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"THE RIPENING OF THE ORANGE REVOLUTION"
By Stanislav Kulchytsky, Ph. D. in History [article one]
"FACING PAST SUFFERING"
As I read the press and learn even more disgraceful things from
personal sources, things that simply cannot be printed, I begin to
wonder if this country will ever be whole. I beg God, that it will be,
and like any person of goodwill, finding himself in my place, am
trying to do my bit to help."
By Professor James Mace, Ph. D. (1952-2004) [article two]
------INDEX OF ARTICLES------
"Major International News Headlines and Articles"
1. "THE RIPENING OF THE ORANGE REVOLUTION"
By Stanislav Kulchytsky, Ph.D. in History
The Day Weekly Digest in English, #11, #12, #13, #14
The Day, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 5, 12, 19, 26, 2005
2. "FACING PAST SUFFERING"
By Prof. James Mace, Ph. D.
The Day Weekly Digest In English, #34
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, November 28, 2000
1. "THE RIPENING OF THE ORANGE REVOLUTION"
By Stanislav Kulchytsky, Ph.D. in History
The Day Weekly Digest in English, #11, #12, #13, #14
The Day, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 5, 12, 19, 26, 2005
What was it? In the past few months The Day has been posing this question
about the Orange Revolution to many experts and politicians. We offer a
series of articles by Stanislav Kulchytsky whose answer is situated within a
broader historical context.
THE RIPENING OF THE ORANGE REVOLUTION
By Stanislav Kulchytsky
PART I, The Day, #11, Tuesday, 5 April 2005 -----
My article, "The Orange Revolution: Between the Past and Future,"
appeared in the Ukrainian issue of The Day on December 27 (not translated
in this digest). However, even after the article was published, this issue
continued to hold my and many other peoples' attention. The question that
is most often asked is: "What was it?"
Politicians and political scientists are analyzing the events of the Orange
Revolution, comparing them with events that are unfolding in other
post-Soviet republics. In their analysis historians go back in time and
discern in these events the consequences of what happened in the past.
In the January article in The Day I attempted to combine both analytical
directions. This method was so promising that I decided to elaborate this
question in book form. I would like to share with readers of The Day the
key ideas contained in the first chapter of this still uncompleted work.
IT WAS A REVOLUTION
The combination of the words "Orange Revolution" originated during the
2004 presidential elections. It has entered into common usage, but not
everyone recognizes the revolutionary nature of these events. Therefore,
it makes sense to begin by comparing two contradictory statements. As
a rule, comparisons lead to new knowledge.
The final 2004 issue of the magazine Krytyka [Criticism] carried the
materials of a roundtable discussion entitled "The Time of the Ukrainian
Choice: Between Revolution and Reform." This interdisciplinary seminar with
the participation of regular Krytyka contributors was held on December 8,
i.e., in the heat of events. The writer Mykola Riabchuk called the political
crisis a revolution designed to fundamentally change the country's system of
government that was formed in 1917. He called the events that were taking
place an attempt to bring to completion the revolution of 1991, when the
Soviet system was not shattered, only modified. Between 1991 and 2004
our society underwent fundamental changes.
FIRST, civil society acquired an economic groundwork in the form of small,
medium, and large businesses. SECOND, society became more open owing
to the technical advances in the mass media and freedom to travel abroad
for millions of Ukrainians. THIRD, the last generation of the Stalin era
disappeared, and a generation of people who do not remember Leonid
Brezhnev's rule reached adulthood. This is Riabchuk's hypothesis.
In a March 1 interview with The Day , Leonid Kravchuk said: "This wasn't a
revolution. A revolution took place in 1991, causing a change of system:
socialism gave way to pluralism, elections, and market economy relations
among countries and inside them." When asked what it was, Leonid Kravchuk
answered with conviction: "It was a change of team. Revolutions change the
country's life at the core. In this case, only new people have come to
power, incidentally, those who were in power before."
Comparing the two statements, I would agree with the former. Leonid
Kravchuk's unquestionably sincere answers reflect the stereotypes of a
Soviet person. The way he sees it, whereas on August 23, 1991, we
were still living under the old political system (he prefers the familiar
terminology - socialism), on August 25 it was already a totally different
system (in this case, the veteran politician avoids the most appropriate
term - capitalism).
Indeed, we were all led to believe that before November 7, 1917, the former
Romanov empire was a capitalist state, while the building of socialism began
on November 8. Only one day, November 7, was assigned for the Great
October Socialist Revolution. Did everything change in our country on August
24, 1991? What pluralism, elections, and market economy relations were
there to talk about?
It is up to historians to answer these questions. To grasp the essence of
the Orange Revolution, we must examine what led up to these events and
determine their place in a string of other related events. First and
foremost, let us address the question of typology.
Historians classify all cataclysmic social conflicts into civil wars
(social, religious, interethnic) and revolutions. Not every civil war is a
revolution, but almost every revolution is accompanied by a civil war.
Whenever a revolution ends without bloodshed, its grateful participants
call it "a velvet revolution." Unlike wars that are touched off by social
conflicts but have little effect on social relations, revolutions change the
social system. More than one revolution is sometimes required for this to
happen. After the French revolution of 1789, for example, two more
"corrective" revolutions took place, in 1830 and 1848.
The social system can be changed with the help of revolutions or reforms,
or both. Mankind follows a single path of development: from a traditional to
democratic society. Moving along this path, the subjects of a monarch become
citizens and the populace becomes a nation. The main characteristic of a
traditional society is the monarch's sovereignty, and that of a democratic
society is the sovereignty of the people, who elect the country's leaders in
free elections. But woe betide those nations that in their transition from a
traditional to democratic society have voluntarily chosen or were forcefully
pushed onto a wrong path.
The Russian revolution of 1917 handed the country to a political force that,
although it came from the people, destroyed or subordinated all alternative
forces or structures in society. When the Bolsheviks came to power, they
established a totalitarian dictatorship, and in the spring of 1918 they
started their own revolution - a communist revolution. Implemented for two
decades by means of forcefully imposed reforms, this revolution created a
"commune state" - a kind of civilization that was completely different from
the external world.
The enslaved society could not produce any alternative structures capable
of challenging the communist regime, political system, and lifestyle.
Incapable of evolving, Soviet communism was doomed to exist in an
unchangeable state until the problems it created had reached a critical
mass. In Ukraine it existed for three generations.
The revolution of 1989-1991 destroyed the external (the Central and a
Eastern European countries) and internal (the union republics of the USSR)
Soviet empire. At the turn of the 198 0s-90s, few viewed the meltdown of
the Communist Party of the USSR, which had held together this empire by
means of its dictatorship, as a full-fledged revolution. In a series of
articles in The Ukrainian Historical Magazine, dedicated to the 10th
anniversary of Ukraine's independence, I attempted to establish the
causes, specifics, and motive forces of the Third Ukrainian Revolution
of 1989-1991 (2002, Nos. 2, 3, 4).
In my view, our revolution was no different from the anti-communist
revolutions in nearly three dozen countries that sprang up on the ruins of
the Soviet empire. Yet it was very different from all the earlier bourgeois
or bourgeois-democratic revolutions. Anti-communist revolutions occurred
as the disintegration of an artificial system that was created forcefully
and in line with communist doctrine. The self-disintegration of the system
resembled a revolution that was equally unexpected for the Communist
Party nomenklatura and the Soviet people.
The 1989-1991 revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe and the union
republics of the USSR had many characteristics in common, which were due
to the nature of the communist system and its qualitative and civilizational
differences from the democratic system. However, the period of time spent
in the Soviet camp has divided post-communist countries into two groups.
In some of them, such as the former Baltic republics of the USSR, the
totalitarian regime had not completely digested the civil society structures
that existed before the Soviet empire engulfed them. Only one anti-
communist revolution proved enough for them to join the countries of the
Euro-Atlantic civilization. The vestiges of communism in daily life, public
consciousness, and the economy were eradicated as part of an
Elements of a weak civil society, which had formed before 1917 or in the
first months after the fall of the autocracy, were completely crushed in
most of the post-Soviet states. Democratic structures could begin to develop
in these countries only after 1991. It is no wonder that from the outset
these countries were full of new "corrective" revolutions. Ukraine, for one,
spent a long time getting rid of communism both by means of reforms (such
as the adoption of the Constitution in 1996) and by revolutionary means,
which resulted in the change of leadership in 2004.
Two important conclusions follow from these observations. Let us first
formulate them and then proceed to support them with specific evidence.
Life itself generates this evidence. Like before, the post- Soviet states
are on the march. The processes underway in them are far from complete.
The first conclusion: The bitter confrontation in Ukraine at the end of last
year was a result of the ill- will of individual spin doctors and
irresponsible politicians. The elections are over and the antagonism has
vanished, although not entirely. Differences among people and territories,
which have always existed, remain. Ukraine is objectively divided along
many lines, but there is nothing threatening about this. The strength of any
consolidated society lies in differences, not in uniformity.
