ANALYSIS & COMMENTARY:
By Sehii Soroka in Ukrainian
Translated by Olena Czebiniak into English
Ukrayinska Pravda website, Kyiv, Ukraine, Mon, Dec 12, 2005
Throughout the more than thousand-year history of Ukrainian statehood,
the ruling powers never voluntarily served their people or the country, but
selflessly and eagerly served foreign invaders starting from the Varangians
of Sweden, the Tatar-Mongolians, to Poles and Lithuanians and finally the
The ruling powers in Ukraine could never independently protect their people
or land from foreign invaders such as the Tatar-Mongolians, Poles, the
Muscovites, Bolsheviks or Fascists.
There was not a single time that the government would apologize to its
people for the lack of talent, for the burning of Kyiv (several times), the
destruction of Chyhyryn, the Brody tragedy, the famine and the endless
number of ruined lives and lost fortunes of the Ukrainian people.
Harmony and prosperity in Ukraine occurred only during those short periods
in history when the people took power into their own hands and appointed
their own ruling authorities. Such was the period of the early Kyiv Rus,
when the people got tired of their own dukes’ quarrels and discords, and
invited Swedish Varagians to Kyiv.
The Cossack times were another period, when Cossacks elected their own
officers and protected their territories. There was also a short period of
Ukrainian National Republic and Western Ukrainian National Republic, when
the people of Ukraine gave a chance to their politicians to establish a new
state on the ruins of the Russian Empire.
However, as soon as the government pushed the people away from state
management, it caused the destruction of the state. Time and again, the
government was drowning in discord, squabbling, corruption and empty
Generally speaking, Ukrainians never really needed a ruling authority over
them because the nation has a remarkable ability to self-regulate and
develop (think of how many Ukrainian towns received the Magdeburg Right
during the time when the central government was practically non-existent in
The best government for a Ukrainian is the one that does not prevent him
to live his life, zealously work, zealously play, and peacefully die.
A Ukrainian will tolerate and eagerly defend this kind of government (by the
way, this is contrary to the way things are with a brotherly northern
neighbor, where historically the more the powers mistreat and oppress the
people – the more they love that power).
The recent history of Ukraine generally only demonstrates the same manner in
which the people and the government coexisted over the last thousand years.
At the 1991 referendum, the people of Ukraine expressed their strong will to
become an independent state, and the management of the new country was
immediately taken over by the mediocre former servants of the colonial
communist regime led by Kravchuk.
The total mediocrity of that government led to the “revolution on the
granite”. As a result, in 1994 the people won the right to change their
elected representatives and members of the government.
No matter how wretched the new government led by Kuchma was, the
people tolerated it only because it did not interfere with their lives.
Once again, Ukrainians display miracles of self regulation: there is no
work – they find it abroad; there is no merchandise in the stores – they
import it from Turkey and Poland and sell it at the outdoor markets; no
food – farmers markets blossom; the credit system does not function –
they develop barter relations and a dollar-based economy.
At that time, Ukraine had the most democratic tax system in the world: an
entrepreneur himself decided how much tax should be paid to the government.
The tax system existed de jure, but the people created an effective system
of avoiding taxes, and tax inspectors did not yet become a tool of
If this situation remained unchanged for another several years, Ukraine
would have quickly turned into the most developed and democratic European
country and we would have been in the European Union together with our
lame government leaders. If only they had not interfered.
Unfortunately, at the end of the 1990s the government decided to exercise
some power. The government officials started to grow appetites: each had
to have an acre of land with a three-storey house, a small factory, a few
luxury automobiles, a small plane or a yacht. In addition, they had children
and an endless number of relatives and friends.
Hence, the ruling authorities became greedy and cynical. Government
officials were receiving land, forests, factories, production plants and
ports as gifts, or paid next to nothing for them. Not only did they pay no
taxes on the so-called “privatized” businesses, but they also sent all the
profit into offshore bank accounts.
The bulk of the tax burden was put on the small and medium size
enterprises run by ordinary Ukrainians.
Apparently that was not enough, so government officials created a system
of embezzlement of taxes already paid to the state by means of returning
VAT on fictitious exports. In 2004 alone the amount of this returned (or
rather stolen from the people) VAT reached 5 billion hryvnia.
