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The Moulding of Ukraine

Kataryna Wolczuk

Chapter five. How to organise the state? Constitutional debates after the 1994 elections

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1The passage to independence in 1991 was not accompanied by an underlying consensus on what kind of state Ukraine should become, nor in what ways it should draw from the Ukrainian pre-communist and Soviet traditions, as well as foreign constitutional models. As had been only too evident in 1991, the members of the ex-nomenklatura, who remained in charge of the state, lacked a vision and commitment to embark on key constitutional reforms. Prior to and following the independence, the former opposition, the national-democrats, were not only too weak numerically, to push the process forward single-handedly, but also were afraid of ‘rocking the boat’ for their former adversaries, who called for unity in the interest of state building. The fear was that political confrontation in Ukraine would have created shockwaves, which the new state could not absorb. The orchestrated public appearance of unity, despite the ongoing conflict over the institutional division of power, was to cover up the fundamental disagreement over the meaning of independence. Yet a declarative affirmation of support for independence could not camouflage the fragility stemming from the profound ideological cleavages; during the 1994 elections signs of disunity could not be suppressed any longer. Constitutional debates, which resumed after the elections, soon illuminated the full scale of fundamental divisions running through the Ukrainian polity.

2The parliamentary and presidential elections did not deliver a configuration of political forces conducive to a fast constitutional reform. Firstly, due to an ill-designed electoral law, a large contingent of independent deputies with nebulous ideological inclinations got elected to a new legislature. Secondly, with the left-wing orientation enjoying a new lease of life, two hostile ideological blocs emerged in parliament: the national-democrats and the Left. Thirdly, due to the failure of the liberal, centrist forces, the newly elected president lacked a stable power base in parliament, and his platform put him at odds both with the Left and the Right. The scene after the elections revealed the profound gulf between the actors’ views on the optimal way to organise the Ukrainian state, which stemmed from their radically different interpretations of Ukrainian history and disagreement on the priorities of the new state, as well as diverse interests. And yet it was this parliament and presidency, which embarked on the constitutional reform, that would determine the blueprint of Ukrainian statehood. The fact that the constitution necessitated the simultaneous resolution of numerous issues pertaining to the shape of the state forced actors to prioritise some issues over others. This paved the way to an unlikely alliance between the president and the national-democrats, which not only allowed the constitution to be passed but also grossly affected the outcome, that is the conception of statehood elaborated in the new constitution (see chapter 7).

3The aim of this chapter is twofold. First of all, to briefly discuss the results of the 1994 elections and the organisational and ideological profiles of the political actors after the elections. Secondly, to analyse the debates on the model of Ukrainian statehood amongst the new actors. The three clusters of issues are examined in detail: firstly, the form of government, that is the institutions and rules governing the relations between the legislature and the executive branch; secondly, the territorial distribution of power between the centre and the regions, which is usually framed in terms of federal, de-centralised and centralised unitary models of the state; and thirdly, defining the nature and attributes of the ‘political community’. The chapter unveils a complex matrix of preferences that were intensely contested in the process of constitution drafting, which will be discussed in chapter 6.



  • 1 Out of 174 deputies who stood for re-election, only 49 won seats in the new parliament. Moreover, (...)
  • 2 Sarah Birch, ‘Nomenklatura Democratization: Electoral Clientelism in Post-Soviet Ukraine’, Democra (...)

4The parliamentary elections held in spring 1994 failed both to return the incumbents, and to clarify the balance of power in parliament.1 This outcome was, to a large extent, put down to the ill-devised, majoritarian electoral law. The law was not only biased against nascent political parties, it also made it difficult to elect deputies at all, because of high requirements for turnout and voting threshold. The law favoured workers’ collectives or groups of voters in nominating candidates while political parties faced much higher legal hurdles. The law also stipulated that a candidate in order to be elected had to obtain over 50 percent of votes cast, at the same time at least 50 percent of registered voters had to participate in the elections (otherwise the elections were declared invalid); this meant that a successful candidate had to obtain at least 25 percent of votes of the total number of citizens eligible to vote. If there was no candidate who fulfilled these stringent requirements, then the two highest candidates had to go to the second round, and again had to obtain the absolute majority of votes cast. Such an electoral system favoured parties with good organisation at the local level and/or well-known figures that could easily mobilise support at the local level.2

Table 5.1. Party Membership in Parliament (March/April 1994)

Table 5.1. Party Membership in Parliament (March/April 1994)

5Source: Verkhovna Rada Ukrainy: paradygmy i paradoksy, Ukrainska Perspektyva, 1995.

6Overall, the newly elected parliament was dominated by the leftwing parties and independent deputies (Table 5.1). The Left consisted of the re-registered Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU), the moderate Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU), and the Peasant Party of Ukraine (SelPU). The rejuvenated Communist Party, only six months after registration, emerged as the biggest party with 86 seats, and together with the socialists and peasants, the Left won 147 seats (43 percent). The leftist parties, consisting mainly of the lower echelons of the Soviet-era CPU, took advantage of their high degree of organisation and control inherited from the Soviet era in Eastern and Southern Ukraine (CPU) and Central Ukraine (SelPU). The CPU performed particularly well in heavily populated Donbas. While the leftist parties dominated small towns and rural areas of Central, Eastern and Southern Ukraine, in Donbas the CPU dominated both rural areas and large urban centres. Due to the mechanics of procedure, the left wing obtained one third of the seats, despite the fact that it won only one fifth of the actual votes.

  • 3 The radical right, which was not united in any formal electoral bloc, was represented by parties s (...)
  • 4 In Eastern and Southern Ukraine the national-democrats received on average 30 percent of the votes (...)

7Prior to the elections, the moderate nationalist parties and civic associations consolidated into the Democratic Coalition of Ukraine, in which Rukh and CNDF put aside the differences which split them under Kravchuk. Despite this alliance, the national-democratic parties gained only about one fifth of all seats. If some of the independents with national- democratic inclinations and the radical right-wing deputies are included, the right-wing bloc accounted for 27.2 percent of deputies in April 1994.3 Its share of seats in parliament remained almost identical to that of the 1990 elections. The elections confirmed that their geographical base was limited to Ukrainian-speaking Western Ukraine and urban centres in Central Ukraine (mainly Kyiv).4

  • 5 However, the ‘liberal bloc’ was most of all devised as an electoral machine, and, as such, represe (...)
  • 6 Other centrist parties, such as the Labour Party, which was pro-Russian, favoured federalisation a (...)

8However, the biggest loser in the elections was the fledging liberal centre, which was almost squeezed out of the contest. The centre-liberal orientation was represented by the political alliance ‘New Ukraine’ with the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Ukraine, which formed the Inter-Regional Bloc of Reform in January 1994,5 co-led by Leonid Kuchma and Volodymyr Hryniov. The IRBR represented liberals from urban centres in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, and aimed to target the non-communist electorate in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, as it was both pro-reform and opposed to the anti-Russian foreign policy orientation of Kravchuk and the national-democrats. They also favoured federalism and linguistic autonomy for Russophone regions in Ukraine (see below). The Inter-Regional Bloc for Reform won only 6 seats, and together with other sympathising deputies, claimed 27 seats (6 percent) in the new parliament.6

9There was a significant overlap between the centre and the national-democrats. Regarding the economic crisis the ‘restorationists’ (the Left) viewed the economic reforms as source of crisis, and advocated reverting to a centrally administered economy and economic integration with Russia/CIS. In contrast, the ‘reformers’—the liberals and the national-democrats— saw the lack of reforms at the root of the economic crisis. However, there was a deep split among ‘reformers’, as the Eastern Ukrainian liberals advocated closer integration with Russia as a strategy to overcome the crisis. This strategy evoked insurmountable opposition from the national-democrats, who feared a reintegration of Ukraine into the ‘Eurasian’ as opposed to ‘European space’. Although both liberals and national-democrats took a pro-reform and anti-Communist stance, pro-Russian tendencies among the IRBR leadership sparked a deep mistrust of them by the national-democrats, which continued throughout constitution making.

  • 7 Sarah Birch, ‘Electoral Systems, Campaign Strategies, and Vote Choice in the Ukrainian Parliamenta (...)

10The independent candidates won over half of all seats. Many of them could be categorised as members of ‘the party of power’, the group of non-affiliated high- and middle-rank state officials, who relinquished their Communist Party cards in 1991, yet refrained from joining other political parties. While they had no single platform and strategy, they were characterised by their entrenchment in the state structures either at the local or central level, something that facilitated their election, as they developed clientalistic relations with the electorate. The single-member majoritarian electoral system put a premium on the constituency level and allowed the former nomenklatura to obtain a mandate by using informal networks at the local level.7 They were strongest in Central Ukraine, especially in rural districts. However, not all of the independent candidates who got elected were without party affiliation; some of them stood as independents only because of the law biased against political parties (see Table 5.1). Nevertheless, the majoritarian electoral system was used by the state apparatchiks to obtain parliamentary mandates rather than boost the standing of political parties. Out of 405 deputies over half of the seats went to central and local government officials, directors of state enterprises and collective farm chairmen.

11The structuralisation of parliament into groups and factions took place within a short space of time, even if some groups were ephemeral creations with no clearly defined social constituency. In principle, the parliament comprised three political blocs: Left, Right and the centre (Table 5.2). Yet only the factions on the left and the right, which were created on the basis of political parties, had a more or less clearly identifiable ideological orientation.

12On the right part of the political spectrum, the faction of Rukh and Statehood (Derzhavnist) formed on the basis of the People’s Movement of Ukraine (Rukh) and the Ukrainian Republican Party, respectively. The factions shared the main planks of their ideological orientation and closely co-ordinated their strategies. They were assisted by Reformy (Reforms), the faction that originated from the New Wave (Nova Khvylia) consisting of the younger generation of liberally minded politicians from Western Ukraine. The faction was joined by (mainly Ukrainophone) liberals from other regions of Ukraine and thus became the only faction in the new Supreme Council that drew its members from the majority of oblasts (the rest of the factions had a pronounced regional bias). Despite lacking a party basis, Reformy developed a consistently pro-reform line especially on economic issues, while on the ‘national question’ it tended to side with the national-democrats, though somewhat less consistently. Despite having a considerable intellectual capacity, the faction Reformy remained a loose grouping centred around several prominent personalities to the extent that it was referred to as a ‘group of stars’.

Table 5.2. A Breakdown of the Ukrainian Parliament (December 1994 and May 1995)

Table 5.2. A Breakdown of the Ukrainian Parliament (December 1994 and May 1995)

13Source: ‘Verkhovna Rada Ukrainy: paradygmy i paradoksy’, Ukrainsky Perspektyva, Nos. 1 and 2, Kyiv, 1994).

  • 8 For example, the bloc ‘Soiuz’ aimed to re-create the Union of the former Soviet republics. It was (...)

14The Left comprised three factions—Communist (CPU), Socialist (SPU) and Peasant (SelPU)—which were formed on the party principle, although in the case of the Socialist faction, the communists helped by ‘lending’ it several deputies, as the Socialist Party with only 14 seats could not form a faction on its own (the minimum was 17). However, despite being the biggest and best-organised parliamentary bloc, the Left was at odds with the former communists, who by then entrenched themselves in central and regional administration and eschewed political party affiliations. The election results cemented the split between the left-wing parties and the remnants of the nomenklatura’s ‘group of 239’. The latter representatives united in parliamentary groups such as Yednist (Unity), which represented the Dnipropetrovsk oblast, and Tsentr (Centre), which consisted of apparatchiks from central state structures. The group Nezalezhni (Independents) attracted a heterogeneous mass of deputies under the leadership of the former chairman of the Ukrainian National Bank, Vadym Hetman. The Inter-Regional Group of Deputies (MDG) emerged from the defeated centrist-liberal, Russophone Interregional Block for Reforms (IRBR) and contained the large contingent of Crimean deputies. Later, in June 1995 another faction, the ‘Social-Market Choice’ (Sotsialno-Rynkovyi Vybir), was created by taking away deputies from the MDG, Yednist, and the Independents; it mainly consisted of deputies from Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk oblasts. There were also other ad hoc groupings, which cut across formal factions and groups.8 Some deputies eschewed faction membership altogether.

15In terms of party affiliations, the new Ukrainian parliament emerged polarised along party lines with better-articulated groupings at opposite ends of the political spectrum, yet with the overall balance, at least initially, favouring the communists and their allies, the socialists and the peasants (see Table 5.1). They represented a considerable force due to their disciplined internal decision making and unanimous voting in comparison to other factions (except Derzhavnist’ and Rukh).

16Even if the elections marked its grand comeback, the Left fell short of getting a majority in the legislature. The centrist deputies, the ideological preferences of a large section of which remained nebulous, held the balance. But as the ‘centre’ was merely a label for the space between the Right and the Left, rather than advocating any clear and coherent political option, the balance of power in parliament proved prone to unexpected shifting. The centrist deputies effectively sided with the party based factions (such as the Communists or Rukh) depending on the issue under consideration [such vacillation earned them the nickname boloto (swamp)]. The weakness of centrist, liberal parties was to leave the newly elected president with no power base in parliament. This weakness provides clues as to the shifts in Kuchma’s preferences and strategies soon after the elections. At the same time, the presence of a large contingent of state officials, who were soon to become dependent for their posts on the president had a important impact on the balance of power within the Supreme Council and its relations with the executive branch during constitution making (see chapter 6).


  • 9 Candidates could be nominated by political parties or blocs, which had to have a minimum of 1,000 (...)

17The undetermined balance of power in parliament raised the stakes of the presidential elections. Apart from Kravchuk, several candidates were registered, including the leader of the Socialist Party of Ukraine, Oleksandr Moroz, the former prime minister and co-chairman of Interregional Bloc of Reforms, Leonid Kuchma, and Leonid Pliushch, the former chairman of the Supreme Council, who was of similar background to Kravchuk, though of a more nationalist provenience.9

18The incumbent Kravchuk was the main candidate supported by the state-controlled media. His program on socio-economic issues advocated a gradual transition to a market economy. However, above all he kept emphasising Ukrainian independence and criticised Kuchma for his ‘Russophile’ tendencies and willingness to convert Ukraine into a neocolonial state within the Russian domain, something which, Kravchuk warned, would lead to a civil war in Ukraine. Kravchuk portrayed the choices Ukraine faced in terms of survival of the polity, and thus stressed the need for peace and harmony in order to save the state. Indeed, the salience of the ‘Russian question’—both in terms of linguistic policies and foreign policy orientation—turned the elections into a second referendum on independence.

  • 10 Vybory v Ukraini (Elections in Ukraine), (Kyiv, International Foundation for Electoral Systems, 19 (...)

19Kravchuk’s main competitor was the former prime minister, Leonid Kuchma, one of the leaders of the centre-liberal Russophone Interregional Bloc for Reforms (IRBR). While serving as prime minister, Kuchma became a well-known politician and by spring 1993 in public opinion surveys Kuchma’s popularity began to reach that of Kravchuk. Although the latter continued to be viewed as the most authoritative figure in the country since independence, the regional distribution of support for Kravchuk became increasingly distorted: his popularity was highest in western and lowest in eastern oblasts. The support for Kuchma was more evenly spread around the country, and, taking into account the distribution of population in Ukraine, where clearly Eastern Ukraine sets the tone of the elections (the population of the Donetsk oblast alone was bigger than that of the three Galician oblasts together), it was a decisive factor in Kuchma’s victory in the election. Overall, during the campaign, despite limited access to the state-controlled media, Kuchma portrayed himself as an efficient and decisive administrator, who, once in charge of the executive structures of the state, would be capable of leading the country out of its crisis. Kuchma convincingly blamed Kravchuk for hindering his economic policies when he was a prime minister. Kuchma rejected the full-of-pathos Derzhavnist’ (statehood) rhetoric of Kravchuk and claimed to be a pragmatist who believed that the economy should take precedence over politics. Economic reform depended on political reform, which would bring about the separation of powers with ‘a strong executive branch based on the principle of competency, order and responsibility’.10 Devolution of power to the regions, especially greater financial autonomy, was the key to economic recovery. In contrast to the co-chairman of the IRBR, Volodymyr Hryniov, Kuchma stopped short of advocating federalism. But like the IBRB, he argued that the best economic strategy for Ukraine was to become ‘a leader of an Eurasian region’. In the campaign Kuchma argued that during the ‘controlled transformation’ of the administrative economy toward the socially oriented market economy (including demonopolisation, liberalisation and privatisation), Ukraine should aim to renew economic ties with Russia and the former Soviet Union as well as enter into the CIS Economic Union. Furthermore, he emphasised populist ‘law and order’ issues, as well as the upgrading of the Russian language to ‘official status’ alongside Ukrainian. Incidentally Kravchuk also advocated the upgrade in the final stages of the electoral campaign, but belatedly and less convincingly.

