1 лютого 1996 р.
Богдан Дмитрович Гаврилишин – український економіст та громадський діяч. Громадянин Канади. У 1976 здобув ступінь PhD з економіки у Женевському університеті. З 1988 працює на громадських засадах в Україні. Від здобуття Україною незалежності – радник кількох Президентів України, прем’єр-міністрів та голів Верховної Ради. У 1996-1997 – директор Міжнародної академії навколишнього середовища у Женеві. Голова наглядової ради Міжнародного інституту менеджменту в Києві, заснованого з його ініціативи в 1989.
(00:01:18) It is February 1, 1996 and we are in the office of Mr. Bohdan Havrylyshyn. Mr. Havrylyshyn, thank you very much finding time to speak with us today.
Could you describe for us your first visits to Ukraine in the eighties after the process of Perestroika had began?
The first visit was in late June and early July ‘88. I was actually invited by the society “Ukraina”. I was most reluctant to accept the invitation because this was certainly not the body that was held in the high prestige in the Diaspora, because they are actually sort of servants of the regime. And yet, I decided to accept it because simply for pragmatic (00:02:00) reasons. They would arrange that trip for you, I could go anywhere I wanted, I set my program and they would buy the tickets and worry about the things like that. And first, this was important. I was here with my wife. We were at the hotel “Dnipro”. We turned on the television, as if something pushed us, you know, on about the third day. And we hear over the television that somebody called Oleynikov is about to speak. That’s the way I’ve heard it and my wife, and then we listened to the man. And actually we, at least I, heard that he did not speak actually very pure Russian. And it was Borys Oliynyk. And it was quite a speech because he said it was our sisters, our mothers did not give their lives for Stalin. They gave their lives for our (00:03:00) country, Bat’kivchshyna, and our country is Ukraine. So actually that was, he was, in a way the first trigger.
The same day or the day after I went to the Association of Ukrainian Writers. That was very exciting trip because really well I met with Mushketyk, but the real discussion was with Pavlychko, Dmytro Pavlychko. And I started explaining to him that when Ukraine becomes independent, because I already had certitude that it would happen, what kind of society we’d like to have, what should be the type of political institutions, what should the type of economic system.
In my previous studies I thought I knew what would be the ideal model for a society so that it could be politically free, pluralistic, open and yet economically effective, socially just. And it was so exciting that we both, … with a poet [it was] much easier [to talk], by the way, that would have been (00:04:00) with any economist, or political scientist, because poet thinks in images. And I was actually drawing pictures of … That should be the kind of a value system and that should be the type of political institutions, we both climbed under the table with our knees and had a very kind of really exciting, exciting debate about what should be the shape of the Ukraine in the future. But the first trigger was actually that accidental turning in into the television.
And as early as 1988 you were not talking about whether not Ukraine will be independent but what an independent Ukraine would look like?
Yes, at least with Pavlychko. Yes, clearly. I had the total certitude and I think he, he was reasonably sure too, because certainly he was one of those that were pushing for it hard. Maybe it’s funny, but sometimes one has the certitudes. In my case came from the fact that I had predicted the disintegration of the Soviet Union. I was (00:05:00) doing that in lectures in the 70’s, but actually wrote it up in ’79 and wrote a book in 1980.
There are several reasons why it was obvious to me. One of the reasons was that the Soviet Union was simply geographically too big, culturally, ethnically too heterogeneous, the complexity of managing such a system is great, so the cost, the overhead, if you like, cost, of managing such a system grows exponentially as a function of size and diversity. So that was one of the things. Of course the Afghanistan war and the poor transformation of science into technology. The country was falling behind and this competition with the United States, that was launched, you know, who can out-arm whom, was going to weaken and it was weakening.
But also (00:06:00) I overthought, perhaps projecting some of my feelings of my friends, that the nationalistic aspirations would be a very big centrifugal force. And I also knew that one could not really transform the Soviet Union fully just through the Communist Party. So I had a certitude and I’m glad I was right.
Were there specific events that made you think that the late 80’s and the early 90’s where going to be the time that Ukraine was going to start exhorting itself?
Yes, I began to have the certitude after Brezhnev died. Brezhnev was already dead but wouldn’t admit it, and then came Andropov. He was a bright man, unlike Brezhnev, but he was also very sick. And then his successor … so you had three leaders of the Communist Party that were like mummies (00:07:00). It was hard to imagine that the whole system could somehow remain dynamic and viable with that kind of leadership. And then [Gorbachev] actually came in a way perhaps surprising enough for a young and energetic man. I had read his Perestroika and I could see that his plan or his design was just not going to work. So as, let’s say, time progressed, I had more that certitude, certainly by 1988.
I had been in Moscow a few times before, and I knew actually what the feelings about Gorbachev were. It was impossible for him to carry off what he intended to: the transformation of society and doing it through the Communist Party; doing it first political in a sense, kind of greater freedoms, greater or more democracy, more transparency, and actually while the economy was beginning to spiral (00:08:00) down.
So that was one of the reasons I thought. The economy will also do it under because it was really beginning to just get out of control. Once you remove the [Communist} Party from total control, there is no substitute for it, so there is no control. And therefore that is one of the causes for disintegration but certainly also one of the reasons behind the certitude.
As you were traveling here you had a lot of contact with the nationalist groups that were beginning to form in the late 80’ss. Can you describe some of the people that you met and the impressions that you had of the groups that later formed under the Rukh umbrella?
Yes, gladly. But actually again from the very beginning I thought that in order to (00:09:00) understand the situation fully in Ukraine that I should be in contacted not only with, let’s say, dissidents, not just with Lukianenko and Horyn or Chornovyl but I should actually also know the communist elite.
That’s my next question.
(laughter). Yes of course …
Answer which ever one that you like.
Yes. These personalities, the impressive personalities. I like Lukianenko very much because of man who had suffered so much, some 25 years in total in the concentrations camps. But I did not feel any hatred oozing out of him or emanating out of him. He wanted justice for his country, but it was not of the kind to cut all of their heads off. And this is, that was perhaps the most the most impressive thing about that man. Well, Horyn, Mykhailo Horyn, he struck me sort of soon as a man with a kind of a (00:10:00) lot of organizational skills. So, that was that impression. Chornovyl of course had the passion. He is a passionate man. And that, the energy, but in some sense the impatience, was showing from him so, you could see that, he would be an orator, or one could probably predict that he would end up to be some kind of a leader, because he speaks well, he spoke certainly well then and he felt deeply. And that of course is what appeals to people, you have to show some depth of feeling.
And with the communists, with the communists or the people in power in the late 80’s?
Why and how? Well, the first idea actually that had come to me … They were organizing the 200th commemoration of Adam Smith on the Wealth of Nations. And I was also (00:11:00) bothered by the fact that Ukraine was really isolated. And I must admit that myself, my wife, we talked in the family often that we wouldn’t mind a communist Ukraine provided that it would be an independent Ukraine. So to us independence was more important than, let’s say, the economic order.
I was asked to act as a bit of a consultant, to suggest some people. [The Conference] was attended by Helmut Schmidt and the former British Prime Minister, perhaps not to get into names, Ted Heath, known or not known, but he was Prime Minister, a lot of people that knew something about economics and occupied important positions.
