Orest Subtelny, History of Ukraine, 4th ed., 2009.


The Age of Globalization

An independent Ukraine arose amidst the disintegration of the old Soviet system. Despite widespread hopes that changes for the better would soon follow, the 1990s were characterized by economic collapse, political ambiguity, and the lingering influence of the old Soviet elite. As a result, the transition to a new order was slow and limited. In the early 2000s, however, the process of transformation accelerated markedly. Fundamental changes began in politics, economics, and society. This did not mean that many of the country's deeply rooted, intractable problems were resolved. On the contrary, some of them even grew, continuing to impede the transformation. Nonetheless, Ukraine began to acquire, sometimes laboriously and at other times dramatically, features of the European states and societies that increasingly served as its models. In the process its integration into the global society began.

Domestic Politics

The Kuchma Years The political order that existed in Ukraine during Leonid Kuchma's second term in office was characterized by ambiguity, a feature present in much of Ukrainian behaviour in the post-1991 period. Some called Ukraine a "political grey zone"; others stressed the "hybrid" nature of its politics. On the one hand, Ukrainian politics had features that were typical of most post-Soviet states: domineering presidents, over-centralization of authority, opaque decision-making, and ineffective checks and balances. But, on the other hand, Ukraine did have a constitution, political pluralism that allowed for an active opposition, and a growing civil society. Therefore, politics in this presidential-parliamentary system were, to a large extent, a confrontation of these two contradictory tendencies or an attempt to satisfy them both.

As in other post-Soviet countries (except for the Baltic republics) and unlike most East European states, it appeared that regressive, undemocratic tendencies were paramount. Kuchma's presidential powers were extensive: except for choosing the prime minister, for which he needed the approval of parliament, the president could appoint and dismiss all other ministers -- he appointed all governors, he had the right to dissolve parliament, and there were few checks on his control of the government bureaucracy. On the local level there was hardly any sign of opposition. And most parties in parliament were controlled by oligarchs who were eager to reach an understanding with the president. Moreover, the Communist Party, greatly weakened in the 1999 election, was also willing to cooperate with the president. Kuchma seemed to be all-powerful. Little wonder that the vast majority of Ukrainians did not consider their country to be a democracy.

As if to emphasize this point, 2001 began with depressing developments for the reform-minded. In January, Deputy Prime Minister Tymoshenko, an oligarch turned reformer, attempted to force other oligarchs in the coal and gas industries to pay the required taxes. She was not only dismissed but also arrested for a brief period. In April, despite widespread support, Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, who oversaw the country's economic revival, was also dismissed. However, although careful about challenging Kuchma openly, Yushchenko continued to lead those who opposed him. At about the same time, Kuchma drew increasingly closer to the authoritarian Putin, meeting with him eight times in a single year. Meanwhile, several scandals underlined the murky ways in which he operated. In addition, the murder of an anti-establishment reporter, Hryhorii Gongadze, and the authorities' reluctance to search for the perpetrators of the crime, raised suspicions about those in power.

The parliamentary elections on 31 March 2002 were, however, a setback for the president. Despite threats and pressures exerted by the pro-Kuchma forces, the turnout, almost 70%, was very large. The opposition did quite well. Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party won 112 parliamentary seats. His ally, Tymoshenko, also did well. Although not enough to control parliament, these results indicated that the opposition was vibrant and determined. Clearly, Kuchma and his supporters had badly underestimated the impact of freedom of association, right to demonstrate, growing civic organizations, and close monitoring of elections. However, the president was not ready to retreat. In June he appointed the tough and unscrupulous Viktor Medvedchuk to head the presidential secretariat.

Soon after, temnyki (secret instructions) issued by the presidential secretariat began to muzzle the media. A concerted if not entirely successi effort was made to buy over parliamentary deputies to the pro-president camp. Moreover, government tax officials began to harass opposition businessmen. Even the huge demonstrations, the largest since 1991, numbering about 50,000 protestors, that were staged in Kiev in September failed to deter Kuchma. The secret sale of arms to Iraq, which alienated the United States, only encouraged his pro-Russian orientation. The year 2002 was declared the Year of Russia in Ukraine. Moreover, agreements were reached with Russia and Germany to expedite the delivery of gas to Europe via Ukraine. This rapprochement with the Kremlin led to Kuchma's becoming the president of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the first non-Russian elected to the post. As 2002 came to an end, negotiations were proceeding for Ukraine to become a member of the Eurasian Economic Community (EEC). It seemed that both authoritarian and democratic forces were rushing to reach their goals.

Much of 2003 was spent in preparing for the presidential elections the following year. Despite indications that he might run again -- the Constitutional Court allowed him an unconstitutional third term -- Kuchma decided to retire in 2004. Consequently, his major concern was to find a reliable successor. Three oligarchic clans -- the Kiev group led by Viktor Medvedchuk and Hryhorii Surkis, the Dniepropetrovsk group of Viktor Pinchuk, and the powerful Donetsk clan headed by Viktor Yanukovych -- competed in proposing candidates for the position. After much hesitation, Kuchma decided to back the candidacy of Yanukovych, who had strong backing in eastern Ukraine. Never one to leave matters to chance, Kuchma also wanted to weaken the next president by strengthening parliament, in case his choice for the post did not win. Such changes, and the likelihood of a fragmented parliament, would assure hard-line influence and limit the new president's ability to prosecute Kuchma for his alleged crimes and misdemeanours. Hence Kuchma's desire to alter the constitution, transforming Ukraine into a system in which parliament became more powerful and the president correspondently weaker. To secure Moscow's supports for his plans, Kuchma brought Ukraine into the EEC in early 2003 and made generous concessions to Russian businessmen investing in Ukraine. In October a short-lived obstacle to this pro-Russian policy developed when Russia attempted to gain control of Ukraine's strategic Tuzla Island in the Azov Sea. Ukrainians, even those in the east and south, reacted very negatively to this attempted encroachment, and it failed.

Clearly being groomed to become the next president, Yanukovych replaced ANATOliy Kinakh as prime minister in December 2003. As numerous members of the Donetsk clan moved to Kiev and began occupying key government posts, it seemed that the country was preparing for the reign of the retrograde Easterners. In March 2004 constraints were imposed on Radio Liberty broadcasts in the country. And in August Yanukovych proposed removing Ukrainian troops from Iraq. Meanwhile, Kuchma continued dispensing favours. In June his son-in-law, Viktor Pinchuk, purchased the huge Krivorizhstal steel plant for an absurdly low price. Perhaps more disturbing was a mayoral election in Mukachevo, in Transcarpathia, an oblast controlled by the Medvedchuk clan. In a highly controversial election, the pro-government candidate, with help from Kuchma himself, claimed victory. It appeared to be a promising test case for something much more important -- the presidential election of 2004.

On 31 October 2004 the presidential elections began. They were preceded by another highly disturbing event: it was revealed that, after having supper with government officials, the opposition candidate, Yushchenko, had been, as it became evident later, administered dioxin poison. The poison did not kill him and he continued campaigning. However, the election itself, accompanied by numerous cases of government intimidation and interference was, according to Western observers, patently unfair. Even so it did not bring Yanukovych a victory: the results were about 40% each for both Yanukovych ind Yushchenko. Since neither won a majority, a run-off election was called for 21 November.

The Orange Revolution

In the final months of 2008 vast numbers of Ukrainians participated in a series of dramatic events that were unexpected, inspiring, and bore great promise. The so-called Orange Revolution was both spontaneous and planned, enthusiastically supported by some and sullenly rejected by others. Be that as it may, it shook the established order and won the attention, even admiration, of the world. No matter how one viewed these events or what followed, it was clear that what occurred at this time would remain a pivotal moment in the history of Ukraine.

The tensions that were building between Yanukovych, who was backed by Kuchma, and Yushchenko and his national-democratic supporters, came to a head when the run-off election between the two rivals took place. Official results showed that Yanukovych had won by 3%. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who, together with the many Russian political specialists who worked for the Yanukovych campaign, hurriedly recognized him as the new president of Ukraine. However, exit polls carried out expressly to prevent tampering with election results showed that actually Yushchenko enjoyed an 11% lead. Additional evidence poured in indicating that the election results had been manipulated. It was a crucial moment. The Kuchma-Yanukovych camp had assumed that it could have its way with the election but it miscalculated. Massive protests against the falsified election results began on 22 November. A day later, about 500,000 demonstrators, determined but peaceful, marched on parliament, wearing orange ribbons or carrying orange flags, the colour of the Yushchenko campaign.

Lviv and several others cities refused to recognize the election results. An even more serious confrontation with the government occurred shortly thereafter. To emphasize his rejection of the election results, Yushchenko appeared in parliament, which was half empty because Yanukovych's supporters had abandoned it, and he took a symbolic presidential oath of office. Although it was not legally binding, the taking of the oath demonstrated that Yushchenko and his growing number of supporters were clearly moving from massive protests to open confrontation with their opponents. Some of Yushchenko's moderate supporters criticized him for this step. But more fiery allies, led by the charismatic Tymoshenko, who now emerged as co-leader of the protestors, not only welcomed it but demanded an even more radical stance. Both sides were clearly moving toward a fierce and bloody clash.

In southern and eastern Ukraine, and especially in his home base of Donetsk, Yanukovych's many supporters held firm. Local officials mounted several large demonstrations backing his election as president. Moreover, at the Severodonetsk conference, there were frequent threats to subdivide Ukraine into a federation -- an option that was not sanctioned by the constitution -- or even to break off and form a separate state. An effort was also made to bring large numbers of miners from the Donbas to Kiev. However, outnumbered by the masses of Yushchenko supporters, the miners had little impact in the capital. Nonetheless, on 24 November the Central Election Commission, itself implicated in the falsification of election results, declared that Yanukovych was officially recognized as the victor of the election.

This decision only deepened the crisis. Despite freezing weather, pro-Yushchenko demonstrations continued, sometimes bringing close to a million people into the streets of Kiev. Supporters, especially numerous from western and central regions, poured into the city. An extraordinary atmosphere reigned in the capital. Constant streams of newcomers were housed in public buildings and in private homes, fed in hastily established public kitchens or by generous, supportive Kievans, and, most impressive, they remained calm, polite, considerate, but clearly determined to attain their goal -- a fair election. About 10,000 protestors, mostly young people from all over Ukraine, established a tent city on the Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) and main avenue, Khreshchatyk, indicating their determination to protest as long as necessary. Numerous members of the emerging middle class, concentrated in the capital, came out to protest. The sight of vast crowds of people demanding, in a civilized but committed fashion, their rights as citizens sparked the imagination of many. Among many Ukrainians political activism replaced the traditional passivity. Patriotism -- many first learned the national anthem during these heady days -- replaced the usual cynicism. Determined to force the government to concede, vast numbers in the central and western parts of the country joined in demonstrations, strikes, and sit-ins in their cities and towns. In order to prevent an illegitimate government from taking power, Yushchenko formed the Committee of National Salvation and declared a nationwide political strike. Clearly, an unprecedented and imposing display of "people power" was taking place in Ukraine.

Political developments reflected the extraordinary events. On 1 December the parliament strongly criticized the unconstitutional federalist and separatist threats of the Yanukovych supporters who had gathered in Severodonetsk. More importantly, it passed a vote of no-confidence in the government of Prime Minister Yanukovych. This was the equivalent of demanding its resignation. However, because the parliament had no means to enforce its decisions, Yanukovych and Kuchma ignored them. A decisive break in the political logjam occurred on 3 December. That day the Supreme Court, functioning under extreme pressure, announced that the recent election could not be recognized because of widespread fraud. Therefore, another run-off election between Yanukovych and Yushchenko was to be held on 26 December. A few days later parliament passed the necessary laws required to hold a new election.

The opposing sides, meanwhile, negotiated. Yushchenko, Yanukovych, and Kuchma -- joined by President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland, President Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania, Javier Solana of the European Union, and Boris Gryzlov of Russia who served as mediators -- spent long, tense hours in round-table bargaining. Finally, a compromise was reached: with great reluctance Yanukovych and Kuchma agreed to a new election. In return, at the insistence of Kuchma, who feared a strong president might wreak vengeance on his opponents, Yushchenko agreed to important changes in the constitution that weakened the powers of the new president. The stage was set for a new election.

The Ukrainian crisis had by now attracted widespread international attention. More than 12,500 observers from all over the world volunteered to go to Ukraine to ensure that the election was, indeed, fair. Canada alone dispatched 500 official observers, the largest group of election observers it had ever sent anywhere. With the whole world watching, the election, except for relatively minor problems, took place in a calm and orderly fashion. Yushchenko won 51.99% of the vote, and Yanukovych 44.20%. Although Yanukovych protested the results, his complaints were rejected by the Supreme Court as being without merit. On 10 January 2005, the reconstituted Election Commission declared Yushchenko the winner of the election and the next president of Ukraine. He took his official oath of office in parliament on 23 January. That same day a "public inauguration," witnessed by foreign dignitaries and hundreds of thousands of exuberant Ukrainians was held in the Maidan Nezalezhnosti. Despite fears of violence and civil strife, the Orange Revolution came to a peaceful conclusion.

