We have a thousand-year old tradition of statehood – from Rus, the Galicia-Volyn Principality, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Cossack State and the state formations of the 20th century.
It was not continuous: under the influence of external (conquest) and internal (civil strife) reasons, Ukrainian territories repeatedly fell under the power of conquering states, our people became their subjects and objects of denationalization policies.
During the Ukrainian Revolution of 1917-1921, Ukrainians managed to restore their state. It changed names and forms several times: the Ukrainian People’s Republic (1917-1918), the Ukrainian State (Hetmanate, 1918), again the Ukrainian People’s Republic (the Directorate era, 1918-1921), the West Ukrainian People’s Republic (1918-1919).
The formation of the state took place simultaneously with attempts to restrain external aggression from Russia and Poland. The Ukrainian People’s Republic was defeated in this struggle, and Ukrainian politicians representing the state continued their activities as a government in exile.
Western Ukraine was divided between neighbouring countries – Poland, Romania and Czechoslovakia where they became integral but without any special status.
As a result of the armed aggression of Bolshevik Russia, a communist (Bolshevik) regime was established in the rest of the Ukrainian People’s Republic territory. The Soviet government had little local support and relied on a powerful repressive apparatus, and its functioning was directly linked to its center of power in Moscow.
The impulse of state formation and national revival, which the Ukrainian revolution gave, was so powerful that the Russian Bolsheviks had to reckon with it. In order to maintain power during the 1920s, the Ukrainianization policy was introduced, the result of which was the rise of national culture and the partial involvement of Ukrainians in governing bodies.
The creation of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was a forced concession of the Russian communist government to the Ukrainian national movement.
The Uk.SSR had some formal signs of a state (borders, authorities, symbols) but the main one – sovereignty – was missing. Therefore, it was not independent, neither in terms of internal nor foreign policy.
As the communist totalitarian regime strengthened, Ukraine’s political and economic dependence grew.
This caused growing resistance, which resulted in a movement aimed at restoring independence.
The Ukrainian liberation movement developed in armed (1920-1950s) and non-violent (1960s-1980s) struggles.
In the late 1980s, this movement, together with national-democratic revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe, played an important role in the fall of the communist regimes, and achieved the restoration of Ukrainian independence.
On 16 July 1990, the Verkhovna Rada of the Uk.SSR, under the pressure of the democratic opposition and mass street demonstrations, adopted the Declaration on the State Sovereignty of Ukraine and on 24 August 1991, the Act of Proclamation of Independence of Ukraine was adopted. The final confirmation of Ukraine as an independent state took place on 1 December 1991, when more than 90% of citizens supported this choice through the All-Ukrainian referendum.
The results of the referendum marked the beginning of Ukraine’s international recognition. After that, the formal signs of statehood that the Uk.SSR had, such as borders, limited participation in international relations (membership in the UN and other international organizations, the conclusion of international treaties) were filled with real meaning.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the Russian government headed by Vladimir Putin set out to restore its influence in the post-Soviet space. In Ukraine, it actively used pro-Russian politicians, economic pressure, public organizations and the media that were under their control. In 2010, Viktor Yanukovych, a convenient politician for the Kremlin, became the president of Ukraine. His attempts to create an anti-democratic regime, similar to the Russian one, caused mass civil protest.
As a result, he was forced to flee Ukraine, and Russia resorted to armed aggression in Crimea and Donbas in order to maintain its influence.
Since 2014, 23 years after the declaration of independence, Ukrainians have again taken up arms to defend their freedom and the integrity of their state.
Our century-long war for independence continues. And it is we who have the chance, obligation, opportunity and honour to end this century-old war with victory.