20Overall, in order to appeal to the widest sections of the electorate, Kuchma somewhat played down the issue of economic reform, while simultaneously proclaiming the need to end the economic drift and isolationism through re-establishing closer ties with Russia. He positioned himself to capture the Russophone electorate, that is the voters outside Western Ukraine, who favoured economic recovery via strengthening links with Russia, and were not preoccupied by threats to sovereignty, something which troubled the Western Ukrainian electorate.

21In the first round Kravchuk won over Kuchma (38 to 31 percent). However, due to the re-alignment of votes, in the ‘run-off’ second round Kuchma won with 52 percent. Despite the fact that the nationaldemocratic opposition reluctantly supported Kravchuk in the second round as ‘the lesser evil’, the alienation of the electorate from Kravchuk’s ‘nationalist platform’ in the densely populated Southern and Eastern Ukraine turned out to be decisive. The distribution of votes clearly split the country into two, as the majority of population in all but one oblasts east of the Dnieper voted for Kuchma (Table 5.3). The elections reflected the deeply ingrained cleavages rooted in different political histories of the regions in Ukraine. While these cleavages were not so evident during the referendum in 1991, when the idea of independence, albeit for different reasons, was supported more evenly across Ukraine, the two disillusioning years of Ukrainian independence made them more apparent. These divisions were readily exploited by the presidential candidates. For example, in the electoral campaign Kuchma capitalised on the resentment over the influence of Western Ukrainian elites on Kyiv’s policies and called for an end to the ‘reign of Galician nationalism’. This rhetoric put Kuchma on a collision course with the national-democrats during and immediately after the elections. However, while Kuchma’s strategy of targeting the densely populated Russophone regions of Ukraine proved the key to success, the pronounced regional distribution of votes implied that the new president had to accommodate Ukraine’s heterogeneity in his policies and bridge the gap between the East and West.

Table 5.3. Results of the Second Round of the Presidential Elections (10 July 1994)

Table 5.3. Results of the Second Round of the Presidential Elections (10 July 1994)

22Source: Vybory v Ukraini (Kyiv, International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Kyiv, 1994).


23The end of the electoral campaign and the swearing in of the new parliament and president immediately reintroduced the issue of the new constitution. As was argued in chapter 4, between 1992–1994 constitutional reform was animated by the interests of the key institution holders, namely the president, prime minister and chairman of the Supreme Council. This amounted to a permanent ‘war at the top’, as the key actors could not secure the lasting support of an unstructured and volatile parliament. By the time the new representative institutions were elected, their respective spheres of authority were overlapping, and rules defining their interactions were profoundly confused. The confusion extended to the regional and local level. In June 1994, the local councils and their heads were elected in accordance with the February 1994 ‘Law on the Election of People’s Deputies’. Being in charge both of the local councils and their executive committees, the heads of councils encompassed two branches of power. In effect, 24 oblast governors and 2 mayors of Kyiv and Sevastopol acquired unconstrained executive power over their mandate territory (in accordance with the principle of the Soviet system that a higher level council could decide on any issue of the lower level council). Yet, it was unclear to whom they were accountable. The juxtaposition of the elements of the system of soviets with presidentialism meant that regional leaders could decide on their own allegiance: either to the president, the prime minister or the chairman of the parliament.

  • 11 Donbas (the region of Ukraine, which consists of two oblasts, Donetsk and Luhansk, in the Donbas b (...)
  • 12 Transcarpathia was incorporated into Ukraine in 1945 (it belonged to Hungary until 1918, and Czech (...)

24Moreover, the elections coincided with the intensification of centrifugal tendencies in regions such as Donbas. The first two years of Ukrainian independence proved disillusioning, as they failed to deliver on the pre-independence promises of the four D’s: Democracy, Dostatok (Prosperity), Dukhovnis’t (Spirituality) and Doviria (Trust). In particular, the impact of hyperinflation on people’s standards meant that the unfulfilled promise of prosperity had a galvanising effect on the Eastern and Southern Ukraine, which felt duped by the tandem of Kravchuk and ‘nationalist’ Western Ukrainians. The regional elites hoped that Ukraine’s independence would bring about greater autonomy for the regions. In reality, independence did not bring the end of the dictate of the ‘centre’ but boiled down to a mere geographical shift of ‘centre’, as Kyiv took over the role of Moscow with its powerful drive to control the periphery. As a result, regionalisation intensified in the run up to the elections with strengthened calls for devolution of power to the regions. In Donbas, a local referendum, which was held simultaneously with the parliamentary elections of 1994, teased out public opinion on a number of questions, including public support for federalism and Russian as the official language in the two oblasts.11 Transcarpathia also continued to call for greater autonomy.12 These tendencies put under strain the unitary model of state that Ukraine inherited from the UkrSSR, and raised the question of the territorial distribution of power.

25In a similar vein, the elections marked an end of the placid acceptance of the notion of nationhood as defined by Kravchuk and the Western Ukrainian elites, who took charge of the cultural, educational and language policies within government between 1992–1994. The high profile of the ‘Russian question’ (the status of the Russian minority and language in Ukraine, and Ukraine’s relations with Russia) during the electoral campaign indicated that the very notion of political community, national identity and geopolitical orientation was open to contestation. After two years of independence, the appearance of unity, which Kravchuk so keenly crafted, was all but gone and the divisive issues had to be tackled head on.

26Even if the 1994 elections failed to deliver a structured parliament, they nevertheless highlighted two clearly identifiable orientations: the Left and the Right. In the context of the historical political cleavages, the protracted consolidation of the party system in post-Soviet Ukraine resulted in the partial crystallisation of the ideological spectrum at its opposing ends in 1994. Both the left- and right-wing factions were characterised by deep ideological commitments (perhaps with the exception of the more pragmatically disposed leftist agrarian lobby), and adhered to rigid and incompatible conceptions of statehood. However, apart from parliamentary blocs, the political scene also consisted of the presidency as a powerful institutional actor. Even if his electoral programme remained eclectic and nebulous, the president soon demonstrated a strong set of preferences.

27As Ukraine had to reanimate the lapsed constitutional process, the breadth and diversity of views signalled that constitution drafting would perhaps become even more difficult in the presence of the consolidated Left and Right than it was under Kravchuk. Thus, the remaining part of this chapter will examine ‘the bones of contention’—the issues that awaited resolution in the Fundamental Law—through the prism of actors’ preferences. The chapter does not aim to examine the ideologies of the actors involved in terms of their morphological structure (completeness and coherence), origins or evolution. Instead, it will analyse the preferences on the main planks of statehood demonstrated by the key group and institutional actors involved in the constitution making after the 1994 elections, even if their preferences had only vague resemblance to any recognisable ideologies and/or were rooted in narrowly-defined (institutional, group or individual) interests. The chapter also aims to highlight the nature and scope of debates. While some issues were discussed at great length, other issues were barely touched upon. Thus, the chapter highlights the patchwork of preferences woven out of ideas and interests, which served as building blocks in the process of creating a constitutional blueprint of the Ukrainian state. Three clusters of issues will be focused on: the form of government (institutions at the centre), the territorial distribution of power and the definition of the political community and its attributes.



  • 13 Author’s interview with Volodymyr Moiseienko, Kyiv, a member of the Communist faction, Kyiv, Novem (...)

28In terms of the institutional framework of the state, the rejuvenated leftist bloc in the new parliament upheld the traditional Soviet-era motto of ‘all power to the soviets’ and aimed to reincarnate the Soviet system of narodovladia embedded in a hierarchy of people’s soviets (radas). The communists fervently advocated a classic Soviet model, according to which radas combined the functions of state power and local self-government, with the Supreme Council at the pinnacle of the institutional framework. As a member of the Communist faction blatantly declared: ‘we will not vote for a constitution that does not have a system of soviets. It is against our understanding of narodovladia’.13 According to the model, the Supreme Council exercises and/or delegates executive functions, appoints and oversees the judicial apparatus. As the chairman and the Presidium of the Supreme Council performed representative functions of head of state, there was no need for a president. Neither was the Constitutional Court necessary, as the Supreme Council had the exclusive right to interpret the constitution. The communists were only too happy to abolish the institution of the presidency altogether, not only because it did not fit with their notion of narodovladia, but also because they held it responsible for the demise of the USSR under the leadership of the ‘traitor nationalist Kravchuk’. Claiming that in 1991 the presidency was introduced as a temporary institution, they believed in the redundancy of the institution of the presidency in Ukraine. However, as a compromise they would allow a temporary extension of the institution in a circumscribed form, that is reduced to purely symbolic and ceremonial functions.

29While stressing the unity of power as a key principle for the institutional framework of the state, the Left condemned a blind faith in the principle of the separation of powers. They criticised the consecutive drafts during 1995–1996 (see next chapter) for misunderstanding the essence of the separation of powers and taking it too literally:

  • 14 Kommunist, No. 49, December 1995, p. 4.

As a matter of fact, reference to this principle [in the draft], which is apparently the most fully implemented in the Constitution of the USA, is speculation. In the USA the separation of powers has for a long time been transformed into a system of ‘checks and balances’, the division of powers and functions in the exercising of united state authority (yedynoi vlady). The majority of prerogatives of state bodies in the USA are shared. Their carefully designed system of ‘checks and balances’, [and] well worked-out procedures secure the efficient functioning of the state mechanism, the balanced relations, despite unavoidable differences, and the business-like co-operation of the branches of power.14

30In other words, the communists argued that the separation of powers was a lofty principle, and that even in the USA the unity of state power took priority over the separation.

31Alongside the people’s councils, instruments of direct democracy— most of all referenda and an imperative mandate—formed the cornerstone of the Soviet system of narodovladia. According to the communists, the people were to have the right to referenda on the most important and controversial issues: the name of the state, national symbols, form of government, socio-economic system of the state, changes to the territorial structure of Ukraine, and political unions with other states. Narodovladia would only be complete with the right of people’s initiative to submit draft laws in parliament as well as to initiate the pre-term recalling of the mandate of the president and parliament. Moreover, because no single party had a majority in parliament, it was argued that the decision on key constitutional principles should be decided in the referendum, something which would allow the eliciting of the people’s vision of the Ukrainian state before the final Basic Law of Ukraine was drafted. The Left stressed the binding nature of the 1990 Declaration of Sovereignty, which adhered to the system of soviets, and the 1991 Concept of the Constitution of Ukraine, which envisaged a referendum on the constitutional principles.

  • 15 Ivan Chyzh, the leader of the Socialist faction in parliament linked the traditions of the SPU to (...)

32However, while the communists preferred a form of government which closely resembled the 1978 constitution, the socialists and peasants were open to ‘revisionism’ by accepting—what they perceived as—a modified version of the system of soviets which oscillated towards a Western parliamentary system with an indirectly elected, ceremonial presidency and the prime minister subordinated to the parliament. As such, they accepted functional (as opposed to institutional) separation of powers as a blueprint of the new system. In that respect, the socialists’ stance reflected their hesitant evolution to Western-type of social democracy.15 This readiness to embrace elements of a Western parliamentary system distinguished them from the communists, and made them more amenable to co-operation with the centrist factions, which generally favoured a system centred on a strong parliament (see below). However, having to choose between some kind of (semi-)presidential system—as advocated by the president and the national-democrats—or the classic Soviet model, the socialists and peasants fell back on the latter as it was much closer to their understanding of ‘people’s rule’.

33Overall, the Left preferred the system of soviets as the form of government for independent Ukraine, but the possibility of compromise on Western parliamentarism was contemplated by the more moderate socialists and peasants. As was argued in chapter 2, these two institutional models, despite apparent similarities, are essentially incompatible, and the difficulties in marrying them were never fully acknowledged nor resolved. Insofar as the left-wing factions were concerned, both of them would secure the supremacy of parliament in the institutional edifice of the state.


34While the Left advocated a relatively clearly defined model—the system of soviets, the national-democrats’ views on the form of government were marked, most of all, by a deep abhorrence of the system of soviets, rather than a clearly formulated alternative. In essence, their preferences on the form of government were shaped by the political circumstances and the imperatives of state building. Thus they did not advocate the restoration or transplants of any form of government, whether derived from Ukraine’s past or existing elsewhere, despite their insistence on the symbolic continuity of post-1991 Ukraine with the Ukrainian People’s Republic of 1917–1920, and Ukraine’s European identity.

35In 1992, Rukh’s programme document ‘Conception of State Building in Ukraine’ advocated an essentially parliamentary system with the president performing the role of the head of state on grounds of historical legitimacy:

  • 16Kontseptsia derzhavotvorenia v Ukraini (The Conception of State Building)’ (2–4 December 1992). T (...)

The form of government that in terms of [Ukraine’s] historical traditions, theoretical thoughts on statehood at the beginning of the twentieth century, and the psychological traits of the Ukrainian nation is most appropriate is that of a parliamentary- presidential republic with the head of state, who is not the chief executive. Historically, this is confirmed by the forms of governments utilised in the Cossack Republic and the Ukrainian People’s Republic.16

  • 17 Giovanni Sartori, ‘Neither Presidentialism nor Parliamentarism’, in J. J. Linz and A. Valenzuela ( (...)

36However, by 1994 parliamentarism was deemed unsuitable for Ukraine for a number of reasons. Firstly, as Sartori pointed out ‘parliamentary democracy cannot perform (in any of its varieties) unless it is served by parliamentary fit parties, that is to say, parties that have been socialised (by failure, duration, and appropriate incentives) into being relatively cohesive or disciplined, into behaving, in opposition, as responsible opposition, and into playing, to some extent, a rule-guided fair game’.17 It was evident that those pillars of parliamentarism were not present in Ukraine, especially as the 1994 electoral law was designed to discriminate against political parties. Secondly, the largest political party by 1994, the Communist Party of Ukraine, could not be even trusted to guard Ukraine’s independence. The national-democrats feared that parliamentarism would favour the ‘anti-state’ Left and facilitate an alliance of the left-wing parties in parliament with the regional elites in Eastern and Southern Ukraine on the issue of a pro-Russian foreign policy orientation and state language. Thirdly, the national-democrats’ growing aversion to parliamentarism stemmed from its connotations with the system of soviets (or ‘Soviet parliamentarism’ as the socialists referred to it) that was so advocated by the Left. The national-democrats feared that had they supported the parliamentary form of government (regardless of the lack of the functioning party system), this would simply result in leaving the system of soviets intact. And Ukraine would be stuck with the infamous Soviet ‘cousin’ of European parliamentarism, which would confine Ukraine to a bygone era and undermine its European credentials.

  • 18 See M. J. C. Vile, Constitutionalism and the Separation of Powers. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967) (...)

37In contrast to the Left, for the national-democrats the principle of separation of powers epitomised the ‘civilised’ and democratic form of government. However, while they religiously embraced the principle as an antidote to the system of soviets, the concept itself did not provide any clear-cut guidelines on institutional designs, and came to be associated with diverse forms of government (see chapter 1).18 The domestic predicament forced the national-democrats to carefully choose amongst the various models prevailing in the West; no wholesale foreign transplant commanded their favour. Instead they argued that the principle of the separation of powers would be best adapted to the Ukrainian conditions in a presidential system, which denoted a division of powers between the legislature and a directly elected, executive presidency modelled on the American system (but without bi-cameralism and federalism). The executive presidency, which headed the government, was perceived as having the potential not only to counterbalance the Left’s continuous harking back to the past and obstruction of reform in parliament, but also to circumvent centrifugal forces through the vertical chain of the presidential representatives. Thus, the national-democrats pinned their hopes for the successful consolidation of the state on decisive leadership, something which, by 1994 they came to believe only an executive presidency could offer. However, the degree of support for a strong presidency was uneven across the right-centre political spectrum. Believing that the presidency had a prominent role to play, even if it smacked of a ‘strong hand’ approach, some national-democrats, i.e. the faction Derzhavnist, advocated a pure presidential system. The faction ‘Reforms’, in turn, while agreeing that the Verkhovna Rada could not propel economic reforms, still favoured the power-sharing system based on the balance between the legislature and strong yet not omnipotent presidency. However relying on the reformist zeal and patriotic feelings of future presidents, some national-democrats were not ready to place the fate of the country in one person’s hands, and argued that the actual power-sharing arrangement between the parliament, president and prime minister had to be crafted carefully.

38Nevertheless, overall the national-democrats were willing to support a stronger presidency for the sake of reform of the Soviet state structure (especially at the regional level which in Eastern Ukraine became a locus for entrenchment of reactionary pro-Soviet and anti-reform forces) as long as the bulk of the leftist bloc in parliament opposed political and economic reforms.

