1990: Ukraine in transition

The year 1990 in historical terms can be divided into two parts: before and after July 16. During the first half of the year our coverage reflected the accelerating momentum leading up to the new Ukrainian Parliament's Declaration on State Sovereignty of Ukraine, which crystallized the expressions of a newly politicized population's desire for democracy and independence.

The road to this declaration was difficult for a nation which for decades had been essentially forced or deceived into passivity and fear. All the new public organizations, created over the last few years, and led by Rukh, the Popular Movement of Ukraine, had their work cut out for them.

Last January, as the registration of candidates for the all important March 4 republican-wide elections to the Ukrainian SSR Supreme Soviet and local councils was completed, a yet legally unregistered Rukh was planning an unprecedented event for January 21.

On that day, hundreds of thousands of smiling, flag-waving Ukrainians and people of other nationalities joined hands for 300 miles between Kiev, Lviv and Ivano-Frankivske in a symbolic human chain commemorating the January 22, 1918, proclamation of Ukrainian independence and the act of reunification of Ukrainian lands one year later.

The human chain rallied the masses around the ideas of national unity and independence and gave much-needed publicity to the candidates of the Democratic Bloc, a coalition of democratic groups who had the legal right to put forth candidates, such as the Ukrainian Language Society.

Rukh's registration as an official organization by the Ukrainian SSR's Council of Ministers was delayed until February 9 and as a result it could not put forth its own candidates for the parliamentary and local elections of March 4.

Different segments of Ukraine's population became actively politicized during 1990, particularly the student movement, which actually held a nationwide strike in February on a list of demands, including a halt to political repression of students, and end to the teaching of Marxism-Leninism and military instruction in higher education and improved living standards. The independent Ukrainian Students' Union organized the strike, which resulted in the administrative arrests of 11 students.

Defying orders from the Ukrainian SSR government banning public demonstrations of support for the Republic of Lithuania's March 11 declaration of independence, hundreds of thousands of people in cities throughout Ukraine demonstrated in March and April for the Lithuanian people's right to self-determination.

Despite reports of rampant violations of the electoral law in the March 4 elections, candidates from the Democratic Bloc won virtual landslide victories in the western Ukrainian oblasts on the national and local levels, while the majority of 450 seats in the Ukrainian Parliament were forced into run-off elections on March 18.

Among the winners in the March 4 races were a number of former political prisoners, including, Vyacheslav Chornovil, the brothers Mykhailo and Bohdan Horyn, Stepan Khmara, Iryna Kalynets, Levko Lukianenko, Bohdan Rebryk and Henrikh Altunian. Also winning seats were Rukh leaders Ivan Drach and Volodymyr Yavorivsky, while then Ukrainian Communist Party leader Volodymyr Ivashko was forced into a runoff, which he later won.

Democratic candidates scored even further impressive victories in the March 18 run-off elections, particularly in Kiev where they took 15 out of 22 seats and in the oblasts of Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivske where they won 43 out of 47 seats. It appeared then that the Democratic Bloc had won around 90 seats in the new parliament.

Perhaps the most dramatic results of the March elections occurred where the Democratic Bloc won a majority of seats in city and oblast councils: the cities of Kiev, Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivske, and the Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivske Oblast Councils.

To add to the drama, a leading national rights activist, Mr. Chornovil, was elected chairman of the new Lviv Oblast Council in mid-April, calling for the region to take the lead in the struggle for an independent Ukrainian state and become "a kind of island of freedom in which we must put an end to the totalitarian regime...a faulty economic mechanism and the usurpation of power by the Communist Party."

Among their first acts, many of the new city and oblast councils voted to legalize the outlawed blue-and-yellow Ukrainian national flag and raised the flag above their council buildings: in Lviv and many of the towns in Lviv Oblast, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivske, Kiev, and Zhytomyr and several smaller cities and towns as far east as the Ukrainian capital.

