Answers for questions of Ukrainian Prospects Fund
Ivan Dzyuba, Ukrainian National Academy of Science
1 For myself, the existence of an independent Ukrainian state is an indisputable personal value for one simple reason: I cannot imagine living outside what one could call the “Ukrainian world”, and this “Ukrainian world” can only freely evolve its entire potential in an independent Ukrainian state, and only if there is an independent Ukrainian state, the “world of mankind” will not lose the “Ukrainian world” as one of its values.
2 History consists of ever so many efforts and desires of ever so many people. The results sometimes come unexpected to everybody and often they are quite the opposite of what people intended in the first place. Therefore, what happened in Ukraine (socio-cultural regress instead of progress) is tragic but not accidental, and by no means a unique phenomenon in the history of mankind. Why did it happen? This is too difficult a question. All I can do is refer to some of the circumstances. After the sudden collapse of the totalitarian system many decade-old negative qualities of society and its people, which had formerly been disguised or partly restrained, came to the surface: corruption, extortion, irresponsibility, boorishness, licentiousness in compensation of slavish obedience etc. These negative qualities, rather than the idealism of the “dissidents” or the self-contained industriousness of the working people, became the forming (or deforming) forces of social development in most post-Soviet countries. It is not by chance that the term “new Russian” (the same as its loan translation, “new Ukrainian”) connotes all kinds of negative qualities. Indeed, all the mechanically adopted Western recipes for building market relations yielded results which were quite the opposite of what had been intended. No reliable normative base had been created and society did not meet the socio-psychological, moral, and professional preconditions required for such a transition. However, the social organism has a great potential of self-healing so that today we can observe the first signs of recovery. What gives us hope is, more than anything else, that we do have political freedom and freedom of speech, albeit not in the same measure as in Western democracies, but still to a degree unimaginable not long ago. And although subjectively we do not value this very highly (having managed to forget what it was like 15 or 20 years ago), objectively this fundamental fact works towards the creation of a constructive perspective for society.
3 For Ukraine, of course, the declaration of the independent Ukrainian state, the general elections of 1 December 1991, and the adoption of the Ukrainian constitution have become events of great historical significance and symbols of social relevance. The negative symbols are symbols of our dependency: the ill-fated prolonged building project of the Odesa oil terminal, St. Andrew’s banner in Sevastopol, and the occupation of Ukraine by Russian mass media.
Leonid Kravchuk, national deputy, first president of Ukraine
1 It is not only a value but the highest value. It is the meaning of my life. As the politician who at that time held the highest position in the state I certainly had a hand in creating this state. A powerful nation with a huge intellectual potential, a favourable natural environment, and rich resources had not had its own state for centuries, serving various masters instead. Two attempts at creating a Ukrainian state were unsuccessful. Bohdan Khmelnytsky was slyly outwitted – first they made him feel secure and then they took everything away from his successors. The bolsheviks crushed the second attempt at creating an independent state after 1917.
God loves threes, the Ukrainian saying has it. I am certain that the third birth of an independent Ukraine will be forever. I believe that the new generation of Ukrainian citizens will be wiser and uninfluenced by imperial dogmas. They will truly love their country, protect her and work for her.
2 The greatest dream came true – Ukraine became an independent state. She was recognised by the world community. Diplomatic relations with almost all countries in the world were established in 1991 and 1992.The organs of state power were reformed, armed forces were set up etc. We built the foundations of a new state and defined its philosophy.
It is very important that no blood be shed in Ukraine in international or other conflicts and that no guns be fired. Not a single Ukrainian mother shall blame me for sending her son to war, in the interest of who knows who.
What we did not manage to achieve? I was president of Ukraine for only three years. For a state such a tenure is just a short moment. To make serious social and economic improvements over so short a period is very difficult. However, the companies were working then, people received their salaries and pensions punctually.
Social and economic disintegration, unfortunately, happens very quickly, whereas changes for the better often take many years. But things have to be improved. There is no other way.
3 The symbol of my life, as of the life of any person, is life itself. I would like it to be peaceful, rich, democratic, and civilised.