39The legislature had to have sufficient power to counterbalance the authoritarian leanings of the president. But the national-democrats were divided on the issue of bi-cameralism, which was advocated by Kuchma (see below). In principle, they would welcome the additional ‘checks and balances’ that the upper chamber (Senat) could offer against the leftist forces, which dominated the lower chamber. The creation of the upper chamber would also be a radical departure from the uni-cameral Supreme Council. However, they feared that taking into account the need to speed up the legislative process, the upper chamber would make the legislative process even more cumbersome. In other words, the problems of the protracted legislative process resulting from the inexperience and lack of professionalism in the lower chamber would be exacerbated rather than eased by the introduction of the upper chamber. And because of the fear of federalisation by the ‘back door’, they only supported the idea of bi-cameralism if the upper chamber consisted of an equal number of senators from each oblast, rather than in proportion to the size of oblast population (something which was, in turn, rejected by regional leaders from Eastern and Southern Ukraine).

40The arguments in favour of a strong, uni-cameral parliament appealed in particular to the centrist factions. Even if they accepted the need for an executive presidency and broadly accepted the separation of powers as the underlying principle for institutional reform, the centrists’ preferences for a more parliament-centred form of government stemmed from their immediate circumstances—mainly their concern over their parliamentary mandates. Even if many of them simultaneously held parallel posts in the state administration, the Supreme Council remained a valued ‘safe heaven’ for them, because of the parliamentary immunity membership conferred. They feared that the fate of parliament would be sealed through the gradual emasculation of parliamentary powers by a president. Thus, they fiercely opposed both the creation of bi-cameral legislature and the right of president to dissolve parliament. They viewed the extensive ‘checks and balances’ between the president, prime minister and parliament as the guarantee of the viability of parliament.


41Unlike the national-democrats, the newly elected president Kuchma held clear-cut views on the preferred form of government, in which the most potent institution was to be the presidency. For Kuchma all Ukraine’s economic evils stemmed from half-hearted political reform:

  • 19 Kuchma’s speech was published in Uriadovyi Kurier, 24 December 1994, pp. 1–3.

An analysis of the situation in Ukraine leads to the conclusions that the degradation of the economy is not due to purely economic factors. The imperfect organisation of state power, the unfinished separation of powers … are two of the main obstacles in the way to economic stabilisation.19

  • 20 Holos Ukrainy, 24 December 1994, p. 3.

42Thus, Kuchma advocated doing away with the collective responsibility of local soviets and their subordination to the Supreme Council, and proposed their replacement with a strong executive chain of command in order—as he argued—to overcome political resistance to the reform of the regional level. The aim of the constitutional reforms was, firstly, to concentrate decision making power in the executive branch, secondly, to introduce a rigid subordination of executive structures to the president, and, thirdly, to clearly delineate the legislature’s functions to prevent it from interfering with the work of the executive. Kuchma blamed the lack of economic reform on the fact that ‘the Supreme Council as a rule attempts to influence directly executive activities [and] takes decisions in matters which do not belong to its competencies’, because ‘the Supreme Council cannot get rid of the syndrome of direct control over the government’.20 Also law making was not to remain the exclusive prerogative of the Supreme Council:

  • 21 Artur Bilous et al., Proiekt konstytutsii Ukrainy: stan, problemy, perspektyvy (The Draft Constitu (...)

Because of the slow legislative process and natural propensity of the legislature to be dominated by politico-ideological emotions, which are detrimental to the legislative work, especially when many questions (in the economic sphere) need urgent legislative decisions, it would be advisable to give the cabinet of ministers the right to issue normative acts with the power of law.21

  • 22 Ibid.

43To justify the creation of a strong presidency, historical tradition, spanning from Kyiv Rus’ to UkrSSR, was invoked by the presidential entourage: ‘we have to use world experience but let us not forget our own traditions. In the historical traditions of our land, [there is] single head of the executive branch, head of state: Prince (kniaz’), Hetman, Tsar and General Secretary (sic). Thus, there is no need to re-invent the wheel’.22

  • 23 Later, the president conceded to the formation of a Senate in direct elections. However, the main (...)

44President Kuchma strongly favoured the creation of the upper chamber, the Senate, which would be elected in indirect elections and granted extensive appointive powers (to be shared with the presidency). The indirect mode of elections would provide the president with an instrument to control the composition of the upper chamber, as the president would have the upper hand in the appointment of regional representatives.23 Such a pro-presidential Senate would not only provide a counterbalance for the left-leaning lower chamber, but would also weaken the autonomy of the legislature vis-à-vis the executive branch.

45Kuchma’s preferences regarding political reforms stemmed from his normative conception of efficient government, which was shaped by his previous managerial and, especially, prime ministerial experience. Kuchma repeatedly and persistently argued that the government could only do its job effectively when it was free from intrusion by parliament. Because the volatile majority in parliament could not sustain a coherent policy line, the position of the Supreme Council as the supreme authority of the state hampered the reform process. The parliament’s powers were to be circumscribed and the presidency was to remedy the paralysis of the governing structures in Ukraine. According to Kuchma’s argument, being directly elected, the presidency combined the popular legitimacy enjoyed by parliament with effective and steady leadership that the country needed during an acute economic crisis. Thus, while Kuchma enthusiastically embraced the principle of a separation of powers, he interpreted it as the means by which he could limit the powers of parliament over the cabinet of ministers. The executive branch was to be subordinated to the president, with parliament’s powers being essentially nominal. However, unlike Kravchuk, at no point did president Kuchma propose to abolish the post of prime minister and the cabinet of ministers. When during constitution drafting, the national-democrats and some constitutional experts proposed to abolish the post of prime minister and subordinate the cabinet of ministers directly to the president, Kuchma categorically objected. He did not even insist on being named the ‘chief executive’, and was satisfied with the ‘head of state’. This restraint can be explained by the reluctance of the president to take on direct responsibility for the performance of the executive branch, even when ultimately headed by the president, who could unilaterally dismiss the prime minister at any time. The role of the cabinet was to be designed as an intermediate link in the chain of executive authority allowing the prime minister rather than the president to shoulder the direct responsibility for socio-economic policies. As will be demonstrated in chapter 8, the opportunity to use prime ministers as scapegoats indeed proved to be a powerful instrument in the president’s hands. However, the separation of powers, as perceived by Kuchma, was not designed to prevent the president from sharing his law making powers with parliament, as he was to be granted the right to issue decrees (ukazy).

  • 24 The classification of forms of government used in the constitutional debate reflected the specific (...)

46To summarise, the main actors in the constitutional process advocated the following forms of government24:

47However, it should be pointed out that although the above concepts were widely used in the constitutional debate, they served as labels for vaguely defined yet different forms of government in terms of the structure and status of the executive branch. The parliamentary-presidential system was to be centred around parliament rather than the president, although the latter would perform certain executive functions. The presidential-parliamentary system was characterised by the allocation of extensive executive powers to the president, with parliament retaining some control over the cabinet of ministers. With numerous competencies to be allocated and each of them being dealt with separately, the configurations of institutions could be moulded into diverse forms of government. When discussing the institutional framework a whole range of shades of preferences prevailed, which reflected the wide range of details in the institutional configurations to be decided by the constitution makers. The resulting mosaic of preferences lacked clarity and transparency, and led to cumbersome debates on a myriad of institutional powers, rights, competencies, and prerogatives. However, even if the overall matrix of interests and preferences was complex and opaque, the debates symbolised the clash between the incompatible ideals of the Soviet system of narodovladia favoured by the Left and Montesquieu’s classical system of the separation of powers advocated by the centre, the national-democrats and the president. Yet, despite the consensus on the overarching principle of the separation of powers, the anti-left forces disagreed among themselves on the precise delineation of prerogatives between the parliament and the president, especially on the issue of control over the cabinet of ministers.


48The rise of centrifugal forces and the failure of half-hearted institutional reforms under Kravchuk placed the vexed question of the territorial division of power at the top of the constitutional agenda. Thus, the constitution drafters faced the task of defining the up-to-now only broadly understood centre–periphery relations by choosing between the unitary or federal models of the state, determining the position of Crimea, and (in the case the unitary form was chosen) devising the form and competencies of local and regional self-governing bodies.



  • 25 For the arguments supporting federalism in Ukraine see the article by the leader of the Constituti (...)
  • 26 Dominique Arel and Andrew Wilson, ‘The Ukrainian Parliamentary Elections’, RFE/RL Research Report,(...)
  • 27 Volodymyr Hryniov, Nova Ukraina: Yakoiu Ya Yi Bachu (New Ukraine: How I See Her) (Kyiv, 1995), pp. (...)

49In 1990–1991 the idea of the federalisation of Ukraine found a place in the programmes of several smaller parties, such as the Party of Democratic Revival of Ukraine, the Alliance of Social-Democratic Parties of Ukraine, the Liberal-Democratic Party of Ukraine, and the Constitutional- Democratic Party of Ukraine.25 However, while in 1991 the working group of the Constitutional Commission considered proposals to federalise Ukraine by dividing it into historical lands (zemli), it opted for the preservation of the unitary structure of the republic (with the oblast as the main administrative unit). In the voting in the Supreme Council, only 49 deputies voted against the unitary system of state. Prior to the 1994 elections, the pro-federal camp was joined by liberal parties and leaders of eastern Ukrainian origin. Donbas politicians in favour of federalism or greater autonomy included, for example, Zviagilskyi (the deputy prime minister) and Valentyn Landyk, who were close to the Labour Party, (which represented the ‘red directors’ and leaders of the local state structures). These regional parties failed to win more than a few seats in the new 1994 parliament. However, the hopes of the federalists were pinned on a close political ally of the newly elected president Kuchma, Volodymyr Hryniov, who consistently propagated the federal model for Ukraine, and who was ideally placed to encourage the president to adopt this idea. Hryniov argued against the simplistic tendency to view the unitary state as strong and federal state as ‘weak, tending towards disintegration’,26 and propagated the economic benefits of federalism. The economic autonomy of regions would provide incentives for better and more efficient use of the economic potential of Ukraine; it would stimulate bottom-up economic reforms, especially by fostering organic privatisation and entrepreneurship. In the particular case of Ukraine, federalism would counteract large regional disparities and deal with the economic grievances held against Kyiv’s arbitrary redistribution of resources. According to Hryniov, ‘the very idea of unitarism carries a threat to the statehood of Ukraine’ as the deteriorating economic situation and the centre’s drive to control the economic resources would lead to the intensification of centrifugal, separatist forces. He also pointed out that federalism would enhance the democratic credentials of the new state. Hryniov dismissed the arguments in favour of unitarism (see below) according to which ‘the federal system is viewed as an invitation to separatism, while the unitary model—as a mechanism for suppressing it’, by pointing out that the cause of separatism ultimately lays in the centralising tendencies of apparatchiks in Kyiv. Those policies forced regional elites to defend themselves and resort to ‘federalism’ as an instrument of curbing the powers of the centre.27

  • 28 Ivan Popesku, ‘Ludyna v derzhavi: harmonia prava (An Individual in the State: the Harmony of Law)’ (...)

50The arguments in support of federalism were coming from other quarters as well. While economic motives prevailed amongst the Eastern Ukrainian elites, the representatives of national minorities, such as the Romanian deputy from the Chernivtsti oblast, Ivan Popesku, suggested that a federal structure should be a long-term goal for Ukraine in light of its multi-ethnic composition. As a stepping-stone towards federalism, Popesku advocated territorial autonomy (natsionalnoterytorialni utvorenia) for national minorities, which lived in compact settlement.28 However, any calls for territorial autonomy for national minorities fell on deaf ears both with the national-democrats and the Left because such autonomy interfered with their conceptions of nationhood (see below).

  • 29 Taras Kuzio, ‘Issues of Voters Preferences during the 1994 Presidential Elections in Ukraine’, Wor (...)
  • 30 Mykola Tomenko, Ukrainska perspektyva: istoryko-politolohichni pidstavy suchasnoi derzhavnoi strat (...)

51While the regional, pro-federal elites lacked representation in parliament, they looked to the president as a champion of their interests. Yet Kuchma’s support for federalism, if it ever existed, proved elusive. Some argued that Kuchma never supported federalism.29 Nevertheless, Kuchma’s links (via IRBR) with Hryniov and his, even if vague, calls for decentralisation, put him in the camp of federalists. Many Ukrainian analysts argued that ‘the popularity of the idea [of federalism] was skilfully used by the team of Leonid Kuchma during the electoral campaign’.30 Yet even if Kuchma capitalised on his alignment with forces advocating the federalisation of Ukraine in the elections, once elected, he not only never openly supported federalism but advocated the centralised model of the state. Although Volodymyr Hryniov became the presidential adviser on regional issues, his progressive marginalisation within the presidential apparatus reflected Kuchma’s distancing from the idea. Instead, the president began to argue that regions had to concede their autonomy for the sake of economic reforms. As a token gesture reminiscent of the idea of giving greater powers to the regions, the president set up an advisory Council of Regions (see chapter 6) and supported a bi-cameral legislature, in which the upper house would represent the regions. However, aimed at counterbalancing the left-dominated Supreme Council (which would become the lower chamber), those initiatives were predominantly designed to strengthen the presidency, rather than to give the greater representation for the regions.

52Overall, federalist ideas enjoyed the support of the regional elites and parties rooted in Eastern and Southern Ukraine. However, because of their immediate circumstances, the proponents of federalism tended to focus on their narrow regional perspectives at the expense of forming a pan-regional alliance to promote federalism. They stopped short of elaborating a detailed and coherent federal model. Whilst the advocates of federalisation of Ukraine generally referred to the federal-land system (federalno-zemelnyi ustriy), they did not specify the units of the future federation and their respective powers. The Eastern Ukrainian elites failed to unite on the issue as they were internally divided between the (economic) reformist wing of local leaders and leftist parties. While the latter represented the regions in parliament, they rejected federalism.


53As federalism gained prominence, the opposition, consisting of the president and national-democrats and Left, united against it, albeit the motives of each of those actors were different. Nevertheless, the range, intensity and sheer volume of arguments against the federal model evidenced the persuasiveness of federalist ideas in the Ukrainian constitutional debates. The opponents of federalism tried to discredit federalism and demonstrate its unsuitability for Ukraine.

  • 31 CSAOCOU, FOND 1, OPYS 11, Delo 2278 (Stenographic transcript of the Meeting of Politburo on 2 July (...)

54The Left, in general, opposed even the use of the terms ‘unitarism’ and ‘federalism’.31 Federalism was at odds with the ‘pyramid of soviets’, as it would necessitate a bi-cameral legislature. The left-wing parties opposed reform of state institutions and territorial units that Ukraine inherited from the Soviet Union.

  • 32 Interestingly, Viacheslav Chornovil, the then ex-chairman of the Lviv council, who became a leader (...)
  • 33 Yevhen Baltarovych, ‘Ukraine: A Federal or Unitary State’, Demos, Vol. 1, No. 7 (28 Nov. 1994), p. (...)

55However, for a variety of reasons, federalism was also discarded by ‘the reformers’, i.e. those who insisted on the need to reform Soviet-era regional and local institutions. The national-democrats took the lead in dismissing federalism, assisted in their task by prominent constitutional lawyers. Other actors, such as the president and the centrist factions, tacitly accepted the validity of their reasoning. The national-democrats rejected federalisation on the grounds that Ukraine needed to become a single organism and integrate its regions into one political entity.32 As the national identity was unevenly developed, granting the Russified regions substantive political, economic and cultural autonomy would deepen the already pronounced historical, cultural and linguistic cleavages.33 As sub-state government tends to encourage territorial socialisation by the forging of distinct identities of political territories (through educational systems and the use of iconographic symbols such as a flag and emblem), central government would have to compete with federal sub-national governments in fostering allegiance. By institutionalising regional differences, federalism would not only perpetuate them, but would also mobilise centrifugal forces by providing them with a symbolic legitimacy and institutional resources. If the sub-national association grew too strong, this would encourage regional loyalties at the expense of the unity of the nation; regional interests would prevail at the cost of the consolidation of the new polity. The national-democrats insisted that first of all there had to be a strong national identity to resist centrifugal tendencies. As such an identity was lacking in Ukraine, the creation of sub-state units would jeopardise the nation-building process and endanger Ukrainian independence. The arguments of the nationaldemocrats revealed the lingering lack of trust in the loyalty and allegiance of Eastern and Southern Ukraine’s elites to the new Ukrainian state, who were believed to prioritise regional as opposed to national interests and to favour re-integration with Russia.

56Instead, Ukraine’s regions should be homogenised through a uniform system of local self-government. The exposure of regions to the unitary system of institutions would facilitate the integration of the new polity, in line with the classic European traditions of state building:

  • 34 Baltarovych, ‘Ukraine: A Federal or Unitary State’, p. 3.

The establishment of a modern nation-state requires a unitary political system that would allow for the implementation of a general methodology of state building and for the functional co-ordination of central and regional governmental mechanism. European constitutionalism dictates that a nation-state is built as a single, unitary organism.34

  • 35 This term was derived from the Akt Sobornosti (unity) which proclaimed the unification of the Ukra (...)