What led to the Orange Revolution? The growing unpopularity of the corrupt Kuchma government was certainly a major factor. Moreover, the pluralism of the Ukrainian political system, which allowed opposition parties to exist and mobilize their supporters, helped to explain the confrontation. There was, furthermore, a significant number of oligarchs who supported Yushchenko, an indication that a split had occurred in the ruling elite between those who favoured Kuchma's repressive regime and those who demanded change and modernization. A relatively free media, parts of which reported openly on events and presented evidence of electoral fraud, also played an important role. But perhaps most decisive was the widespread feeling that citizens of Ukraine had civic rights, including the right to fair elections, and no government could deprive them of this. The confidence of the average Ukrainian had grown markedly, as evident in one of the protestors' favourite chants: "Together we are many; we cannot be defeated."

It was not long before other, less well-known aspects of the Orange Revolution emerged. Ukrainians learned that they had come very close to the violence and bloodshed that many feared. Stationed just outside Kiev, about 10,000 troops received government orders to move against the demonstrators. However, the timely intervention of Ukrainian intelligence services, unwilling to do Kuchma's bidding, halted the deployment and prevented a bloodbath. It became known that the England-based Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky provided significant financial support to the protesters in order to foil the plans of his nemesis, President Putin. It was also revealed that some of the protesters, especially members of the youth organization Pora, which played a prominent role in the demonstrations, had received financial support and training from Western, primarily American, agencies. And lessons learned in the removal of Slobodan Milosevich in Serbia and in the Rose Revolution in Georgia were applied most effectively in Ukraine. This gave the Ukrainian events a geopolitical dimension, one that pitted Russia, anxious to preserve its sphere of influence, and the United States, eager to expand its reach into Eastern Europe, against each other. For Russia and especially Putin, the Orange Revolution represented a resounding defeat. Not only was it a point where Ukraine and Russia seemed to embark on different paths of development but it engendered in the Kremlin the fear that it too might have to face a similar demonstration of people power. From an international point of view, Ukrainian events were not only dramatic but pivotal. They meant that Ukraine finally broke out of the isolation and disinterest that had long enveloped it.

The Yushchenko years

When he became president, Yushchenko had enormous political capital. In Ukraine millions stood ready to support him; abroad there were widespread declarations of admiration and willingness to help. All were waiting for the new, democratically elected government to initiate a period of fundamental, constructive reforms that would turn Ukraine into a successful democracy or, at least, place it firmly on the path to becoming one. What followed, unfortunately, was disappointment and disillusionment. Except for some initial and minor changes, no major reforms were implemented. Promises to punish those implicated in fraud were forgotten. After a brief downturn, corruption continued unabated. And the political forces that united to fight for a fair election soon turned on each other. Political crisis, petty politics, personal conflicts, and lack of progress became the hallmarks of the post-Orange Revolution period. A most promising opportunity to make Ukraine a better place in which to live faded away.

There were, no doubt, serious obstacles, both old and new, to progress. The constitutional changes weakening the presidency, which Yushchenko accepted in December 2004, proved to be debilitating. Ambiguous and poorly formulated, they created dual authority where the prerogatives of the president and the prime minister were contradictory and invited confrontation. To make matters worse, the personal rivalries between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, never far below the surface, came to the fore. Looking ahead to the presidential election of 2010, Yushchenko hoped to be re-elected. Meanwhile, the ambitious Tymoshenko clearly wanted to be the next president. This confrontation lay behind much of the political infighting that charactered the post-2004 period. Despite his defeat, Yanukovych, with numerous supporters in the east and south, was allowed to re-emerge as an important political force. This only emphasized the continuing differences between East and West in Ukraine. Oligarchs backing one party or another were able to retain their influence by continuing to use state institutions and policies to protect their own business interests. Perhaps most damaging was the fact that the new government did not seem to have a concrete program or goal of what it wanted to achieve.

From the outset, the new Orange government, led by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, encountered problems. In an effort to enlarge her already large base of support, Tymoshenko adopted populist, if economically questionable, measures. She raised salaries, pensions, and student stipends. Moreover, she tried to impose government controls on prices rather than allow market mechanisms to function. Businessmen, expecting greater liberalism, were shocked, and economic development slowed. Efforts, albeit limited in scope, were made to punish some of the corrupt government officials and election committee chairmen involved in election fraud. Expecting the worst, one of Kuchma's ministers, Heorhiy Kirpa, committed suicide. A substantial number of government officials associated with the Kuchma regime were fired. But punishment of the guilty, so often promised in December 2004, did not go further. The worst offenders, such as Medvedchuk, Kuchma's right-hand man suspected of engineering the election fraud, were never brought to trial. Moreover, it became known that corrupt oligarchs had found their way into the new government and the president's office.

There were, however, some positive developments. The government did become more transparent in formulating its policies, the media enjoyed greater freedom, and non-governmental organizations continued to be active. The absurdly low-priced purchase of the Kryvorizhstal steel plant by Pinchuk was reversed. Soon after, the plant was sold to an international firm, Mittal Steel, for a respectable $4.8 billion. In April 2005, Deputy Prime Minister Roman Bezsmertny proposed a reform of local government that called for greater decentralization. However, his ambitious and much-needed plan was not implemented. In general, the first period of Orange rule presented a mixed and rather uninspiring picture. Meanwhile, infighting in the Cabinet of ministers reached the point where, on 8 September, Yushchenko decided to fire the entire government. Shortly thereafter, he appointed Yuriy Yekhanurov, a loyal and experienced supporter, to be the new prime minister and to form a new government. Thus, after only seven months in office, among mutual recriminations and ill feeling, the unity of the Orange coalition fell apart.

Hardly had the new prime minister settled in office when a new crisis arose. A bitter confrontation between Ukraine and Russia developed over the price of natural gas. On 2 January 2006, in order to pressure Ukraine, Moscow cut off its supply of gas. The Ukrainians, in turn, shut off the pipes that carried this gas to Western Europe. An international uproar resulted. The next day a compromise price was agreed upon and, for a while, the issue of Ukraine's energy costs was resolved. Nonetheless, the incident emphasized once more how dependent Ukraine was on Russian energy supplies.

On 26 March 2006 there was another election to parliament. Yanukovych and his Party of Regions and their allies received 40% of the vote, while parties that belonged to Orange coalition, led by Tymoshenko's BYuT (Fatherland) party, garnered 46%. But after the election, a nasty surprise awaited the Orange forces. Oleksandr Moroz and his Socialist Party, major members of the Orange coalition that defeated Yanukovych in December 2004, changed sides and joined Yanukovych to form, together with the Party of Regions and the Communists, a Coalition of National Unity. On 2 August, after four months of haggling and behind-the-scenes deal making, to the great surprise of many, Yushchenko appointed his recent and bitter opponent as the new prime minister. Many found it difficult to understand how the president, despite his assurances that he hoped thereby to bring East and West Ukraine together, could raise his erstwhile rival from relative political obscurity and make him the head of a new government.

Hopes that the two former opponents could work together were quickly dispelled. Once again the problem of dual authority and confrontations over who had authority to do what emerged. The emboldened Yanukovych clearly sought to emasculate the president. He challenged him on such issues as control of security troops and, in December, forced the resignation of presidential appointees in Cabinet such as Minister of Foreign Affairs Borys Tarasyuk and Minister of Interior Yuri Lutsenko. Seeing his authority deteriorating, Yushchenko implemented his usual option: on 3 April 2007 he dissolved parliament and ordered a new election. This concentration on polititil infighting and failure to address larger issues clearly tested the patience of Ukraine's voters. Nonetheless, about 63% of them came to vote again in the parliamentary election of 30 September 2007. The 3,354 foreign observers declared the election was, by and large, fair. At least holding a fair election was a skill that the Ukrainian government, in contrast to most post-Soviet tates, had mastered.

In the election, Yanukovych's Party of Regions won 34.5% of the vote, Tymoshenko's BYuT (Fatherland) 30.7%, and the pro-Yushchenko Our Ukraine-People Self Defence 14.1%. In addition, the Communists received 5.3% and the Lytvyn Bloc 3.9%. There was a clear loser: Moroz and his Socialist Party. Denounced for his political reversal about a year earlier, he and his party failed to attract enough votes to enter parliament. It was equally clear who the winner of the election was: Yulia Tymoshenko. Her BYuT party, together with other parties in the renewed Orange coalition, obtained a paper-thin majority in parliament of 228 deputies. As leader of the majority coalition, she once again became the prime minister of Ukraine.

The Tymoshenko government worked in an atmosphere of constant political crisis. Parliament was so evenly divided that it was practically ineffectual. Meanwhile, the president, hoping to diminish the popularity of Tymoshenko, the leading candidate in upcoming presidential elections in 2010, repeatedly criticized her. The result was debilitating for both. Tymoshenko's popularity did decline. However, Yushchenko's popularity suffered more, dropping to less than 10%. Once more the faith of Ukrainians in their leaders -- indeed, in all politicians -- dissipated. The government was unable to control widespread corruption. Oligarchs continued to exert influence in parliament, government, and the political parties. Most worrisome was the government's inability to control rampant inflation, which, in 2008, reached more than 20%. The familiar perception that Ukrainian politicians always placed their own interests above those of the nation again became widespread. Many became so disillusioned that they even did not want to be reminded of the high hopes they had nurtured during the days of the Orange Revolution.

During three years, from 2005 to 2008, Ukraine had four different governments. These short-lived administrations were interested primarily in their own survival. And this meant that they had neither the time nor the will to address major issues, especially the pressing need for fundamental reforms. Moreover, the competing, divergent, and self-centred policies ot Yushchenko, Tymoshenko, and Yanukovych, and other leading politicians, added greatly to the instability. As 2008 drew to a close, there was more of the same: the Orange Coalition in parliament broke apart; on October 8 Yushchenko dissolved parliament and called for new elections (only to back away from these moves soon afterward); Arsenii Yatseniuk, a Yushchenko loyalist and speaker of parliament lost his position. Without a speaker, fractured and unable to pass any laws, parliament practically ceased to function for several months. Meanwhile, Tymoshenko commenced talks with all sides of the political spectrum about forming a new ruling coalition. Finally, in December, a new coalition of BYuT, Our Ukraine, and the Lytvyn Bloc was cobbled together. Lytvyn, who had served previously as speaker, was elected to the post again. Tymoshenko attained what she wanted most: she remained prime minister. Reminiscent of soap operas, the chaotic politics appeared to be setting the stage for the next episode.

Viewed from a broader perspective, however, the depressing political scene could not obscure the major changes that had occurred. A hundred years earlier there were many doubts about the existence of a Ukrainian nation. Twenty years earlier, the country was an isolated, little-known component of the Soviet empire. Despite the political convulsions, in the early years of the new millennium Ukraine made significant progress towards democracy. Its institutions became more similar to those in other states, its leaders were internationally recognized, and its geopolitical importance was widely acknowledged. The disruptive confrontations and the immaturity of its elite notwithstanding, Ukrainian politics were being played more and more according to generally accepted rules.

International Relations

Ukraine's place in the international order changed dramatically in the first decade of the twenty-first century. From a country of peripheral interest to the West, it moved to the forefront of its concerns. For Russia, its importance, always great, became even greater. The long-overlooked "borderland" between West and East suddenly moved to the centre of globally significant developments. Certainly its location, straddling a large and strategically crucial area between Europe and Russia, helped to explain the growing realization of its importance. And its geopolitical potential -- an independent Ukraine would curb Russian ambitions for regional dominance while a Ukraine subservient to Russia would encourage them -- added greatly to its international relevance. Consequently, as Russia grew in importance, so too did Ukraine. The fact that within Ukraine itself there were both strong pro-Western and pro-Russian orientations encouraged both sides to pay more attention to the country. In short, somewhat unexpectedly Ukraine became a focal point of "nternational attention and involvement. And its foreign policy -- the formulation of which was the prerogative of the president - attained major relevance for both the East and the West.

Relations with the West

Although Leonid Kuchma was elected president on a Pro-Russian platform in 1994, during his first term in office his administraton was surprisingly open to developing contacts with the West in general, and the United States in particular. Indeed, between 1994 and 1999 US-Ukrainian relations enjoyed a kind of honeymoon. This was encouraged by Kuchma's willingness to carry through on the denuclearization of Ukrainian weapons systems and the growing attention that the Clinton administration began to pay to Ukraine. As a result, several bilateral agreements, notably the Nunn-Lugar Act of 1994 and the Gore-Kuchma Commission of 1996, led to a large increase in us aid to Ukraine. By 2002, us aid to Ukraine totalled $2.82 billion, making it, after Israel and Egypt, America's third-largest aid recipient. Close contacts also encouraged more frequent and varied consultations and contacts between the two countries. As thousands of Ukrainian politicians, military officers, and students visited the United States in these years, a clear-cut pattern emerged: as US tensions with Russia rose -- as they did in Boris Yeltsin's final years in office -- American interest in Ukraine grew.

