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The Moulding of Ukraine

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Kataryna Wolczuk

Chapter three. Independence without a vision: constitution making in 1990–1991

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1During the Ukrainian Revolution, the leaders of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UNR) were animated by the vision of a new, just, democratic political order. Their vision did not, at least initially, entail the creation of a sovereign state. The independence of Ukraine became instrumental in its realisation only once, in late 1917, it became clear that with the Bolsheviks at Russia’s helm it was impossible to implement the vision in a centralised Russian state. In 1991, in contrast, the situation could be described as ‘independence without a vision’. Ukraine was being propelled into independence by the cumulative effect of the disintegration of the centre and actions of the indigenous communist elites. Yet there was a dearth of positive inspiration behind the drive for independence. Constitution making reflected a lack of an overarching vision of a different political, socio-economic order and an enduring commitment to the ‘old’, Soviet ideology (even if only nominally) and institutions. This lack of reformist zeal found its reflection in the essentially conservative outlook of the communist elites, who ‘appropriated’ the Soviet political model as ‘indigenous’, while the democratic opposition lacked the strength to impose its ideas. Therefore, the attainment of statehood took place in 1991 before essential thinking was done about what kind of state Ukraine should become. This mode of the passage to independence— reality without vision—determined the idiosyncrasies of state building in Ukraine as was reflected in the protracted trajectory of constitutional reform.

2In response to the loosening control of the centre over the periphery in the late 1980s, two distinct types of dynamic can be distinguished amongst the Soviet republics: ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ modes of mobilisation. In bottom-up cases, such as the Baltic republics, Georgia, Armenia, the popular pressure on the indigenous elites through mass demonstration and/or ballot box made them swiftly embrace the idea of independence. In top-down cases, most notably, in Central Asia, because of the weakness or absence of pro-independence mass attitudes, the elites did not face the same degree of pressure and took the route of bargaining with Moscow for greater economic sovereignty, and only gradually (and in some cases reluctantly) accepted the imperative of independence once the Soviet centre imploded.

3Ukraine was a mixed case. The republic witnessed the late onset of perestroika, and despite some manifestations of popular mobilisation, by 1989, the fate of Ukraine (and the Soviet Union) was far from sealed. Yet, in the course of less than two years, 1990–1991, Ukraine transformed itself from a backwater of the reform-ridden Soviet Union to a reluctant participant and subsequently a staunch opponent of the renewal of the Soviet Union. In the context of the relative weakness of the mass nationalist awakening and limited bottom-up pressure, proindependence sentiments spread from the opposition to the ruling communist elites (although mass politics affected the elites’ strategic choices at turning points). Once the communist elite found itself empowered to re-negotiate the Union Treaty, which was to re-establish the Soviet Union as a voluntary federation, and to exercise the pouvoir constituant, the loyalty to the centre began to wane in its flanks. In the aftermath of the aborted 1991 August coup by the Soviet hardliners who aimed to reverse the reform process, the Ukrainian communist elites turned staunchly against the renewal of the Union and in tandem with the opposition opted for an exit from the Soviet Union. The referendum of December 1991, in which the elite-level choices were given a seal of approval by ‘popular will’, represented a culminating point in the passage to independence. Having orchestrated the pro-independence campaign and hardly challenged by numerically weaker opposition, the communist elites remained firmly at the helm of the state.

4In 1990–1991 two distinct but interrelated processes can be singled out: the pursuit of sovereignty and defining the blueprint of the new Ukrainian state. The growing radicalism characterising the pursuit of sovereignty can be easily but mistakenly extrapolated onto the process of constitutional reform. Yet the analysis of the latter evidenced a lack of urgent desire to depart from Soviet constitutional ‘achievements’. The constitutional debates on the eve of independence revealed the prevailing reluctance to depart from the Soviet institutions and ideology within sovereign Ukraine. Thus, the constitutional choices prior to independence hardly prepared Ukraine for existence as an independent entity. At the same time even if the constitutional reforms, initiated over 1990–1991, were not intended to create a functioning polity, they meant that Ukraine was already going down a particular path of constitutional reform, i.e. by introducing a directly elected presidency.

  • 1 The comprehensive study of perestroika in Ukraine and the passage to independence is presented in (...)

5The aim of the chapter is to disentangle the two processes: the passage to independence and constitutional reforms. By examining them independently the chapter will demonstrate that the shift toward sovereignty and then independence did not entail a simultaneous rejection of the Soviet legacy by the key sections of the political elites. (As such this chapter does not aspire to offer a comprehensive, detailed account of republican developments over 1990–1991; this was undertaken elsewhere).1 The first section offers a necessary historical background to the events of 1990–1991 by sketching out the process of socioeconomic, political and cultural change in Soviet Ukraine in order to account for the relative weakness of popular pressure as a causal factor and to emphasise the significance of micro-political processes. The second part of the chapter focuses on elite-level politics in 1990–1991 and provides an overview of the key events in the process of elite realignment, which allowed the attainment of independence, such as the 1991 elections, the Declaration of Sovereignty, constitution making, the negotiation of the renewal of the federal framework of the Soviet Union, the Act of Independence and the December 1991 referendum. The third section will focus on the deliberations on the shape of the new polity and analyse the conception of statehood elaborated over 1990– 1991.

UKRAINIAN SOCIETY UNDER THE SOVIET UNION: AN OVERVIEW

6Soviet Ukraine, which was recognised as a territorial–administrative unit, developed a modern society with indigenous Ukrainian elites. Yet in terms of the self-identification of ethnic Ukrainians, the example of Ukraine testified to the considerable success of the Soviet nationality policy to drain nationalism of its vitality at the mass and elite level.

  • 2 The famine of 1933–1934 destroyed the Ukrainian peasantry, while the Stalinist purges of the 1930s (...)
  • 3 Bohdan Krawchenko, ‘The Impact of Industralisation on the Social Structure of Ukraine’, Canadian S (...)

7The Soviet Union addressed the problem of social modernisation, which pre-occupied and divided the Ukrainian elites prior to and during the Ukrainian Revolution. With forced industrialisation, which occurred at the cost of great human suffering and sacrifices,2 a leap forward was made in terms of mass education, urbanisation and the raising of standards of living. These policies created sociologically complete structures of a nation, and in particular, for the first time in Ukraine’s history a large stratum of an indigenous educated elites emerged.3

  • 4 On the 1920s in Ukraine see, for example, George Liber, Soviet Nationality Policy, Urban Growth an (...)
  • 5 Regional differences were not only eradicated but actually exacerbated. Western Ukraine was persis (...)
  • 6 According to the 1989 census, the biggest ethnic groups in Ukraine were: Ukrainians 37.4 million, (...)
  • 7 For a brief overview of Ukraine under the Soviet Union see Alexander J. Motyl and Bohdan Krawchenk (...)

8Gellner postulated that nationalism and the rise of national identity is a by-product of the specific conditions of industrialisation, mobility, mass literacy and public education. However, in the case of Ukraine the relationship between socio-economic advancement and the crystallisation of a national identity was distorted by the political and cultural context. After a brief, although intensive, spell of cultural and linguistic Ukrainisation during the period of korenizatsia in the 1920s,4 from the 1930s onwards industrialisation went hand in hand with progressive Russification, which was greatly facilitated by Ukraine’s cultural and linguistic proximity to Russia. In particular, in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, which became part of the Russian state in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the high level of urbanisation (60–80 percent) coincided with a high degree of linguistic and cultural Russification.5 The demographic processes further altered the ethno-linguistic profile of Ukraine. Throughout history, the territory of Ukraine witnessed the intermingling of cultures and migration of various ethnic groups: Russians, Poles, Germans, Jews, Greeks, Bulgarians, Crimean Tatars, Armenians; and according to the 1989 census, over 100 nationalities lived in Ukraine.6 However Soviet Ukraine experienced an influx of ethnic Russians, and the expulsion of other ethnic groups, such as Poles and Tatars, so while Ukrainians constituted the majority with 72 percent in 1989, Russians emerged as the second largest ethnic group, accounting for 22 percent of the population, whereas other ethnic groups made up 6 percent.7

  • 8 Instead of relying on 1989 census data, which appeared not to accurately reflect the use of Russia (...)
  • 9 For example, a hybrid Russian–Ukrainian (surzhik) is widely spoken within Kyiv. For a detailed dis (...)

9Whilst the ethnic identity of Ukrainians was ascribed by Soviet authorities, the large-scale encroachment of the Russian language in urban centres meant that the formal ethnic composition of the republic did not coincide with language use: the titular majority consisted both of Russophones and Ukrainophones. According to the official census in 1989, 66 percent of ethnic Ukrainians considered Ukrainian to be their ‘mother tongue’, yet the census underestimated the use of Russian, which effectively became the language of the public sphere and social advancement across the republic, with the notable exception of Western Ukraine. A study in the early 1990s found that over 50 percent of Ukraine’s population used Russian in daily lives as the ‘language of convenience’.8 Therefore, on the eve of independence in ethnolinguistic terms, Ukrainian society consisted of three main groups: Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians, Russophone Ukrainians and Russians. However, the boundaries between those groups were fluid and overlapping; there was a continuum of language use with certain areas and people using a mixture of languages in different social contexts. Thus, no clearly identifiable, mutually exclusive and self-conscious groups of ‘Russian speakers’ and ‘Ukrainian speakers’ existed.9

  • 10 Kenneth C. Farmer, Ukrainian Nationalism in the Post-Stalin Era: Myth, Symbols and Ideology in Sov (...)

10In Ukraine, contrary to the sociological theory of nationalism, the process of modernisation under ‘cultural colonialism’ produced a literate, urban, educated society in Ukraine but simultaneously the Ukrainian ‘ethnographic masses’ were linguistically Russified, assimilated into ‘high’ Soviet culture, rather than, as Farmer claimed, becoming more aware of the ‘national patrimony’.10 Outside Western Ukraine, a significant number of Ukrainians lacked a sense of ethnic identity as defined by culture, language, religion, a sense of belonging and historical memories. This affected the will and capacity of society to respond to anti-communist and pro-sovereignty agitation by the opposition.

  • 11 Philip G. Roeder, ‘Soviet Federalism and Ethnic Mobilization’, World Politics, Vol. 43, No. 2 (Jan (...)

11Apart from Western Ukraine and Kyiv, the majority of the population, despite accumulated grievances especially on socio-economic and ecological issues, did not engage in enduring collective action fuelled by nationalistic feelings in the wake of political liberalisation brought about by perestroika; in particular linguistic or cultural concerns played only a limited role. The uneven spread of organised anti-Moscow, anticommunist protests across Ukraine reflected the uneven erosion of faith in the existing political system. By 1991, Soviet rule was not delegitimated across Ukraine to the same degree and for the same reasons. In Western Ukraine popular mobilisation stemmed from a commonly shared conviction that Soviet political rule was essentially illegitimate and did not have the moral authority to demand obedience from Ukrainians. In the rest of Ukraine, however, attitudes to Soviet rule remained much more ambiguous and far less condemnatory. There, the Soviet regime was not rejected on the grounds of its perceived original moral illegitimacy, but for instrumental reasons, namely that the political order was incapable of meeting the expectations of governmental performance. Anti-centre and pro-independence feelings, which came to the surface in 1990–1991, reflected, most of all, the protest against the regime’s declining economic performance and its failure to fulfil its promises of economic prosperity, rather than culmination of longcherished hopes for independent statehood. No less complex developments took place at the elite level. The Soviet Union was organised as a federation of nominally autonomous ethnic homelands. A cadre of party and state officials drawn from the titular majority in each republic were given access to power and derived privileges from that access. As a result they developed a stake in maintaining the system and acted as gatekeepers by ensuring that the republican resources were not used for ends disapproved by the centre.11 Centrifugal tendencies based on nationalist sentiments were controlled through the elaborated structure of incentives and deterrents, which weakened the propensity of the indigenous elites to identify with and advance the interests of their republican homeland, as opposed to those defined by the centre.

  • 12 Alexander J. Motyl, Sovietology, Rationality, Nationality: Coming to Grips with Nationalism in the (...)
  • 13 T. Bottomore and P. Goode (eds.), Austro–Marxism (Oxford: Claredon, 1978). On the application of t (...)
  • 14 Jurij Borys, ‘Political Parties in the Ukraine’, in Hunchak (ed.), The Ukraine, 1917– 1921, pp. 12 (...)
  • 15 On national communism in Ukraine see Wilson, Ukrainian Nationalism in the 1990s, chapter 4; Yarosl (...)