57For the national-democrats, the concept of soborna Ukraina encapsulated the ideal of independent, united and integrated state.35

  • 36 Ukrainian Law (1996), No. 1, p. 128.
  • 37 M. Kornienko, ‘Regional Autonomy: Federation or Decentralization’, Ukrainian Law, No. 3 (1996), p. (...)

58Arguments favouring federalism as a way of accommodating those political, ethnic, cultural and economic differences—in other words strengthening territorial integrity by weakening centrifugal drives— were discarded for two reasons. First, because of the pronounced centrifugal tendencies found in Donbas, Nova Rossiya, Transcarpathia and Crimea. Second, because of Russia’s imperial ambitions and readiness to support separatist movements in Ukraine (like, for example, it did in Transdnistria). Thus, ‘rather than promote the implementation of reforms, [federalism] would on the contrary be capable of leading to the intensification of separatist tendencies in certain regions of Ukraine, and, by the same token, would destabilise the situation in society’.36 The breakup of the Soviet Union and separatist movements in the Russian Federation (including the war with Chechnia) were proof of the disintegrative potential of federalism.37

59However, the national-democrats faced a dilemma. While they emphasised the tradition of Ukrainian state building and cherished the memory of the intellectual fathers of modern Ukrainian statehood, federalism featured prominently in the thinking of such key Ukrainian intellectuals, as Mykhailo Drahomanov and Mykhailo Hrushevskyi, whose political ideas and activities greatly advanced the Ukrainian national cause. These federalist ideas were dismissed as a product of Zeitgeist. According to professor Volodymyr Shapoval, one of the leading constitutional lawyers involved in constitution drafting, the federative ideas of Drahomanov and Hrushevskyi originated in the specific circumstances of Ukraine in a centralised Russian empire at the end of the nineteenth century, when federation of Slavic nations was viewed as a viable way of building a Ukrainian state. As Shapoval argued:

  • 38 Volodymyr Shapoval, ‘The State System of Ukraine: Political and Legal Aspects’, Ukrainian Law, No. (...)

In the second half of the nineteenth century, the idea of federalism was fairly popular among the progressively thinking Ukrainian intelligentsia. However, those who upheld the idea of federalism were attracted only by its external aspect, so the role and place of the Ukrainian nation and its land were considered in the context of a so-called federation of Slavic republics, rather than the territorial division of the authority of state bodies.38

  • 39 Shapoval, ‘The State System of Ukraine’, p. 135.

60In other words, while federalism was conceived as a means of carving out Ukrainian autonomy within the Russian empire, it was not to be regarded as a model for the internal organisation of the Ukrainian state. Federalism was predominantly viewed as a legacy of foreign domination: ‘all foregoing forms of political life on Ukrainian land were in fact the state systems of other countries, not of Ukraine’ (emphasis in the original).39 Moreover, the deliberations of Ukrainian intellectuals could not guide the state-builders in post-communist Ukraine, because, as it was pointed out, Ukraine had never experienced a territorial division of state powers pursuant to the principle of federalism:

  • 40 Tomenko, Ukrainska perspektyva: istoryko-politolohichni pidstavy, p. 52.

There were no clear-cut principles to delineate the historical boundaries of the regions between the subjects of the federation and neither their number nor competencies were specified. Therefore, this justifies the cautious approach to the tendency to ‘absolutise’ the federal conception of statehood in Ukrainian political thought.40

61The confining of federalist ideas to the dustbin of history by the political forces in independent Ukraine which claimed to continue state-building tradition initiated by such figures as Hrushevskyi signified the break with the indigenous intellectual heritage. As Rudnytsky pointed out:

  • 41 Ivan L. Rudnytsky, ‘The Fourth Universal and Its Ideological Antecedents’, in. Taras Hunchak (ed.) (...)

The strength of the old federalist concept was its breadth of vision. It placed the Ukrainian problem within a wide international context, organically connecting the goal of national liberation with the cause of political liberty and social progress of Eastern Europe as a whole.41

  • 42 Ibid.

62By the end of the twentieth century as new forms of co-operation and integration between states developed, the two currents of Ukrainian political thought, federalism and separatism appeared to no longer be mutually exclusive but, rather, complementary.42 However, insofar as the national-democrats were drawing on the indigenous tradition, the attainment of samostiinist (independence) took primacy over more pluralistic forms of statehood advocated by their intellectual forebears.

  • 43 Shapoval, ‘The State System of Ukraine’, p. 135.
  • 44 Kornienko, ‘Regional Autonomy: Federation or Decentralization’, p. 141.

63The ideal of an integrated sovereign state permeated the constitutional debates. Once the state existed, the rationale for having a federation vanished. Federalism was understood as a mechanism for founding new states, but not reforming existing ones. Countries such as USA, Switzerland, and Canada ‘evolved from confederations (a union of sovereign states) to federations (a united sovereign state) through choice, consent or convenant’.43 In other words, federations are formed by autonomous territories wishing to become a single political system: ‘federalism is a means of unifying separated regions, not decentralising the integrity’.44 Ukraine had no separate territories to unite, because it already existed as a legally bounded territory. Thus, there was no need to draw the separate units together through federal arrangements. It was argued that in the case of the USA federalism was synonymous with centralisation. In contrast, in post-Soviet Ukraine federalism would amount to disintegration rather than integration. Curiously, examples of other federations, such as Germany and Austria, were viewed as ‘of a more or less artificial character’, as these states were ‘artificially’ federalised (although the historical roots of those federations in the nineteenth century German principalities and Austro–Hungarian provinces were acknowledged). In line with Soviet theory, only federations built on ethnic principles were genuine federations.

64Instead, the national-democrats evoked the tradition of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UNR) of 1917–1921, which was defined as a decentralised unitary state (see chapter 2), to demonstrate the indigenous tradition, which was also more appropriate for an independent Ukraine. This model was viewed as sufficiently flexible to integrate Ukrainian ‘ethnographic lands’ with various political traditions. But while it was acknowledged that the 1918 draft constitution also envisaged ‘national personal autonomy’, that is the right to form national unions with self-governing competence in issues affecting the ‘national way of life’ of minorities, it was emphasised that national-personal autonomy was not to be confused with territorial autonomy for minorities.

65The idea of federalising Ukraine never entered into the formal stage of constitution making; the second Constitutional Commission, which was created in 1994, flatly refused to consider it. Yet even if the federal model was rejected by the constitution drafters and did not find its way into the constitution, the debate on federalism highlighted the salience of regional diversity in Ukraine and the search for a formula to accommodate it.

66However, the rejection of federalism as an option for state building in Ukraine did not mean that the elaboration of the unitary model was a straightforward matter. First of all, the case of Crimea had to be dealt with separately. Second, in a unitary model of state, the actual institutions of the state at the regional and local level had to be defined.


67While the federal model of the state was rejected by the unlikely coalition of national-democrats, the Left, the president and some centrists, the question of Crimea divided the ‘unitarists’. All of them conceded that Crimea was a special case. However, the ‘unitarists’ differed in their views on the institutional means to deal with specificities of Crimea.

  • 45 On the developments in Crimea in the early 1990s see Gwen Sasse, ‘The Crimean Issue’, Journal of C (...)
  • 46 The Constitution was published in the Vedomosti Verkhovoho Sovieta Kryma (Information from the Sup (...)

68The Crimean peninsula was the only region of Ukraine with an ethnic Russian majority; it also had strong historical links with Russia. Crimea was incorporated into Ukraine in 1954 as an administrative– territorial unit (oblast) after the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Republic was abolished in 1945 (following the deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944).45 In recognition of this distinctive character, on the eve of Ukrainian independence in the spring 1991 the status of the Crimean Autonomous Republic was renewed by the Supreme Council of Ukraine. However, these measures failed to placate the Crimean elites, and after the 1991 Ukrainian referendum on independence, the separatist tendencies intensified, exacerbated by the encouragement of Russia’s political elites, who viewed Crimea as rightfully belonging to Russia. The issue was further compounded by the unresolved issue of the Black Sea Fleet stationed in Sevastopol. In May 1992 the Crimean leaders passed the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea, which proclaimed the peninsula to be a sovereign state that ‘enters into the state of Ukraine and defines its relations with Ukraine on the basis of contract and agreements’.46 In 1994 the separatist tendencies peaked with the elections of the pro-Russian Crimean president Yuriy Meshkov. This surge of anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian attitudes in Crimea resulted in a clampdown by Kyiv. The first step was the ‘Law on the Autonomous Republic of Crimea’ of 17 March 1995, which reduced the autonomy of Crimea, abolished the Crimean presidency and cancelled the 1992 constitution. This was followed by Kuchma’s decree, which put the executive institutions of Crimea under the direct jurisdiction of the ‘executive authority of Ukraine’. In August 1995, the president issued a decree ‘On the Bodies of State Executive Power of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea’, which revised his March decree, and stipulated that the prime minister of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (ARC) could be appointed and dismissed by the Supreme Council of ARC upon the agreement of the president of Ukraine. Also state administration at the raion level in ARC was formed and subordinated to the cabinet of ministers of ARC, the cabinet of ministers of Ukraine and the president of Ukraine. In November 1995 the Supreme Council of ARC adopted a new Constitution of the Autonomous Republic and submitted it to the Supreme Council of Ukraine. In April 1996, the Ukrainian parliament considered this Constitution, and rejected twenty articles that contradicted the laws of Ukraine, in such spheres as Crimean citizenship, state symbols, control over power ministries, property rights, and two state languages (Ukrainian and Russian).

69It was a matter of urgency that the new Ukrainian constitution finally defined the scope of Crimean autonomy; the main ‘bones of contention’ included: the name; the law making powers of the Crimean parliament; the right to have a constitution, to establish diplomatic relations, to maintain separate security forces, establish Crimean citizenship and hold dual citizenship with other states, to control the budget and raise taxes, and the official language and property rights in the peninsula.

70Although they rejected a federal model for Ukraine at large, Kuchma, the leftist and centrist factions made an exception for Crimea. They conceded that extensive autonomy was indispensable to placate the centrifugal forces and prevent separatism. In particular, the Left and the Inter-Regional Group of Deputies (MDG) supported the Crimean elites on a number of issues, such as the name ‘Autonomous Republic’, the constitution, the law making prerogative of the Supreme Council of Crimea, citizenship and language. Also, as an attribute of sovereignty they supported the creation of a permanent representative of the Crimean Autonomous Republic in Kyiv.

  • 47 The national-democrats proposed for Crimea to be granted a Charter (Statut) for Crimean Autonomy, (...)

71In contrast, the national-democrats vehemently opposed any farreaching concessions on the grounds that the creation of the Crimean Republic would reinforce separatism in the peninsula. Any recognition of the sovereignty of Crimean institutions over the territory of peninsula would usurp the sovereignty of the Ukrainian state as a whole. While radical right-wing parties called for Crimea to be reduced to the status of an oblast, the two national-democratic factions, Rukh and Derzhavnist’, conceded that Crimea could not be equated with other oblasts and required tailor-made arrangements. Yet they stressed the imperative to integrate Crimea into Ukraine and prevent separatism by giving Kyiv the upper hand in the division of power. The national-democrats contemplated only limited Crimean Autonomy (Avtonomia) instead of the status of a ‘republic’ on the grounds that an autonomous republic would be incompatible with the unitary model of state. As an ‘autonomy’, Crimea would be denied the attributes of sovereignty, such as a presidency, the constitution, the right to pass laws and raise taxes.47 Rather than a fully-fledged parliament with law making powers, the Supreme Council of Crimea was to be a regional representative organ issuing ‘decisions and resolutions’. Moreover, Rukh, with its appreciation of ethnicity (see below), promoted the recognition of the Crimean Tatars as the ‘indigenous people’. The Tatars, who were returning from Central Asia to Crimea after the deportation by Stalin in 1944, were viewed as the rightful, ‘indigenous’ people of the peninsula, in contrast to there cent migrants—ethnic Russians. However, in contrast to its stance in 1992, Rukh stopped advocating the Crimean Tatars’ right to self-determination through the creation of territorial autonomy in Crimea. This would be a dangerous precedent for other minorities living in compact settlements, such as Romanians.

72However, apart from the Inter-Regional Group of Deputies (MDG), which opposed the unitary model of state, the differences between the actors in Kyiv, the president and centre-right factions in parliament, were not irreconcilable, as there was broad agreement that Crimea would not be allowed to have its own (or dual) citizenship, security forces, or to foster diplomatic links bypassing Kyiv. Instead, the main ‘bones of contention’ were whether Crimea should be named ‘republic’ or ‘autonomy’, and whether the Crimean parliament should have the right to pass laws and adopt the constitution. However, it was firmly held that Crimea’s situation was exceptional and no similar provisions were to be made for other regions of Ukraine, such as Donbas, Transcarpathia or Bukovina.


73While ‘unitarists’ rejected federalism as an option for Ukraine for the reasons outlined above, they did not discard the idea of decentralisation, as long as it stopped short of territorial self-governments becoming the ‘sub-units of the state’. Decentralisation was not to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine:

  • 48 Kornienko, ‘Regional Autonomy’, pp. 139–45.

In a decentralised form of autonomy, there exists at first an independent sovereign power, which then gives up a part of its rights and attributes to certain territories. Autonomy is the next developmental stage upon the establishment of the central power system, and does not contradict the unitary form of government.48

74Yet, even if the prevailing view was that Ukraine should be a unitary decentralised state, precisely how it should be presented in the constitution was far from clear.

75Apart from the leftist factions, there was a general preference for the abolition of the system of soviets, which was viewed as incapable of offering genuine self-government because of the underlying ‘state theory of self-government’ that defeated the idea of autonomy. In practice, after the demise of the Communist Party, the councils (radas) were as sociated with a lack of accountability at the local level, and were viewed as an impediment to economic reforms. The reformers, that is the centre-right factions and the president, shared the conviction that genuine local self-government at the level of villages and cities was needed, which would be responsible for the provision of services to local communities. In that respect, they took on board the obligations stemming from Ukraine’s admission to the Council of Europe in November 1995, which, among other things, required the implementation of the European Charter on Local Self-Government. The Charter guaranteed local self-government and recognised the community as a basic unit of local government independent of the state.

76Despite the broad support for genuine self-government at the level of communities, the intermediate, regional layer of institutions (meso level) proved more difficult to agree upon. The concept of decentralisation— which most political forces included in their blueprints on constitutional reforms—conveys a number of meanings and does not imply any particular scope of devolution of power to the regional level. The European Charter of Local Government was also less specific about regional autonomy than about the self-government at a municipal level. Overall, the issue of decentralisation raised three interrelated issues: 1) the formation of regional units; 2) the role and power of self-governing bodies at the meso level vis-à-vis the centre and regional bodies of state administration; 3) the representation of regional self-governing bodies at the centre. These issues will be dealt with in turn.

Regional Units

  • 49 Ukraine inherited a multi-layered administrative division from the Soviet Union: village, village- (...)
  • 50 For a detailed overview of territorial–administrative units and their historical names see Volodym (...)

77The fundamental issue was the type and size of units to be granted territorial self-government. In Tsarist Russia gubernia was the main administrative unit; the USSR replaced them with oblasts.49 As the largest territorial units in the Ukrainian SSR, oblasts had directly elected councils (rady), which controlled the councils at lower levels (village, village-type settlement, cities, and raion). As the Tsarist and Soviet systems were highly centralised, there was no indigenous tradition of a self-governing territorial community. Moreover, as a purely administrative creation, oblasts did not coincide with historical regions. However, the quest for historically legitimate and self-contained regions was laden with difficulties, despite, or rather precisely because of, Ukraine’s highly fragmented territory. Throughout Ukraine’s history, regions, such as Transcarpathia, Galicia (Halychyna), Bukovina, Volynia, Podila, Chernihiv, Sloboda Ukraine, Nova Rossiya, or Donbas, belonged to different states (for different lengths of time) prior to their incorporation into Soviet Ukraine, and as a result developed different cultural, economic and political profiles.50 At the same time, because of the volatility of state boundaries, the geographical boundaries of regions were blurred, overlapping, and delineated differently depending on the context. The most important obstacle was the perception that the institutionalisation of historical regions (however difficult they were to delineate) would emphasise the patchy territorial composition of twentieth century Ukraine. In particular, the national-democrats faced a conundrum. On the one hand, oblasts could not be satisfactory territorial units, as they lacked legitimacy and cut cross ‘historical’ regions; on the other hand, the ‘historical’ regions proved not only difficult to delineate but their institutionalisation would highlight the weak territorial cohesion of independent Ukraine. The Left, however, did not have similar misgivings about the oblasts, as not only were they Soviet creations but also their preservation allowed the Left to retain their powerbase at the regional level. Similar motives prevailed amongst many centrists.

