Ukraine: 25 Years of Independence, A Thousand Years of History

This week the big story in Ukraine was a celebration. The country marked the 25th anniversary of its modern statehood

Show hosts

Marta Dyczok


Сергій Головатий,

Bohdan Nahaylo

Ukraine: 25 Years of Independence, A Thousand Years of History
Ukraine: 25 Years of Independence, A Thousand Years of History

Hello this is Ukraine Calling. A weekly roundup of what’s been happening in Ukraine, with a focus on a main issue. I’m Marta Dyczok for Hromadske Radio in Kyiv, and here are the headlines that caught my attention this week.


Ukraine’s 25th Anniversary of Independence

This week the big story in Ukraine was a celebration. The country marked the 25th anniversary of its modern statehood. A quarter century ago, after the Moscow coup failed, Ukraine’s parliament convened an emergency session. And on 24 August 1991, it adopted the Act of Independence.

Ukrainian Flag in the Verkhovna Rada, August, 23, 1991 Courtecy of Efrem Lukatsky

Later in the show we’ll bring you an interview with Serhiy Holovatyi who co-authored the Act. He’ll explain what was happening behind the scenes, and the ideas that shaped the historic moment. And Bohdan Nahaylo, who headed RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service in 1991. He describes how news of the independence declaration travelled from Ukraine’s parliament to Munich and transmitted on international airwaves.

A quarter century later, with war on their territory, Ukraine’s leaders feared that the independence celebration might become a target for terrorist acts. So there was a heavy security presence in central Kyiv. But on the actual day the mood was relaxed. Despite the rain, thousands of people came to watch the annual parade. They patiently stood in line to get through the metal detectors that surrounded the main square, the Maidan.

The parade itself was quite something, unlike anything over the past 24 years. President Poroshenko introduced a new narrative. He placed the emphasis on Ukraine’s 1000 year history, with the 25th anniversary being only the most recent phase. He honoured those who had been killed while defending Ukraine over the centuries, and handed out awards to current heros. Then, relatives of those who have been killed in the past two and a half years opened the parade. Next came rows and rows of soldiers and sailors. They were marching in a new way, not the old Soviet goose step. And dressed in new, Western style uniforms, making a fashion statement to demonstrate the break with the past. The finale was new military equipment. The multiple rocket launchers, self-propelled anti-aircraft mounts, tanks, and other items that I didn’t recognized. As they slowly rolled down the main street Khreshchatyk, the ground shook. The young men driving the equipment had steady and determined looks on their faces as people clapped while they passed. All of Ukraine’s former Presidents were on the main podium. All except fugitive President Victor Yanukovych.

By afternoon the sun came out, the weather remained lovely for the annual evening concert that I’ll describe later in the show.

Audio Tapes from Early 2014 Released Documenting Russia’s Involvement in Triggering War in Ukraine

On Monday Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office released a video that documents Moscow’s direct involvement in triggering events that led to the annexation of Crimea and war in the Donbas. It contains fragments of intercepted phone conversations. One is from February the 28th 2014 between Putin’s official advisor Sergei Glasyev and Russian State Duma deputy Konstantin Zatulin, where they discuss financing unrest in Odesa, Kharkiv, and Crimea. Another is from 6 March 2014. Glazyev is advising Sergei Aksyonov, the man who took over Crimea’s parliament, on the wording for the event that many call the Crimean referendum of 16 March 2014. International media did not report this story widely. Kyiv based German political scientist Andreas Umland believes this is because the tapes have been carefully cut and framed and the original tapes remain unpublished. We’ll post a link to the video on our webpage.


Ukraine’s Interior Ministry reports that more Russian National Guard troops have arrived in the Donbas and heavy shelling continues. Over the past week six soldiers were killed and twenty six wounded.

Return to Soviet Era Practice of Punitive Psychiatry in Crimea

More disturbing news came from Crimea over the past few days. On August the 18th Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov was forcibly taken from a cardiac unit in a regular hospital and transferred to Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 in Simferopol. He was under observation for his heart condition and is diabetic. The Kharkiv Human Rights Group and various Crimean Tatar organizations are reporting that his medication was taken away from him, that initially even his lawyer was not allowed to see him, and that he will be held in the psychiatric hospital for 28 days. During the Soviet era psychiatry was used as a weapon against political opponents. Umerov is facing charges for calling Russia’s actions in Crimea an occupation.

