Constitution of the Western Ukrainian National Republic

Constitution of the Western Ukrainian National Republic. Principal legislative acts of the Western Ukrainian National Republic (later known as the Western Province of the Ukrainian National Republic), which defined its political and legal structure. The most important act among them was the Provisional Fundamental Law on the State Independence of the Ukrainian Lands Formerly in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, which was issued on 13 November 1918. This law consisted of five articles: the new state was to be called the Western Ukrainian National Republic; its borders were to coincide with ‘the total Ukrainian ethnic region within the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy’; the entire people was sovereign; it was to manifest its will through representatives elected by universal, equal, direct, secret, and proportional vote; and prior to the election of the constituent assembly (see Constituent Assembly of Ukraine), political authority in the republic was to reside in the Ukrainian National Rada and the State Secretariat of the Western Ukrainian National Republic, which was responsible to it.

Other acts that supplemented the constitution of the republic included the law of 16 November 1918 on the temporary administration and organization of the court system, the act of 3 January 1919 on the union of the Western Ukrainian National Republic and the Ukrainian National Republic, the act of 4 January 1919 on the board (vydil) of the Ukrainian National Rada, the act of 15 February on the official language, the act of 8 April on civil rights and duties, the act of 16 April on the diet of the republic, and the act of 9 June on the transfer of all military and civil authority to ‘a fully empowered dictator.’

According to these constitutional laws, the supreme authority in the republic belonged to the Ukrainian National Rada, which had primarily a legislative function. Its board, which was chaired by the president of the Rada, acted as the republic’s external representative and carried out some of the more important functions of the head of state (confirming and promulgating laws, appointing members of the State Secretariat of the Western Ukrainian National Republic, etc). Executive power lay in the hands of the State Secretariat, which consisted of various departments and was responsible to the Rada. The judiciary was independent, and the supreme court was the Highest State Court.

The constitution reflected a typical law-governed state (Rechtstaat). The structure of the government agencies was in some respects similar to that of the Ukrainian National Republic in its first period (the Central Rada and Little Rada, the General Secretariat of the Central Rada).

Certain proposals on the political and legal status of the republic’s territory that were drawn up later by international and Ukrainian authorities had a constitutional nature. The proposal for an agreement between the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers and Poland on the autonomy of Galicia was drawn up in Paris, during the Paris Peace Conference, on 20 November 1919, but was rejected by Poland. The ‘Foundations of the Structure of the Galician State’ was prepared by the government of the republic’s dictator, Yevhen Petrushevych, and presented to the League of Nations. Professor Stanyslav Dnistriansky, a noted jurist, prepared a private draft of a constitution of the Western Ukrainian National Republic in 1921.

Vasyl Markus, Matvii Stakhiv

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]

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