78In the end, under the strain of the sheer number of issues to be dealt with, and the pressure to finalise constitution drafting, the task of elaborating territorial units, which would have greater historical legitimacy without emphasising their distinctiveness as former parts of other states, proved overwhelming. For the lack of viable alternatives, the Soviet-era oblasts came to be accepted as the meso level territorial units in Ukraine. However, oblasts’ lack of historical legitimacy shaped the actors’ views of their role in the spatial division of power.

The Role and Powers of the Regional Self-governing Bodies

79Once the path of ‘least resistance’ was chosen, the key question then concerned the role of oblasts: how much autonomy should they have? Were they to implement the policies of the centre in the region or represent autonomous self-governing units? The problem boiled down to the balance of power between the agencies of the centre (state administration) and representative, directly elected institutions at the meso level.

  • 51 Roman Bezsmertnyi, ‘Konstytutsiia garantuie samovriaduvania’ (The Constitution Guarantees Local Se (...)

80The Right was prepared to devolve power only insofar as it would not subvert the territorial integrity of Ukraine; thus the national-democrats opted for the preservation of oblasts (despite their Soviet pedigree) as a lesser evil, but objected to granting them extensive powers. While favouring extensive self-government at a local level, they opposed the creation of the directly elected regional representative bodies, and instead advocated the indirectly elected oblast radas, the legitimacy of which would be weaker vis-à-vis the centre. In that respect the national-democrats abandoned their adherence to ‘European tradition’: directly elected regional self-government performing various functions of regional administration was—by the mid 1990s—the norm in the European Union. The national-democrats believed that in Ukraine, state building required the subordination of regional interests to those of the centre and thus necessitated the circumscription of regional autonomy. In particular, they feared that directly elected regional bodies could challenge the centre’s policies in the sphere of language, education and cultural policies, as, for example, did Donbas, which voted in a local plebiscite in 1994 in favour of Russian becoming the official language of administration. The supporting argument in favour of indirect elections was that new people would be recruited ‘to [new] raion and oblast radas, and not the nomenklatura of oblast and raion level’.51 Overall, even if the national-democrats declared their support for decentralisation, in the proposal they strove to weaken the regional self-governing bodies as a safety precaution to prevent centrifugal drives, which could threaten the territorial integrity of the state.

81President Kuchma, in turn, stressed the imperative of control and greater efficiency as a rationale for strengthening control over the meso level:

  • 52 Holos Ukrainy, 24 December 1994, p. 3.

Practically, [today] nobody rules Ukraine. [At the regional level] everybody is interested in his own welfare. The interests of the people and the practical issues of running the state are pushed to the side. There are the first signs of the disintegration of the state. Some oblasts and even districts (raion) have taken decisions on the level of their contributions to the state budget. This means that one of the most important laws of Ukraine is not being implemented.52

82Stressing the lack of accountability and resistance to reform, Kuchma called for the creation of strong executive organs of the state extending to the regions in order to overcome the prevailing anarchy:

  • 53 Ibid.

The fully-fledged executive vertical structure is needed to end ‘anything goes’ (vsedozvolennist’), and cronyism, practised by a number of raion and city heads. At this level mismanagement prevails, and an ordinary person is left without any protection, support, or justice. We have to eliminate such manifestations of contemporary local feudalism, [and] take radical measures to restore order, [and] protect our citizens.53

  • 54 Ibid.

83In the president’s view, as the regional self-governing bodies proved unwilling and/or incapable of combating the economic crisis, only the creation of a rigid vertical executive structure could alleviate the problem, with a simultaneous weakening of the oblast and raion councils. Kuchma thus favoured the shift to the indirect mode of elections, which would deprive the councils of their popular legitimacy and the recreation of presidential representatives at the oblast and raion level. The chairpersons of such councils would simultaneously be presidential representatives (predstavnyky prezydenta) heading the executive body of the regions (the regional state administration). The strict subordination of the heads of local state administrations from the top down would allow the delegation of ‘the important decision making, such as the management of state property, to the regional level’.54 In other words, the decision making power would not be devolved to regions’ representative bodies, but delegated to state officials subordinated to the president. Essentially, the president advocated the far-reaching circumvention of regional autonomy, and the creation of a highly centralised model of state. Nevertheless, like the national-democrats, he favoured ‘de-statisation’ (vidderzhavlenia) of the self-governing bodies: they were to cease to be part of the unified and integrated system of state organs, which existed under the Soviet Union (see chapter 2). Yet vidderzhavlenia was not to entail a loosening of control over the periphery; instead a reinstated system of French-style prefects, which was first created in the spring of 1992, was to carry out the decisions of the centre at the sub-national level.

84As pointed out above, the Left aimed to restore the system of soviets and, to this end, adhered to the so-called ‘state theory of local government’, according to which representative institutions performed both the functions of self-government and those of state administration, and formed as uniform state structures. This way, the radas (soviets) would continue to be subordinated to the central state authorities:

  • 55 The speech of the leader of CPU, Petro Symonenko at the session of the Supreme Council on the cons (...)

We support the preservation of the system of councils of the working masses with a clear division of functions between the various levels … and the vertical subordination of the executive organs of councils to the higher level up to the Council of Ministers in matters of national importance.55

  • 56 Kommunist, No. 49, December 1995, p. 5. See also an article by a member of the Legislative Institu (...)

85At the same time, according to the Left: ‘Starting from the criteria outlined in the European Charter [on Local Self-government], there are sufficient grounds to conclude that the Councils of People’s Deputies are one of the most powerful and effective forms of self-government’.56 However, the Left did not reconcile the autonomy of local and regional self-government with the principle of ‘democratic centralism’, which denoted the hierarchical subordination of councils of lower levels to the higher level (for example, city to oblast). It glossed over the problems that traditionally the soviets could not be autonomous from the state, as they constituted the state. In particular, because of the strict financial subordination, the councils had no independent resources to perform their functions and the resources were instead allocated by the centre to the oblast, which then made further allocation to the lower level. The councils had no independent revenue-making sources, such as taxes or municipal property (in line with the Left’s opposition to turning land into a commodity).

86However, the Left, arguing that the councils combined functions of self-government and state powers, opposed the institutional ‘duality of power’ at the regional level, that is the co-existence of popularly elected councils with local state administrations headed by the presidential representative. In particular, the institution of a representative as an extension of centre at the regional level undermined their concept of narodovladia. Furthermore, the Left consistently argued in favour of the direct mode of elections to all levels of councils, including the oblast and district level, something the national-democrats and the president opposed. The Left even invoked the World Declaration of Local Self-government, which made explicit references to self-government of larger territorial units, while the national-democrats gave priority to the European Charter with its vague references to regional autonomy. Paradoxically, because of its support for directly elected oblast councils, the Left turned into a champion of decentralisation:

  • 57 Kommunist, No. 49, December 1995, p. 5.

[R]ejecting demagogy and politicking, and striving for democratic principles, there is no need to abolish Councils, but to clearly divide—most of all in the Constitution—the sphere of competencies between the centre, regions and the local level, between the representative and executive bodies, [and] to transfer the right to decide local matters to the local level, and give regions and localities maximum autonomy (samostiinist).57

Representation of Regions at the Centre

87The final question that needed to be resolved was on the representation of the regions at the centre. As a norm, the representation of regional interests takes place through the upper chamber of legislature designed to give voice to the regions, rather than the entire body of citizens. Because of pronounced regional differences, the case for bi-cameralism was strong in Ukraine, and the idea of the upper chamber of parliament repeatedly reappeared during constitutional debates. In 1991 the Working Group of the Constitutional Commission argued that, firstly, bicameralism would allow for the division of labour: the lower chamber would focus on law making and financial questions, whereas the upper chamber would perform appointive powers, ratify international treaties and grant citizenship; secondly, it would serve as a forum for regional representation, which was needed in Ukraine because:

  • 58 Materials from the Third Meeting of the Working Group of the Constitutional Commission, Archives o (...)

Historically Ukraine was formed as a unitary state. However, the historical, regional and national-ethnic differences of its territories and oblasts remain pronounced. The preservation of the unitary system will be justified only if an effective mechanism for representation of those differences is created. This will be achieved through the representation in the Supreme Council of individual territories (administrative–territorial units).58

  • 59 For a summary of the arguments in favour of bi-cameralism see the text of the speech made by Volod (...)

88Amongst the political actors after the 1994 elections, the president supported the idea, yet parliament at large opposed it. The proponents of bicameralism consisted of individual deputies scattered across right-wing and centrist factions of parliament, who put forward a range of arguments in favour, most importantly stressing the need for the representations of regional interests at the centre and the need for additional ‘checks and balances’.59

  • 60 The Materials of the Constitutional Commission, Fourth Meeting, Archives of the Constitutional Com (...)

89The arguments levelled against bi-cameralism were basically a repetition of arguments against federalism and regional autonomy. The most common argument against bi-cameralism was that upper houses were needed in federations, whereas Ukraine was a unitary state. Oblasts were purely administrative units and not historical regions, and as such they did not need to be represented at the centre. As Serhiy Holovatyi, the Minister of Justice, argued ‘we have oblasts and not regions. Let’s create regions and only then represent them’.60 To the arguments that some unitary states such as Poland, had an upper chamber, opponents pointed out that bi-cameralism in Poland was sanctioned by tradition, whereas in Ukraine such traditions did not exist. In particular, some national-democrats feared the Senate would become a first step towards the federalisation of Ukraine ‘through the back door’.

  • 61 Kommunist, No. 49, December 1995, p. 4.
  • 62 Author’s interview with Galina Starovoitova, the member of the MDG faction, Kyiv, July 1997. The r (...)

90The Left principally objected because bi-cameralism was incompatible with the model of the system of soviets. However, it used the argument of territorial integrity to discredit the institution arguing ‘it is necessary to take into account the fact that the creation of the Senate would stimulate separatist and centrifugal forces.’61 Even the centrist MDG, while favouring the far-reaching devolution of power to the regions, rejected bi-cameralism on the grounds that it would ‘split Ukraine’ and ‘because of the threat of instability, exacerbate regional differences and complicate the legislative process’.62 However, the MDG’s scepticism stemmed from its objection to the formula proposed by the president for the formation of the upper chamber in the November and March 1996 drafts (see chapter 6). As each oblast would have three Senators, the Senate’s composition would not reflect the weight of the densely populated Eastern and Southern Ukrainian oblasts, thereby giving an undue prominence to Western and Central Ukrainian oblasts. Each oblast would be represented by three senators regardless of its population. The pivotal issue was that units that were unequal in terms of population were to be given equal representation. For example, in Donetsk one senator would represent 1,300,000 voters, as opposed to 226,000 voters in Chernivtsi. In face of the opposition from the centrist and leftist factions, the supporters of bi-cameralism, including the president, were in minority, and did not go out of their way to insist on the creation of the upper chamber.

91To summarise, in term of the concepts of the territorial framework of the state, the main cleavage was between the ‘restorationists’, who simply favoured the restoration of the status quo ante, and the ‘reformers’, who advocated the abolition of the system of soviets. However, while not without its merits, this division is too simplistic and glosses over the sheer breadth of the issues at stake, such as federalism, regional and local self-government, Crimea, and bi-cameralism. While, the ‘reformers’ overwhelmingly agreed on the need for and the form of self-government at the local level, they differed in their views, firstly, on the appropriateness of the federal model for Ukraine, and, secondly, on the regional layer of institutions. In other words, while the ‘reformist’ orientation firmly advocated an end to the system of soviets, there was no agreement on either the concept of regions as territorial units, or their relations with the centre. Attention was focused on the rebuttal of the federal model and the system of soviets, rather than positively elaborating the details of the actual territorial model of division of powers. Even if the unitary decentralised model was advocated by the majority of forces, no essential principles were thought out and agreed upon.


92Another dimension of statehood, which remained essentially contested and awaited resolution in the constitution, was the nature of the political community in the name of which the state exercised sovereign authority. In contrast to the institutional issues, where the numerous institutions and prerogatives were to be defined, the questions of nationhood generated two distinctive and opposing conceptions: the Left’s ‘people of Ukraine’ and the national-democrats’ ‘Ukrainian people’, both of which were rooted in and reflected the Soviet dual notion of nationality: politico- territorial and ethno-cultural (see chapter 2). These conceptions encapsulated different definitions of ‘the people’, its attributes, such as language and symbols, and different approaches to minority rights.


  • 63 Holos Ukrainy, 16 September 1994.

93According to the 1989 census, ethnic Ukrainians constituted 72 percent of the population of Ukraine. For the national-democrats, the vexed question was: should ethnic Ukrainians be equated with and thus ‘diluted’ in the mass of over a hundred other nationalities living in Ukraine, or should the new constitution recognise the Ukrainian ethnicity, culture and language as the foundation of the new polity? The Right’s key goal was the assertion of the position of the titular majority in the Ukrainian state, as a distinctive ethno-cultural collectivity, which had striven for a state: ‘if there is no language and nation, there is no need for a president’.63

  • 64 Tomenko, Ukrainska perspektyva: istoryko-politolohichni pidstavy, pp. 62–3. The head of the Parlia (...)

94In their view, the Ukrainian ethnic nation originated in the mists of time from a common ancestry, and embodied a romantic notion of the pre-political community, in which ethnic identity denoted a primordial set of highly valued and unique qualities moulded in a long collective history. To depict this collectivity the national-democrats used the two interrelated concepts of ‘natsiia’ and ‘ethnos’. As the development of the Ukrainian ethnos took place on the territory of Ukraine, even when it was ruled by other states, Ukrainians formed the indigenous nation (korinnyi narod), which exercised its right to self-determination in 1991 and created a nation-state. Nowhere could the fundamental ‘ethnocultural’ rights of Ukrainians be realised and protected other than in Ukraine: ‘Ukraine can be defined as a nation-state because only Ukrainians historically lived in a given territory and this is the only place in the world where they can realise their right to self-determination’.64 Therefore, there is a special bond between the state and the titular majority:

  • 65 Programme of Rukh, Kyiv, 1989. It was also published in Lindheim and Luckyi (eds.), Towards an Int (...)

[T]he actualisation of the gamut of national rights of the various ethnic groups, which inhabit Ukraine, is inseparable from the acknowledgement of the fact that the Ukrainian nation (natsiia) holds the status of its historical master in the republic. Ukraine is the only territory in the world on which the fully valid existence and development of the Ukrainian ethnos is possible.65

95As the Ukrainian state came into being primarily as a result of the self-determination of the ethnic Ukrainian nation, Ukrainian ethnicity served as the ‘foundation’ around which a political community was to be built. In other words, the demos was formed on the basis of the ethnos. For it was the ethno-linguistic collectivity—the Ukrainians—which spawned the political community, the new state was to assume a special responsibility vis-à-vis the titular majority.

  • 66 Tomenko, Ukrainska perspektyva: istoryko-politolohichni pidstavy, pp. 62–3.

Ukraine is a nation-state (natsionalna derzhava), that is something that has been a titular nation, which compactly lives on a certain territory, exercising its basic right to political self-determination. The nation-state secures the appropriate conditions for the preservation and development of its [ethnic] nation and the mutual benefit and development of all ethnic groups, which live on its territory.66

96In particular, the Ukrainian language was given a prominent place amongst the markers of Ukrainian national identity:

  • 67 Programme of Rukh, Kyiv, 1989.

An important integrating factor in ethnic communities is language and national consciousness. A national language is the foundation and the primary source of a culture, the basis of the national existence of a people, and a universal human value. When a national language dies, the people perish as a nation.67

  • 68 Oleksandr Trubushnyi, ‘Movna polityka v Ukraini: problemy i priorytety (Language Policy in Ukraine (...)

97The Ukrainian state had a special duty to embrace the Ukrainian language and culture after the centuries-long cultural and linguistic oppression of the Ukrainian ethnos. In order to instil feelings of kinship among ethnic Ukrainians and promote the ‘linguistic rehabilitation of the citizens of Ukraine’,68 a ‘national idea’ needed to be implemented through state-sponsored cultural and language policies. The Ukrainian culture and language could be secured only if the legacy of Soviet domination— Russification—was reversed:

  • 69 An article by the head of the Parliamentary Commission on Culture and Spirituality Mykhailo Kosiv (...)

The preservation and deepening of the linguistic status quo would deny the Russified Ukrainians their language and national roots … Large numbers of assimilated people [Russified Ukrainians] remain of secondary importance in the large parts of their land—[this is] a specific phenomenon, which resulted from domination by foreign empires.69

  • 70 Vechirnyi Kyiv, 15 March 1996, p. 3.

98According to the national-democrats, the new constitution had not only to assert the ‘leading role’ of the Ukrainian ethnos in the Ukrainian state by adopting their national symbols, but also ‘to fix the right of the Ukrainian ethnos to a national revival in its land’.70 In other words, the constitution was to put the state authorities under an obligation to protect and develop the Ukrainian language and culture.