Vyacheslav Bryukhovetsky, president of the national university “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy”
1 I am deeply convinced that Ukraine has become an independent state for the first time. Before now, there have only been shortly-lived attempts at creating an independent state. Or was the Kyiv Rus a state in the full sense of that word?
2 I could not a name single dream of mine from the 90s that has not come true. Probably, I am twice as happy because I had no great illusions, knowing and understanding that it would be necessary to work a lot.
And the dissatisfaction we can nowadays observe in Ukrainian society is to a great extent due to the discrepancy between the economic expectations raised by some national-democratic politicians and the realities of life people find themselves in.
This is caused by a few fundamental facts which we must not take offence in. The thing is that coming out of that society, we are all ill. Our consciousness is distorted. This concerns not only partocrats but even the most daring dissidents, for both the partocrats and the dissidents are products of the Soviet epoch. The intolerance cultivated during the Soviet era is peculiar to all of us.
3 I feel dissatisfied with the present state of affairs both in the spiritual and in the material spheres. It hurts me that our young generation does not receive what it deserves. However, I think that this is a question of time. At the end of the end everything will fall into place. There are many examples in history. It took Prague 50 years to develop from a German-speaking city into a Czech-speaking one. When Spain had been freed from Arab rule, it took 200 years to re-establish proper Spanish. And we want Ukraine to return to its own language within ten years?
I think that for our state another process is important now. For myself, the symbol of our independence is football. In Soviet times only now and then, when Dynamo Kyiv were playing, two or three red-blue flags of the Soviet Ukraine would be seen at the stadium, in order not to be mixed up with the Russkys. Nowadays, 80,000 supporters, most of whom speak Russian, bring several thousand Ukrainian flags. Nobody forces them to bring these flags. The young people who bring them have grown up with them. And for me this is a very powerful symbol, because for these youngsters independent Ukraine is nothing exotic.
Mykola Plavyuk, head of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists
1 The independent Ukrainian state is a huge value for me. It made it possible for me to return to Ukraine and become her citizen after 48 years abroad.
All that time I was politically active in the Ukrainian community and tied knots with political circles in countries of the Western world, proving to them that the Ukrainian nation, although enslaved by the communist centre in Moscow, deserves to have its own independent state.
2 I was absolutely certain that the Ukrainian nation would be able to develop in all directions in the resurrected Ukrainian state. My desire was to see the Ukrainian state really being governed by the people – with the active Ukrainian citizen as the source of power, in a truly European manner, with civilised relations between the organs of state power and the citizens.
Unfortunately, not enough has been done for me to be able to say that these dreams have come true. I am not saying that nothing has been done. On the contrary, I highly appreciate the achievements of the Ukrainian state in the international arena, the approval of the constitution, the establishment of various state structures which had not existed in Ukraine before. These unfulfilled dreams and desires, together with the cultural, scientific, social, and economic confusion, are, in my view, due to the fact that the political elite of present-day Ukraine consists predominantly of people of the past, who were educated according to Soviet standards and who do not know how to lead independent Ukraine as a European-style nation state.
3 The resignation of the president of Ukrainian People’s Republic in favour of president Leonid Kravchuk, becoming a Ukrainian citizen, and moving the OUN headquarters to Kyiv in 1999 symbolize interesting and positive events in my life during those years.
I regard the adoption of the Ukrainian constitution in 1996 as the greatest success in the development of our state. The onesidedness and complete subordination of the mass media either to state structures or to economic circles is a great threat to the Ukrainian state.
Oleksandr Moroz, member of Parliament, head of the Socialist Party of Ukraine
1 As time goes by, more and more people in Ukraine lay claims on having sacrificed their lives or at least their health on the altar of independence and on having incessantly and for a long time raved about an independent Ukrainian state. It pays off to join these fighters and say, “So have I.” But no, I, for one, have not. I have always loved Ukraine in my own way, without pretending to be unique but not allowing anyone to lecture me about patriotism.
As it happened, Ukraine did not fight for its independence, it simply got it. People got it. I am one of them. Having been voted by people to represent them in the highest legislative organ, I understood how important it is to cope with this legacy. It became impossible to blame the centre, far away in Moscow, for the mistakes that were made. As soon as we had gained independence, all the good and bad decisions became our own decisions, i.e. to a great degree my own decisions, too. Therefore, as far as I am concerned, the value of the independent Ukrainian state is proportional to my own responsibility for what condition it is in and how it develops.
