Kravchuk Leonid Makarovych – Exclusive interview for the magazine “Fashion of diplomacy”

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He was the first President of independent Ukraine. Ironically, leading of the most successful attempt to create Ukrainian state in the twentieth century fell to the person, who fought against the Ukrainian self-sustained movement.

Леонід Макарович Кравчук

The Second Secretary on Ideological Issues of the Communist Party of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, was elected the first President of independent state on the first ballot. In fact, those were the first presidential elections throughout Ukraine’s history.

The leader of Ukrainian People’s Movement, Viacheslav Chornovil, a charismatic and volitional man with a dissident past, was the main competitor of Kravchuk. Chornovil lost these elections and complained for a long time that many of his like-minded people and fellow party members worked against him during the 1991 election campaign, de facto helping Kravchuk to win. And indeed, there was a strange certainty among the main opponents of Kravchuk in 1991 that only the Soviet Communist Party bureaucrat of high rank would be able to reach an agreement with Yeltsin.

– When I became the President, all the Сhiefs in the leading positions in the state were Communists, there were 350 Communist MPs in the Verkhovna Rada… Many people in the country believed that the Communists were those who worked for Ukraine, but the members of the Movement believed those ones were working against Ukraine… If at that time we started active actions against the communists, they would be able to create a powerful and effective opposition and block any advance… 3.5 million Communists — it is a significant force and the time of its deactivation has not yet come… — confesses the First President.

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Ukraine–1991, where Leonid Kravchuk was elected as the President, consisted of several antagonistic social groups and had many contradictions — confessional and regional. They were put to sleep by the cold winter of the Soviet Union, but at the end of the 1980s, the thaw awoke not only stirring of the population. The old contradictions of various “ukraines”, which were sewn together only by Stalin in the 1930s and 1940s, awoke. Kravchuk knew it very well due to the position he held in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine.

Powerful anticommunist demonstrations went around the Soviet Ukraine in the autumn, 1990. Those events are customary called the first Ukrainian Maidan. Some of the Ministers and prominent politicians of the present time took part in those events. At that time they were students — a powerful anti-Soviet and anticommunist student movement was one of the Ukrainian visiting cards in the early 1990s. These people could be a secure foothold in the struggle against communist establishment of the already dying Ukrainian SSR.

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However, Leonid Kravchuk has his own opinion on this issue:

– The communists were experienced leaders… The state machine would actually have collapsed without them… Moreover, one should not forget that in 1991 there was not the only Ukraine, but in fact there were two Ukrainian nations — West Ukrainian and East Ukrainian, and they looked at many things differently… This also had to be taken into account…

Certainly, Ukraine came out of the Soviet fence into a free, wide and dangerous world in quite difficult time. There was a bloody and brutal war, provoked by the dissolution of Yugoslavia, in the Balkans, in Europe. Many in the world were afraid that the dissolution of the USSR would follow the Yugoslavia pattern. Nationally conscious Ukraine was indeed limited to three Galician areas and the Zbruch River. Fights between the Ukrainian ultra-right and communists took place on the square in front of the current Olympic Stadiumin Kyiv on November 7, 1991. The first blood was spilled, though that was only blood from broken faces.

The country was balancing on the verge of great upheavals — then they managed to avoid, not least, due to the art of maintaining a political equilibrium, at which the first President was very good. That was the equilibrium between the communist bureaucrats and the anticommunist students, between the put to sleep but numerous East and the provoking passionate but economically weak West.

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How was it managed?

The President, not without sadness and irony at the same time, says:

– You have no idea what was happening when there was an effort to raise the yellow-and-blue flag above the building of the Verkhovna Rada… The communist majority was firmly against… It was necessary to use a trick and declare that there would be two flags, waving above the Verkhovna Rada…

Kravchuk Leonid Makarovych - Exclusive interview for the magazine "Fashion of diplomacy"

Actually, that sort of country under the two flags Ukraine was during the reign of Kravchuk. The art of political equilibrium was enough just for three years of his reign — from 1991 to 1994. Crimea would explode in 1994, the Chechen War would begin in 1994, and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation would develop a hybrid war plan that would be terribly reminiscent of what we would see in 2014. Donbas would explode, truly speaking, with economic miners’ strikes in 1994. The traumatized post-Soviet economy of Ukraine shook in 1994. The art of political equilibrium was not enough. It was necessary to look for and apply new approaches. As sure enough it happened in 1994.