Energy Efficiency Becomes Easier

It will now be easier for Ukrainians to install their own energy meters in their homes. The government streamlined the process this week. It has directed the national energy company to inspect these meters within 3-5 days. Many apartment buildings still have a centralized meter system which makes it impossible to accurately measure energy usage in individual apartments. So many people have started installing their own, to keep track of own their energy consumption.

Focus on Independence Declaration

To remember the day that Parliament voted on the Act of Independence 25 years ago, Ukraine Calling invited two special guests into studio this week.

Dyczok: 25 years ago Ukraine declared independence. Since then there are a lot of people who say that it was very easy. The process just sort of happened. Lately Ukraine is fighting for its independence. In our studio we have two very special guests. One who was the co-author of Act of Independence of Ukraine, and the other is a journalist who was covering the events and who actually broke the story from Munich. Mr. Bohdan Nahaylo was then the head of Radio Liberty Radio Free Europe Ukrainian section. Mr. Serhiy Holovatyj was a Member of Parliament and one of the founding members of Rukh. So we have two different perspectives. Thank you very much for joining us.

Mr. Nahaylo, I would like to start with you. You were sitting in Munich and carefully watching what was happening in Ukraine. Radio Liberty was the ideological enemy at that time. How did you have information coming from Ukraine? How you were following the story.

Nahaylo: In the old days, when it was still very difficult to travel here and when programs would be jammed. It only stopped in November 1988 (as late as that despite so-called glasnost and perestroika). We were monitoring the Soviet Ukrainian press very closely. Americans were running and financing Radio Liberty. Before 1971 it had been financed by CIA but then after 1971 it was run by bi-partisan commission. There was a phenomenal apparatus for gathering information and monitoring. The main radio and TV broadcasts would be monitored on a regular basis. In some cases, when we already had video, we could see these programs.  But before that the transcripts would be made for us overnight.  In fact, when I would come to work in the morning I would already know what Radio Kiev had been saying or what was on program Vremia the night before. [Vremia was all-Soviet evening TV news show]. I’ll give you an example of how sophisticated it was. The Soviet Union had 11 time zones. A huge country. But to make sure the first page of Pravda in Vladivostok was the same as in Kaliningrad, early editions were sent by satellite to Vladivostok, for example. The Americans would pick this up so we would know what would be on the first page of Pravda that morning and prepare our programs and counterarguments.

Dyczok: However, when it was very breaking news like the emergency session of the parliament on the 24 of August 1991 you were telling us. How did you follow that story because that was a very difficult one?

Nahaylo: Marto, you are jumping ahead. A lot changed between 1988 and 1991. First of all, you had the occurrence of these informal groups. You had a burgeoning civil society who had their own independent press, and who were courageous enough to spread information, and to try to contact us via telephone. It was very difficult. Certainly by 1989 -1990 we already had stringers in Kyiv, in L’viv reporting by telephone, sending us faxes. So it became much more sophisticated operation. I always emphasize for those younger people who are now so used to social media that we were the Twitter and Facebook of that time. We were the ones who were telling the people in Donets’k what’s happening in L’viv, Odesa, Chernhiv, and integrating the nation. Nation not in a political sense.

