Independence: a timeline

In the wake of the policies of glasnost, perestroika and demokratizatsia announced by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, there was ferment throughout the USSR. Below is a timeline of key events leading up to the proclamation of Ukraine's independence on August 24, 1991, and affirmed by a nationwide referendum on December 1, 1991.


December 30, 1987 The Ukrainian Helsinki Group (UHG) is reactivated.
April 26, 1988 Some 500 people participate in a march organized by the Ukrainian Culturological Club on Kyiv's Khreschatyk to mark the second anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster, carrying placards with slogans such as "Openness and Democracy to the End."
May-June 1988 Ukrainian Catholics in western Ukraine celebrate the Millennium of Christianity in Kyivan Rus' in secret by holding services in the forests of Buniv, Kalush, Hoshiv, Zarvantysia and other sites.
June 5, 1988 As the official celebrations of the Millennium are held in Moscow, the Ukrainian Culturological Club hosts its own observances in Kyiv at the monument to St. Volodymyr the Great, the grand prince of Kyivan Rus'.
June 16, 1988 Between 6,000 and 8,000 people gather in Lviv to hear speakers declare no confidence in the local list of delegates to the 19th Communist Party conference to begin on June 29.
June 21, 1988 A rally in Lviv attracts 50,000 people who hear discussion of a revised list of delegates to the party conference. Authorities attempt to disperse the rally held in front of the Druzhba Stadium.
July 7, 1988 A crowd of 10,000 to 20,000 witnesses the launching in Lviv of the Democratic Front to Promote Perestroika.
July 7, 1988 The Ukrainian Helsinki Group is transformed into the Ukrainian Helsinki Union, which declares its formation on the basis of the founding principles of the original UHG announced on November 9, 1976.
July 17, 1988 A group of 10,000 faithful gather in Zarvanytsia for Millennium services celebrated by Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Bishop Pavlo Vasylyk. Militia try to disperse the people - the largest gathering of Ukrainian Catholics in the USSR since the Stalin regime outlawed the Church in 1946.
August 4, 1988 On what came to be known as "Bloody Thursday," local authorities use violent methods to disband a gathering of tens of thousands organized by the Democratic Front to Promote Perestroika. Forty-one people are detained and fined or sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest.
September 1, 1988 Local authorities once again use force against 5,000 participants gathered silently in front of Ivan Franko State University in Lviv for a public meeting held without official permission.
November 13, 1988 Approximately 10,000 people attend an officially sanctioned meeting, organized by the cultural heritage organization Spadschyna, the Kyiv University student club Hromada, and the environmental groups Zelenyi Svit (Green World) and Noosfera, to focus on ecological issues.
November 14-18, 1988 Fifteen Ukrainian rights activists are among the 100 human, national and religious rights advocates invited to participate in talks on human rights issues with Soviet officials and a visiting delegation of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission).
December 10, 1988 Hundreds gather in Kyiv to observe International Human Rights Day at a rally organized by the Democratic Union. The unauthorized gathering results in detention of local activists.
January 22, 1989 Lviv and Kyiv both mark Ukrainian Independence Day for the first time in decades. In Lviv, thousands gather for an unauthorized moleben in front of St. George Cathedral; in Kyiv, 60 activists meet in a Kyiv apartment to commemorate the historic event of 1918 when the independent Ukrainian National Republic was proclaimed.
February 11-12, 1989 The Ukrainian Language Society holds its founding congress.
February 15, 1989 The formation of the Initiative Committee for the Renewal of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church is announced.
February 16, 1989 Rukh publishes its draft program in Literaturna Ukraina.
February 19-21, 1989 Large public rallies take place in Kyiv to protest the election laws on the eve of the March 26 elections to the USSR Congress of People's Deputies and to call for the resignation of the first secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine, Volodymyr Scherbytsky, often referred to as "the mastodon of stagnation." The demonstrations coincide with a visit to Ukraine by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
February 26, 1989 Between 20,000 and 30,000 people participate in an unsanctioned ecumenical memorial service in Lviv marking the 128th anniversary of Taras Shevchenko's death.
March 4, 1989 The Memorial Society, committed to honoring the victims of Stalinism and cleansing society of its Soviet vestiges, is founded in Kyiv. A public rally is held the next day.
March 12, 1989 A pre-elections meeting organized in Lviv by the Ukrainian Helsinki Union and the Marian Society Myloserdia (Compassion) is violently dispersed, and nearly 300 people are detained.
March 26, 1989 Elections are held to the 2,250-member USSR Congress of People's Deputies; bye-elections are held on April 9, May 14 and May 21. Out of the total of 225 deputies representing Ukraine, 175 are elected in the four rounds of elections. Most are conservatives, though a handful of progressives do make the cut.
April 20-23, 1989 Pre-elections meetings are held in Lviv for four consecutive days, drawing crowds of up to 25,000. The action includes an hourlong warning strike at eight local factories and institutions. It is the first labor strike in Lviv since 1944.