The second conclusion: There is no doubt that multicolor revolutions, such
as Georgia's Rose Revolution or Ukraine's Orange Revolution, will flare up
in other countries that formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Everything will depend on the maturity of individual civil societies. Civil
societies are evolving everywhere, albeit at a different and often slow
pace. It cannot be otherwise, because the death of the Communist Party
of the USSR marked the end of communist dictatorship, which was
unprecedented in terms of its penetration into the very pores of society.
"THE PARTY OF POWER"
Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms began two decades ago, ushering in the final
phase in the existence of the Soviet Union. In the course of reforms, the
bureaucratic perestroika touched off a chain of events outside the Kremlin's
control, which undermined the Leninist and Stalinist "commune state."
The essence of Gorbachev's main reform was in making Soviet government
bodies independent of Communist Party committees. The transfer of authority
to local governing councils in 1988 fundamentally changed the nature of the
Soviet government. Losing its attributes of dictatorship, it increasingly
became dependent on the people.
Between 1917 and 1988 the Soviet government was a kind of two-headed
Janus: a symbiosis of the councils' fully-fledged administrative power and
the dictatorial rule of party committees. "The democratic centralism"
underpinning the Communist Party and all other Soviet structures required
the absolute subordination of lower- level authorities to higher-level ones.
With the exception of a host of oligarchs, Communist Party members were
only indirectly involved in communist dictatorship. The millions of
rank-and-file party members created a misleading political party facade for
the governmental structure, which was the Communist Party of the USSR.
After it seized power, the Bolshevik party split into two parts - an
external party and the party core. The external party was comprised of the
mass of members, and the internal one was a caste of leaders, in which iron
discipline ruled. Party power and state power was concentrated in the hands
of oligarchs - members of the Central Committee Politburo. Despite their
unlimited powers, this caste of leaders, i.e., the Communist Party and the
Soviet nomenklatura, was not the bearer of dictatorial power, but only its
vehicle. It ruled the country only because it received mandates from the
The elimination of the Communist Party dictatorship brought about an
unexpected collapse of the government. It turned out that after losing its
party-of-power status, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union lost even the
communist and Soviet nomenklatura's interest. To remain on the cusp of the
revolutionary wave, representatives of the Kremlin-appointed Kyiv
nomenklatura, who came to be known as "sovereign communists," supported
the idea of Ukraine's sovereignty.
The communist-controlled Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian SSR adopted
the Declaration on State Sovereignty. Immediately after the coup of August
19-21, 1991, the Verkhovna Rada proclaimed Ukraine's withdrawal from the
Soviet Union, and the communist leadership of the Ukrainian parliament
officially banned the Communist Party of Ukraine.
What is the origin of the paradox whereby sovereign communists became
the motive force of the anti-communist revolution? In reality, this is an
imaginary paradox. The sovereign communists were not the motive force
behind a revolution bent on destroying a system that could have continued
to exist. The revolution occurred in the form of self-destruction of a
system that had outlived itself. Since it was a totalitarian system, it was
run by only one organized force - the nomenklatura.
In this specific revolution the nomenklatura was guided by the motive of
preserving its grip on power. As the famous dissident Yuriy Badzio wrote
in 1994, "It's quite natural that power had to end up in the hands of the
nomenklatura. We simply didn't have, and still don't have, another socio-
political group that would be developed enough in quantitative and
ualitative terms to be able to build a new state."
The anti-communist revolution of 1989-1991 affected the "party core" in
different ways. A relatively small part of the nomenklatura, mostly
functionaries of the older generation, held on to their old ideological
positions. Unable to give up their principles, the orthodox party men gave
up their government posts. These people were accustomed to appointments
based on dossiers, and could not stand the competition in free elections.
Some of them retired from politics, while others occupied leading positions
in leftist parties or veterans' organizations.
Part of the communist and Soviet nomenklatura used the hidden Communist
Party gold reserves or high posts in economic structures to form a small but
influential class of bankers, financial bank presidents, and owners of
enterprises and commercial firms.
Those nomenklatura representatives who were positioned between extreme
groups became the "party of power" that was made up of essentially
non-partisan members after the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU) was
banned. The composition of this government corporation became more
diverse than it was in the Soviet period, since appointments were no longer
based on dossiers, but on the actual expertise (including criminal ties) of
However, professional managers formed the backbone of
this corporation. Most of them were experts in various sectors of the
economy and culture, and were once meticulously selected for managerial
posts by Communist Party committees. Without experts with organizational
experience, society would not have been able to function normally.
At the same time, Soviet- era functionaries brought with them such qualities
as corporativism, clanship, mutual cover- ups, conservatism, cynical
pragmatism, and lack of principles. After 1991 added to this blend was
rampant corruption, which was caused, on the one hand, by the state's
inability to ensure adequate living standards for its functionaries, and on
the other hand, by their desire to turn ephemeral power into material riches
as quickly as possible.
Pragmatists in the "party of power" showed their readiness to relinquish
communist newspeak and switch to ideological values common to all man-
kind. In 1992 Ukraine's first president Leonid Kravchuk called on his former
opponents in the Rukh Popular Movement "to provide an ideological basis
for a new Ukraine." However, sovereign communists were not psychologically
ready to immediately give up their communist stereotypes.
Left-leaning parties launched the political structuring of the post-
communist society. The appearance of leftist parties should be viewed as
a revival of the "external CPSU" in the face of steadily declining living
standards. The first to appear on the left side of the political spectrum
was the Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU). Its founding congress in October
1991 declared that the SPU had 60,000 members. Independent estimates
suggest that the real number of socialists was half this figure.
During the registration procedure it was learned that 90% of prospective SPU
members were former members of the banned CPU. The SPU's ranks were
subsequently replenished exclusively by former communists. The intentions of
the SPU's founding father, Oleksandr Moroz, to modernize its ideology and
policy never materialized. The party never became social-democratic. In
terms of its ideology it differed little from the former CPSU.
In 1992 the Peasant Party of Ukraine (SelPU) held its founding congress. It
was created by collective farm chiefs and state farm directors to lobby
their interests in the government and parliament. The mastermind and leader
of SelPU was then Agriculture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko. It was declared
at the moment of registration that the party had 65,000 members. In reality,
it was a phantom party without an organized membership. Nonetheless, it had
significant influence in the countryside because it was a league of agrarian
Having proclaimed political pluralism, the "party of power" did not find any
reasons to ban the creation of communist cells. It did not lift its ban on
the CPU as an offshoot of the CPSU, as in this case the latter could demand
the restoration of its property rights. However, in May 1993 the Verkhovna
Rada presidium ruled: "Ukrainian citizens who share communist ideas may
form party organizations in line with current Ukrainian legislation." With
all legal obstacles out of the way, in 1993 the CPU held a "renewal"
congress in Donetsk. Toward the end of that year the party had 120,000
members headed by Petro Symonenko, a little-known party functionary
from the Soviet period.
The appearance of the midget Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine (PSPU)
in April 1996 was the result of the unrestrained ambition of its leader
Natalia Vitrenko, "a Zhirinovsky in a skirt," as the press dubbed her. Owing
to former President Kuchma's desire to erode the positions of his opponent
Oleksandr Moroz, and because of the noisy and scandal-mongering PSPU
leader, who was a regular fixture on state-owned television channels, this
party played a certain role in political life.
The Rukh Popular Movement of Ukraine dominated the right spectrum of
political forces. Its formation as a political party was completed in
December 1992. The membership of the new party did not exceed 30,000 (in
1990 Rukh had 600,000 members). Having overestimated Rukh's political
influence, its leader Vyacheslav Chornovil hatched a strategy to disband the
Verkhovna Rada and hold new parliamentary elections on a multiparty basis.
However, his campaign to collect signatures in support of a referendum to
disband parliament ended in a fiasco.
THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE
Two widely known terms derive from different grammatical forms of the
same word: president (Lat. praesidens, he who sits in front) and presidium
(praesideo, I sit in front). They determine individual or collective leaders
in institutions and organizations, as well as in a republic. The semantics
of these terms indicate their membership in a democratic society. A person
sits in front to preside over a meeting, i.e., organize and generalize the
statements of those with the right to speak.
The head of state can never be a collective presidium of any representative
body of government, only an individual vested with power - the president.
The sole exception to the rule was the Soviet system of republican
government founded on populism. Soviet constitutions identified the head
of state as the presidium of the All-Russian (All-Union since 1922) Central
Executive Committee of Workers', Peasants', and Red Army Deputies'
Councils, and since 1936 - the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the
USSR. In reality, the person who chaired the highest state organ (presidium
chairman, popularly known as the "all-union elder") did not occupy the top
rungs in the Communist Party and Soviet hierarchy.
