Ukrainian Independence – Silver Anniversary!

Dear Readers:

Today I have for you this historical piece by Dmitry Lyskov.  Yesterday (December 1, 2016) was the 25th Anniversary of the Ukrainian Referendum which resulted in Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union.

On December 1, 1991 around 85% of the voting-eligible citizens of the Ukrainian SSR took part in the Referendum.  Of these, over 90% supported the proclamation of Ukrainian independence.  To this day, the Ukrainian nationalists cite these numbers as proof of Ukrainian national consciousness and support for their own ideology.  Which is a peculiar and toxic mix of neo-Nazism, ridiculous “origins” legends, and gross historical revisionism.

Just 9 months earlier, during the all-Union Referendum, over 70% of the Ukrainian voters, had voted to preserve the Soviet Union as a state entity.

Stay Soviet?  Build Banderastan?  Why such a contradiction?  Lyskov sets out to explain it.

Even The Nationalists Were Surprised

The record-level support for Ukrainian independence, a quarter of a century ago, was all the more surprising, since the “Yes” votes came not just from the Western part of Ukraine (for example, in the more Ukrainian-patriotic Ivano-Frankivsk district the “yes” votes reached as high as 98%), but also from the East.   For example, in Donetsk, 83.9% of the voters said “Yes” to Ukrainian independence; in Luhansk 83.86%; Kharkov 86.33%; Odessa 85.38%.  A lower “Yes” vote was seen only in Crimea:  54.19%.

Gennady Udovenko: “I was pleasantly surprised.”

Gennady Udovenko, who represented the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in the UN General Assembly, and later morphed into independent Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, related that the voting results came as a pleasant surprise to him:  “Even the most optimistic optimists did not believe that such a large number of people would vote Yes in the Referendum.”  Even such committed nationalists as Vyacheslav Chernovil would have settled for 50%.

The nationalists of course took the results and ran with them — it was their pet idea, preserved over decades, to create a Ukrainian national state, founded on their own political ideology of neo-fascism; and their a-historical notions of a discrete Ukrainian culture going back thousands of years.

As Ukrainians later learned (many times), not everybody shared this particular ideology or bought into this “origins” fable.  Politically Ukraine was and is split down the middle:  East vs West.  Pro-Russian vs anti-Russian.

In which case, how to explain the fact that the East also voted overwhelming for independence, back in 1991?  Did they not realize the consequences of such a vote?  What can explain their choice at the ballot box?  Economic necessity?  The hopes of an economic revival in independent Ukraine?  Or possibly just hopelessness, as reality sank in, that the Soviet Union was not going to be restored?

In the earlier, March, Referendum, Ukrainians voted to preserve the USSR.

Some Russian pundits postulated that Ukrainians were tricked by the wording of the Referendum.  But this is not a realistic theory; besides, why would Crimeans be less tricked than residents of the Donbass?  In any case, Lyskov cites a Russian translation of the full text of the Referendum bulletin, which was written in Ukrainian.  Here is the Russian translation, followed by my translation from the Russian into English:

«Исходя из смертельной опасности, нависшей над Украиной в связи с государственным переворотом в СССР 19 августа 1991 года, продолжая тысячелетнюю традицию государственного строительства на Украине, исходя из права на самоопределение, предусмотренного Уставом ООН и другими международно-правовыми документами, осуществляя Декларацию о государственном суверенитете Украины, Верховный Совет УССР торжественно провозглашает независимость Украины и создание самостоятельного украинского государства – УКРАИНЫ. Территория Украины является неделимой и неприкосновенной. Отныне на территории Украины имеют силу исключительно Конституция и законы Украины. Этот акт вступает в силу с момента его одобрения».


Proceeding from the mortal danger hanging over the Ukraine, in connection with the government coup in the USSR which occurred on 19 August 1991; continuing the thousand-year-long tradition of being a state on Ukrainian soil; proceeding from the right to self-determination guaranteed by the Charter of the U.N. and by other international legal documents insuring the Declaration of state sovereignty of the Ukraine, the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR triumphantly proclaims the independence of the Ukraine and the creation of an independent Ukrainian state – of Ukraine.  The territory of Ukraine is indivisible and untouchable.  From this moment onward, the only legitimate force is the Constitution and the laws of Ukraine.  This act enters into force from the moment of its adoption.


Above document proves that there was no trickery:  People knew exactly what they were voting for!

Nonetheless, there is still a glaring contradiction here, which needs to be explained.

Ukrainian Sovereignty

Ukraine’s Declaration of Independence was based on an earlier Declaration of Sovereignty, which was adopted by the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet on 16 July 1990.  A month earlier, on 12 June 1990, Russia had declared its sovereignty, as the start of the process of seceding from the Soviet Union.  It was Russia’s cutting of the moorings which left the other nations adrift.  When Russia bailed, everybody else was left holding the bag.  This is the most important point to keep in mind.

Especially since Ukrainian nationalists have created their own ALT-History and ALT-Reality, in which Ukraine tears itself away from Russia.  The reality was the opposite:  Russia under Yeltsin tore herself away from the other Soviet peoples, leaving them adrift and leaderless.  Russia was the economic and political powerhouse.  Once the Queen Bee abandons the hive, the hive begins to die.

Here is another important point:  In the declaration of Ukrainian sovereignty (16 July 1990) which followed closely upon Russia’s bailing out, the following promise was made:  «Украинская ССР имеет свое гражданство и гарантирует каждому гражданину право на сохранение гражданства СССР».   (“The Ukrainian SSR has its own citizenship and guarantees to every citizen the right to preserve their citizenship in the USSR.”)

No analogous promise was made to citizens of the Russian SSR.  The whole point of Russia’s secession was to cut off Russian citizens from any hope of a Soviet restoration.  To put them completely under the heel of the national leaders.

The only logical interpretation here is that the “sovereign Ukraine” was still hedging its bets and promising, maybe, to remain within the USSR, even though the largest component — Russia — had already bailed.  The logical conclusion is that many, many desperate Ukrainian citizens were voting, not to live in a whacky Banderastan, but hoping against hope that at least the shell of the Soviet Union might be preserved; that they could keep their citizenship, their passports, their rights.

Were the people actually voting for this?

To hammer home this point, Lyskov points out that the Declaration of Sovereignty was proclaimed by the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic; citing the Soviet Constitution — a Constitution which stated that Ukraine is an “equal Republic in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics”.

These points made together square the circle:  There is a logical explanation why Ukrainians, in the March 1991 Referendum, voted simultaneously for the declaration of Sovereignty and for the preservation of the USSR.  There was no actual contradiction here:  The Declaration relied on the Constitution, and the Constitution guaranteed Ukraine’s rights as a constituent Republic of the USSR.

A few months later, December 1991, and the Referendum declares:  “From this moment onward, the only legitimate force is the Constitution and the laws of Ukraine.”  The Soviet Constitution and indeed the Soviet Union itself, had ceased to exist, once Russia bailed.

And it all led, in the end, to this:

If the non-nationalistic part of the Ukrainian population was duped, they were duped in the following manner:  They mistakenly clung to some illusion that they could maintain a shell of the Soviet Union and retain their rights as Soviet citizens holding Soviet passports.  The true grinding reality of their predicament had not yet set in.  Which put them, thanks to Russian treachery, at the complete mercy of the ideological nationalists and their Western sponsors.  Turned them into a Western colony, in effect.  With all the consequences flowing thence.

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