But you asked me what happened on that very memorable for me day. It was a Saturday and it was an extraordinary session of the Ukrainian Parliament. This was two days after the collapse of the “putch” attempt in Moscow. Let’s remember those dramatic days. Orest Subtelny, a renowned historian from Toronto, said before his death in an interview that when he came here to oversee the publication of the Ukrainian edition of his History of Ukraine. That week when he called his editors here they said, “What book are you talking about? There is no such book being prepared.” People were very frightened, and for a few days even that theme disappeared from the radar screen. But once that trauma had subsided and once it was clear that the putchists had failed, here [in Kyiv] expectations were following along the lines of what Yeltsin was doing in Moscow, that perhaps the Communist Party would be banned. That would be already a major achievement. But it was not clear by any means that the issue of Ukraine’s status (it was supposedly a sovereign state already by a former declaration) but it would now proceed to declare itself independent state.  As director, I brought in the staff on Saturday. Usually we prepared programs in advance. But I said that I felt something important was going to happen. So all day we were sitting at our desks, waiting for news from Kyiv. from our correspondents Serhiy Naboka, Svitlana Riaboshapka and Leonid Miliavsky. At 6 pm Kyiv time, 5 pm Munich time, we were supposed to go live with a broadcast of international news. But at ten to five there were still no news. So I got to the phone to our correspondents in Kyiv and Svitlana Riaboshapka picked up the phone. She said “Pane Bohdane, Kravchuk, the Speaker of the Parliament, is putting the act declaring Ukraine’s independence to the vote.” I said “Come on, this can’t be true.”  She said “No, listen for yourself,” and she took the phone receiver, held it to the TV in Kiev. I am listening over the phone in Munich to Kravchuk reading the text and I hear cheers and applause. I realise something dramatic had happened. My response as a director was “What do I do?” Do I run with that news? Do I believe what my ears and my correspondents have told me? Or do I play it safe and wait an hour until everybody else has broadcasted. I ran to the news booth. The red lamp was already on saying “No entry.” But I had the prerogative of going in, as the director. My colleague Vasyl Darchuk was supposed to read the international news in 2-3 minutes and I scribbled a note and passed it to him, “According to preliminary information Ukrainian Rada or Supreme Soviet has just declared…”

Holovatyi: Supreme Soviet…

Nahaylo: Thank you, Serhiy. He is a legal specialist and was there.

…and I said “Read this out.” He put his finger to his head to show that I am crazy through the glass. . I said “Read it or you will get into trouble.” He pointed to his throat as if somebody is going to slit his throat. “You know what it means if I read this out.”  I said “yes, you lose your head if you don’t.” So he went ahead, followed my instructions and at 6 pm Kiev time we were the first to broadcast the news. We beat Ukrinform, TASS, AP, Reuters… Why was that important? Because it was a Saturday and even though there was a relief after the failure of the putch a lot of people were at their dachas [cottages]. They had not been glued to their TV sets watching what’s happening in the Verkhovna Rada. We were the first to bring that news abroad. Millions of people were listening to us. One footnote: we had to celebrate. Of course the canteen in Radio Europe in Munich was run by Germans. The store was closed at 5 pm. I had to bang on the door saying “Ukraine has declared its independence, please give us some champagne!” They said “No, it’s 5 o’clock”. I said “History is being made in front of your eyes. Do you want to be a part of history or you will be bores?” So they opened the store, gave us champagne and we drank to Ukraine’s independence. Now its 25 years ago and that is why it’s so special.

Dyczok: Mr. Nahaylo broke the story of Ukraine’s independence to the world. Serhiy Holovaty was one of the people that made it happen. Mr. Holovaty, please tell us how this Act of Independence was prepared? You were one of the authors. We have in studio with us the original draft.

Holovatyi: We have to go back to those days in renewing our memory of the composition of Rada.

Dyczok: Ukrainian Parliament at that time …

Nahaylo: Protoparliament…

Holovatyi: The composition of the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. It was not yet Rada. It was Supreme Soviet. 450 members. Among them not more than 110 those who were anti-Communists.

Dyczok: Democrats.

Serhiy Holovatyj and the origial copy of Act of Independence Marta Dyczok/Hromadske Radio