By 1999, however, a sharp reversal occurred. Washington became disillusioned by events in Ukraine, particularly by the behaviour of Kuchma's government. It criticized the elections of 1999, in which Kuchma was elected for a second time, as being patently unfair and undemocratic. In 2002 the "Kuchma-gate" scandal erupted when Mykola Melnychenko, a Ukrainian security officer, smuggled tapes to the West that implicated the Ukrainian president in the murder of the reporter Hryhorii Gongadze, in money-laundering and electoral fraud. In addition, the tapes indicated that Kuchma, at a time when the United States were enforcing an arms ban on Iraq, secretly sold the "Kolchuga" radar system to the Iraqis.1 As a result, US-Ukrainian relations rapidly cooled. Aid diminished and consultations were aborted. The Ukrainian and American presidents no longer met. The attempts of the new Bush administration to establish a positive relationship with Putin only encouraged this rapid about-face. Kuchma responded in kind. In 2000 he replaced the pro-Western minister of foreign affairs, Borys Tarasyuk, with ANATOlii Zlenko, who was more accommodating to Russia. And he concentrated on developing closer ties with Russia.

As the European Union expanded eastward and accepted Ukraine's neighbours into its fold, it seemed to Ukrainians, who considered themselves Europeans, that they too should be a part of the Union. This was the view not only of the Ukrainian elite, whose business ties with the West Europeans were growing, but also of the general populace that desired to attain the living standards of European Union members. However, during the Kuchma years, the European Union refused not only to set a time for membership but even to entertain the idea of Ukraine entering the Union. It argued that substantial economic and political reforms were needed before any discussion of membership could occur. Obviously a very considerable gap existed between the two sides.

Contacts, however, continued to grow. In 1993 the European Union established an office in Kiev and, two years later, Ukraine did the same in Brussels. In 1998, when Kuchma was still in his pro-Western phase, Ukraine proposed a plan for its integration into the European Union. But the European Union again ignored the Ukrainian initiative. There was, however, considerable disagreement on this issue within the Union itself. Reluctant to irritate the Russians, Germany and France were not forthcoming to the Ukrainians. But countries that had experienced the Kremlin's domination in the past, such as Poland and the Baltic states, were much more encouraging. Consequently, while not mentioning membership, in December 2008 the European Union proposed a limited plan of cooperation with its neighbours to the east called the Eastern Partnership in specific areas such as illegal immigration, energy policy, and weapons control. It also included the possibility of visa-free travel to the West and a tax-free trade zone. For the Ukrainians it was a frustrating situation. It seemed that the European nature of their society was generally acknowledged. Indeed, they were becoming ever more European. Nonetheless, aside from making encouraging gestures, the European Union was not about to accept them into its fold.

Enter NATO

Surprisingly, Ukraine's relations with the West's military alliance, NATO, were more productive and dynamic than those with the economic and political alliance represented by the European Union. Perhaps it was because issues in this relationship were more focused: worried by a re-emergent Russia, NATO was interested in maintaining stability in the former Communist sphere while Ukraine hoped to use NATO to ensure its own security. The event that set the relationship into play occurred in 1992 when Ukraine, under intense American and European pressure, agreed to give up its nuclear arsenal. Ukraine was confronted with a problem: what means could it now use to guarantee its security? Although not enunciated openly, it was clear that the primary threat came from Russia.

After a series of preparatory meetings, in 1995 Ukraine and NATO signed a Partnership for Peace Agreement that established a framework for cooperation. This led to the participation of Ukrainian peacekeepers in Bosnia and Hercegovina, and the formation of a combined Polish-Ukrainian battalion. In 1997, in Madrid, the Ukraine-NATO Partnership Agreement was signed. This deepened the relationship. It stressed that international law formed the basis for solving disputes, that formation of spheres of influence -- clearly aimed at Russia -- should be avoided, and that consultations, training of troops, and military exercises should be used to strengthen Ukrainian independence. It did not, however, offer Ukraine membership in the alliance. In 1999, at the Fiftieth Anniversary of NATO celebrated in Washington, Kuchma participated in the formation of the Ukraine-NATO Commission, which was meant to expand the relationship even further.

In late 1999, for the same reasons that caused American disillusionment with Kuchma, an abrupt cooling of relations occurred between Ukraine and NATO. This led the Ukrainian president to emphasize once more Ukraine's ambiguous "multi-vector" policy. Soon thereafter he turned towards Russia and began discussions on closer economic and military cooperation. This did not mean, however, that he was ready to ignore NATO. On the contrary, even while drawing closer to the Kremlin, Kuchma, to the great annoyance of the Russians, did not want to isolate himself from the West. In 2002 another Action Plan was signed between NATO and Ukraine that was to prepare the latter for potential entry into the military alliance. More concretely, in 2003 Ukrainian troops were sent to Iraq to support NATO forces deployed there. But this did not produce concrete results. Russian pressure, German reluctance, and weakening American support led NATO, at its meeting in Brussels in December 2008, to postpone once more a membership plan for Ukraine and Georgia. Fearful of military conflicts in either of these two countries, the West's military alliance decided to keep them waiting.2


At least at first glance, the important role Poland played in Ukraine's international relations was surprising. Given their long and bitter history, one might have expected there to be a certain coolness between the two states. But the opposite turned out to be the case. From the outset it was clear that, if international problems arose in the future, they would come from Russia. Poles said this openly; Ukrainians did so more cautiously. Consequently, both countries realized that they should concentrate on common interests -- safeguarding themselves from Russian aggressiveness -- rather than old animosities.

The Poles took the initiative. They were the first country to recognize Ukrainian independence. A cornerstone of their foreign policy became the support of an independent, stable, and democratic (and pro-Western) Ukraine. Indeed, Poland became a primary advocate for Ukraine's desire to enter the European Union and to join NATO. In many ways, Poland became, as it had been in the past, Ukraine's "Gateway to the West." After the initial enthusiasm, when institutional ties with Ukraine expanded rapidly, a more realistic phase began in the mid-1990s. Ukraine's internal weaknesses, its catastrophic economy, and the possibility of an east/west split in Ukraine, on the one hand, and Poland's concentration on becoming a member of NATO and the European Union, on the other hand, led to a certain cooling in relations between the two countries. But in the late 1990s and early 2000s the relationship again became dynamic and constructive.

The possibility that Ukraine might follow Belarus into the Russian sphere of influence alarmed the Poles. Moreover, growing Ukrainian-Polish trade reinforced the need to expand contacts. In 1997 President Kwasniewski visited Kiev. A year later the two presidents honoured both Polish and Ukrainian soldiers buried in the Luchakivsky cemetery in Lviv. In following years both sides acknowledged and regretted the massacres and forced resettlements that occurred during and soon after the Second World War. In 2007 Poland and Ukraine were chosen by FIFA, the world soccer federation, to host the European championship in 2012. Minor variations notwithstanding, it was clear that supporting Ukraine in its pro-Western tendencies was a priority of Polish diplomacy.


Of all Ukraine's foreign relations, those with Russia were the most crucial. They were each other's closest and most important neighbours. Their economics were largely interdependent, especially in the sphere of energy. And their cultural, historical, and social ties were very close. The fact that about 17% of Ukraine's population was Russian, about half of the country spoke Russian, and the large Russian Black Sea Fleet was based on Ukrainian territory in Sevastopol only emphasized the obvious point that relations between the two countries required special attention.

Even as he tried to improve relations with the European Union and NATO, Kuchma had to pay close attention to Ukraine's big northern neighbour. But as his second term in office began and progress in the West was scant, Russia became the most important focal point of Kuchma's foreign policy. Scandals undermined his relations with the United States and NATO; large, anti-Kuchma demonstrations in Kiev indicated growing weakness at home. Consequently, drawing closer to Russia, now led by the combative Putin, appeared be the most promising option for the Ukrainian president.

Ukraine was quickly drawn into resurgent Russia's welcoming embrace. Kuchma and Putin met frequently, and after each meeting Russian influence in Ukraine seemed to grow. In 2000 Russian capital began to flood into Ukraine, buying up important enterprises on very favourable terms. In 2001 Pope John Paul II visited Ukraine, but the government's response, no doubt reflecting Russian influence, was extremely cool. That same year Prime Minister Yushchenko, suspected of pro-West tendencies, was replaced by Anatolii Kinakh, known for his loyalty to Kuchma. A very telling indicator of the radical changes was NATO's efforts to downplay the Ukrainian president's awkward presence at its conference in 2002. Soon afterwards, Kuchma openly declared that Russia was Ukraine's most important partner. In 2003 Ukraine joined the Russian-dominated Eurasian Economic Community. Meanwhile, Kuchma was chosen as the first non-Russian to head the Commonwealth of Independent States. It seemed that Ukraine was now firmly in the bloc of post-Soviet states that Putin was drawing together as a counterbalance to the European Union and the United States.

The shift towards Russia was not total, however. Kuchma was too clever a politician to deprive himself of all options. In 2003 a book appeared under his name entitled Ukraine Is Not Russia. It made the point that drawing closer to its neighbour to the north did not mean that Ukraine was about to surrender its national interests and distinct identity. That same year, when Russia tried to encroach on Ukraine's borders in Tuzla Island in the Sea of Azov, both Ukrainian public opinion and the president resolutely and successfully resisted. Even while moving ever closer to Putin -- personal relations between the two men were very good -- Kuchma repeatedly noted that Ukraine still hoped to join the European Union. But where it counted, it was clear that Kuchma was firmly on Putin's side.

Yushchenko's policies

New presidents often mean new policies. However, vhen Yushchenko was elected president after the Orange Revolution of 2004, his foreign policies differed from those of his predecessor in the extreme. This was not entirely surprising. Putin's increasingly authoritarian Russia had been an unabashed and committed supporter of Yushchenko's rival, Yanukovych. Moreover, Yushchenko appeared to represent democratic values like those espoused in the West. Both the United States and the European Union clearly backed him. As a result, the new president quickly abandoned Ukraine's traditionally ambiguous multi-vector policy with its strong pro-Russian orientation and openly declared that his primary foreign policy goal was to draw closer to the West. Ukraine, he often stated, was an "obviously European country." This meant drawing closer to the European Union, a position that most Ukrainians supported. It also meant joining NATO, which was a move that the vast majority of the population rejected.

Yushchenko's desire to see Ukraine become a member of NATO greatly angered Russia, which considered the possibility of the Western military alliance drawing right up to its borders to be a major threat to its security. Despite making a conciliatory initial visit to Moscow in January 2005, the new president's relations with Russia began badly. And they grew worse. After Moscow, Yushchenko embarked on a series of visits to key capitals in the West where, as a result of positive media exposure, he had, at least initially, celebrity status. A meeting with Secretary-General Javier Solana revived hopes for Ukraine's closer cooperation with the European Union. And at the European Parliament in Strasbourg Yushchenko argued for Ukraine's inclusion in the Europe community. In April 2005 Yushchenko visited Washington and met with George Bush. The visit bore concrete results. Not long afterwards, the United States removed Ukraine from the list of former Soviet states to whom the restrictions of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment applied. He also received assurances that the United States would support Ukraine s efforts to join NATO. The West's welcoming gestures were clearly very different from the cold shoulder it had shown to his predecessor.

Soon, however, problems emerged. Implicit in the West's welcoming attitude was the assumption that Ukraine would launch its long-delayed domestic reforms. These reforms, it was hoped, would bring the country closer to European norms and make cooperation easier. It quickly became apparent, however, that the new president would make little progress in this area. Unwilling to threaten the interests of Ukrainian oligarchs, confronted by numerous domestic enemies, especially in the East, and confronted by growing tensions with the popular Tymoshenko, his partner from Orange Revolution days, the new president's domestic policies soon disillusioned many of his supporters. All this made it difficult for Yushchenko to pursue his foreign policies.

The election to parliament in 2006 complicated matters further. It resulted in the unexpected appointment of Yanukovych as prime minister and the occupation by members of the Donetsk clan of many key government positions. The new prime minister and his Cabinet clearly wished to reduce tensions with Russia. Consequently, the policies of the president and the prime minister diverged sharply. An indication of the mounting tension was Yanukovych's concerted and successful effort to force the resignation in 2006 of the president's appointee, Borys Tarasyuk, a pro-West foreign minister, from the Cabinet. This, however, brought little satisfaction to the pro-Russian prime minister. At about the same time, Russia increased its pressure on Ukraine by shutting off deliveries of natural gas. After several days of national and international consternation, the flow of gas resumed. But the price that the Russians demanded from Ukraine for their gas was much higher than before. Internal tensions brought on another parliamentary election in September 2007. This time Yanukovych failed to gain a majority, and Tymoshenko became prime minister with a paper-thin majority. Her Cabinet included Minister of Foreign Affairs Volodymyr Ohrysko, a strong proponent of pro-Western policies.