I thought wouldn’t it be nice to have the First Secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party, who happened to have had a Doctorate of Economics, to come and speak in Edinburgh about the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith’s idea, the capitalist idea as seen by socialists. (00:12:00) In fact, I had to go to Moscow to meet him because he was in Moscow at that time and I handed him the invitation and asked him: “Would you accept?”
He says: “Well, you know, I have to reflect about it”.
I say: “I guess, you have to inform Mikhail Sergievich Gorbachev” … And he was kind of a bit hesitant and I said: “Do you have to inform him or do you have to ask his permission?” It was very interesting that he started …
What did he answer?
Well, he did not, he sort of said that: “I have to inform him”, but he blushed. He knew that I knew that he would have to ask for permission (laughs).
And excuse me, this was Ivashko?
Ivashko, yes. What was interesting is that he, somehow felt that he had to do a lot of (00:13:00) justification, explanation about his own actions and the Communist Party of Ukraine. I was not challenging him. It was just mainly because I came with that kind of approach. He felt that somehow he had to justify himself. And I was not an important person to him. And it was an interesting observation.
I met [Stanislav] Hurenko, already after the Declaration of the Sovereignty of Ukraine on July 16th, 1990. Of course, as you remember, Ivashko was kicked out simply because at the request of Gorbachev he went to the Communist Party Congress to be elected the Deputy, the First Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party. And the Ukrainian Parliament including nearly all communists really got mad, that here he’d already left the (00:14:00) session of the Ukrainian Parliament, just fairly newly elected, in order to go to be elected to be, sort , a second man, rather than here the Chairman of the Parliament. So it was very interesting reaction of the Parliament, that it was unanimity against him and they, sort of, kicked him out.
Then I wanted to know: Okay, he is kicked out, he will be obviously kicked out -not kicked out but since he accepted that position as Gorbachev’s deputy in the Party. And then Hurenko became the First Secretary. I wanted to know what is the man was like. He was not as apologetic, he was a tougher man. It was not particularly, a sort of, warm encounter: to go into what is now of course the presidential office, to go there cover this huge table and etc. Fairly, fairly cool cucumber.
(00:15:00) You said you sensed a sense of betrayal when Ivashko left and went to Moscow. Did you…
I didn’t say that I sensed it. Yes, of course I sensed it.
You sensed it on the part of …
I sensed it on the part of the majority of members Parliament because I remember the vote, yes. It held, by the way, it was fantastic. If Gorbachev would have really wanted to help Ukraine towards independence, that single move was utterly important. Because that precipitated a lot of the feelings, crystallized a lot of the feelings that were not there.
Can you elaborate on that? It is a fascinating point.
Well, it is in the sense that they elected the Parliament.
That Parliament was the first really fairly democratically elected Parliament. It was in March 1990. Even though they would not allow other parties to register before (00:16:00) the candidates for elections were registered, but still there were different parties of them, if you like, presented the candidates and about a third of the parliamentarians were elected clearly from the opposition parties or democratic parties, “Rukh” essentially. Also in that early period the democrats were in the minority numerical, but in fact they are in majority as far as power, as influence is concerned because they are on the attack, and the communists were on the defense.
It was a very interesting period of, let’s say, crystallization, repositioning, consciousness, awakening. And then this had been because there were also, let’s say, developing: be the Parliament, be the laws of Ukraine etc. And then this event that Gorbachev says: “You come to Moscow, you know, you become my deputy”, and the Chairman of the Parliament -at that time, by the way, the (00:17:00) highest position in Ukraine according to the then Constitution – leaves the session, if you like, almost in the middle and goes to Moscow.
This hurt. And that helped even a lot of the communists, if you like, to feel a sudden pride, I mean, are we Ukraine, are we not Ukraine here?
Five years ago presumably it would have been unquestioned…
Five years before you mean?
Yes, five years before the, yes. It would have been unquestioned for the leader of Ukraine to move a position, probably would have been seen as a promotion…
Tremendous promotion. Of course, of course.
What happened in the interim that made sense of being, the leader of Ukraine, a higher sense of responsibility and a higher position of responsibility to the Ukrainians, even communists, than a prestigious post in Moscow?
(00:18:00) Well, because there was already the feeling and it was even Gorbachev’s intention that the Communist Party as such is not going to be the repository full power, so this is certainly one of the things. And secondly, that a certain popular movement had already developed by that time.
I guess it was already in ‘87 fairly beginning, but essentially ‘88, the feeling for independence or I would say perhaps even more the loss of fear. The loss of fear was perhaps the most important thing that had hit me when I came here in early ‘88. I’d been here in Kiev and elsewhere in Ukraine in ‘72, ‘71. It was an entirely different climate. People were no longer afraid to speak. And I think that was one of the important things that again shifted the attitude from, well, the Party says, the Party dictates all the power, all the honor, (00:19:00). We have the Parliament , we are deciding in our laws, we are shaping our future, even though at that time it was not that explicit that it would be as independent Ukraine. But it was already in early May and certainly in June that the draft for Declaration of Sovereignty of Ukraine, which is a substantial document, actually laid out the future policies of Ukraine, even such things as de-nuclearization and neutrality. It was drafted actually by a man called Vassylenko, Volodymyr, Professor Vassylenko. I saw the draft. And I saw the corrections in it and then discussed. Then it was actually in the last moment the communists took it over as if it was their initiative, that was very interesting too.
(00:20:00) Did you watch that process as well?
Yes, but some of the process was not visible. There is a certain spontaneity to it, particularly on that 16th of July. [There was a kind of] electrified atmosphere and if somebody jumps up and kind of proposes [something]. Of course there is no idea at that time that we should actually give the intellectual property right to somebody to draft it in the first place. It was better that way. It was better that way because an overwhelming majority voted for it. It was nearly unanimous.
And the sense of being Ukrainian by the time Ivashko’s departure had already permeated the Communist Party?
The sense, yes. At that time, that sense of being Ukrainian already had become legitimate. I’m not sure that it was a great feeling for some (00:21:00), but at least it was certainly quite legitimate. And as I mentioned, the democratic people, the Rukh people were attacking the Communist party for its past misdeeds, you know, the hunger, this artificial hunger in ‘33, the concentration camps, etc. The television played a very important role in that period. Now it’s kind of boring probably to see the debates in the Parliament but [at] that time it was again so unusual, it had a tremendous effect when someone gets up and says: “Well, you did this, this, this”. And millions of people were listening to it. [At] that time there were no great economic preoccupations because things were still not getting out of hand on the economic front. So these were not the key preoccupations. You know: do I have a kilogram of sausage or not, and therefore these feelings could find their full expression: Yes, I’m Ukrainian I want to speak Ukrainian (00:22:00) or I want my country to be independent. [These feelings] became legitimate.
So lack of fear, this growing self-consciousness that television helped to, kind of, [it] all that added to this feeling that it was possible suddenly to decide: we will be a sovereign country. It was called “sovereignty”, but it was obvious that was preamble for independence.
What did it mean to be a Ukrainian in 1990? Obviously it meant different things to different people in the different parts of the country.
