©2002 RFE/RL, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

With the kind permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, InfoUkes Inc. has been given rights to electronically re-print these articles on our web site. Visit the RFE/RL Ukrainian Service page for more information. Also visit the RFE/RL home page for news stories on other Eastern European and FSU countries.

Return to Main RFE News Page
InfoUkes Home Page

ukraine-related news stories from RFE


RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 4, No. 34, 10 September 2002

A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team


THREE OPPOSITION LEADERS MOBILIZE PROVINCES AGAINST KUCHMA. Last week, Ukraine saw a fairly unusual occurrence: Yuliya Tymoshenko (a former oligarch) and Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko (the most prominent defender of the Ukrainian proletariat) stood arm in arm at rallies in the Ukrainian provinces and called for people to take part in the antipresidential protest campaign that is scheduled to start on 16 September. UNIAN reported that last week, Tymoshenko and Symonenko, jointly with Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz, sought support for the protest campaign in Zhytomyr, Rivne, Lutsk, Bila Tserkva, Cherkasy, and Dnipropetrovsk. As the three opposition leaders told a news conference on 2 September, the protest campaign will continue until President Leonid Kuchma and "other representatives of Ukraine's top authorities" resign their posts. The three leaders also called for an early presidential election. "We cannot wait for another 2 1/2 years [for the regular presidential election in 2004] because then we will get Kuchma or his successor," Tymoshenko commented. The state-controlled media, quite understandably, have not reported on the tour of Ukrainian regions by Tymoshenko, Symonenko, and Moroz.

The demand to oust Kuchma seems to be the only unifying factor for the three opposition leaders, who, quite naturally, have avoided mentioning their ideological differences during rallies. The "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported that at the rally in Zhytomir on 5 September, Symonenko, in line with the Communist Party program, spoke about ensuring free-of-charge education, high pensions and wages, inexpensive transportation, the repayment of savings lost due to the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the "termination of criminal privatization and the return of enterprises to the people's ownership." Moroz stressed the need for the democratization of the power system and quoted sums that were allegedly embezzled by Kuchma to the detriment of the Ukrainian people. Tymoshenko blamed Kuchma for the failure of reforms in the country. In general, all other Ukrainian failures were blamed on Kuchma as well. Moroz, the website noted sardonically, even tried to place responsibility on Kuchma for not lifting the ban on producing moonshine (unlicensed production of alcohol) in Ukraine.

It is understandable that the opposition wants to muster support for its "Rise Up, Ukraine!" protest action among as many people as possible. Therefore, the three leaders have appealed primarily to what seems to be the most probable motive for popular discontent: the dire economic situation in Ukraine and people's natural yearning to pin their hopes on someone who promises to improve it. But on the other hand, it is also obvious that, to a significant extent, the message voiced by the opposition is politically irresponsible and practically inapplicable. It is no wonder that Viktor Yushchenko prefers not to associate with Tymoshenko, Symonenko, and Moroz too closely. Even he -- dubbed a "Ukrainian messiah" -- would find it rather hard to accelerate privatization in Ukraine efficiently and to ensure "the return of enterprises to the people's ownership" at the same time. (Jan Maksymiuk)

MORE WATER FOR LVIV IN THE PIPELINE. The World Bank is to give Ukraine a $24 million loan to upgrade Lviv's water supply. For decades, residents of Lviv have been supplied with water for -- at most -- two periods (morning and evening) of two to three hours every day. The loan is earmarked for modernizing and replacing the equipment used in the city's water-supply and sewerage systems. Certainly, such work is long overdue. Ten years ago, it was estimated that one-third of the city's water supply is lost by leakages before it ever arrives at its destination. However, new pipes and pumps alone cannot solve the city's water problems entirely.

Lviv's water shortages are the result of a combination of geographical factors and the legacy of Soviet planning. The city stands on the main European watershed, which divides the rivers that eventually feed into the Baltic Sea from those flowing to the Black Sea. The area is, therefore, not abundant in water by nature. Lviv, however, was supplied by deep artesian wells giving the city an important strategic advantage in time of war, since an enemy would be unable to cut off its water supply. One of the first things the Soviets did once their possession of the city was confirmed was to destroy these wells. This was supposedly in the name of "progress" (wells were "reactionary" and "backward-looking" -- pipelines were "progressive" and "socialist"), but almost certainly the planners were not unaware of the security implications: Should the inhabitants of Lviv rise against Soviet rule, without their wells they would be unable to resist a siege.