Why did Yushchenko, despite fierce opposition from Russia and his domestic foes -- especially the adherents of Russia who regularly organized anti-NATO demonstrations in Crimea where joint Ukraine-NATO exercises took place -- insist on bringing Ukraine into NATO? Like many others, he believed that the military alliance would guarantee Ukraine's security, especially from potential threats from Russia. Moreover, it would bring Ukraine closer to Europe. The relationship with the West, however, was becoming ever more convoluted and complex. Although Ukraine cooperated with NATO in many ways and received from it encouraging signals, especially while post-Orange Revolution enthusiasm was still high in the West, it made little concrete progress in gaining membership. Lack of meaningful reforms in Ukraine was one reason. Moreover, France and Germany, fearful of irritating Russia, their major supplier of energy, also discouraged progress. Even strong American support could not bring Ukraine into the military alliance. his became evident at the NATO meeting in Brussels in December 2008 when Ukraine was asked, once more, to wait.

Although Ukrainian efforts to gain entry into the European Union did not have the fierce opponents that the pro-NATO camp inspired, the results were similarly unclear and frustrating. In 2005 the European Parliament expressed desire to expand Ukraine's economic integration in and political cooperation with the European Union. In that year a joint Action Plan that was to work toward this end was concluded. Certainly, the growing economic contacts were encouraging. Between 2000 and 2007, trade between the European Union and Ukraine grew by more than 300%. Nonetheless, Ukraine still accounted for only 2% of the European Union's exports. The never-ending political conflicts within Ukraine and lack of reforms continued to raise doubts about Ukraine readiness to enter the European Union. Ever sensitive about what Russian reactions might be, Germany led the other countries of "Old Europe" in urging that no legally binding commitment be made to Ukraine. However, some half measures were allowed. In September 2008 in Paris Ukraine signed an association agreement with the Union. It called for the negotiation of a free trade zone and raised the possibility of a more liberal visa regime. Once again, while stating that "Ukraine's future was in Europe" the European Union made no commitment regarding membership.

Despite these frustrations, due in large part to Ukraine's chaotic internal politics, Yushchenko did not abandon his pro-Western policies. This was evident in his active support of pro-Western Georgia in its confrontation with Russia. When the brief conflict broke out between Georgia and Russia in September 2008, Yushchenko joined other East European presidents in rushing to Tbilisi to show his support for the Georgians. The conflict also revealed that Ukraine had, legally but very irritatingly for Russia, provided Georgia with arms. Another expression of Yushchenko's pro-Georgian stance was the restrictions that the Ukrainian government attempted to impose on the return of the Russian Black Sea Fleet from the area of conflict to its base in Sevastopol.

The Ukrainian president's pro-Western policies did bring some indirect benefits for Ukraine. In February 2008 it was accepted into the World Trade Organization (WTO) while Russia's application still remained under consideration. When the global financial crisis struck in the fall of 2008, the International Money Fund (IMF) offered Ukraine a loan of $16.4 billion to help it deal with the financial strains on its banking system. The fact that American influence was strong in both of these international organizations undoubtedly worked to Ukraine's advantage.

It was, however, the strained relationship with Russia that increasingly overshadowed the Ukrainian president's foreign policy. It was clear that Ukraine and Russia would, sooner or later, have to find a way to resolve the tensions between them. These confrontations often flared up as a result of the deep-rooted stereotypes that each side had about the other. As Putin's Russia strove to regain its international prominence and regional dominance, it proved difficult for the Kremlin to accept its former "younger brother" as an independent and equal state (although the inhabitants of both countries had a much more positive view of each other). Indeed, in 2008 Putin clearly stated to Bush that Ukraine was not really a full-fledged state.3 Most Russians did not consider Ukraine a separate nation. For its part, Ukraine's political elite was extremely sensitive to what it perceived as Russian "bullying" and it used every opportunity to emphasize its national distinctiveness.

There were, however, more concrete reasons for the tensions between the two states. The fact that Russia provided Ukraine with much of its energy and set prices to serve its interests was a constant cause of concern for the Ukrainians. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government's insistence that Russia's Black Sea Fleet, based in Sevastopol, should leave when its lease ran out in 2017 irritated the Kremlin, leading it to encourage pro-Russian tendencies in the largely Russian-populated Crimea. The sensitive issue of the role of the Russian language and media in Ukraine, aroused not only Ukrainian- and Russian-speakers in the country but involved sharp exchanges between Russian and Ukrainian governments.4

As 2008 drew to a close, it was evident that adding to or even maintaining tensions in the highly strained Ukrainian-Russian relationship was unproductive for both sides. Early indications that a more conciliatory approach was needed came from Prime Minister Tymoshenko, who adopted a more balanced view of the Georgia-Russia conflict than President Yushchenko. Moreover, in her negotiations with Putin about energy issues there were further indications of her efforts to find grounds for better understanding between the two states. Meanwhile, Yanukovych travelled to Moscow to participate in United Russia's party congress and to emphasize, once more, that he stood for improved Ukrainian-Russian relations. The leader of Ukraine's Communists, Petro Symonenko, did the same. Even Yushchenko himself, disillusioned by lack of progress in his pro-West policies, seemed to be slowly coming to the conclusion that a constructive and mutually beneficial relationship with Russia was needed. For this purpose, he created a special commission to study ways in which improved relations could best be achieved. It appeared that major changes in Ukraine's foreign policy were in the making.

The Ukrainian-Russian "Gas War"

As 2009 began, the extremely sensitive and important Ukrainian-Russian relationship engendered a sharp confrontation. Western media called it the "gas war." The origins of the conflict reached back to Soviet times when natural gas was obtained in Russia and transported to Europe by a transit system that ran primarily through Ukraine. Since 1991 the two countries argued repeatedly about how best to divide the benefits from this energy trade. In 2006, after an altercation with Ukraine that saw Russia briefly shut down its gas deliveries to Europe, it was decided that Ukraine, in return for providing its northern neighbour with cheap transportation facilities, would pay Gazprom, the Russian gas company, $179.50 per 1,000 cubic metres of gas. This was far below the market price. Moreover, at the suggestion of Putin, Gazprom and the Ukrainians established, on very opaque terms, the Rosukrenergo company to act as a middleman in the relationship.

On 1 January 2009, arguing that Russia was no longer willing to provide Ukraine with cheap, subsidized gas, Gazprom demanded that the Ukrainians pay $250 per 1,000 cubic metres. When Kiev protested, Gazprom raised the price to $450. Tense negotiations continued. They became more confrontational when, on 7 January, Gazprom accused Ukraine of siphoning off Europe-bound gas, an accusation that the Ukrainians vehemently denied. Nonetheless, the Russians cut off all gas deliveries to Europe. This meant that European countries, especially those in the eastern and central parts of the continent, were deprived, in the midst of a very cold winter, of the means to heat their homes. Suddenly, an apparently commercial altercation between two countries on the continent's periphery became an extremely pressing, all-European problem. It was the first time Europe had run into such difficulties and the EU became heavily involved in pressuring both Ukraine and Russia to find a solution as soon as possible.

A well-prepared Russian public relations campaign sought to present Ukraine as the main culprit. The Ukrainians denied all accusations. Meanwhile, the EU, furious and frustrated, blamed both countries. Finally, on 19 January, the two prime ministers, Yulia Tymoshenko and Vladimir Putin, met in Moscow and, after exhausting negotiations, reached an agreement. As a result, Ukraine agreed to pay, in 2009, the market price for gas minus discount of 20%. Thereafter, Ukraine would pay the European average price for gas and Russia would pay market rates for the transportation of the gas in 2010 but at reduced rates in 2009. The agreement was for ten years. Moreover, Tymoshenko obtained the removal of Rosukrenergo, which she accused of corruption, from the commercial relationship. According to the Ukrainian prime minister, the agreement was a victory for Ukraine (her rival, Yushchenko, called it a defeat); the Russians believed that they gained the upper hand. And Europe, disillusioned by both countries, began to consider alternate sources and supply routes for its gas.

From the outset, it was clear that the "gas war" was not only a commercial conflict. Still smarting from his setback in 2004, Putin was clearly eager to punish Yushchenko, by applying pressure on the vulnerable Ukrainian economy, for his pro-Western policies and support of Georgia in the fall of 2008. Moreover, he hoped to widen the gap between Ukraine and the EU. The internal Ukrainian political conflict between Tymoshenko and Yushchenko also played a role, with the former eager to show that she, unlike the president, was capable of coming to a understanding with Russia. In broader terms, however, the conflict had a crucial impact on the Ukraine-Russia relationship. The long-standing view that Ukrainians and Russians shared a uniquely close and fraternal relationship suffered a major setback. Meanwhile, the perception that the two peoples lived in separate, sovereign states that should and did pursue their own particular interests grew.

State and Nation Building

By 2000 Ukraine's existence as an independent state had become generally acknowledged. It was accepted into the international community, and its state served as the primary political framework for its inhabitants. Ukraine now had all the external features of statehood: president, parliament, a constitution, government ministries, a large bureaucracy, political parties, an army and police forces, taxes, and passports. This, however, did not mean that the state was strong and effective. On the contrary, as was the case in many other post-Communist countries, Ukrainian statehood, compared to its Soviet predecessor, was relatively weak and unstable.

State building

Essentially, the problem was that that the state was not guided by, and it certainly did not work for, the public interest. In the early 2000s the Ukrainian state was largely under the sway of the new oligarchic elite. When the USSR collapsed, many of the more flexible members of the old Communist elite left politics and concentrated on enriching themselves by privatizing what had once been state property. By the 2000s this new and wealthy elite returned to politics in order to manipulate the state and its policies on its own behalf. To achieve this end, however, a weak state was much more desirable than a strong one. Consequently, although Ukraine possessed all the usual features of statehood, these functioned primarily to serve the interests of the influential. Wealth and connections, not the rule of law or the common good, often decided what policies would be adopted. Reforms that might make the state more effective were not something that the new elite desired. Thus, while the Ukrainian state existed and even expanded, the benefits that it brought to society as a whole were limited.

There were, of course, variations in this general state of affairs. To a large extent they depended on who was president, that is, who occupied the highest level in the state hierarchy. During Kuchma's presidency, particularly the second term from 1999 to 2004, there was a tendency to use the state to support the increasing authoritarianism. This became especially evident in 2002 when the president expanded his presidential secretariat, run by the ruthless Viktor Medvedchuk, to exert greater control over the government apparatus and society as a whole. As a result, media censorship increased and opposition businessmen were frequently harassed by the tax department. However, the results of the parliamentary elections of 2002 hindered the president's attempts to control parliament. Despite presidential interference, the national democratic opposition did well in these elections. This meant that the 450-member parliament would continue to be an institution that could stand up to the president. True, many of the parliamentarians -- according to some estimates about 300 deputies were millionaires -- belonged to the oligarchic elite. Yet only some supported the president while others sided with his opposition. And a recalcitrant parliament hindered the imposition of complete presidential control.

Formally, the parliamentary deputies were members of political parties. But Ukrainian political parties were not parties in the Western sense. Some had vague ideological platforms, with those on the centre and right of the political spectrum espousing nationalist or national democratic values and pro-Western orientation, while those on the left supported socialist internationalism and pro-Russian positions. More important, however, was the identification of these parties with the person of their leaders. Thus, politics often had a strong admixture of personality conflicts. Except for the fading Communists, the political parties usually did not have large grass-roots organizations nor did they represent significant segments of society. Instead they were often controlled by major oligarchic clans and their leaders. Most were based in the largely industrial regions of the country. Thus, the Party of Regions, based in Donetsk, was led by Yanukovych; Medvedchuk and Surkis in Kiev headed the Social Democrats (united); and the Labour Party in Dniepropetrovsk had Pinchuk as its leader.

In 2001 there were about 2.5 million party members, that is, approximately 5% of the population belonged to 125 political parties, most of which vere little more than formal entities. Membership in the largest parties comprised Communists - 140,000, Socialists - 60,000, Rukh I - 47,000, Rukh II - 48,000, and Social Democrats (the party of power that dominated the government) - 350,000. The Party of Regions claimed 400,000 members, but this figure was probably exaggerated. Loyalty to one particular party was not great. Between 2002 and 2005 numerous members of parliament, most probably because of bribes or blackmail, changed party affiliation. Ukrainian political parties, therefore, were not a promising base for building a democratic society.