2 The state very nearly exists. I am saying this because there are so many shortcomings, so many sores on the social organism that I am ashamed to have my own people and strangers look at it. There were dreams about a modern state which would serve its citizens. But we got… The state behaves towards its citizens like an army of conquerors in occupied territory. The hopes of society and reality drifted apart, because reality is determined by a small circle of people, whose egotistical, mercantile interests often differ wildly from the interests of society and the state. There is also a wide range of objective and subjective reasons. They could be summed up in the words: we never had a state of our own. Unfortunately, we had no proper elite either. We have merchants in our temple. They can speak about lofty aims but their words do not come from their hearts. Thus, they cannot warm they hearts of the multitude. But this is what Ukraine really needs today.
3 The three successive majorities I have won in my voting district; the two campaigns as a presidential candidate I have taken part in; Ukraine’s membership in the Council of Europe; the births of my three grandchildren; the publication of six books; the change of my hair colour.
Vitaliy Portnikov, journalist
1 The declaration of the independent Ukrainian state remains for me a wonderful illustration of an opportunity taken at the right moment. Neither the logic of the development of the national liberation movement nor the general atmosphere in society made it possible for us to declare our independence. However, we were helped the breakdown of the empire, which was provoked not only by its economic collapse but also by the resistance of the peoples of the Baltic states and the power struggle in Russia.
2 Of course, today’s Ukraine is not the country we were hoping for in 1991 (then again, what were we hoping for?). Our mentality is still much closer to the Soviet zone than to Central Europe. Our elite is much rather a parody of Russia’s than resembling Poland’s or Hungary’s. Our mass media still remain surprisingly provincial. Our economy is still degrading, never mind the optimistic promises of the authorities. Leonid Kuchma’s regime has become a symbol of weak-willed and irresponsible autocracy allowing no alternatives to itself… I could go on. But in fact, this is not important. What is important is the potential that was created by the very act of declaring independence. This potential will hardly be realized by the generation of our parents, which is in power today, or even by our generation. But we should not ignore that the young generation is growing up under the conditions of an open Ukraine, of new information technologies, and of common patriotism.
Even in comparison with other former Soviet republics, there have been quite a few positive developments in Ukraine: some sort of democracy and a multi-party system has appeared, an illusion of freedom of press has been created, a certain level of relations with the West is maintained, there are opposition politicians, journalists, even businesspeople, and even outside the prisons. Of course, under the existing conditions Ukrainian society will develop very slowly, rather in a “buffer zone” than in Europe, rather with a state-controlled economy than a real free market – but it will develop, it will drag along!
Can this process be speeded up? I am not a revolutionary and I do not think that any abrupt change or explosion or social revolt will result in rapid improvements. Any Ukrainian government, even a very reformatory-minded one, will have to deal with the lack of qualified staff, especially of qualified managers. It will be our task to make sure we will have qualifications in the future.
I have been observing the political processes going on in Russia for two decades and I can assert that we should be happy we have managed to break away, even if the fruits will only be enjoyed by future generations. Russian society will be struggling with its historical complexes for many generations and will regard these complexes as advantages… Over the years of imperial success a peculiar understanding of good and evil was created, which is reflected not only in the political or moral but also in the economic sphere. So whereas in Prague or Warsaw you ask yourself why we live the way we do, when you come to Moscow you sort of calm down… And when you go to the Russian provinces, you calm down for good…
Of course, this does not mean that we are much better off but I insist that the tendency is in favour of us. Things must work out and they will.
Roman Bezsmertny, national deputy, representative of the President in the Verkhovna Rada
1 I cannot imagine separating the problem of independence from the problem my own existence as a person and a politician. What chances would a country school graduate have had to make it into parliament at 27 and become the representative of the President in parliament at 29, had it not been for the independence of Ukraine? In fact, it gave me the possibility to develop as a person and as a politician. All my achievements – intellectual, moral, and material – are to a great extent due to the independence of Ukraine. I am not an exception in this respect, this is true for about 30 per cent of the Ukrainian population.