Yes, that’s a very interesting question because it was clearly at that time, not just somebody who spoke Ukrainian. To people in Western Ukraine, yes, obviously, Ukrainian [was somebody] who actually retained Ukrainian culture, who speaks Ukrainian language or respects Ukrainian traditions, who is against Russian imperialism (00:23:00) or who was against Polish occupation. I mean, that’s meant being Ukrainian.
I’d met in 1990 with 17 representatives of different nationalities – No, I’m sorry, it was early ‘91, because [it was] before the Referendum. I wanted to know what the attitudes were. These were leaders of 17 different minorities. To them being a Ukrainian was certainly very different, not necessarily the language. Some did not know the language, but a certain territorial, kind of geographical identity was coming through: I’m of this land, I belong to this land, and certainly as independence was approaching we and some of the minorities – by the way are very minor, we speak about 11 million Russians but there are some minorities that are around a thousand people, yet organized (00:24:00)– culturally and linguistically, religiously, [we] will be able to fare better or survive if Ukraine becomes independent. It was not yet independent.
There is another thing which I’d noticed, actually, even in the 70’s. While there was a russification process that started when Shalust was out -the previous First Secretary of the Ukrainian party that defended Ukrainian culture and writers- that while the russification process was going on, there was a certain aculturalization of Russians to the Ukrainian style of life. So, they may have to continue to speak Russian, but in their relations with others and in, let’s say, in domestic affairs etc., they were (00:25:00) actually adopting the Ukrainian way. And that had struck me as a very interesting paradox, because I could not anticipate, I could not foresee that. Yet when I came here I saw it, already done.
So for these people being here, being part of this country, being part of this culture not in a linguistic sense necessarily or just in the literary sense but the way people live, the way they relate. Somewhat a different climate, people are a bit more spontaneous, perhaps, they are not as strong, I would say not as barbarian, (laughter) and that was being Ukrainian, certainly very different between Ternopil or Lviv and Donnetsk or Kharkiv. But in Kharkiv there are a lot Ukrainians. After all that was the first capital of Ukraine, and it’s a very big intellectual center, even now (00:26:00)survived a Ukrainian life. The others kind of adapted to this.
You knew former President Kravchuk quite early on in his career as a nationalist in Ukraine. Can you describe how you met him and you relationship to him …
Certainly. Let’s say I knew of him, didn’t know him directly but certainly not as a nationalist at that time. At that time he was the Head of the Ideological Department of the Communist Party. And he was the one that went to debate against Ruhk when the first Rukh Congress took place. So he was very much still against Ukraine. But he must have had, like many other Ukrainian communists, a (00:27:00) Ukrainian streak in him. There is a Ukrainian sentiment in him.
But he was still in the position and he was still probably playing a role, but maybe even just attending thing the official meetings of Rukh, legitimized the idea within himself too that he could become Ukrainian or maybe who could start being afraid of just being a real Ukrainian and not just a Party servant. He became nationalist, I would say, in that sense that to him the idea of Ukrainian independence, helping establish it and then really anchor it properly and secure it was absolutely a dominant idea. Once he’d run up to the elections and certainly after the elections as a President after the Referendum, yes, he become a nationalist, not before.
I’ve got to know him in the summer of ‘90, you know, (00:28:00) reasonably well. After Ivashko, he became the Chairman of the Parliament. And I used to go to Parliamentary sessions and I would meet him there but the rapport was not close. I got to know him really when he had come to Geneva, in fact when he came to the World Economic Forum, the WAS. After the WAS he came to Geneva and came to our home. And after dinner he wanted to have a brief chat with me. He went to my library and asked me if I would not became his (00:29:00) advisor. And I know I should have felt very flattered by it, but I was also a bit concerned, so actually, on reflection, I said: “I don’t think that I should”. He says: “You are afraid to loose your reputation in this western world” . I said I didn’t think of that first, I also thought of how about your reputation with the Central Committee of the Communist Party in which you are a member, your Politburo. What would do to your position to have someone clearly would be labeled as a nationalist and outsider as an advisor. But I said I could create a council of advisors, a group of really known political figures from different parts of the world with good experience, logistical and executive work to the Presidium of the Parliament, not to you, because in the Presidium there is a spectrum of political parties representatives, it would be all right for you but it would also be all right for these people and certainly for me. He was at first a bit offended, because (00:30:00) he of course assumed that when he would ask me that I would feel that it’s a tremendous honor that he bestowed upon me. But I guess after that he understood and from that time on the relations were, I would say, very good … personal contact.
He has a lot of charm and charisma, he is certainly quite articulate, he is very intelligent man. It was not difficult to develop a good rapport. It again kind of got to feel close just after the putsch in August ‘90, because I was sort of participating in some ways in the events just after in this process of declaration of independence. But it was only after the (00:31:00) Referendum for independence on the 1st of December ‘91 and his election as a President that when we celebrated the event on the 5th of December he asked me: “And now, that I’ve been elected by the people, would you be my advisor?” I said: “Now, yes”.
And for the first couple of years that was actually very, I would say, both enjoyable and even useful, because a week later already after that I came to him and said: “You know, Ukraine should become member of International Monetary Fond and the World Bank”. And through some good contacts I happened to have had a copy of letter that Gorbachev had written to these organizations not form Russia it was still from the Soviet Union. So I knew roughly what one should write to the President of the World Bank and the Managing Director of IMF, so I brought the letters in Ukrainian and in English, said if you just get them done on your official letterhead, there is somebody that (00:32:00) is going to Washington that was connected with these two institutions and I’ll make sure that they will get the letters personally. Ukraine was actually three weeks ahead of Russia in applying for membership of the World Bank and IMF.
So there are things like that, a lot of meetings, personal meetings. I traveled with him often with him in some of the state visits to India, to the United States, to the United Kingdom. I got to know his family a bit, so it was nice and fairly useful relationships. It started becoming less useful when the administration of that period got set in cement. It was obvious that one should be paying more attention to the economic aspects of establishing Ukrainian independence. He first did not understand the importance of it or how to do it. And (00:33:00) then if I could just allow myself characterization, I almost had the impression that he was just too soft a man to chop heads. A President of a country should only have one criteria to make decisions what is the interest of the country and not other considerations.
He brought [Petro] Symonenko from Odessa to be Deputy Prime Minister. He was though kicked out a few months later, so he takes him as an advisor. I have nothing special against Symonenko, but I asked him: “Why?”, because he was not the only one, there were several such people. “Why, they are not really ideally equipped to be advisors?” “Well, what can I do with them? I mean, I brought them in from Odessa. Shall I just send him back?” So, he had this kind of reservations. Which from the human (00:34:00) point of view in a way was nice, it was human, but it was not effective. For him to take dramatic measures it meant chopping heads. I speak figuratively but making some fairly fundamental moves and it was not in his character to do it.
How would you characterize his political evolution from Head of the Ideology Branch of the Communist Party of Ukraine to Ukraine’s first President who aligned himself with members of Rukh to achieve Ukrainian independence? What do you think motivated him to pursue that path and how effective do you think he was and in what ways could he have been more effective?