A major change in the prerogatives of the presidency occurred in 2004 during the Orange Revolution. In order to convince his opponents to accept his presidency, Yushchenko agreed to important changes in the constitution that limited the president's power. Henceforth, the president had the right to appoint only the ministers of foreign affairs and defence. The prime minster and other ministers were chosen by the dominant party or coalition of parties in parliament. Ostensibly this weakening of the presidency and strengthening of parliament brought the Ukrainian political system closer to those of Central and Eastern Europe. However, as formulated in Ukraine, there were serious flaws: their ambiguous wording in the constitution created a competition between president and prime minister for power. This set the stage for continual conflict at the top of the government apparatus and created instability in its branches.

The new government, and specifically Minister of Defence Anatoli Hrytsenko, did attempt to introduce reforms into the military. By 2008 Ukrainian military forces consisted of about 150,000 active personnel, far below the unmanageable levels of the 1990s. Moreover, there were 33,000 Ministry of Interior troops and close to 50,000 border guards. The primary goal was to transform the military, which was based on the draft, into an army of professionals. However, it soon became apparent that the state simply lacked the money to achieve this goal. Consequently, a professional army remained something to strive for in the future. Meanwhile, burdened with increasingly obsolescent weaponry, the military continued to exist on a meagre budget, about 1.4% of the GDP in 2005.

When he was elected, Yushchenko agreed to introduce reforms in local government, by providing it with more funds and greater decentralization. Furthermore, he indicated that he would strive to eliminate the widespread corruption. However, when the 2007 parliamentary elections brought his rival, Tymoshenko, into the office of prime minister, a struggle for primacy between the two erstwhile allies soon broke out. The reforms in local administration as well as the promised assault on corruption were quickly forgotten. Instead of reforms, the government structure of Ukraine remained mired in a "cursed triangle" of competitors: a destructive struggle among the president, the prime minister, and parliament.

How did the population of Ukraine react to these developments? The general response was highly negative. In 2007, only 8% indicated that they had confidence in their government, while 83% stated that the government was thoroughly corrupt. Evaluations of other government institutions and functions were equally low: only 8% trusted the courts and only 18% had confidence in the electoral process. The 33% confidence rating in the military was significantly higher, and religious institutions enjoyed the highest approval rating, 47%.5 This sorry state of affairs reflected the growing government bureaucracy's traditional tendency to bully citizens, unless paid appropriate bribes, rather than help them. Consequently, a huge gap developed between the people and the vlada, or powers-that-be, with average citizens trying to have as little as possible to do with the government that was supposedly there to serve them.

Nation building

As a new state, Ukraine clearly needed a consolidated society to support it. Given the ethnic, linguistic, and regional differences in the country, creating a sense of national unity and solidarity was a difficult ask. Differences between the western and the eastern regions were daunting enough. Numerous other identities -- religious, local, regional, Soviet, Uurasian, and even pan-European -- also competed with the national one. Nonetheless, the effort to create a widely accepted Ukrainian identity did have one advantage that it never had before: the existence of an independent and sovereign Ukrainian state meant that for the first time the effort to instil Ukrainian national consciousness could utilize the resources of the state and not, as in the past, have to struggle against them.

The politics of identity, therefore, became largely the domain of the Ukrainian state and the political elite and not, as had previously been the case, of the intelligentsia. This meant, for example, that such important institutions is the school system could be utilized, in terms of language use and curriculum, to support the Ukrainian national idea. Nonetheless, the widespread use of Russian and the existence of pro-Russian attitudes still remained prevalent, especially in the large cities and regions of the east and south. Therefore, nation building remained a complicated, slow-moving process, one that depended greatly on those who led the state. When Kuchma was in power, he preferred not to emphasize the issue of national identity, perhaps on account of his own background. However, his successor, Yushchenko, made it one of his priorities.

What it meant to be Ukrainian continued to revolve around the two concepts that appeared with independence in 1991: the one stressed the civic aspect of Ukrainian citizenship and the other was based on ethnic-cultural background. The civic aspect, with its pluralistic, multicultural dimension, appealed to many Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian inhabitants of the country, It was especially widespread in the east and south where many Russians and other non-Ukrainians lived and where Russian was primarily spoken. Despite their ethnic Ukrainian majorities, these areas consisted of lands colonized in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries under the aegis of the Russian empire and by other ethnic groups. Moreover, their industrial centres attracted many Russian workers. Consequently, a civic definition of nationality was preferred here. In the central and especially the western areas of the country, where more than 90% of the inhabitants were ethnic Ukrainians and where they had been the clear majority for centuries, it was the ethnic definition of nationality, based on Ukrainian language, ethnic roots, and cultural traditions that had the greatest appeal. Government policies tended to vacillate between these two options of how to define nationality, although more frequently they favoured the civic variant since it was more inclusive and less problematic politically. Be that as it may, the census ot 2001 revealed an increase in the number of those who identified themselves as ethnic Ukrainians from 72% to 77% and a decline of those who considered themselves to be Russians, from 22% to 17%. It was an indication of how easily, depending on political circumstances, one could move from one national identity to the other.

Of greater concern to most Ukrainians, however, was the language question. It had a strong emotional aspect as well as a practical, career-oriented dimension. Ukrainian was the official language of the country. In 2001 more than 70% of its schools and universities used it and this percentage continued to grow. It was also the language of government. Of the country's inhabitants 67.5% considered Ukrainian their native tongue (14.5% stated that it was Russian). Compared to the late Soviet period, the status and prestige of the Ukrainian language improved considerably. In the west, 91% considered it their native language, in the centre the figure was about 72%, and in the east and south it was approximately 38%.6

While the status of Ukrainian rose, it did not mean that it was the predominant language in the land. Russian continued to dominate in the big cities and large parts of the east and south. While Ukrainian was generally utilized in the government-controlled television and radio, Russian was used most often in the privately owned newspapers and book publications. In short, little changed in language use in Ukraine. Clearly Russian continued to retain its association with modernity, urban life, and cultural richness. Especially among young urban dwellers it was the "cool" language. However, although constantly debated and of great political significance, the language issue was not something Ukrainians were willing to fight about. Indeed, they demonstrated remarkable tolerance as to who chose to use which language. Most probably, widespread bilingualism took the edge off a potentially explosive issue.


In a country as large as Ukraine with a history that varied greatly from region to region, it was inevitable that regionalism would be a factor of considerable importance. Not surprisingly, the autonomous republic of Crimea continued to be especially problematic. Its status had both national and international ramifications. The 2 million inhabitants of the peninsula were mostly Russians: they constituted 52% of the population, whereas Ukrainians were 25% and Tatars 18%. In addition, the Russian Black Sea Fleet, with about 15,000 Russian military personnel, was based in Sevastopol. Relatively quiescent during the Kuchma presidency, Ukrainian-Russian tensions mounted during Yushchenko's years in office. As the president pushed his pro-Western policies, Crimea's Russian population, which included many veterans of the Soviet military and government, not only protested; its radical elements repeatedly demonstrated pro-Russian attitudes. They were supported by leading Russian politicians, most notably Yuri Luzhkov, mayor of Moscow, who questioned the legitimacy of Crimea belonging to Ukraine. The largely rural Ukrainian population of the peninsula remained passive. However, the Crimean Tatars, resentful of Russian dominance in Crimea, supported the central government in Kiev. Complicating the situation even more were the murky interests of the powerful criminal organizations that operated on the peninsula.

In 2005 Ukrainian students protested the Russian navy's use of what were formally Ukrainian installations. A year later pro-Russian elements mounted demonstrations against combined NATO-Ukrainian exercises in Crimea. But in the fall of 2008, during the brief Georgian-Russian armed conflict, tensions reached a high point when the Ukrainian government attempted to restrict the access of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which supported the Russian invasion of Georgia, to its base in Sevastopol. More serious was the Ukrainian insistence that, in accordance with the terms of Treaty of 1997, Russia should prepare to abandon its naval base in Sevastopol by 2017. This confrontation and Russia's actions in Georgia, raised fears, especially in Europe and the United States, that Crimea, despite the Kremlin's assurances to the contrary, would be the next target of Russian expansion.

A much less threatening brush with separatism occurred in November 2004 during the Orange Revolution. Unhappy about the rejection of a Yanukovych presidency, about 3,500 deputies of various jurisdictions representing seventeen oblasts gathered in the city of Severdonetsk in the Luhansk oblast to consider their options. They even threatened to break away from a pro-Yushchenko Ukraine and to form a separate South East Ukrainian Republic. However, this idea was quickly rejected by Yanukovych himself and little came of it. In the fall of 2008 another minor manifestation of separatist tendencies emerged briefly in Transcarpathia when a meeting of 107 delegates, led by Dimitrii Sidor, a priest belonging to the Moscow Patriarchate, demanded autonomy for Rusyns in the region. It also failed to mobilize any meaningful support. Indeed, there was a growing tendency among Ukrainians, while recognizing differences among themselves, not to view these as a justification for separatism. Often when threats of separatism arose, many perceived them to be serving the interests of local politicians rather than reflecting the concerns of the people.

In its attempts to strengthen the sense of national solidarity, the Yushchenko administration laid great stress on the uniqueness of Ukrainian history. To a large extent this was a response to the old Soviet and modern Russian tendency to emphasize the closeness and interweaving of the Russian and Ukrainian past. In contrast to old Soviet attempts to besmirch the OUN-UPA as Nazi collaborators, the government presented them as praiseworthy fighters for Ukrainian independence. A high point of this tendency occurred in 2008 when Roman Shukhevych, commander of UPA (and viewed in Russia as an inveterate enemy), was posthumuously awarded the Hero of Ukraine medal, much to the irritation of Russia and the many Red Army veterans in Ukraine. But the greatest effort to emphasize Ukraine's historical specificity was the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Great Famine. This undertaking, which had some success in mobilizing international recognition of the famine, greatly irritated the Kremlin, which interpreted the commemorations not only as a tactic to stress Ukrainian and Russian differences but to blame it for the tragedy. Nonetheless, even in southern and eastern Ukraine, where scepticism about aspects of Ukrainization was frequently expressed, the response to the Famine commemorations was positive, probably because in these areas the tragedy claimed most of its victims. Although the Russian-speaking regions in Ukraine also accepted many pro-Europe aspects of national historiography, they rejected the anti-Russian components that new versions of Ukraine's past often included, a feature that west Ukrainians often emphasized.

Although many Ukrainians continued to believe that their society was largely fragmented, and although their views on nationhood varied considerably, there were, nonetheless, indications of some consolidation. In 2008 opinion polls revealed that in response to the question whether they would choose Ukraine as their homeland if they had a choice, 76% of those over sixty and 64.5% between eighteen and twenty-eight responded in the affirmative. In a 2007 poll, asked if they considered themselves to be Ukrainian patriots, 44.2% responded with "yes" and 35.6% with "rather yes" (about 14% did not consider themselves to be patriots of Ukraine).7 Thus, while regional, ethnic, and linguistic distinctions continued, it was possible to see progress toward the creation of a modern Ukrainian nation.


Change from the isolation of Soviet times to the unpredictable, dynamic global market was most evident in the economy. In the 1990s the economy of Ukraine was disintegrating: its innumerable ties with former republics were sundered, its factories stood still, its workers were unpaid, and much of the population was sinking into poverty. The country's GDP dropped by more than 60%. But in the 2000s the economy began to adjust to the demands of the market. In the process, signs of improvement began to appear. True, they occurred on such a depressed base that any positive development attracted attention; nonetheless, the indications that market-oriented activity was increasing were undeniable.

In the first years of the new millennium, Ukraine's annual GDP rose by an impressive 7-10% a year. In 2007 it even grew 12%. Moreover, the country's basic economic assets were still formidable: it had great expanses of some of the richest soil in the world, its industrial base was extensive, and its supply of natural resources was bountiful. It also had a large, well-trained labour force that was much cheaper than any in Western Europe. Analysts who looked more closely at the economy of Ukraine began to use the phrase "great potential" with growing frequency.

The first significant signs of revival appeared in the huge steel plants -- some with a workforce of 60,000 -- of the southeast. In Soviet times, Ukraine was one of four top steel producers in the world. Therefore, it is not surprising that its five major steel mills, privatized for most part, were the first to find their way to both old and new markets. Steel products became Ukraine's primary export, constituting about 40% of its total exports. International contacts meant access to modern expertise, which Ukrainian plants, with their antiquated production facilities, desperately needed. Gradually, foreign investments began to flow into the steel sector. Most important was the purchase in 2005 of the Kryvorizhstal plant by the world leader in steel production, Mittal Steel, for $4.8 billion. This reversed the controversial sale of the plant a year earlier to two Ukrainian billionaires, Viktor Pinchuk (Kuchma's son-in-law) and Renat Akhmetov, for the relatively paltry sum of $800 million. But although steel products led the way, conditions in Ukrainian plants were far from satisfactory. In addition to the antiquated production facilities, the huge workforces were relatively unproductive. A Ukrainian steelworker produced only 76% as much as a Polish steelworker, 14% as much as a European, and 11% as much as an American. Thus, Ukraine's strongest performing economic sector continued to suffer from major weaknesses.