In presidential republics, the president heads the government and is
popularly elected. In parliamentary republics, the president has
representative functions and is elected by parliament. In most democratic
countries with a republican form of government, powers are divided
between the president and parliament in differing proportions. Depending
on the extent of presidential powers, the republic is considered a
presidential-parliamentary or parliamentary-presidential one.
In all cases, even when the president has representative powers, s/he is
the head of state and is placed above the branches of democratically
structured government - executive, legislative, and judicial. But to be
placed above branches of government does not mean to replace them.
As the head of state, the president coordinates the activities of different
branches of power.
The presidential post was first introduced in the US Constitution of 1787.
The American president combines the powers of the head of state and
government. Executive power is concentrated in Congress, which is
made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
In July 1991 the Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian SSR passed a law
introducing the post of Ukrainian president. A brief addendum was made
to the 1978 Constitution, which was intriguing in its terseness: "The
president of Ukraine is the head of state and the head of executive power
in Ukraine." These dozen-odd words did not offer any idea about the
president's functions in his country.
Soviet constitutions were considered the most democratic in the world.
In particular, they declared the division of power into three independent
branches, which balanced one another to prevent any one of them from
developing into a dictatorship. But these constitutions looked legitimate
only because the dictatorship was camouflaged by Soviet governmental
The constitutional reform of 1988 put an end to the dictatorship of
Communist Party committees. In the 1978 Constitution of the Ukrainian
SSR, the article declaring, "The people govern the state through Councils
of People's Deputies that form the political basis of the Ukrainian SSR. All
the remaining government bodies are subordinated and accountable to the
Councils of People's Deputies," was filled with real substance for the first
However, the format of government remained dictatorial. The members of
the nomenklatura, who filled the councils, intended to build the same Soviet
hierarchy instead of the vertical of Communist Party committees. The
presidential post, which was alien to this system, stood in the
nomenklatura's way. Parliamentary Speaker Leonid Kravchuk could brilliantly
handle peoples' deputies, but lost control over parliament once he was
elected president of Ukraine.
His attempts to fill with real substance the constitutional declaration
about the president as the head of state proved futile. Members of
parliament were not content to do only routine legislative work. Much like
the deputies of local councils, they coveted the functions of executive
power, which made it possible to influence appointments and control cash
The position of the former Communist Party and Soviet nomenklatura changed
in independent Ukraine. From being mouthpieces of Communist Party chiefs
they turned into real administrators and for the first time obtained the
opportunity to acquire property. Even though they had to compete for posts
in public elections, it proved quite easy to impose their candidacies on
voters. However, elections are expensive, so many parliament and local
deputies used every day they were in power to offset their expenses and
ensure a prosperous future for their children.
The country became more and more immersed in anarchy and chaos. The
confrontation between president and parliament against the background of
an economic crisis ended when both sides decided to resign and appeal to
voters for support in the new elections.
Displeased with a government that had proven incapable of resolving the
crisis, voters did not place their trust in the incumbent president and
elected a representative of the Soviet cohort of directors, Leonid Kuchma.
A majority of parliamentarians from the previous convocation were not
Most of the new representatives of the "party of power" belonged to a
corporation, which in the not so distant past was known as the Communist
Party and the Soviet nomenklatura. Public nostalgia for the Soviet past,
which was brought on by the economic crisis, ensured parliamentary seats
for many representatives of leftist parties. This meant that the "party of
power" was expanded through the influx of people who longed for a return
to the past. They did not want to grasp that the communist system had
self-destructed and could not be revived.
Because of the flaws in the election law, parliament began its work in the
spring of 1994 with only 338 out of 450 deputies. The bloc of leftist
parties, the biggest of the party factions, did not have a majority of
votes, but still managed to have its leader Oleksandr Moroz elected as
parliamentary speaker. Rushing to capitalize on their advantage, which
could disappear after the by-election, in 1994 the leftists pushed a bill
through parliament in the first reading: if voted into law, the bill "On
Local Councils and Local Self-Government" would have paralyzed the
executive power. For the second reading the bill was prepared under a
title common to the Soviet period: "On Local Councils of Workers'
PART II, The Day, #12, Tuesday, 12 April 2005 -----
The by-election defused the threat of a Red revenge, which could bring
the country to a dead end. The new lineup of political forces became
obvious, among other things, when parliament considered the bill "On
State Power and Local Governance." An amendment emphatically
proposed by the Communists and envisioning presidential powers for
the parliament speaker was rejected even by a majority of socialists,
even though their leader was the Verkhovna Rada chairman at the time.
The parliamentary and presidential elections of 1994 created a new situation
in the country. Its novelty was only marginally due to name changes in the
leadership of the "party of power." Like his predecessor Leonid Kravchuk,
President Leonid Kuchma had equally ill-defined powers. More importantly,
the threat of a Red revenge prompted the pragmatists in the country's
leadership to give up their plans to create a Soviet vertical of power, and
instead opt for a real division of powers between the legislative and
executive branches, and rally around the new president.
A Soviet vertical would only solidify the state of chaos, in which only the
Communists were interested. Much like in 1917, they followed the principle:
"The greater the country's plight, the better it is for us." Their chances
of coming to power in a prosperous state were nil.
Kuchma realized that he had to pay for the support he had received. He
won thanks to the backing of leftist parties, but pursued a policy that
contradicted his election platform. In October 1994 he submitted to
parliament a bill "On the Fundamentals of Economic and Social Policy,"
outlining the strategy of market reforms, including a sweeping privatization
plan. The plan served the interests of public corporation managers who
were either represented in parliament or had influence over individual
lawmakers. In this way Kuchma earned the support of majority deputies
and representatives of non-leftist parties in his attempt to secure real
powers for the president.
The newly-elected president submitted his own draft of the Constitution to
the Verkhovna Rada and made efforts to get parliament to pass the bill
"On State Power and Local Governance." It was the first bill to specify the
functions and powers of the president as the highest-ranking official in the
system of government. To all appearances, his efforts were wasted. The
bill, which would change the political system if passed into law, could be
endorsed only by a constitutional majority of two- thirds of the lawmakers.
Meanwhile, neither leftists nor rightists had a constitutional majority in
The adoption of this inoperative law was only the first step in the
political scheme devised by the president's team. Immediately thereafter,
Kuchma engaged in a contentious political struggle with Moroz's supporters
in parliament and got them to approve extensive presidential powers
envisioned in this law for one year as part of a constitutional agreement
between the president and the majority of lawmakers.
Kuchma used this year to build a vertical of executive power and began
threatening his political opponents: either a legitimate adoption of the
Ukrainian Constitution with a list of presidential powers (first outlined in
the Law of Ukraine "On State Power and Local Governance") or an
illegitimate (i.e., not envisioned by the current legislation) nationwide
referendum in support of the new Constitution as drafted by the president
and without the amendments approved during deliberations in parliament.
Neither the president's supporters nor opponents doubted that the people
would support the president's draft of the Ukrainian Constitution.
Ukrainians were fed up with the standoff between the president and
parliament, which began in 1992, making it impossible to pull the country
out of its deep economic crisis. Under the 1978 Constitution, the chief
executive could not call a referendum without parliament's approval. If he
did, he would face accusations of an attempted coup. To end this standoff,
both sides had to find a compromise on the basis of the approved but
inoperative law "On State Power and Local Governance."
On June 27, 1996, the Verkhovna Rada opened its historic session dedicated
to the deliberations on the draft constitution. After a sleepless night, the
lawmakers worked out a compromise draft that received 315 votes against the
required minimum of 300 votes. The draft constitution was supported by 21
MPs of the Agrarian Party (2 MPs were absent and 2 more refused to vote) and
17 Socialists (6 nays, 2 abstentions, and 2 absentees). Demoralized by its
allies' behavior, the Communist faction splintered. Only 29 of 89 Communist
MPs voted against the draft constitution (versus 10 abstentions, 10
absentees, 20 MPs who refused to vote, and 20 ayes). As a result, the
Verkhovna Rada provided the majority of votes required to pass the
Constitution, which turned Ukraine into a presidential-parliamentary
The prominent political analyst Dmytro Vydrin wrote ironically: "Kuchma
wasn't there to struggle for huge executive powers, which were approved
and laid down in the Constitution. He woke up in the morning, fresh and
well rested, while the lawmakers, unshaven and with dark circles under their
eyes from sleep deprivation, brought him the Constitution, which clearly
stated that the country has only one director with exclusive powers to
decide everything and for everybody."
Political and market reforms, which became possible after the parliamentary
and presidential elections of 1994, were implemented in concert. Leonid
Kuchma requited the support he received in building a strong presidential
vertical with reforms that most fully served the interests of the former
Communist Party and Soviet nomenklatura.
Whereas the building of national statehood in its internal and external
dimensions had progressed without obstacles since 1991, democratic
processes in society and the economy were stalled: under Kravchuk,
because market reforms were completely ignored, and under Kuchma,
because market reforms were implemented in the interests of the
president's cronies. Reforms continued in this direction after Kuchma
received extensive powers in the 1996 Constitution.
