Ukraine: how it was 27 years ago
BSSB.BE youtube.com 24.08.2018
Ex- USSR Ukraine
* 27th Anniversary of Ukrainian Independence
Back in 1991, Ukraine’s parliament adopted a declaration of independence from the Soviet Union. And like that, Ukraine was no longer under Soviet rule.
Ukrainians carried their national flag and some were dressed in traditional embroidered shirts. They cheered “glory to Ukraine” and “death to enemies!”
President Petro Poroshenko spoke defiantly.
“From this parade, our international partners will get the message that Ukraine is able to protect itself, but it needs further support,” he said, speaking to a large crowd.
Brian Whitmore, with Radio Free Europe, believes the parade was a show by Ukraine that its independence is irreversible.
“I think this is a message that they are willing to defend their independence,” he says.
Whitmore recalls when Russia and Ukraine went their separate ways.
Whitmore was in Ukraine and Russia in the summer and fall of 1993. At that time, he explains, both countries were facing an almost identical political crisis: There was a nominally reformist president and both were facing a parliament that was anti-reformist.
“In Russia, the problem was solved with President Yeltsin shelling the parliament with artillery. In Ukraine the problem was solved in a very different way — with early elections for both the president and the parliament,” Whitmore says.
After the Ukrainian president lost re-election, he simply stepped down.
“That was the first time that happened in a former Soviet state,” says Whitmore.
Since then, he adds, Ukraine has gone on to embrace democratic values, whereas Russia has done the opposite.
Ukraine today is under constant threat from Russia. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea and today a war in the eastern part of the country bubbles along, thanks partly to Russia.
Vladimir Putin famously told George W. Bush in 2008, “You have to understand, George. Ukraine is not even a country.”
Whitmore says Russia will likely keep trying to undermine Ukraine’s independence, but Ukrainians are very mindful of this.
“Ukrainian civil society is developed to the point where it’s extremely strong and they will not accept giving up their independence,” he says.
The Rada led the Supreme Soviet to adopt the Ukrainian Declaration of Sovereignty.his asserted the primacy of Ukrainian law over legis lation passed in Moscow, and Ukraines right to conduct independent diplomacy and conclude economic agreements with other states. It also introduced the concept of Uk rainian citizenship.l Of particular importance is the section stipulating that Ukrainian y ouths drafted into the Soviet armed forces must serve within the republics boundaries and may not be dispatched to military activities outside Ukraine without the con sent of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet. Ukrainian draftees make up almost one fifth of Sov i et armed forces, the second largest ethnic group after Russians munist-controlled Ukrainian Supreme Soviet established Ukrainian sovereignty over all of the republics land, water, minerals, and other natural resources, and declared control over taxation, banking, prices and foreign economic relations.
The new law did not even mention the Soviet Unionu In addition, the law legal izes private property by declaring equality of all forms of property and equal rights of each.
Student Demands. Meantime, pro-ind ependence activities accelerated. Last Oc tober, several hundred university students went on a 15-day hunger strike in a tent city in front of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet in Kiev. Among the students demands were the resignation of Ukrainian Prime Ministe r Vitalii Mosol; enforce ment of the law preventing Ukrainian draftees from serving outside the republic under any circumstances; nationalization of the Communist Partys property in Ukraine; and new multi-party elections for the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet. A fter initially rejecting the students demands, the Communist majority of the Supreme Soviet voted on October 17 to satis
most of them.
The students triumph further radicalized the democratic pro-independence op position. At its October Z-October 28 Secon d Congress, the popular front Rukh whose membership had increased from 280,OOO to 630,000 since its founding Con gress in September 1989, declared officially that its goal is the achievement of Uk The next important step toward independence was last Augus t 3, when the Com 11 rep^ on the USSR, January 4,1991, p. 23 12 Report on the USSR, September 28,1990, p. 16 7 rainian independence by nonviolent means.The Congress also voted to delete from the movement’s founding charter a statement in support of Gorbach e v’s policies of perestroika and glamost ROADBLOCKS ON THE PATH TO INDEPENDENCE In the wake of the October students’ strike and the Second Congress of RUM the Communist hardliners began a counter-offensive. A radical nationalist deputy from Westem Ukiairie , Stepiii Khmara,’was ‘iiirested on’November 17 after the majority of the Supreme Soviet voted to waive his parliamentary immunity. On November 30 the Supreme Soviet adopted a decree that severely restricts demonstrations and public meetings. These and oth er measures have slowed momentum toward independence.Today there is as an uneasy and tense deadlock between the Moscow-oriented communist hard-liners and the pro-independence democratic opposition.
Pro-democracy progress has been slow for three reasons Rea son #1: There is no Ukrainian-wide consensus on independence The formation of such a consensus is seriously handicapped by the historic split between the heavily Russified and industrialized eastern provinces of Ukraine Kharkiv, Donetsk, Zaporozhia and Dn iepropetrosvk and such western provin ces as Lvov, Volhynia, Ternopol, Chemivitsi and Ivano-Frankivsk, which were for cibly taken from Poland and incorporated in the Soviet Union in 1939.
While most Ukrainians in the western provinces are fervent Catholics , the east em provinces are dominated by Russian Orthodox and, in the past few years, Uk rainian Orthodox Churches. While there are very few Russian speakers among eth nic Ukrainians in western provinces, many Ukrainians in Eastern Ukraine speak only Russ ian. Until a few years ago, even Kiev was overwhelmingly a Russian-lan guage city.
These cultural, linguistic and religious divisions are reflected in Ukrainians’ at titude toward independence. In the Mych 17,1991 All-Union Referendum on the Preservation o f the Union the three provinces of Western Ukraine voted overwhelmingly against preserving the Soviet Union; there the pro-Union vote was under 20 percent.13 By comparison, the pro-Union vote in the heavily in dustrialized and Russified provinces of Easte r n Ukraine was nearly 80 percent.14 With differences this strong on the key question of independence, Ukraine’s road to self-determination will be difficult 13 In addition, the three Western Ukrainian provinceS put another question on the referendum Do you want the Ukraine to become an independent state which independently decides its domestic and foreign policies, which guarantees equal rights to all of its atize4 regardless of their national or religious allegiance?’ Some 85 percent of the voters responde d in the affirmative 14 The voter turnout was 83 percent of all eligible to wte.Thus the preservation of the Soviet Union was approved by 58 percent of eligible voters in Ukraine 8 Lacking a consensus on independence, Ukraine has failed to form a national m ovement similar to the popular fronts that came to power in the smaller republics of Armenia, Estonia, Georgia Latvia, and Lithuania.The result has been a splintering of pro-independence political movements among fifteen par ties with Rukh no longer capab le of Uniting them.
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