May 3, 1989 A pre-elections rally attracts 30,000 in Lviv.
May 7, 1989 The Memorial Society organizes a mass meeting at Bykivnia, site of a mass grave of Stalin's victims. After a march from Kyiv to the site, a memorial service is offered.
mid-May through
mid-September 1989
Ukrainian Greek-Catholic hunger strikers stage protests on Moscow's Arbat to call attention to the plight of their Church. They are especially active during the July session of the World Council of Churches held in Moscow. The protest is ended with the arrests of the group on September 18.
May 27, 1989 The founding conference of the Lviv regional Memorial Society is held.
June 18, 1989 Approximately 100,000 faithful participate in public religious services in Ivano-Frankivsk, responding to Cardinal Myroslav Lubachivsky's call for an international day of prayer.
August 19, 1989 The Russian Orthodox Parish of Ss. Peter and Paul announces it is switching to the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
September 2, 1989 Tens of thousands in cities across Ukraine protest the draft election law that reserves s1pecial seats for the Communist Party and other official organizations: 50,000 in Lviv, 40,000 in Kyiv, 10,000 in Zhytomyr, 5,000 each in Dniprodzerzhynsk and Chervonohrad and 2,000 in Kharkiv.
September 8-10, 1989 Writer Ivan Drach is elected to head Rukh, the Popular Movement of Ukraine for Peredudova, at its founding congress in Kyiv.
September 17, 1989 Between 150,000 and 200,000 march in Lviv to demand the legalization of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. It is the largest demonstration of Ukrainian Catholics since World War II.
September 21, 1989 Exhumation of a mass grave begins in Demianiv Laz, a nature preserve south of Ivano-Frankivsk.
September 28, 1989 First Secretary of the CPU Volodymyr Scherbytsky, a holdover from the Brezhnev era, is retired.
October 1, 1989 A peaceful demonstration of 10,000 to 15,000 is violently dispersed by militia when the people protest in front of Lviv's Druzhba Stadium, where a concert celebrating the Soviet "reunification" of Ukrainian lands is held.
October 3, 1989 Nearly 30,000 Lviv residents rally to protest the violence of October 1; a two-hour work strike also is held.
October 10, 1989 Ivano-Frankivsk is the site of a pre-elections protest attended by 30,000.
October 15, 1989 Several thousand gather in Chervonohrad, Chernivtsi, Rivne and Zhytomyr, 500 in Dnipropetrovsk and 30,000 in Lviv to protest the elections law.
October 20, 1989 Faithful and clergy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church participate in a sobor in Lviv - the first since that Church's forced liquidation in the 1930s.
October 24, 1989 The all-union Supreme Soviet passes a law eliminating special seats for Communist Party and other official organizations' representatives.
October 26, 1989 Twenty factories and institutions in Lviv hold strikes and meetings to once again protest the October 1 police brutality in the city and the authorities' unwillingness to prosecute those responsible.
October 26-28, 1989 The Zelenyi Svit environmental association holds its founding congress.
October 27, 1989 The Ukrainian SSR Supreme Soviet passes a law "On Elections of People's Deputies of the Ukrainian SSR," eliminating the special status of party and other official organizations.
October 28, 1989 The Ukrainian Supreme Soviet decrees that from January 1, 1990, Ukrainian will be the state language of Ukraine, while Russian will be used for communication between nationality groups.
October 29, 1989 Thousands attend a memorial service at Demianiv Laz and a temporary marker is placed to indicate that a monument to the "victims of the represssions of 1939-1941" will soon be erected on the site.
October 28, 1989 The Congregation of the Church of the Transfiguration in Lviv leaves the Russian Orthodox Church and proclaims itself a Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church.
mid-November 1989 The Shevchenko Ukrainian Language Society is officially registered.
November 19, 1989 A public gathering in Kyiv attracts thousands of mourners, friends and family to the reburial in Ukraine of three inmates of the infamous Camp No. 36 in Perm in the Urals: rights activists Vasyl Stus, Oleksiy Tykhy and Yuriy Lytvyn. Their remains are reinterred in Baikiv Cemetery.
November 26, 1989 On a day of prayer and fasting proclaimed by Cardinal Myroslav Lubachivsky, thousands of faithful in western Ukraine participate in liturgies and molebens on the eve of a meeting between Pope John Paul II and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
November 28, 1989 The Ukrainian SSR's Council for Religious Affairs issues a decree permitting registration of Ukrainian Catholic congregations. The decree is proclaimed on December 1, coinciding with a meeting at the Vatican between the pope and the Soviet president.
December 10, 1989 The first officially sanctioned observance of International Human Rights Day is held in Lviv.
December 17, 1989 A public meeting organized in Kyiv by Rukh is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Andrei Sakharov, human rights campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize laureate; 30,000 attend.
December 26, 1989 Supreme Soviet of Ukrainian SSR adopts a law making Christmas, Easter and the Feast of the Holy Trinity holidays in the republic.




Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, August 19, 2001, No. 33, Vol. LXIX

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