12Nevertheless, despite spectacular successes in terms of suppressing ethno-nationalist sentiments in Ukraine, the Soviet system could not eradicate them altogether. As Motyl pointed out, the way that the Soviet state was set up was inherently contradictory. As a federation it consisted of ethno-territorial units, which were denied any autonomy, as political and economic power were concentrated in the Russiandominated Communist Party.12 Such a highly centralised state suffered from inefficiencies stemming from over-centralisation that periodically forced the centre to push for decentralisation. Yet decentralisation inevitably entailed a shift of decision-making powers to the republican level, which tended to loosen the centre’s control over the periphery. Periodical decentralisation allowed republican cadres to promote republican interests rather than all-Union ones. This phenomenon was referred to as national communism, in line with the Austro–Marxist assertion that the path to communism had to be pursued taking into account national specificities in a federally organised state.13 During the Ukrainian Revolution, national communism was represented by parties, such as Borotbisty and Ukapisty.14 In Soviet Ukraine national communism was associated with figures such as Mykola Skrypnyk and Petro Shelest. Skrypnyk as the Commissar for Education ardently implemented the policies of ‘korenizatsiia’ in the 1920s. As the first secretary of CPU in the 1960s, Shelest defended the economic interests of the UkrSSR, and tolerated dissent amongst the ranks of cultural intelligentsia. 15

  • 16 On the role of Shcherbytsky in the highest echelon of Soviet political elites see Yaroslav Bilinsk (...)
  • 17 John A. Amstrong, ‘The Ethnic Scene in the Soviet Union: The View of the Dictatorship’, in Eric Go (...)

13Nevertheless, the Soviet centre retained its ability to reassert its domination over the republics by suppressing the ‘nationalist deviation’. The Union centre could always draw from the Russified cadres such figures as Volodymyr Shcherbytskyi, the first secretary of the CPU between 1972–1989, an apparatchik whose allegiance plainly was deposited in the centre rather than his republican homeland.16 In the light of the sheer scale of involvement of the ethnic Ukrainian cadres in the governing of the Soviet Union, Armstrong described their role and position as that of ‘younger brothers’ of Russians.17

  • 18 See, for example, Michael Brown, Ferment in the Ukraine (London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1971); (...)
  • 19 On the situation in the early 1980s see Roman Solchanyk, ‘Moulding the "Soviet People": The Role o (...)

14Under the hegemonic role of the Communist Party of Ukraine, the robust even if numerically weak dissident movement and, to a lesser extent, the state-sponsored cultural intelligentsia nurtured the ideas of democracy, human rights and cultural and linguistic revival. Under Shelest, young intellectuals, the so-called shistydesiatnyky, combined the promotion of the national rights of Ukrainians in the Soviet state with the cause of democratisation and defence of human rights. However, by early 1970s they were suppressed and driven underground (the shistydesiatnyky re-appeared in the public sphere in late 1980s and formed the core of the moderate right-wing, national-democratic parties).18 Therefore, with access to institutional resources being eliminated or heavily circumvented until 1990, the opportunities for independent political mobilisation were scarce, and, thus, the resonance of the opposition’s ideas at the mass level was limited.19

UKRAINE ON THE EVE OF INDEPENDENCE

15Overall, by the mid-1980s Ukraine existed as a territorial– administrative unit with a modern society, elites and institutional resources. Yet, because of the tight cultural and political integration, anti- Moscow fervour was not an automatic response to the opening of public space initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev. At the grass roots level, informal groups, often instigated by the political dissidents who were released from Soviet prisons, sprang up in 1988. Yet, although they were not stamped out, they were barely tolerated and still depicted by the republican leaders as malignant deviants from ‘socialist values’. By 1989 the republic was still living under the spell of Brezhnevism, and the republican elites, under the leadership of Volodymyr Shcherbytskyi remained staunchly resistant to the imperatives of perestroika. Frustrated by Ukrainian ‘backwardness’, the Ukrainian cultural intelligentsia appealed to Gorbachev to speed up reforms in the republic. The first signal that top-down perestroika had begun in earnest in Ukraine was the long-awaited removal of Shcherbytskyi in the autumn of 1989. He was replaced by Volodymyr Ivashko, who was equally loyal to the Soviet centre, but who, in contrast to his predecessor, was a genuine Gorbachevite, committed to allowing the winds of perestroika into Ukraine. Under his leadership the CPU permitted some pluralisation and adopted a more conciliatory policy style towards the opposition, yet without venturing beyond the range of policies and measures prescribed and sanctioned by the centre.

  • 20 85 percent of Rukh’s members represented Western and Central Ukraine, 9 percent came from Southern (...)

16The Popular Movement for Perestroika in Ukraine (Rukh), which was created in September of 1989, championed the cause of perestroika, along with calls for the revival of the Ukrainian language and culture. The movement triggered an unprecedented mass political awakening and mobilisation. Yet the social base of Rukh remained limited, despite the fact that it served as an umbrella movement for the various oppositional groupings, which conveyed a wide range of political views ranging from mildly reform communism to integral nationalism. At the peak of its popularity, with over 600,000 members, Rukh was crippled by a regional bias in its membership, as the majority of its members were white-collar workers and ethnic Ukrainians from Western Ukraine and Kyiv, while its appeal and membership in densely populated Eastern and Southern Ukraine was limited.20 As Rukh’s localised and spontaneous mass protests lacked organisational backing, it failed to develop a genuinely national power base to organise popular unrest and challenge the hegemonic position of the CPU. Bottom-up mobilisation could undermine the legitimacy of the Soviet regime in Ukraine, but, as it failed to embrace the majority of the population (unlike in the Baltic states), it could not overturn the regime, without the support of the communist republican elites.

THE PASSAGE TO INDEPENDENCE

17This section will examine the process of the reorientation of the key section of the communist elites towards sovereignty, in which they were assisted by the opposition, which took advantage of its newly found access to institutional resources to champion the case of independence. The focus will be on the milestones that over the course of less than two years paved the passage to independence: the republican elections (March 1990), the Declaration of Sovereignty (July 1990), the March referendum on the Union (March 1991), the Concept of the New Constitution (June 1991), the Act of Independence (August 1991) and the referendum on independence (December 1991).

  • 21 The main oppositional organisation Rukh was officially registered only in February 1990, just four (...)

18The republican elections held in March 1990 were, at least in some parts of Ukraine, genuinely contested and marked the beginning of the demise of the hegemonic power of the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU). Despite the obstacles created by the CPU in the process of opening the public space, a plethora of organisations emerged prior to the elections, with the Democratic Bloc being the largest one. The bloc united 43 organisations, including Rukh,21 and its electoral programme in the main attacked the shortcomings of the Soviet system, passionately exposing the devastation and distortions it had caused by lasting totalitarian political practices, cultural and linguistic Russification, economic decline and ecological disasters. The bloc advocated political and economic sovereignty, political pluralism, constitutional reform, religious freedoms and national revival. In the elections, despite the CPU’s control of the media and cases of intimidation, the Democratic Bloc returned 25–30 percent.

19The election results reflected the uneven geographical distribution of support for the democratic opposition. Western Ukraine and Kyiv fell under the control of the opposition, especially as they also dominated local councils (radas) in Western regions—the first state institutions in Ukraine controlled by non-communist forces. But the CPU retained its stronghold position in the rest of Ukraine. Even if in Eastern Ukraine many of the candidates from the CPU establishment were not elected, the electorate favoured independent candidates (often also CPU members) rather than the Democratic Bloc. Southern Ukraine remained the bastion of the CPU.

  • 22 Only 68 deputies were not CPU members in the 450-seat Rada. In terms of its Communist Party member (...)
  • 23 The Narodna Rada was the name of the first political organisation in Ukraine, which was created in (...)
  • 24 The Narodna Rada, despite its formalised status, was not consolidated in organisational and ideolo (...)
  • 25 David R. Marples, ‘The Ukrainian Election Campaign: The Opposition’, Soviet Analyst, Vol. 2 (9 Mar (...)

20As a result, over 85 percent of the newly elected deputies were members of the CPU (16.5 percent more than in the previous elections), while nearly one quarter of all deputies worked in the CPU apparatus.22 Nevertheless, the membership of the Supreme Council was rejuvenated; 90 percent of its members were elected for the first time. This meant that it was a political debut not only for many opposition members, but also for the CPU majority with important consequences for its coherence in the nearest future. While the communists organised themselves into a faction ‘For a Soviet Sovereign Ukraine’ in the Supreme Council, the opposition formed its own faction the ‘People’s Council’ (Narodna Rada). This name not only reflected the opposition’s claim to genuinely represent the electorate, but also had historical legitimacy stretching back to the nineteenth century proto-party, Narodna Rada, in Western Ukraine.23 In the newly elected Supreme Council, the Narodna Rada united 125 deputies, who represented 21 out of 25 Ukrainian oblasts. At this point, the CPU, despite remaining relatively monolithic, showed early signs of internal dissent and defection. The internal opposition within the CPU gathered into the ‘Democratic Platform of the CPU’, and joined the Narodna Rada on an associated status.24 This was a prelude to the growing overlap between reform-minded members within CPU and moderate flanks of the opposition.25

21The newly elected parliament was destined to play a greater role than its predecessor in line with the revived slogan ‘All Power to the Soviets’. In June 1988 at the 19th CPSU Conference Gorbachev called for radical reform of the political system, and withdrawal of the Party from interference in state affairs as part of the process of revitalising the system of soviets as the fulcrum of the state. However, Gorbachev’s vision of democratisation stopped short of challenging the ‘leading role’ of the CPSU, and he encouraged party members to become elected chairpersons of the rejuvenated soviets. In line with this ‘recommendation’, the first secretary of the CPU Volodymyr Ivashko was elected chairman of the Ukrainian Supreme Council in June 1990 although he did not remain in post long. Ivashko’s unexpected despatch to Moscow to become Gorbachev’s deputy in Moscow in July 1990 resulted in an important, yet at that time underestimated, change as a result of which the Politburo of the CPU lost its hegemonic control over the parliament. The position of First Secretary was separated from that of parliamentary chairman. The conservative Stanislav Hurenko was elected the head of the CPU; Vitalii Masol, another old-time apparatchik continued to serve as chairman of the council of ministers, while Leonid Kravchuk—the head of the CPU ideology department—was nominated by the CPU for parliamentary chairmanship. Kravchuk was perceived as a particularly suitable candidate to the post, capable of eloquently counterbalancing the opposition’s highly charged anti-communist rhetoric. Despite the Narodna Rada’s boycott, Kravchuk was duly elected the chairman of Supreme Council by the communist majority (which, as a result of this voting, became known as ‘the 239 group’). Kravchuk’s post was regarded as the least prestigious amongst the three top positions according to the Soviet ‘pecking order’. It seemed that the Communist Party of Ukraine remained in full control of the republic, and unshaken in its loyalty to the centre.

22However, by taking advantage of institutional resources to defy the CPU, the opposition came to play a much greater role than might have been expected on the basis of its numerical strength. Despite the fact that the anti-communist opposition secured only one third of the seats in the Supreme Council in March 1990, it gained the institutional means to publicise their agenda and radicalise public attitudes in Ukraine. In the transition to sovereignty, the republican institutional structures—the product of Soviet nominal federalism—played a crucial role. This well illustrates the situation, where ‘old’ institutions are employed in changed circumstances to pursue different ends from those, which they were designed for. Republican institutions, which had been created to legitimise Soviet federalism, were used to undermine it.

  • 26 In line with the Soviet tradition, people’s deputies were merely delegated from their workplace an (...)
  • 27 The Narodna Rada’s members headed 7 out of 23 commissions, while the hardliners controlled only 6. (...)
  • 28 The Ukrainian State Archive of Civic Associations (formerly the Archive of the Communist Party of (...)

23Until the semi-free elections in 1990, the Supreme Soviet was handpicked under the tutelage of the CPU to mirror the social breakdown of the population of the UkrSSR at large. While it used to meet twice a year for 3–4 days and ritualistically pass the laws, its Presidium was a permanently functioning body. And the newly elected Supreme Council was still not a professional parliament, and only one third were full-time politicians.26 The ‘239’ majority conformed to the long-term Soviet practice by treating its mandate in a routinely ceremonial way; the communists’ work was marked by high level of absenteeism as they tended to prioritise their long-standing careers, for example, as enterprise directors or chairmen of collective farms, and fulfilled their deputy mandates mainly by attending and voting in plenary sessions. In contrast, the opposition treated their deputy mandates seriously and took maximum advantage of their presence in the republican institutions. Over half of the full-time deputies belonged to the opposition and the Narodna Rada was well represented in the powerful Presidium.27 Undoubtedly, the sheer number of communists had a major impact when it came to voting (CPU members were issued with ‘directives’, the so-called orientirovki). But in practice, the majority enjoyed by the communists was not fully reflected in the actual workings of the parliament, as the opposition determined the content of many draft laws, thanks to their active work in the commissions. Yukhnovskyi—the leader of the Narodna Rada—noted: ‘We [Narodna Rada] prepare draft laws, which the majority only passes.’28 As it was also most active in plenary sessions, the opposition’s highly charged speeches and superior oratorical skills were given publicity on television and in radio broadcasts of parliamentary sessions. Paradoxically, the institutional underdevelopment of the parliament allowed the opposition to turn it into a forum for contesting the idea of sovereignty by playing a key role in setting the agenda. In this institutional context the opposition could more effectively undercut the popular legitimacy of the Soviet regime and, crucially, pursue the ‘battle for souls’ of the CPU members.

