May 23, 2022
Leonid Makarovytch Kravchuk (Ukrainian: Леонід Макарович Кравчук) is a Ukrainian statesman born on January 10, 1934 in Żytyń (in) (then in Poland, present-day Ukraine) and died on May 10, 2022 in Munich (Germany). Kravtchouk, after a doctorate in economics, joined the Ukrainian Communist Party, where he rose through the ranks. He became a member of the Supreme Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and number two of the Ukrainian Communist Party in charge of ideology. He was the last leader of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, from 1990 to 1991. Faced with the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s, this Soviet regime apparatchik rallied to the Ukrainian nationalist cause out of pragmatism. . His Ukrainian origins and his knowledge of the workings of the regime in place apparently make him the ideal man to lead Ukraine's perilous transition towards independence and democracy. Also after the independence of Ukraine in 1991, he became its first president. Kravchuk faces enormous challenges during his term as president: defining a constitution, maintaining Ukraine's independence from a Russia that is trying to gain the upper hand over the states resulting from the break-up of the Union Soviet Union, rebuild the entire administrative apparatus, manage a particularly painful economic transition due to the intertwining of the Ukrainian and Russian economies. In practice Kravchuk, who wields significant powers within the framework of a quasi-presidential regime, opts for the status quo by keeping the former communist leaders in their place in all the key positions: within the party in power, at the head of the regions and in the ministries involved in industrial policy. A man of consensus in a context that would have required an iron fist, he failed to impose the necessary reforms and to have a constitution passed. It nevertheless works for a rapprochement with the European Union. Kravchuk was defeated by Leonid Kuchma in the 1994 presidential election.