Holovatyi:  Democrats formed an informal alliance which was called Narodna Rada, or Peoples Rada, or Peoples Council. It means that less than a quarter of the MPs were in favour of independence. All the rest were Orthodox communists, members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Certainly, when the coup occurred in Moscow on the 19th of August, it was not clear what was going on then. I was in Russia that day, because it was vacation time for MPs in August. Some of us were on holidays in a resort area near Rostov-on-Don – Mineralnye Vody, a resort for all MPs from all over the Soviet Union. There were also MPs from the republics and Moscow.  When we arrived for breakfast, we heard from radio about the coup. Immediately we started to find a way how to get out to Ukraine. It was almost martial law. Everything was blocked. It took about one day to come to Kyiv by plane, the only plane that was allowed to take off from Rostov-on-Don to Kyiv and Moscow, was that plane registered at Boryspil airport. That is why even MPs from Moscow (members of the Supreme Soviet of USSR) could not get directly to Moscow. It was blocked by military. The captain on the board was from Kyiv, from Boryspil. That’s why we were lucky to be back in Kyiv around 10 or even 11 pm on the 19th. Immediately with our luggage we came to the building of the Supreme Soviet and joined the group that demanded to convene an extraordinary session. But the Speaker of the Supreme Soviet Leonid Kravchuk was really hesitating. He did not do that on the 19th, 20th, or 21st. He still was waiting for…

Dyczok: the end,

Holovatyi: what direction events would take place. And only after it was clear that the coup is failing, he convened the extra session. The members of Peoples Council met in the House of the Writers Union. There was a special meeting of democratic block to work out the plan.  According to the unanimously adopted scenario we drafted the agenda for this extraordinary session. The agenda consisted of 12 points.

Dyczok: That’s a big agenda…

Holovatyi: Number one was the resolution on banning the Communist party. Number two was de-communziation or lustration – banning possibility for the former Communist bureaucrats, apparatchiks, nomenklatura to take any positions in the offices of the government. Possibly proclaim independent Ukraine. Then number 3, denationalization of the property of the Communist party and making it the property of the people. The last item, as I would say the culmination, the crowning point, is proclaiming independence of new Ukraine as already decommunized, already democratic and so and so on. That what was be the last point. That was the agreement or the decision of Narodna Rada. It was adopted on the 22nd of August and was decided that Narodna Rada will prepare the draft of all these documents. We had only one day – the 23rd – to do it one day and it was done. Then we met on the 23rd in the evening in …

Dyczok: In the Writers Union building?

Holovatyi: No, already in the Parliament.  We had already discussed the prepared drafts and the scenario was supposed to be like this. When we came on the 24th the plenary meeting was opened. The first secretary of the Communist Party, Mr. Hurenko, was admitted, allowed to speak on behalf of the communists, on what they have done in Moscow and what is their line in Kyiv.

Nahaylo: Sorry to interrupt you. In my book Ukrainian Resurgence, one of the photos that I went to great trouble to find is of Hurenko raising his hand. Can you imagine the First Party Secretary asking to be given the right to speak? How the things had changed?

Holovatyi: Exactly. So he was allowed to speak. In short, finally we came to the moment when we had to start to adopt the drafts, the agenda, the documents according to our plan. However, the Speaker of the Parliament Mr. Kravchuk suddenly announced that the floor is given to member of Rada of the Supreme Soviet Mr. Yavorivs’kyi for announcing the Act of Independence.

Dyczok: Mr Yavorivs’kyi was a member of Rukh.

Holovatyi: Exactly. He was a member of the Presidium which was at that time the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (like the Politbureau of the Supreme Soviet). And it became clear that during the night there was a special agreement between the Presidium and the Speaker that they will not follow our scenario and that they will only vote for one issue – for proclaiming independence. Only this. As they were afraid if they put the scenario like we have planned, we could fail to proclaim independence because the communists were majority. Super majority. 200 people a super majority.

Nahaylo: Mr. Lukianenko said a few days ago that he suspects that Yavorivs’kyi was being secretly prepared as a possible leader if Kravchuk were to be removed and he would be acceptable to the communists.

Holovatyi: I don’t know about that. But I remember Lukianenko, who was authorized by Rada to pronounce that document, was standing in front of me. I was sitting in the first row, so he was standing in front of me with this sheet of paper which was already written with text which had to be voted, but suddenly Kravchuk called for Yavorivs’kyi and he [Yavorivs’kyi] just came and pulled out this sheet of paper from Lukianenko and Lukianenko started to cry. Because that was a betrayal, something unexpected. Lukianenko was crying. His tears were coming out of his eyes.

Nahaylo: It was also his birthday. 