2 I did not expect any great miracles because as a historian I was aware in 1990 that it would take at least 20 or 25 years to establish decent state institutions and that only then we would begin to climb towards a high level of social prosperity. Other than decent work, in which I could find self-fulfilment, I did not expect anything, and this is perhaps why I took the hurdles of the 90s quite easily.
The transformation from socialism to capitalism is achieved through a change of motivation. Today’s Ukrainian society can be divided into two parts according to the motivational principle: the young, who will never return to the old system, and the elderly, who will never fully adopt this new motivation.
For seventy years the genetically and mentally efficient and productive population of Ukraine was educated to be a typical consumer. From 1991 to 1995 we kissed the consumer philosophy goodbye. And today parliament is no longer wasting money, which demonstrates that we are heading in a new direction.
3 I associate my life during those years not with symbols but with the people I was working with. I have been working in the president’s team for four year, and although all kinds of things have happened, I am happy to be able to work with this man. It is evident that the little progress Ukraine has made is due to the president’s active interaction with the state institutions, which he makes sure do not fall asleep.
Yury Badzyo, former political prisoner
1 For myself, the independence of Ukraine is the essence of my whole life, my destiny as a citizen and as a person. In the 1970s, during the imperial rule of Russia in Ukraine, I publicly addressed the authorities, expressing my conviction that Ukraine should leave the USSR and that the Ukrainian nation had no future unless it created its own independent state.
Ukraine remains independent, Russia did not manage to swallow it up again. The symbols of the independent Ukrainian state have gained great significance, we have become more psychologically independent, the internal enemy – the revanchist “fifth column” – has been noticeably weakened, the philosophical and economic base of the totalitarian ideology has been destroyed, a political framework has ben created (a multi-party system, the foundations of parliamentarism and participation of the public) – all this gives rise to some degree of optimism. Only to some degree of optimism because the Ukrainian achievements are rather due to external pressures than due to our own efforts.
The weakness of the Ukrainian national revival is depressing, the power and ubiquity of bureaucracy is amazing, and so is the irresponsibility of the authorities, which results in the degradation of the productive and moral powers of society and in the impauperisation of a big part of the population contrasting with the luxurious life of the ruling cliques. Why did this happen? Because we were so thoroughly infected by the Russian communist occupation (if we consider only this period of Ukrainian history). Our people received their new independent state at a time when they did not have a full-fledged political elite of their own which would have been able to adequately understand the situation, control the circumstances, and create a viable historical process working in favour of the Ukrainian people.
2 What did I personally manage to achieve? I tried to intellectually grasp the situation. Unfortunately, my thoughts and conclusions did not find any adequate application in Ukrainian politics. But that is not my fault.
3 The Ukrainian declaration of independence, the preparations for the referendum of 1991, and the impressive victory of 1 December. Later, the historical (national and political) bevaviour of the Ukrainian people turned into a pretentious fuss camouflaging individual and corporate interests.
Heorhyj Kryuchkov, national deputy, Communist Party
1 No doubt the independent Ukrainian state is a significant value, because this is my country and I want it to be independent and rich and to guarantee its citizens a normal life.
I do not want it to be dependent on anybody and I do not want it to be given any orders by anyone. I do not want America to dictate the president, the Ukrainian government, and our parliament what we are to do. Neither do I want the Russian president or anybody else to determine the policies of our state.
2 My hopes of the early 1990s have not been fulfilled at all, and for me personally this is a tragedy. I could not imagine that our economy would be destroyed and that our living standard would be so much lower than in the early 1990s. I did everything to open people’s eyes to the destructiveness of the present political direction. I did not really succeed. I think that the hopes of the early 1990s have not been fulfilled because a regime has been set up in Ukraine which effectively opposes freedom of speech and freedom of action. The turning point after which the present regime could appear was August 1991. At that time, the authorities could no longer guarantee normal development for the country and power was seized by nationalistic right-wingers who determined the further course of events in Ukraine.
3 One significant event, but a negative one, was the election of the first president as head of state, then of the second one, and later his reelection.
I do not see any positive events for Ukraine. For our state all these ten years have been a great tragedy, the size and consequences of which we have not yet fully realized. But we are still heading in the same direction and so I am sure that people will face even harder times.
