Viacheslav Chornovil
В'ячеслав Чорновіл
Chairman of the Lviv Oblast Council
In office
April 1990 – April 1992
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byMykola Horyn [uk]
People's Deputy of Ukraine
In office
15 May 1990 – 26 March 1999
Personal details
Born(1937-12-24)24 December 1937
Yerky, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
Died25 March 1999(1999-03-25) (aged 61)
Ivankiv, Ukraine
Political partyPeople's Movement of Ukraine (from 1989)
Other political
Komsomol (c. late 1950s–1966)
Iryna Brunevets
(m. 1960; div. 1962)
Olena Antoniv
(m. 1963, divorced)
(m. 1969)
Children2 (Andriy, Taras)
Alma materTaras Shevchenko University of Kyiv
AwardsOrder of State
Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise
Shevchenko Prize (1996)

Viacheslav Maksymovych Chornovil (Ukrainian: В'ячеслав Максимович Чорновіл; 24 December 1937 – 25 March 1999) was a Ukrainian politician and Soviet dissident. As a prominent Ukrainian dissident in the Soviet Union, he was arrested multiple times in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s for his political views.[4] From 1992 onwards, Chornovil was one of the leaders of Rukh, the People's Movement of Ukraine, which was the first opposition party in democratic Ukraine, and editor-in-chief of the newspaper Chas-Time (Chas) from 1995. One of the most prominent political figures of the 1980s and 1990s, Chornovil paved the way for contemporary Ukraine to regain its independence.

Born in Kyiv Oblast, Chornovil was originally a journalist in newspaper and television before he was fired and sentenced to forced labour due to his dissident activism. Chornovil became one of Ukraine's foremost independence activists, and was an early member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group. In 1988, he founded the People's Movement of Ukraine, the first non-communist party in Ukraine, and ran unsuccessfully to be the first president of independent Ukraine in 1991, losing to Leonid Kravchuk.

Following the 1994 Ukrainian presidential election, Chornovil became one of President Leonid Kuchma's foremost critics. Though he was expected to face Kuchma in the 1999 Ukrainian presidential election, his sudden and mysterious death in a car accident brought an end to his campaign. Chornovil has been remembered as one of the most significant figures in Ukraine's regained independence in 1991.

Early life and education

Chornovil's childhood home in Vilkhovets, Cherkasy Oblast

Viacheslav Maksymovych Chornovil was born on 24 December 1937 in the village of Yerky, in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, to a family of teachers.[5] His father, Maksym Iosypovych Chornovil, was descended from Cossack nobility, while his mother was part of the aristocratic Tereshchenko family. In spite of the Soviet policy of state atheism and the Russification of Ukraine, the young Chornovil was raised in Ukrainian Christian traditions, with his family celebrating Ukrainian festivals in their home.[6]

Born and raised during the Great Purge, Viacheslav's childhood was dominated by Soviet repressions; his paternal uncle, Petro Iosypovych, was executed, while his father lived as a fugitive. The family regularly moved from village to village in an effort by Maksym to evade arrest.[7] During World War II and the German occupation of Ukraine the Chornovil family lived in the village of Husakove, where Viacheslav attended school. He later claimed in his autobiography that following the recapture of Husakove by the Soviet Union, his family was expelled from the village. They later lived in Vilkhovets, where they had lived prior to Husakove, and where Viacheslav later graduated from middle school with a gold medal in 1955.[8]

Chornovil enrolled at the Taras Shevchenko University of Kyiv the same year, studying to become a journalist. At this time he also joined the Komsomol, the youth division of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. During his time in Kyiv Chornovil first acquired an interest in politics, becoming a strong believer in friendship of peoples and internationalism. The negative response by Kyiv's Russophone population to those who spoke the Ukrainian language disgruntled him and left him with an increased consciousness of his status as a Ukrainian.[9] Like other young Soviet activists of the time, Chornovil was also influenced by the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956, in which Nikita Khrushchev denounced the rule of Joseph Stalin.[10]

Chornovil's noncomformist views brought him into conflict with the faculty's newspaper, which condemned him for "nonstandard thinking" in 1957.[11] As a result, he was forced to pause his studies and sent to work as an udarnik[8] constructing a blast furnace in the Donbas city of Zhdanov (today known as Mariupol). He also worked as an itinerant editor for the Kyiv Komsomolets newspaper. After a year, he returned to his studies, graduating in 1960 with distinction.[11] His diploma dissertation was on the publicist works of Borys Hrinchenko.[12] The same year, he married his first wife, Iryna Brunevets. The two had one son, Andriy, before divorcing in 1962.[13]