Coal mining was another pillar of the Ukrainian economy. Ukraine possessed 3.5% of the world coal reserves and was one of the world's top ten producers of coal. But signs of decline, primarily due to the lack of modernization, were already evident in Soviet times. In the 1990s and early 2000s matters grew worse. A telling indicator was the rapid decline of the workforce: in 1991 it consisted of 511,000 miners but in 2002 it shrank to 252,000. Although it was crucial to steel production and provided much of Ukraine's fuel and electricity, the coal mining sector, based mainly in the Donbas, remained stagnant. Extraction equipment was obsolete, the working conditions were extremely dangerous -- mining disasters were a regular occurrence -- and there was little new investment. Many mines were deeply indebted. For the owners, investing in improvements seemed unfeasible. Consequently, the prospect of closing the numerous unprofitable mines was frequently considered. But since the coal mines remained a crucial part of the economy and neither government nor owners could offer other employment options to the hundreds of thousands of miners and their families who depended on their abysmally low salaries, substandard conditions continued to exist.

A much more encouraging aspect of the economy was the growth of small businesses. Traditionally, this was a realm of economic activity where non-Ukrainians, especially Jews, had been most active. But the poor prospects and low salaries that traditional employment offered forced many to consider "biznes" as a more promising option. Momentum gathered slowly. Initially, it consisted of former teachers, engineers, or doctors travelling to Turkey or China to buy cheap goods and then selling them in hometown bazaars at a small profit. But with time, some accumulated enough capital to open food stores, restaurants, beauty parlours, tourist agencies, home repairs stores, dentist offices, and other businesses geared to the needs of growing numbers of consumers.

By 2007 small businesses had become a significant sector of the economy. They accounted for 20% of all production in Ukraine and grew at the rate of 11% a year. A growing internal market provided a base for this development. By 2007 about 2.6 million small businesses were registered in the country (although about a third proved to be unprofitable and unviable). Major retailers were often financed by European and Russian investors. These small businesses were the sector of the economy that exposed the average Ukrainian most directly to market forces. And it was here that they experienced the market's ability to respond to their needs and wants. The growth of consumerism, aided by the introduction of credit cards, became ever more evident. Nonetheless, Ukrainians still lagged far behind the buying power of West Europeans. For example, the average Ukrainian consumer had only 9% of the buying power of his German counterpart.

In the all-important agricultural sector the situation was more ambiguous. Ukraine possessed 42 million hectares of arable land but only one-third of it was farmed, producing 14% of the country's GDP.8 Despite widespread unemployment in the countryside (often as high as 40%), it still employed 25% of Ukraine's population compared to 5% in the European Union and 3% in the United States. By the early 2000s most former collective farm workers, about 6 million in number, had received title to their shares of the disbanded collective farms. This was a radical transformation in the countryside, perhaps as revolutionary as collectivization had been in the 1930s with the traumatic abolition of private land ownership. Private ownership of land was restored to the countryside (although restrictions remained on the right to sell this land). State ownership of land practically disappeared. Yet all this happened with little fanfare. There were no outbursts of joy or heightened activity among the villagers. The primary reason for this surprising reaction was the fact that the rural population was no longer able or willing to work and benefit from the lands that were returned to it.

A small number attempted to become independent farmers, leasing land from others, investing in farm machinery, hiring labour, and growing crops for the market. Many of their more passive neighbours, accustomed to the less demanding ways of the collective farms (with their numerous opportunities to shirk work or to steal) did not take kindly to such hardy individualists. The more usual option was to rent one's land at extremely low prices, since there were many willing to lease their holdings to the growing numbers of agribusinesses that began to appear, and that were often financed by foreign investors. These large-scale operations could afford major investments, were more efficient than small landowners in producing crops, and had ready access to markets. To many, they constituted the future of farming in Ukraine. Thus, although the fate of the country's large rural population was in doubt, rising food prices throughout the entire world seemed to indicate that the farming that re-emerged in the 2000s in Ukraine was a promising economic undertaking. One way or another, Ukraine's fertile lands were certain to remain a central element in its economy.

After 2004, the economic potential of Ukraine -- its proximity to European markets, its cheap labour and numerous natural resources -- was frequently recognized by international investors. There was, moreover, the hope that the new government would institute more business-friendly policies. Consequently, foreign investment began to flow into Ukraine. In 2006, it amounted to about $4.2 billion. A year later, the figure was almost $8 billion and growing. Despite the financial crisis in 2008, foreign investment in the country grew by 54% more than in the previous year. Most of these funds went into banking, agricultural enterprises, car dealerships, retail malls and outlets, hotels, and machinery manufacturing. In 2008 Germany alone accounted for 20% of these investments. Other European Union countries such as Austria, the Netherlands, and Great Britain allocated another 38%. Surprisingly, Russian investment, which had been dominant in the Kuchma years, made up only 6% while the Americans accounted for a mere 5%. Another 20% of foreign investment funds came from an ostensibly unexpected source: Cyprus. It was, however, not difficult to decipher the real origin of these funds: they came from the offshore bank accounts of many of Ukraine's oligarchs. Apparently even they had decided that the investment of their often illegal gains in their native land was a promising venture.

Slowly, Ukraine's modest participation in global markets began to increase. Its two major trading partners were Russia and the European Union, each taking turns in playing the leading role. Each accounted for about 20% of Ukraine's foreign trade. Between 2002 and 2007 European purchases of Ukrainian products doubled. In addition to its largest export, steel products, Ukraine also exported machinery, chemicals, and agricultural produce. This, however, was a rather limited variety of products to offer on global markets, and it explains why Ukraine was only sixteenth in the European Union's list of trading partners. On the one hand, it demonstrated Ukraine's severely limited ability to rival foreign competitors. On the other hand, it was also an indication that Ukrainian manufacturers were becoming more familiar with the global marketplace and learning how to compete more successfully.Commercial relations with the much-heralded EEC, based on the weak or unbalanced economics of the former Soviet countries, remained moribund. However, in 2008 Ukraine took a major step toward improving its position in global commerce. After many years of negotiation, it was finally accepted into the World Trade Organization (WTO). By forcing Ukrainian manufacturers to make the adjustments required by international commerce, the entry into the wto drew them even more into the global marketplace.

The economic upsurge that characterized the early 2000s could not hide the fact that Ukraine's economy was still saddled with major problems. Because the country failed to introduce reforms into its political and econornic system, the result was one political crisis after another. Such instability, coupled with bureaucratic red tape, pointless restrictions, and corruption frightened off many potential investors. Moreover, there was the problem of energy -- Ukraine imported about 90% of its energy from Russia. Exacerbating the situation was the fact that Ukrainian enterprises were shockingly inefficient in their use of energy. Indeed, Ukraine had the dubious distinction of being a world leader in this regard. Consequently, it was extremely vulnerable to price increases in energy and, as tensions with Russia rose, the low energy prices that Ukraine once enjoyed also increased.

A dramatic reflection of this dilemma came in late 2005 to early 2006 when Russia reacted to protests about price rises by shutting off gas deliveries to Ukraine. The result was momentary panic not only in Ukraine but in all of Europe, because much of the latter's energy supplies flowed through the gas lines in Ukraine. Eventually, the issue was settled, at least temporarily. But henceforth, Ukraine's industries and growing numbers of car owners had to learn to live with oil and gas prices that were ever closer to world market levels. There were other problems: the country's domestic market was still relatively weak, despite the presence of numerous scientific institutes, innovation in the high-tech sector was practically non-existent, and its economic infrastructure, especially in the area of transportation, was woefully inadequate. On top of all this, in the early 2000s inflation hovered at about 10-15% a year, reaching as high as 20% in 2008. Thus, despite encouraging improvements in some sectors of its economy, Ukraine still faced major obstacles in its efforts to modernize the economy.

When the global financial crisis struck in the fall of 2008, its impact on the highly vulnerable economy of Ukraine was great. Indeed, Ukraine, together with Iceland and Hungary, headed the IMF list of countries in urgent need of support. The sudden evaporation of credit was evident in troubles encountered by the country's banks. To prevent runs on their holdings, the banks greatly limited withdrawals. This meant that businesses could not obtain funds to pay salaries. Unemployment quickly rose, especially in the crucial and hard-hit steel sector, where exports declined by more than 20% and steel prices dropped by 50%. About one-third of the workers in the large plants in Mariupol were laid off; thousands of steelworkers and miners lost their jobs or went on unpaid leave in Donetsk. Layoffs spread to all sectors of the economy. Some of the country's oligarchs lost a large part of their wealth.

By October 2008 the country's industrial output sank by 20% and an even greater decline was expected. Meanwhile, the currency, which had been relatively stable, went into a tailspin, losing 20-30% of its value against the US dollar. The situation was even worse on Ukraine's tiny stock market, which sustained losses of about 75%. Suddenly, Ukraine's rosy economy descended into crisis. Conservative estimates called for a 5% decline in its gdp in the coming year. Widespread panic was avoided, however, by a timely loan from the US-backed International Monetary Fund (IMF) of $16.4 billion. The loan had another encouraging aspect: it indicated that the state of Ukraine's economy was of concern to an important international financial organization. For better or worse, the country's economy was well on the way to becoming a part of the global economic system.


The transformation of Ukrainian society from Soviet models to those of the West accelerated in the early 2000s. But even as social change occurred, the country's society retained many uniquely post-Soviet features. Consequently, elements of two very different social systems continued to coexist.

The oligarchic elite

Perhaps most striking was the consolidation of the new elite of Ukraine. For the first time in centuries the elite became Ukrainian: its rise, status, and even plans for the future were based in Ukraine. No longer, as in Soviet, Habsburg, or Russian imperial periods did the most ambitious, talented, or well-connected Ukrainians move to imperial capitals such as Moscow, St Petersburg, and Vienna to make their fortunes. Businessmen, politicians, actors and writers, professionals of every type now accepted Ukraine as the context in which they could best develop their talents. This is not to say that they were ethnically, culturally, or linguistically Ukrainian. Many were not. But for them Ukraine now served as the basic framework for their recent successes and plans for the future.

In terms of origins, most of these oligarchs had usually been clever, opportunistic, and junior members of the former Soviet establishment, and they knew how to use their old connections to great advantage. This helped them, during the chaotic 1990s, to acquire, usually in an illegal or suspect fashion, ownership of Ukraine's huge steel mills, coal mines, chemical and heavy machinery plants, construction companies, and banks. Some monopolized entire industries such as steel production or coal mining, becoming incredibly wealthy in the process. Renat Akhmetov of Donetsk became one of the richest men in Europe with a fortune estimated at $6 billion. Based in Dnepropetrovsk, Viktor Pinchuk accumulated about $5 billion, while Ihor Kolomoisky was valued at over $3 billion. In addition to about a dozen billionaires, several thousand millionaires engaged in banking, energy, and the manufacture of heavy machinery and chemicals. Leading politicians also belonged to this cohort, having used state funds and connections to enrich themselves. Thus, oligarchic interests and politics were very closely linked.

Like the old feudal nobility, many members of the new elite engaged in conspicuous consumption. Kiev, it seemed, had more Mercedes, Bentleys, and Maybachs clogging its ever more crowded streets than other European cities. Huge and elaborate homes, encircled by security fences, sprang up in suburbs such as Koncha Zaspa. The children of oligarchs were often sent to elite schools abroad. However, as opportunities for easy enrichment dwindled in the early 2000s, entry into this group became more difficult, and it increasingly began to function as a closed, privileged caste.

Although many of the oligarchs had regional bases, usually in industrial centres such as Donetsk and Dniepropetrovsk or, to a lesser extent, Odessa and Lviv, they tended to congregate in the capital, Kiev, because it was here they could influence the political decisions that were relevant to their business interests. Indeed, they often viewed the state as yet another instrument for self-enrichment. In the early 2000s the oligarchs, in a fashion typical of all new elites, began to legitimize their recently acquired wealth by conducting business in ever more legal or accepted ways. This helped in developing international connections, especially in the West. Some even attempted to improve their image by engaging in philanthropic or charitable activities. However, in most cases, this did not alter the extremely negative image that they had among the general population. For the most part they were viewed as rapacious and dishonest opportunists who cared little for their workers or the general public. In the fall of 2008 the overbearing confidence of the very rich was badly shaken when the impact of the global financial crisis hit Ukraine. As steel prices fell, industrial production plummeted, and banks tottered, the wealth of many oligarchs declined dramatically. For them it seemed their best times were behind them.

