Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Ukrainian City Spurns Communism REVOLT IN THE SOVIET UNION

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Ukrainian City Spurns Communism REVOLT IN THE SOVIET UNION

Article excerpt

IF President Mikhail Gorbachev loses sleep over the thought that Lithuania wants to leave the Soviet Union, the idea that Ukraine could do likewise must give him nightmares.

The republic is a powerhouse, a granary, and a pantry operated by 50 million of the Soviet Union's most economically active people.

Although secession is not imminent, a small revolt in the western Ukraine shows what could develop if enough native Ukrainians join a growing movement for self-determination.

It happened two months ago here in Lvov, an old, typically European city that was once part of Poland. A group representing various organizations, including Rukh, the Ukrainian national movement, swept the Communist Party from power here by capturing 80 percent of the seats on the regional soviet, or council.

This month not a single Soviet red banner flutters above the city's key public buildings. Even the Communist Party headquarters is flying the resurrected Ukrainian blue-and-yellow national flag.

The still-conservative Communist authorities in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, are not happy. In fact, they threaten economic sanctions and other forms of punishment as Lvov's deputies debate measures to obliterate communism from the region, which was incorporated into the Soviet Union at the end of World War II and is today populated by 5 million people.

The leader of the revolt is Vyacheslav Chornovil, a former journalist who now heads the local soviet. Mr. Chornovil, of Cossack descent, was released recently after 15 years in labor camps and exile to Siberia. He is a fervent Ukrainian nationalist, a crime for which he could have been executed six years ago.

"It's been a real revolution," he says. "We have real people's power here in Lvov."

"Here's a paradox," Chornovil smiles. "The people who were imprisoned for so-called anti-Soviet activities are now the leaders of the soviets (councils). And we are accusing the Communists of anti-Soviet activities."

The council has adopted a resolution to this effect in the midst of a clash over control of the Communist-dominated mass media. The council is demanding that the party hand over control of the local Ukrainian-language newspaper.

The action that has most incensed Kiev is the unilateral legalization of the Uniate (Ukrainian Catholic) Church, which Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin banned in 1946 and which Pope John Paul II has been urging Mr. Gorbachev to reinstate. The majority of western Ukrainians are devout Uniates, and many of their priests have been persecuted over the past 44 years.

Most of the banned Uniate churches were transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church, but even before the new decree, many Ukrainian congregations switched their churches back to houses of Uniate worship.

The Transfiguration Church, standing in the center of Lvov, was the first to do so. …

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