Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 60

Radio Kyiv reports today that Vyacheslav Chornovil–former head of Ukraine’s Rukh party–has in a traffic accident late last night (Radio Kyiv, March 26). Chornovil was a standard bearer of the Ukrainian movement for national independence during the last decades of Soviet rule. Born in 1937 in a village in Cherkassy region (central Ukraine) where both of his parents were school teachers, Chornovil graduated from the journalism department of Kyiv University, worked in successive editorial posts in radio and print journalism, and began a career in literary criticism. In 1965 he joined an illegal human rights group, was dismissed from work by the Soviet authorities, went on to edit the underground bulletin “Ukrainsky visnyk,” and was ultimately imprisoned. Chornovil served several terms totaling twelve years in prisons and five years in Siberian exile, mostly in Yakutia. In exile and in intervals between prison terms he had to work at odd jobs.

Free at last from 1985 on, Chornovil became a founding co-chairman of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union in 1987 in Lviv and one of the leaders of the Ukrainian Republican Party, based in western Ukraine. He was elected head of the Lviv region’s administration in 1990, and resigned that post in 1992 after being elected chairman of the Ukrainian Popular Movement (the Rukh) which stood for fully independent statehood and the revival of national language and culture, a pro-Western orientation, market reforms, and political democracy. In Ukraine’s first presidential election in 1991, as runner-up to Leonid Kravchuk, Chornovil received 23 percent of the votes country-wide, including scores of approximately 70 percent in western regions. These were more than, however, by the returns in eastern regions. The Rukh has in recent years experienced a decline, not least because of its undefined and ultimately ambivalent relationship with the governing authorities. During the last few weeks, the Rukh split into two mutually hostile parties, one of them–apparently the smaller one–led by Chornovil.–VS