Historical facts
Index
 The Way to Freedom and Independence 

(1985 - 1994)

Reforms initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev in spring 1985 were first controlled by the state party. But with the expansion of publicity ("glasnost") there remained even less people who could find any harmony in relations between the State and society. Communist ideology lost its authority, the society was quickly politicized. These processes immediately acquired political coloration in Ukraine. There began the actions of protest against closing the schools with education in Ukrainian, against forcing out the national language from the sphere of state management, book-publishing, mass media. In November 1988, the first mass meeting took place in Kyiv which was devoted to the problems of ecology, where V. Shcherbytskyi and other leaders were blamed for concealing information about the after-effects of the Chernobyl catastrophe.

In 1989, the political strikes burst out in Donbas, and the People's Movement of Ukraine appeared in Kyiv. In the spring of 1989, the first free elections (after 1917) were held in the USSR, which lead to the appearance of a new center of power in a form of the two-level representative system: the Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR and permanently acting the Supreme Council of the USSR formed at the Congress. Under this new situation, V. Shcherbytskyi was not in power for a very long period of time. The party dictatorship and the entire totalitarian system fell to pieces before long.

In March 1990, elections were held for the Supreme Council of the Ukrainian SSR and local councils. A lot of new political figures, the adherents of reforms, appeared on the scene in political life. On July 16, 1990 the Parliament adopted the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine. To save the Soviet Union, Gorbachev started negotiations with the leaders of the republics about the conditions of a union agreement, that could not be coordinated with the principles of state sovereignty (Novoogariovian process) declared by Republican Parliaments.

On the evening of August 19, 1991, the conservatives of the central party-state management made an attempt of the state upheaval, striving to turn the country life to the state before 1985. The putsch (the leaders of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine who also participated) was a failure. On August 24, the extraordinary session of the Supreme Council of the Ukrainian SSR approved "The Bill of Independence Announcement of Ukraine".

In the last days of August 1991, they adopted the edict about temporal cessation and then the prohibition of activities of the Communist Party of Ukraine. On December 1, 1991, the referendum on confirmation of "The Bill of Independence Announcement of Ukraine" took place. There was a positive response from 90.3% of the population who took part in the referendum. The elections of the first President of Ukraine were also held. Leonid Kravchuk became the first President of Ukraine.

The referendum in Ukraine created a qualitatively new situation with regard to the problem of existence of the USSR. A week after this event, Borys Yeltsin, President of RSFSR, Leonid Kravchuk, and S. Shushkevych, Head of the Supreme Council of Bielorus, announced at the meeting in Minsk that the USSR no longer existed as a subject of international law and geopolitical reality. Ukraine became an independent sovereign state.

The response of the world community to the results of the national referendum was unexpectedly unanimous: for December 1991, the independence of Ukraine was recognized by 68 states, and in 1992 it was recognized by 64 states. Yeltsin's government was one of the first states to recognize Ukraine hoped that Moscow would remain the ruling center in the entire territory of the USSR and, using the mechanism of the Commonwealth of the former union of republics", would not turn into a military-political unit or into a new variant of the USSR. Ukraine abstained from signing the agreement which endowed the Commonwealth institutions with super-state functions.

After the disintegration of the USSR, Ukraine inherited the third largest nuclear potential in the world. In December 1991, the Supreme Rada resolved the law "On Military Powers of Ukraine", and in November 1993, adopted the military doctrine in which it was announced that Ukraine did not see its enemies in the neighboring countries and the army of Ukraine is only a guarantee of its national security. For the first five years, the military forces of Ukraine were reduced from 726,000 to 350,000.

Beginning with the Declaration on State Sovereignty, Ukraine always emphasized the desire to become a non-nuclear state. In November 1994, the Supreme Rada approved the decision on Ukraine joining the Agreement on non-expansion of nuclear weapons on the condition of guaranteeing safety on the part of nuclear states. Such guarantees were given and in the summer of 1996, the last 1280 nuclear warheads were removed from Ukraine.

The constitutional process, which began in July 1990 by adopting the Declaration on State Sovereignty of Ukraine, became the most important element in the creation of the state. This document ratified the principles of sovereignty, democracy, inviolability of the territory of Ukraine, power division into legislative, executive and court branches, equality of citizens and state guarantee of their rights and liberties. The Constitution of Ukraine was adopted on June 28, 1996 after a long-term political struggle. The Constitution created a strong legislative foundation for the regulation of public relations, development of sovereignty and a democratic state.

The democratic system went through its first serious trial in June 1994 when, as a result of free elections, the power was given up to Leonid Kuchma, the new President of Ukraine.

The strengthening of Ukraine as a sovereign state is complicated by the difficulties of the transition period, which are especially felt in the sphere of the economy. The economic crisis, which was inherited from Soviet times, became worse in following years. The disagreements and discussions concerning the future of Ukraine continues. Different ideas as to the desirable rates, orientations and even the expediency of the market reforms still exist among the political elite and in the society. However, this struggle is carried out by political methods and in the constitutional field. When deciding its economic and political problems, Ukraine has had the support of the world community. Ukraine meets the end of the 20th century as an independent state.


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