In the wake of the policies of glasnost, perestroika and demokratizatsia announced by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, there was ferment throughout the USSR. What follows is a timeline of events leading up to the proclamation of Ukraine’s independence on August 24, 1991, and its affirmation by a nationwide referendum on December 1, 1991
September 8-10, 1989 – Writer Ivan Drach is elected to head Rukh, the Popular Movement of Ukraine for Perebudova, at its founding congress in Kyiv.
December 17, 1989 – A public meeting organized in Kyiv by Rukh, the Popular Movement of Ukraine for Perebudova, and dedicated to the memory of Dr. Andrei Sakharov, human rights campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, takes place with 30,000 people in attendance.
January 21, 1990 – Rukh organizes a 300-mile human chain linking Kyiv, Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk. Hundreds of thousands join hands to commemorate the proclamation of Ukrainian independence in 1918 and the reunification of Ukrainian lands one year later.
March 4, 1990 – Elections to the Ukrainian SSR People’s Deputies. Candidates from the Democratic Bloc win landslide victories in western Ukrainian oblasts. A majority of the seats are forced into run-off elections.
March 18, 1990 – Democratic candidates score further impressive victories in the run-off. The Democratic Bloc now holds about 90 seats in the new Parliament.
July 16, 1990 – The Declaration on State Sovereignty of Ukraine is overwhelmingly approved by Parliament. The vote is 355 for and four against. The people’s deputies vote 339-5 to proclaim July 16 a national holiday in Ukraine.
September 28-30, 1990 – The Green Party of Ukraine holds its founding congress.
September 30, 1990 – Nearly 100,000 people march in Kyiv to protest the new union treaty proposed by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
October 1, 1990 – Parliament reconvenes amid mass protests calling for the resignation of its chairman, Leonid Kravchuk, and Prime Minister Vitalii Masol, a leftover from the previous regime. Students erect a tent city on October Revolution Square where they continue the protest.
October 23, 1990 – The Parliament votes to delete Article 6 of the Ukrainian Constitution which refers to the “leading role” of the Communist Party and adopts other measures to bring the Constitution in line with the Declaration on State Sovereignty.
October 25-28, 1990 – Rukh holds its second congress and declares that its principal goal is no longer “perebudova” but the “renewal of independent statehood for Ukraine.”
Early December 1990 – The Party for the Democratic Rebirth of Ukraine is formed.
December 15, 1990 – The Democratic Party of Ukraine is founded.
March 17, 1991 – A union-wide referendum on the preservation of the USSR is approved in Ukraine by 70.2 percent of the voters. At the same time, however, 80.2 percent approve another referendum question posed in Ukraine, indicating that they want their country to be “part of a union of Soviet sovereign states on the principles of the Declaration on State Sovereignty of Ukraine.”
March 30, 1991 – Cardinal Myroslav Lubachivsky returns to Ukraine after a 53-year forced absence.
August 1, 1991 – President George H.W. Bush addresses the Ukrainian Parliament and cautions against “suicidal nationalism,” thus making clear his reservations about Ukrainian statehood. The address comes to be known as the “Chicken Kiev” speech.
August 19-21, 1991 – A coup d’etat is attempted in the USSR, but soon fails.
August 19, 1991 – A statement is drafted by members of Rukh in response to the military coup in Moscow. The statement says that “Rukh calls upon all citizens of Ukraine to defy the will of the leaders of the coup and instead to create organizational structures of active resistance that will coordinate an all-republic strike, which we recognize as a peaceful and effective method in our struggle for the freedom and prosperity of the Ukrainian nation.” The appeal is signed by Ivan Drach, president of Rukh, the Popular Movement of Ukraine (the English language translation of the appeal can be seen on page 3 of this issue of The Weekly).
August 19, 1991 – An appeal is drafted and addressed to the people of Ukraine calling upon citizens to “abide by the constitution and laws of Ukraine.” The appeal also asks citizens to “be prepared to participate in a citizen’s protest.” The appeal is signed by the leadership of Rukh, the National Council, the Ukrainian Republican Party, the Ukrainian Democratic Party, the Party for the Rebirth of Ukraine, and representatives of other democratic organizations and political parties (the English language translation of the appeal can be seen on page 3 of this issue of The Weekly).
August 19, 1991 – An appeal is drafted by members of Rukh and addressed to the Presidium of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet regarding the military coup in Moscow. The appeal is signed by Ivan Drach, president of Rukh, the Popular Movement of Ukraine (the English language translation of the appeal can be seen on page 3 of this issue of The Weekly).
August 24, 1991 – The Ukrainian parliament proclaims Ukraine an independent state, but notes that this matter is subject to a nationwide referendum.
August 28-29, 1991 – A delegation from the Russian SFSR and the USSR Supreme Soviet rushes to Kyiv to resolve an “emergency situation” in the wake of Ukraine’s independence proclamation. The talks result in a communique pledging cooperation to avert “the uncontrolled disintegration of the union state” through creation of “interim inter-state structures” for an undefined transitional period.
September 9, 1991 – Dismantling begins of the huge statue of Lenin in Kyiv’s October Revolution Square, now renamed Independence Square.
September 9, 1991 – Canada’s Consulate General in Kyiv is opened.
September 22-October 2, 1991 – Parliament Chairman Kravchuk visits Canada and the United States, and meets with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President George H.W. Bush.
September 23, 1991 – The Ukrainian Parliament votes to dissolve the KGB and create the State Security Service.
September 27, 1991 – The United States announces that Ukraine will be the first former Soviet republic to benefit from the Peace Corps program.
December 1, 1991 – The population of Ukraine approves the August 24, 1991, declaration of independence with an astounding 90.32 percent of the vote. Leonid Kravchuk is elected the first president of newly independent Ukraine by 62 percent of the voters.
December 1, 1991 – Poland becomes the first country to grant diplomatic recognition to independent Ukraine.
December 2, 1991 – Canada becomes the first Western country to establish diplomatic relations with independent Ukraine.
December 5, 1991 – Leonid Kravchuk is sworn in as Ukraine’s president.
December 7, 1991 – At a Slavic summit in Minsk, Belarus, Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian leaders announce the formation of a commonwealth of the three Slavic republics, leaving the door open for other former Soviet republics to join.
December 25, 1991 – U.S. President George H.W. Bush announces that the United States recognizes the independence of Ukraine.
December 29, 1991 – The Ukrainian Weekly reports that at press time 25 countries have extended formal recognition of independence to Ukraine.
Source: “Ukraine Lives!: In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the proclamation of Ukraine’s independence,” The Ukrainian Weekly, the Ukrainian National Association, Parsippany, N.J., 2002.