Between 1991 and 1993 only 3,600 enterprises and organizations, mostly
small firms, were passed into private (including cooperative) ownership.
The privatization campaign, implemented and controlled by the Kuchma
administration in league with the legislators, fundamentally changed the
Ukrainian economy. In late 2001 the number of state-owned companies
listed in the Unified State Register of Ukrainian Enterprises and
Organizations was as follows: industrial companies - 2,808 out of 97,637;
construction companies - 1,772 out of 53,530; commercial companies -
1,660 out of 232,464.
The newly-fledged owners of privatized companies were public servants with
business savvy. Nomenklatura bosses along with Soviet-era shadow
businessmen, enterprising Komsomol functionaries, semi-legal cooperative
bosses from the days of the perestroika, and criminal leaders converged on
public enterprises, tearing away the choicest pieces. The prolonged absence
of laws and procedures regulating privatization was no accident: they would
only hinder the process popularly referred to as "prykhvatyzatsiya" [grab-
In a short period a hefty part of the nation's economy was carved up by
several oligarchic clans that formed powerful financial and industrial
groups. They established control of technologically related enterprises and
banks that serviced them.
In evaluating the market reforms that began in 1994, one must bear in mind
the following circumstance. Nobody could offer a rational way to privatize
plants and factories that had been state owned for three generations.
Moreover, only powerful financial and industrial groups that were formed on
the basis of a hyper-monopolized and noncompetitive economy had a chance
of gaining a foothold in international markets. However, the fact remains
that these monopolistic cartels ensured themselves super profits by fusing
with representatives of the executive and legislative power.
Leonid Kuchma's record during his first term in office should not be viewed
as either good or bad. Without a doubt, he was instrumental in averting the
threat of a Red revenge from such a leftover of the Soviet period as the
Communist Party of Ukraine. He was duty- bound to do so by the very post
of president, which ran counter to the Soviet system of government.
Nonetheless, it is impossible to view the de-ideologized component of the
"party of power" as a political force that waged an all-out war against the
"birthmarks of totalitarianism." On the contrary, it used these birthmarks
to prevent the democratization of politics and the economy. Much like the
leftist parties, the de-ideologized element of the "party of power" was a
leftover of the Communist era. Proof of this is the nature of the state that
the president and parliament were building.
WHAT KIND OF STATE DID THE PRESIDENT AND PARLIAMENT BUILD?
After 1991 the elite and grassroots of Ukrainian society found themselves
in different situations. An elite was organized and therefore capable of
independent action. Most representatives of the former nomenklatura
managed to preserve their grip on power and use the inevitable privatization
of production facilities to their own benefit.
The grassroots were disorganized or, to be more specific, atomized. The
Soviet Union had myriad organizations, but all of them were vertically
structured and subordinated to party chiefs, and were based on the
principles of "democratic centralism." In plain terms, they were designed
to convey the leaders' will to the mass of members and not the other way
When the regime collapsed, these organizations preserved their
structure, for which reason the ruling centers of trade unions and civic
political organizations remained part of the same "party of power" that
personified the government. Officially, society rose above the state. In
reality, every citizen remained in total economic and psychological
dependence on the state.
To prevent a social explosion, government officials took care to create
elementary conditions for the survival of underprivileged social groups. But
from the top down all of them were primarily concerned with their own
welfare. The long period during which the Ukrainian economy remained in a
state of semi-collapse and semi-chaos was not so much due to the lack of
experience as to the ill-will of the former nomenklatura members, who were
frantically exchanging power for property. The absence of regulations to
prevent the use of power for personal enrichment was no accident.
The collapse of the planned economy instantaneously made professions that
made millions of people redundant. When the borders were opened, Ukraine
was flooded with comparatively cheap and quality consumer goods, which
forced many domestic enterprises out of business. Millions of Ukrainians
sought freedom from poverty and unemployment in European countries. To
win over the public, politicians talked about European integration and plans
to turn Ukraine into a social state after the fashion of countries beyond
the former Iron Curtain. Too bad they didn't understand what they were
In the fall of 1992, when Leonid Kuchma was elected prime minister, he
asked the lawmakers what they should be building. When he began market
reforms in his presidential capacity, he was not alone in feeling inadequate
to the task of building capitalism. Almost all the representatives of the
"party of power" were thinking in terms of Marxism and Leninism, which
divided the world into socialist and capitalist camps. In reality, the world
was following a different path of development.
The Great French Revolution of 1789 and the European revolutions of
1848-1849 began a transition from a traditional and essentially feudal
society to a democratic society that would evolve into a civil society.
Western countries embraced the capitalist economic system based on
the sanctity of private property and contractual, i.e., market economy,
relations among owners. In this system, profits from business were the
property of business owners. As a rule, they were capitalized, i.e.,
invested in production facilities to expand production. Only a part of these
profits was set aside for personal consumption or charitable purposes and
channeled into state coffers via the tax collection authority.
As the government grew more dependent on society, the capitalist economic
system narrowed. Government institutions were formed by way of elections
with the participation of all citizens (women too after World War I). The
government began collecting tax money for its own needs (for the upkeep of
the army, officials, etc.) and additional resources intended for education
and health care, unemployment relief programs, and programs for pensioners
Competing with leftist parties for votes, conservatives and
liberals also spoke for the government's active involvement in satisfying
citizens' social needs. Such a distribution of the GDP was socialist in
nature (from the term "socium" for society). However, the Bolsheviks and
national socialists hijacked the term "socialism." Therefore the country
that pursued a policy of redistribution of wealth was called a social state.
Lenin's "commune state" and a social state were the products of social
democracy. The difference between the Bolsheviks and Social Democrats
was in their attitude toward private enterprise and private property. The
Social Democrats wanted to create favorable conditions for free enterprise
in a competitive environment.
The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, resolved to eradicate enterprise as a
norm of human activity because public ownership and a government-controlled
economy gave them power over society. The reverse side of this coin was
the duty of the "commune state" to financially support the population. The
mounting inability to fulfill this duty resulted in the self-disintegration
of the socioeconomic system.
The "party of power" did almost nothing to create a social state in Ukraine.
The words of the head of state himself support this conclusion. In November
2000 Kyiv hosted a conference dedicated to market transformations. The
mastermind of reforms, Leonid Kuchma, then said: "The formula that was
determined at the outset of reforms and followed during subsequent years -
reforms come first followed by efforts to resolve social problems - was not
only erroneous, but downright destructive.
In practice, it boiled down to reforms at the expense of social factors. In
many respects we undermined even those social achievements that we
once borrowed from Western countries. As a result, these reforms proved
a complete opposite to reforms implemented, for example, by Ludwig Erhard
in Germany, or in other countries of postwar Europe, where the emphasis has
always been on social aspects of economic transformations."
Ukraine emerged from the protracted economic crisis in 2000 and increased
its GDP by more than a third between 2000 and 2004. However, this again
benefited the capitalists and not the working class. Real wages and pensions
remained almost unchanged. The state, which was primarily personified by the
president, didn't care about the people, which only broadened the gap
between the poor and the rich to horrific proportions. Yet again, this time
in 2004, Leonid Kuchma recognized the failure of the state's social policy,
but distanced himself from the state.
The book entitled Svoyim Shliakhom. Rozdumy pro Ekonomichni Reformy v
Ukrayini [Our Own Path. Musings on Economic Reforms in Ukraine], which
was published under his own name, reads: "I understand those of my
compatriots, especially senior citizens, who look to the past with
nostalgia. Our reforms, unfortunately, did not fulfill society's hopes for
swift social changes. I know that many people feel disgusted at hearing
the word 'reforms'."
The president was invariably defending the interests of the "party of
power." To ensure the stability of the governmental system that he had
created, he did not pursue an effective social policy, but was instead
betting on a numerically stronger army and special police units. So, what
kind of state was Leonid Kuchma's regime building?
Anders Aslund, an American professor of Swedish descent, who has studied
the nature of market reforms in Russia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, calls them
"states of rent seekers." He used the term rent in the specific post-
Communist sense of this word, referring to profits that exceeded many
times over the revenues normally received by businesses in a specific
environment. The super-profits came from businesses protected by govern-
ment privileges and preferences; from government subsidies immediately
converted into foreign currencies that were never returned because of
galloping inflation; from tax-exempt brokerage operations; from foreign
exchange margins skimmed by those with access to higher exchange rates.
However, the main source of enrichment for "party of power" representatives
were big enterprises that were sold to them or their relatives at token
prices, and kickbacks in foreign currencies that they received for using
their clout to further some political causes or give somebody a leg-up in
Bribes may or may not be offered. Those who built the state of "rent
seekers" did not have the patience to wait until it occurred to somebody to
give them a bribe. Their strategy, according to Aslund, was a blend of total
economic freedom with numerous restrictions that had to be strictly
observed. Uncovered violations with incriminating materials always produced
the necessary result. Therefore, foreign observers often called the system
built in Ukraine a "blackmail state."
