Thirty years ago, on July 22, 1990, The Ukrainian Weekly’s front page prominently featured Ukraine’s proclamation of state sovereignty that was voted by the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR on July 16 of that year. The Declaration on State Sovereignty of Ukraine, was defined as “supremacy, independence, fullness and indivisibility of the republic’s authority within the boundaries of its territory, and its independence and equality in external relations.”
An overwhelming majority in Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada approved the move by a vote of 355 in favor and four against. The vote was greeted with a standing ovation by the members of the Parliament, and later that day, the national deputies voted 395-5 to declare July 16 a national holiday in Ukraine.
The news of the move was transmitted via fax from the Kyiv offices of Rukh, the Popular Movement of Ukraine for Perebudova.
The document decreed that Ukrainian SSR laws take precedence on Ukrainian territory over all-union laws, and declared that the Ukrainian SSR shall maintain its own army and its own national bank and, if necessary, has the power to introduce its own currency. The declaration included a preamble and 10 sections: Self-Determination of the Ukrainian Nation, Rule of the People, State Authority, Citizenship of the Ukrainian SSR, Territorial Supremacy, Economic Independence, Ecological Safety, Cultural Development, External and Internal Security, and International Relations.
Ukraine, at the time, proclaimed itself to be militarily neutral and did not seek membership in any military blocs. It also stated that it would not accept, produce or procure nuclear weapons.
Although the document stopped short of calling for Ukraine’s secession from the USSR, many observers pointed out that the move went farther than similar steps toward sovereignty taken by other Soviet republics (such as Moldova, Russia and Uzbekistan), notably provisions for armed forces and non-participation in military blocs. The Baltic states, however, took it a step farther by asserting their independence by that point.
At the time, some 5,000 to 10,000 people gathered to celebrate in Kyiv at October Revolution Square, later renamed Independence Square. Oles Shevchenko, a national deputy, declared: “From today our children will be born in a free country and not in a colony belonging to Moscow.”
National Deputy Vyacheslav Chornovil, in speaking with Marta Kolomayets of The Ukrainian Weekly on July 19, said: “On July 16, the people rejoiced as children would; some of them may not understand that this declaration is just a sheet of paper, our work is just beginning. Others may just want to shut their eyes temporarily, relishing the moment. But no matter, this is precisely what our people needed at this time.”
Mr. Chornovil warned, “This does not mean that the wolves (stagnant Communists) have suddenly turned into lambs and are content to graze and feed on grass.”
Ukraine has since changed its non-aligned military stance and continues its cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as it improves its military to align with NATO standards.
Source: “Ukraine proclaims sovereignty,” The Ukrainian Weekly, July 22, 1990.