The growing demands of government officials and the need to satisfy them
led to the creation of a deeply hierarchal system of corruption throughout
the whole country.
Giant and tiny pyramids of corruption penetrated into every segment of
society, from the maternity wards, kindergartens, educational system,
healthcare and police to the army and ritual establishments.
The tax and permit issuing authorities basically became the tools of
oppression, systems of bribery and institutionalized theft.
Ukraine became one of the most corrupt countries of the world.
In order to stay in power, regardless of the will of the people, Kuchma and
his allies used a system of manipulation during the elections of 1999, 2002
Those were elections bereft of choice. In 1999 Ukrainians had to choose the
lesser of two evils – Symonenko or Kuchma. In 2002, the representatives of
the opposition were eliminated from the electoral process in major electoral
districts and did not have access to mass media.
It was clear that those means would not suffice to rig the presidential
elections of 2004, so the government officials created a new system of
election manipulation unprecedented in scale and cynicism.
And it was at this historic moment that the Ukrainian people took power into
their own hands, which even the government could not foresee. In fact,
starting November 2004 through January 2005, the country was ruled by a
new democratic institution – the Maidan.
The President, Verkhovna Rada, the Supreme Court as well as the country’s
security forces were forced to bow to the will of the Maidan as a
consolidated institution of a new Ukrainian democracy.
CONCLUSIONS AND FORECASTS
Back in 1946 in his famous Fulton speech, Winston Churchill defined the
three main components of democracy as the freedom of speech, free
unfettered elections and independent courts.
As history proves, these democratic institutions are very acceptable for
Ukrainians as they feed into the historic and mental abilities of Ukrainians
to self-organize and self-govern. Only effective democratic institutions can
secure the constitutional right of the people to power.
As a result of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine we have, more or less
active, two out of the three necessary democratic institutions: freedom of
speech and democratic elections.
As for the courts – unfortunately, they were reorganized into a system that
could be easily manipulated by the government. Victor Medvedchuk, a
professional manager and “the Grey Cardinal” of the former government
was working tirelessly to create this system.
At first, this judicial system suited the new government, since some of the
“friends” of the new President were hoping to take control of the courts.
But things did not work out the way they expected. The judicial system
continues to work for its patrons and “founding fathers”.
We hope that the new government will begin judicial reform soon; especially
after a couple of disgraceful slaps in the face it received from apologists
of the old regime (Piskun, who has Medvedchuk’s ears sticking from behind
his head, is simply mocking the President).
If, on the other hand, the new government will not be able to reorganize the
court system, then the people or their representatives will do the job
(Vlasenko and Reznikov already expressed their willingness to help).
Whatever the case may be, any ruling power, especially still budding
Ukrainian democracy, will try to avoid being controlled by its people or
will try to shift its responsibilities to the people.
Yekhanurov’s persistent appeals to entrepreneurs to declare actual salaries
sound like so much hot air. The same appeal was heard from the President
during the forum “Challenges brought by freedom”.
The new government still has not reformed the crumbling healthcare system,
which is free of charge only in theory, just like the corrupted system of
education, where parents have to “feed” the teachers or hire tutors.
The new government will have to reform the permit issuing system. The
bribes have gone up because of the extra risk of taking them (try buying
a space in Kyiv to open a pharmacy or a hair salon; it will cost you
minimum of $25,000 to $30,000 and a year and a half of going through
The government only asks right now that we give the state 60 kopecks out
of every gryvnia earned in the form of taxes.
This is probably because they need the money to pay the 18,000 gryvnia
pensions to former government officials and people’s deputies like our
beloved Kuchma and Bilokon’.
And where are the tax reform and the 20% unified social tax promised by
Don’t the President and the Prime Minister understand that a tax burden of
more than 60% (38% various deductions from the salary, 13% income tax,
20% VAT which we pay every time we make purchase or sale) is simply
The population will never pay such high taxes unless the people receive
guarantees that the government will provide effective social services
(healthcare, education, police, court system, social protection services
So far, the government has not fulfilled these obligations. That is why
Ukrainians, through democratic institutions, should keep a tight grip on
the government authorities and not to loosen that grip for even a minute.
This is the only way to ensure peace and prosperity in Ukraine. Otherwise,
as before, the promises of the politicians will remain promises, and the
risk of Ukraine losing its statehood will become real again. -30-