Holovatyi: Yes. But finally it was done so unexpectedly that nobody could tell what to do. It was brought to the vote and we had nothing else to but vote.  By the way, some of the RUKH members, me and my colleagues, we voted against during the first voting because we also were feeling betrayed by somebody.  Because it was not our agreement, not our plan. We didn’t want to vote for an independent Ukraine of that quality, when the Communists have the power. I voted against the Act which I had co-written. I had to vote against my Act. That was one attempt. Then when we had voted against the Act, Kravchuk called a vote on the second issue – the resolution, an additional document on the proclamation of independence, along with the announcement of the referendum for people approval on the first of September. Certainly, when that was proposed, we had voted. There were 346 who voted. In conclusion, we see at that time there was a very active anti-communist minority with just over 100 deputies [MPs]. They managed to achieve their goal which was for them “their ideal”.  Our idea was independent Ukraine, independent from Moscow, independent from the Soviet Union.  An independent country gaining independence as all other nations in Europe or other nations in the liberal world.  At the same time this independence was supported by the communist majority that was aggressively orthodox because it was in their interests. They never pursued an idea of independent Ukraine.  But they voted for it because it was their interest to keep power. I voted the first time against, and then only in favour because I understood that voting in favour was preserving power.

Nahaylo: They were saving their skins.

Holovatyi: And finally it was a victory for many of MPs and RUKH members. They were happy. I had mixed feelings. I was happy and unhappy. For me it was a day of joy and happiness, and of sadness. In the evening they went to a restaurant in a hotel in the Stolichny on Khreschatyk Street. Communists, RUKH members, they went for kholodets.  They were drinking champagne. They were singing songs. They were euphoric. I didn’t go there and I didn’t join them. With my friend who was at the time a RUKH member Valeriy Ivasiuk we went to the National TV station, to Yevdokia Kolesnik, a journalist who had a  live TV program at 11 pm. We went there explaining why we are not singing, dancing and drinking champagne with the others. Our message was that we didn’t want Ukraine’s independence to be voted in by communists preserving power. We do not believe in that. Exactly 25 years ago I said on TV I don’t believe that Ukraine will be independent in such a way.  I said that Ukraine’s freedom couldn’t be gained without bloodshed. Ukrainian history has proved that only if it is conquered in battle against an external enemy such as the Moscow horde, the Tatar horde, the Mongol horde, invaders form the east. As we see now that is what exactly happened in 2014. There is still the fight for independence. Maybe due to this bloodshed we will preserve our independence as the main goal of Putin’s regime is to destroy Ukraine’s independence.

Nahaylo:  If I may just come in for a second. As Marta suggested at the beginning, a lot of people suggested that independence was handed to us on a plate, that Ukrainians did not do anything. They don’t take into account all the centuries of struggle.

Holovatyi: I disagree.

Nahaylo: …even with the late 80’s, even the mobilisation through the popular movement for restructuring etc.  The major achievement of that movement was that it had a clear concept, thanks to people like Serhiy, of the Ukraine for all its citizens, not just Ukrainians, you know, Ukrainians with just one version of history and one version of religion. As you know it embraced all the citizens and it made Jews, Bulgarians, Poles, Catholics feel at home. That was a major achievement.

Holovatyi:  It was written down…

Nahaylo:  It could have gone wrong. It could have turned into bloodshed.

Holovatyi:  I meant bloodshed not inside Ukraine. Bloodshed as the war between Russia and Ukraine, Moscow and Kyiv.

Nahaylo:  The point I want to make that even though there was the semblance that it was happening rather smoothly, what has happened since 2014 -15 is that the political nation and particularly the younger generation is that freedom comes at a price.  The blood and the lives, this has been the price, maybe belatedly, that we are still paying for that independence. That was one of the major messages of the Revolution of dignity, the Maidan etc. that you don’t get things for free and if you want to stand up for democracy, for Europe, for self-identification, for being Ukrainian, at the end of the day you have to be able to and ready to give your lives for it. Thank God we have found ourselves 25 years later at a stage where we have never been stronger as now. This is the strongest point in our history with all the failures, shortcomings and disappointments. Of course we would have liked it to have gone better with the momentum of reform and national renewal to have gone better but still we are stronger than have ever been. I am encouraged by the younger generation who have a different outlook, who already have a sense of Ukrainian history not in any narrow chauvinistic way but in a European sense. They certainly don’t want a Eurasian tyrannical model here. If you ask me: after 25 years, is the glass half empty or half full? I would say it is more than half full.  Yes. It is not going to happen ovenight. Yes, it is frustratingly slow and frustratingly zig-zaggy. But we are making progress. The final point I want to say: interwar Poland and interwar Baltic States survived 20 years, 1919-39. We have stood the test of time and stood up to all the adverse forces, particularly to our northern neighbour. 25 years later we are stronger than have ever been despite internal shortcomings.

