Popular Movement of Ukraine

Image - Popular Movement of Ukraine (1st convention, September 1989): Ivan Drach and the presidium. Image - Popular Movement of Ukraine (2d convention, October 1990). Image - 21 January 1990: Popular Movement of Ukraine-sponsored 500-km chain of people linking hands from Kyiv to Lviv and on to Ivano-Frankivsk in commemoration of the 1918 and 1919 proclamations of Ukrainian independence and the union of UNR and ZUNR. Image - A rally in Lviv (1 May 1990) co-organized by the Popular Movement of Ukraine.

Popular Movement of Ukraine [Народний рух України; Narodnyi rukh Ukrainy] popularly known as Rukh (the Movement). The most important non-Communist, grass-roots organization created in Soviet Ukraine in the 1980s with the ostensible purpose of supporting the policy of perestroika launched in Moscow by Mikhail Gorbachev. It was initially called the Popular Movement of Ukraine for Restructuring (perebudova; Russian: perestroika). Its initiative group was formed in November 1988 and published the Rukh draft program in February 1989.

Rukh’s stated main objectives were the full attainment of political, religious, and human rights and freedoms; the moral rejuvenation of society; the democratization of Soviet society and the Soviet state; the political and economic sovereignty of Ukraine; constitutional reform; economic renewal; social justice; environmental protection and safety (including the shutdown of all nuclear reactors in Ukraine); the restructuring and improvement of social security and the public health system; the protection of the Ukrainian language and national minority rights; and world peace.

The Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU) media campaign against Rukh that lasted until September 1989 merely served to increase Rukh’s popularity and membership. Rukh succeeded in becoming an umbrella organization uniting almost all neformaly and new political parties in Ukraine. It gained the support of the revived Ukrainian Catholic church and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church and most members of the Writers' Union of Ukraine (writers and intellectuals played leading roles in Rukh). Rukh sponsored many initiatives designed to break the power monopoly of the CPU, including an independent Ukrainian Communist party, the Yednist free trade union (which held its founding congress in February 1990 in Kharkiv), the Union of Free Journalists, and the Ukrainian Olympic Committee.

The first national Rukh congress was held in Kyiv in September 1989. It was attended by 1,109 delegates, representing 280,000 registered, dues-paying members in branches throughout Ukraine, a delegation from the Polish Solidarity movement led by Adam Michnik, representations from the Baltic states, Belarus, Moldova, the Transcaucasian peoples, and Moscow, and three observers from Ukrainian communities in the West. Elected to senior leadership positions were Ivan Drach, chairman; S. Konev, first vice-chairman; Volodymyr Yavorivsky, vice-chairman in charge of the 81-member Council of [Regional] Representatives; V. Cherniak, vice-chairman in charge of the 93-member Council of Collegiums, which co-ordinated, through commissions, the development and implementation of the political, juridical, social, economic, cultural, scientific, educational, and ecological objectives of Rukh as stated in its program and decided by the congress; and Mykhailo Horyn, vice-chairman in charge of the Secretariat, the executive and administrative organ in Kyiv that implemented the decisions of the Rukh congress and councils, and chairman of the Great Council, a body consisting of the aforementioned officers and the members of the Councils of Collegiums and Representatives, which met at least three times a year and supervised and determined Rukh's activity in between its national congresses.

After the congress Rukh concentrated its efforts on the campaign for the March 1990 elections to the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR. In September and October 1989, together with members of the Ukrainian Club of Deputies in the USSR Congress of People’s Deputies, Rukh co-ordinated public demands for a more democratic electoral law in Ukraine.

By 1990 Rukh had become the largest public organization in Ukraine, with an estimated 5 million supporters and over 50 different periodicals. On 21 January 1990 it sponsored the successful 500-km chain of people linking hands from Kyiv to Lviv and on to Ivano-Frankivsk in commemoration of the 1918 and 1919 proclamations of Ukrainian independence and the union of Western Ukrainian National Republic and the Ukrainian National Republic. In February 1990 the first issue of Narodna hazeta (Kyiv), the chief Rukh organ, appeared in a pressrun of 10,000 copies.