  • 29 Ivashko’s untimely departure to Moscow further radicalised stances. It was interpreted in Ukraine (...)

24The influence of the opposition was demonstrated when the ‘Declaration on Sovereignty’ was debated in parliament. The document was sponsored by the CPU, after in February 1990 its Plenum adopted a resolution on economic and political sovereignty. The CPU’s initiative aimed to ‘prepare’ sovereign Ukraine for a new Union Treaty (which would replace the one signed in 1922). The Party did not allow the use of derzhavnyi (referring to ‘state’) and prescribed the use of ‘Ukrainian SSR’ rather than ‘Ukraine’. Overall, the CPU’s version was similar to the Russian Declaration of 12 June 1990, which, although asserted sovereignty, did so mainly in anticipation of the signing of the new Union Treaty. However, once the debates on the Declaration started in the Ukrainian parliament on 28 June 1990, the CPU’s initiative was hijacked by the opposition, which radicalised the content of the Declaration in the course of the plenary session. Despite a much more radical content than had been envisaged by the Party, the document was passed by 335 votes in favour and only 4 against in July 1990. Apart from the interest in greater economic sovereignty, the uniform support of the communist majority undoubtedly stemmed from the fact that the Declaration was initiated by the CPU, despite the fact that the document was ‘refined’ by the oppositional Narodna Rada.29

  • 30 For the English language translation of the Declaration see, Alexander Dallin and Gail W. Lapidus (...)
  • 31 In fact, the Declaration elaborated the law on economic sovereignty that was adopted two weeks pri (...)

25The Declaration proclaimed ‘the state sovereignty of Ukraine to be supreme; the autonomy, totality and indivisibility of the Republic’s power within its territory, and its independence and equality in external relations’.30 Moreover, ‘any violent acts against the national sovereignty from political parties, civic organisation and individuals are punishable by law’. The Supreme Council asserted its constitutional powers by pointing out that ‘only the Supreme Council can represent the nation’ and de-legitimised the CPU’s ‘leading role’ by stating that ‘no political party, social organisation or any other association or person can represent the People of Ukraine’. The section on cultural development, while professing the cultural and spiritual revival of the Ukrainian ethnic nation (natsiia) as well as the functioning of the Ukrainian language in all spheres of life, also guaranteed free national-cultural development to all nationalities living in Ukraine. However, most space was devoted to economic sovereignty and relations with Moscow, which reflected the main concerns of the communist majority; on those issues their views began to coincide with the opposition.31 Furthermore, the Declaration included provisions for a separate Ukrainian army and an independent foreign policy, which became a basis for adopting laws on Ukrainian external and internal security, something ruled out by the 1977 Soviet Constitution. Finally, the Declaration stipulated that it was to serve as a basis for a new republican constitution and that ‘the principles of the Declaration are to be the basis of the new Union Treaty’ and ‘the relations of the Ukrainian SSR with other Soviet republics are to be based on the principles of equality, mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs’. These references to the attributes of sovereignty were the boldest ventures beyond the CPU-approved agenda.

  • 32 The Communist Party of Ukraine remained torn between the need to boost its republican standing, no (...)

26While the content of the Declaration was an outcome of the coincidence of various agendas, it broke new ground; it provided scope for co-operation between the opposition’s and the part of communist majority. The debates unveiled cracks emerging in the monolithic Party. The top (the Politburo) continued to serve as ‘a transmission belt’ for the centre’s directives, while the second echelon, mainly regional apparatchiks and economic nomenklatura (the so-called haziaistvienniki), represented in parliament recognised the economic advantages stemming from greater republican sovereignty. They supported measures to give them more control over economic resources in the republic, and, thus, they were increasingly reluctant to follow blindly the CPU orientirovki (directives). The latter section of the communist nomenklatura came to be referred to as national-communists, a term derived from Austro– Marxism. The adjective ‘national’ distinguished this section of the Ukrainian communists from the ‘imperial’ communists who remained devoted to the ideal of communism within the framework of a centralised Soviet Union (although their ranks were dominated by hard-liners, they also included some reformers, who were, nevertheless, committed to the Gorbachev’s vision of a strong, rejuvenated centre).32 Nevertheless, the configuration of political forces was fluid and amorphous. The ‘group 239’ was never formalised, and the picture became even more blurred when internal splits began to appear within the communist majority.

27Still in the autumn of 1990, beyond its symbolic significance, the tangible consequences of the Declaration were unclear. It appeared that the Declaration was little more than a fancy façade for the new Treaty, as the UkrSSR remained tightly integrated with the All-Union administrative machinery. Thus, while the Supreme Council’s floor was a setting for the ideological deliberations over the nature of sovereignty, other republican institutions, such as the KGB or the army, remained aloof and largely untouched by claims to sovereignty.

  • 33 Students demanded: 1) the resignation of Vitalii Masol, chairman of the Council of Ministers, 2) a (...)

28After the Declaration, the push for further changes came from society. In October 1990 the students’ hunger strike staged in the centre of Kyiv demanded greater political liberalisation and the implementation of the Declaration.33 When after two weeks Kyiv workers threatened a general strike in support of the students’ demands, the Supreme Council passed a resolution conceding to popular demands. This was not only the peak of mass mobilisation in Ukraine, but also the first successful attempt to force the communist elites to bow to popular pressure. As part of the concessions, Kravchuk dismissed the old guard chairman of the council of ministers Vitalii Masol, utilising this as an opportunity to emphasise the autonomy of the new parliament from the CPU. Moreover, parliament passed a resolution that the Treaty would be signed only after the passage of the new republican constitution, which would specify the powers Ukraine would concede to the centre. At this point Ukraine’s participation in the renewed Union was made conditional on the passage of the new constitution; the two parallel processes were coupled and began to interfere with each other. And soon the need to draft the new constitution became a key argument for the delay in signing the Treaty.

  • 34 The members of the commission were predominantly state officials in Ukraine (86 percent) as 46 mem (...)

29Even if winter 1990 witnessed the last counter-offensive of conservative forces to suppress the anti-communist opposition across the Soviet Union, and in Ukraine, popular protest, which the opposition could mobilise to put pressure on the communist majority, tailed off, the political machine had by that time been set in motion. Two weeks after the end of the strike—at the end of October 1990, a Constitutional Commission was created. The Commission, which was a large, 59-member body, consisted of 49 deputies of the Supreme Council and 10 experts (mainly directors of research institutes of the Academy of Science) and was headed by the chairman of the Supreme Council, Leonid Kravchuk.34 The Commission decided to outline general principles of the new constitutional order in the ‘Concept of the New Constitution’, which, after the approval of parliament, would be developed into a fully-fledged draft constitution. The Commission delegated the task to the smaller working group. Feeling less constrained by the CPU’s ‘directives’, the group partially drew on the draft constitution of the Russian Federation, which was published in November 1990, and contained no references to the USSR. The first draft Concept of December 1990 was radical both in terms of relations with the centre (it did not mention the existence of the USSR), and its institutional innovations (it proposed a presidential system).

  • 35 CSAOCOU, FOND 1, OPYS 11, Delo 2316, p. 2.

30The debates on the draft in the Constitutional Commission in late 1990 and early 1991 revealed two opposing positions: the conservative Politburo of the CPU and the oppositional Narodna Rada. The Politburo was unshaken in its adherence to socialism as it asserted that ‘the people of Ukraine remain loyal to the socialist choice and the Soviet system of narodovladia, and continued to support the voluntary and equal co-operation of people united within the Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics.’35 The Party was aghast at the lack of any references to the Soviet Union and argued that Ukraine’s firm commitment to the Union should be spelt out in the new constitution. In contrast, the oppositional Narodna Rada hoped to expand the provisions of the Declaration of Sovereignty and thus was not satisfied with the still cautious view on the Treaty in the draft Concept. The Rada insisted on removing all traces of the Soviet Union from the draft, and giving priority to Ukraine’s international agreements and obligations as opposed to Soviet acts.

  • 36 Kravchuk had already loosened his links with the CPU. He was released of the position of Second Se (...)

31The debates within the Constitutional Commission evidenced the extent to which the members of the communist majority in the Supreme Council did not obediently follow the diktat of the Politburo. Kravchuk, as the chair of the Commission, while claiming that he only strove to reconcile the different viewpoints to speed up the process, actually pursued a more independent line from that of the Politburo.36 He began to champion the idea of sovereignty on economic grounds:

  • 37 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 50, p. 35.

We have such an organisation as ‘UkrInturist’—with the prefix ‘Ukr’. It is ours! But I can tell you that Ukraine gets not a single unit of hard currency (valuta) from its own ‘Ukr’. Here we’ve got our sovereignty … If we want to be masters (hospodari), then there ought to be a sovereign Ukraine, so we have rights, duties and responsibilities both in relation to our people and to the Union, which we enter.37

  • 38 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 50, p. 32.

32Despite the CPU’s insistence, Kravchuk argued that ‘the relations with the centre are not an object for constitutional regulation. The Constitution of the state, as its basic law, deals with the relationships between society and the state and not its external relations.’38 He opposed passing the Concept before the referendum on the renewal of the Treaty in March 1991. Taking into account the disparity of the positions, no consensus could be reached within the Commission, and the draft was tabled for further deliberations in the Supreme Council. After some inconclusive deliberations and further revisions, the parliament unexpectedly passed the Concept by a simple majority on 19 June 1991 thanks to Kravchuk’s skilful steering of the parliament.

33The Concept gave primacy to the republican interests, while still respecting the Soviet dogma of the ‘socialist choice’. While the powers that Ukraine was willing to concede to the Union remained unspecified, the Concept re-stated the provisions of the Declaration of Sovereignty: ‘the economic organisation of society is based on the tenet that the people of Ukraine have the exclusive right to all the national wealth of the republic’. And the new constitution was to outline ‘the basic principles of financial, price, budgetary, banking, currency, tax, investment and customs systems of Ukraine’. The exclusion of a definition of relations between Ukraine and the centre acquired an anti-Union symbolism.

  • 39 H. J. Berman, ‘The Rule of Law and the Law-Based State (Rechtsstaat) (with special reference to de (...)

34While the Politburo harshly criticised the approved Concept, it came up against the limits of its power. Without the disciplined communist majority in the Supreme Council, the CPU could no longer exercise its extra-constitutional powers and lacked the means to bring the ‘unruly’ Supreme Council and the Constitutional Commission under control. The Party realised that, according to the 1978 constitution, it did not have the right of legislative initiative. Thus, as did their counterparts in Russia,39 the Ukrainian hard-liners decided to draft an alternative version of the constitution, which was to be tabled in parliament by a group of communist deputies as an ordinary draft law.

35As the Supreme Council grew in prominence vis-à-vis the party structures, so did the assertiveness of the national communists under the consummate leadership of Kravchuk. Even if Kravchuk was careful not to alienate either the hard-liners or the increasingly radicalised opposition, and performed a balancing act between the two groups, his actions symbolised a growing split between the pro-Moscow and national communists and a narrowing of the gap between the latter and the opposition. Still, however, the coincidence was only partial: for the opposition the Concept was a step towards full independence, whereas the national communists still adhered to a vague formula of Ukraine as ‘a state within the state’.

36While the growing split between the national and imperial communists was kept away from the public eyes, it came out into the open in the course of the preparation to the referendum on the New Union Treaty in March 1991, which was set up by Gorbachev in order to exert pressure on the republican leaders to speed up the ratification process. The pro-Moscow Politburo limited itself to the agenda set by the centre, the national-communists emphasised their claims to sovereignty by adding an additional question, asking whether Ukraine should participate in the Union on the basis of the Declaration of Sovereignty. The ‘All-Union’ question received 70.2 percent votes in favour, whereas the second ‘republican’ question obtained 80.2 percent of the vote.

  • 40 This decision was partly due to popular pressure, as students threatened with another hunger strik (...)

37On the basis of the results of the referendum, Ukraine continued to participate in the process of renewing the Union (unlike the Baltic republics, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia) and its delegation attended the Novo–Ogarevo meeting (9+1) in April 1991, when the leaders of nine republics met with Gorbachev and agreed to sign the Treaty by August. However, even if Ukraine did not openly refuse to sign the Treaty, its hard bargaining for greater concessions slowed down the whole ratification process. When the revised draft Treaty was published in March 1991, Kravchuk criticised the proposed division of property, the delineation of power between the republics and the centre, and the republics’ contribution to the all-Union budget. He favoured a ‘union of sovereign states’, a confederation rather than federation. On 27 June the Supreme Council dashed the CPU’s and Gorbachev’s hopes that the new Treaty could be signed in the summer by postponing consideration of the Treaty until 15 September 1991.40

  • 41 Also, the parliamentary agenda for spring 1991 included laws on the structure of the Council of Mi (...)
  • 42 Art. 7 of the ‘Law on the Creation of the President of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and (...)