  • 71 Holos Ukrainy, 16 September, 1994.

99Ukrainian was defined as the state language in the 1989 ‘Law on Languages’ (and to this end article 73 of the 1978 constitution was amended). However, taking into account the widespread use of Russian, especially in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, it was suggested that Russian be granted the status of ‘official’ language (see below). For the right wing placing Russian alongside Ukrainian in the constitution would legitimise the centuries-long discrimination against the Ukrainian language and fix the status quo, which resulted from foreign domination that is the factual dominance of the Russian language in Ukraine. Thus, if the revival of the Ukrainian language was to take place, no provision for Russian was to be made in the constitution. Even if a large percentage of ethnic Ukrainians in Eastern and Southern Ukraine were Russophones, for the national-democrats the Russian language in Ukraine was only the language of the ethnic Russians, and, thus, it had to be ‘rolled back’ to coincide with the boundaries of Russian minority. The argument (factually incorrect) was that nowhere in the world was the language of a national minority elevated to the position of the sta te language. In those few states where bilingualism existed, such as Canada or Switzerland, it was because those states were constituted by several ethnie, each of which ‘entered’ the common state with their own territory and language territory.71

  • 72 Ibid.
  • 73 The exact English-language translation of the opening verse of the anthem ‘Shche ne vmerla Ukraina (...)

100With granting the constitutional recognition to Russian, not only would past injustice not be redressed; the future of the state was also at stake according to the national-democrats. Independence could only be assured when bonds of mutuality, social solidarity and brotherhood developed on the basis of ethno-cultural ties embraced by the population of Ukraine. The national-democrats believed that a democratic political culture could not develop without some ethno-linguistic uniformity; the indigenous Ukrainian democratic political culture was destroyed by the Soviet Union and constitutional, civic patriotism could not be relied upon to secure the loyalty to the new state. In other words, the revival of the Ukrainian ethnos was to help to gel the population into a civic nation. The national-democrats argued that such a path was universally followed as ‘nowhere in the world do there exist states created on a non-ethnic basis. Simply, they have been along that road a long time ago and simply forgot it’.72 It was further argued that the constitution should adopt the attributes of the Ukrainian natsiia as its symbols: the trident, the ‘blue and yellow’ flag, and the anthem ‘Ukraine Has Not Yet Perished’.73

  • 74 The notion of the political community advocated by the national-democrats represented a juxtaposit (...)
  • 75 Wilson argues that the civic notion of nationhood is more suited to Ukraine. However, civic nation (...)

101Nevertheless, despite stressing the right of the Ukrainian ethnos, the right wing adhered to the pluralist notion of the nation.74 By distinguishing between the ethnic Ukrainian nation (natsiia) and the national minorities (natsionalni menshyny), it recognised the presence and the rights of the latter.75 Minorities were defined as distinctive ethnocultural communities that inhabit the territory of Ukraine alongside ethnic Ukrainians. While seeing Ukraine as a ‘pluralistic nation-state’, the national-democrats advocated the creation of the Ukrainian political nation on the basis of the core ethnic Ukrainian nation (natsiia) with the national minorities incorporated as collective members of the ‘Ukrainian nation’. To this end, the national-democrats’ appreciation of ethnicity turned them into champions of the rights of national minorities, albeit according to the degree of ‘indigenousness’. In line with the draft UN ‘Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People’, the right-wing parties distinguished between the ‘indigenous people’ (korinni narody) of Ukraine, that was those minorities which did not have ‘historical homelands’ outside Ukraine, and other national minorities, such as Poles, Russians, Romanians, which had their ‘host’ states outside Ukraine. Symptomatically, apart from the Crimean Tatars and other small ethnic groups, the former category also included the titular majority, ethnic Ukrainians:

  • 76 Tomenko, Ukrainska perspektyva: istoryko-politolohichni pidstavy, pp. 62–63.

In Ukraine there are no other nations because other national groups have their own states outside Ukraine, and [thus] they do not have objective and subjective reasons for the formation of a separate [ethnic] nation (natsiia) on Ukrainian territory. The exception is the case of the Crimean Tatars and, with some qualifications, the Karaims, Krymchaks and others, which survived only as an indigenous ethnos.76

102According to the national-democrats, the possession of a homeland outside Ukraine conferred a different status and rights on ethnic groups in Ukraine, compared to those that lacked such homelands. Thus, non- Ukrainians were to be given collective rights according to their degree of ‘indigenousness’: those without homelands outside Ukraine— indigenous people—were assigned higher status (but Rukh retreated from its promise of territorial autonomy by 1994), whereas the national minorities were to be entitled to cultural autonomy. Rukh pointed out that its stance on minority rights fully met the European standards on human rights, because as a minimum Rukh advocated cultural autonomy.

103Overall, the moderate Right advocated the conception of a political community defined as the ‘Ukrainian people’. Nevertheless, while accepting the presence and rights of national minorities as ‘state-forming communities’, they believed that the indigenous rights of the Ukrainians made them the core ethnos around which the new civic nation was to be built. In order to guarantee the survival and development of that ethnos, its position was to be fixed in the new constitution, most importantly in the Preamble and articles on the state language and symbols.


104Although in Ukrainian the word natsiia denotes an ethnic notion of a nation, the Left interpreted the ‘Ukrainian people’ (Ukrainskyi narod) in exclusive, ethnic terms. For it the adjective ‘Ukrainian’ depicted ownership of the state by the Ukrainian natsiia and symbolised ‘Ukraine for Ukrainians’—the slogan associated with the brand of integral nationalism propagated by the militant Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists of the 1930s, which drew its supporters mainly from Eastern Galicia (Halychyna) in inter-war Poland. Thus, the Left claimed that ‘the Ukrainian people’ lacked a deeper resonance in Ukrainian society, apart from a narrow group of nationalists of Western Ukrainian stock. In particular, they vehemently opposed the notion that Ukraine emerged as a result of ‘self-determination of the Ukrainian natsiia’.

  • 77 Kommunist, No. 11, March 1996, p. 3.
  • 78 Holos Ukrainy, 21 March 1996, p. 3.
  • 79 Kommunist, No. 49, December 1995, p. 5.

105Instead, the Left defined the political community of Ukraine as the territorial, supra-ethnic community ‘the people of Ukraine’ (narod Ukrainy). By defining ‘the people of Ukraine’ as the sum of people living on Ukrainian territory, Ukraine’s multi-ethnic composition was to be asserted and preserved. On the one hand, ‘the people of Ukraine’ would emphasise both equality of all nationalities living in Ukraine, and, on the other the state’s ‘neutrality’ in the sphere of language and culture. Ethnicity—as a state-validating factor—was rejected. Moreover, they opposed breaking ‘the people’ down into sub-components, the eponymous majority and national minorities, on the grounds that ‘it was discriminatory and would practically exclude the tens of millions of citizens of Ukraine of other nationalities who build and support their state—Ukraine’.77 In particular, as the communist leader Petro Symonenko declared, they opposed defining Russians in Ukraine as the national minority.78 Instead, they favoured the definition coined by Kravchuk: ‘When Leonid Kravchuk was running for the presidency [in 1991], he expressed a very applaudable (slushnu) idea that the Russians in Ukraine were not a national minority, but one of the two branches (hilky) of the one people of Ukraine (narod Ukrainy)’.79

  • 80 Author’s interview with Volodymyr Moiseienko, a member of the Communist faction, Kyiv, November 19 (...)

106The attributes of the political community—language and symbols— were to reflect and respect the multi-ethnic composition of Ukraine. While all languages could develop freely, Russian was to be become the state or at least the official language of Ukraine alongside Ukrainian, although the meaning of ‘official’ as opposed to ‘state’ language remained unclear. The examples of Finland and Switzerland, which recognise several languages as equal, were cited as a model for Ukraine. The Left feared that Russian would be squeezed out by the state-sponsored Ukrainisation policies aimed at linguistic and cultural revival of the titular majority. In a similar vein, what for the national-democrats were the legitimate historical symbols of Ukrainian statehood—the blue and yellow flag, the trident and the anthem ‘Ukraine Has Not Yet Perished’— were depicted by the Left as exclusive and alienating. The communists particularly ardently opposed these symbols as they were used by the ‘bourgeois nationalist’ Ukrainian People’s Republic (1917– 1921) and, moreover, by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which waged a struggle against the Soviet Union in Western Ukraine in the 1940–50s. Using highly emotional rhetoric the Left insisted that the symbols adopted in 1991 played only an antagonising role outside Western Ukraine, in contrast to, for example, the Soviet hammer and sickle, which innocently ‘signified the importance of labour’.80 Thus the Left recommended that the choice of symbols be subjected to a referendum on the principles of the new constitution (as was the case in Belarus in 1995), or the symbols were to be left out of the constitution, and later defined by an ordinary law.

  • 81 Rogers Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 60.

107The Left’s arguments for preventing the supremacy of one ethnic group—the titular majority—could give the appearance of the support for a pluralistic model of nationhood, especially in light of the fact that minorities constituted 28 percent of the population of Ukraine. But while claiming that the assertion of the position of the titular majority would set it against national minorities and open the door to discrimination and exclusion on ethnic grounds, the Left did not champion minority rights. By rejecting the very concept of national minorities, the Left rejected the need for collective rights of national minorities living in Ukraine. As Brubaker has reminded us ‘minorities can only exist where there is an ethno-cultural majority’.81 The Ukrainian Left denied recognition of ethnicity altogether; its concept of political community, the narod Ukrainy actually implied a homogeneous entity composed of individuals living on the territory of Ukraine. By denying ethnicity any formal recognition at the state level, the Left adhered to the ‘purest’ form of the territorial nation based on the universalist notion of citizenship: all individuals who were collectively subject to the same government and the same laws form a nation.

108Rather than ethnicity, the Left stressed the role of socio-economic rights in forging the solidarity and unity of a political community. With their focus on class, the communists, in particular, adhered to the Soviet regime’s assertion according to which ‘Ukraine [was] a state of all people, expressing the will and interests of the workers, peasants and intelligentsia: the working people of all nationalities of the Republic’ (1978 Constitution of the UkrSSR). And instead of interfering in the cultural domain, the Ukrainian state was to confine itself to the promotion of socio-economic progress, which was defined either in classic Marxist– Leninist terms (Communists) or more hybrid communist/social-democratic terms (Socialists). The role of the state lays primarily in ensuring socio-economic welfare and equality, and, thus, the Left insisted on the state’s protection of collective property in the constitution, together with explicit state guarantees of free education, housing, work, holidays, health care and so forth. The constitution was to explicitly place the state under obligation to deliver an array of socio-economic ‘goods’. (In contrast, the other actors favoured a vaguely worded ‘indication of intentions’ of the state to act in the socio-economic sphere.)

  • 82 Holos Ukrainy, 21 March 1996, p. 9.
  • 83 Ibid.
  • 84 Kommunist, No. 11, March 1996, p. 3.

109However, while the communists, socialists and peasants united in their vehement denial of an ethnic Ukrainian foundation of the new state, there was a pivotal split within the Left. The socialists and the peasants accepted the status quo, that is the new political community was legitimately constituted in a referendum vote on independence in December 1991. The Communist Party of Ukraine, however, did not recognise the results of the referendum and declared its aim to restore the Soviet political community through the voluntary creation of the equal (rivnopravnyi) Union of Soviet Sovereign States, because ‘all historical experience demonstrates that it was the best, the optimal form for all-round development of former republics’.82 The leader of the CPU, Petro Symonenko, argued that the CPU supported the Declaration of Sovereignty of July 1990 and the Act of Independence of August 1991, and in March 1991 the renewal of the Union. Therefore, the Act of Independence was entirely compatible with Ukraine’s remaining within the Soviet Union, and ‘the destruction of the Soviet Union was illegal, performed without the consent of the peoples of Union republics and the [Soviet] Union at large’.83 As such, the CPU, the largest political party in the country did not come to terms with Ukraine’s sovereignty and advocated the restoration of the status quo ante—’the Soviet people’. The ‘people of Ukraine’ (narod Ukrainy) were to serve as a stepping-stone in the rebuilding of the larger collectivity, the ‘Soviet people’. The communists insisted on the right on a referendum to decide Ukraine’s ‘voluntary accession to political unions with other states which emerged on the territory of the former USSR’.84

110To this end, the Left adhered to a strictly territorial definition of the political community encapsulated in the notion of a ‘narod Ukrainy’ denying any recognition of the special position and privileges to the Ukrainian ethnos in post-Soviet Ukraine. As a consequence, the Left rejected ‘nationalistic’ symbols and insisted on the upgrading of the status of the Russian language to that of ‘official’ language. By rejecting ethnicity as a state-validating factor, the Left viewed the fulfilment of socio-economic rights as a primary responsibility of the state, rather than implementation of cultural and linguistic policies.


111While the Left and Right clashed in their conceptions of nationhood, the centrist factions were profoundly divided on the issue. Overall, the split in the centrist bloc was in line with the regional and linguistic composition of the factions. The Inter-Regional Group of Deputies (MDG) took the most consistent stance and sided with the Left in its opposition to the ethnicised notion of the Ukrainskyi narod, ‘nationalist’ symbols and the lack of recognition of the Russian language in the draft constitution. The ‘Reforms’ favoured Ukrainian as the only state language, and principally backed the right wing factions on the national question, although it paid less attention to the issue. Other Ukrainophone factions, such as the ‘Centre’, aligned themselves with the national-democrats. The ‘Social Market Choice’ faction was divided between the Russophone and Ukrainophone deputies.

  • 85 For an example of non-left views advocating the official status of Russian in Ukraine see an artic (...)

112Overall, the parliamentary centre failed to develop a coherent, alternative stance to that of the Left or Right. The majority of factions were divided internally, though the ‘national question’ did not feature prominently on their agenda. The centrists tended to be too preoccupied with sectoral, functional, or personal interests to engage in ideologically loaded discussions on the conception of nationhood, (which tended to be time-consuming and exhausting, yet brought few tangible benefits for the Right and Left). Hence, the centrists tended to side either with the Left or Right in their views on ‘Ukrainian People’ or ‘People of Ukraine’, state language and symbols, although the rationale underlying their stance often differed from their allies. For example, a liberal Russophone deputy, Volodymyr Aleksiiev, justified calls for granting ‘official’ status to the Russian language in Ukraine by invoking ‘fundamental human rights’. The state’s role was to serve its citizens rather than impose state language, and create an artificial division between the korinni and nekorinni (non-indigenous) nationalities.85

  • 86 Paradoxically, Kravchuk’s emphasis on the historical continuity with the Ukrainian People’s Republ (...)

113Taking into account the bi-polarity of parliament on this question, the stance of the president could decisively swing the pendulum. While the first president of Ukraine86 Leonid Kravchuk was depicted as a nationalist by the left-wing parties, his successor, the technocrat Leonid Kuchma, came to power on an anti-nationalist platform. In that respect, Kuchma was representative of the anti-communist strand of Russophone elites. In the election campaign Kuchma rejected ‘romantic Galician nationalism’ arguing that the consolidation of the Ukrainian state had to take place in full recognition of the fact that Ukraine was a multinational state. In his inaugural speech, Kuchma asserted that:

  • 87 Kuchma’s inaugural speech was published in Uriadovyi Kurier, 21 July 1994, p. 2.

A Ukrainian state cannot be an end in itself. The state exists for the people and not the people for the state … Ukraine is not an icon, in front of which one has to pray. Ukraine is a multinational state. Any attempts to ignore this fact threaten to create a deep gulf in our society and crush the idea of the Ukrainian state … In the nearest future, I’m going to propose changes to the legislation in order to give Russian official status.87

114To the outcry of the national-democrats, Kuchma’s assessed ‘the geopolitical realities’ in the following way:

  • 88 Ibid.

Historically Ukraine is a part of the Eurasian economic and cultural space. Today, Ukraine’s vital national interests are concentrated on the territory of the former USSR … The self-isolation of Ukraine, its voluntary refusal to actively pursue its interests in the Eurasian sphere was a serious mistake, which caused significant damage, most of all, to the national economy.88

115Shortly after the elections, Kuchma’s declared intention of upgrading Russian to ‘official’ status and a pro-Russia foreign policy orientation seemed to put him firmly in alliance with the leftist bloc and in opposition to the national-democrats.

116However, within several months, to the relief of the national-democrats, Kuchma turned into what was referred to as derzhavnyk, a firm supporter of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. He distanced from his original proclamations in favour of re-integration with Russia:

  • 89 Kuchma’s speech commemorating the fifth anniversary of Ukrainian independence, the text of which w (...)