The new middle class

Among Western observers it was common practice to look for signs of a rising Western-style middle class in the former Soviet countries. This reflected the belief that an expanding middle class would provide the social base for the growth of democracy. Signs appeared that such a development was taking place, but they were limited. Given the great number of well-educated individuals in the country, it is not surprising that many considered themselves to be members of the middle class. However, few had incomes of $1000-$3000 a month that, in Ukraine, could support a middle-class lifestyle. In short, this segment of society, which was highly dependent on an expanding economy, was only beginning to form.

The new middle class included professionals, government officials, middle management, small business owners, and employees in foreign-owned businesses. Its members tended to be young, constituting a Ukrainian equivalent of the yuppie generation. Usually they inhabited large cities, especially Kiev, where well-paying jobs were most plentiful. Also Kharkiv, Dniepropetrovsk, Donetsk, Odessa, and Lviv had sizable numbers of this new class. Its members could afford cars, apartments, computers, foreign travel, and even modest dachas. Avid participants in consumer culture, they tried to emulate Western lifestyles. As a rule, this up-and-coming social group was not given to reminiscing about the Soviet past and was more inclined to look to the future. In political terms, it usually espoused liberal views and supported policies that drew its country closer to Europe.

Although expanding, this class was still limited in size. Most optimistic estimates considered that it constituted less than 10% of the population, far below the number needed to form the core of a social structure like that of Western societies.9 The financial crisis of 2008, and particularly job losses in the financial and management sectors, slowed the growth of this social stratum even more. Nonetheless, its impact was noticeable. It provided customers for the assortment of sophisticated goods and services that increasing numbers of retailers provided. Very fashion conscious, it added colour to the once-drab streets of large cities. Its members often supported efforts to change the traditional passivity of Ukrainians into a more activist mode. Most importantly, they usually supported freedom of speech, civic activism, and political awareness.

The fading intelligentsia As a Western-style middle class slowly emerged, another important social group -- the intelligentsia (people with a higher education) -- gradually declined. Since the nineteenth century the intelligentsia, while never numerous, had been in the forefront of ideological and political developments in Ukraine. In Soviet times it formed the literary, artistic, scientific, and technological elite. In the 1980s, the intelligentsia numbered about 2.5 million. And as long as one did not challenge the political order, members of this social group lived relatively well.

But the growing market economy, consumer culture, and mass media had not been kind to the traditional intelligentsia. What it produced -- ideologies, scholarship, and literary and artistic works -- was needed less and less in the consumer-oriented, materialistic society that valued entrepreneurs, managers, computer specialists, and professional politicians. Consequently, the income of many members of the old intelligentsia, especially those in cultural fields and education, decreased greatly. Some managed to move into the new middle class. Others, teachers most notably, slipped lower on the social scale. Statistics reflected the decline: in 1991 there were about 300,000 doktory (the highest academic rank) in Ukraine; in 2008 the number sank to fewer than 140,000. The fact that the golden age of the intelligenty was coming to an end was also reflected in the leadership of crucial political events. In the early 1990s it had still been the traditional, culturally oriented intelligentsia that formed rukh and spearheaded the drive for independence. The Orange Revolution, on the other hand, was led primarily by professional politicians and businessmen.

The troubles of the intelligentsia did not translate into a decline in educational levels. A high level of education, a heritage of Soviet times, remained, the literacy rate was 99.4%, about 15% of the population had higher education, and 78% completed secondary education. There were close to 8 million pupils in primary and secondary schools and about 1 million in post-secondary institutions. Financing education, as usual, was a major problem. In the difficult 1990s it sank from 2.3% of the GDP to 0.6%. Research institutions lost about 70% of their budgets and a significant portion of their personnel. However, by 2006, as the economy improved, expenditures for education rose to 6.3% of the GDP. Efforts were also made to introduce a more democratic, decentralized mode of education. An important step in this direction was Ukraine's acceptance of the Bologna Agreement, which sought to bring its universities closer to the West European models. Another positive feature was the appearance of private institutions of learning, especially on the secondary school level, which introduced some variety and competition into the educational system. Nonetheless, progress was slow. Innovation often met with stubborn resistance, textbooks were frequently substandard, school reforms were only partial, and, as always, financing was inadequate. Thus, while the number of educational opportunities remained high, their quality was in need of improvement.

Other urban dwellers

Urbanization, which began in earnest in Soviet times, continued unabated. About 67% of the country's inhabitants lived in cities and it was obvious that this percentage would increase in the future. In the forefront of urban development was Kiev. It developed into a large -- officially its population was 2.6 million but unofficially it was closer to 4 million -- modern megapolis where jobs were relatively plentiful, cultural attractions frequent and varied, educational opportunities numerous, and career growth promising. As the capital, the city set the tone for urban life in the entire country. Indeed, complaints were often heard that it attracted far more than its share of talented, skilled, and ambitious individuals. Moreover, the capital received by far the largest percentage of foreign capital investment. Other large cities, those of about 1 million inhabitants, were Kharkiv, with its many educational institutions, Dniepropetrovsk, a major industrial centre, Donetsk, known for its coal and steel production as well as it rich, powerful "mafia," the colourful seaport Odessa, heavily industrialized Zaporizhia, and picturesque Lviv. The last was the only major city that was Ukrainian-speaking; Russian dominated in the other urban centres. Inhabited by relatively sophisticated citizens -- it was usually in large cities that the 7% of the country's population that owned computers lived -- they offered most employment opportunities and the greatest variety of consumer goods.

Life in smaller cities such as Krvyi Rih, Mykolaiv, Mariupol, Luhansk, Poltava, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil, Chernivtsi, Uzhorod, Vynntysia, Rivne, and Chernihiv was much less dynamic and often provincial. For the most part, these smaller cities were far behind the large urban centres in economic development. However, some of these cities, notably those in the west, such as Chernivtsi and Ivano-Frankivsk, boasted impressive Habsburg-era buildings and attracted more foreign investment than others in their category. Mid-sized urban centres in the east, however, were usually drab and economically passive. Small towns in Ukraine were usually characterized by little commercial activity, high unemployment, few opportunities, and many inhabitants who were absorbed by the struggle to survive. Numerous inhabitants in these towns were also preoccupied with finding ways to move to larger urban centres or to find work abroad.

The problem of unemployment and low salaries was especially acute in the primarily rural western oblasts, where unemployment was several times higher and salaries about half those in the country as a whole. There was some improvement in the housing of the inhabitants of large urban centres. Most apartments had been privatized, making their inhabitants owners of their dwellings. In the large cities, especially Kiev, where real estate prices grew at one of the fastest rates in the world, even owners of modest apartments significantly raised their net worth. Communal apartments, shared by several families and widespread in Soviet days, largely disappeared. Many Ukrainians renovated their dwellings. However, costs of maintenance rose steadily, availability of hot water and heating was often unreliable, and common areas were frequently neglected. Moreover, it was not uncommon for members of several generations to live in the same apartment.

The wages of most urban inhabitants were generally low, about $300-500 a month on average. However, Kievans often earned about 40% more than that. The variety of employment was typical of large urban centres: skilled and unskilled labourers, employees in the service and retail sectors, clerks, minor government officials, taxi drivers, bookkeepers, street vendors, business employees, teachers, nurses, technicians, and the like. In Donetsk coal miners were numerous, in Zaporizhia it was steelworkers, and in Dnepropetrovsk industrial workers predominated. Urban dwellers frequently had to take two or even three jobs in order to make ends meet. For most of them their earnings allowed for survival -- the cost of living was still relatively low -- but little else. The contrast to West European living standards was glaring: on average the spending power of West Europeans was eight times greater than that of Ukrainians. The average consumer in Ukraine could afford only 9% of what an average German could buy. For most Ukrainians it was common to depend on help from family, especially parents, and friends, in times of need. Despite the improving economy, approximately 25-35% still lived in poverty.

In sharp contrast to Soviet times, feelings of financial insecurity were widespread. Salaries were frequently paid irregularly and working conditions were often poor. Between 2000 and 2005 inflation was about 10-12% but it rose to over 20% in 2008. For growing numbers of the elderly, the pensions they depended on were very meagre, usually about $20-40 a month. Officially medical care was free, but one usually had to pay for medicine and food in the poorly equipped hospitals. Bribing doctors to get better care was common practice. Women, although as qualified as men, were often at a disadvantage in the labour market. Generally they had the lowest-paid jobs and were the first to be fired. Consequently, about 80% of the unemployed were female. Little wonder that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian women sought work abroad. Many became trapped in the growing and exploitive sex trade.

To make matters worse, alcoholism increased. One in three males and one in twelve females was a heavy drinker. Moreover, the number addicted to drugs and suffering from HIV also rose. Even when living standards improved after 2000 -- by as much as 80% in the 2000-4 period alone -- many Ukrainians remained pessimistic, complaining that they were very dissatisfied with the current state of their society. In terms of global standards of living, Ukraine was only about seventy-sixth in world, a rating similar to that of other post-Soviet societies.

The declining village

For centuries Ukrainian language, folk culture, and economy, indeed all that was considered genuinely Ukrainian, was based in the village. It was the core of the country's society and the primary source of its national distinctiveness. It was here that traditions were preserved, customs respected, and religion practised, and here too where the roots of many Ukrainian families lay. Its inhabitants lived in their own houses, worked their gardens, cared for livestock, and existed in their own small, relatively isolated worlds. By the early 2000s, however, the rural population, constituting about 15 million inhabitants or 33% of the country's inhabitants, began to undergo fundamental changes. In almost every region it slowly declined. Diminishing numbers of rural dwellers was, of course, a global phenomenon. But given the importance of the village in Ukrainian life and identity, this disturbing transformation was especially meaningful and far-reaching.

Life in the village had always been hard. In the 1990s, as the collective farm system gradually disintegrated, as fuel and farm machinery were far beyond the means of an average farmer, and as a market for his products was lacking, mere survival was the primary concern for most villagers. Moreover, many of the villagers' city-based relatives made the trek to their home villages to grow food to help family members survive. In the early 2000s, however, signs of change began to appear. Former collective farm workers received shares of former collective farm land. But they lacked the means to work these plots. Therefore they usually rented them out, at minimal rates, to agricultural entrepreneurs or risk-taking farmers who began to appear. Villagers concentrated their efforts on their garden plots that provided them with most of their food. Hard work and lack of opportunity -- unemployment in the countryside was about 17%, two to three times higher than in urban centres -- did not appeal to the younger generation, who often moved to cities. Consequently, the village population grew not only smaller but older. By 2006 over 30% of the villagers were beyond retirement age and dependent on their meagre pensions. Generating greater income was difficult, however, because wages in the countryside were very low, less than half of industrial wages. As result, about 66% of the rural population lived below the poverty level.10

The general upsurge in Ukraine's economy that came after 2004 brought improvements to the village. Rising prices for food allowed many villagers to earn additional income. Often, especially in the western regions, villagers sought work abroad, sending money back home to support their families (although the extended absence of a wife or husband created a new set of problems). Generally, women from western parts of Ukraine found employment as domestics or caregivers to the elderly in Italy, Spain, and Portugal, while men from the eastern regions sought work in Russia, usually in construction. As a result, between 2001 and 2006 rural incomes more than tripled. Although this was still less than the increase in incomes in the cities, it did mean that money became more plentiful in the villages.

Most important was the increase in socio-economic differentiation as the number of those who considered themselves to be well off rose from 0.5% in 2002 to 5% in 2006. The percentage of the very poor declined from 91% in 2001 to 45% in 2006. There were, of course, regional differences. Although their land was less fertile, village households in the western regions appeared to be more economically feasible while those in eastern regions such as Luhansk or Donetsk, despite the fertile soil, had much less promising prospects. The stronger traditions of private ownership in the west may help explain these differences.

Economic improvement did not mean, however, economic strength. Consequently, by 2008, the economic options available to many ageing villagers were rather stark: they could rent their land to increasing numbers of large agribusinesses, often foreign owned, for minimal prices, thus encouraging the development of Latin American-style latifundia, or they could try to develop -- with government subsidies or expensive bank loans -- small but efficient family farms similar to those in Western Europe and Poland. In 2008 the first option seemed more likely. This meant that more transformations awaited the village.

Even more disturbing were the demographic aspects of village life. Poor health care and widespread alcoholism, especially among males, meant that death rates were higher in villages than in cities. Unemployment remained high and many villagers urged their children to seek an easier life in the cities. As a result, between 1996 and 2000 rural population declined by 750,000. And in the initial decade of new millennium the rural population decline continued unabated. It was estimated that by 2010 only about 20% of the country's population would be living in villages. Population decline was particularly sharp in the northern and eastern regions of Chernihiv, Poltava, Sumy, Luhansk, and Donetsk. In short, the village was rapidly losing its traditional place as the social and cultural core of life in Ukraine.