Well, what motivated him it’s … I can’t really look into his soul, but I remember even from my own experience during the period of ’39-’41, that it was possible to lead a dual life. Which we, in the West, we would call incongruent, you can’t be this and that in the same time. I knew from my own experience you can, because after my brother had been arrested we were supposed to have been deported to Siberia, it was clear. But at daytime in school I was a very good student so I had, you know, “5” out of “5” in every subject except behavior (laughter). So I was the hope of our great socialist nation. But at night, when we knew there were to many box-carts at the nearest railway station, my father would go in one direction and I would go in another, some place in a haystack of summer time or in a neighbor’s stable without them knowing it, to survive the night.
So I was the enemy of the state. But if you had seen me daytime at (00:36:00) thirteen and a half, you see me singing to the glory of Stalin, (sings) “Stalina, ridnoho batka narodnoho …Oh, vse vyshche i vyshche i vyshche berimo mohuchjiy roznom, bo v koshnim propeleri dyshe spokiyno radianskiy kordon”. ..
As an outsider you would have come and see me at daytime [and] you would say this is a typical Soviet youth. He would be a Pioneer, and he would be a Komsomol then he would be a good member of the party, really one of these. But at night I did feel (00:37:00) like the enemy of the state. And, as a matter of fact, during one of these nights where I slept in my neighbors stable to keep warm -it was winter time-, the family was deported to Siberia. And my best friend, my schoolmate with whom we walked three kilometers to school everyday and back in wintertime -and we sometimes saved each other from freezing- he was deported with them. And the next morning I was back in school. So one had to learn under those circumstances to play a role, and you’d become a good actor and you’d play it well.
So, I could extrapolate from it and somebody like Kravchuk who came from Rivne that was not, let’s say, too russified. The Ukrainian sentiment was stronger there. Now he may have made a good career. I can’t say with certitude what is that I would have done had I stayed in my village. There was a fairly clear rule: (00:38:00) there was either family in your village or the party. But I didn’t live in my village anymore. I was by a town so I can’t guarantee that I would not have gone into that career to survive somehow.
I think that there was that element of that Ukrainian in him and he must have actually pained over some of the things that he had to do. But I guess, come the day time and there he was, a member of the party, probably feeling reasonably good that he was not the First Secretary. He wouldn’t take the ultimate blame. So I think it was not, I really believe in this genuine either conversion, if you like, or reversion, to a prior state of feelings. That’s why my sight of personal experience may be irrelevant, but that’s (00:39:00) why I can understand that process.
When he saw that the mood was building up in the people, it was the part that actor if you like, that began to grow in determination and became more visible or took the center of the stage, if you like, the communist or the ideologue in a start of going towards the exit. I think it was that kind of a process. And I maybe I also pass that judgment because I knew his wife was kind of religious, she was not … she kept a distance from his activity. And she continued even when he was President. She certainly did not want to be the first lady. But I think it was not just after he got into politics, I think it was that way even before. There was work, and there was family (00:40:00) and a life and it was a bit different. So I was not shocked and I accepted the conversion of something genuine.
What were the first signs that you saw in him of the conversion or reversion to Ukraine?
Certainly the fact that he was very consistent to speak in Ukrainian. From the beginning like in the Parliament, he never spoke in Russian, never. Now I could see it subsequently because the majority of the people of the political administrative elite were leftovers from the period of the regime and it was simply natural for them to speak Russian even though some of them may have felt very patriotic.
When we would go on these state trips, in the first cabin there was the president and sometimes his wife, and in the middle there were the ministers, and in the (00:47:00) third, there were the journalists and others. I sat with the ministers. When they were next to me or spoke to me it was all in Ukrainian, otherwise they did it all in Russian. But not Kravchuk, he would come in to visit and it was in Ukrainian and then everybody would sort of speak Ukrainian. So that was, but that was already after he assumed the office. But even before I remember in the Parliament some interventions were in Russian and some wavered, but certainly not him. He was very, very consistent in that fact.
Some of the issues that have become the most important Ukraine has considered and some of the most important issues to the West were issues that you were very intimately involved with either advising the Ukraine or facilitating dialogue, among them nuclear weapons and Ukraine’s status as a nuclear state. Could you describe a little bit of what you observed in the nuclear area and Ukraine?
Well, I think a very, very important issue was Chernobyl. You know, it had really (00:42:00) mesmerized people. So I think that [was] one of the reasons why there was that same majority, the overwhelming majority in favor of de-nuclearization of Ukraine. [It] was that the trauma, if you like, psychodrama of Chernobyl that weighed there very heavily. As the issues began to evolve and discuss, then other considerations came into it. Of course, there was tremendous pressure from the United States. On the other hand there was this consideration, can we really afford it? Some argued that in order to remain a nuclear power, can we actually afford to maintain that power?
It was a very different issue than for Russians because they kept all of the common assets and also they have easy revenues so they could afford. I mean it’s not a wise decision, it’s a stupid decision, but they can at least afford it. For Ukraine that became also an argument, but (00:43:00) that argument started surfacing later. I think the most important consideration was the Chernobyl drama or trauma.
And what were the positions of some of the early leaders of Ukraine, the Rukh position, the Communist Party, well I guess the Communist Party was somewhat divided in the Ukraine but positions of various members?
Well, I think a lot of the people from Rukh leanings were against it, were reluctant about it. Because they felt that, well, this is the only, in a way, our only possible defense. I mean, we would never use it but the very fact that we had some nuclear weapons, what else would we have when Russia decided to invade us or when we decide really to become independent. And at that time the Western (00:44:00) policy was so russo-centric, so much focused on Russia and Ukraine was just a derivative issue. It was not the subject of policy, it was a derivative of Russian policy. So that was the kind of concerns. So they had to weigh these different kind of arguments. And Kravchuk had in a way, a tough time finally signing that treaty of de-nuclearization because he knew that he would be losing some of the support of nationalist democrats.
And within the Communist Party do you know what the positions of their various factions and people within the party were?
No I don’t know with any details. I think that I would be actually speculating a bit. But, see they were less concerned because of course they were less concerned about the (00:45:00) potential Russian threat, let’s put it this way. Or even at that stage, some still felt well, maybe we’ll maintain some kind of a union, or maybe a Slavic union, etc. So they wanted see, while at first let’s say, were quiet about it, but some such thoughts must have been lurking around. So to them it was not as important an issue as it was to the nationalists who can understand both for and against.
August 19, 1991, the Coup in Moscow. Many people with whom we’ve spoken for this project have said things were quiet in Ukraine. I know you came shortly after the Coup to Kiev and were very active in the Parliament and with members of Parliament monitoring the process and trying to understand and shape the events for Ukraine.
Yes, well it was a surprise when it came. I was not in Kiev at that time I was in (00:46:00) Geneva. And I was hesitant, should I hop on the plane? Even if you hop on the plane it takes half a day to get there. So what we did, we where in contact with [Volodymyr] Hrynyov, and Hrynyov was the First Deputy Chairman of the Parliament. He was extremely anxious somehow to give any news to the world that Ukraine was not going along with [the putsch] or that would react against it. It was almost a daily contact, it was almost an hourly contact several times a day and it was not that easy at that time still, that we would try to get the news: What did Kravchuk do here? or, Who visited him?, Was it kind of a threat? And so we were issuing some press conferences but actually from Geneva.