Journalistic and party career

Following his graduation Chornovil became an editor at Lviv Television (now Suspilne Lviv [uk]) in July 1960, where he had previously worked as an assistant from January of the same year. During this time, he possibly met and interacted with Zenovii Krasivskyi, who was studying television journalism at the University of Lviv. Much like Chornovil, Krasivskyi would later become a leader of the dissident movement. Chornovil wrote scripts for the channel's broadcasts, primarily concerning the history of Ukrainian literature.[14] At least three (on Mykhailo Stelmakh, Vasyl Chumak, and the Young Muses [uk]) were broadcast in 1962.[15] During this time, Chornovil also took up literary criticism, focusing particularly on the works of Hrinchenko, Taras Shevchenko, and Volodymyr Samiilenko [uk].[16]

Kyiv Hydroelectric Power Plant, where Chornovil worked as a Komsomol secretary from 1963 to 1964

Chornovil left his job at Lviv Television in May 1963 to return to Kyiv. There, he was the Kyiv Komsomol secretary for the construction of Kyiv Hydroelectric Power Plant.[16] He simultaneously worked as an editor for the Kyiv-based newspapers Young Guard and Second Reading,[8] and was part of the Artistic Youths' Club, an informal group of intellectuals affiliated with the counter-cultural Sixtier movement.[17] In June 1963, Chornovil married his second wife, Olena Antoniv [uk], and by 1964, Chornovil's second son, Taras, was born.[13] Chornovil also passed exams for post-graduate courses at the Kyiv Paedagogical Institute in 1964, but he was denied the right to take courses on the basis of his political beliefs.[16] In particular was his involvement in the Artistic Youths' Club.[17]

Shevchenko Day [uk] on 9 March 1964 was marked by celebrations throughout the Soviet Union marking the 150th anniversary of Taras Shevchenko's birth. As part of the Shevchenko Day celebrations Chornovil gave a speech to the workers of the Kyiv Hydroelectric Power Plant. During his speech, he described Shevchenko as a uniquely Ukrainian hero, rejecting official interpretations, which emphasised Shevchenko's role in anti-serfdom activities. Tying Shevchenko's life to Ukrainians' history, Chornovil said, "Let's read Kobzar together, and we shall see that in all the poet's work, from the first to the last line, a red line passes through with trembling love for the disgraced and despised native land," and that Shevchenko's works themselves argued, "every system built on the oppression of man by man, on contempt for human dignity and inalienable human rights, on the suppression of free, human thoughts, on the oppression of one nation by another nation, and in whatever new form it may hide — it is against human nature, and must be destroyed."[18]

Historian Yaroslav Seko notes that Chornovil's speech placed him as a member of the Sixtiers. However, he also advises that the speech was far from the most important work of the Sixtier movement and that Chornovil's role was minimal in comparison to individuals such as Ivan Dziuba, writer of Internationalism or Russification?, and Yevhen Sverstiuk.[19] On 8 August 1965, during the opening of a monument to Shevchenko in the village of Sheshory, Chornovil gave a speech with strongly anti-communist overtones. As a result, he was fired from his Komsomol job. Following his firing, Chornovil wrote several letters to the leadership of the Komsomol in an effort to demonstrate his innocence.[13]

Dissident and human rights activist

1965–1966 purge

Chornovil's co-protestors at the 1965 Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors premiere

The next year marked the beginning of a series of mass arrests of Sixtier intellectuals following Khrushchev's removal and replacement by Leonid Brezhnev. In protest of the arrests, Chornovil, as well as Dziuba and student Vasyl Stus, held a protest inside the Ukraine [uk] Kyiv film theatre during the 4 September premiere of Sergei Parajanov's Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. Dziuba said that the film's greatness was overshadowed by the ongoing purge, and, as he was being escorted off-stage, Stus called on those "against the revival of Stalinism" in the audience to stand up. The protest was one of the first open protests by Ukrainians against their status in the Soviet Union.[20] On 31 September his Lviv flat was searched by the KGB, and 190 books were confiscated. Included in the confiscated literature was the Galician–Volhynian Chronicle, the Books of the Genesis of the Ukrainian People, and monographs and articles by authors Panteleimon Kulish, Volodymyr Antonovych, Volodymyr Hnatiuk, Dmytro Doroshenko, Ivan Krypiakevych, and Volodymyr Vynnychenko, as well as history books about the First World War and interwar period.[21]