The Soviets then set about a demographic reform. Just as in Poland, where the "socialist" city of Nowa Huta was built adjacent to "Catholic" and "reactionary" Krakow, Lviv was to be turned from a cultured university city, the focus of the (newly outlawed) Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, into a hive of Soviet production. New industries were to be established and a new "proletarian" workforce imported. These directives seem to have given no thought to the question of where the water for the extra population and industrial activity was to be found. To compound the problem, the industrial development focused on aluminum processing, a notoriously water-greedy technology.

When the Soviet Union fell apart, the city authorities of Lviv swiftly turned their attention to the water problem. Various expert studies were made and published, but the complexity of the situation and the post-Soviet economy effectively blocked any swift solution. Drilling new artesian wells was ruled out -- Soviet "water management" had drastically lowered the water table of the entire area. Pipe in water from elsewhere? Theoretically possible, but that would mean laying up to 100 kilometers of new pipelines from Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast. When surveyors went out to inspect possible routes and sources, they encountered vehement protests -- and in some instances menaces -- from farmers afraid of losing their own scanty supplies. Shut down water-greedy industry, and face horrendous problems of unemployment? Install new closed-cycle processing technologies, which recover and reuse their wastewater? Possible, but very expensive. "What we really need," one city official said in 1992, "is to cut the population of the city by half!" But who would decide who was to be relocated and provide incentives for them to leave? And where could they go?

Ten years later, these questions remain largely unsolved. The World Bank loan will certainly go a long way to resolving the purely financial side of the problem, but the root situation, a city too large for its readily available water supply, is not so easy to tackle. (Vera Rich)

ACTIVE CITIZENS OR LOYAL INDIVIDUALS -- WHOM DOES UKRAINE NEED MORE? Last month, Ukraine entered the 12th year of its independence, but as a state and society, it still faces a dramatic challenge that is not usually discussed in official propaganda outlets. The point is that people living in Ukraine, including ethnic Ukrainians, still do not feel that the state is their own and, as a result, they en masse do not consider themselves to be citizens of the country called Ukraine. Formally, of course, they are citizens and hold Ukrainian passports. According to surveys, however, there is no dominant popular feeling, nothing to say about pride, of belonging to the citizenry of Ukraine.

According to a poll conducted within the framework of the nationwide program Monitoring Ukrainian Society by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Sociology in April and May among a representative sample of 1,800 respondents, only 41 percent of respondents considered themselves to be "citizens of Ukraine." Almost the same proportion of respondents identified themselves as inhabitants of their localities and regions. And nearly 13 percent of respondents, who belonged primarily to older generations and lived predominantly in eastern parts of the country, still considered themselves to be "citizens of the USSR."

Perhaps, one would not dramatize this rather massive "noncitizenship" of the Ukrainian population mainly because of the short historical period in the formation of a new political entity: the Ukrainian nation. But two aspects of this poll should be given serious attention.

First, there is a trend toward steadily diminishing the share of Ukrainian population that now identifies itself with Ukrainian citizenship in comparison with whose who considered themselves Ukrainian citizens at the beginning of the 1990s.

Second, as an analysis of the survey has shown, respondents understood their citizenship as mostly a formal attachment to the country where they are physically living rather than a stance of active social and political engagement in Ukrainian society. The survey revealed that only 9 percent of the respondents who identified themselves as "citizens" believed in their ability to protect their own rights against the state. (For comparison, 11 percent of the respondents who identified themselves as "representatives of their ethnic group" and 12.5 percent of those who identified themselves as "people of the world" said they believe in that ability.) In other words, the dominant type of Ukrainian citizens is that of a politically inert individual who is reluctant to resort to actions of protest against any possible unjust decisions by the authorities.

This makes one believe that the reason why people distance themselves from Ukrainian civic identity lies not only in the mass psychological frustration of socioeconomic expectations regarding prospects of the Ukrainian state in the early 1990s. There are clear signs of the alienation of the Ukrainian population from the state. Why is this the case?

The Ukrainian state, or more accurately, the political circles representing the state machinery, in its relations with people, actively reproduces the logic of its communist predecessor, which used to dictate and instruct "from above." The result of this activity is the formation of a "state-centered" (or, to use a French term, "etatic"), rather than civic, identity, i.e., an individual identity that is shaped and controlled by the state.

It is possible to form the identity of an inert individual and to induce mass culture of apathy by means of indoctrination involving mass propaganda and psychological manipulation in the state-controlled media. But one can never construct in such a way a civic Ukrainian identity implying people's social engagement and political participation. The vital issues of Ukraine's "unfinished revolution" (Taras Kuzio, "Ukraine. The Unfinished Revolution," in "European Security Study" 16, London, Institute for European Defence and Security Studies, 1992), such as an undeveloped civil society and the lack of social cohesion and solidarity, can also be explained by this distorted interaction between the state and its citizenry.

Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph I used to say when someone was recommended to him as a patriot of Austria, that "he may be a patriot of Austria, but the question is whether he is a patriot of me." Today's dilemma of Ukrainian citizenship may be reflected in the following paraphrase of the emperor's saying: Does a future Ukrainian democracy need careerists loyal to the authorities or active citizens who are capable of promoting changes and reforms in Ukrainian society?

As testified by comparative international sociological surveys conducted in 11 postcommunist countries (Claire Wallace, "Xenophobia in Post-Communist Europe," Glasgow 1999), citizens of successful postcommunist democracies were usually proud of their nationality, while this was not the case in countries experiencing difficulties in their transformation, like Ukraine. Those surveys obviously imply that either successes in postcommunist transformation boost national pride or that national pride is a necessary condition for such successes or that both factors are operational simultaneously.

It seems that the real challenge to political reform in Ukraine does not lie exclusively in the change of the governing system from a presidential to a parliamentary republic, as was recently declared. This challenge is rather connected with the need for a reform in the way the state interacts with its citizens. Such a reform would have to switch the state machinery from the propagandistic and predominantly command style of its current public-relations policies to a much more cooperative and partner-like model.

(This report was written by Dr. Viktor Stepanenko, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Sociology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, and the director of the Center for Public Policy Development.)

"RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report" is prepared by Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed every Tuesday.

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER PROPOSES PUBLIC DISCUSSION ON RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA. United Civic Party Chairman Anatol Lyabedzka has proposed holding public hearings in Minsk in October-November on the prospects for Belarusian-Russian relations, Belapan reported on 9 September. "It is evident that there is a crisis in relations between Russia and Belarus," Lyabedzka said, adding that "there is a need for a broad public discussion that would result in the presentation of an effective model of relations between our countries." Lyabedzka recalled that earlier this year his party and Russia's Union of Rightist Forces (led by Boris Nemtsov) proposed an integration scenario based on principles similar to those that are operational in the European Union. "Later developments showed that it was a correct and timely move," Lyabedzka said. Lyabedzka has also requested that the Prosecutor-General's Office investigate the illegal wiretapping of a telephone conversation he held with Nemtsov. The conversation, which touched upon an alleged conspiracy against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, was transcribed and published in Russia and Belarus last week (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 10 September 2002). JM

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT REPORTS TO PARLIAMENT ON COMBATING POVERTY. Labor and Social Policy Minister Ivan Sakhan on 10 September reported to the Verkovna Rada on the government's progress in implementing the program called "The Strategy for Combating Poverty in Ukraine," UNIAN reported. Sakhan said the main condition for overcoming poverty in Ukraine is to maintain macroeconomic stability and GDP growth. According to Sakhan, Ukraine's GDP rose by 4.4 percent in January-July 2002, while the real incomes of Ukrainians in January-August 2002 increased by 26.8 percent. Sakhan said the average monthly wage in June was 377.4 hryvnyas ($70.8) and exceeded the subsistence minimum (365 hryvnyas) for the first time in the past several years. JM

UKRAINIAN INTERNET JOURNALIST REQUESTS PROTECTION. Olena Prytula, the editor in chief of the "Ukrayinska pravda" website, has sent an open letter to Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun, Security Service head Volodymyr Radchenko, and Interior Minister Yuriy Smyrnov, asking them to provide protection for her, the website reported. Referring to a source in the Prosecutor-General's Office, Prytula wrote that her life may be in danger in connection with the investigation into the death of journalist of Heorhiy Gongadze, who worked for "Ukrayinska pravda" before his disappearance in September 2000. Prytula noted that the murderers of Gongadze may be also interested in killing her since, according to her source in the Prosecutor-General's Office, she is an "important witness" in the Gongadze case. Prytula recalled that Gongadze asked the Prosecutor-General's Office for protection in July 2000 but the office ignored his request. JM

UKRAINIAN RADICAL LEFTISTS PROTEST U.S. IRAQ POLICY. Some 500 representatives of the Progressive Socialist Party, the Russian Bloc, and the All-Ukrainian Association of Leftists "Justice" staged a picket in front of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv on 9 September to protest U.S. policies with regard to Iraq, UNIAN reported. According to the agency, the protesters threw an effigy of U.S. President George W. Bush to the ground, pelted it with tomatoes, and "pierced it with a scythe of the Grim Reaper." Progressive Socialist Party leader Nataliya Vitrenko said it is necessary to create a "triangle of justice" consisting of the Slavic world (Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia), the Arab world, as well as China and India in order to oppose the "U.S. aggression" against Iraq. Participants in the meeting adopted a resolution with demands to declare U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual persona non grata and expel him from the country, stop the blockades of Iraq and Cuba, and make U.S. President Bush accountable for "crimes against humanity" before The Hague war crimes tribunal. JM