The Emergence of Ukraine: Part 2

By Kuzio, Taras | Contemporary Review, April 1996 | Go to article overview

The Emergence of Ukraine: Part 2

Kuzio, Taras, Contemporary Review

Economic Crisis and Reforms

To the dismay of the radical left political parties who voted for him President Kuchma launched Ukraine's first serious economic reform programme in October 1994 where he clearly outlined his vision of transforming Ukraine's inherited Soviet system into a market economy. The first main privatisation campaign began in January, including the right to private ownership of land.

Ukraine's new-found commitment to economic reform, and its final ratification of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, released the Western political and financial support that had been held up under Kuchma's predecessor. The IMF and other international financial institutions have provided large-scale assistance in the light of Ukraine's new commitment to reform. A major plank of the economic reform programme is Ukraine's commitment to fiscal and monetary stabilisation, which has largely been achieved during 1995 with monthly inflation down to less than 5 per cent (in comparison to the hyper inflation of 1993). President Kuchma has declared that the long awaited new currency - hryvna - will be introduced in 1996 with the use of the IMF Stabilisation Fund which will replace the temporary karbovanets coupon introduced in January 1992.

The government appointed by President Kuchma in June 1995 and led by Prime Minister Marchuk is dominated by reformers and has cross-party as well as cross-country support. Kuchma's support for radical reforms, coupled with his determination to defend Ukraine's national interests, have gained him a high level of support even in areas which overwhelmingly voted against him in the presidential elections (for example, Western Ukraine). President Kuchma's reforms are backed by the majority of parliament's factions, except the Communists and Socialists. Escaping from the economic crisis Ukraine inherited from the FSU and his predecessor is seen by President Kuchma as a means to unite the divided Ukrainian population.

Competing Religious Allegiances

Both the Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox Churches were delegalised in the 1930s and 1940s and incorporated within the Russian Orthodox Church. Traditionally, only four oblasts of Western Ukraine were Catholic, a reflection of their Austrian-Hungarian influence. Other regions of Ukraine were traditionally Orthodox.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church regained the bulk of its pre-1946 premises and position by 1990-1991, especially in the aftermath of the sweeping victory of non-communist groups in the March 1990 elections in Western Ukraine. In late 1991 the Ukrainian section of the Russian Orthodox Church, which had been granted autonomy since 1990 in response to growing demands for autocephaly (an independent Church), declared its full secession from the Moscow patriarchate. The move was prompted by the upcoming referendum on Ukrainian independence and indirect intervention by the national communists who had close ties to the ruling hierarchy of the Church. The aim of the national communists, who won the presidential elections in the form of Kravchuk, was to create a new 'State' Orthodox Church.

In Summer 1992 the Ukrainian Orthodox Church united with the much smaller Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), a body that had been kept alive in the Ukrainian diaspora which had returned to Ukraine in the late 1980s. By the following year though, supporters of the UAOC had quarrelled with Metropolitan Filaret, deputy head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, over his alleged murky KGB past and seceded to re-launch their own Church again.

Meanwhile, those believers and clergy who refused to back calls for an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church remained loyal to the Moscow patriarchate and have based themselves in the Kyiv landmark Monastery of the Caves. Their base of support is primarily in the russified and denationalised Eastern and Southern Ukraine where Kuchma was elected.

The division of the largest Church in Ukraine into 'pro-Ukrainian' and 'pro-Russian' factions highlights the divided legacy and inheritance described earlier in this essay. …

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