38In the spring and summer of 1991, Ukraine continued to assert its sovereignty in the legislation adopted by the Supreme Council. Bolstered by higher support for the second question in the March 1991 referendum, the Ukrainian parliament adopted over sixty laws in order to implement the provisions of the July 1990 Declaration of Sovereignty. The laws aimed at nationalising all-Union property on the territory of Ukraine, putting external trade under republican control, setting up a National Bank and establishing direct foreign relations.41 These bold state-building measures would necessarily limit the prerogatives of the centre in the renewed federation. In addition, other laws, such as ‘On National Guards’, ‘On the Referendum’, ‘On a National Army’, were passed in July 1991. The process of cutting the ‘umbilical administrative cord’ between the centre and Ukraine began in earnest. In particular, the pro-sovereignty agenda was evident in design of the republican presidency, which was equipped with sweeping powers ‘to suspend the action of decisions of the executive power of the USSR on the territory of the Ukrainian SSR if they contradicted the constitution and the laws of the Ukrainian SSR’.42 The presidency was to symbolically legitimise Ukrainian sovereignty against the old Soviet centre, and more particularly against the Gorbachev presidency (created in March 1990), which although indirectly elected, was equipped with significant powers. The pro-independence republican elite sought the additional authority that would derive from having a directly elected president; the popular mandate of the new institution was to be a tactical weapon with which the republic would oppose Moscow:

  • 43 ‘K voprosu ob uchrezdzeni posta prezydenta’ (On the Question of the Presidency), Archives of the C (...)

An important role (perhaps at this stage—the most important), which the president has to fulfil, is to strengthen real sovereignty. The republic is unprotected, vulnerable to the attacks from the centre …The president, equipped with the right to adopt decisions operatively and independently, will undoubtedly better protect the republican interests.43

39Kravchuk was especially supportive of a strong presidency, as by that time he had emerged as a leading figure in Ukraine and had this institution in mind for himself. The ‘Law on the Presidency’ scheduled the presidential elections for 1 December 1991.

40However, even if over the spring and summer 1991 measures began to be taken to assert Ukraine’s sovereignty, the national communists stopped short of embracing the idea of full independence, as they did not reject some kind of renewed Union with other Soviet republics. It was only the coup d’état of August 1991 that made the Ukrainian communists ‘cross the Rubicon’. During the coup Ukraine remained inert as Kravchuk along with many national communists took an ambivalent stance, neither supporting nor condemning it, in contrast to Yeltsin’s vigorous opposition. But once it was evident that the coup had failed on 22 August, Kravchuk abandoned the sinking ship and resigned from the CPU. On 24 August, under pressure from the Narodna Rada, the Supreme Council adopted the ‘Act of Independence’ (Akt Nezaleznosti) subject to confirmation in a national referendum in December 1991 (346 voted in favour, 1 against, 13 abstained),

  • 44 But the CPU did not defect wholesale to the national cause. It was outlawed (30 August 1991), and (...)

41The radicalising impact the coup had on the national-communist elites can be accounted for by several interrelated factors. Firstly, being largely composed of an economic nomenklatura, they were not interested in a renewed union with a pro-reform Yeltsin, who emerged as a key actor in Russia. Independence was a way of cutting themselves off from the reform process taking place in Russia. Secondly, had the coup succeeded, the Soviet conservatives would have clamped down on separatist republics. Thus the coup was straw that broke the camel’s back as it persuaded the national-communists that Moscow was not to be trusted to respect republics’ sovereignty. Thirdly, the Putsch ultimately discredited the CPSU in the eyes of the population. By proclaiming independence and dissolving the Communist Party of Ukraine (which until then had remained an integral part of the CPSU), the communists in Ukraine simultaneously avoided any recrimination on the part of the anti-communists in Moscow and—in the domestic context—from the opposition, while at the same time preserving their institutional power. As the coup finally discredited the idea of a ‘state within a state’, the republican communist elites turned into strident and uncompromising defenders of the ‘national right to self-determination’.44

  • 45 The last draft of the new Treaty was published in November 1991, which envisaged a looser confeder (...)
  • 46 Under the Soviet Union Western Ukraine was depicted as a hotbed of Ukrainian nationalism with fasc (...)

42In preparation for the December 1991 referendum and the presidential elections, the republican apparatus agitated in favour of independence, while the pro-Moscow hard-liners’ camp fell into disarray. In October, although the centre desperately tried to counteract the economic disintegration and preserve a common economic system, the Soviet republics proclaimed independence one after another. Ukraine refused to sign the Agreement on the Economic Union.45 While the whole republican apparatus geared itself up for independence, Kravchuk’s conciliatory style skilfully channelled popular discontent across Ukraine into almost uniform support for independence. Once such prominent members of the ruling elites as Kravchuk or his deputy in parliament Leonid Pliushch championed the idea of a Ukraine outside the Soviet Union, the population of Eastern and Southern Ukraine followed suit, something that the anti-communist, pro-independence opposition could never hope to achieve on its own, as these regions of Ukraine remained essentially distrustful of the nationalist ideas propagated by the ‘Banderite’ Western Ukrainians represented in the Narodna Rada.46 In the context of accumulated grievances against the regime and the anti-Moscow campaign orchestrated by the Ukrainian media, independence was championed as a solution to all conceivable problems. Without any apparent alternative, over 90 percent of voters supported the Act of Independence in December 1991.

  • 47 Taras Kuzio, ‘An Independent Ukraine—but Still Communist?’, Soviet Analyst (28 August 1991), p. 1.
  • 48 Bohdan Krawchenko, ‘Ukraine: the Politics of Independence’, in Ray Taras and Ian Bremmer (eds.), N (...)

43Undoubtedly, the concurrent vote for president made the choice for many easier. Kravchuk’s unique appeal to many constituencies promised change, yet guaranteed a high degree of continuity, avoiding any extreme solutions. While large segments of society—as Kuzio put it: ‘voted for independence and Kravchuk as a package’,47 many inhabitants of Ukraine remained essentially indifferent to the notion of independence. There was no opposition to Kravchuk from the communist quarters, and the national-democratic opposition arrived at the polls divided, competing with itself, which further split the votes for the option it represented (it put forward 4 out of the 6 presidential candidates: Ihor Yukhnovskyi, Viacheslav Chornovil, Levko Lukianenko and Petro Taburianskyi, while Russophone liberal Volodymyr Hryniov stood independently). In the elections, Kravchuk received 61 per cent against 23 per cent of votes to Rukh’s candidate Viacheslav Chornovil, 4.5 per cent went to Lukianenko, 1.7 per cent to Yukhnovskyi, and 4.2 per cent to Hryniov. The results of the referendum and the elections gave Kravchuk a mandate to state that ‘under no circumstances would Ukraine have signed a Union treaty that presupposed a state within a state’.48 Instead, on 8 December 1991 the leaders of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, Kravchuk, Yeltsin and Shushkevich signed the so-called Belovezha Accord, which created the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in place of the Soviet Union.

44The Ukrainian communist nomenklatura accomplished the passage to independence, when in the course of 15 months, a key section moved from a position of unmitigated loyalty to Moscow to advocating Ukraine’s right to self-determination. However, as the next section of this chapter will argue, this accelerated evolution was not matched by a vision of a political and economic order in the new state.

THE LIMITS OF CHANGE: CONSTITUTIONAL DEBATES AND INSTITUTIONAL REFORMS, 1990–1991

45The previous section provided an overview of the passage to independence against the backdrop of re-alignment of the elites. The shift to sovereignty was reflected, as was pointed out above, in the Concept of the New Constitution and other constitutional acts, such as the ‘Law on the Presidency’. Yet the analysis of these documents and the discussion preceding their adoption also demonstrate that the national-communists’ increasingly radical stance on sovereignty contrasted with their essentially conservative outlook in the domestic context. They opposed the dismantling of the institutional and ideological pillars of the Soviet system within a sovereign Ukraine. Sovereignty was not sought as a precondition for wide-ranging reforms, but merely as a means of devolving decision-making power to the republic. The only major exception was the institution of the presidency, which, by claiming to represent popular sovereignty, was designed to challenge Moscow’s authority in Ukraine. Therefore, despite the swelling support for Ukrainian sovereignty, the actual constitutional blueprint of the new Ukrainian state was essentially rooted in the old Soviet order.

46This section will more closely analyse the vision of Ukrainian statehood on the eve of the passage to independence. Thus, three issues will be focused on—the institutional framework, notion of political community and ideological and socio-economic profile of the new state, as reflected in the key constitutional acts, the Declaration of Sovereignty (July 1990), the Concept of the Constitution (June 1991), the Law on Presidency (1991), the Declaration on Minority Rights (November 1991), and the Law on Citizenship (October 1991).

THE FORM OF GOVERNMENT

47The onset of constitutional reform in Ukraine after seven decades of Soviet rule inevitably posed the fundamental question of the future of the system of soviets. This question involved not only the consideration of whether the system had the capacity to serve the needs of independent statehood, but—most of all—its historical legitimacy, having been installed in Ukraine by the Bolsheviks. However, the issue of the legitimacy of the system of soviets in Ukraine was pushed aside by the communist majority and no overhaul of the republican institutional setup was envisaged. The only major innovation was the republican presidency, which was added to the system of soviets in order to promote sovereignty.

  • 49 The provisions for the political institutions were scanty in the Declaration. Apart from the Supre (...)

48Paradoxically, the first Ukrainian constitutional act, the Declaration of Sovereignty of July 1990, re-legitimised the system of soviets as a way to boost the standing of the republican institutions vis-à-vis the Party and the centre. The Declaration re-affirmed the supreme constitutional position of the Verkhovna Rada at the pinnacle of the state structure and its exclusive right to represent ‘the people of Ukraine’. Although the Declaration also added that ‘state power in the Republic is exercised according to the principle of its division into legislative, executive and judicial powers’, this was not elaborated on sufficiently to undermine the principle of the ‘unity of power’ as the backbone of the Soviet system in Ukraine.49

  • 50 Minutes of the second meeting of the Constitutional Commission, (4 December 1990), p. 2.
  • 51 The upper chamber would consist of representatives of oblasts (each oblast would have 3 representa (...)

49The question of the future of the system of soviets soon re-appeared in the Constitutional Commission. The experts in the working group proposed to abolish the system of soviets: ‘we have to abandon statelegal institutions, which have not passed the test of time, and courageously introduce the best achievements of world constitutional practice’.50 The group advocated a radical shift towards the principle of separation of powers for the sake of establishing democracy and the rule of law. The proposed institutional overhaul for Ukraine was to include the creation of a professional, bi-cameral parliament; an executive presidency and vice-presidency; local self-government; and the abolition of other Soviet institutions such as the imperative mandate and the omnipotent prokuratura. The Supreme Council would be transformed into a professional legislature, which would operate on a permanent basis (so deputies could not combine their parliamentary mandates with seats on local councils or in the government). As its functions would be clearly delineated, the Supreme Council would cease to be the allencompassing Soviet institution, which could delegate and/or take over functions of other state institutions. A second, upper chamber (Palata Predstavnykiv) would be created in order to improve efficiency (by dividing functions), install additional ‘checks and balances’ and provide representation for regional interests.51 The executive powers would be vested in the directly elected president and vice-president, who would exercise power through representatives (predstavnyky) at the local and regional level. Local self-government at the municipal level would be guaranteed. The working group justified a wholesale replacement of the system of soviets with a presidential system in terms of the latter’s superior efficacy and rule of law. The proposal of the working group, although at that stage still somewhat vague, offered the direction for far-reaching institutional reform in 1990-1991, inspired by the American and French constitutional models.

50The oppositional Narodna Rada firmly supported this proposal, apart from bi-cameralism. The Rada believed that radical institutional reform was needed to dismantle the Bolshevik legacy—the system of soviets, especially as the soviets became the bastion of anti-reform, antisovereign forces in Eastern and Southern Ukraine. Also, facing the CPU’s unmitigated loyalty to the centre, the democratic opposition strongly favoured a presidential regime, as it could offer both external and internal advantages. A directly elected presidency could act as a shield against the encroachment of Moscow on republican interests and would symbolise the republican sovereignty. In the domestic context, efficient decision making associated with the presidency was highly rated:

  • 52 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 52, p. 10.

A popularly elected president is a legitimate authority … it is a strong, decisive and mobile authority, which will be able to introduce radical economic reform and lead the country out of the crisis.52

51The Narodna Rada also stressed the need for democratic accountability associated with the directly elected presidency, something missing from the Soviet system:

  • 53 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 51, p. 75.

Presidential power would personalise responsibility, and this is something that has been missing from our so-called collective leadership … Under the Soviet system of narodovladia there was no separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers. There was ‘joint’ responsibility, and as a result a total lack of accountability. And the people were passive because they did not know whom to turn to. Only if we break that vicious circle by introducing direct elections, we will not only personalise the accountability of the president, but also make people responsible for their own choice.53

  • 54 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 50, p. 39.