Later that year, with the purges continuing, Chornovil was called upon to give evidence at the trials of Mykhaylo Osadchy, Bohdan and Mykhailo Horyn, and Myroslava Zvarychevska [uk]. Chornovil refused, and as a result was fired from his editor position at Second Reading. He turned to samvydav, publishing Court of Law or a Return of the Terror? in May 1966. On 8 July he was charged under Article 179 of the criminal code of the Ukrainian SSR, and sentenced to three months of hard labour with 20% of salary withheld. In this period, he worked various jobs, including as a technician in expeditions of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine to the Carpathian Mountains, as an advertiser for KyivKnyhTorh, and as a teacher at the Lviv Regional Centre for Protection of Nature.[16]

In 1967 Chornovil published his second work of samvydav. Known as A Disaster from the Mind: Portraits of Twenty "Criminals", it included information on those arrested during the 1965–1966 crackdown. Chornovil sent the work to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, the Committee for State Security of Ukraine, the Writers' Union of Ukraine, and the Union of Artists of Ukraine. On 21 October 1967 it was read during a broadcast of Radio Liberty, and it was professionally printed by the end of the year.[16] Chornovil's samvydav was published in the West in 1969 under the title of The Chornovil Papers, drawing attention to the purge at a time when public consciousness was focused largely on the Sinyavsky–Daniel trial.[22] Chornovil's work established him as one of the leading figures among Ukrainian activists at the time, and, along with Dziuba's Internationalism or Russification?, demonstrated to those in the rest of Europe that Ukrainians were not fully accepting of Soviet rule.[23]

In addition to A Disaster from the Mind Chornovil also wrote letters to the head of the Ukrainian KGB and the Prosecutor General of Ukraine complaining that investigators had violated the laws during the arrests of Sixtiers. On 5 May 1967 he was summoned to the office of the deputy Prosecutor General of Lviv Oblast, E. Starykov, who informed him of the existence of article 187-1 of the criminal code of the Ukrainian SSR, which forbade defaming the Soviet system or government, including by writing letters complaining about actions committed by members of the government, under the threat of as much as three years' imprisonment. Although not a secret, the law had gone unpublished at the time, and it was only due to Starykov's informing him after the fact that Chornovil learned that his acts may have been illegal.[13]

First arrest

Chornovil was sent to the Yakut ASSR (map pictured) following his first arrest

Chornovil was arrested in August 1967 in response to A Disaster from the Mind and charged under article 187-1.[24] Another search of his flat resulted in the seizure of a copy of A Disaster from the Mind, as well as Valentyn Moroz's Report from the Beria Reserve samvydav, which served as the basis for the charges against him. Chornovil chose to forgo a lawyer, as the latter option at the time carried the risks of having one's arguments distorted and manipulated during interrogations. Chornovil argued his innocence, as well as that of those who had been arrested during the purge, saying,[13]

Representatives of the Ukrainian intelligentsia were arrested in August and September 1965 in Kyiv, Lviv, and other cities of Ukraine. They were charged with anti-Soviet propaganda, and the majority of them were convicted in 1965 in closed court processes. I personally knew several of those arrested and convicted; I never noticed anything anti-Soviet in their actions and words, but, on the contrary, I saw sincere concern for the state of Ukrainian culture, the Ukrainian language, for the restoration of normal socialist law and socialist democracy, which were trampled during the years of the tyranny of Stalin and Beria. None of this differs from the 20th Congress of the CPSU. Later, M. Osadchy, interrogated and searched as a witness in the case of a teacher and a former instructor of the Lviv Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, came to the conclusion that the KGB bodies, which conducted the investigation, allowed violations of procedural norms, fitting the investigation to preconceived qualifications.

