Leonid Kravtsjuk

Article

May 22, 2022

Leonid Makarovych Kravchuk (Ukrainian: Леонід Макарович Кравчук; born January 10, 1934 in Żytyń Wielki in Wołyń Voivodeship, Poland; died May 10, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine) was a Ukrainian economist and politician who was Ukraine's first Soviet president after independence. He was involved in the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and advocated the agreement that abolished Ukraine as a nuclear power, and opened the country to the West. His term of office lasted from December 5, 1991 to July 19, 1994. He lost to Leonid Kuchma (Prime Minister 1991-1993) in the 1994 election.

Life and work

Background

Leonid Makarovych Kravchuk's birthplace Żytyń Wielki (Ukrainian: Velykyj Zhytyn) was part of Poland when he was born; the majority population of the area and also his own family were ethnic Ukrainians. The area became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic after the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east at the outbreak of World War II in 1939. Leonid's father served in the Polish army in the 1930s, and later he and his wife worked for local Osadniks (Polish colonists). During World War II, his father died at the front. Kravtajuk married in 1957 the mathematics teacher Antonina Mykhailivna Misjura. The First Lady of the United States from 1989 to 1993, Barbara Bush (wife of President George H. W. Bush), described Antonina in her memoirs: "She was the nicest young woman, a math teacher with absolutely no interest in politics." Kyiv and lectured for a short period in Marxist economic theory.

Politician

Kravchuk became a member of the Ukrainian Communist Party in 1958 and rose through the ranks of the party and its agitprop ministry. During the Soviet Union, he was an apparatus chic who went from being a propaganda chief (1980) to a chief ideologue (1988). In 1970 he was elected to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine. He became a member of its party bureau in 1989, and on July 23, 1990, he became chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR, becoming the nominal head of state of the republic. On October 24, 1990, the monopoly position of the Ukrainian Communist Party was abolished, and with this, Kravchuk became not only the nominal, but the real, head of the republic.

The first head of state of independent Ukraine

In a referendum on December 1, 1991, more than 90% voted for secession from the Soviet Union, and Kravchuk was elected president. He signed the surprising Minsk Agreement on December 8, 1991, which led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He was the first president of independent Ukraine after independence from the Soviet Union. His term of office lasted from 5 December 1991 to 19 July 1994. Kravtsjuk advocated a gradual transition to a free market economy due to a lack of infrastructure and expertise. As president of independent Ukraine, he focused on an approach to Western Europe. In 1990, Ukraine's Supreme Soviet voted 354 to 4 in favor of national sovereignty. Kravtsjuk was then chairman of the Supreme Soviet and the leading politician in the country. During the coup attempt in the Soviet Union in 1991, Yeltsin asked for assistance in preventing the coup plotters from reaching Mikhail Gorbachev, who was at his resort in Foros, Crimea. Kravchuk did not follow Yeltsin's call. Among Kravchuk's decisions is the signing of the Lisbon Protocol on May 23, 1992, in which Ukraine renounced all its nuclear weapons left behind after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In Ukraine (and in Belarus) there was some opposition to renouncing nuclear weapons, by 5 December 1994 all the countries that had signed the Lisbon Protocol had exchanged instruments of ratification, and the agreement became final.

Not re-elected

In the 1994 presidential election, Kuchma received 52% of the vote and Kravchuk 47%. Kuchma had particular support in the east of the country and on the Crimean peninsula (areas with Russian speakers), while Kravchuk especially had