What kinds of things was Hrynyov reporting on or talking with you about?
(00:47:00) Well, he was actually trying to suggest, or suggesting, that in fact Ukraine was not accepting officially the orders from the putschists. That was the main line that they were trying to get. That it was not as overt and Their reaction against them was not terribly too clear, but they were not going along with it, so to speak. There was a little bit of sitting on the fence, but also he was saying that there were divisions lined up around Kiev and it actually could have been pretty bloody had Ukraine taken too overt a position against the putschists. That was the type of information that was trying to pass through.
That there were military..?
There was a military threat in Sheliko. There was some blackmailing by the putchists to Ukraine because it seemed important that Ukraine sort of hold the (00:48:00) line with them. Kravchuk at that time walked on a tight rope that to be too overt in going against the putschists might have been dangerous for Ukraine militarily but he was just sort of playing the game of not going along with them.
There was a famous, or infamous I’m not sure, meeting when General Varennikov came down from Moscow and meet with President Kravchuk. Do you know what the effects of that meeting were or what the discussion was?
No. No, that’s something that Hrynyov was telling us about but quite frankly, the details even of that … I guess I knew at the time reasonably well, but the recollection on that is not very clear. In that period of course, I knew that things would really happen in Ukraine. It was quite obvious. So, I (00:49:00) remember on Friday evening, the 23rd at nine o’clock in the evening we were discussing in Geneva and I said, “Well, tomorrow, something very significant will happen”. At ten o’clock I ordered my ticket and I came here on Saturday because there was a session of Parliament held on Saturday. I actually from Borispil came directly to the Parliament.
[There] was a break in the session because in the morning they had a tough time deciding to outlaw the Communist Party first or to make the Declaration of Independence first, which was rather heated. Finally somehow they decided that they would actually go for the Declaration of Independence first.
That [break] to me was extremely interesting because the final draft of the (00:50:00) Declaration had to be made. There is a round table just before you go into the office of the Chairman of the Parliament. I remember about eight people that sat around that table and some stood. I actually even tried to chair it because it was rather an anarchical kind of meeting, but not very successfully (laughs). It was a question or just polishing up the Declaration and that was done fairly quickly. But what had struck me the most that somebody asked the question, “What should be the name of the country that were are going to declare as independent?” So immediately the suggestion, “Of course, the Democratic Republic of Ukraine” and somebody else’s reaction, it was Zaiets, Ivan Zaiets, “Yes, but there been so many of these democratic republics of Ukraine, how democratic were they so (00:51:00) why not just Republic of Ukraine?” And then Pavlychko steps in, he knows how to speak loud and with passion, “Why simply not Ukraine? Why any kind of qualification or adjective, whatever?” The decision about the name was made in less than thirty seconds. I hope that the name will last for centuries but it was made in less than thirty seconds by a group that was in a way, not empowered specifically to do it. It just happened. It was fantastic.
It really is. How much was the, the Declaration …
… was short and was written by a group of Democratic deputies.
Pavlychko had a lot to do with drafting because he is a good writer. (laughter)
(00:52:00) That break during which you came in from Borispol was quite famous actually. One of the more, the better known breaks in the Parliament of Ukraine. Because on one floor we’ve heard the Democrats were deciding how to issue the Declaration for a vote. And on another floor, the communists were trying to figure out how they should react to it.
Yea, and some of them, I guess that’s also famous, that they tried to escape. Did you hear that?
Yes, but elaborate on this.
Apparently there is a tunnel. I’ve never actually gone through that tunnel. But between the building of the Parliament and the building across [the street]. How far it goes, I’ve heard that it even actually goes to the headquarters of the Communist Party, but it certainly goes to across, across the street. At least from what I heard then, Kravchuk ordered the door locked because a lot of the communists wanted to simply walk out, but not visibly walk out because there were a lot of people that had gathered in front of the (00:53:00) Parliament. And the crowd was there. They are waiting for it to happen. When I say crowd, people. And the people were in a very elated mood, but the elation you know, could change. It could change into anger if they would have seen these communists trying to beat it. They actually might have very well attacked them and beat them up. So, they ended up in front of a locked door and they had to return because there was at first, there was not enough votes for the vote for it to be valid . And there Kravchuk played the game well because he was postponing the vote on that electronic tableau, which actually works extremely well. It is one of the most efficient things in Ukraine period. I have not seen a system like that not even in Moscow (00:54:00) installed by foreign companies. Not nearly as fast, not nearly as efficient. So there it kind of showed as people were registering 300, no 296, 299, and then 303. It was waiting for that moment that there would be actually a quorum and the vote would be valid. And the minute that the tableau would say, “Now we put it to a vote”. It was very, extremely tense and a long time. Now I don’t remember exactly how long the time was. I think it must have actually been fifteen minutes, maybe twenty, but it felt like eternity. You know, waiting for another few people somehow to get there. (laughs)
One of the great questions that a number of people have raised with us, is why the (00:55:00)communists voted for Ukrainian independence on the 24th of August. As someone who was sitting in the Parliament, did you have a sense of – aside from it sounds like outright fear (laughs) and desire to escape on the part of some of the communists – how they decided? They took the decision as a block, the group of 239, to vote for.
They sensed that reasonably well the mood in the country. [It] was such that had they voted against independence, certainly any kind of legitimacy the Communist Party was already in great danger because of the participation in the Putsch. If they would have voted against independence, I think there would have been two issues: certainly that they were traitors but they were double traitors, traitors (00:56:00) that they would have been prepared probably to act unconstitutionally and traitors to Ukraine. Some of them may have been genuinely maybe a bit shocked by that putsch also a bit surprised, uncertain. Hrynyov was feeding to us some of the instructions that were going from Hurenko.
Yes, yes, yes.
What were some of the things that …?
Hurenko was actually urging them to be, well gently, let’s say ,to be supportive of [the putsch], but certainly not to react against it. So he did not come out smelling like a rose after that one. It was a combination of that there were some calculations in it. What is politically wise of us to do? But I wouldn’t be too (00:57:00) surprised that many just felt [that] they also wanted an independent Ukraine even if it would be communist, but an independent Ukraine.
And at that time on the 24th, there had been a Declaration of Sovereignty and other sort of steps toward independence – precursors to independence – taken before by the Ukrainian Parliament. Was it clear at the time that the Declaration that eventually was going to be the Declaration of Independence was in a different category than other declarations that had been made earlier, that this really was the establishment of a new country?
Yes, I think it was clear because after all, it was elected Parliament and they could speak on behalf of the people in that sense. So that was clear, the decision was made, and I think that it was a wise decision that it would have to be confirmed by a referendum so that it really would be the act of the people, the will of the (00:58:00) people will be expressed.