52Yet the ‘group 239’, including both national and pro-Moscow communists, staunchly opposed the abolition of the system of soviets. Undoubtedly, the fate of radas was a matter close to the hearts of the communist deputies, many of whom combined their Supreme Council mandate with seats in local radas (in particular many oblast and district CPU first secretaries were elected heads of radas). The pre-occupation of many national-communists with their particular interests was reflected in the discussion on the mode of elections to local soviets. The communists advocated direct elections of heads of local radas, who would simultaneously become head of rada executive committees (vykonkomy) and acquire additional resources and power. The discussion on this issue ate up a lot of parliamentary time, although in the light of the gravity of questions under consideration the mode of the election was a detail of secondary importance. Kravchuk firmly asserted that ‘the system of soviets in localities has to be maintained’.54 Upon this directive the working group re-introduced the soviets as the pinnacle of the political structure in Ukraine in the Concept, before the Supreme Council approved the draft in June 1991.

  • 55 CSAOCOU, FOND 1, OPYS 11, Delo 2278, Stenographic transcript of the Meeting of the Politburo, 2 Ju (...)
  • 56 CSAOCOU, FOND 1, OPYS 11, Delo 2316, p. 133. Yet the CPU did not rule out the presidency altogethe (...)

53However, despite the unity on the issue of soviets in the communist majority, on the issue of the presidency, the national communists parted company with pro-Moscow communists and sided with the national-democrats. Sensing its declining support, the Politburo opposed a directly elected presidency, as it feared the president’s executive prerogatives, which could not only shift power away from the CPU but also to further champion the cause of sovereignty. Thus the hard-liners depicted the presidency as a prelude to a personal dictatorship and the destruction of the unique system of narodovladia.55 They particularly attacked the institution of regional prefects as an executive arm of the presidency.56

  • 57 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 50, p. 45.

54The national communists, however, preferred the directly elected presidency, as was illustrated by Kravchuk’s behaviour. As chairman of the Supreme Council, Kravchuk was instrumental in the approval of a directly elected presidency, as by that time, he had emerged as a key political figure in Ukraine and the most serious pretender to the office. As was pointed out above, Kravchuk skilfully avoided a direct challenge to the Party’s position and portrayed himself as a conciliator of polarised views rather than an advocate of an openly anti-CPU line. However, in the debates on the presidency, he abandoned his ‘non-bloc’ status and actively lobbied in favour of a directly elected presidency with executive representatives in localities in defiance of the Politburo’s stance. He criticised the unconstitutional nature of CPU rule, and argued that the president could not usurp powers because of ‘checks and balances’ in the new constitution, something —as he claimed to know from his own experience—the Politburo had never encountered.57

55Kravchuk used his powers to steer debates in favour of a directly elected presidency, and to orchestrate voting accordingly. For example, immediately before the vote on the mode of presidential elections, he put pressure on the deputies to vote in favour of the directly elected presidency:

  • 58 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 58, p. 35.

After the parliament debate [on the directly elected presidency], we received so many letters proposing the personal vote on this issue in order to find out who amongst us trust the people and who doesn’t. Some even suggest that we should publish the results of the vote in newspapers.58

  • 59 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 50, p. 39.

56Thanks to the alliance of the Narodna Rada and the national communists under Kravchuk’s leadership, the popularly elected presidency and presidential prefects were approved in the Concept, with 313 deputies voting in favour. But the presidential powers vis-à-vis the Supreme Council were curtailed, and the institution’s external purpose as a defender of sovereignty was emphasised. Nevertheless, the presidency was the only major innovation proposed by the working group that won approval in parliament, apart from a less contentious issue of professionalisation of parliament and the creation of the Constitutional Court. Despite favouring a directly elected presidency, Kravchuk insisted that ‘the way to combine the soviets with presidential powers has to be found’.59 Therefore, the scope of institutional reform elaborated by the working group of experts was substantively narrowed in parliamentary debates, as the communist deputies refused to abolish the system of soviets.

  • 60 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 58, p. 41.

57The issue of uni-cameralism fostered a consensus in parliament, and a bi-cameral legislature was rejected, when only 81 deputies voted in favour of it.60 The CPU Politburo opposed the creation of the upper chamber as an erosion of the system of soviets. It defended uni-cameralism by arguing that it was in line with the Declaration of Sovereignty. Many national communists openly expressed their anxiety on the fate of the then current parliament and their career as deputies. They feared that voting in favour of creating a second chamber would mean voting themselves out of office; in the prevailing political uncertainty, they were cautious to embark on reform that would provide a justification for pre-term parliamentary elections. Deputies from Eastern oblasts—the most densely populated part of Ukraine—opposed the upper chamber that would not reflect the relative size of the population of Eastern Ukraine, and thus would favour less populated (and more radical) Western Ukrainian oblasts. The opposition was divided on the issue. Only the liberal Party of Democratic Revival (which originated in the CPU’s Democratic Platform) consistently supported this innovation, while others feared bi-cameralism as a means of creeping federalisation of Ukraine. The vote in June 1991 was the first attempt to provide regional representation in the Ukrainian legislature, and since then the proposal then repeatedly resurfaced and was systematically voted down by the Supreme Council.

58Overall, preferences on the institutional framework of the state as reflected in the constitutional debates in 1991 can be summarised as follows:

  • 61 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 50, p. 19.
  • 62 The imperative mandate was not abolished as 279 deputies voted in favour of its retention [Biulety (...)
  • 63 The Minutes of the Third Meeting of the Constitutional Commission (14 February 1991), Archives of (...)

59The form of government endorsed in the Concept was a hybrid combining the system of soviets and some vaguely specified elements of presidentialism and judicial review. In an attempt to justify this innovation, an ambiguous distinction was made between the directly elected bodies of state: the Supreme Council was to represent ‘the popular will’, whereas the president would represent ‘the state’.61 The preservation of radas alongside the directly elected presidency resulted in confusion amongst the deputies on whether the form of government should be called presidential, soviet, or soviet-presidential. The question was even posed as to whether the president (and vice-president) should be a deputy in parliament. The Concept also retained a number of unmistakably Soviet traits, such as an imperative mandate,62 a powerful prokuratura, and instruments of direct democracy, while at the same time downplaying the role of political parties. Despite the Concept’s references to the multi-party system (bahatopartiinis’t), no mechanisms were proposed for consolidating the party system, such as for example, the reforms of the electoral law. If anything, the debates revealed the lingering distrust in parties. As one member of the working group argued: ‘Multi-party relations should be multi-party relations. However, political and economic stability is in the interests of the republic and thus the mechanism of exercising state power should work like clockwork’.63 The executive presidency was perceived as a safety valve for withstanding the ‘destabilising’ influences of party politics by ensuring the steadiness of the new state.

  • 64 The law was published in Pravda Ukrainy, 1 August 1991. Curiously, the ‘Law on the Creation of the (...)

60The Concept’s lack of both a clear conception of the actual nature of the presidential powers, and a mechanism for its co-existence with the system of radas, was reflected in the ‘Law on the Creation of the Institution of the President of UkrSSR’, which was passed on 5 July 1991, two weeks after the approval of the Concept.64 The law focused mainly on the presidency’s external role. The Ukrainian president was given sweeping powers ‘to suspend the action of decisions of the executive power of the USSR on the territory of the UkrSSR if they contradicted the constitution and the laws of the UkrSSR’ (art. 7). The popular mandate of the new institution would be a tactical weapon with which the republic was to resist the centre’s encroachment on its sovereignty. In a domestic context, however, the popular legitimisation of the head of the executive branch, which could challenge parliament’s monopoly of power, was offset by the division of powers that gave the upper hand to parliament. The president, to be elected directly for 5 years in double ballot elections, was ‘the highest state official in Ukraine and the head of the executive branch’, who ‘exercises executive rights through the cabinet of ministers’ (art. 1). However, the president had to obtain parliamentary consent both for appointment and dismissal of prime minister (art. 114-6 of the revised 1978 Constitution). On the recommendation of the prime minister, the president could appoint and dismiss ministers, but in the case of the appointment of key ministries, parliament’s approval was necessary. The government would be required to resign in the event of a no-confidence vote by parliament. Furthermore, the parliamentary chairman retained the right to suspend decisions of the executive branch under certain circumstances. The president had the right ‘to issue decrees (ukazy) to implement the constitution and laws’ and to veto parliamentary laws by returning them for renewed consideration within 14 days (art. 5). However, a simple parliamentary majority would be enough to override the presidential veto, as well as to veto presidential ukazy (art. 114-8). By contrast, the president could not dissolve parliament and call for new elections if the government resigned. Overall, the president was given few powers independently of parliament or the prime minister, who was subordinated to parliament. Thus, the presidency was designed as an addendum to ‘Soviet parliamentarism’. Nevertheless, these initial presidential prerogatives, even if crudely grafted onto the system of Soviets, opened the door for the gradual extension of the role of the president within the next few months.

  • 65 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Fourth Session), 1991, No. 10, pp. 4–49.

61While the law on the presidency marked the beginning of ad hoc institutional changes, constitutional reform became chaotic and slowed down. Despite the fact that the law was adopted only two weeks after the approval of the Concept, it had already diverged from its provisions— no presidential representatives and vice-president were envisaged in the law. Also, little care was taken to harmonise the internal consistency of the 1978 constitution. While the Act of Independence on 24 August 1991 radically changed Ukraine’s external situation and marked the kaleidoscopic demise of the Soviet Union, it did not accelerate the constitutional reform. Before the referendum on independence, parliament transformed the 1978 constitution into the basic law of independent Ukraine.65 This was simply done by deleting all references to socialism, the Communist Party, and the Soviet Union. At the same time, the parliament resisted further institutional reforms: it voted against transforming itself into a professional legislature—something that had already been agreed in the Concept—and deputies were allowed to retain their positions in state institutions and in local soviets. Within a few months the tinkering with the odd bits of the institutional framework led to a paralysing confusion on the delineation of power between state institutions at the centre and local level.

SOCIALISM IN SOVEREIGN UKRAINE: IDEOLOGY OF THE NEW STATE

62The debates on the place of ideology in sovereign Ukraine provide further evidence of the conservatism of the dominant section of the Ukrainian political elites, who even by 1991 were far from admitting the bankruptcy of ideology of Soviet socialism. Symptomatically, this issue attracted more attention than did the matter of the protection of the individual against the abuses of state power.

63The issue of rights and freedoms (and mechanisms to safeguard them) hardly evoked any discussion during the debates in the Constitutional Commission and the Supreme Council. For the democratic opposition, the bill of rights, while an emanation of constitutionalism, could only acquire proper meaning on independence once Ukraine freed itself from Moscow’s domination. For the communist elites, the enumeration of rights and freedoms in the new constitution represented a continuation of Soviet ritualistic practice in this sphere without real commitment to the curbing of the powers of the state vis-à-vis an individual.

64The communist elites, however, did not show the same indifference to the issue of the ‘de-ideologisation’ of the state. The removal of the adjectives ‘soviet’ and ‘socialist’ from the name of the state and the constitution, as advocated by the working group, sparked heated debates. The Narodna Rada wholeheartedly supported the proposal of the working group, as it vehemently denied the communist system in Ukraine any legitimacy:

  • 66 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 53, p. 48.

To be honest, this choice was not made by the Ukrainian people in December of 1917, but by the Bolshevik party, which then imposed that choice on the people of Ukraine. Today, the CPU attempts to impose that choice for the second time in the history of the people of Ukraine.66

65It was pointed out that the people in Ukraine actually made a different choice at that time:

  • 67 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 51, p. 55.

The socialist choice of the people of Ukraine is historically illegal (nepravomirnyi). Who knows the history of 1917–1920 realises that we had a Ukrainian People’s Republic and Western Ukrainian People’s Republic, which on 22 January 1919 proclaimed unification in Kyiv. This was the choice of our people. And after this there was only annexation and aggression.67

  • 68 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 53, p. 79.

66As Ukraine’s aspirations to independent statehood, which were exemplified by the European, republican, democratic, parliamentary tradition of the UNR, were ruthlessly shattered by the seizure of Ukraine by Bolshevik Russia, Soviet rule amounted to foreign occupation. As one of the Soviet-era dissidents, Levko Lukianenko, argued ‘We have to reject the system of slavery which existed and we have to transform colonial Ukraine into an independent Ukraine’.68

  • 69 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 52, p. 33 and No. 53, p. 48.
  • 70 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 50, p. 37.

67The opposition also argued that the ‘socialist choice’ was incompatible with multipartism and the ideological pluralism which the Concept preached, and that an ideology of only one of the political parties should not be appended to the name of the state.69 Yet the opposition’s arguments did not diminish the communists’ declared commitment to socialism. Both national and pro-Moscow communists proved reluctant to drop the ‘socialist choice’ from the Preamble of the constitution. The Politburo furthermore insisted on including the adjectives ‘socialist’ and/or ‘soviet’ in the name of the state (on the basis that this name was fixed in the Declaration of Sovereignty). As usual, Kravchuk took the middle ground and attempted to reconcile those polar views by arguing that the name of the state should be ‘neutral’, but ‘the goals and nature of our society should be expressed in the Preamble’.70 As a result, the ‘socialist choice’ was endorsed and defined as ‘an intention to build a society of social justice through work’ in the Preamble, the title of the Basic Law was to be the ‘Constitution of Ukraine’, while the name of the state was to be decided by a referendum.