Laryssa Skoryk, head of the International Economic Foundation, national deputy during the 12th convocation of the Verkhovna Rada
Over the centuries the Ukrainian nation paid too high a price for having no state of its own. In the 20th century we faced a sacramental question: to be a nation or not to be a nation. In the face of total colonial subjection, the decay of the Ukrainian language, mass extinction, dispersion, assimilation, the destruction of the spiritual institutions, and the perversion of national history, achieving state independence became the only way of national salvation for Ukraine.
Unfortunately, power was taken by people who, instead of patriotic intentions, strove for personal enrichment and never saw themselves separated from Russia. It was obvious for me that Russia, as the successor of the Soviet Union, would either not allow unwelcome persons to become president or remove them from power. All the more so because this is much easier to achieve with a single person than with a whole parliament.
I thought then and I still think now that if Leonid Kravchuk, under whose leadership the Presidium of the Verkhovna Rada passed the resolution which prohibited all activities of the Communist Party in Ukraine, had remained speaker of the Rada and if there had not been any presidential elections at all, a lot of things would be different in Ukraine…
When late in 1993 during the adoption of the election law there were heated debates in the Verkhovna Rada about majority and proportional voting, I gave from the rostrum another, very concrete definition of the principle according to which future elections would be conducted in Ukraine: money. And that is was has happened. Those who have the money have the power.
Hennadij Udovenko, national deputy, head of the Narodnyj Rukh of Ukraine, former president of the UN General Assembly
1 For me, as for any other citizen, Ukraine is a state which I respect, and I also take an active part in its development as a party leader and national deputy.
2 Personally, I have managed to achieve a lot during this time. I was permanent representative of Ukraine at the United Nation, then I was additionally appointed deputy foreign minister so that, being in New York, I could negotiate the establishment of diplomatic relations between Ukraine and other countries. Then I was the first Ukrainian ambassador to Poland, where I could do a lot for the development of Polish-Ukrainian relations. When I was foreign minister, treaties of co-operation were signed with all our neighbours – with Byelorussia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova. Ukraine became a member of the European Council, a treaty of special partnership between Ukraine and NATO and many other documents which I can be proud of were signed.
Then I was elected a member of parliament, became fraction leader and head of the Narodny Rukh of Ukraine. Now I am doing a lot for the ideas of the pioneers of our independence to be put into practice.
There are many reasons why today’s reality is so far removed from the hopes of that time. The main reasons is that we inherited the Soviet economy after its collapse. The second reason is that Russia, on whose economy we are still dependent, immediately raised the prices of oil and gas, which led to hyperinflation. The third reason is that we have been unable to run our own country. We did not have people who were qualified to do so. Those who rose to power turned out to be unable to govern a state, they were afraid of independence.
Oleksandr Bazylyuk, head of the Slavic Party
1 The desire by all means to separate from Russia and to immediately achieve the status of a “European state” resulted in catastrophe. First of all, the Ukrainian economy could not handle the breakdown of the highly integrated economic complex of the USSR. In addition to that, we heavily relied on our processing industry, which existed at the expense of cheap Russian energy sources. Our economy was absolutely unprepared for the transition from protected prices to world-market prices. In the end Ukraine lost the Soviet consumer market, and the strategies of the new leadership, aiming at a quick entrance to the world market, turned out to lack a proper foundation.
Today we are a country of the third world, and there are no independent states in the third world. Practically, Ukraine is ruled from Washington and Strasbourg. And international financial centres such as the IMF and the World Bank control not only Ukraine’s economy but also its politics.
The living standard of the Ukrainian population has almost reached zero-level, all levels and sections of society have been infected by ubiquitous criminality.
The long years of experimenting with independence, which have relegated us to the backyard of the world, should help us to learn one important lesson: the weak and defenceless have always been beaten up, and all the more in today’s world. Thus, Ukraine will find real independence only in a commonwealth of Slavic peoples and states, with Russia, Byelorussia, and other historical allies.
2 My hopes of the early 90s were to do with democracy. The were not fulfilled because our incipient democracy turned into a plutocracy which uses its electoral procedures as fig leaves.