But the aftermath of the 24th and the discussion should they first outlaw the Communist Party or first the Declaration of Independence. That drum was played out by the meeting of the Presidium of the Parliament of Monday the 26th. It started at 16:00 hours and Kravchuk was chairing it. And a few people were allowed that weren’t members of the Presidium, among them people like Khmara and some others. At that time he was quite liberal in running the Presidium. He would allow these people at that time. Sometimes even I found it quite a nuisance because they would be very disruptive, interruptive. Of course, they were shouting, not from around the table, but at the back at the wall. “Ban it immediately, that we have (00:59:00) to take it to trial” or things like that. And Kravchuk kept posing the question: “What is it that we can do that would be legal. This has to be a legal act.” And Shyskyn was well actually a Russian speaking legal expert who became … I guess [he became] the first Procurator General, he was the one that was being referred to all the time. Kravchuk referred most to him. There were other people with kind of legal background but somehow Shyskyn was expressing himself with the greatest clarity. So Kravchuk kept saying “Can we really just ban it like that or does it have to be the Parliament? What can the Presidium do? What would the Parliament have to do?” And this was evoking great impatience from some members of the Presidium and from a few non- members that came back to (01:00:00) lobby or push. And it took about an hour and a half of discussion and I was amazed about this concern about legality that was certainly not a tradition of the Communist Party. (laughs) But that was another sign of this, let’s say, transformation of Kravchuk. And I think he was right that he insisted on the legality of it.
So finally, he, in a way to cool them off a bit at one stage said, “By the way, how many of you have never been members of the Communist Party?” Actually not, I’m sorry, I made a mistake. He said “How many of you have been members of the Communist Party?” He raised his own hand of course. And 18 out of 19 (01:01:00) present members of the Presidium raised their hand. There was just one, Les Taniuk, who had to work in Moscow for a long period because he had much greater artistic freedom than he would have in Ukraine as a theater director. He was the only one that was never a member of the Communist Party.
Soon after that they came to a decision, that we ban activities of the Communist Party, we seal off the buildings, or rather freeze bank accounts, put guards in front of the property, but we would allow salaries to professional workers in the part of organization to be paid. And then when they voted, who is for this essential liquidation of the Party, because it was banning their activity. it was unanimous. So 18 that (1:02) were members of the Communist Party, some still on that day because they didn’t, they didn’t have the time to run and hand back their cards , things were happening too quickly. That was the way to actually become a non- member. You had to hand back your membership. Unanimous vote to liquidate the Communist Party. It was quite an event. Quite a day.
Was the feeling in the room when they were deciding whether or not to ban the Communist Party one of concern of political pragmatism that events were progressing in a way that no longer made having the Communist Party a desirable thing or was it a sense of release that this heinous organization could now be rooted out of Ukraine?
There were different feelings actually, you could almost kind of smell; you could observe some things by facial expressions. You could not of course, decipher (01:03:00) it fully but you could have some ideas. I think that there was the fact that this putsch ended unsuccessfully and it [was] rather infamous because of the way in which it was staged by some key members of the Communist Party. So this was [something] not to be associated with, somehow. It’s not us. There were the prior four months that they had heard a lot of accusations of what the Communist Party had done in the past. And it was just pragmatic, “we better do it now.” And they felt the mood of the people.
I remember, after the vote was taken on this Declaration of Independence on Saturday the 24th, the mood was so elated. I remember I was on the second floor and walked out on the window sill. I happened to be also again for some reason with Pavlychko and there [were] people that had lined the entire place in front of the Parliament. There was a minute in which I almost jumped there. I simply wanted the feeling of elation, of ecstasy. It was so extraordinary, but it was not just mine. A lot, a lot of the people in the Parliament had felt that way. Somehow, something magic had happened that people had waited for such a long time. And even if you were perhaps on another side, the mood must have permeated. I really wanted to just dive into the people as it was diving into a pool just to sort of dissolve in the people, now that [they] would be free Ukrainian people. In the evening of people walked on the streets and they sang, etc. That must have permeated to the other people, but that period is over if. You may as well cut it, you may as well be with it.
So then the hard work of state building started.
After Ukraine declared Independence and was practically functioning as an independent state the hard work in many ways began of building the institutions of an independent nation. You watched this as a Kravchuk advisor, eventually a very close advisor but certainly a colleague at the time. Can you describe some of the challenges and difficulties and policy priorities of the Kravchuk administration from the end of August on?
There was not much by way of state building after August because Ukraine was not yet independent formally. The real process started actually after December 1st , and in fact after December 5th, because the official celebration taking of office was December 5th, if I remember right 1991.
The process started. There were a lot handicaps. First they had to establish [relations] formally with other countries of the former Soviet Union. I mean, to dissolve the Soviet Union. Kravchuk certainly played a very significant role in that process. There was a good agreement made that made a lot of sense, that the common assets and liabilities would be divided in some proportion to population and Ukraine was to get 16,7%. But while it was not reneged formerly, the fact was that just a couple of days after that, all the former Soviet embassies got the order to raise the Russian flag and all of the properties de facto became Russian properties and the drama was that all of the Western world did not even know about the agreements of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It just incredible. I know, because I was at that world economic forum in Davos in January, late January 1992. Kravchuk was there too by the way. He came to Geneva after that. And I talked to the President of Switzerland and he didn’t know that there was such an agreement. I talked to the President of the European Commission. It was just scandalous. But, why didn’t they know? There are about 5,000 people in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union, you know, professionals, and they stayed in Moscow. Ukraine had, maybe I am too rough, but Ukraine had 5 maybe 7 people that had some diplomatic experience but limited, because Ukraine had no right to have bilateral country to country relations. They could only participate in United Nations activities simply because they were one of the founding nations of the United Nations. So we had no diplomats abroad, we had no journalists abroad, and we really had, virtually no friends in the scientific community. By and large it was Soviet oriented and to the majority of Sovietologists, Soviet Union, Russia were synonyms. You know, United States, Texas (laughter) you know that one. So, it was almost frightening and then the recognition of independence started pouring in, but to deal with it even … I may not be exact in my numbers: some 120 countries had recognized independence of Ukraine, let’s say, three months after the referendum. I don’t think there were as many employees in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, drivers and secretaries included.
As there were countries that recognized Ukrainian independence?
That’s right, that’s right. Normally you would have a desk for every country, you would have an ambassador, etc. This was one of the very tough tasks of building it. The administration of the President took a lot of people that were helping him in the elections. He appointed some those people to be the ambassadors. One of those people that were helping him in the elections was Blears. He became the Ambassador to the United States. But just gathering, gathering that staff, building the Presidential administration was quite a job. And the great difficulty was people with experience had the wrong kind of experience because Kiev was a branch office of Moscow government and the branch office doesn’t make decisions. The branch office relays orders lower down and reports back. Now from that to start developing some kind of capability of generating policies considering options and doing some kind of cost benefit analysis of them, making decisions and thinking of the instrumentality or mechanism of implementation, that’s a very, kind of long road.
One of the first priorities of Kravchuk was establishing the Ukrainian military and he actually started fairly early on late August, September …
Yes, that’s true.
Why do you suppose, why was there such a premium placed on the military issue so early on?
Well, because there was still the concern that if Ukraine would be quite defenseless. In that Ukrainian army 70% of the officers were Russian. So [it was] a tremendous dilemma. We have to establish something to start taking on the Ukrainian identity even though the command structure was essentially Russian. So how does one put somebody in, and then the question of [General Kostiantyn] Morozov had, how does one actually put someone in, at least a few people that would somehow ensure that it was a Ukrainian army and not a Russian army.