He also stated that the process, and the lack of Soviet authorities' action on his complaints, had significantly reduced his faith in the Soviet system. He continued to insist, however, that he had no ill-will towards the Soviet government, alleging that he was being targetted by certain officials who wished to illegally prevent him from informing high-ranking officials about the state of the country.[13] Chornovil was convicted on 13 November 1967 and sentenced to three years' imprisonment.[24] During this period, he lived in the village of Chappanda in the Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.[25]

Atena Pashko, Chornovil's third and final wife

In 1969 Chornovil married fellow activist Atena Pashko, whom he had met at the home of Ivan Svitlychnyi. The two were formally wed in the town of Nyurba. As a result of Chornovil's exile, holding a traditional wedding ceremony was impossible. Pashko later recalled that, on the way back to Chappanda, Chornovil made an impromptu bouquet of St. John's wort, while Pashko herself made one from wild roses. The newlyweds chose to leave their wedding rings in a large tree rather than wear them, intending that they stay there forever.[25]

Life between arrests (1969–1972)

Chornovil was released as part of a general amnesty in 1969. Struggling to get a job, between October 1969 and 1970 he variously worked at a weather station in Zakarpattia Oblast, as an excavator during an archaeological expedition to Odesa Oblast, and as an employee at Sknyliv railway station [uk].[26] In September of 1969 he also met Valentyn Moroz, another dissident who had been imprisoned as part of the 1965–1966 purge. The two quickly formed a friendship, as they both sought to strengthen the dissident movement and further confront government abuses. Moroz travelled to meet Chornovil no less than four times between his release on 31 September 1969 and his re-arrest on 1 June 1970, and Chornovil in turn visited Moroz's home in Ivano-Frankivsk multiple times. During this time period, Chornovil, alongside Svitlychnyi and Sverstiuk, also led a donations campaign to prevent Moroz (unable to find employment due to his criminal record) from falling into poverty. The campaign collected 3,500 rubles.[27] He organised further donation campaigns for other formerly-imprisoned dissidents, such as Sviatoslav Karavanskyi and Nina Strokata.[28]

In January 1970 Chornovil launched a new samvydav newspaper, known as The Ukrainian Herald. The newspaper contained other samvydav publications, as well as information on human rights abuses by the Soviet government and police which Chornovil believed to be contrary to the constitution of the Soviet Union, Great Russian chauvinism and anti-Ukrainian sentiment, and other information regarding the dissident movement in Ukraine.[29] Chornovil was the chief editor of The Ukrainian Herald, and one of its three editors (alongside Mykhailo Kosiv and Yaroslav Kendzior). The Ukrainian Herald maintained a large professional staff, with correspondents throughout Ukraine (ranging as far east as Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk),[30] and has been described by biographer V. I. Matiash as the forerunner to independent press in Ukraine.[31]

Fearing arrest, in June 1971 wrote a declaration to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which he intended to be released in the event he was to be taken into custody. In the letter, he outlined examples of violations of the law by Soviet legal bodies, and argued that Soviet political prisoners lacked the right to defend themselves and were subject to a campaign of eavesdropping, surveillance, blackmail, and threats. He rejected the possibility of cooperating with investigators, writing, "I would rather die behind bars than give in to the aforementioned principles."[32]

At this time, Chornovil also departed from principles of Marxism–Leninism, instead adopting a cautiously favourable view of libertarian socialism as exemplified by Mykhailo Drahomanov. In an October 1971 letter to Moroz Chornovil remarked that in his studies of anarchist revolutionaries Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin he had come to reject unconditional support for Drahomanov's policies, but believed that the earlier intellectual's libertarian views on self-government were worth supporting. This attitude later informed his support for federalism.[33]

Chornovil established the Civic Committee for the Defence of Nina Strokata on 21 December 1971, following the eponymous activist's arrest. This marked a change in his attitude towards the formation of human rights organisations; he had previously rejected them in favour of petition campaigns, viewing the formation of an organisation as impossible due to the circumstances of Ukraine's status within the Soviet Union, but this position had come under increasing criticism from dissidents (notably Moroz) and the Ukrainian public, who viewed them as too slow and without significant results. The committee had its roots in public committees established for the legal defence of Angela Davis, an American civil rights activist whose case was popular in the Soviet Union. Chornovil believed that by delivering information on the case to the U.N. Human Rights Committee Strokata could be freed, and additionally requested the support of Ivan Dziuba, Strokata's close friend Leonid Tymchuk [uk], Moscow-based activists Pyotr Yakir and Lyudmila Alexeyeva, and Zynoviia Franko, granddaughter of the writer Ivan Franko.[34]