Although the CPU ensured that Rukh was unable to register as an organization in time to field its own candidates for the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR, candidates supporting Rukh formed a Democratic Bloc to contest 30 percent of the seats. In June 1990 the elected pro-Rukh candidates and those representing the ‘democratic’ wing of the CPU (who later left the CPU and formed the Ukrainian Democratic Party of Renewal, in December 1990) jointly constituted the People’s Council—the opposition to the CPU, representing 35 percent of the seats in the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR. The People’s Council was instrumental in the adoption of the 16 July 1990 Declaration on the State Sovereignty of Ukraine by the Supreme Soviet. In September 1990 a joint Rukh–People’s Council press center began operating in Kyiv.

The October 1990 second national Rukh congress in Kyiv was attended by over 2,125 delegates, representing nearly 633,000 members and 44 civic and political organizations. The congress adopted the full independence of Ukraine as the chief goal of Rukh and disallowed the membership of Communists. Elected to the senior leadership were Ivan Drach, chairman; Mykhailo Horyn, first vice-chairman in charge of the Political Council (the body in charge of political policy and strategy); Oleksandr Lavrynovych, vice-chairman in charge of agitation and propaganda; M. Porovsky, head of the Co-ordinating Council; I. Zaiets, head of the Council of Collegiums; O. Burakhovsky, head of the Council of Nationalities; and V. Burlakov, head of the Secretariat. In the fall of 1991 Rukh played a key role in promoting the ‘yes’ vote in the 1 December referendum on Ukrainian independence (see 1991 Ukraine’s Declaration of Independence).

The creation of a Rukh faction headed by Mykhailo Horyn in the Ukrainian parliament was officially declared on 8 February 1992. The third national Rukh congress (held from 28 February to 1 March 1992), which was attended by 800 delegates, reflected factional divisions within the movement and acute differences over political strategy and orientation. A compromise was reached by electing the factional leaders Viacheslav Chornovil, Ivan Drach, and Horyn as co-chairmen of Rukh. At the fourth congress (4–6 December 1992) Rukh was transformed into a political party headed by Chornovil.

Taras Kuzio, Roman Senkus

[This part of the article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

As an umbrella social movement, Rukh combined a variety of political tendencies: from liberal communists to integral nationalists. A Rukh candidate, Viacheslav Chornovil, ran in the presidential election on 1 December 1991 and obtained 23.3 percent of the vote, second highest. Following the Ukrainian independence vote on 1 December 1991, Rukh aligned itself with President Leonid Kravchuk especially on ideological grounds, but was rewarded with only one committee chairmanship in the Supreme Council Of Ukraine and one ministry (Yurii Kostenko in environment) in the government despite its pro-presidential stance. In February 1992, a split in Rukh was averted only by the stratagem of electing three co-chairmen—Ivan Drach (who voluntarily left Rukh thereafter), Mykhailo Horyn (who departed in June 1992 to lead the Ukrainian Republican Party), and Viacheslav Chornovil. In December 1992, Chornovil was elected leader, which precipitated yet another defection, this time by Larysa Skoryk. The movement transformed itself into a political party and was officially registered as such on 1 February 1993. By November 1993, Rukh claimed to have 60,000 members, but the 1994 parliamentary elections were a setback as only 22 deputies representing Rukh were elected, indicative of its loss of popularity. Responding to this downturn in its fortunes Rukh decided not to run a candidate in the 1994 presidential election. In the 1994–98 Supreme Council the Rukh caucus began with 27 and ended with 25 deputies. Initially, Rukh was opposed to President Leonid Kuchma, for his pro-Russia orientation, but soon joined the pro-presidential camp as a means of resisting the parties on the left (the Communist Party of Ukraine, the Socialist Party of Ukraine, and the Peasant Party of Ukraine) regarded as anti-democratic and Sovietophile; it thus supported, among others, the presidential position on the 1996 Constitution.