68The issue of the transformation to a market economy and the revision of the role of the state in the economic sphere hardly featured in the constitutional debate. Although the Concept affirmed economic pluralism and protection of all forms of property, there was no explicitly stated intention to develop the market economy. The Concept only included ambiguous statements such as that the state was to ‘defend the property owners against administrative-command methods of the state leadership’ (sic). At the same time, according to the chairman of the cabinet of ministers, Vitaliy Fokin, the state’s role in running the economy, if anything, was to be expanded:

  • 71 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 37, p. 30.

In ensuring equality of all forms of property and implementing processes of denationalisation and privatisation, we nevertheless firmly support the preservation of the state sector, and even more—its strengthening. We will take special measures to achieve this. Also, we are in favour of the dominance of the collective form of property in industry … We will implement stabilisation and improve the system of social welfare.71

69Despite some general declarations of greater constitutional protection of private property, the constitutional debates revealed no overarching commitment for the wholesale transition from the command economy to a market economy in Ukraine on the eve to independence. Rather some kind of liberalised, centrally administered economy seemed to command favour amongst the elites.

DEFINING THE ‘SOVEREIGN PEOPLE’

70As argued above, being concerned with their immediate interests, the communist elites displayed largely preservationist attitudes to the Soviet ‘constitutional achievements’. That the pursuit of sovereignty from Moscow was driven by particular interests rather than animated by any particular vision of Ukrainian statehood inspired by pre-communist history, yet alone that of a Ukrainian nation-state was evidenced in their overwhelming indifference to the so-called ‘national question’, that is who and on what terms constituted the ‘nation’. The hard-liners’ attempted to discredit the idea of Ukrainian independence by spreading alarm on the dangers of raising the phantom of ethno-nationalism of the titular majority. Yet an analysis of the main constitutional acts passed in 1991 amply reflected the weakness of ethno-nationalism on the eve of independence, and the prevailing support for a territorial, multi-ethnic notion of the political community.

  • 72 The Concept of the constitution used 19 different names of the political community, such as the Uk (...)

71The ‘national question’ received relatively little attention in parliamentary debates on the Concept of the new constitution, especially in comparison to issues such as the presidency, the ‘socialist choice’ or the prokuratura. In principle, the text of the Concept most often referred to the sovereign subject as the ‘people of Ukraine’ (narod Ukrainy),72 which was the most general and neutral description of the body of citizens. The Concept merely re-stated the provisions of the Declaration of Sovereignty by defining Ukraine as ‘a sovereign national state’, which promoted the cultural, spiritual and linguistic revival of the Ukrainian ethnic nation (natsiia), as well as guaranteeing free national-cultural development to all nationalities living in Ukraine. The distinction between national minorities and the titular majority, the Ukrainian natsiia, was the only departure from the Soviet conceptual canon. This innovation was opposed by CPU hard-liners, who argued that it would open the way to discrimination on ethnic grounds by dividing nationalities into the more and less equal. The CPU portrayed this as an attempt to spread the Western Ukrainian strand of integral nationalism across Ukraine, and pointed to developments in the Baltics, Moldova and the Caucasus as a warning of the potentially dire consequences of ethnic strife. The opposition, however, argued that there was nothing ‘nationalistic’ about singling out national minorities, as the term was widely used and recognised in international law. As the majority of the national communists did not object, the term ‘national minorities’ remained in the Concept.

  • 73 For the full text of the law see: Radianska Ukraina, 3 November 1989.
  • 74 See Dominique Arel, ‘Language Politics in an Independent Ukraine: Towards One or Two State Languag (...)

72The implementation of the ‘Law on Language’ confirmed the lack of zeal in the linguistic and cultural assertion of the position of the titular majority. The law, which was adopted in 1989, established Ukrainian as the sole state language, and stipulated that Ukrainian was to be introduced in higher education and state administrative bodies within 10 years (although it did not specify the mechanisms for its implementation).73 In 1989 the passage of the law was a symbolic gesture towards the disgruntled cultural intelligentsia in order to subdue the raising tide of protests about linguistic Russification. As such, the law did not lead to a systematic change in republican language policy, and did not become a political issue prior to the referendum on independence in December 1991.74

  • 75 When the new ‘Law on Citizenship’ was drafted in September 1991, the issue of dual citizenship (wi (...)
  • 76 Serkhiy Tolstov, ‘Dimensions of Inter-ethnic Relations in Ukraine’, The Ukrainian Review, Vol. XL, (...)
  • 77 For the texts of the ‘Declaration of Nationalities’ Rights’ and the ‘Law on National Minorities’ s (...)
  • 78 Also, within administrative–territorial units, which were densely populated by members of several (...)

73The definition of Ukrainian citizenship and the Declaration of the Rights of National Minorities also reflected a non-ethnic notion of the political community.75 The ‘Law on Citizenship’, which was passed 8 October 1991, adopted a territorial definition of citizenship and membership of the new state was granted automatically to almost everyone who was living in Ukraine at the time the law was passed (the so-called ‘Zero Option’). As no category of the population was formally excluded from the political community, citizenship based on ius soli became one of the fundamental attributes of the new political community. The assertion was that inclusive citizenship would lead to the consolidation of the political community as ‘a new civic nation-state based on territorial, not ethnic grounds’76 was backed by the ‘Declaration of the Rights of National Minorities’, granted minorities far-reaching collective rights. The Supreme Council passed the Declaration on 1 November 1991, just a month before the referendum on independence, when the campaign to secure the support of all national groups for secession from the USSR was launched. In particular, the Declaration was designed to subdue any fears aroused by the CPU hard-liners’ warnings of ethnic exclusion modelled on the Baltic republics. The Declaration reasserted the territorial principle of Ukraine’s political community, stating that ‘over 100 nationalities live on the territory of Ukraine, who together with ethnic Ukrainians make up the 52 million people of Ukraine (narod Ukrainy)’.77 The Declaration promised far-reaching rights for minorities and emphasised the government’s commitment to provide equality to all citizens of Ukraine, regardless of their nationality. In areas of dense settlement of a national minority it allowed for the language of that minority to function as a state language (art. 3).78 It also explicitly permitted free use of the Russian language.

  • 79 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Fifth Session), 1992, No. 2, p. 19 and Ukrainian Reporter, Vol. (...)

74In 1991 profound ambiguity surrounded the iconographic symbols of Ukraine. The opposition promoted the trident and blue-and-yellow flag, as the legitimate symbols of the Ukrainian state, both of which—as was argued—had been used since ‘time immortal’ and were rooted in the tradition of Kyiv Rus’, Cossack Sich and the UNR. These symbols were depicted throughout the Soviet period as symbols of bourgeois nationalism. In 1991 the proposal to restore these symbols by the Narodna Rada was not only rejected outright by the Politburo but also by part of the national communists. As there was no chance of obtaining the twothirds majority in parliament, the issue of symbols was left out of the Concept and was to be decided by a constitutional referendum. Yet even without official endorsement, these symbols increasingly found their way into the public domain, especially in Western and Central Ukraine. After the referendum on independence, it became evident that the new state needed some form of iconographic representation. The new article 166 was added to the 1978 constitution stating that the ‘symbols of Ukraine as an independent state are the state emblem, flag and anthem’ without describing them. Then, the blue and yellow flag and the trident were approved in a resolution of the Supreme Council in January and February 1992. As they were approved by 253 and 264 votes, respectively, the symbols were introduced with a simple rather than constitutional majority, and hence were used by the state institutions without being legitimised by procedural legality.79

  • 80 Rogers Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). p. 41.

75Overall, a pluralist, civic approach to the conception of a political community prevailed on the eve of independence. Calls for sovereignty were framed not in terms of ethnic rights of the titular majority, but economic efficiency, democratisation and rights of civil society. In that respect, in line with Brubaker’s distinction, a political-territorial conception of nationhood prevailed on the eve of independence, as opposed to a personal-ethnic one (see chapter 2).80 The limited constitutional debate on nationhood reflected the peaceful and harmonious character of interethnic relations in Ukraine, despite the Politburo’s alarmist rhetoric. Even the opposition, despite its concern for the fate of Ukrainian culture and language, did not champion the rights of Ukrainians in ethnic terms. However, the ‘national question’ was anything but resolved. The questions of relations between the state and the titular nation, on the one hand, and the provisions for minorities on the other, turned out to be the pivotal and most divisive question in independent Ukraine.

CONCLUSION

76Over 1990–1991 Ukraine witnessed an accelerated drive for sovereignty and then independence. Yet, even if by autumn 1991 Ukraine was engulfed in the ‘all-out’ campaign for independence, overwhelmingly supported in the referendum on 1 December, this fervour was not matched by systematic efforts to erect a solid constitutional foundation of the new state. This would require, first of all, the rooting out of the ideological and institutional pillars of the Soviet constitutional edifice. There was no evidence that there was a will for this to occur.

  • 81 Valentyn Domoroslyi, ‘Deklaratsiia pro Derzhavnyi Suverenitet Ukrainy: Vytoky I Naslidky (The Decl (...)

77When the Union centre began to show signs of weakening and decay, the communist, republican elites were bequeathed with unprecedented freedom to pursue autonomy from the centre. The oppositional elite, who lacked strength to unseat the communists, as the March 1990 elections in Ukraine only dented rather than dismantled the hegemonic position of the CPU across Ukraine, played a role of ‘allies of convenience’ in this process. Yet the appreciation of the role of the elite-level alliance cannot paper over profound differences in motives, visions and ultimate goals. The anti-Moscow alliance was more of a coincidence than a meaningful convergence of goals pursued by the national communists and the democratic opposition. This was reflected in political discourses in Ukraine over 1990–1991, which conveyed a whole range of meanings of ‘sovereignty’, ‘autonomy’, and ‘independence’. For the opposition ‘sovereignty within the USSR’ was far from an end in itself, but was a stepping-stone on the way to independent statehood, something that the national communists remained ambiguous about until the events of August 1991, which finally discredited the imprecise formula for Ukraine as a ‘state within a state’. In this context, the significance of the Declaration of Independence in August 1991—as one author pointed out—lay in the fact that ‘the [communist] majority officially declared its shift to the ideological position of the minority’.81 But this new-found stance only applied to independence from Moscow and not to the internal ordering of the state.

78Being focused on loosening and then severing relations with Moscow, the alliance did not extend to agreement in the domestic arena. For the opposition independence was a necessary pre-condition of farreaching political and economic reforms, as well as cultural revival in Ukraine. However, the national communists, who emerged as the key, yet amorphous and unorganised political grouping, did not share this agenda, as was evidenced by their views on the new constitutional order discussed in the second section of this chapter. Taking into account that by June 1991 there were hardly any ideological constraints prevailing in the Soviet Union, the limited exploitation of this newly found liberty is only too evident. Even the ‘socialist choice’ (already dropped from the Russian draft constitution by 1991) was still preserved, along with the main pillars of the Soviet institutional framework. (The Ukrainian opposition found itself in the unhappy predicament of having to invoke the example of Russia—from which it wanted to separate Ukraine—in order to propagate internal reforms.) Because of the national communists’ fixation with sovereignty, external radicalism was often extrapolated to the domestic situation, yet the analysis of the constitutional debate amply demonstrated the extent to which the national communists were reluctant to embark on reforms in the republic and limited the scope for political reforms to some changes justified by demands of sovereignty. And the major innovation—the presidency—was more of a functional arrangement for decision making against the centre, rather than a part of a radical overhaul of the existing institutional framework. At the same time, many national communists concentrated on changes affecting their immediate circumstances, and thus the secondary issue of elections of heads of radas, or status of village radas featured prominently in the debates. Numerous votes during the constitutional debates vividly reminded the opposition not only of the conservatism of their communist allies, but also of their own relative weakness, despite their strategic inroads on many issues. The alliance was not one of equal partners: the pro-reform forces were clearly in a minority.

  • 82 Beetham, The Legitimation of Power, p. 109. See also Ágnes Heller, ‘Phases of Legitimation in Sovi (...)

79The passage of the August 1991 ‘Act of Independence’ by the elites, and its sanctioning in the December 1991 referendum on independence by the population at large, symbolised the rejection of the old order (negative legitimacy) of Ukraine being ruled by Moscow. Yet, as Beetham points out, negative legitimacy, in order to have a transforming potential, must be bolstered with ‘the imagination to conceive of a different set of rules and relations for the fulfilment of basic social needs from the existing ones’.82 Even if the old regime was discredited, this second condition was not fulfilled in Ukraine. There was no shared vision of an alternative order, which would be defined as superior and exemplary. In other words, there was no ubiquitous ‘positive’ inspiration to embark on change.

  • 83 Claus Offe, ‘Designing Institutions for East European Transitions’, in Jerzy Hausner, Bob Jessop, (...)
  • 84 Ibid., p. 48.