As the flags went up in the spring the monuments of Vladimir Lenin, founder of Bolshevism, went down throughout the summer and fall months in the cities of Chervonohrad, Lviv, Ternopil, Chernivtsi, Kolomyia and smaller towns in the western regions, either by local official decree or by vandals.

Forty-two city and oblast councils in which the Democratic Bloc either holds seats or has a majority gathered in Dniprodzerzhynske in late July and founded the Association of Democratic Councils, which would serve as a political base for the Democratic Bloc. The association elected Ukrainian SSR People's Deputy Serhiy Koniev as its president.

Close to 20 political parties have been formed in Ukraine during 1990 with some of the better-known including, the Ukrainian Republican Party, the Green Party of Ukraine, the Party of the Democratic Rebirth of Ukraine and the Democratic Party of Ukraine.

During a two-day congress in late April, the well-known Ukrainian Helsinki Union was disbanded and on the basis of the informal group formed the Ukrainian Republican Party. The new party, which elected former political prisoner and people's deputy Mr. Lukianenko as its chairman, adopted a program calling for "the creation of an independent Ukrainian state" as its primary goal.

The Party of the Democratic Rebirth of Ukraine, based on the former Democratic Platform of the Communist Party, held its founding congress in early December, pledging to use legal means to dismantle the Soviet system.

The Democratic Party of Ukraine was founded in Kiev on December 15, electing former political prisoner Yuriy Badzio as its chairman.

During a session of its Great Council, held in Khust in late March, Rukh leaders voted against a proposal on Rukh becoming an opposition political party as announced in a March 4 declaration signed by 15 of its most prominent leaders. The delegates voted to maintain Rukh's social and political diversity so that it would remain a consolidating force in Ukraine.

An association of radical pro-independence groups, called the Inter-Party Assembly, was formed in late July, electing former political prisoner Anatoliy Lupynis as its leader. The primary aim of the new association, which declared itself the only legal power body in Ukraine, is the immediate restoration of the Ukrainian National Republic.

The Ukrainian SSR Supreme Soviet of the 12th Convocation held its first session May 15 to August 3. The ideological divisions within the new Parliament soon became clearer: the bloc of conservative Communists, now called the Group of 239; the Democratic Bloc, which evolved into the National Council with 125 deputies; and the centrists, which would vote either way depending on the issue.

Throughout the first session large crowds of constituents, sometimes numbering hundreds or thousands, gathered in a cordoned-off area on the plaza in front of the Supreme Soviet building. Most of these were there to protest against the actions of the Communist bloc and reflected growing popular support for the opposition.

This popular reaction was intensified by a parliamentary vote in May allowing live coverage of parliamentary proceedings on Ukrainian radio and full recorded broadcast on Ukrainian TV, exposing millions of Ukraine's residents for the first time to the democratic bloc's positions.

The first session of the new Ukrainian Parliament concentrated on the formation of a new Ukrainian government, elections of its own officers and parliamentary committees, and elections of a new Council of Ministers.

The dramatic first race for the chairmanship of the Supreme Soviet started with 12 candidates, including then Ukrainian Communist Party chief Mr. Ivashko and 11 representatives of the Democratic Bloc or independent progressives. One explanation for the initial large number of candidates, which included prominent leaders of Rukh and the URP, was their access to the media. Every candidate had one hour to express his views before the parliament and all the speeches were broadcast live on Ukrainian radio and television.

Only four candidates remained when the vote took place on June 4, including Mr. Ivashko, two centrist candidates and Prof. Ihor Yukhnovsky of the opposition. All the others withdrew in favor of Prof. Yukhnovsky and in protest against the concentration of power in Mr. Ivashko's hands. The party leader was elected to the post with 60 percent of the vote with more than 100 opposition deputies boycotting the elections.

As a compromise in light of popular opposition to his holding the leadership positions of both the Parliament and the CPU, Mr. Ivashko withdrew his candidacy for the post of party boss at a CPU congress on June 22. His second secretary in the party, Stanislav Hurenko, was overwhelmingly elected in Mr. Ivashko's place.