Dziuba and Franko both refused to take part in the committee. Franko believed that it should be subordinated to Andrei Sakharov's Committee on Human Rights in the USSR and felt that it was pointless to form a group to defend a single individual. Dziuba, on the other hand, refused to join forces with Sakharov's committee, believing that they were insufficiently attentive to repressive activities occurring in Ukraine, and further stated that he would issue a statement about Strokata when he believed the time was right. Other dissidents, such as Svitlychnyi, Mykhailyna Kotsiubynska, and Hryhorii Kochur [uk] also refused to support the committee. These refusals impacted Chornovil, particularly that of Franko, whose familial ties he believed could help protect the committee from being attacked by the Soviet government.[34]

Tymchuk ultimately joined the committee, as did Vasyl Stus. The group based its reasoning on the Soviet constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The committee's publications included, in a first for Soviet activists, the addresses of its members, where submissions for materials on Strokata's behalf were to be sent. It was the first human rights organisation in Ukraine's history, but it would be destroyed the next year after all but one of its members (Tymchuk) were arrested.[35]

Second arrest (1972–1978)

Another wide-reaching crackdown on Ukrainian intelligentsia began in January 1972, sparked by the arrest of the Belgian-Ukrainian Yaroslav Dobosh, an Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists member tasked with smuggling samvydav out of the Soviet Union. Chornovil was arrested on 12 January following a Vertep celebration at the Lviv flat of Olena Antoniv. He was charged under articles 62 (anti-Soviet agitation) and 187-1 (slander against the Soviet Union) of the criminal code of the Ukrainian SSR.[36] The Vertep ceremony had been organised as a protest against Soviet cultural and religious policy, additionally serving as a fundraising effort for The Ukrainian Herald and for political prisoners and their families. It raised 250 rubles, which were used to assist those who had been arrested during the crackdown instead. Chornovil was imprisoned at the KGB pre-trial detention centre in Lviv, alongside Kalynets, Ivan Gel, Stefaniia Shabatura [uk], Mykhaylo Osadchy, and Yaroslav Dashkevych.[37]

Chornovil's trial took place behind closed doors.[13] Prosecutors cited as justification for the charges the belief that he was responsible for the contents of The Ukrainian Herald, which he denied.[38] During the investigation, other dissident activists refused to give evidence of Chornovil's role in the paper; it relied on guesses from other individuals, such as Zynoviia Franko, for its arguments.[39] Chornovil likewise refused to give evidence against fellow dissidents or cooperate with investigators, stating during a 2 February 1972 interrogation that he believed his trial to be illegal and unrelated to that of other dissidents. He was interrogated more than one hundred times during his trial, with 83 interrogations in 1972.[13]

Chornovil's employment of several different conflicting forms of writing and spelling formed a significant part of his defence, and he used it to argue that he had been blamed without linguistic analysis of the text. In the minutes of a 15 January 1973 court appearance Chornovil asserted, "Any investigation into my case does not exist, there is open preparation of a massacre against me, and no means are being spared. From this moment on, I refuse to participate in such an 'investigation'."[38] Wiretapping of Chornovil's cell led KGB investigators to discover that Chornovil intended to declare a hunger strike if sent into exile outside of Ukraine, and that he desired to be allowed to leave the Soviet Union for Yugoslavia.[40]

The sentence given at the conclusion of Chornovil's trial has been disputed; Amnesty International stated in 1977 that he had been sentenced to seven years' imprisonment and five years' exile;[41] The New York Times in March 1973 claimed that he had been subject to twelve years' imprisonment and exile, without differentiating between the two;[42] The Encyclopedia of Ukraine in 2015 asserted that he received a term of six years' imprisonment and three years' internal exile,[11] which historians Bohdan Paska[43] and Oleh Bazhan similarly professed. According to Bazhan, Chornovil was sentenced on 8 April 1973 by the Lviv Oblast Court,[40] though Chornovil recollected in 1974 that he had been sentenced on 12 April.[44] Chornovil made three appeals to higher courts regarding his case; the first two were rejected, while the third was formally accepted in part — although no changes were made to Chornovil's sentence.[13]

Following his trial Chornovil was sent to a corrective labour colony in the Mordovian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. From 1973 to 1978 he was variously imprisoned at two camps; ZhKh-385/17-A[a] and ZhKh-385/3.[b][16]

