Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 207

Numerically, this year’s rallies marking the anniversary of the October revolution of 1917 did not differ much from those of a year ago. According to official figures, 90,000 participated this year. In 1997 participants numbered 80,000. The number of law enforcement personnel ensuring public order across Ukraine also increased only slightly–25,000 this year and 15,000 in 1997. This, however, did not prevent the already almost-ritual street clashes between radical opponents of the old social order and its mostly elderly, but no less radical, defenders in the western city of Lviv (Ukrainian agencies, November 7, 1997, 1998).

On November 6 the parliament mirrored the rift within Ukrainian society in relation to the Soviet past, when the communist deputy Volodymyr Moiseenko brandished a red flag in the session hall, igniting a fistfight between members of his party and the nationalist Rukh. Eventually, the Rukh left the hall in protest, accompanied by the pro-presidential People’s Democratic Party faction (Ukrainian agencies and television, November 6).

During the nostalgic rallies of November 7, the “red” across the country called for restoration of Soviet rule and censured the government for cooperation with NATO and international financial organizations. The Crimean archcommunist and local parliament speaker, Leonid Hrach, was more inventive. He not only showed teeth to the central government, saying that “if certain forces in Kyiv oppose” the new Crimean constitution, he would settle this issue by a Crimean referendum. Hrach then went further, proposing a nationwide referendum, to be held simultaneously with the presidential election of October 1999, to give Russian the status of Ukraine’s second official language (Ukrainian agencies, November 7). Hrach does not conceal his nationwide presidential ambitions, at least concerning the elections of 2004. This pragmatic communist, who only grudgingly accepts his subordination in the party hierarchy to the Communist Party of Ukraine leader Petro Symonenko, could become Symonenko’s strong presidential rival in the Russian-speaking, densely populated east and south if he begins to play a Russian card seriously.

The national democrats at their rallies in major Ukrainian cities marked not the anniversary of the October revolution, but the day of remembrance of the victims of Communist terror. The leader of the most popular right-wing party, the Rukh, Vyacheslav Chornovil, announced at an anticommunist rally in Kyiv that his party and the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists will nominate a single candidate in the presidential elections of 1999 (Ukrainian agencies, November 7). Earlier Chornovil had announced that his party would not support Kuchma. Several other nationalist parties–including the once very popular Democratic Party of Volodymyr Yavorivsky–called for unity of the right wing in the presidential campaign (see the Monitor, October 13, 28). A single candidate has not yet been named, and it will be very difficult for the ambitious nationalist leaders to achieve unity on this issue.–OV