Can we fault individual politicians or the entire government corporation for
the situation that Ukraine was facing at the turn of the new century? There
is no doubt about that. It was they who built, in lieu of the self-
destructed socioeconomic system, a system that earned such opprobrium
from the West. However, perhaps we should not have expected such leaders
to do things that they were incapable of doing at the genetic level. They
took care of their own interests, while society in its atomized state was
unable to stop them.
However, Ukrainian society has gradually formed economic and political
structures that can speak out in defense of their interests. Under such
conditions, a conflict between the "party of power," which personified the
Communist past, and society in the process of self-organization became
inevitable. The people prevented the birth of a horrible mutant in Ukraine:
Communo-feudalism with a capitalist face.
THE LESSONS OF 1998-1999 ELECTIONS
Before the election cycle of 1998-1999 Ukraine was in a unique political
situation. On the one hand, the colossal protest potential that accumulated
in the largely impoverished society promised a sure victory for leftist
parties both in parliamentary and presidential elections. On the other hand,
the voters' generally high intellectual level prevented the spread of
leftist populism. The danger of a Red revenge was further reduced by the
fact that the former CPSU had split into two competing parties in Ukraine.
The more influential CPU had a leader without a public image, while the
numerically weaker Socialist Party was headed by a more conspicuous
The parliamentary elections of 1990 and 1994 were held under a majority
electoral system. Before the 1998 elections parties with developed
structures and influence in the regions (the Communists, Socialists, SelPU,
Rukh Popular Movement) attempted to introduce a proportional system that
was more favorable to them. After signing a compromise agreement with the
leaders of the influential parliament factions Yednist [Unity] (Pavlo
Lazarenko) and Social and Market Choice (Yevhen Marchuk), they managed
to introduce a proportional-majority electoral system.
Under this system, nominees competed for one half of parliament's seats in
225 majority constituencies, while parties and party blocs competed for the
other half in a single nationwide constituency. A 4% hurdle was introduced
for parties and blocs. Former Prime Ministers Pavlo Lazarenko and Yevhen
Marchuk were preparing to compete for the presidential seat and needed to
expand their party structures.
Then-incumbent president Kuchma was also preparing for re-election. In
February 1996, his closest allies formed the People's Democratic Party
(NDP). Despite the lack of regional centers, the president's party was
influential in all but the western oblasts owing to the "administrative
resource." Its creation signaled the "partization" of the ruling
In the spring of 1997 political parties started to announce their election
rosters. Formed in January 1995, the Social-Democratic Party of Ukraine
(United) announced a roster headed by Leonid Kravchuk and Yevhen
Marchuk. This move provided a good chances of success for a party that
at the time had only several thousand members.
PART III, The Day, #13, Tuesday, 19 April 2005 -----
The Communist Party of Ukraine scored a predicted victory in the
multi-mandate nationwide constituency, garnering 24.7% of the popular
vote. The election roster of Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoitenko's Popular
Democratic Party (NDP) got a mere 4.99% of the vote. A pro-government
party, the NDP even trailed behind the Green Party of Ukraine (5.46%), whose
leaders were new to the political arena, and barely outstripped the hastily
formed regional bloc "Hromada" (4.68%), headed by the president's
inveterate opponent Pavlo Lazarenko.
Even though the various parties had their parliamentary nominees in almost
every majority constituency, most voters threw their support behind
independent nominees. After some of these candidates made it into
parliament, they wanted to join one of the factions. A total of 87 out of
136 lawmakers who were unaligned or whose parties failed to clear the hurdle
for representation in parliament chose one of several factions. As a result,
the Popular Democratic Party obtained 58 new members, "Hromada" - 15,
and the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (United) - 8. Nobody joined the
In the presidential campaign of 1999 Leonid Kuchma chose a scenario that
had proved successful in the 1996 elections in Russia: the incumbent
president got himself into the runoff against a communist, which guaranteed
him victory. But most importantly, the president needed to win enough votes
to make it to the runoff - no simple task given Kuchma's modest ratings
compared to other nominees from the right spectrum of political forces.
At the outset of the campaign, the most influential of the right- leaning
candidates was Yevhen Marchuk. In the struggle for the top spot he attempted
to use the resources of the Social Democratic Party. This party, however,
chaired by Viktor Medvedchuk since 1998, sided with Leonid Kuchma. Marchuk
was forced to leave the SDPU(o) and ran without the backing of any party,
which seriously undermined his chances of being elected.
In November 1999 Pavlo Lazarenko fell prey to election strategists. After he
was publicly accused in parliament of having embezzled large amounts of
public funds, which had accumulated in the presidential administration,
Lazarenko had no choice but to abscond from the country. On February 17
the lawmakers passed a resolution allowing the arrest and prosecution of
People's Deputy Pavlo Lazarenko. His "Hromada" bloc lost its political
footing and splintered. Yulia Tymoshenko and some of the former "Hromada"
members formed a new faction,
"Batkivshchyna" [Fatherland], which in the spring of 1999 was registered as
a party with the same name.
Kuchma's team also played a hand in splitting the Rukh Popular Movement,
which proved an easy task. The mysterious car accident that killed Rukh
leader Vyacheslav Chornovil accomplished this. The warring leaders of the
two parties that formed out of the fragments of Rukh ran in the elections,
but each got a little over 3% of the votes.
After the first round of the October 31, 1999, presidential elections,
Kuchma had a commanding lead with 36.5%, followed by Petro Symonenko
with 22.4%. Oleksandr Moroz finished third with 11.3%, Natalia Vitrenko
fourth with 11%, and Marchuk fifth with 8.1% of the popular vote. In the
November 14 runoff Kuchma scored a convincing victory over the Communist
Party leader. He won a majority in 14 oblasts, garnering 16 million votes,
or 56.2%. Symonenko won in 9 oblasts and the Autonomous Crimean
Republic with 10.7 million votes, or 37.8%.
The first round of the presidential elections and the 1998 parliamentary
elections showed that the Communist Party leader drew his support from
one-fifth of the population. The additional votes that he received came from
people who did not want to vote for Kuchma. On the contrary, voters in
western oblasts overwhelmingly supported Kuchma, despite the fact that
Popular Democratic Party centers in the country's west were embryonic.
These voters were ready to support anybody in order to prevent the
Communist Party chief from winning the presidential seat.
The Orange Revolution brought the accuracy of election results into
question. This problem has two absolutely different aspects, i.e.,
manipulation of the popular will as opposed to election fraud. In the first
case, citizens consciously vote for the candidate they do not support,
because their candidate of choice is not present on the ballot. In the
second case, carrot-and-stick methods are used to force citizens to vote
for the "right" candidate, or election results are skewed with the use of
technologies developed to this end.
In a stable society, candidates' political platforms and personal profiles
play a decisive role in elections. In a society that has preserved the
material and spiritual vestiges of a communist civilization, election
results are primarily affected by the dynamics and vectors of socio-
Ukrainian society of the 1990s was sharply polarized. While some people
feared the return of "developed socialism," others were nostalgic for the
past. The number of those who feared the past was much larger. A decade
of independence was enough for the majority of the population to appreciate
the political and economic advantages of a democratic society.
Meanwhile, the number of people who supported leftist parties was
insufficient to bring them to power, but it was large enough to make society
concerned about the threat of a Red backlash. This concern was instrumental
in the success of the technology that was previously used in Russia, which
guaranteed the incumbent president a runoff victory over the Communist
The November 14, 1999, runoff left few Ukrainians indifferent. The
presidential campaign was transformed from a competition among politicians
into a referendum on the fateful question: "Do we move toward Europe or
return to the past?"
For this very reason electoral districts drew an additional 2 million
voters, mostly young people who had refrained from voting on previous
occasions. The turnout in the first round was 70.2% compared to 74.9% in
the runoff. Voters were much more active this time than during the 1994
presidential elections in which Kuchma was pitted against Leonid Kravchuk.
For this very reason Ukraine's west overwhelmingly voted for the incumbent
president, even though he was less popular in the west than in the country's
south and east. In Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil oblasts Kuchma won 92% of
the votes, 91% in Lviv, 84% in Zakarpattia, 77% in Rivne, and 73% in
Kuchma thus became the rallying point for politicians who disagreed with his
administrative methods. In particular, between the first and second election
rounds Yevhen Marchuk accepted the president's proposal to chair the
National Security and Defense Council.
The Russian election scenario was not a winning solution because it was
intended for the runoff only. Leonid Kuchma had to score high in the first
round to make it to the runoff. How did he make this happen?
According to international observers, violations of the electoral
legislation during the presidential elections were insignificant. In the
February 22, 2005, interview with The Day, however, Yevhen Marchuk
said that the elections were falsified "to a very significant degree."
