AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Ukraine inherited the second largest armed forces in Europe from the former USSR. After August 1991 the establishment of separate armed and security forces in Ukraine played a central role in the policies of state-building undertaken by president, parliament, government, and political parties. Despite the economic crisis, the armed forces are still the most popular state institution in Ukraine.
In Western literature there is a scarcity of research on the establishment of Ukrainian armed forces.(1) This is particularly true for the historical background of the widely felt and popular demand for separate armed forces that is directly linked to the threat perceptions against Ukrainian independence posed by Russia. The role of civic groups, political parties, and media in preparing the groundwork for parliament and president to make a rapid attempt to establish armed forces after the collapse of the coup d'etat in August 1991 has also not been covered in Western literature. Yet, these groups and the media played a crucial role in swelling anti-Moscow feeling and sowing internal dissension within the ranks of the Soviet military.
This article surveys civil-military relations during two crucial periods. The first period witnessed the launch of civic groups and anti-Soviet opposition parties between 1989-1990. The second involves the period from the parliamentary and local elections in March 1990 to December 1991, when the former USSR disintegrated and Ukraine became an independent state. The discussion of civil-military relations during both periods deals with the role and influence of nationalist and democratic political parties, civic groups, parliament, local councils, and the media during the last two years of the former USSR in the campaign to establish separate Ukrainian armed forces. It also points to the impact of the publicity given to ethnic conflict and violence within the former Soviet armed forces in 1990-1991 that contributed greatly to the growth of public hostility towards the twin pillars of Soviet society, the military/security forces and the Communist Party.(2)
The article uses Ukrainian transliterations where appropriate, with the more common Russian usage given in parentheses (except in the case of Kiev).
Civil-Military Relations, 1989-1990
The campaign for the establishment of separate Ukrainian armed forces was launched in the autumn of 1989, primarily by small nationalist groups. An initiative committee was established in Kharkiv (Kharkov) to revive a Ukrainian national army. The committee was led by a major in the Soviet armed forces, Petro Nedzelskyi, a leading figure in the Ukrainian Popular Movement and the Ukrainian Helsinki Union and attracted several dozen officers, both retired and in active service.(3) They demanded that Ukrainians be stationed in their own republic along with the right to separate armed forces, creation of Ukrainian military schools, and the banning of Communist Party activity inside the armed forces. These officers were linked to the All-Union Military Free Trade Union 'Shchyt' ('Shield').(4)
The Ukrainian National Party, established in October 1989 and espousing integral, authoritarian nationalism, was the first political party to openly promote the idea of a separate Ukrainian army in its program.(5) The L'viv (Lvov) oblast branch of the Ukrainian National Party later also called for the creation of a national security service and national police force.(6) At the time, this Ukrainian National Party position was considered very radical and was condemned by leading democratic activists, such as Ivan Drach, leader of the more moderate Ukrainian Popular Movement.(7)
The reasoning for separate armed forces was clear to the Ukrainian National Party. The Ukrainian People's Republic of 1917-1921 had been defeated by the Red Army precisely because it did not have its own sufficient armed forces (a recurring theme in Ukrainian historiography). As Andriy Haysynskyi, a commander in the National Guard, stated in the latter part of 1991, "From history we know that the Ukrainian People's Republic, Sub-Carpathian Ukraine and Western Ukrainian People's Republic were broken precisely because they did not solve the crucial question - they didn't form their own army."(8) As for national security, Yury Shcherbak, former leader of the Green Party of Ukraine, and currently Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States, pointed out that Ukraine could not repeat Kuwait's failure to possess sufficient armed forces when it was invaded by its northern neighbor, Iraq.(9)
The Citizen's Committee for the Revival of a Ukrainian National Army was created in L'viv on 7 February 1990 as a radical support group to propagate the idea of separate armed forces, publishing the newsletter Kris with the logo "For Ukraine, for her Freedom." Kris contained materials on deserters from the Soviet armed forces, Ukrainian literature, and history. It held its inaugural congress on 20 June 1990 and was officially registered on 17 July 1990.(10) The informal group initiating the Citizen's Committee for the Revival of a Ukrainian National Army was the Spadshyna Society. The Citizen's Committee for the Revival of a Ukrainian National Army eventually joined the Ukrainian Inter-Party Assembly, a nationalist alternative umbrella group to the more democratically orientated Ukrainian Popular Movement.
At the launch of the Citizen's Committee for the Revival of a Ukrainian National Army in February 1990, its resolution stated that Ukraine had been occupied since 1919 and was a colony. The Soviet armed forces inculcated "national nihilism" through their "internationalism," and the establishment of Ukrainian armed forces would promote greater stability in Europe.(11) They pointed out that the right of Ukraine to possess separate armed forces was included in its constitution until 1977.(12)
The Citizen's Committee for the Revival of a Ukrainian National Army later united the Committee of Soldier's Mothers, branches of the Ukrainian Popular Movement, Memorial, Ukrainian Republican Party, Greens, Association of Independent Ukrainian Youth, Ukrainian National Party, Christian Democratic Party, Association of Ukrainian Women, and the Ukrainian Language Society Prosvita. In Kris, deserters were quoted complaining about "hazing," violence, Marxist indoctrination, and beatings with calls such as, "You banderite [slang for Ukrainian nationalist], nationalist Rukhovite (acronym for the Ukrainian Popular Movement)!" In ethnic "hot spots" the locals would say, "Why have you come here? We will deal with it ourselves, and you are occupiers. Why should we fight for them? We are Ukrainian and our fatherland is Ukraine."(13)
At the second congress of the Ukrainian National Party in April 1990 one of the resolutions called for "the necessity of a wide-scale campaign of all the political forces of Ukraine for the creation of Ukrainian armed forces, a Ukrainian security service and a Ukrainian police force, as guarantees of the inviolability of Ukrainian borders, the integrity of its territory and safeguarding of its national and individual security and civic peace."(14) Hryhorii Pryhodko, leader of the Ukrainian National Party, argued that only republican armed forces would be able to guarantee control and stability in the disintegrating USSR.(15)
The larger and more moderate Ukrainian Popular Movement held its inaugural congress in September 1989 but did not include any references to military questions in its program. A resolution was adopted addressed to servicemen and the KGB that called for stability and compromise and condemned attempts at pitting the Ukrainian Popular Movement against the army. In August 1990 the Ukrainian Popular Movement appealed to the Supreme Council of Ukraine about the increasing numbers of "runaways" from the Soviet armed forces, ignoring whom "is a political oversight." It called for the return of conscripts to Ukraine and for no sanctions to be enforced against "runaways."(16)
The program adopted at the second congress of the Ukrainian Popular Movement in October 1990 also did not include any reference to military issues but did include an appeal to servicemen and a resolution "On Service in the Army." These called upon the armed forces not to serve the communist party struggle against the people and Ukrainian independence. They demanded that the armed forces refuse a police role for themselves, and called for political parties to be removed from the armed forces and a military commissariat of Ukraine to assist in establishing a Ukrainian national army that would include all citizens of Ukraine. The resolution ended: "Remember - without a national army there cannot be any talk of state sovereignty of the republic."(17)
The political parties created during the period from March to December 1990 (Democratic, Republican, Democratic Revival of Ukraine, Green, and others) all included sections within their new programs that linked the guarantee of state independence to establishment of separate armed forces.(18) But there soon developed two strands of thought about the armed forces question. The more radical (maximalist) position openly called for Ukrainians to desert from the Soviet armed forces and refuse to …