3 A sad symbol of these years are the garbage cans with old people and children wallowing in them. A more optimistic one comes to the fore when people do not withdraw into themselves but join us to work and struggle.
Vassyl Shklar, writer
2 The national dream has not come true and neither has mine. But we should not palter with the truth: a lot has been achieved. We have, as it were, reached the level of the bees, which are said to distinguish only between two colours, blue and yellow. But this does not stop them from flying to crimson thistles. Now we can hope that one day, like the bees, we will learn to create a queen bee. Our inability to do this right now is the reason for the discrepancy between the present situation and our expectations.
Personally, I have managed all these years not become involved in politics, business, charlatanry, etc. I used all my strength to remain Ukrainian, and such a goal does not leave any energy for anything else.
Leonid Finberg, director of the Institute of Jewish Studies, editor of the journal “Dukh i Litera”
1 Possibly, as an ethnic Jew and Ukrainian citizen, I feel the burden of having no state of their own, which these two peoples had to carry in history, very sharply and twice over. The Holocaust and the Holodomor, Babyn Yar and Chornobyl have convinced me that a nation without its own independent state has no instrument of self-preservation. It has no structures which work towards social consolidation and no mechanisms of decision-making, it is unable to defend itself in times of danger.
Of course, tragedies are not unknown to nations with their own state. However, they are much more often the subjects of history than its objects in such situations.
I very well understand that the way from the declaration of independence to actual independence is long and hard. But who says that the survival of a nation is an easy thing? Many historical nations do not exist on today’s geographical map. But destiny has given the Ukrainians a chance, and I think not at the worst historical moment.
Oleksandr Lavrynovych, national deputy
1 If a person does not feel their roots, they cannot fully develop and succeed. Already in Soviet times, I felt that I would necessarily have to be a citizen of Ukraine, not of the Soviet Union. From 1987 onwards, I took part in various illegal, and only later on legal, forms of activity. I am proud that as the deputy leader of the Narodny Rukh of Ukraine, in October 1990 at the 2nd congress of the Narodnyj Rukh, I proposed an amendment to the statutes, according to which the national independence of Ukraine was defined as the main goal of the Narodnyj Rukh.
2 The hope that we would have an independent state has been fulfilled. Ukraine has become quite well-known throughout the world. Unfortunately, however, she is paid attention only in a few contexts. Now we can express our thoughts freely, but standing up for our principles is sometimes a dangerous thing to do. People can realize themselves, though not always fully.
There are so many things which have not come true, I could go on for ages. First of all, our hopes for quick structural and economic changes. Why are we fully dependent on the energy resources of one single country, why is our agrarian sector neglected, why do we have the tax system we have?
Yevhen Sverstyuk, head of the Ukrainian Pen Club, former political prisoner
1 Ukrainian independence came in through the wrong door, it fell into the wrong hands and was sanctified by the the wrong hands. That is why it contains an element of parody. However, independence as such is a value which will be purified and enriched. In pitch dark Siberian nights hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians kept praying to God for freedom and independence. And independence is a great value for them even under the present conditions, when the state takes care not of them but of the judges who sent them to Siberia.
2 Finally, bugging and shadowing are things of the past. The dream about a life without state escort has come true. So has the dream about freedom of speech and freedom of conscience, about freedom of communication and freedom of movement. And most important of all, freedom from the totalitarian lie enforced by the Kremlin, which infested all generations with its black energy of hopelessness with its instructions for enslavement, and which waged a war against people, against individuality.
I had no particular hopes for a happy life: I did not expect people to suddenly redefine themselves and to be young and optimistic. But things are getting brighter…
Oleksandr Majboroda, head of the Department of Ethnic Political Studies of the Institute of Political and Ethnic Research at the Ukrainian National Academy of Science
1 The need for freedom cannot be rationally explained. It is a subconscious necessity.
2 No doubt, there have been changes for the better. At least the external attributes of democracy have appeared – a new wineskin ready to be filled with young wine. Since printing facilities are now privately owned and financially independent, both communists and non-communists can be printed. Debates may not be conducted very properly, but their very existence triggers public reflection.