It would not be a mistake to reconcile these two statements with a third
one: falsifications that took place exactly on election days could not
affect the outcome because the incumbent president had a formidable
reserve of votes as compared to his closest rivals.
This conclusion does not contradict the assumption that the "party of power"
was controlling the electoral process. First, powerful rivals of the
incumbent president were either weakened or eliminated altogether. Second,
voters were brainwashed by the state-controlled mass media. Third, voter
bribing was rampant. Kuchma's official election fund was UAH 1.7 million,
while his semi-shadow "Social Protection" fund, controlled by Oleksandr
Volkov, was rumored to have spent over $ 1.5 billion. Fourth, the infamous
"administrative resource" was used on a grand scale.
In the short period between the first and second rounds Kuchma fired several
oblast administration chairmen who had allowed his opponents to garner too
many votes. On February 12, 2001, the Internet publication Ukrayinska Pravda
published the transcripts of Major Melnychenko's recordings, which proved
that Kuchma was exerting tremendous pressure on officials in the provinces.
Kuchma had incriminating documents on many of them, and threatened to
prosecute those who didn't work hard enough to secure his victory.
A VELVET REVOLUTION IN PARLIAMENT
Immediately after the presidential elections the mass media stopped their
crusade against a Red backlash. In the meantime, the oligarchic clans
stepped up the pressure on the president in an effort to secure the most
favorable terms for the privatization of major state enterprises. The
struggle among the various clans escalated with the privatization campaign
that began on a grand scale in 1998. The clans were like- minded only in
their striving to pay the smallest price for enterprises on which they had
set their sights. Since he was relying on the support of the clans and clan
parties in parliament, the president did nothing to stop them from snatching
world famous enterprises that had been built over five or six generations.
After the defeat of the clan parties in the 1998 parliamentary elections,
representatives of leftist parties occupied leading posts in parliament. The
reelection of Leonid Kuchma set off a "Brownian movement" in parliament.
Majority lawmakers and clan parties started to rally around the president.
Even Lazarenko's "Hromada" turned pro-presidential. As a rule, lawmakers
with business interests did not wish to remain in the opposition. As
practice showed, being in the opposition in a "blackmail state" led to many
The presidential administration turned its sights on the leftist factions in
parliament, plucking members one by one. When the membership of the
Peasant Party of Ukraine (SelPU) dropped to a critical minimum, the
Communist Party propped it up with several of its members. But this did
not save the faction, and its remnants joined the majority to create a pro-
presidential faction "Solidarity" headed by the thriving businessman Petro
The Constitution required the newly elected president to propose his
candidate of choice for prime minister. Kuchma proposed Pustovoitenko, who
headed the government since July 1997. But Kuchma did not try hard enough
to have him endorsed in parliament. That's when the president proposed
Viktor Yushchenko for the post of prime minister.
Yushchenko was twice approved by the lawmakers for the chairmanship of the
National Bank's board. The 45-year-old "father of the Ukrainian hryvnia" was
renowned as a successful financier. In December 1999 parliament supported
Yushchenko's candidacy with a nearly constitutional majority of 296 votes.
Oleksandr Moroz abstained from voting, but spoke approvingly of Yushchenko
as a proponent of a liberal, un-clannish, direction in the country's
After the 1998 parliamentary elections, Leonid Kuchma went to great lengths
to prevent his undying enemy Oleksandr Moroz from being reelected as
parliamentary speaker. The so-called "speaker saga" lasted for over two
months and ended with the election of Oleksandr Tkachenko. All the remaining
key posts in parliament were redistributed as a result of the new speaker's
influence. Communist Adam Martyniuk was appointed first deputy speaker, and
businessman Viktor Medvedchuk deputy speaker. The Communists chaired six
parliamentary committees and the Socialists, two.
The predominance of leftist parties in parliament not so much stalled market
reforms as distorted them, pushing the country toward oligarchic
communo-feudalism. Oligarchs needed only a limited version of market
reforms. They were satisfied with nomenklatura-style capitalism and the
monopolistic use of the country's economic resources without competition
from domestic or foreign businessmen. Much like the leftists, they also
sought a return to the past, albeit a Western past, not a Soviet one.
The concept of a post-capitalist, socially-oriented state was alien to them.
However, the protracted economic crisis ended in 2000, lessening the
destructive influence of the leftist parties. Under the pact that formed the
parliamentary majority, factions were duty- bound to secure the dismissal
of all leftist lawmakers from leading posts in parliament.
In this situation, Speaker Tkachenko launched a new "speaker saga" in order
to prevent a vote of no-confidence in the parliamentary speaker. According
to the regulations, a quorum of two-thirds of the MPs was required to
replace the parliament leadership. Every time this issue was raised, the
leftists did not register to vote, which meant there was no quorum in
parliament. At the same time, the speaker blatantly violated regulations,
preventing lawmakers from proposing a change of the parliament leadership
when there was a quorum, or refusing to put such a proposal to the vote.
Days passed, but the newly-formed majority was unable to use its advantages.
In this situation parliament split into a majority and minority. The
majority left the parliament building on Hrushevsky Street and relocated to
the Ukrainian House on European Square. The minority remained in the
parliament building, but could not work because there was no quorum.
On January 21, 2000, the 239 lawmakers who had gathered at the Ukrainian
House voted to dismiss the speaker and his first deputy. Immediately
afterwards, deputy speaker Medvedchuk and majority coordinator Leonid
Kravchuk began talks with factions to replace all leftist minority lawmakers
in leadership posts.
On February 1 the majority, which by then had grown to 255 members, met for
another plenary session at the Ukrainian House and endorsed several new
appointments. Ivan Pliushch of the Popular Democratic Party (NDP) was
appointed parliamentary speaker, Viktor Medvedchuk of the SDPU(o) first
deputy speaker, and Stepan Havrysh of the "Vidrodzhennia Rehioniv" faction
[Rebirth of the Regions] deputy speaker. The majority elected new chairmen
for the eight committees that were previously headed by leftist lawmakers.
The February 1, 2000, session of parliament passed one more significant
decision: it endorsed a new system of numbering the legislature's
convocations. The new numbering began with the Verkhovna Rada that was
formed during the first free elections in 1990. This was the convocation of
lawmakers who had adopted the Declaration on State Sovereignty and the
Ukrainian Independence Act. The lawmakers rejected the historical tradition
of numbering convocations beginning with the USSR Constitution of 1936 and
the Ukrainian SSR Constitution of 1937. As a result, the Verkhovna Rada of
the 14th convocation became the Verkhovna Rada of the 3rd convocation.
An equally important decision concerned amendments to the Labor Code.
The lawmakers canceled the red-letter days of November 7 and 8, marking
the Great October Socialist Revolution.
Both resolutions were passed when Ukraine entered its tenth year of
independence. They were a logical continuation of the anti- communist
revolution of 1989- 1991. But did this mean that Ukraine had finally broken
free of its totalitarian past?
The passage of these resolutions was made possible by the absence of leftist
parties. However, they were passed by a de-ideologized element of the former
Communist Party and Soviet nomenklatura, which was diluted over the past
nine years by new people of different social origins. The rate of dilution
was obviously insufficient to give the Ukrainian "party of power" a
qualitatively new look. At the same time, it became clear that new forces
were growing stronger in society and parliament, which was a mirror of
society. They proved able to resisting the vestiges of the Soviet past not
only at the superficial level of state symbols.
The leftist minority did not recognize the resolutions passed at the
Ukrainian House, which the journalists were quick to dub a "velvet
revolution in parliament." According to the regulations, any resolutions may
become effective only if they are endorsed in the presence of two-thirds of
the lawmakers. There was in fact no such quorum at the Ukrainian House.
However, the leftists did not seem to take notice of the fact that Tkachenko
himself was violating the regulations. The Justice Ministry examined the
situation and recognized the legitimacy of the majority's resolutions,
thereby ending this legal conflict.
The fifth session of the 3rd convocation Verkhovna Rada began on February
29, 2000. All the legislators were equally interested in resuming their work
in parliament. Had they failed to begin a session with a quorum within a
month, this would present the head of state with the only constitutional
opportunity to disband the Verkhovna Rada. Therefore, the leftist factions
were forced to accept the new parliamentary leadership and register in the
"UKRAINE WITHOUT KUCHMA!"
Leonid Kuchma did not doubt that he would win the 1999 elections. He
conducted his campaign under the motto of making amendments to the 1996
Constitution, which would facilitate the formation of a parliamentary
majority and be conducive to its constructive cooperation with the Verkhovna
Rada. He didn't hide his dissatisfaction with parliament and threatened to
call a nationwide referendum to have the public evaluate its performance.
