaal interview); Stuff You Should Know

About 20km into today’s ride, stopped at the memorial to the Battle of Kruty, an important event in the history of independent Ukraine. The waning days of WWI were a chaotic time in Ukraine. Neighboring empires were collapsing and the Bolsheviks were in the process of grabbing power in Russia after the Tsar abdicated. For the first time in nearly 1000 years, a central authority (the Central Rada) declared an independent Ukrainian state. However, people were confused and the Ukrainian army of nearly 300,000 dissolved. The Bolsheviks invaded Ukraine in the name of a united Russian Peoples (and also because they needed Ukrainian food and raw materials). Without an army, the Central Rada dispatched a ragtag group of students to defend the homeland. A group of 300 schoolboys confronted 4,000 Bolsheviks traveling by armed train on their way to Kiev at Kruty and were absolutely massacred. The event was officially forgotten during the Soviet era, but newly independent Ukraine with the direct involvement of former President Yushchenko recently created this monument to the fallen students. In addition to the monument, there are replica train cars which can be toured with photos and memorabilia from the battle. Armed trains were popular during the Russian civil war (and by Mexican rebels if you remember Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch) but quickly fell out of favor since it’s pretty easy to destroy a train with an airplane. The “curator” on sight was very friendly and gave me a tour though lacking a common language and English translations of the exhibit, most of my information came from prior reading.

Some decent flat riding on rough roads followed. Passed a lot of corn and my first wheat fields. For the last 30km, I caught up with the E101, a secondary motorway which I’ll follow all the way into Russia. Nice smooth road with good shoulder made for easy, if tired, riding. Spending the night near Baturyn, an important Hetmanate center from the time when bands of Cossacks fought for this part of Ukraine’s Right Bank.

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