Soon afterwards, on July 11, Mr. Ivashko resigned from his post as chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament following his election to the newly created position of deputy general secretary of the CPSU: i.e. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's right hand man in the all-Union party leadership.

Mr. Ivashko's resignation sent shockwaves through Ukraine's Supreme Soviet as well as the rest of the republic and is often cited by observers as a significant motivating force behind the Communist bloc's surprisingly quick acceptance of the Declaration on Ukraine's State Sovereignty.

On July 23, Leonid Kravchuk, the new CPU second secretary, was elected chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine, carrying 239 votes.

During a June 15 session, the Ukrainian Parliament elected deputies from the Democratic Bloc to chair seven standing parliamentary committees: Dmytro Pavlychko as head of the foreign affairs committee, Oleksander Kotsiuba as head of the law committee, Les Taniuk as head of the culture committee, Mr. Yukhnovsky as head of the education and science committee, Pavlo Vitsiak as head of the health committee, Mykola Zaludiak as head of the ecology committee, and Volodymyr Yavorivsky as head of the Chornobyl committee. Another democratic deputy, Volodymyr Pylypchuk, was chosen as head of the economic committee.

A rather humiliating moment in Ukraine's Parliament leading up to the July 16 declaration, according to several deputies, was a comment made by then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during an address to the legislature on June 9, which reduced Ukraine to colonial status within the USSR in relations with Great Britain.

The Declaration on State Sovereignty of Ukraine was overwhelmingly approved by the Ukrainian Parliament by a vote of 355 for and four against. The document decrees that Ukrainian SSR laws take precedence on Ukrainian territory over all-union laws, and declares that the Ukrainian SSR will maintain its own army and its own national bank and, if necessary, has the power to introduce its own currency.

In addition, the declaration proclaims that the republic is "a permanently neutral state that does not participate in military blocs," and states that the republic will not accept, will not produce, and will not procure nuclear weapons.

Though the declaration stopped short of calling for Ukraine's secession from the USSR, many observers have pointed out that it goes further than similar steps toward sovereignty taken by other Soviet republics, particularly in the provisions regarding armed forces and non-participation in any military bloc.

All 15 Soviet republics declared sovereignty by the end of 1990: the Baltic states have gone farther, asserting their independence.

Adoption of the declaration was greeted by the people's deputies with a standing ovation and tumultuous applause. Later that day, the deputies voted 339-5 to proclaim July 16 a national holiday in Ukraine.

During the last days of its first historic session, the Ukrainian Parliament focused on realizing point-by-point some of the principles of the declaration by passing some rather radical laws on specific issues.

On July 30, the Supreme Soviet adopted a resolution on military service, which demanded that Ukrainian soldiers serving in "regions of national conflict such as Armenia and Azerbaidzhan" be returned to the territory of Ukraine by October 1. The deadline for the return of other soldiers to Ukraine was December 1 and new draftees called up in September would not leave the territory of the republic.

On August 1, the Ukrainian Parliament voted overwhelmingly to close down the Chornobyl nuclear power station and work on an energy program that would eventually eliminate all atomic power stations from Ukraine. It also adopted a five-year moratorium on the construction of nuclear power and high capacity radar stations in response to Ukraine's ecological crisis.

On August 3, the Ukrainian legislature passed a law on economic sovereignty, in an attempt at returning Ukraine's economy back to republican control. The adoption of laws realizing specific points of this law on economic sovereignty was taken up by the Parliament during its second session in the fall.

The speed with which these laws were passed reflected the urgency felt by the deputies in putting the Declaration on State Sovereignty into law and working on a new constitution on its basis before any discussions on a new union treaty.

During the break between sessions, deputies of Ukraine's Parliament participated in an unusual event, addressing crowds estimated in the hundreds of thousands, which gathered in the southern Ukrainian cities of Nykopil and Zaporizhzhia to celebrate 500 years of Kozak history. Organized by Rukh, the Days of Kozak Glory were aimed at spreading the Ukrainian national renewal to this heavily Russified industrial area.

