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1991-1994 - President Leonid M. Kravchuk

Following free elections held on December 1, 1991, Leonid M. Kravchuk, former Chairman of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet, was elected president for a five-year term. At the same time, a referendum on independence was approved by more than 90% of the voters. Political groupings in Ukraine included former communists, socialists, agrarians, nationalists and various centrist and independent forces. The durability and effectiveness of a new post-Soviet commmonwealth depended heavily on under strong pressure from nationalist forces to pursue independence. Before the election, Kravchuk looked for opportunities to demonstrate his commitment to protecting Ukrainian sovereignty, even if it meant publicly supporting withdrawal from the "10 + 1" process and going for complete independence.

In 1990–1991 Kravchuk had been a Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, head of Verkhovna Rada of Ukrainian SSR, of Ukraine. MP of Verkhovna Rada of Ukrainian SSR of 10th- 11th convocations, MP of Ukraine of 12th (1st) convocation. Between 1970 and 1988 he was head of the sector, inspector, assistant secretary of the Central Committee, deputy head of the division, head of the division of agitation and propaganda of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine. In 1988–1990 he had served as head of ideological division, secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, second secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine. In 1989–1990 he was a candidate member of the Politburo. In August 1990 he announced his withdrawal from the ranks of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

The presidential election on 01 December 1991 in Ukraine spawned a heated race between parliamentary chairman Leonid Kravchuk and his nationalist opponents. Kravchuk was the front-runner. Although tainted by his Communist past and his perceived indecisiveness during the coup attempt, his strengths as a consensus builder and astute politician kept his position strong, and he won a landslide victory. Moreover, his vision of an independent Ukraine as part of a loose economic association and a collective security arrangement appealled to the majority of the voters. Kravchuk wanted to bridge regional differences between the Russified east and the nationalistic west. Kravchuk had endorsed economic reform in principle, but he was probably the least market­orìented of the seven candidates running for president. He has emphasized the need economicI stabilization over quick marketization and wants liberalized prices and private property to be phased in gradually.

The leading challenger, endorsed by the nationalist organization Rukh, was Vyacheslav Chornovil. He and other nationalist candidates supported the goal of complete independence within 18 months. Chornovil expressed reluctance to hand over to Russia nuclear weapons situated on Ukrainian territory. The increasing strength of anti-Communist, separatist sentiment since the coup bolstered Chornovil's prospects, but he and other nationalist candidates, such as Lev Lukyanenko, did not have as much support in the populous eastern and southern Ukraine. Chornovíl, a staunch anticommunist, wanted to destroy the vestiges of a planned economy as soon as possible. He would undertake a program of rapid privatization based on the slogan “enrich yourselves."

The Soviets believed they had solved the problem of nationalism and ethnic conflict within their multinational state. But nationalism was in fact the gravedigger of the Soviet system. As the center disintegrated and Gorbachev opened up the political process with glasnost (openness), the old communist "barons" in the republics saw the handwriting on the wall and became nationalists; they "first of all attacked the USSR government . . . and subsequently destroyed the USSR." Asked when he decided to secede from the USSR, Ukrainian party boss Leonid Kravchuk replied: "1989."

Ukrainian politicians realized that full independence cannot occur overnight. Kravchuk would pursue a more gradual and pragmatic course than would Chornovil, who has called for complete independence within 18 months. Kravchuk is unlikely to backtrack from the pro-independence stance -he took during the election campaign, but he would be more likely than Chornovil to continue a dialogue with other republics on economic and security cooperation. Kravchuk also would be more inclined to maintain strong tie's with Russia and to try to protect the interests of ethnic Russians living in Ukraine. Kravchuk had deftly kept the Crimean separatist movement at bay, and he had worked closely with Ye1’tsin to defuse potentially divisive issues in Ukrainían­Russian relations.

After Kravchuk won the presidential election, Ukraine agreed to an associate status in the CIS and continued a measure of cooperation on economic and military issues. Ukraine depended on Russia for imports of crude oil and other energy supplies. Russia and other republics dependheavily on Ukraine for food. Opposition to total independence by Russians, Russified Ukrainians, and other ethnic groups living in Ukraine posed a threat to political stability, raised border issues with Russia, and made bilateral cooperation more difficult. Disagreement over control of military assets on Ukrainian territory intensified.

On Dec. 25, 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved. When it all came unraveled, Ukraine was found a poor country, dirty, shabby, and neglected. People wanted desperately to escape the hopelessness. With her independence in 1991, Ukraine was faced with the enormous task of building anentire government. Whole ministries had to be established either from scratch or by upgrading existing agencies to cabinet level. Kravchuk intended to establish a strong executive presidency, but he was also committed to transforming the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet into a smaller, more effective professional parliament. Nevertheless, authoritarìanism was far from dead in Ukraine. The former communist party had been weakened but not destroyed, and it is positioning itself to become the defender of those who will suffer the most in a transition to a market economy. Right­wing antidemocratic alternatives, initially not much of a factor in Ukrainian politics, would also become more politically attractive if economic conditions seriously deteriorate.