Despite his imprisonment, Chornovil continued to actively lead prisoners' protests, leading him to be nicknamed "General of the zeks" by author and dissident Mikhail Kheifets [ru; uk]. He was placed in a chamber-type room [ru][c] after refusing to obey any of the rules which prisoners were meant to follow.[45] B. Azernikov and L. Kaminskyi, two individuals who were imprisoned at the same camp as Chornovil, also described him as having "great authority among all political prisoners," and wrote an open letter to global society urging his release after they left the Soviet Union in 1975.[46]

Chornovil's activities continued to draw international attention during his imprisonment. He was recognised as a prisoner of conscience by human rights group Amnesty International,[41] and awarded the Nicholas Tomalin Prize for Journalism, recognising writers whose freedom of expression is threatened, in 1975.[47] Around this time Chornovil also began to smuggle his writings out of prison, and used the opportunity as a means to continue to demonstrate Soviet human rights abuses.[48] He wrote a letter to U.S. President Gerald Ford urging him to match the policy of détente with increased attention towards human rights in the Soviet Union, alleging that the Soviet authorities had used détente as a means by which to suppress dissident voices.[49] He further urged him to support the Jackson–Vanik amendment, which sanctioned the Soviet Union in an effort to allow for freedom of migration from the country.[50] Alongside Boris Penson, he wrote the samvydav booklet "Daily Life in the Mordovian Camps", which was smuggled to Jerusalem and published in Russian before being translated into Ukrainian in the Munich-based Suchasnist [uk] journal the next year.[11]

The Helsinki Accords were signed between 30 July and 1 August 1975. The signatory nations comprised all of Europe (aside from Albania), the Soviet Union, the United States, and Canada. In the Soviet Union, the Helsinki Accords were seen as marking a new beginning for dissidents, who found that they had a means to reveal Soviet human rights abuses. Referring to themselves as "Helsinki monitors", they found support from the United States Congress, which established the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe in July 1976 to organise responses to human rights violations.[51] Mykola Rudenko, a dissident living in the Kyiv neighbourhood of Koncha-Zaspa, declared the formation of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group on 9 November 1975 in an effort to highlight abuses.[52] Chornovil was imprisoned at the time of the group's founding, and would not be able to become a member until he was released from prison in 1979.[53]

Along with Moroz and other political prisoners, Chornovil's resistance activities continued after the establishment of the UHG. The duo took part in a 12 January 1977 hunger strike in which they called for an end to persecution on the basis of national beliefs. At this time, however, a split was forming among Ukrainian political prisoners over whether it was better to actively resist the Soviet prison system (as represented by Moroz, Karavanskyi, and Ivan Gel) and those who favoured self-preservation above all else (as represented by refusenik Eduard Kuznetsov, Oleksii Murzhenko [uk], and Danylo Shumuk). With influence from the KGB, the two factions began to clash openly. Chornovil, who was imprisoned in a different camp from Moroz and Shumuk, refused to take a side in the conflict and served as an intermediator. In early 1977, during a meeting with Shumuk at a hospital, Chornovil accused the former of artificially intensifying his conflict with Moroz, and compared letters by Shumuk to Canadian family members (in which he disparaged Moroz) as being equivalent to police complaints. Following his release from prison, Chornovil accused Shumuk and Moroz of being equally responsible for the feud as a result of their egocentric attitudes.[54]

Second exile (1978–1980)

Chornovil was released from prison and again sent to Chappanda in early 1978. There, he continued to write about the status of political prisoners and human rights within the Soviet Union.[55] He also continued to get involved in the conflict between Moroz and Shumuk; in a letter to Moroz's wife Raisa, he called for a public "boycott" of Shumuk, while arguing that Moroz was being inflexible. Moroz's nine-year imprisonment had seriously impacted his mental and emotional state; Chornovil characterised him as self-aggrandising and narcissistic. During his exile, Chornovil's friendship with Moroz came to an end as the former sought to distance himself from the latter, owing to the conflict with Shumuk.[56]

During his exile, Chornovil continued to send letters to the Soviet authorities. In a 10 April 1978 letter to the Procurator General of the Soviet Union, he criticised the fact that the theoretically wide-reaching rights granted by the Soviet constitution were absent in reality, asking "Why do Soviet laws exist?".[57] He also wrote a samvydav pamphlet, entitled "Only One Year",[58] and was admitted to PEN International that year.[55] At the time, he was working as a labourer on a sovkhoz farm in Nyurba,[58] where he had been sent in October 1979. As previously, much of Chornovil's samvydav works served to illustrate human rights abuses and the conditions faced by prisoners of conscience.[59]