For Ukraine, the fading of the traditional intelligentsia and the decline of the village were momentous developments. For centuries these two social segments had been at the centre of crucial events in the country. They had set it apart from the noble-dominated society of Poland, from the bureaucratized elites of the Russian empire, and from the urban, industrialized model of the Soviet man. However, the decline of the intelligentsia and the peasantry and the simultaneous growth of the new, urban, globally oriented, educated, middle class meant that Ukrainians were increasingly moving towards a social structure that was similar to that of other societies in Europe. A new era in the social history of Ukraine had commenced.


One of the most depressing aspects of life in Ukraine was the prevalence of corruption. To a certain degree, it was a global phenomenon. But in the former Soviet countries, where wages were low, the rule of law weak, and ethics ambiguous, it was especially widespread.11 Bribery and corruption were often commonly accepted ways of getting things done. Over 90% of the country's inhabitants believed that their society was thoroughly corrupt. About 67% of Ukrainians stated that, in the last twelve months, they had had to bribe government bureaucrats. Little wonder that in 2007 about 83% of Ukrainians believed that corruption was widespread in government. Corruption took many forms: it could be deputies selling their votes for huge sums or the well-connected arranging to acquire public property at absurdly low prices. On a more mundane level, traffic fines or customs duties could be bypassed with the help of bribes. Perhaps most disturbing was the widespread use of bribes to ensure acceptance into institutions of higher learning and to ensure high grades or to influence decisions in the courts of law. In cities that lacked major industries, such as Lviv, for example, bribes were often seen as a means of generating additional income. Clearly these practices were highly detrimental to society as a whole: they demoralized the citizenry, undermined the rule of law, and made the conduct of business more complicated and expensive. Despite frequent promises by state leaders to attack the problem, little was done. Obviously numerous vested interests lay behind this lack of progress.


In the long list of woes that confronted Ukrainians there was yet another, even more serious problem -- demographic decline. A century ago, Ukraine had one of the highest birth rates in Europe; in 2008, however, it had one of the lowest in the world. In 1992 its population was 52.2 million; sixteen years later it sank to 46.2 million. And estimates predicted a continuation of the sharp decline. For every nine babies born born per 1,000, there were sixteen deaths per 1000. In all industrialized countries, people lived longer. In Ukraine, however, the average lifespan of males dropped to sixty-two, while females lived to seventy-four. The reasons for this worrisome decline were many. Although a population decline was already noticeable in the late Soviet period, the economic crisis of the 1990s had discouraged the creation of families. Worsening health care and cramped housing added to the problem. Moreover, modern, educated women, especially in problem-ridden Ukraine, were reluctant to have the 2.2 children per family needed to maintain a steady level of population. Consequently, the average number of children per family in Ukraine was merely 1.3. In urban centres it was even lower.

Regional differences were noteworthy. The death rate, especially among men, was especially high in the heavily industrialized, ecologically dangerous centres of eastern and southern Ukraine. In the poorer but more agrarian western oblasts, the death rate was much lower. It was, perhaps, an indication that rural life was more difficult but healthier. In contrast to Western Europe, immigration to Ukraine was still small, numbering about 150,000. But given the country's declining population it was possible that immigrants from more densely populated parts of globe would appear in greater numbers in Ukraine.

The early 2000s witnessed yet another striking social phenomenon -- the generation gap. It was inevitable that an older generation, raised in the heavily ideological, regimented, and controlled Soviet system, and the younger generation, growing up in the materialistic market economy and chaotic political system of most recent times, would differ more than usual. These differences led, on the one hand, to frequent complaints that the young lacked idealism and, on the other, that the old stood in the way of much-needed change. In essence, these tensions reflected the fact that two very different cultures and systems of values -- the old Soviet and the new global -- coexisted in Ukraine. However, the inevitable tensions did not lead to open confrontations. But the gap between of old veterans who proudly wore Soviet service medals and young teenagers who listened to English rock music on their iPods added complexity to conditions that were already difficult.


Given the numerous difficulties confronting Ukraine's inhabitants, it was not surprising that many sought to emigrate. In 2008 it was estimated that between 2.5 and 3 million had left their homeland during the last twenty years. A rough estimation of where they settled is as follows.12

Russia1 millionSpain100,000
Poland 300,000 USA 20,000
Italy 200,000 Canada 15,000
Portugal 150,000

The vast majority of those who emigrated were so-called illegals -- they did not have a legal right to remain in the countries where they lived and worked. Men, especially from eastern regions, tended to seek work, usually in construction, in Russia. Work in construction sites also attracted men to the Czech Republic, Spain, and Portugal. Women, often from the villages and small towns of the western regions where unemployment was high, often made their way to southern Europe where they worked as domestics or caregivers for the elderly.

While emigration was not unusual for Ukrainians, certain features of this most recent variant were new and worrisome. About half of the emigrants had higher education. Many were highly trained scientists, computer specialists, and scholars. And they were for the most part young. Clearly these were people no country could afford to lose. Moreover, most of the women who emigrated left their children and husbands back home. The growing numbers of motherless children and alcoholic men created major problems in the communities the women left behind. However, the huge emigration also had a positive aspect: according to a United Nations report, in 2007 alone Ukrainian emigrants sent about $8 billion back home. The Ukrainian National Bank claimed that the figure was closer to $20 billion or about a quarter of the country's GDP.

Commonly called the "fourth wave," this latest exodus of people from Ukraine was obviously motivated by economic considerations. In this it differed greatly from its predecessors, the politicized displaced persons of the post-Second World War period. When they came into contact with previous waves of emigrants in the United States or Canada, members of the "fourth wave" tended to stress their differences rather than similarities. By and large, the new emigrants, especially those from eastern Ukraine, were not drawn to the numerous Ukrainian institutions and organizations their predecessors had established. However, many heritage schools, credit unions, and media benefited greatly from a much-needed infusion of new emigrants who could speak proper contemporary Ukrainian. In countries such as Italy, Spain, and Portugal, where there had not been a significant Ukrainian diaspora, the new immigrants, especially those from western Ukraine, had a great impact. There they established numerous parishes, heritage schools, and social organizations, making the geographic dispersion of Ukrainian emigrants much wider than ever.


One aspect of life in Ukraine that exhibited impressive growth was religion. In 1991 about 15% of Ukraine's inhabitants declared that they were religious; in 2007 the figure rose to 65-70%. What was the explanation for this outburst of religiosity? The removal of Soviet repression certainly played a role. However, the deep roots that religious practice had in the Ukrainian village and among the poorer strata of population was perhaps more decisive. Even in Soviet times, religious belief was more widespread in Ukraine than Russia. In the more traditionalist western regions it was especially deeply rooted. But the spread, or rather, re-emergence, of religion did not mean that it took a unified form. Quite the opposite. Religious worship in Ukraine was not only fragmented but also had important political ramifications.

The vast majority of Ukrainians were, of course, Orthodox. But they belonged to three different churches. The largest church, led by Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan) was based mainly in the east and south, and remained, as in Soviet times, subordinated to the patriarch in Moscow. It energetically favoured close ties with Russia. In 2008 its domain was extensive: in addition to numerous monasteries and seminaries, it had about 11,200 parishes and 9,200 clergy. In central Ukraine, after independence, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kievan Patriarchate emerged, led by the controversial Metropolitan Filaret. With 3,900 parishes and 2,900 clergy, it strove to be a Ukrainian national church, using Ukrainian in its liturgy and cultivating Ukrainian religious traditions. It too had numerous monasteries and seminaries and was especially well represented in Kiev. In the western regions, another new Orthodox church, the Autocephalous Orthodox church had about 1,200 parishes and approximately 660 clergy. It also cultivated a Ukrainian character and looked to the Orthodox patriarch in Istanbul for ecclesiastical leadership.

Rounding out the list of major churches was the Greek-Catholic church based in the western regions, where it re-emerged in 1991. It ministered to about 4 million west Ukrainians, mainly in Galicia, in its 3,600 parishes. Well-organized and dynamic, it had about 2,200 clergy, numerous seminaries, and a newly established Ukrainian Catholic university in Lviv ably led by its rector, Borys Gudziak. In order to emphasize its all-Ukrainian character, its leader, Cardinal Lubomyr Huzar, moved its seat from Lviv to Kiev, where he began the construction of a Greek-Catholic cathedral. However, long standing attempts by the reinvigorated church to have the pope raise its leader to the rank of patriarch, fiercely opposed by the Orthodox leadership in Moscow, proved fruitless.

The Roman Catholic church in Ukraine had about 1 million members, most of whom were of Polish background. The majority of its approximately 880 parishes were on the Right Bank or in Galicia, where once many Poles lived. Served by about 500 clergy, Roman Catholic services were held in Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, and Latin. An important advantage of the Roman Catholic church was the very significant support, both in human resources and financial aid, that it received from Poland. Protestants in Ukraine, mostly Baptists, were organized in numerous communities. However, these were usually small, and only about 125,000 or 2-3% of the country's population belonged to one of the Protestant churches. In the 1990s, some Protestant churches, aided by co-religionists in the West, proselytized very actively, but in the early 2000s this activity declined noticeably. Muslims were concentrated mostly in the Crimea, where the approximately 300,000 Crimean Tatars lived. There were also sizable Muslim communities in Ukraine's eastern and southern regions. In all, they supported about 150 mosques. Although small in number -- estimates ranged from 100,000 to 200,000 -- the Jews of Ukraine were well organized. They had over 100 Lubavitcher and 50 Reform synagogues. A large percentage of Jews, between 35 and 40%, were active in their secular and religious organizations. Because a significant portion of the very wealthy were Jewish, their organizations and synagogues had strong financial support and considerable political influence. Moreover, they benefited from a significant and consistent flow of aid from Israel and the North American diaspora.

Although the number of church, mosque, and synagogue members had burgeoned, it did not mean that the majority of Ukrainians were regular practitioners. Only about 5 million could be considered as belonging to this category. Most were vaguely religious and practiced religious rites during major religious holidays, without paying much attention to the ecclesiastical adherence of the church they attended. Indeed, unlike their neighbours in Russia, Ukrainians exhibited a great degree of religious tolerance. Moreover, for the most part they did not support -- except in the western regions -- the idea of having one dominant national church. The churches themselves, however, were not reticent about taking sides in non-religious matters, often urging their faithful to support one or another political cause. The adherents of the Moscow Patriarchate were notably energetic in this regard, especially when it came to advocating closer ties with Russia. Be that as it may, religious growth in Ukraine clearly reflected the fact that its inhabitants felt a need, based on old traditions or current needs, for spiritual solace.

By the first decade of the third millennium, despite frequent confrontations, self-serving obstructions, repeated delays, and numerous weaknesses, Ukraine reached the point of no return. Resuscitating the old Soviet order in any shape or form was no longer an option. Few even considered it seriously. Its many defects notwithstanding, as a large and increasingly important state, Ukraine entered a new era. Its economy, still in pressing need of reform, nevertheless showed great promise. And its inhabitants, while still relatively impoverished, were beginning to improve their lot. The characteristic features of the past -- the inferiority complexes bred by domineering empires, the numerous and exploited villages, the crucial role of a tiny intelligentsia -- were fading fast. They were replaced by an emerging middle class, large cities teeming with cars, computers that fostered a growing openness to the world, and an impatient, confident younger generation. Even though financial crisis slowed the rise in the standard of living, most believed that sooner or later it would improve. Without a violent revolution taking place, the fundamental changes occurring in politics, the economy, and society were nothing short of revolutionary. A country long characterized by crippling abnormalities, Ukraine was gradually becoming normal, that is, more and more like other countries. It had become a full-fledged member of the global society.


1 See Taras Kuzio, ed., Democratic Revolution in Ukraine: From Kuchmagate to Orange Revolution (New York: Routledge, 2009).

2 For Ukraine's relations with the European Union and NATO, see Razumkov Center, National Security and Defence, no. 9 (2006), and no. 5 (2007).

3 Unian, 7 April 2008,1.

4 For an overview of Ukrainian-Russian relations, see Razumkov Center, National Security and Defence, no. 5 (2006).

5 Razumkov Center, National Security and Defence, no. 10 (2007): 21 ff.

6 Vse-Ukrainskyi perepys naselennia 2001 / English version. Also see Razumkov Center, National Security and Defence, no. 7 (2006): 4.

7 Razumkov Center, National Security and Defence, no. 9 (2007): 19.

8 USDA, Ukraine: Agricultural Overview, 16 December 2004.

9 Mark Resnicoff, "Ukraine's Middle Class," http://www.suiteioi.com, 17 July 2007,1. Also see Razumkov Center, National Security and Defence, no. 7 (2008).

10 The World Bank, "Ukraine Poverty Assessment," 693

11 Jan Neutze and Adrian Karatnycky, "Corruption, Democracy and Investment in Ukraine," Atlantic Council of the United States (October 2007). See also Nations in Transition: Ukraine 2005.

12 See Olena Malynovska, "Caught between East and West, Ukraine Struggles with Its Migration Policy," Migration Information Source, January 2006.