A national-democratic party, Rukh strongly supported Ukrainian sovereignty and independence while embracing liberal values and the goal of a market economy. Its program called for a parliamentary system of government with a figurehead president rather than one with executive powers; privatization of productive enterprises including land; encouragement of small business; and effective armed forces. In the 1998 elections Rukh promised to bring order into government by introducing patriotism and professionalism in the public service and cutting back on the number of ministries. It vowed to wage a fierce struggle against corruption and organized crime. In foreign policy it offered to work for Ukraine’s integration into Europe, and to enhance the country’s security by overcoming the energy crisis and by upgrading the equipment of the armed forces. It promised to implement genuine economic reforms, including reinforcing the right to own land and developing small and medium-sized businesses. Other promises concerned an integrated system of education, improvements to health care, and more help for women, families, and youth. Its program included a call to create a political rather than exclusively ethnic Ukrainian nation on the basis of patriotism, unity, common interests, and a sense of common fate.

Rukh presented a slate of 224 candidates on its party list in the 1998 elections and obtained 9.4 percent of the votes, a distant second behind the Communist Party of Ukraine. This did merit 32 deputies, and that, along with 14 elected in single-member electoral districts, gave Rukh a parliamentary contingent of 46 in total, and chairmanship of three parliamentary committees. In December 1998, the Rukh caucus consisted of 48 deputies. In February 1999, Viacheslav Chornovil was ousted as fraction leader and as party chairman. This, as well as a dispute over the impending presidential elections, caused a split in the caucus, with the dissident majority following Yurii Kostenko, and the minority adopting the name Popular Movement of Ukraine-1. A dispute erupted over the right to the name Rukh. Chornovil was killed in a traffic accident on 25 March 1999, but was posthumously vindicated when the justice ministry confirmed that his faction had the right to the Rukh name. Hennadi Udovenko was named leader of the Chornovil wing on 31 March; Kostenko’s wing became the Ukrainian Popular Movement. An effort in November 2000 to unite the two wings strangely (or perhaps deliberately, being externally provoked) resulted in the creation of a third, the Popular Movement of Ukraine for Unity led by Bohdan Boiko.

Hennadii Udovenko contested the Presidency in 1999, but obtained only 1.2 percent of the vote. In the second round, the party supported the incumbent, President Leonid Kuchma. It became thereafter the leading force in the formation of the parliamentary majority and of the Viktor Yushchenko government. It was one of six parties to oppose unsuccessfully the vote of non-confidence in the Yushchenko government in April 2001, and did not participate in the vote on approving Anatolii Kinakh as Prime Minister. In May 2001, at its regular congress, the party adopted a new program, approved of an electoral alliance with the Reforms and Order party and the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, and re-elected (but not without dissension) Udovenko as party leader. In June, Udovenko signed a pledge to reunite his wing of Rukh with Yurii Kostenko’s Ukrainian Popular Movement after the next elections. Its parliamentary caucus on 13 June 2001 consisted of 14 deputies.

At the end of 2001, the party joined Viktor Yushchenko’s electoral alliance Our Ukraine. In 2003, the diplomat and future foreign minister, Boris Tarasiuk, was elected as head of the party, which subsequently supported Yushchenko in the 2004 presidential and 2006 parliamentary elections. It did the same in the 2007 parliamentary elections, joining the renamed Our Ukraine—Popular Self-Defence (Nasha Ukraina–Narodna Samooborona)—electoral alliance together with other small parties.

In preparation for the 2010 presidential elections, the party initially considered putting forward its own candidate, namely Borys Tarasiuk, but eventually decided to back Yuliia Tymoshenko’s candidacy. Following those elections, Rukh went into opposition to President Viktor Yanukovych joining Tymoshenko in condemning the Constitutional Court’s reinstatement of the 1996 Constitution, as well as the conduct of local elections in the fall of 2010. As early as May 2011, foreshadowing later events, Rukh called for the dissolution of parliament, impeachment of President Yanukovych, and the holding of new presidential and parliamentary elections in view of the antidemocratic nature of the regime. It reacted especially harshly to the jailing of Tymoshenko in August 2011 in connection with the notorious ‘gas affair,’ calling it an outright negation of Ukraine’s European aspirations. The Batkivshchyna party and Rukh signed an agreement in March 2012 joining forces to contest the coming parliamentary elections: together on one party list, and non-competition in single-member districts. Evidently the pact never came into effect, since neither on the Batkivshchyna party list nor in the single-member electoral districts were any candidates or elected deputies described as Rukh members.