Also taking place during this time was a monthlong culturological walk, called Dzvin, throughout Ukraine, which attracted Ukrainian youth from various regions as well as from the diaspora, as a means of touching base with people living in Russified regions.

The second session of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet convened on October 1 amid mass demonstrations calling for the resignation of its chairman, Mr. Kravchuk and Vitaliy Masol, the prime minister and leftover of the previous regime. Nearly 100,000 protesters, who had participated in a September 30 rally in Kiev against the union treaty proposed by Mr. Gorbachev, marched past the Parliament building on Kirov Street carrying signs and shouting "Freedom for Ukraine," "No Union Treaty" and "Out with Masol and Kravchuk."

That day the National Council deputies walked out of the session in protest when the conservative majority of 239 voted to uphold a ban on public gatherings in the square facing the Parliament building.

On October 2 some 150 students from various Ukrainian cities declared a hunger strike on a list of demands similar to those demanded by the National Council in Parliament: the resignation of Prime Minister Masol, new multi-party elections in the spring, the nationalization of Communist Party property, rejection of a new union treaty, and the return of all Ukrainian soldiers from beyond the republic's borders.

The student camp or tent city at the front of the Lenin monument on October Revolution Square became the focus of attention in Kiev and throughout the republic during the dramatic events that followed.

In capitulation to student hunger strikes and massive protests Mr. Masol submitted his resignation as prime minister on October 17 and an overwhelming majority in the Parliament resolved to uphold the students' demands. The Supreme Soviet voted to hold a referendum on confidence in the Parliament in 1991 and multi-party elections if the results of the vote demand it, to pass laws on voluntary military service beyond the republic's borders, and to create a commission on nationalization of Communist Party property.

The Parliament also voted to abstain from consideration of the new union treaty until the Declaration of Sovereignty is implemented.

On October 23 the Supreme Soviet voted to delete Article 6 on the "leading role" of the Communist Party in society from the Ukrainian Constitution, while other articles of the constitution were brought on line with the Declaration on State Sovereignty.

On October 24 the legislature completed discussions on the introduction of changes and amendments to the constitution and voted for a constitutional commission, composed of 50 elected members, authorized to prepare a draft of a new constitution by May 1991. Mr. Kravchuk was elected head of the commission.

Rukh held its second congress on October 25-28 in Kiev, declaring that its principal goal was no longer perebudova but "renewal of independent statehood for Ukraine" through peaceful means, and reelecting Mr. Drach as its president.

A controversy erupted in November surrounding the arrest of opposition deputy Stepan Khmara in connection with an incident involving an officer of the Ministry of Internal Affairs preceding the November 7 commemorations of October Revolution Day.

Deputies of the National Council and an Amnesty International observer from Canada have protested the treatment of the deputy from Chervonohrad, the Parliament's November 14 vote stripping him of his parliamentary immunity and his brutal November 17 arrest in the Supreme Soviet, labelling the whole affair a KGB provocation.

Mr. Khmara, who is charged with abusing his authority under Article 166 of the Ukrainian SSR Criminal Code, staged a hunger strike in Lukianivka prison from November 26 until December 13, when his health deteriorated and he was moved to the prison hospital. He remains there awaiting trial.

As 1990 draws to a close it appears that Ukraine has signed bilateral agreements of cooperation with eight Soviet republics, bypassing the center in Moscow: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Byelorussia, Russia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaidzhan and Kazakhstan.

One of the more dramatic pacts was realized when the chairman of the Ukrainian and Russian Parliaments, Mr. Kravchuk and the maverick Boris Yeltsin, signed a 10-year bilateral agreement covering political, economic, cultural and other issues during a November 19 visit by Mr. Yeltsin to Kiev. The leaders emphasized that the pact was an agreement between two sovereign and equal states and issued a joint statement demanding that the sovereignty of the two republics be consistently respected by the USSR Supreme Soviet.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, December 30, 1990, No. 52, Vol. LVIII

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