How was Morozov selected to be the first Defense Minister of Ukraine? Do you know?
Well, it is partly because he was thought to be a Russian and that was acceptable. And his Ukrainian nationalism started showing later. Not at the time of appointment. And I myself thought that he was a Russian and when I finally talked to him I was so surprised. “How do you speak such good Ukrainian?” He says, “My mother was.” So I think that he would be sort of safeguarding, somehow trying to steer that army into being a Ukrainian army. And also the fact that Kravchuk went on some visits and met a number of people. It was also to get not just a formal recognition of independence but establishing some direct contacts to take on some concrete form.
State administration, some changes in the cabinet, certainly building up the foreign service were among the priorities, but there were so many. How should we be establishing the custom service – and there were borders issues. It [was] very difficult even to prioritize. You paid more attention to the military, but that was one of the problems of his presidency. What do you really give the priority too? Money. You know, should we immediately have our own money? There are plans, our delegation went to Switzerland to meet with the company that could do it and then meeting with someone from Canada that came to propose. Then should we establish a print plan to mint our own money. There were so many issues or should we say trappings, to an independent country and they were absent and somehow had to be put into place.
What attention was the economy given during that time?
Not much, not much. First, the state of the economy still was not so bad certainly in ‘91. The economy was spiraling down already, but one did not feel it so much. And certainly the year like the ‘89 already or certainly ‘90-‘91 were euphoric years. And one did not really think of the pedestrian things like food and kolbasa. One did not feel the pressure and Kravchuk did not feel such great pressure and he was really preoccupied with the small political dimensions, establishing independence. As him being an ideologue rather than an economist, he thought that it was those actions that would secure independence, and at that time there was not even enough of a challenge that a reasonably well functioning economy would be the guarantor of the independence. It came later. It came later, not in those early years.
And he did not see a connection between statehood and a strong economy?
No, I think that and I wouldn’t want to ascribe too big of a role to myself because certainly there were a lot of people that were close to him or suggesting things etc. I do remember that in August of ‘93 I had a good discussion with him. And had prepared a paper. I had given some kind of talk in Lviv at the Opera House, I don’t even remember what the occasion was and that forced me to think as to what should be the plan of action on the economic front. And I went to Kravchuk with it and I knew that he then understood because I’d heard it then in some speeches etc. and then in October we had a very good meeting when we actually came down to brass tax, so to speak. Could we not undertake a series of these economic steps. There was even a suggestion, it was in front of other people, so I have witnesses. I think he meant it by that time, but it was totally unrealistic, “Why don’t you actually become in charge of this economic transformation here?” Speck would be the liaison man at that time,. He would supply the information. But I thought that was a not very realistic proposition. But we decided on that day to establish something that was supposed to be fairly instrumental, an international center for policy studies. But we could see even then that it was actually supposed to supply a series of policy proposals both to the Parliament, but primary to the President as to what economic measures to undertake. It took six weeks before we got the official decree of the President about the creation of it. His legal service had to structure it properly. I realized then that certainly the fact that I did not take it upon my shoulders for carrying it out was wise. If it took six weeks from our decision to create an added Presidential decree, to having a Presidential decree. And it is at that point that I felt, well there’s not enough determination or commitment in him to those issues. He understood by that time, but understanding is not enough. You really have to feel it in your guts tremendously and it really has to become the priority and he would have had to change a lot of people around himself and it was just not done.
Was there a concern after independence was declared, of Russian reaction, or well I would call it Soviet reaction, but probably Russian reaction, a threat, in sort of a military threat or backlash towards Ukrainian Declaration of independence?
Yes, there was, there was, in other words, you know, one felt the tension, and the tension was just about that. So Russia if you like is 90% of Ukraine’s concern or problem, I shouldn’t just call it problem. But if I even now, I had to say what are the issues that Ukraine confronts, I would say petroleum and gas but generally what Russia will do, what Russian attitude will be, what Russian policy would be, I would say it is 90% the concern of Ukraine. So we are still in that sense very much in a dependency state. Not that decisions are made dictated by Russia but just this constant concern about our neighbor …
I would have been tempted to add a couple of incidents that to me were interesting or symbolic when we are on the period from ‘89-’90. First, in October 1989 we had a conference for a group of people from Canada, most of them Ukrainians but not all. There was also a Deputy Minister doing business trading with Ukraine. And I co-chaired it and I remember Orchyk, the Deputy Chairman Councilor of Ministers was coming to give a greeting. So I was warned that he was already off stage – we were chairing it from the stage – so I walked out for a minute, and I told him, said hello to him and I said we are running this in English or Ukrainian so you can address the audience but you can only do it in one of these two languages. There were about 400 people, there were about 70 people from Ukraine. He says, “But I’m a Russian, I speak Russian.”. “Well. I realize that, but I’m just telling you that if you do want to greet you have to do in it either in Ukraine or English.” And he did come on stage. Because, he was already with that Canadian Minister. It was a bit embarrassing for him, but it was with tremendous pain and thoroughness like that he somehow squeezed out some sentences in Ukrainian. And I mention him because a few months later I went to his office as a bit of a follow up in the Cabinet of Ministers to tell him, Look , I know that a lot of proposals have been made to do some business here. You are blocking them, about 300 proposals, and I would like to know why.
But anyway, I came to his office and there are these assistants, and pomichnikiy, you know these assistants, deputy secretaries, and you walk into that huge office that Deputy Prime Ministers have. He was Deputy Chairman of the Councilor of Ministers. All the symbols, all of the trappings, all of the visible instruments of power. And immediately after, I made my very first visit to the office of Rukh on the second floor of this shabby building. When I came up there, I didn’t know where the office was. I knew a lot of people, I was in contact, but I never went to the office. Somebody pointed to me to say there is a meeting I came into meeting, about 15, maybe 18 people. Mikhailo Horyn sitting behind a little desk. A few people sitting on chairs there was [Ivan] Drach there was Pavlychko. I’m not sure if Honchar was there as well. It was to prepare the living chain, this was on January 19, 1990.
They were preparing the living chain to take place on Sunday the 21st. The usual commemoration of the Declaration of Independence on January 22, 1918. And they were organizing it and Horyn was chairing it and tasks were being distributed. Who will organize the buses? Who will be in contact with the police to avoid any kind of sabotage there or whatever? Who should read out the Universal -it was the sort of Declaration of Independence in the late 10’s. And I had a very interesting feeling. It was again kind of what you feel not so much what you actually understand, that here is the power now. As I shifted from that Deputy Vice Chairman’s office to this tiny little shabby office with this group of not really a group of Revolutionaries because they are preparing something peaceful. But they are preparing a revolution, they were preparing the change with absolutely no instruments. There were certainly not, there were not even pens, just pencils and these tiny little scraps of paper. There were no faxes, nothing. And to think that they were trying to mobilize the people to walk out and for 500 kilometers and hold each others hand, it seemed so improbable and yet very believable. It was really a fantastic, fantastic experience for me personally to see this shift. And I understood then in the saying the revolution gets born in the mind of a single person and that sometimes it is a very small group that can play a very catalytic role in that process in the transformation of the societies. And also, I was very happy to observe because, historically one could change substantially society only through revolutions. I mean the French have shown it others. And yet, I was very well aquatinted with what had happened in Spain. Spain had already gone through transformation, a complete transformation of the political system, economic system through an evolutionary process. The very country that half of a century earlier had had this terrible civil war. So in a way seeing how they were going about it. They were not talking about how many machine guns you are going to have; it was this peaceful demonstration. I also understood it would be an evolution, we won’t have spilled blood this time. Very interesting.