Chornovil joined the Ukrainian Helsinki Group from exile on 22 May 1979.[53] From November 1979 to March 1980 he was placed under constant surveillance by the KGB, which recorded that he established contacts with dissidents Mykhailo Horyn, Oksana Meshko, and Ivan Sokulskyi [uk]. He also made contact with several other individuals who wished to establish chapters of the UHG in the oblasts of Ukraine. Unbeknownest to Chornovil, Meshko, at the time leader of the UHG, had also fallen under heavy KGB surveillance, and had ceased to admit individuals in order to prevent their arrests. Zenovii Krasivskyi, a leading UHG member, dispatched Petro Rozumnyi [uk] to visit imprisoned and exiled dissidents. Among them was Chornovil, who was asked to replace Meshko as head of the UHG.[59]

Third arrest (1980–1983)

Chornovil was arrested yet again on 8,[60] 9,[61] or 15[16] April 1980 on charges of attempted rape. The charges are frequently described in Ukrainian historiography as a total fabrication,[16][60][26] and were likewise referred to as such by the American Time magazine.[62] The charges of attempted rape reflected similar such accusations against several other leading dissidents at the time, such as Mykola Horbal, Yaroslav Lesiv, and Yosyf Zisels. Myroslav Marynovych, a member of the UHG, later accused the KGB of outright falsifying information which led to Chornovil's arrest, quoting a KGB officer as stating that "we will not make any more martyrs" by arresting individuals exclusively on political charges.[63] Chornovil's arrest, as well as those of several other dissidents from Ukraine and throughout the Soviet Union, took place amidst a meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in Madrid, and Time stated that some observers believed the arrests were done to demonstrate Soviet umbrage towards the Helsinki Accords.[62]

Following his arrest, Chornovil declared a hunger strike,[61] characterising his arrest and those of others as contrary to Leninist ideals and an effort to stifle dissent in the leadup to the 1980 Summer Olympics.[64] He was moved to a prison camp in Tabaga, Yakutia, where he was placed into a cell smeared with vomit and feces. At one point, he was transferred to a "recreation room", where he had no access to water. Lacking strength as a result of his hunger strike, Chornovil crawled on all fours to reach the prison's toilet, which was one storey below his cell and across the prison yard. Several times, he passed out from exhaustion, and was awoken by being doused in water by guards. During an epidemic of dysentery at the camp, Chornovil was infected, and he promptly ended his hunger strike after doctors stated that they would refuse to treat him if he did not end his hunger strike. Chornovil was later held in solitary confinement from 5 to 21 November 1980 as a response to the hunger strike.[61] He was found guilty by a closed court in the city of Mirny and sentenced to five years imprisonment.[16]

Chornovil continued to write in prison, including a February 1981 open letter to the 26th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in which he accused General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and KGB chairman Yuri Andropov of orchestrating massive purges against the UHG. He also wrote to his wife, urging "no compromises" in dissidents' reactions to the congress. He wrote another letter on 9 April 1981, this time to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Amnesty International, the Committee for the Free World, and the Helsinki Committees for Human Rights urging increased attention towards Soviet persecution of the UHG in formulating their diplomatic policies towards the Soviet Union.[65] Chornovil was released in 1983, but was barred from returning to Ukraine. He remained in the town of Pokrovsk,[16] working as a fire stoker.[66] On 15 April 1985[16] he was given permission to return to Ukraine by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as part of his perestroika.[9][10] Chornovil spent a total of 15 years imprisoned by the Soviet government.[9]


In the late 1980s, he actively participated in the Ukrainian national movement becoming the first leader of the People's Movement of Ukraine (better known as Rukh). In 1988, there was a first attempt to create the "Democratic Front in support of Perestroika" in Lviv only to be dispersed by the Soviet OMON canine unit. Later he promoted several nationally oriented actions, one of them was the human chain that took place on 21 January 1990 and commemorated the act of unification of the Ukrainian lands in 1919 (see Act Zluky).

Chornovil ran for President of Ukraine in 1991, but was defeated, winning only in western Ukraine. He was one of the most important members of Rukh, People's Movement of Ukraine. He was elected to the Verkhovna Rada for the People's Movement of Ukraine in 1994 and 1998, and was the head of that party.