80The opposition and the communist elites diverged diametrically in their evaluation of the communist and pre-communist past. The opposition’s highly charged rhetoric on the Soviet occupation fell on deaf ears, as the national-communists refrained from condemning communism and reflecting on the origins of Soviet rule in Ukraine, which was illustrated by their continuous commitment to the ‘socialist choice of the people of Ukraine’. The scope of any reform was ultimately determined by the strength of belief in the need for change. As Offe points out, ‘the institutions to be replaced by the newly designed institutions must have been totally discredited (i.e. have failed in congruent socialisation) and must also have lost, perhaps partly due to de-legitimisation, their ability to cope with functional problems in their environment’.83 And they do not require revision as long as they can ‘pass a dual test of “making sense” and “being fit” for the mission’.84 As the constitutional debates revealed, the Soviet institutional framework ‘made sense’ to the communist majority, including the national-communists. However, it was not ‘fit’ to secure sovereignty, which was best served by the presidency, which, thus, was added to the system. So while the opposition principally repudiated the Soviet legacy on moral grounds, the Soviet ideological and institutional model—anchored in the cognitive framework of the communist elites—provided a baseline for defining the constitutional framework of the ‘sovereign’ Ukraine. Other models played a subsidiary role. This resulted in the hybrid (presidential-soviet) institutional framework envisaged by the Concept of the new constitution and was followed by half-hearted and inconsistent institutional reform.

  • 85 Even if in the majority of East–Central European states the demise of communism was equated with t (...)

81In the context of the continuity of elites, institutions and ideas, a ‘thick’ line could not be easily drawn between the Ukrainian SSR and independent Ukraine. Ukrainian independence could not be equated with a break from the past and the ‘restoration of normality’ through a ‘return to Europe’, the metaphor which encapsulated the transformation embarked on in East–Central Europe, including the Baltic states.85 (There was an element of myth involved, of course, as the pre-communist inter-war period can in most cases hardly be classified as a ‘golden past’.) There could be no ‘restorative revolution’ in Ukraine in 1991, because of the paucity of collective historical memories which treasured a vision of a ‘golden past’ and the template of a ‘normal’ social and political order. Without such cherished historical memories being widely shared, it was not possible (or necessary) to depict Soviet rule in Ukraine as an occupation. For the national communists, Soviet Ukraine was an integral and legitimate part of the state building process rather than a distortion and/or interruption of this process; it was the indigenous tradition of statehood. Therefore, the Preamble of the new Ukraine’s constitution—the part of the constitution, which justifies changes to the constitutional order—was to be devoid of any emotion-laden condemnation of the communist regime, let alone any claims of oppression by a ‘foreign’ regime.

82To this end, in the case of Ukraine the breakup of the Soviet Union was not precipitated by a new order, as the past could not provide a shared meaning of independence and a sense of direction for the future. While Ukrainian communist elites effectively signed the death sentence of the Soviet Union with their conversion to independence, the dilemma of defining of what was meant by a ‘fresh start’ in a new state was largely postponed to the post-Soviet era. In the protracted constitutional process extending over six years an eclectic conception of statehood was to be hammered out, which finally elaborated the meaning of independence.

Notes

1 The comprehensive study of perestroika in Ukraine and the passage to independence is presented in Taras Kuzio and Andrew Wilson, Ukraine: Perestroika to Independence (London: Macmillan, 1994) and Bohdan Nahaylo, The Ukrainian Resurgence (London: C. Hust & Co, 1998).

2 The famine of 1933–1934 destroyed the Ukrainian peasantry, while the Stalinist purges of the 1930s and the 1940s decimated the ranks of the Ukrainian intelligentsia. See, for example, David R. Marples, Stalinism in Ukraine in the 1940s (London: Macmillan, 1986); Yurii Boshyk (ed.), Ukraine during World War II: History and Its Aftermath (Edmonton, Ont.: CIUS, 1986); Bohdan Krawchenko, Social Change and National Consciousness in Twentieth-Century Ukraine (Houndmills and London: Macmillan, 1985); J. E. Mace, ‘Famine and Nationalism in Soviet Ukraine’, Problems of Communism, Vol. 33, No. 3 (May–June 1984), pp. 37–50; Andrew Wilson, Ukrainian Nationalism in the 1990s. A Minority Faith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 114–5; Robert S. Sullivant, Soviet Politics and the Ukraine 1917–1957 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1962); E. Mace, Communism and the Dilemmas of National Liberation: National Communism in Soviet Ukraine, 1918–1933 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983).

3 Bohdan Krawchenko, ‘The Impact of Industralisation on the Social Structure of Ukraine’, Canadian Slavonic Papers, Vol. 22, No. 3 (September 1980), pp. 338–57.

4 On the 1920s in Ukraine see, for example, George Liber, Soviet Nationality Policy, Urban Growth and Identity Change in the Ukrainian SSR, 1923–1934 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

5 Regional differences were not only eradicated but actually exacerbated. Western Ukraine was persistently depicted as a hotbed of Ukrainian nationalism, and thus portrayed as irreconcilably different from the rest of Soviet Ukraine, which had spent a much longer period under Tsarist and Soviet rule. Thus, opinion polls since independence have reflected these profound regional differences in world outlook. See, for example, Dominique Arel and Valeri Khmelko, ‘The Russian Factor and Territorial Polarization in Ukraine’, The Harriman Review, Vol. 9, Nos. 1–2 (Spring 1996), pp. 81–91.

6 According to the 1989 census, the biggest ethnic groups in Ukraine were: Ukrainians 37.4 million, Russians 11.4 million, Jewish 490,000, Belarussians 444,000, Moldovans 325,000, Bulgarian 234,000, Polish 219,000, Hungarian 160,000, Romanian 135,000, other 596,000 (total 51.5 million).

7 For a brief overview of Ukraine under the Soviet Union see Alexander J. Motyl and Bohdan Krawchenko, ‘Ukraine: From Empire to Statehood’, in Ian Bremmer and Ray Taras (eds.), New States, New Politics: Building the Post-Soviet Nations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 235–75. On the nation-building effect of the Soviet rule on ethnic groups in the USSR see Ronald Griogor Suny, The Revenge of the Past: Nationalism, Revolution and the Collapse of the Soviet Union (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1993).

8 Instead of relying on 1989 census data, which appeared not to accurately reflect the use of Russian in Ukraine, Arel and Khmelko adopted the category ‘language of convenience’ in public opinion surveys in order to determine the size of the linguistic groups. The ‘language of convenience’ was defined as the language that respondents use in a survey interview at home when they are asked to use the language that they are most comfortable with. It was found that in eastern and southern Ukraine 81.5 percent of the population uses Russian as their language of convenience, that is the language, in which the people chose to communicate, even if they could understand or speak Ukrainian. See Arel and Khmelko, ‘The Russian Factor and Territorial Polarization in Ukraine’, p. 81.

9 For example, a hybrid Russian–Ukrainian (surzhik) is widely spoken within Kyiv. For a detailed discussion on identity in Southern and Eastern Ukraine see Paul S. Pirie, ‘National Identity and Politics in Southern and Eastern Ukraine’, Europe–Asia Studies, Vol. 48, No. 7 (November 1996), pp. 1079–104.

10 Kenneth C. Farmer, Ukrainian Nationalism in the Post-Stalin Era: Myth, Symbols and Ideology in Soviet Nationalities Policy (The Hague–Boston–London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1980).

11 Philip G. Roeder, ‘Soviet Federalism and Ethnic Mobilization’, World Politics, Vol. 43, No. 2 (January 1991), pp. 196–232.

12 Alexander J. Motyl, Sovietology, Rationality, Nationality: Coming to Grips with Nationalism in the USSR (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990).

13 T. Bottomore and P. Goode (eds.), Austro–Marxism (Oxford: Claredon, 1978). On the application of this concept to the Soviet republics see Motyl, Sovietology, Rationality, Nationality.

14 Jurij Borys, ‘Political Parties in the Ukraine’, in Hunchak (ed.), The Ukraine, 1917– 1921, pp. 128–59.

15 On national communism in Ukraine see Wilson, Ukrainian Nationalism in the 1990s, chapter 4; Yaroslav Bilinsky, ‘Mykola Skrypnyk and Petro Shelest: An Essay on The Persistence and Limits of Ukrainian National Communism’, in Soviet Nationality Policies and Practices (1981), pp. 105–42; L. Tillet, ‘Ukrainian Nationalism and the Fall of Shelest’, Slavic Review, Vol. XXXIV, No. 4 (1975), pp. 752–68; and, a more restrained assessment, Grey Hodnett, ‘The Views of Petro Shelest’, The Annals of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the United States, Vol. XIV, No. 37–38 (1978–1980), pp. 209–43. For a criticism of Soviet nationality policy in Ukraine by a prominent member of the Ukrainian cultural intelligentsia see Ivan Dzyuba, Internationalism or Russification? (London: Wiedenfeld and Nicholson, 1968).

16 On the role of Shcherbytsky in the highest echelon of Soviet political elites see Yaroslav Bilinsky, ‘Shcherbytsky, Ukraine and Kremlin Politics’, Problems of Communism, Vol. 32, No. 4 (July–August 1983), pp. 1–26.

17 John A. Amstrong, ‘The Ethnic Scene in the Soviet Union: The View of the Dictatorship’, in Eric Godhagen (ed.), Ethnic Minorities in the Soviet Union (New York: Praeger, 1968), pp. 14–21. See also John A. Amstrong, Ideology, Politics and Government in the Soviet Union, 3rd ed. (London: Nelson, 1974), pp. 176–80.

18 See, for example, Michael Brown, Ferment in the Ukraine (London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1971); L. Tillett, ‘Ukrainian Nationalism and the Fall of Shelest’, Slavic Review, Vol. 34, No. 4 (1975), pp. 752–68; Peter J. Potichnyj (ed.), Ukraine in the 1970s (Oakville, Ont: Mosaic Press, 1975). On the profile of the dissident movement see ‘The Political Thought of Soviet Ukrainian Dissidents’ in Ivan L. Rudnytsky, Essays in Modern Ukrainian History (Alberta: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1987), pp. 477–490, George S. N. Luckyi, ‘Polarity in Ukrainian Intellectual Dissent’, Canadian Slavonic Papers, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Summer 1972), pp. 269–79 and (during perestroika) Taras Kuzio (ed.), Dissent in Ukraine under Gorbachev (London: Ukrainian Press Agency, 1989).

19 On the situation in the early 1980s see Roman Solchanyk, ‘Moulding the "Soviet People": The Role of Ukrainians and Belorussians’, RFE/RL Research Report, No. 382 (9 November 1982).

20 85 percent of Rukh’s members represented Western and Central Ukraine, 9 percent came from Southern Ukraine and 6 percent from the Eastern part of the republic. However, over 100 nationalities were represented at the First Congress. See David R. Marples, ‘A Sociological Survey of Rukh’, Report on the USSR, Vol. 2, No. 2 (1990), p. 19.

21 The main oppositional organisation Rukh was officially registered only in February 1990, just four weeks before the elections, what prevented it from campaigning under its own banner. In February a Central Committee Plenum in Moscow recommended the amendment of art.6 on the leading role on the CPSU, which was then legislated by Congress of People’s Deputies in March.

22 Only 68 deputies were not CPU members in the 450-seat Rada. In terms of its Communist Party membership in newly elected Supreme Rada, Ukraine lagged only behind Central Asian republics and Azerbaidzhan. See Darrell Slider, ‘Political Elites and Politics in the Republics’, in David Lane (ed.), Russia in Flux (London: Edward Elgar, 1992), p. 43.

23 The Narodna Rada was the name of the first political organisation in Ukraine, which was created in 1885 in Lviv. The Narodna Rada then was incorporated into the Ukrainian National-Democratic Party in 1890, which had amongst its leaders a historian Mykhailo Hrushevskyi and, a distinguished poet and writer, Ivan Franko.

24 The Narodna Rada, despite its formalised status, was not consolidated in organisational and ideological terms and consisted of three internal factions: the most radical nationalistic flank, consisting mainly of members of the Ukrainian Republican Party, formed ‘Independence’ (Nezalezhnist), moderate members of the cultural intelligentsia gathered into the faction of the Democratic Party of Ukraine, while the Democratic Platform, which transformed itself into the Party of Democratic Revival of Ukraine made up the third faction.

25 David R. Marples, ‘The Ukrainian Election Campaign: The Opposition’, Soviet Analyst, Vol. 2 (9 March 1990) and ‘The First Session of the Ukrainian Parliament’, Report on the USSR, Vol. 2, No. 39 (28 September 1990), pp. 15–7.

26 In line with the Soviet tradition, people’s deputies were merely delegated from their workplace and many of them combined two deputy mandates (as they sat on councils at different levels). Out of 449 deputies, only 129 worked full time, while the rest remained on ‘part-time’ basis. [Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Bulletin of the Supreme Council of Ukraine) (Third Session), 1991, No. 11, p. 37–8].

