Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 34

In Ukraine, political forces that openly seek to restore the USSR are based in the eastern part of the country and in Crimea. Their electorate consists primarily of ethnic Russians and, secondarily, of Russified Ukrainians. This fact, however, does not make the diehard Soviet movements representative of the Russian or "Russian-speaking" population as such. That population’s votes are divided among a number of political forces, mostly ranging from the center-left to the extreme left.

In the upcoming parliamentary elections, the leftist fringe is represented mainly by the Union Party and the Working Ukraine Bloc, each with its own slate of candidates. Both call for conferring official status on the Russian language on a par with Ukrainian and for restoring a type of state that would approximate the former Soviet Union. The former represents an immediate, the latter a follow-up goal of these movements. Their leaders have links in Russia with leftist and nationalist opponents of Boris Yeltsin. The two movements seek to capitalize on social grievances and on a combination of Soviet internationalism and Greater Russian or pan-Slav sentiment.

In an electoral broadcast on national television this week, spoken in Russian, Union Party leader Svetlana Savchenko decried Ukraine’s Western orientation, describing it as a major cause of the country’s economic problems. Savchenko called for restoring a Russian-Ukrainian "single economic space" as a "question of survival" for Ukraine, and came out for Ukraine’s accession to the Russia-Belarus Union. According to Savchenko, "the main idea of our party’s program, reflected in the name Union Party, is that of restoring the Union of fraternal nations" — a reference to the USSR. The UP considers the Russia-Belarus Union as a stepping stone toward that goal.

The UP is strongly represented in Crimea’s Supreme Soviet. Headed by Vladimir Klychnikov, the Crimean UP is known to have connections to the shadow economy both on the peninsula and on the Ukrainian mainland. Rather than agitate for the transfer of Crimea to Russia, the UP seeks to negotiate tactical alliances with some Kyiv politicians, including presidential aspirants. In so doing, Klychnikov looks beyond this year’s parliamentary elections toward next year’s presidential elections.

The Working Ukraine Bloc consists of the Party of Justice, a war veterans’ organization, several smaller groups and the hard-line part of the once-strong Civic Congress, which split last year. Working Ukraine’s inaugural electoral broadcast this week, also spoken in Russian, used Soviet background music and described a "radiant and happy" era when "there was bread, sausage and milk, we had no president or parliament but our strategic missiles were the most powerful in the world, and all countries had to reckon with our country." Nevertheless the electoral broadcast attacked the old-line Communist nomenklatura for its incompetence and privileges. It described today’s Ukrainian leadership as mere "heirs of those Communist functionaries."

WU offers general promises to restore Soviet-era social benefits. Apart from that, it hopes to draw votes primarily in Donetsk coal-mining areas, in ailing industrial towns in eastern Ukraine, from Soviet Army veterans (pensioners in general) and from younger voters who might respond to pan-Slavic appeals. Working Ukraine and the Union Party (except the Crimean organization) seem less inclined than the Communist party of Ukraine, not to mention the Socialist party, to accept post-Soviet changes. WU and UP will outflank the CP and SP from the left in these elections and will to some degree cut into their vote. The situation on this side of the political spectrum resembles that on the right, where ultranationalist groups will cut into the national and national-democratic vote. (Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research: Research Update, November 24, 1997; Ukrainian agencies, January 22 and February 18; Ukrainian TV and Radio Kyiv, February 16)

Tajik Government Wants Opposition to Give Up Military Leverage.