On August 24, 2015, Ukraine celebrated 24 years of independence from the Soviet Union. A few days before the anniversary, as reported by Paul Goble on his blog, one of the leaders of that struggle, Ivan Drach, described as “the poet who headed the Rukh organization from 1989 to 1992,” spoke with Ukraine’s Novy Region-2 about those road to independence.
Ukraine’s intellectuals at the end of the 1980s “were infected by events which began in Europe,” Drach says. “At that time, the Berlin Wall fell and Solidarity was born in Poland, and there appeared the bright popular movements in Estonia [and] Latvia …. We were in contact with all these movements, and the idea arose that we should establish something similar.”
Initially, he says, people thought about holding a plenum of the various create unions like the cinematographers, writers, and artists and then proclaim the founding of a Popular Rukh. “But the bosses, the KGB and the Central Committee of the Communist Party were keeping track of all this and didn’t give us the chance.”
The Communist Party publicly attacked the new organization, but it backfired. Ukrainians rallied to the opponents of the hated Communists, and, Drach says “we already were able to intimidate the authorities into giving us space for holding a large forum.”
Rukh would beat every propaganda attack thrown its way. Goble writes: “The Kyiv communists continued their provocations, but Rukh continued to grow, Drach says. And ‘already when Yeltsin defeated Grobachev’ at the time of the August 1991 coup, even the communists in the Ukrainian SSR Supreme Soviet voted for Ukraine’s declaration of independence, ‘thanks to Yeltsin.'”
Robert A. McConnell, co-founder of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, explained what happen next in a letter to the Washington Post:
On Aug. 24, 1991, Ukraine’s parliament passed a declaration of independence with a condition: It had to be approved by the people of Ukraine in a national referendum, set for Dec. 1. The widespread belief at the time in the West was that Ukraine was divided between east and west (a misconception that continues), and approval was in doubt. However, on Dec. 1, with an extraordinary majority of citizens voting, the people of Ukraine approved independence by more than 92 percent — with huge margins of approval in every oblast.
On December 25, 1991, less than a month after Ukraine left the Soviet Union, the Evil Empire itself was dissolved.