27 The Narodna Rada’s members headed 7 out of 23 commissions, while the hardliners controlled only 6.This overrepresentation of the Rada, which was the result of Ivashko’s generosity, further added to the opposition’s relative weight in the powerful Presidium. Wilson, Ukrainian Nationalism in the 1990s, p. 107.

28 The Ukrainian State Archive of Civic Associations (formerly the Archive of the Communist Party of Ukraine), FOND 1, OPYS 11, Delo. 2278, Stenographic transcript of the Meeting of Politburo on 2 July 1991, p. 14. By the spring of 1991 the CPU fully realised that it needed to boost its standing in the Supreme Council by sending more of the communist deputies to work on a professional basis. However, the Party still opposed the idea of a professional parliament on the basis that it would ‘spend more time not only on laws but on politics’ (ibid.).

29 Ivashko’s untimely departure to Moscow further radicalised stances. It was interpreted in Ukraine as reflecting the supremacy of the All-Union posts in Moscow and belittled the republican ones. Thus, this career move, following a seemingly normal course of affairs in the Soviet Union, antagonised the Ukrainian Supreme Council, which at that very time began to assert its newly found importance as the highest republican institution. As Ivashko’s departure coincided with the debates on the Declaration, it fuelled anti-Moscow sentiments.

30 For the English language translation of the Declaration see, Alexander Dallin and Gail W. Lapidus (eds.), The Soviet System: From Crisis to Collapse, Revised Edition (Boulder, San Francisco, Oxford: Westview Press, 1995), pp. 405–10.

31 In fact, the Declaration elaborated the law on economic sovereignty that was adopted two weeks prior to it, and created a legal basis for the organisation of the financial, budgetary, credit, and monetary system of the state, and taking control over the economic enterprises, which until then were subordinated to All-Union ministries. The Declaration and the numerous laws adopted to implement it marked the growing segmentation of the Soviet economic space, that is moving from the ‘uniform economy’ to more independent economic policies.

32 The Communist Party of Ukraine remained torn between the need to boost its republican standing, now somewhat undermined by the opposition’s rhetoric, and its loyalty to the Soviet centre and the principle of ‘democratic centralism’. In contrast to the communist parties in the Baltic republics, the CPU refused to exit the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Instead, the 27th Congress decided that the CPU as an autonomous organisation be registered by the republican Ministry of Justice, while at the same time remaining within the CPSU.

33 Students demanded: 1) the resignation of Vitalii Masol, chairman of the Council of Ministers, 2) a law stipulating that the military service would be performed in Ukraine, 3) the withdrawal from the negotiations on the Union Treaty, 4) nationalisation of Party property and 5) the holding of genuinely competitive new elections to the Supreme Rada. Also 8 radical deputies from the Narodna Rada joined the students. Roman Solchanyk, ‘The Uncertain Road to Independence’, Report on the USSR, Vol. 3 (4 January 1991), p. 22–24.

34 The members of the commission were predominantly state officials in Ukraine (86 percent) as 46 members were deputies of the Supreme Rada, 16 members worked in the executive branch, judiciary and prokuratura and 8 worked for other state agencies (the numbers do not add up as one person could combine several various posts). Politychna Dumka, No. 2, 1994, p. 214. Within the Commission, a smaller working group, consisting of 35 professionally qualified members, was created under the leadership of a distinguished academic, Professor Yuriy Yuz’kov. In practice, only 12–15 of them were directly involved in drafting. The Commission provided a general direction but never proposed ready-made articles to the working group.

35 CSAOCOU, FOND 1, OPYS 11, Delo 2316, p. 2.

36 Kravchuk had already loosened his links with the CPU. He was released of the position of Second Secretary of the CPU in September 1990, on the grounds that he needed to focus on the parliamentary chairmanship, which, in addition to other functions, involved representing Ukraine in external relations. Roman Solchanyk, ‘The Changing Political Landscape in Ukraine’, Report on the USSR (14 June 1991), pp. 21–22.

37 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 50, p. 35.

38 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 50, p. 32.

39 H. J. Berman, ‘The Rule of Law and the Law-Based State (Rechtsstaat) (with special reference to development in the Soviet Union)’, The Harriman Institute Forum, Vol. 4, No. 5 (1991), pp. 5–6.

40 This decision was partly due to popular pressure, as students threatened with another hunger strike, and partly to dissatisfaction with the content of the new draft Treaty. Although by June 1991 the draft of the Treaty envisaged a Union of Sovereign States, many central institutions, such as the presidency, Supreme Soviet, and Union ministries, were still preserved, which would necessarily limit the political and economic autonomy of Ukraine. Roman Solchanyk, ‘Ukraine and the New Union Treaty’, Report on the USSR, Vol. 3, No. 30 (26 July 1991), pp. 22–24.

41 Also, the parliamentary agenda for spring 1991 included laws on the structure of the Council of Ministers, relations between the Council of Ministers and the Council of Ministers of USSR, relations between the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Council (at that time the council of ministers was re-organised and it renamed the cabinet of ministers). These measures aimed to place the republican administrative institutions under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian parliament rather than the Council of Ministers of the USSR. Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 37, p. 23.

42 Art. 7 of the ‘Law on the Creation of the President of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and Changes to the Constitution of UkrSSR’, which was published in Pravda Ukrainy, 1 August 1991.

43 ‘K voprosu ob uchrezdzeni posta prezydenta’ (On the Question of the Presidency), Archives of the Constitutional Commission, Second Meeting, (4 December 1990).

44 But the CPU did not defect wholesale to the national cause. It was outlawed (30 August 1991), and its property nationalised (7 September). As by 1991, the CPU remained ‘unconverted’, and committed to ‘democratic centralism’, the party that was to re-emerge as its successor in 1993 would inherit a virtually unchanged ideological platform of Marxism–Leninism).

45 The last draft of the new Treaty was published in November 1991, which envisaged a looser confederation based on a Union parliament and the State Council as a central governmental body composed of the republican leaders. However, by this time the Ukrainian elites were not satisfied even by the centre’s willingness to devolve farreaching powers to the constituent subjects of the confederation.

46 Under the Soviet Union Western Ukraine was depicted as a hotbed of Ukrainian nationalism with fascist leanings, which were epitomised by the figure of the leader of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalist, Stepan Bandera.

47 Taras Kuzio, ‘An Independent Ukraine—but Still Communist?’, Soviet Analyst (28 August 1991), p. 1.

48 Bohdan Krawchenko, ‘Ukraine: the Politics of Independence’, in Ray Taras and Ian Bremmer (eds.), Nations and Politics in the Soviet Successor States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 93.

49 The provisions for the political institutions were scanty in the Declaration. Apart from the Supreme Council, only two institutions were mentioned as key instruments in championing the cause of economic sovereignty, the National Bank and the prokuratura. Yet, the Declaration of Sovereignty unmistakably affirmed the Soviet institutional framework, as it re-stated the position of the Supreme Council, as envisaged by the 1978 constitution of the Ukrainian SSR. This allowed the defenders of the old order to use the Declaration in their struggle to preserve the system of soviets in Ukraine. Effectively, the Declaration turned into an obstacle to constitutional reform in Ukraine, and the reformers faced the task of justifying the bypassing of the Declaration’s idiosyncrasies without undermining its symbolic significance.

50 Minutes of the second meeting of the Constitutional Commission, (4 December 1990), p. 2.

51 The upper chamber would consist of representatives of oblasts (each oblast would have 3 representatives). The draft concept of the Ukrainian Constitution as of March 1991 (in author’s possession). The lower chamber was to be called Narodna Palata.

52 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 52, p. 10.

53 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 51, p. 75.

54 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 50, p. 39.

55 CSAOCOU, FOND 1, OPYS 11, Delo 2278, Stenographic transcript of the Meeting of the Politburo, 2 July 1991.

56 CSAOCOU, FOND 1, OPYS 11, Delo 2316, p. 133. Yet the CPU did not rule out the presidency altogether. It favoured a ‘parliamentary system with an indirectly elected president’, a system which, as argued, would ‘combine the specific conditions and political traditions of Soviet Ukraine with the contemporary experience of foreign state–legal institutions’. The Party accepted that the presidency might perform some executive functions, but only under the condition that: ‘granting the president with extraordinary powers and the right to interfere in the executive branch has to be seen only as a temporary measure, which parliament can adopt in extreme situations for a limited, clearly defined period’. CSAOCOU, FOND 1, OPYS 11, Delo 2314, pp. 3–4.

57 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 50, p. 45.

58 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 58, p. 35.

59 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 50, p. 39.

60 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 58, p. 41.

61 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 50, p. 19.

62 The imperative mandate was not abolished as 279 deputies voted in favour of its retention [Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 58, p. 42].

63 The Minutes of the Third Meeting of the Constitutional Commission (14 February 1991), Archives of the Constitutional Commission, p. 12.

64 The law was published in Pravda Ukrainy, 1 August 1991. Curiously, the ‘Law on the Creation of the President of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and Changes to the Constitution of UkrSSR’ was adopted at the same time and included presidential prerogatives, which did not appear in the ‘Law on the Creation of the Institution of the President’ itself.

65 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Fourth Session), 1991, No. 10, pp. 4–49.

66 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 53, p. 48.

67 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 51, p. 55.

68 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 53, p. 79.

69 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 52, p. 33 and No. 53, p. 48.

70 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 50, p. 37.

71 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Third Session), 1991, No. 37, p. 30.

72 The Concept of the constitution used 19 different names of the political community, such as the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian nation, citizens of Ukraine, citizens of the Republic. Volodymyr Butkevych, ‘Proiekt Konstytutsii Ukrainy u Verkhovnii Radi (Drafts Constitutions in the Supreme Council)’, Nova Polityka, No. 3(5) (May–June 1996), pp. 10–19.

73 For the full text of the law see: Radianska Ukraina, 3 November 1989.

74 See Dominique Arel, ‘Language Politics in an Independent Ukraine: Towards One or Two State Languages’, Nationalities Papers, Vol. 23, No. 3, (September 1995).

75 When the new ‘Law on Citizenship’ was drafted in September 1991, the issue of dual citizenship (with other post-Soviet republics states) was the main stumbling block in the passing of the law, as the national-democrats opposed this provision, while the communists were divided on the issue. Without a prospect for agreement, a compromise was reached, whereby the law rested on the principle of sole citizenship but provided for the possibility of dual citizenship if corresponding bi-later agreements were made with other states. For the debates surrounding the passage of the law see Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Fourth Session), 1991, No. 7, pp. 30–96 (first reading) and No. 18, pp. 3–64 (second reading), the text of the ‘Law on Citizenship’ was published in Pravda Ukrainy, 10 October 1991.

76 Serkhiy Tolstov, ‘Dimensions of Inter-ethnic Relations in Ukraine’, The Ukrainian Review, Vol. XL, No. 2 (Summer 1993), p. 29.

77 For the texts of the ‘Declaration of Nationalities’ Rights’ and the ‘Law on National Minorities’ see Informatsiinyi Biuletyn, No. 2 (June 1995), the Ministry for the Affairs of Nationalities, Migration and Cults.

78 Also, within administrative–territorial units, which were densely populated by members of several nationalities, a language acceptable to the population (i.e. Russian) was to be allowed to function at a level equal to the state language (art. 3) and the state authorities were to create ‘conditions suitable for the development of all national languages and cultures’ (art. 2).

79 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Fifth Session), 1992, No. 2, p. 19 and Ukrainian Reporter, Vol. 2, No. 5, May 1992, p. 9. The law, which was supposed to properly define the form of symbols, never materialised, presumably because of controversy surrounding the issue.

80 Rogers Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). p. 41.

81 Valentyn Domoroslyi, ‘Deklaratsiia pro Derzhavnyi Suverenitet Ukrainy: Vytoky I Naslidky (The Declaration of the State Sovereignty of Ukraine: the Origins and Consequences)’, Viche, No. 51 (June 1996), p. 144.

82 Beetham, The Legitimation of Power, p. 109. See also Ágnes Heller, ‘Phases of Legitimation in Soviet-type Societies’, in T. H. Rigby and Ferenc Fehér (eds.), Political Legitimation in Communist States (London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1982), pp. 45–63.

83 Claus Offe, ‘Designing Institutions for East European Transitions’, in Jerzy Hausner, Bob Jessop, and Klaus Nielsen (eds.), Strategic Choice and Path Dependency in Post-Socialism: Institutional Dynamics in the Transformation Process (Aldershot: Edward Elgar, 1995), pp. 47–65.

84 Ibid., p. 48.

85 Even if in the majority of East–Central European states the demise of communism was equated with the ‘restoration of normality’, which entailed the re-legitimisation of non-communist statehood traditions, the wholesale restoration of the pre-communist constitutional order proved impossible and/or undesirable. Apart from Latvia, which essentially restored its 1922 constitution, the ‘restorative revolution’ was confined to the symbolic sphere. It was most fully reflected in changes to the names of the state and institutions, symbols, state holidays and celebrations, rewriting of history, etc.

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