The objective political, economic and geopolitical analysis gives basis to the assertion that only an independent Ukraine is today the optimal form of preservation (samovyzhyvannia) of its people … The point of no return has been passed, and in whatever direction the development of Ukraine will go, there can be no return to the past.89

  • 90 See Kuchma’s speech in Uriadovyi Kurier, 8 June 1996.

117In the recurring battle in the Ukrainian parliament between the Left and Right on the question of membership in the CIS Inter-parliamentary Assembly—the political arm of the Commonwealth—Kuchma sided with the Right. Ukraine remained a reluctant associate member of the CIS. He also firmly rejected the possibility of dual citizenship for Russians in Ukraine, which were still insisted on by Russia and the Communist Party of Ukraine in early 1995.90

  • 91 On language policies under Kravchuk see D. Arel, ‘Ukraine: The Temptation of the Nationalising Sta (...)
  • 92 In contrast to Kravchuk, under Kuchma the government favoured neutrality in church–state relations (...)
  • 93 Uriadovyi Kurier, 23 December 1995, p. 4.
  • 94 Kuchma’s speech commemorating the 400th anniversary of the birth of Bohdan Khmelnytskyi was publis (...)
  • 95 Kuchma’s speech commemorating the fifth anniversary of Ukrainian independence, the text of which w (...)
  • 96 See D. Arel and A. Wilson, ‘Ukraine under Kuchma: Back to “Eurasia”?’, RFE/RL Research Report, Vol (...)

118Kuchma played down the sensitive and controversial issue of Russian as the second official language, despite it having been the cornerstone of his presidential campaign (significantly he himself switched from using Russian to Ukrainian). Although not keen on promoting the ‘national idea’ as the new state ideology through a ‘top-down’ Ukrainisation policy (something associated with, though not in fact pursued by, Kravchuk),91 Kuchma continued the mission of moderated ‘nation building’ of his predecessor.92 He soon came to appreciate the ‘genealogy’ of the Ukrainian state and glorified Ukrainian history as a sequence of national liberation struggles. Ukraine’s history, as he suggested, ‘can be understood only in terms of the achievements and frustrations of the nation’.93 Kuchma celebrated the role of Cossack Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytskyi as that of a national hero, and asserted that ‘today, carrying on Bohdan’s work, we are realising the third attempt at the revival of our state’.94 However, Kuchma stopped short of asserting ‘state ownership’ by the titular majority and argued that ‘international peace and interethnic harmony is evidence that we adhere to the correct policy in a matter of such importance and sensitivity as the national policy of the state. In short, its essence is: Ukraine—is a common home, homeland for all its citizens’.95 Having witnessed Kuchma’s evolution many observers— with the benefit of hindsight—noted that his newly found ‘patriotism’ stemmed from the logic of his position as head of an independent state, though this was less than evident on the eve of and immediately after the election.96

  • 97 See Dmytro Vydryn and Dmytro Tabachnyk, Ukraina na porozi XXI stolittia (Ukraine on the Brink of t (...)

119To be sure, the presidential entourage did not speak with one voice. Dissenting voices originated even from the highest quarters, including presidential advisers. In two books published by Kuchma’s associates in 1995, more ‘cosmopolitan’ views were projected, and the authors advocated ‘integration into the Eurasian space’, bi-lingualism, a pro-Russian foreign policy orientation, and openly doubted the ‘historical distinctiveness’ and even the viability of Ukraine as an independent state. However, those voices were swiftly muted and/or marginalised.97

  • 98 Demokratychna Ukraina, 30 January 1996.
  • 99 The right-wing political parties, however, intensified their calls for state cultural and linguist (...)

120Kuchma’s transformation on the ‘national question’ prompted the opinions that ‘instead of national romanticism [of Kravchuk], a new idea came to the fore—that of statehood as a call for a new, strong, paternalistic and—within reason—national state’ (emphasis added).98 However, how ‘national’ the state should be according to Kuchma was far from clear, and, as will be argued in the next chapter, it was a flexible item on the presidential agenda during constitution drafting. Nevertheless, Kuchma’s credentials as a derzhavnyk and his decision to distance himself from the policy of granting Russian official status in Ukraine, even if accompanied by a cautious approach to cultural and language policies, sufficed for a modus vivendi with the national-democrats and opened the way for close co-operation during the passage of the constitution.99


121Despite being designed to maximise the incumbents’ chances of being re-elected, the electoral law returned few of them to their parliamentary seats in the 1994 parliamentary elections. Once again parliament was filled by a large contingent of independent candidates with nebulous ideological profile. While the centrist parties won a handful of seats, the re-legalised Communist Party of Ukraine emerged as the biggest winner. The national-democrats duplicated the 1990 election results gaining about one fourth of all seats. This meant that the new Supreme Council turned into a forum of contest between the two ideological blocs. As is clear from the constitutional debates, the Left and Right demonstrated two diametrically opposing conceptions of statehood (Table 5.4).

  • 100 See Andrew Wilson, ‘The Ukrainian Left: Still a Barrier to Reform?’, The Ukrainian Review, Vol. 44 (...)

122The leftist bloc, which was made up of Communist, Socialist and Peasant parties, that had their geographical power base is Eastern, Southern and rural Central Ukraine, was united by a shared idealised view of the Soviet past, its achievements, and its political and economic institutions. This was accompanied by a passionate rejection of ‘Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism’, which was equated with the constitutionally enshrined official status of the Ukrainian language and symbols. In its view, alongside Russians and Belarussians, Ukrainians belonged to the East-Slavic civilisation, which developed a distinctive mentality and traditions, which set these nations apart from the Western world. The preferred conception of statehood was ultimately a perpetuation of the Soviet model. Nevertheless, the bloc was not homogeneous and was split in terms of attitudes toward independence. While the socialists and peasants (and some communists) accepted Ukrainian independence and did not advocate the restoration of the Soviet Union (although they did favour close co-operation with Russia and the CIS), and thus preferred a socialist path of development within an independent Ukraine, the hardline communists openly denied the legitimacy of Ukrainian statehood by calling for the reincarnation of the USSR.100

123At the opposite end of the political spectrum, the national-democrats (represented in the Rukh and Statehood factions) derived their support from Western and urban Central Ukraine. This bloc saw itself as the avant-garde pushing for Ukraine’s ‘return to Europe’ after centuries of oppression and exploitation suffered in the Russian empire. It was passionately anti-communist and equated Soviet rule with a foreign occupation, which brought about the genocide of the Ukrainian nation, the distortion of Ukraine’s economic development and the degeneration of its social and cultural tissue. Rebuking the past meant repairing the damage done to the Ukrainian language and culture as a matter of priority in building a Ukrainian nation-state. The socio-economic transformation towards a market economy and the political reform leading to a strong and efficient democratic state also figured on their agenda, although it was defined in a much less precise way than the strategy on the ‘national question’. The institutional framework was to embody the democratic, European credentials of the new state, while ensuring the territorial integrity and progress of socio-economic reforms. Despite emphasising the symbolic continuity between the Ukrainian People’s Republic (1917–1921) and post-Soviet Ukraine, the national-democrats took a cautious stance on the usefulness of the UNR’s form of government for state building in independent Ukraine. The pure parliamentary model and far-reaching territorial decentralisation, which characterised the UNR, were rejected for post-Soviet Ukraine because of the fear that they would strengthen the anti-state left-wing forces, feed centrifugal tendencies, and hamper economic reforms. In other words, in order to successfully continue the state-building process initiated by the leaders of the UNR, the pre-communist traditions had to be carefully screened and reinterpreted.

Table 5.4. Positions of the Parliamentary Factions on Key Constitutional Issues (Spring 1996)

Table 5.4. Positions of the Parliamentary Factions on Key Constitutional Issues (Spring 1996)

124Source: Adapted from Artur Bilous et al., Proiekt Konstytutsii Ukrainy: stan, problemy, perspektyvy (Kyiv, 1996). i The president appoints the members of the cabinet of ministers.

125The bi-polarity of ideas and visions between the Left and Right shaped constitution making. The aim of the Left was to prevent change and minimise the ‘freshness of the start’ by retaining the institutions and the goals of the previous regime in the Ukrainian state. Hence, the constitution was to preserve the essence of the Soviet system, and, hence, they only accepted some ‘improvements’ rather than a radical overhaul. Conversely, the national-democrats perceived the constitution as a vehicle for abandoning the Soviet past and a device for rooting-out the vestiges of the communist order on Ukraine’s journey to ‘the civilised world’. The ‘indigenous way of life’ was ‘European’, whereas the communist era was an aberration from the normal path of development initiated with the establishment of the UNR in 1917. However, Soviet communism in Ukraine left legacies, which necessitated a particularistic approach, to state building. Universal models had to be screened and adapted to indigenous circumstances, in order to leap from the post- Soviet ‘here’ to a European ‘there’. These two blocs, which advocated the competing and mutually exclusive models of statehood, clashed head-on in the course of constitution drafting.

126Being numerically underrepresented and organisationally weak, the liberals in parliament could hardly stand up to the role of mediator between the two hostile forces. Despite the formation of many self-proclaimed centrist factions, which grouped unaffiliated deputies (many of whom worked in the state apparatus), their ideological orientation was often nebulous and difficult to pin down. Nevertheless, in contrast to the previous parliament of 1990–1994, this pragmatically disposed group of deputies came to tacitly recognise the need to eradicate the institutional vestiges of the Soviet model and accept a separation of powers as the underlying principle for constitutional reform. This demonstrated a profound shift from the constitutional debates in 1991, when the majority (the ‘group of 239’) still adhered to the system of soviets as the legitimate form of government for sovereign Ukraine.

127Moreover, the ideological cleavages in the Supreme Council were further compounded by the institutional divisions, as the two ideological blocs, which were represented in parliament, cohabited with an unaffiliated president. Initially, the views of the newly elected president, who lacked an independent power base in parliament, cut cross those two ideological blocs in the Supreme Council. On the one hand, Kuchma advocated radical political reform away from the system of soviets in order to pursue economic reforms, an agenda that the national-democrats firmly backed. On the other hand, he took an ‘antinationalist’ stance and advocated a foreign policy orientation aimed at re-integration with ‘Eurasia’, something that was also championed by the Left. However, within a short space of time, Kuchma underwent a remarkable double ‘realignment’. Prior to the elections he moved towards championing the rights of the Russophone electorate and reintegration with Russia/CIS, which proved decisive in his victory. Yet after the elections the ‘Russian question’ was quietly dropped from the presidential agenda, as this proved to be a major hindrance to get support from his potential allies in parliament, the national-democrats, on political and economic reforms. Thus, even if before the elections, the agenda of ‘anti-nationalist’ and pro-Russian left-wing forces appeared to coincide more with Kuchma’s platform, after the elections Kuchma himself shifted in favour of the position adopted by the nationaldemocrats. As will be argued in the next chapter, this re-alignment opened a ‘window of opportunity’ to pass the new constitution of Ukraine by a constitutional majority, despite the diametrically opposed concepts of statehood prevailing in parliament.


1 Out of 174 deputies who stood for re-election, only 49 won seats in the new parliament. Moreover, not all seats were filled in the new parliament. After several rounds of by-elections in 1994, parliament put a moratorium on further re-elections between December 1994 and December 1995.

2 Sarah Birch, ‘Nomenklatura Democratization: Electoral Clientelism in Post-Soviet Ukraine’, Democratization, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Winter 1997), pp. 40–62.

3 The radical right, which was not united in any formal electoral bloc, was represented by parties such as the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (KUN), the Ukrainian National Assembly, and the Union of Sovereign Statehood. As they obtained only 12 seats and accounted only for 0.5 percent of the composition of the Supreme Council, they played a marginal role in constitution making.

4 In Eastern and Southern Ukraine the national-democrats received on average 30 percent of the votes, although the percentage was much lower in the densely populated and more politically radical Donbas. Rukh proved unable to reach to rural Ukrainian-speaking constituencies in Central Ukraine, which tended to vote either for the Agrarian and Socialist Parties or independent members of local elites. In Western Ukraine the moderate nationalists lost some seats in favour of the radical right. Because of the lack of discernible mechanical effects of the electoral system, the right-wing parties received seats roughly in proportion to their share of the votes.

5 However, the ‘liberal bloc’ was most of all devised as an electoral machine, and, as such, represented an amalgam of pro-Russian, Slavofile, pro-Western parties, blocs and alliances, as well as being an association of industrialists and so-called red directors, etc. It was also joined by the Party of Democratic Revival of Ukraine, the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine. In western Ukraine, the ‘New Wave’ represented a local brand of liberalism. The IRBR had overlapping and fuzzy organisational structures, and failed to consolidate into a political party.

6 Other centrist parties, such as the Labour Party, which was pro-Russian, favoured federalisation and represented local Donbas elites, lost to the CPU.

7 Sarah Birch, ‘Electoral Systems, Campaign Strategies, and Vote Choice in the Ukrainian Parliamentary and Presidential Elections of 1994’, Political Studies, Vol. XLVI, No. 1 (March 1998), pp. 96–114.

8 For example, the bloc ‘Soiuz’ aimed to re-create the Union of the former Soviet republics. It was headed by a communist, Ivan Symonenko, and consisted of 35 deputies (24 communists, 4 MDG, 3 APU, 2 SPU, 1 Yednist, 1 Civic Congress) mainly from Eastern and Southern Ukraine. The list of names of the members was published in Vechirniy Kyiv, 2 November 1995.

9 Candidates could be nominated by political parties or blocs, which had to have a minimum of 1,000 members in order to propose a candidate (only one candidate per party/bloc). Also, candidates could be nominated by meetings of voters (a minimum of 500 voters had to be present). In order to be officially registered with the Electoral Commission, the candidates had to submit a list of 100,000 signatures of citizens with the right to vote, which had to include no less than 1,500 citizens in two thirds of the total number of the constituencies. (For an English-language translation of the electoral law see Yarpolok Kulchytskyi (ed.), Presidential Election Guide (Kyiv: International Foundation for Electoral Systems, 1994).

10 Vybory v Ukraini (Elections in Ukraine), (Kyiv, International Foundation for Electoral Systems, 1994), pp. 138–139.

11 Donbas (the region of Ukraine, which consists of two oblasts, Donetsk and Luhansk, in the Donbas basin, 15 percent of which is within the Russian Federation), have the highest proportion of ethnic Russians (apart from Crimea): 45 percent in Luhansk and 44 percent in Donetsk. Moreover, the majority of ethnic Ukrainians are Russian speakers. In 1990–1991 some attempts to establish an interfront organisation in Donbas were made, as well as to form a union of 12 eastern and southern Ukrainian 5. How to Organise the State? 183 oblasts. Already before independence, calls for federal structure of Ukraine and making Russian the state language were made. A local referendum was held in Donbas during the parliamentary elections of 1994. Four questions were asked regarding 1) full membership of Ukraine in CIS; 2) a federal structure for Ukraine; 3) the introduction of Russian as a second language; 4) the immediate introduction of Russian in Donbas as an official language alongside Ukrainian. Each of those questions obtained over 50 percent of votes. However, Donbas, in contrast to Crimea, did not push for secession from Ukraine.

12 Transcarpathia was incorporated into Ukraine in 1945 (it belonged to Hungary until 1918, and Czechoslovakia in the interwar period, followed by a brief spell of independence under the name of the Republic of Carpatho–Ukraine in 1939). In 1989 the population was 78 percent Ukrainian, 13 percent Hungarian, 4 percent Russian, 2.4 percent Romanian, and 1 percent Roma. However, the Ukrainian majority itself was divided, as part of it claims a Rusyn ethnic identity. On 1 December 1991, the oblast population voted in a referendum on the question ‘Do you want Sub-Carpathia to receive autonomous status as a subject within an independent Ukraine?’, which was approved by 78 percent of those who voted. Ethnic Hungarians voted in favour of creating a Hungarian Autonomous district in the Berehovo region of Transcarpathia, where the Hungarians form a majority of the population. Ukrainian Reporter, Vol. 1, No. 23, (1991), p. 3. On the history of Transcarpathia see V. Shandor, Carpatho– Ukraine in the 20th Century (HURI, 1996). On 22 June 1994, the Transcarpathian oblast rada asked the Supreme Council of Ukraine to grant it administrative autonomy.

13 Author’s interview with Volodymyr Moiseienko, Kyiv, a member of the Communist faction, Kyiv, November 1995.

14 Kommunist, No. 49, December 1995, p. 4.

15 Ivan Chyzh, the leader of the Socialist faction in parliament linked the traditions of the SPU to the socialist and social-democratic parties of 1917–1920 such as the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party, the Ukrainian Party of Social Revolutionaries, and the Ukrainian Party of Social(ist) Federalists. At the same time he asserted that ‘Ukrainian socialists will be always more leftist than the [European] socialists and social-democrats’, especially during the type of socio-economic collapse that occurred in Ukraine. However, while still broadly adhering to Marxism– Leninism, the SPU was open to and drew from the rich European socialist tradition (which set it apart from the CPU). Ivan Chyzh, ‘Ukrainski sotsialisty zavzhdy budut’ livishymy vid evropeiskykh (The Ukrainian Socialists Will Always Be More to the Left that Europeans)’, Viche, No. 6, 1997, pp. 112–122.