Ukraine and most of the other former Soviet republics created a loose association called the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to deal with economic and military problems caused by the breakup. While some states saw the Commonwealth as a means of preserving common economic and cultural ties, many Ukrainians viewed the CIS as a temporary association. They feared a commonwealth led by Russia would limit Ukrainian independence. Ukraine and Russia argued over many issues, including how the Soviet Navy's Black Sea fleet should be divided. In May 1992, Russia's Supreme Soviet voted to declare the Soviet government's 1954 grant of Crimea to Ukraine anillegal act. Ukraine opposed this decision.

Ukraine was on an emotional high after achieving independence in 1991. Rich in farmland, coal, and mineral deposits, it had both agriculture and heavy industry, Black Sea ports, proximity to Western Europe, an educated and skilled work force, and a developed infrastructure of scholarly and scientific institutions. With its important contributions to Soviet economic, scientific, and military power, it accounted for 18 percent of Soviet economic output and had the potential to be a strong and viable state.

Three years later, however, production had plummeted, inflation had skyrocketed, foreign reserves were negligible, living standards had fallen by half, foreign investment was down, the currency was nearly worthless, and there was no new constitution. Fields were rich with wheat but there were lines for bread in the cities, and there was no clear political mandate for reform.

Laws were enforced at times, and at other times not. There was little confidence in the judiciary, no effective banking system, and no system for judicial review of contractual ob-ligations. Huge industrial behemoths were being kept alive by state subsidies. Privatization had slowed, and most enterprises still belonged to the state, run by former communists who had no incentive to institute reforms or earn profits as long as the subsidies continued. Managers who had made their careers in Moscow were poorly informed about the rest of the world and how to do business there. Energy was imported from Russia at close to world market prices but fuel was being guzzled without regard to cost.

Corruption and bribery were rampant, and the mafia was ubiquitous in both government and the private sector. Every transaction with a foreigner seemed to involve a kickback for some intermediary. "It is impossible to do business in Ukraine legally and make a profit," says Walter Kish, Seagram Company's manager in Kyiv.

Payoffs were the rule rather than the exception. To clear ship containers through customs it was required to send an employee to the port armed with dollars. The first person' to be paid off was the old woman who controlled access to the customs building. Payments were then made to other customs employees up the line until all the necessary clearances had been obtained and the containers were released.

Elections on 10 July 1994 resulted in a peaceful transfer of power between then president Leonid Kravchuk and the new president Leonid Kuchma, who served as prime minister under Leonid Kravchuk from October 1992. The man who led Ukraine to independence, Leonid M. Kravchuk, was the party secretary in charge of ideology until a few months before the collapse of communism - the very same man who used to denounce the use of the Ukrainian language as 'bourgeoisie nationalism.'" Even though Kravchuk had ties to the former Soviet regime, he sought to strengthen Ukraine's sovereignty and improve relations with the West. Kravchuk stated, "The best guarantee to Ukraine's security would be membership to NATO."

The 1994 presidential and parliamentary elections, President Leonid Kravchuk was perceived during the campaign as an advocate of a strong Ukrainian state, while the challenger Leonid Kuchma, by favoring closer ties with Russia and advocating Russian as a second state language, was distrusted by the more patriotic Ukrainians. During the second round of voting, Kuchma garnered 52.1 percent of the votes compared to 45.1 percent for Kravchuk, but the differences by region were stark. In the five easternoblasts, Kuchma received 75.6 percent of the votes, compared to 21.9 percent for Kravchuk. On the other hand, Kravchuk received 87.4 percent of the votes in the seven oblasts thatbecame a part of the Soviet Union after the war, compared to 10.4 percent for Kuchma. The idea of a strong Ukrainian statehood was obviously much greater among Ukrainians in the westthan in the east.

Ukraine's transition to democracy and capitalism was a difficult process marked by success and failure. The successes are many: Ukraine has given up nuclear weapons, peacefully changed power from Leonid Kravchuk to Leonid Kuchma. Ukraine's first elected president, Leonid Kravchuk, always had a romantic following in the Ukrainian diaspora. Many, particularly from the older generation, credited him for Ukraine's achievement of independent statehood, something they never expected to see in their lifetime. To others, Kravchuk was an old-line Communist who refused to change and nearly drove the economy into ruin.

1994–1998 he was an MP of Ukraine of 2nd convocation. Member of faction ‘Social Market Choice’, later ‘Constitutional Center’. from 1998–2002 he was MP of Ukraine of 3rd convocation under the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine lists. Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs with CIS of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Since 2002 he has served as an MP of Ukraine of 4th convocation under the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine lists, member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Head of the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine faction in Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Leonid Makarovych Kravchuk was born January 10, 1934, Velykyi Zhitin village, Rivne region. His wife Antonina Mykhailivna is an assistant professor at Economics Department of Taras Schevchenko National University. He has son Oleksandr. In 1958, he was graduated from Taras Schevchenko Kyiv State University, economist, professor of political economy. PhD in Economics. Professor at many national and foreign universities.

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Page last modified: 23-09-2012 17:48:43 ZULU