Almost immediately after his reelection the president ordered a nationwide
referendum slated for April 16, 2000. The focus of the referendum was to be
proposals, which, if approved, would establish a "permanent bond" between
the government and parliament, according to Kuchma. The people had to
answer "yes" or "no" to six proposals:
- To declare a vote of no- confidence in the Verkhovna Rada of the 14th
convocation (the 3rd convocation since February 3, 2000);
- To grant the president the right to disband the Verkhovna Rada if it
fails to form a parliamentary majority within one month, or within three
months to endorse the state budget proposed by the government;
- To strip the legislators of their immunity;
- To reduce parliament from 450 to 300 members;
- To form an upper chamber in parliament as a representative of the
- To adopt a new constitution by referendum.
If approved, these proposals would have fundamentally changed the
triangle formed by the head of state, parliament, and political parties. Let
us imagine the situation that would have ensued if this constitutional
reform had been implemented.
On the face of it, the reform seemed attractive and logical. The gist of it
was that parliament would form a majority, which would in turn form the
government. This simple formula was used to describe political life in
European countries. The gap between the legislative and executive
powers was rightfully considered Ukraine's biggest problem.
In the absence of a parliamentary majority, the government had no stable
support from the legislature and therefore could not operate effectively
enough. During the December 7, 2004, talks at Mariinsky Palace attended
by Yanukovych, Yushchenko, and Kuchma, the latter mentioned the 2000
referendum, again repeating the deceptive formula: "Parliament forms a
coalition, which forms the government."
At its core Kuchma's 2000 constitutional reform, much like Gorbachev's 1988
reform, was different from what it appeared to be on the surface. However,
unlike Gorbachev, Kuchma had his personal interests in view. The reform
would give him access to powers on a par with those of his Russian
counterpart. By becoming ostensibly a parliamentary republic, Ukraine would
in fact become a republic with the highest concentration of powers in the
president's hands. Such a paradox is possible only in countries with a
PART IV, The Day, #14, Tuesday, 26 April 2005 -----
In the public consciousness the events of the unfinished anti-communist
revolution of 1989-1991 had become a thing of the past. Indeed, most
people didn't even view it as an anti-communist revolution, i.e., a
withdrawal from the communist civilization, which is starkly different from
a normal society. Moreover, there was no understanding that any anti-
communist revolution is by definition incomplete, inasmuch as the
regeneration of political, social, and economic structures of a democratic
society becomes possible only in the wake of such a revolution.
Under normal conditions, a popularly elected party is the key element in
the "head of state - parliament - party" triangle. A party is the most
dynamic structure in a democratic society. As an alliance of like-minded
individuals, a party proposes an action plan that can coordinate the
interests of different social groups and bring them as close as possible to
the parameters of national interests. If society places trust in its
representatives in parliamentary elections, this party becomes a party of
government and continues in this capacity as long as it can keep voters
Ukrainian society is not accustomed to the phenomenon known as "a party
of government." Three generations of Ukrainians had only known "the state
party," even though this term has as much right to exist as the oxymoron
"hot ice." After all, the word party comes from Latin and means a part of
the whole. In effect, the totalitarian Communist Party of the Soviet Union
(CPSU) was not a part of the whole, but the whole itself. It privatized the
state and established control over society.
Splinters of the CPSU in the guise of leftist parties had secured the
support of one- quarter of the Ukrainian electorate. The communists were
steering the people into the past, away from the future, which Ukraine
associated with Europe. To the extent that the efforts of leftist parties
boiled down to restoring a system that had no right to be restored for
objective reasons, these efforts could be only considered destructive.
The negative experience of life under a state party has left most of the
population, particularly in Ukraine's east and south, with a lasting dislike
for parties in general. After 1991 only parties on the right spectrum
developed in a more or less satisfactory manner, as they drew most of
their support from the western and central oblasts. Leftists in the European
sense of this word and centrist parties did not emerge in Ukraine at all.
However, the mid-1990s saw the emergence of clan parties, which
resembled real parties in all respects.
Unlike West European associations of like-minded politicians, which
evolved from grassroots cells into nationwide organizations, clan parties
were structures created by the central leadership with oligarchs' money
and under the guise of social-democratic ideals or some other label that
was guaranteed to attract voters. Membership in such parties could reach
the hundreds of thousands, but they remained artificial creations designed
as a launch pad for future parliamentary members or a tool for forming
parliamentary factions with the aim of advancing their own candidate for
president. They pursued the interests of sponsors, not those of voters.
Let us move on to another angle of the political triangle. In the presence
of strong parties, parliament becomes a mouthpiece through which parties
speak to the executive on behalf of voters. However, the remnants of the
CPSU and newborn rightist parties balanced out each other, while society
remained voiceless, much like it was under Soviet rule. In this situation
parliament hung in midair, unable to check and balance the executive.
The people's deputies - 450 of them - represented an equal number of
divergent wills, which in the absence of clear political structures were in
most cases aimed in the direction of personal interests. During Leonid
Kravchuk's tenure, parliament struck observers as extremely chaotic. During
the first term of Leonid Kuchma, parliament became his accomplice in
building a clannish blackmail state. Kuchma corralled lawmakers one at a
time or in groups by means of primitive but effective methods of blackmail
If one were to analyze the evolution of the post-communist political system
using the language of geometry, Kuchma's first term in office could be
described as an isosceles triangle. Always aiming to solidify his grip on
power, Leonid Kuchma filled the presidential post, which was alien to the
Soviet political system, with real substance. This ensured the inevitability
of a bloodless (unlike in Russia) transition of post-communist Ukraine to
The fact that Ukraine's civil society institutions developed much slower
than the clans was due to several objective factors. Aside from being a
post-communist society with completely destroyed horizontal ties among
people, Ukrainian society was also post-genocidal, as the late Dr. James
Mace was correct in pointing out.
After his reelection Leonid Kuchma intended to continue tightening his grip
on power by combining pressure on individual lawmakers with attempts to
subordinate parliament as a political institution to himself, as the head of
state. All 6 questions in the 2000 nationwide referendum were designed to
limit parliament's functions and rights. Lawmakers publicly expressed their
outrage over questions 1 and 6 - a vote of no confidence in parliament and
adoption of a new constitution by means of a referendum.
However, their biggest concern was question 4 - a proposal to strip members
of parliament of their absolute immunity. It was an open secret that many
enterprising individuals who had made a fortune illegally used the MP's
mandate as a guarantee of personal safety.
Predictably, the impoverished population would eagerly vote to strip the
MPs of their immunity. Finally, it was quite obvious that the presidential
team intended completely to destroy Ukraine's parliamentary system by
taking away the lawmakers' immunity from prosecution. In such conditions
the executive power, whose representatives were purposefully digging up
dirt on every public and political figure or major businessman, became
extremely dangerous to society. The presidential referendum would
destroy the established configuration of state power structures. The
triangle would become a flat line - the one you see on a cardiograph of
a deceased patient.
With the adoption of the 1996 Constitution, the third branch of power, the
judicial, for the first time started to play a major role in the political
struggle. Because the law on the nationwide referendum was adopted back
in July 1991 and hence was at odds with the new constitution, the procedural
issues of the 2000 referendum had to be resolved by the Constitutional
Court. At the same time, the parties who were in opposition to the president
appealed to the Constitutional Court, claiming that the referendum questions
were in violation of constitutional provisions.
The court struck down questions 1 and 6, which drew fierce criticism from
Ukrainian and international observers and drastically restricted the
internationally accepted status of the referendum by refusing to recognize
the direct effect of the referendum results. It was up to parliament to
bring to life popularly approved decisions. This meant that parliament
needed to muster a constitutional majority of at least 300 votes to pass
laws that would result from the referendum.
In this situation Leonid Kuchma had to make the referendum results seem as
convincing as possible. He hoped that the lawmakers would feel duty-bound to
implement the referendum results if the nation overwhelmingly supported the
proposed constitutional amendments.
Kuchma entrusted the organization of the referendum to Oleksandr Volkov,
who had secured wonderful results for Kuchma in the 1999 presidential
elections. Volkov again justified the hopes placed in him. According to the
foreign press, the percentage of positive replies to the referendum
questions was implausibly high, ranging from 82% to 90%. The turnout was
also surprisingly high: 81% of those registered to vote.
The main reason behind the wonderful results secured by the presidential
team was the balloting procedure allowing for advance voting, which made it
technically impossible to prevent vote rigging. Overall, 54% of all voters
used the opportunity to vote in advance. The highest percentage of those who
used advance voting ballots was recorded in Zakarpattia oblast - 74%.
The political struggle touched off by the April 16, 2000, referendum divided
the parliamentary factions into pro-presidential and pro-government ones.
For the first time the communists found themselves in the situation of odd
man out. An anti-presidential opposition had formed as a mixture of rightist
and leftist forces. This was an alliance of the former Rukh Popular Movement
parties headed by Yuriy Kostenko and Hennadiy Udovenko, Yulia
Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna [Fatherland], and the Socialist Party of
Oleksandr Moroz. These political forces were supported by clans with no
ties to the president. They looked for an ally in the prime minister, but
Viktor Yushchenko preferred to remain apart from the confrontation.