Borys Tarasiuk was reelected head of the party in 2012. In December 2012, however, Tarasiuk stepped down as party leader, replaced by Vasyl Kuibida, professor and holder of a doctoral degree in state administration as well as a former minister of regional development and construction. In May 2013, it was decided to recombine the Popular Movement of Ukraine with Yurii Kostenko’s breakaway Ukrainian National Party. The new party was to be called the Rukh Ukrainian Popular Party “Rukh” (Ukrainska narodna partiia ‘Rukh’) or simply ‘RUKH,’ and headed by Kuibida. This caused a defection of a number of the Popular Movement of Ukraine members, including Tarasiuk, to the Batkivshchyna party. The unification of the two parties failed to materialize.

Rukh and its members protested against the postponement of the signing of an Association Agreement with the European Union in November 2013, and took an active part in the ensuing Euromaidan Revolution, protesting against Viktor Yanukovych’s government as a whole. In the revolution’s aftermath Rukh put forward for the first time since 1999, a candidate for president in the person of its head, Vasyl Kuibida, who received 12,391 votes, or 0.06 percent of the total. Rukh took part in the elections to the Supreme Council of Ukraine on 26 October 2014, but failed to elect a single deputy.

On 28 May 2017, Viktor Kryvenko was elected head of the party while still a member of the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko (BPP) parliamentary fraction. Having been originally elected to the Supreme Council of Ukraine in 2014 under the Samopomich party banner, he was expelled from its parliamentary caucus (fraction) in 2015 over his support of the policy of decentralization; in 2016, he drifted into the BPP, but then abandoned it in December 2017. When he stood as a candidate for the presidency on behalf of Rukh in March 2019, he was deputy head of the Supreme Council’s budget committee, and obtained 9,243 votes, or 0.04 percent of the total.

A right-of-centre national democratic party, which failed to expand its umbrella beyond its original base in western Ukraine or its program to address the economic concerns of voters, Rukh was at the zenith of its influence following the 1994 and 1998 elections to the Supreme Council of Ukraine. Thereafter its influence declined rapidly. By 2017, on the verge of vanishing, it had probably reached its nadir and become a ‘technical party’ when an outsider had to be parachuted in to take over as leader. A ‘technical party’ in Ukraine’s political system is one sponsored by a larger entity to draw support away from the sponsor’s principal opponent in the forthcoming elections—in this case, apparently, Petro Poroshenko used Rukh to weaken Yuliia Tymoshenko. Today Rukh plays no noticeable role in Ukrainian politics.

Bohdan Harasymiw

[This part of the article was written in 2019.]

Ustanovchyi z’ïzd Narodnoho rukhu Ukraïny za perebudovu. Special issue of Suchasnist’, December 1989
Joukovsky, Arkady; Popowycz, Irène (eds). Matériaux du Congrès constitutif du Mouvement National d’Ukraine pour la restructuration—ROUKh (Paris 1990)
Haran', Oleksii. Ubyty drakona: Z istoriï Rukhu ta novykh partiï Ukraïny (Kyiv 1993)
Kovtun, V. Istoriia Narodnoho rukhu Ukraïny (Kyiv 1995)
Honcharuk, H. Narodnyi rukh Ukraїny: Istoriia (Odesa 1997)
Narodnyi Rukh Ukraniny: ideolohiia ta politychna evoliutsiia (1989-2009): Materialy kruhloho stolu, prysviach. 20-oi richnytsi stvorennia Narodnoho Rukhu Ukraïny za perebudovu (Kyïv, 22 veres. 2009 r.) (Kyiv 2010)

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