Vyacheslav Chornovil was founder of the independent socio-political newspaper Chas-Time (known also as Chas), and served as editor-in-chief from 1995 to 1999.[67]

In 1999, Rukh almost dissolved due to disagreements within. There are speculations that the failure to liquidate the party led to the road accident that took Chornovil's life. This is mentioned in Volodymyr Onyshchenko's documentary, He Who Awoke the Stone State.[68]

Opposition to Leonid Kuchma

Following the 1994 Ukrainian presidential election, Leonid Kuchma became President of Ukraine. Kuchma's subsequent crackdown on independent media caused Chornovil to become one of the foremost critics of his government.[69]

Chornovil was expected to be the main opposition candidate to incumbent president Leonid Kuchma in the 1999 presidential election, but his death brought an abrupt end to his campaign.[70]

Death and remembrance

Commemorative 2-hryvnia coin depicting Chornovil

On 25 March 1999, Chornovil and his assistant, Yevhen Pavlov, were driving near Boryspil when their vehicle was struck head-on by a truck, killing both instantly. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians attended his funeral.[69]

Ukrainian stamp honoring Chornovil's memory, 2008.

The official investigation carried by the Ministry of Internal Affairs concluded that the crash was purely accidental and discovered no evidence of foul play. However, some of Chornovil's supporters called his death a political murder and called on bringing those responsible for it to justice. The theory of murder is stated on the website dedicated to Vyacheslav Chornovil and created by his son Taras Chornovil, a deputy of Verkhovna Rada formerly from the Party of Regions.[71]

In 2003, the National Bank of Ukraine issued a commemorative coin with the nominal of 2 hryvnias dedicated to Chornovil.

On 23 August 2006, President Viktor Yushchenko unveiled a monument to Chornovil and ordered a new investigation into his death. On 6 September 2006, Yuri Lutsenko, the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, announced that based on the information he saw, he personally believes that Chornovil was a victim of murder rather than a car accident.[72][73] Lutsenko stated further that the investigation is now carried by the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine and the Security Service of Ukraine, the law enforcement authorities not under Lutsenko's control. He went further, alluding that "certain circles" in the Prosecutor's Office and Security Service are stonewalling the investigation.[74] However, on 9 August, Oleksandr Medvedko, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, commented at the news conference that Lutsenko's statement is "unprofessional" as his conclusions are based on unreliable information.[75]

On 25 March 2009, another funeral service was held near the memorial sign in Boryspil, and admirers, including then-Mayor of Kyiv Leonid Chernovetskyi, laid flowers on his monument in Kyiv to mark the 10-year anniversary of Chornovil's death.[76]

In 2009, a Ukrainian stamp devoted to Chornovil was issued.[77]


See also


  1. ^ Also known as Camp 17-A or simply Camp 17. Located in Ozerny, Zubovo-Polyansky District [ru; uk].
  2. ^ Also known as Camp 19. Located in Barashevo, Tengushevsky District [ru; uk].
  3. ^ Russian: Помещение камерного типа, romanizedPomeshcheniye kamernogo tipa; abbreviated PKT (ПКТ.


  1. ^ "People's Deputy of Ukraine of the I convocation". Official portal (in Ukrainian). Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  2. ^ "People's Deputy of Ukraine of the II convocation". Official portal (in Ukrainian). Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  3. ^ "People's Deputy of Ukraine of the III convocation". Official portal (in Ukrainian). Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  4. ^ Marusenko, Peter (16 April 1999). "Vyacheslav Chornovil obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
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  7. ^ "8 фактів про життя В'ячеслава Чорновола" [8 facts about the life of Viacheslav Chornovil]. (in Ukrainian). 24 December 2017. Retrieved 14 May 2024.
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  • Ostrovskyi, Valerii (2018). "Вячеслав Чорновіл і Зіновій Красівський: переплетіння доль і звершень" [Viacheslav Chornovil and Zinovii Krasivskyi: intertwined fates and achievements]. In Derevinskyi, Vasyl (ed.). Чорновілські читання. Візія майбутнього України: Матеріали III і IV наукових конференцій, присвячених 80-й річниці з дня народження Вячеслава Чорновола [Chornovil Readings: a Vision of Ukraine's Future: materials of the third and fourth scientific conferences celebrating the 80th birth anniversary of Viacheslav Chornovil] (in Ukrainian). Kyiv, Ternopil: Beskydy. pp. 105–117.
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