Essentially, nothing has changed. In the early 90s we were dreaming about a fundamentally new way of life. Perhaps everybody desired changes first of all in their own sphere. For example, historians were dissatisfied because their superiors were appointed “from above”. We wanted true devotees of science to become our bosses, we did not want the highest academic positions to be appendices to posts in the nomenclature or just some sort of cosy job. In fact, whereas this had episodical character in Soviet times, it is now becoming general practice. We changed the circumstances, but we did not change ourselves. They did not change either, but they adapted to the new circumstances. This, in fact, is the result of our ten-year development.
Stepan Khmara, national deputy of the 12th and 13th convocations of the Ukrainian parliament, former dissident
1 No nation can realize itself without a state of its own.
Unfortunately, however, the problem of our state is that it is governed by powers with are essentially un-Ukrainian, opposed to the interests of the people, and destructive. A nation without a proper leader, without an elite, is like a herd of cattle. Ukraine is not independent. Nor is it moving towards independence. What kind of state is this, if its security is not guaranteed, if the authorities do not take appropriate measures to guarantee national security? What justifies the absence of a decent border with our so-called strategic partner, who wants to revert us to dependency, or the presence of troops of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which in fact controls the south of Ukraine, i.e. a strategic part of our territory. Besides, our dependency on foreign energy resources leads to political and economic dependency, which makes it impossible for Ukraine to become a really independent state.
2 In terms of law, Ukraine has become a state. I have contributed to this process as one of the authors of the Declaration of State Sovereignty, as the author of the enactment which allowed Ukrainian young men to serve in the armed forces only on the territory of Ukraine, and I was the author of the decree which prohibited the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and nationalized its property.
I hope that Ukraine will gain its actual independence. But we will have to fight for it, everybody will have to take part in civic activities.
3 The Declaration of State Sovereignty was a revolutionary step. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian revolution has subsided and turned into a criminal one.
Slava Stetsko, national deputy, leader of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists
1 I am convinced that individuals, families, and the whole nation can only develop in an independent state. I am one of those people who will not be happy until they see their state independent and the people free and happy. I was a member of the nationalist movement, I was brought up in this organization, my husband was one of the movement leaders and head of the government in 1941. I grew up in the struggle for national independence, worked for the international anti-Bolshevik coalition, maintained contacts with nationalists of various countries.
On 30 June 1991 I came back to Ukraine and began work. I saw a terrible difference between the east and the west of Ukraine. The east of Ukraine had for 300 years been under Russian, later under Communist occupation. The Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists wants to mobilize all powers in order to spiritually unite the east and the west of Ukraine. The west is more organized, more similar to Europe, but the east has a great many ideas and it is able to keep its position. Only by joining the east and the west will Ukraine be able to gain real independence and become a truly European country. I think in two generations Ukraine will become a European-style state.
2 Unfortunately, Ukraine has not yet become the state which those who fought for it were dreaming about. Yes, we did fight for independence. We wanted people to be rich and happy and to be able to develop spiritually, to believe in God, to have a church to go to and pray in. Unfortunately, the enormous problem of mass unemployment has not been resolved, girls are taken abroad and forced into prostitution. Scientists cannot set up in their profession and become traders. The Ukrainian state exists but its politicians and officials speak mainly Russian, ignoring their own language. This is a lack of self-respect, of respect for our language and our nation. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian people did not come to power in their own country. Maybe this is why there are so many unresolved problems.
Mykola Kulchinsky, national deputy
1 Many Ukrainians struggled and perished for our independence, among them some members of my family. Independence has been the aim of my life. Ukraine is the only place where Ukrainians can realize themselves fully. There is no other such place in the world, and independence has the power to release the Cossack Spirit of our nation.
2 We thought that in independent Ukraine, Ukrainians would be people. Nobody thought that the first president of Ukraine would be a former Communist, that people would be more afraid of the Ukrainian police than of criminals, that it would become normal for unwelcome politicians and journalists to disappear or be assassinated, that the Ukrainian language would provoke scornful smiles in fashionable establishments, that former KGB members would be held in greater respect than Ukrainian Rebel Army fighters.
Despite the policies of the government, the process of national self-realization is gaining momentum, the determination of Ukrainians to occupy a fitting place in their state is developing.
