Udovenko, Hennadii

Udovenko, Hennadii [Удовенко, Геннадій], b 22 June 1931 in Kryvyi Rih, Dnipropetrovsk oblast, d 12 February 2013 in Kyiv. Diplomat, politician, and former foreign minister. He received his education at Kyiv University, graduating in 1954 in international relations, and at the Ukrainian Institute of Agricultural Economics, where he was a graduate student in 1958–59. Before becoming in 1955 a collective farm chairman, he had already served since 1952 as a secretary within the Soviet Ukrainian government’s ministry of construction materials industry. In 1959, he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), and in 1965–71 served with the United Nations Secretariat in Geneva. From 1971 to 1977, he was back at the MFA, after which he was posted to the UN headquarters in New York. In 1980–85, he served as deputy minister of foreign affairs. Thereupon he became until 1992 Ukraine’s Permanent Representative to the UN, combining that position for the last year with his previous post. From September 1992 to August 1994, he was Ukraine’s ambassador to Poland; from 16 September 1994 to 17 April 1998, minister of foreign affairs (succeeded by Borys Tarasiuk); and in 1997–98 was president of the UN General Assembly. As foreign minister, Udovenko was a strong supporter of Ukraine’s integration into European structures, including NATO and the European Union. In the course of his career, he represented Ukraine in various UN and international forums, and chaired the meetings of many UN bodies, including the Security Council. In recognition of his achievements in the field of foreign affairs for his country, the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine in Kyiv, which he helped establish, bears his name.

In 1998, Udovenko left the diplomatic world for politics and was elected to the Supreme Council of Ukraine on the Popular Movement of Ukraine (Rukh) list. In parliament he headed the committee on human rights, national minorities, and inter-nationality relations. When the 48-member Rukh caucus split at the beginning of 1999, Udovenko, who only that year joined the party, assumed leadership of the wing previously led by Viacheslav Chornovil. At the end of the year, it had 16 deputies. In the autumn of 1999, Udovenko was a candidate for president and obtained 1.2 percent of the vote. He was re-elected leader of his wing of the Popular Movement of Ukraine in May 2001.

Subsequently, Udovenko steered his wing of the Popular Movement of Ukraine into Viktor Yushchenko’s electoral bloc, Our Ukraine, together with the wing led by Yurii Kostenko, and pledged to reunify Rukh after the 2002 general elections. In those elections, Udovenko ran as number three on the Our Ukraine list, was re-elected to parliament, joined the selfsame caucus, and resumed his place on the human rights committee. The announced reunification of Rukh, however, did not materialize, with Udovenko advocating instead the other wing’s total disbandment which likewise did not happen. Its leader, Yurii Kostenko, renamed it the Ukrainian Popular Movement (Ukrainskyi Narodnyi Rukh) to distinguish it from the Popular Movement of Ukraine. In 2003, Udovenko was replaced as head of the latter by Borys Tarasiuk.

Bohdan Harasymiw

[This article was written in 2019.]

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