16Kontseptsia derzhavotvorenia v Ukraini (The Conception of State Building)’ (2–4 December 1992). The document was adopted by the Fourth All Ukrainian Congress of Rukh.

17 Giovanni Sartori, ‘Neither Presidentialism nor Parliamentarism’, in J. J. Linz and A. Valenzuela (eds.), The Failure of Presidential Democracy (Baltimore, London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), Vol. 1, p. 112.

18 See M. J. C. Vile, Constitutionalism and the Separation of Powers. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967). Many post-communist constitutions refer to a ‘separation of powers’, as for example does the constitution of Bulgaria, even if the dominant form of 184 The Moulding of Ukraine government in post-communist states—parliamentarism—could be characterised more precisely by the separation of functions rather than powers.

19 Kuchma’s speech was published in Uriadovyi Kurier, 24 December 1994, pp. 1–3.

20 Holos Ukrainy, 24 December 1994, p. 3.

21 Artur Bilous et al., Proiekt konstytutsii Ukrainy: stan, problemy, perspektyvy (The Draft Constitution of Ukraine: the Current Situation, Problems, Prospects) (Kyiv, 1996), p. 17.

22 Ibid.

23 Later, the president conceded to the formation of a Senate in direct elections. However, the main candidates in direct elections tended to be state administration officials, who would be nominated by the president. With the Senate consisting of individuals subordinated to the president, it would become a pro-presidential organ.

24 The classification of forms of government used in the constitutional debate reflected the specific constellation of preferences in Ukraine, and as such was not based on any particular Western classifications.

25 For the arguments supporting federalism in Ukraine see the article by the leader of the Constitutional–Democratic Party of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zolotariov, ‘A Federative System of Government as a Means of Resolving the Present Crisis in Ukraine’, Demos, Vol. 1, No. 7 (28 November 1994).

26 Dominique Arel and Andrew Wilson, ‘The Ukrainian Parliamentary Elections’, RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. 3, No. 26 (1994). p. 28.

27 Volodymyr Hryniov, Nova Ukraina: Yakoiu Ya Yi Bachu (New Ukraine: How I See Her) (Kyiv, 1995), pp. 27 and 36.

28 Ivan Popesku, ‘Ludyna v derzhavi: harmonia prava (An Individual in the State: the Harmony of Law)’, Holos Ukrainy, 3 December 1996, p. 7.

29 Taras Kuzio, ‘Issues of Voters Preferences during the 1994 Presidential Elections in Ukraine’, Working Paper, Centre For Russian and East European Studies, 1995.

30 Mykola Tomenko, Ukrainska perspektyva: istoryko-politolohichni pidstavy suchasnoi derzhavnoi stratehii (A Ukrainian Perspective: the Historical-Political Foundation of Contemporary State Strategy) (Kyiv, 1995). p. 54.

31 CSAOCOU, FOND 1, OPYS 11, Delo 2278 (Stenographic transcript of the Meeting of Politburo on 2 July 1991), p. 10.

32 Interestingly, Viacheslav Chornovil, the then ex-chairman of the Lviv council, who became a leader of Rukh, advocated the idea of federalism before Ukraine became independent in order to maintain the special identity of Galicia and protect against pro-Russian, pro-communist attitudes prevailing in Kyiv in 1990–1991. Strong regions were intended to counteract the conservative centre. Yet, when the national-communists opted for independence, the idea of federalisation of independent Ukraine was not only discarded but labelled ‘anti-state’ by national-democrats, including Chornovil.

33 Yevhen Baltarovych, ‘Ukraine: A Federal or Unitary State’, Demos, Vol. 1, No. 7 (28 Nov. 1994), p. 3.

34 Baltarovych, ‘Ukraine: A Federal or Unitary State’, p. 3.

35 This term was derived from the Akt Sobornosti (unity) which proclaimed the unification of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UNR) and the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic (ZUNR) in Kyiv on 22 January 1919 (see chapter 2). At that time, sobornist epitomised the integration of Ukrainian ethnic territories in one state. After the 5. How to Organise the State? 185 first World War sobornist’ acquired a meaning of not only an integrated, but also a centralised state model in order to prevent disintegration. See Alexander J. Motyl, The Turn to the Right: The Ideological Origins and Development of Ukrainian Nationalism, 1919–1929 (Boulder: East European Monographs, 1980).

36 Ukrainian Law (1996), No. 1, p. 128.

37 M. Kornienko, ‘Regional Autonomy: Federation or Decentralization’, Ukrainian Law, No. 3 (1996), p. 141.

38 Volodymyr Shapoval, ‘The State System of Ukraine: Political and Legal Aspects’, Ukrainian Law, No. 3 (1996), p. 130.

39 Shapoval, ‘The State System of Ukraine’, p. 135.

40 Tomenko, Ukrainska perspektyva: istoryko-politolohichni pidstavy, p. 52.

41 Ivan L. Rudnytsky, ‘The Fourth Universal and Its Ideological Antecedents’, in. Taras Hunchak (ed.), The Ukraine, 1917–1921: A Study in Revolution (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1977), p. 218.

42 Ibid.

43 Shapoval, ‘The State System of Ukraine’, p. 135.

44 Kornienko, ‘Regional Autonomy: Federation or Decentralization’, p. 141.

45 On the developments in Crimea in the early 1990s see Gwen Sasse, ‘The Crimean Issue’, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 1996), pp. 83–100.; Ian Bremmer, ‘Ethnic Issues in Crimea’, RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. 2, No. 18 (Apr. 1993).; Andrew Wilson, ‘Crimea’s Political Cauldron’, RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. 2, No. 2 (12 Nov. 1993).

46 The Constitution was published in the Vedomosti Verkhovoho Sovieta Kryma (Information from the Supreme Soviet of Crimea), 1991–1992, No. 7.

47 The national-democrats proposed for Crimea to be granted a Charter (Statut) for Crimean Autonomy, which would be approved by the Supreme Council of Ukraine.

48 Kornienko, ‘Regional Autonomy’, pp. 139–45.

49 Ukraine inherited a multi-layered administrative division from the Soviet Union: village, village-type settlement, cities, raion and oblast with the latter two being intermediate level units. For an overview of the territorial division of post-Soviet Ukraine see Ukrainian Law, No. 3 (1996), p. 151.

50 For a detailed overview of territorial–administrative units and their historical names see Volodymyr Kubijovych (ed.), Encyklopedia ukrainoznavstva (The Encyclopedia of Ukrainian Studies), Vol. 1, Reprint of the 1949 edition (Kyiv, 1994), pp. 119–24.

51 Roman Bezsmertnyi, ‘Konstytutsiia garantuie samovriaduvania’ (The Constitution Guarantees Local Self-Government), Nova Polityka, No. 5 (1996), pp. 25–8.

52 Holos Ukrainy, 24 December 1994, p. 3.

53 Ibid.

54 Ibid.

55 The speech of the leader of CPU, Petro Symonenko at the session of the Supreme Council on the constitution. Kommunist, No. 17, April 1996, p. 3.

56 Kommunist, No. 49, December 1995, p. 5. See also an article by a member of the Legislative Institute of the Supreme Council, Vasyl Bordeniuk in favour of the ‘state theory of local government’ in Holos Ukrainy, 9 August 1995, p. 12.

57 Kommunist, No. 49, December 1995, p. 5.

58 Materials from the Third Meeting of the Working Group of the Constitutional Commission, Archives of the Constitutional Commission (February–March 1991), p. 45.

59 For a summary of the arguments in favour of bi-cameralism see the text of the speech made by Volodymyr Butkevych, chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations of the Supreme Council, in Holos Ukrainy, 30 April 1996, pp. 8–9. See also his ‘Proiekt Konstytutsii Ukrainy u Verkhovnii Radi’, and Rostyslav Pavenko, ‘Skilky palat potribno Parlamentu Ukrainy?’ (How Many Houses Does the Ukrainian Parliament Need?), Nova Polityka, No. 5 (1996), p. 37.

60 The Materials of the Constitutional Commission, Fourth Meeting, Archives of the Constitutional Commission (March 1991), p. 8.

61 Kommunist, No. 49, December 1995, p. 4.

62 Author’s interview with Galina Starovoitova, the member of the MDG faction, Kyiv, July 1997. The regional elites also favoured the formation of the Senate on the principle of proportionality. See, for example, the views of Mykhailo Pozhyvanov, a deputy and head of the Mauriopol city council, in Holos Ukrainy, 19 March 1996, p. 5.

63 Holos Ukrainy, 16 September 1994.

64 Tomenko, Ukrainska perspektyva: istoryko-politolohichni pidstavy, pp. 62–3. The head of the Parliamentary commission on culture and spirituality Mykhailo Kosiv, asserted that ‘Ukraine is the homeland of the Ukrainian people, who implement their sacred right to self-determination, by creating the Ukrainian state, in which there are national minorities’. Holos Ukrainy, 16 September, 1994, p. 4.

65 Programme of Rukh, Kyiv, 1989. It was also published in Lindheim and Luckyi (eds.), Towards an Intellectual History of Ukraine, pp. 341–362.

66 Tomenko, Ukrainska perspektyva: istoryko-politolohichni pidstavy, pp. 62–3.

67 Programme of Rukh, Kyiv, 1989.

68 Oleksandr Trubushnyi, ‘Movna polityka v Ukraini: problemy i priorytety (Language Policy in Ukraine: Problems and Priorities)’, Viche, Vol. 9 (1997), p. 100.

69 An article by the head of the Parliamentary Commission on Culture and Spirituality Mykhailo Kosiv published in Holos Ukrainy, 16 September, 1994.

70 Vechirnyi Kyiv, 15 March 1996, p. 3.

71 Holos Ukrainy, 16 September, 1994.

72 Ibid.

73 The exact English-language translation of the opening verse of the anthem ‘Shche ne vmerla Ukraina’ is technically ‘Ukraine Has Not Yet Died’. However, this does not bring across the defiant tone of the hymn. Thus a better translation is ‘Ukraine Has Not Yet Perished’. The text of the anthem was published as a patriotic poem in 1863 by Pavlo Chubynsky, a Ukrainian ethnographer and civic leader. The music was written by Verbytsky and it was published with the score in 1885. The song was recognised in 1917 as the anthem of the Ukrainian National Republic and banned under the Soviet Union.

74 The notion of the political community advocated by the national-democrats represented a juxtaposition of two conceptions: communitarian and pluralistic. In that respect, the national-democrats diverged from the mainstream East–Central European nationalist stance, as they championed both the rights of ethnic minorities and the titular nation, and at no point did they advocate ‘Ukraine for Ukrainians’, something Wilson implies in Ukrainian Nationalism in the 1990s, pp. 149–150. 5. How to Organise the State? 187

75 Wilson argues that the civic notion of nationhood is more suited to Ukraine. However, civic nationhood with its stress on equal political and socio-economic rights— which is epitomised by the so-called French model—does not presuppose any particular legal, institutional guarantees and provisions for minorities.

76 Tomenko, Ukrainska perspektyva: istoryko-politolohichni pidstavy, pp. 62–63.

77 Kommunist, No. 11, March 1996, p. 3.

78 Holos Ukrainy, 21 March 1996, p. 3.

79 Kommunist, No. 49, December 1995, p. 5.

80 Author’s interview with Volodymyr Moiseienko, a member of the Communist faction, Kyiv, November 1995.

81 Rogers Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 60.

82 Holos Ukrainy, 21 March 1996, p. 9.

83 Ibid.

84 Kommunist, No. 11, March 1996, p. 3.

85 For an example of non-left views advocating the official status of Russian in Ukraine see an article by Ivan Shapovalov and Volodymyr Aleksiiev in Holos Ukrainy, 27 July 1995, p. 9. On the liberal views on nationhood in Ukraine see Yevhen Bystrytskyi, ‘The National Idea, Civil Society and Political Nation’, in Oleksandr Dergachov (ed.), Ukrainian Statehood in the Twentieth Century (Kyiv: Political Thought, 1996), pp. 323–32.

86 Paradoxically, Kravchuk’s emphasis on the historical continuity with the Ukrainian People’s Republic (1917–1921), of which Hrushevskyi was the president, relegated Kravchuk to the role of the second president of Ukraine, as Hrushevskyi was proclaimed the president of the UNR in April 1918 (see chapter 2). However, this ‘problem’ was dealt with by referring to Kravchuk as the ‘first elected president of Ukraine’.

87 Kuchma’s inaugural speech was published in Uriadovyi Kurier, 21 July 1994, p. 2.

88 Ibid.

89 Kuchma’s speech commemorating the fifth anniversary of Ukrainian independence, the text of which was published in Holos Ukrainy, 28 September 1995, pp. 2–3.

90 See Kuchma’s speech in Uriadovyi Kurier, 8 June 1996.

91 On language policies under Kravchuk see D. Arel, ‘Ukraine: The Temptation of the Nationalising State’, in V. Tismaneanu (ed.), Political Culture and Civil Society in Russia and the New States of Eurasia (Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1995), pp. 157–88. See also Wilson, Ukrainian Nationalism in the 1990s, pp. 110–114. Under Kravchuk efforts were made to create a national united Orthodox Church independent of Russia under the umbrella of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate.

92 In contrast to Kravchuk, under Kuchma the government favoured neutrality in church–state relations. The events of ‘Black Tuesday’ in July 1995, when police attacked mourners of the nationalistic orthodox Patriarch, demonstrated the state’s aloofness from religious issues. Kuchma announced that the state is devoted to equal treatment of all concessions and can only act as a conciliator in the conflict between them. In other words, the state refrained from promoting the ‘patriotic’ Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate as a ‘national’ church. For Kuchma’s views on state–church relations see Holos Ukrainy, 27 July 1995, p. 2.

93 Uriadovyi Kurier, 23 December 1995, p. 4.

94 Kuchma’s speech commemorating the 400th anniversary of the birth of Bohdan Khmelnytskyi was published in Uriadovyi Kurier, 23 December 1995 and Holos Ukrainy, 22 December 1995.

95 Kuchma’s speech commemorating the fifth anniversary of Ukrainian independence, the text of which was published in Holos Ukrainy, 28 September 1995, pp. 2–3.

96 See D. Arel and A. Wilson, ‘Ukraine under Kuchma: Back to “Eurasia”?’, RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. III, No. 32 (1994).

97 See Dmytro Vydryn and Dmytro Tabachnyk, Ukraina na porozi XXI stolittia (Ukraine on the Brink of the XXIst Century)’, Kyiv, 1996, and Hryniov, Nova Ukraina: yakoiu ya yi bachu. While holding the post of presidential adviser, Hryniov was effectively marginalised, and Vydryn and Tabachnyk’s book was withdrawn from circulation before it was widely distributed. On the nationaldemocrats’ critique of those views see Viacheslav Chornovil, ‘Natsionalna inteligentsiia i ukrainska polityka (The National Inteligentsia and Ukrainian Politics)’, Slovo I Chas, No. 2(422) (February 1996), pp. 24–27.

98 Demokratychna Ukraina, 30 January 1996.

99 The right-wing political parties, however, intensified their calls for state cultural and linguistic policies to revive a Ukrainian identity. One of the initiatives to put pressure on the government to support Ukrainian language and culture was the National Congress of Ukrainian Intelligentsia, which was held in Kyiv in November 1995. The Petition of the Congress of Ukrainian Intelligentsia was published in Uriadovyi Kurier, 16 July 1996 and Ukraina Moloda, 12 July 1996. See also Anatoliy Pohribnyi, ‘Yaka Ukraina buduietsia? (What Kind of Ukraine Is Being Built?)’, Slovo I Chas, No. 2(422) (February 1996), pp. 24–7. More generally on the interactions between the cultural intelligentsia and the Ukrainian state see Marko Pavlyshyn, ‘Culture and National Identity: Ukrainian Developments 1991–1996’, in Vladimir Tikhonov (ed.), In Search of Identity (Melbourne: CRE–AS Publication Series No. 1, 1996), pp. 79–91.

100 See Andrew Wilson, ‘The Ukrainian Left: Still a Barrier to Reform?’, The Ukrainian Review, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Spring 1997), pp. 30–7.

Table des illustrations

Titre Table 5.1. Party Membership in Parliament (March/April 1994)
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Titre Table 5.2. A Breakdown of the Ukrainian Parliament (December 1994 and May 1995)
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Titre Table 5.3. Results of the Second Round of the Presidential Elections (10 July 1994)
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Titre Table 5.4. Positions of the Parliamentary Factions on Key Constitutional Issues (Spring 1996)
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