It leads wonderful into the question that we have asked many people an it is fascinating to hear the answers to. Who do you think played key roles on the road to Ukrainian independence? Which individuals or groups in Ukraine or throughout the world were instrumental in securing Ukrainian independence?
Certainly as a first trigger, as a kind of conscious awakener, it was certainly the writers, poets here in Ukraine. They were the first trigger I think, and then organizationally it was Rukh. Quite obviously it was Rukh. I mean, it kind of splintered after, but it was clearly Rukh. There were a number of people and they were sharing this role. There is not at that time, this absolutely one person. That was actually a wonderful thing at that time, there was certain complementarity. Pavlychko could recite the poems if you like to raise the feelings. Chornobyl was thinking already in more organizational terms, or let’s say power terms. Horyn was a very good organizer and Drach, Drach a very different role. When they would organize some events to commemorate Hrynchenko , he is a tremendous orator when he gets on the stage. And when there would be a whole hall filled with people and he would speak and you could see the minds, the consciousness and the souls of people would just kind of expand. He played in that sense also an important role that’s why I mentioned poets. But otherwise Horyn did a lot. It was so interesting, because from the very beginning also, from ‘89 I started residing and working from this hotel. From the very beginning it was room 1010. And these people, like Horyn, would come and we would discuss there how do we destroy the communist system in what was then the property of the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party. This is one of these that is almost anecdotal elements of it. These are the people that I knew, these are the people that I think therefore played a very important role.
There was somebody that could arouse a lot of emotion, [Stepan] Khmara, but I was a bit concerned about him because we certainly did not need a Ukrainian extremist nationalists. The country had to stay united not divided. We did not want to chop it up. So I was very worried about him. I trust his motifs, his sincerity but there was such a difference between Lukianenko who with calm would argue what should be done, where’s justice, and the other one who actually had this very conflictive approach to things. He was one of the very important people.
Students and student strikes in October ‘90 played a very important role. There for young people like …, what was his name?
Oles Doniy. The fact that they organized it was received at first with cynicism. They persisted and then the Parliament decided to send a group of people including Iukhnovskiy and they still persisted. But that was to me the birth of free democracy in Ukraine because they allowed five representatives of the student strikers to go on the television. I remember their beautiful performance because each one spoke of one of the five demands. The demands were: they wanted the Communist Party disband and their property nationalized, they did not want the Ukrainian soldiers to serve outside the boundaries of Ukraine, they wanted the Prime Minister removed from his office. Impossible demands to satisfy in a way, but they spoke . They spoke very eloquently without any prompting. Nobody conducted that particular quintet. That was the beauty of it. And I must say they were much more articulate than a lot of the members of Parliament at that time. And then after that … that was really the ultimate when Donij was allowed to actually address the Parliament. I was in Parliament at that time. He came and he repeated the five demands and said, “But I realize that you can not make the decision immediately about them, so I’ll come back in twenty minutes.” (laughter) Imagine the toupee and the arrogance, but at the same time, that is what was needed at that time.
To me, it was particularly significant for another reason. They were preparing the Prince called Philip de Belgique to be the next king because the King was rather ill and he was to be the next king. And kind of a Belgian friend of mine was looking after his education. He was thirty but lived in rather a protected life in the palace. And, we were on very good terms with that very Belgian. He phoned me and said “Look, do you think that you could take him under you wings for a few days if he were to come to Ukraine incognito? Just show him real life because things are happening there. Show him real life.” It happened to be in October 90. He came under another name. I’d reserved a room at the Hotel National. But immediately before he even settled I took him to a family where both of them actually spoke English. The husband spoke good English. Roughly of his age, with a child, with the usual Ukraine apartment. And he decided to stay with them rather than stay at the hotel so he slept at this sort of crowded little thing and then he would take the metro. It was very safe in Ukraine, this was another wonderful thing. One personally felt absolutely safe. So he just traveled on the metro and would go and spend the bulk of his time with the student strikers. And would come back, would come to me to the hotel in the evening, sort of to report to me (laughs) what actually was happening with the mood, of more and more people were coming to support them etc. So when you say, ”Who are the leaders?” Donij was certainly one of the leaders. The demands were so clear, nobody was arrested, nobody’s head was bashed up. Actually Khmara got involved in arguing with some policeman, but certainly not the strikers. I thought that was wonderful, just wonderful.
Do you have any sense why that was allowed?
I think it was allowed because the security forces had to feel ambivalent. Let’s face it, security forces, KGB whatever. They had to be subservient to speak to whatever the regime is. So this is one thing. Secondly, at that time one could very easily denounce anything in the Parliament it would go on the radio, automatically on the television. The greatest change, and certainly Gorbachev contributed to it, was loss of fear. That was the most important thing. A lot, people didn’t fear so, how do you react? Do you go and machine gun them down? You know at that time that was impossible to do. Do you arrest them?
Toward the end of the strike all of the students from virtually all of the administrations of higher learning in Kiev started walking out in demonstrations. Then again anybody in the security forces, KGB etc. this could be … real fire. You know, deal gently.
What a spectacular transformation. I guess as kind of a closing thought. This loss of fear has run through until some of the first questions until some of the issues we have talked about now. How did the fear leave Ukraine?
The fear left Ukraine because one started noticing that people would just not disappear. That you wouldn’t get arrested at night. It was the fear you feel, like why am I afraid to walk in the Central Park of New York at night. I can’t explain it. But I’m afraid. Why do I walk? Even now I’ll go in this little park in the evening behind the Verkhovna Rada. You somehow sense it. It’s not that there is kind of an analysis or rationalization behind it. The party as such was losing the grip and it was beginning to wonder, because after all it would somehow transform. The KGB had to become a little cautious because of what was really coming. And also they knew the mood of the people. They were the best informed people. Certainly, this is an excellent education for Marchuk, he knew the sentiments of the people
And the sentiments of the people, public opinion…?
By that time was it was suddenly a yearning, to be freer. Freedom and independence were all mixed up. And the results of the Referendum. Undoubtedly it was not just the Ukrainian language, the Ukrainian culture that carried it. It was a genuine conviction on the part of this overwhelming majority that we are badly managed from Moscow economically, politically, ecologically, ecologically I should have put it almost first, certainly culturally. It could not possibly be worse if you get managed from closer. When I met with this 17 representatives of minorities, this was a team that they were beating hard. We’ll vote for, because we’ll be better off. And they certainly believed they would be better off as well. (Telephone rings). Was our sense of timing good?
(laughter) Thank you very much. I’ll let you get your call.
Розмовляла Сара Сіверс, Київ