Kuchma hoped that the parliamentary majority formed in December 1999
would provide enough votes to implement the referendum results. The
additional votes needed for the constitutional majority were to be secured
by a propaganda campaign unfolding in the mass media. It boiled down to
the fact that the lawmakers had no moral right to disregard the popular will
expressed through the referendum. Politicians questioned the accuracy of
the referendum results, but could not provide any documentary evidence.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary majority secretly sabotaged the plans of the
presidential team. In June 2000 constitutional amendments issuing from the
referendum results received only 251 votes. The political situation remained
in a state of uncertainty and was further aggravated by the Gongadze case
and secret recordings made by Major Melnychenko of Ukraine's Security
In April 2000 the opposition journalist Heorhiy Gongadze launched a new
Internet publication called Ukrayinska Pravda. Gongadze disappeared on
September 16, and his decapitated body was unearthed on November 2.
On November 28 Oleksandr Moroz informed the members of parliament
about the tapes containing conversations recorded in the president's office,
and played recordings that implicated the president in Gongadze's murder.
On December 1, 2000, transcripts and audio files of fragments from
Melnychenko's tapes were posted on the Ukrayinska Pravda Web site. To
this day this Ukrainian Web site has been most popular with Internet users.
Melnychenko's tapes and the Gongadze case have not progressed past
the investigation stage. It is anyone's guess when the two cases will be
heard in court. Nonetheless, over the past four and half years the political
situation in Ukraine developed under the influence of "tapegate." This
lengthy interval makes it difficult to comprehend the key role this scandal
played in the tumultuous events of 2000 and 2001.
On March 15, 2005, Leonid Kuchma gave his first interview to Ukrainian
journalists after the 2004 elections, in which he confessed: "I ran for
reelection with a European orientation. After the victory I had high hopes
and big plans. I intended to continue very serious and interesting reforms.
The tapegate frustrated all the plans."
We know nothing about any "interesting reforms," but the tape scandal did
frustrate the plans for constitutional reform, which would place parliament
under Kuchma's thumb.
In December 2000, immediately after Major Melnychenko's tapes were
played in parliament, the opposition resorted to firm actions, mustering
anti-presidential rallies in Kyiv. "A No Kuchma Zone" tent town was set up
on Independence Square. Opposition parties formed their coordinating
body - the National Salvation Forum.
As tensions mounted, it became clear that implementing the referendum
results was out of the question. In January 2001 only 204 lawmakers
supported the proposed constitutional amendments. "Ukraine without
Kuchma" demonstrations gathered in Kyiv. Yet they never attracted more
than 20,000 participants, i.e., they lacked a genuinely mass character.
Demoralized by the tape scandal, the president resorted to decisive
In January 2001 he dismissed Yulia Tymoshenko as deputy prime minister.
On February 13 she was arrested on charges of tax evasion, smuggling of
Russian natural gas, and bribing Pavlo Lazarenko, all of which allegedly
occurred between 1996 and 1999. The arrest of the de facto opposition
leader shattered the opposition's ranks. On March 1 the police broke up
the tent town on Khreshchatyk.
The confrontation between the opposition and the government reached its
peak during an 18,000-strong rally near the Taras Shevchenko monument
in Kyiv on March 9, 2001. Dozens of protesters and police officers were
injured in clashes.
April 2001 marked one year after the approval of the government program that
Viktor Yushchenko presented in parliament after his appointment as prime
minister. One year after the program was approved, the Constitution allowed
the vote of no confidence in the government, and the presidential factions
rushed to capitalize on this opportunity.
On April 26, with the votes of clan parties and the communists, parliament
passed a vote of no confidence in the popular prime minister, who had forced
the oligarchs to pay back wages and pensions. Ousted from the government,
Yushchenko became the opposition's natural leader. -30-
FOOTNOTE: The work above contains the key ideas to be found
in the first chapter of a forthcoming book by Stanislav Kulchytsky.
I have had many conversations with Dr. Kulchtsky in the past about
his outstanding research and publications regarding the Holodomor,
the famine-terror of 1932-1933. He is an outstanding scholar and
We look forward to his new book on analyzing the events of the
Orange Revolution, comparing them with events that are unfolding in
other post-Soviet republics and going back in time to discern in these
events if they are consequences of what happened in the past. [EDITOR]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stanislav Kulchytsky was born in Odesa in 1937. He is a graduate of
Mechnikov Odesa University and postgraduate courses at the Economics
Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR; candidate of
economics (1963), doctor of historical sciences (1978), professor (1986),
meritorious worker of science and engineering (1996), winner of the State
Prize of Ukraine in Science and Engineering (2001); academician, the
Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences since 1960.
Mr. Kulchytsky has supervised 27 candidates and 14 doctors of historical
sciences. He has over 1,500 publications to his name, including 42 books,
over 70 chapters in books co-authored with others, and over 500 newspaper
articles. In the past 8 years Stanislav Kulchytsky has published 62 articles
in The Day. [The Action Ukraine Report Monitoring Service]
Link to Part I: http://www.day.kiev.ua/135118
Link to Part II: http://www.day.kiev.ua/135538
Link to Part III: http://www.day.kiev.ua/135978
Link to Part IV: http://www.day.kiev.ua/136388
2. "FACING PAST SUFFERING"
"As I read the press and learn even more disgraceful things from personal
sources, things that simply cannot be printed, I begin to wonder if this
country will ever be whole. I beg God, that it will be, and like any person
of goodwill, finding himself in my place, am trying to do my bit to help."
By Prof. James Mace, Ph. D.
The Day Weekly Digest In English, #34
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, November 28, 2000
On Friday evening (November 24, 2000) an artistic soiree and a day long
conference on Saturday were held to mark Ukraine's greatest tragedy, the
Manmade Famine of 1932-33, what Ukrainians call 'Holodomor", a term
notoriously difficult to translate but perhaps best conveyed as plague of
starvation, something like the Black Death without microbes.
It is unseemly for peoples to compete over which of them suffered more
when they were victimized, Bosnian Moslems or Kosovar Albanians, Gypsies
or Jews, Armenians or Cherokee Indians, or for that matter the Medieval
Bulgarians from the eleventh century Byzantine Emperor Basil II
Bulgaroctonos, who had the entire defeated enemy host blinded, leaving
only every tenth man one eye to guide the rest home. Many nations have
their own special wounds inflicted upon them by history, and remembering
them is a unique part of their sense of who they are, what gives them
Having begun research on the Ukrainian Famine almost two decades ago
and having written about it a great deal, it is a tragedy that has long
weighed like a stone on my heart. As staff director of a US government
commission on the subject in 1986-1990, I collected and published three
volumes of oral histories on it. I know the historical context explaining
why Stalin did it, the official showing how he did it, and as an
interlocutor and editor shared the human suffering of those who lived
This is not the place for a lecture on history, there is plenty for you to
read from what I have been publishing since 1982. Stalin did it because he
wanted direct unlimited power throughout the Soviet Union, and to get it he
has to crush the main thing in his way, an unfree but still somewhat
self-assertive Sovietized Ukraine.
He did it by ordering unrealistic quotas of grain to be taken, then other
food seized as fines, and used this as an excuse to eliminate those
responsible for not being able to obtain what did not exist. And the human
suffering of this country, in principle among the most favored on earth in
terms of agricultural wealth and resources, cannot be conveyed except in the
worlds of those who witnessed and experienced it. Just as it is emotionally
impossible for someone to study the Holocaust without being moved to the
point that one's spirit becomes at least half Jewish, it is the same with
the Ukraine's central tragedy.
Perhaps this is why I now live here and spend so much of my energy trying to
understand what was done to this people and what scars from it this country
still bears. As I argued at Saturday's conference, the problems of
contemporary Ukraine can best be described as those of a country that still
marks the psychological and physical scars of genocide, not only on the
individuals who survived the unmitigated evils of Stalinism but of this
nation as a whole, one that was so crippled by it that when independence
came, it had only the structures, which had emerged from the post-Stalinist
period, to give its statehood content.
Those structures were peopled and their replacements selected by those
who were themselves products and simultaneously victims of that system.
They were by and large completely unprepared for the challenges that they
then had to face in a world they had been isolated from for over half a
century---challenges political, economic, moral, intellectual, and, in a
As I read the press and learn even more disgraceful things from personal
sources, things that simply cannot be printed, I begin to wonder if this
country will ever be whole.
I beg God, that it will be, and like any person of goodwill, finding himself
in my place, am trying to do my bit to help." -30-
FOOTNOTE: Professor Jim Mace died on Monday, May 3, 2004, in
Kyiv, Ukraine. Jim was only 52 years old. He did not get to see and
experience the Orange Revolution. He would have been so thrilled
for his beloved people, the people of Ukraine and for his adopted
land. He so much wanted them to be free and for the country to be
whole as he said so clearly in his article published above. Jim was a
good friend to so many, we all miss him. [EDITOR]
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