Dyczok: The feeling of a political nation has spread over 25 years but I’d like to go back to 1991. Mr Holovaty, you and your colleagues were real revolutionaries and visionaries. You were one of the co-authors of this document that made Ukraine an independent state. Coming out of a Soviet tradition, Soviet education, you had the vision how to draft this document, what to put into it. Can you tell us about the actual Act of Independence?

Nahaylo: Before Serhiy does I want to interject. Serhiy represented that rather limited elite of very sophisticated people legally trained with a broad international outlook aware of international standards. It was thanks to him and his role in subsequent years (because I followed his career) that a lot of sense and political correctness and, shall we say, the normative aspects of abiding by the standards… he wasn’t just an activist. He was a very intelligent and clever man and was highly qualified as a professional. Thank God RUKH had people of his calibre.

Holovatyi: The main factor in this circumstance is that I graduated from Taras Shevchenko University as an international lawyer. I was trained in international law. If I was trained as a simple Soviet lawyer I could not have known all the things that I knew at that time already. While studying international law we even were trained in human rights law, which was in the Soviet Union almost unknown. Human rights law was a part of international law only. It, the Soviet Union, was not a part of a national law because there were socialist rights. According to the Soviet tradition Ukrainian lawyers could not be trained in understanding human rights as rights and freedoms, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of demonstrations, freedom of expression… No, never… Only in the right to labour, right to housing, right to health, to education, social rights…

I was studying international law. I knew something about the universal declaration of human rights, about the charter of the UN and the rights of a nation for self-determination.  That’s why in our Act there is a reference that Parliament on the 24th of August proclaimed independence based on the charter of the UN, and other international instruments which contain the right of a nation for self-determination. We were trained as specialists in an international law, so we had to know English, French or other language (at least 2 languages in order to be a specialist in the field of international law).

That certainly helped very much when I was consulting the RUKH movement and the leadership in the RUKH on how to write the documents. I drafted, for example, the whole charter of the RUKH movement in 1989.  I drafted two chapters in the Rukh program on human rights and the rights of individual, rights of the nation, on the state based on the rule of law and so on. That was the knowledge we’ve got even during the Soviet Union’s legal education system.

Nahaylo: Wasn’t Saakashvili one of your colleagues at the same university?

Holovatyi: No. He was studying about 10 years later. I met him at Strasburg when I was the member of a delegation of Ukrainian national parliament. Misha was the member of the Assembly.

Nahaylo: But he studied in Kyiv in the same institute…

Holovatyi: At that time it was Faculty of international relations and international law.  Now it is the Institute of international relations.  So that was the reason I had knowledge on the human rights, on the rights to self-determination and how our nation has a natural right for freedom as Pylyp Orlyk wrote on the national right of a kozak nation to be free.

Nahaylo: Wasn’t professor Vasylenko one of your teachers?

Holovatyi: Yes, he was one of my teachers. He was teaching international law, the national treaties as a part of international law.

Dyczok: So this document that Mr. Holovatyi has brought into our studio, which we will photograph and put up to our webpage, was inspired by international documents, by international visions. When you were drafting this what were the key ideas that you put into this document?

Holovatyi: The first key idea was that proclaiming Ukraine’s independence means that we reaffirm our long historic tradition of statehood. It is precisely stated that by this we proclaim the continuation of our history of more than one thousand years starting with Prince Volodymyr who baptised this Kyiv land in 988 at the same time when the first king in France was put on the throne in 987. From that year the French dynasty of monarchs has started. At that time we were are almost the same: the French monarchy and Kyivan Rus’ monarchy or as it was said in Latin Rossica which was then stolen by Peter the Great for the name of Tsar of Russia. Ukraine that is Kyivan Rus’ or Kyiv Rossica. That long history that was put as the first thesis.