Tatyana Metelyova, editrix-in-chief of the newspaper “Independent Ukraine”
1 Being an independent state is a necessary but insufficient condition for establishing the rule of law and democracy in Ukraine and to make it impossible to re-create the totalitarian regime of the USSR. This is the first point.
And the second one is that regardless of my ethnic origin I am Ukrainian. It is by no means the same to me whether my native community is the master of its own land or whether it remains subjected to another community and has to repudiate its ego, conforming its life to rules made by somebody else.
2 The hopes for a normal, democratic, civilized life, for a chance to focus on my own professional work without digressing to political struggles and civil-rights activities have not been fulfilled. I would really like to just write, do research, create philosophical works. But I cannot. In a country where any specialist, from scientists to businesspeople, are doomed to moral and physical degradation, you have to be involved in politics.
The inevitable occurred: the totalitarian system broke down (and this event alone was worth living for), there is the independent Ukrainian state (which is, unfortunately, mauled and instable) and some degree of professional self-realisation.
Stepan Havrysh, Head Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada
3 Doubtless, the key event for myself was the creation of the majority in our parliament due to which I was elected Head Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada. One can call this an egotistical feeling, but I do not separate myself from society and I think the event has proved that more pragmatic professionals, who want to use all their potential for the development of the state, come to power.
The election of Leonid Kuchma was a key event too. It has confirmed the course of Ukraine towards integration with western Europe.
Finally, we have normal relations between the governmental departments, which enables us to find new approaches to the solution of many problems.
Yevhen Pronyuk, head of the Ukrainian Association of Political Prisoners and Repressed Persons, national deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of the 13th convocation
1 Ukrainians did not only dream about independence and freedom, they also fought for it. More than half a million Ukrainian political prisoners died in Nazi concentration camps alone. In the Soviet epoch, about 20 million Ukrainian lives were lost (in prisons, concentration camps, special settlements, and the Holodomory, not counting the loss of lives in the war of 1941-45), three million of them being political prisoners.
The last Ukrainian political prisoner was freed in April 1991. So Ukrainian freedom was bought dearly.
2 I was the founder of the first free party, the Ukrainian Republican Party. On 3 June 1989, despite the actions of the KGB, the Ukrainian Association of Political Prisoners and Repressed People was created. As of today, our hopes for seeing a rich, great, powerful Ukraine with prosperous, creative Ukrainians in it have not been fulfilled. The reasons are as follows:
First, the powerful nomenclature, which officially follows the policies of the Ukrainian state but for various reasons hampers the transition of Ukraine into European civilization.
Second, the lack of consolidation among the patriotic forces.
Third, the absence of lustration laws concerning the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and of Ukraine and the fact that no elections to the Verkhovna Rada and to the local governing institutions were held in 1992.
Fourth, the new Moscow-oriented clans of the nouveaux riches and the financial sharks.
Finally, the old imperialistic plans which Moscow is still cherishing with regard to Ukraine.
Oleksandr Yemets, national deputy
1 Absolutely yes. I cannot explain why. Who has not experienced true love does not know what true love is.
2 Of course, today’s reality does not correspond to the dreams of 1988 and 1989. But if I had been told in 1988 that in two or three years Ukraine would have gained its independence, I would not have believed it. I thought it would take twenty years. Ukraine was lucky with the events of August 1991 and other things which enabled it to gain its independence so quickly.
Unfortunately, we did not manage to fully put into practice the idea of democracy. It was beyond our powers. At that time independence was appreciated only in the Kyiv and Galychina regions. Later, however, people changed their minds…
Of course, we were disappointed with the political and economic reforms. We suffered from a lack of knowledge, the way we interpreted things in 1989 was somewhat primitive, and so we were losing. The reason for the slow reforms lies within ourselves. There are no generations in Ukraine which remember what private property and market economy are.
3 The major landmarks are, perhaps, the semi-democratic elections to the Vekhovna Rada of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, the enactment for Ukrainians to serve in the armed forces only within the territory of Ukraine, the law of economic independence, the Declaration of State Sovereignty, and the Constitution of Ukraine. For me personally – the fact that I have been elected to the Verkhovna Rada three times.