Dyczok: So the long history…

Holovatyi: The second was the idea of the right of a nation to self-determination, as this is prescribed by the UN charter and other instruments of international law.

Dyczok: So immediately referenced to international norms.

Holovatyi: Yes, to UN Charter and, I would say, International Covenant of 1966.

The third thesis is that we were continuing our action in coordination with the Declaration of Sovereignty, which was passed by the same Soviet republic on the 16th of July, 1990, not knowing that we would be voting for independence later. That was our base for our future statehood, our military forces of Ukraine, which we never had because there was Soviet forces, national currency hryvna and an economic independence from Moscow.  All these basics were put down in the Declaration of State Sovereignty because the Soviet republics were not sovereign.  On 16th July 1990, we put foundation for future state sovereignty. There is a linkage of these three basic things: the long historic tradition, the international basis for independence, and national basis for independence, which was laid down a year before.

Dyczok: So very sophisticated conceptually and legally well grounded.  Quite historic moment…

Holovatyi: It had to be very short. If it was formulated longer, it could raise debates in the Parliament; and with the super majority of Orthodox aggressive communists, we could fail. It could not be a very long text like the American Declaration of Independence.

Nahaylo: You had to be concise. You had to win them over as well, you had to find the right language.

Holovatyi: The priority was the independence based on these three things.

Dyczok: Thank you very much

Nahaylo: I want to mention one point we forget now in the context of the Russian aggression in the East. In 1990 when Ukraine declared its sovereignty an important role was played by the strike of miners in Donbas.

Holovatyi: It was organized, it was artificially made strike.

Nahaylo: It was. But it was their involvement and their presence on the streets that helped us get sovereignty because it also helped frighten the Communist elite. That’s now forgotten. But that’s something we should be aware of because it is not how it was portrayed by Moscow. Donets’k was connected with Kyiv and with the rest of Ukraine, its politics and its aspirations.

Dyczok: Thank you. We have co-author of the Act of Independence and we have the man who broke the story to the world. Thank you very much for sharing your insight and for joining us.

Nahaylo: Thank you Marta for having us. I think that for all three of us it is a very important anniversary.  We were all involved in some way in a greater or lesser extent. I think we’re all proud that we’ve lived to this day and that Ukraine is not just a project. Ukraine is this millennial phenomenon, which continues to grow and develop perhaps in ways unforeseen and will be there. I would like to quote Symonenko, “Народ мій є, народ мій завжди буде.” [My nation exists, it will always exist.]

Holovatyi: And in conclusion I would like to agree with what Bohdan said earlier, that Ukraine is stronger at 25 years than ever before. It has such prospects for the future as never before.

Dyczok: Because it was built on a strong foundation, thank you very much for your contributions, and contributions to come…

Thank you

[Interview transcribed by Larysa Iarovenko]

Culture and Music

On Independence Day there were lots of activities all over Kyiv. Art fairs, literary readings, fairs of handmade items. Master Chef Competitions, a charity run in traditional Ukrainian shirts to raise money for Kyiv schools. The grand finale was the annual concert in Kyiv’s main square, the Maidan. This year it had a new tone. The stage was decorated in the style of the avant-guard artist Kazimir Malevych. He was born in Kyiv into a Polish family, and lately has become very popular in Ukraine. The music was classical. All the performers were born after 1991, in an independent Ukraine.

For those who like rock music, I’d like to play you a song by the Kharkiv band Fliuhery, which means weathervane. The song is called Shklo – glass. For this song and more see Hromadske Radio’s weekly music show, Pora Roku.

Looking Forward

Next Friday is the beginning of the Labour Day weekend in North America, so Ukraine Calling will be taking a break. The next episode will air on Friday the 9th of September, and there will be a new host, since I will be back at my university starting the new term. If you have any suggestions or comments, please write to the show at: [email protected] I’m Marta Dyczok in Kyiv. Thanks for listening.