Hennady Druzenko
July 2012

In Anticipation of the Third Ukrainian Republic

Thus, the first thing that the founding fathers of the Third Republic will need to do is to honestly articulate its genesis, its geo-historical system of co-ordinates and the corresponding system of values, which will determine the building of the country. We cannot solemnly sing, “Brothers, we are all of the Cossack nation” and consider Taras Shevchenko our national prophet, while at the same time quietly observe the building of new monuments to Catherine II in Odessa and Sevastopol. The statehood project is not viable in a country where monuments are simultaneously put up to Stepan Bandera in Lviv, Roman Shukhevych in Ternopil, to Stalin in Zaporizhzhia, and to the victims of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (OUN-UPA) in Luhansk. Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.

I understand that the Ukrainian project has so far been held together by an empty compromise, or rather, not even by compromise (which has never been achieved), but by the practice of avoiding definite answers to “sharp questions.” This was justified by the necessity to preserve peace, unity and the territorial integrity of the country at all costs. We must, however, admit that the price we have paid for this is the fundamental emptiness of the contemporary Ukrainian project as such, its eclectic and ambivalent nature.                                

In fact, I do believe that the Second Republic could have had a chance for success, had it been able to offer its own project– let us call it "Singaporean-style," when a nation is united not by a common past, but by the aspiration to a common success in the future. If any of the Ukrainian presidents had succeeded in inspiring the nation with a “from third world to first” project, questions concerned with the state and dominant languages, “real” heroes of the distant and recent past, “canonical” and “un-canonical” churches, would have all gone away involuntarily and lost their urgency for most of the population. Alas, this was not to be... 

A second task for the Third Republic's founding fathers will be the creation of a simple and realistic power architecture. The niceties and subtleties of European constitutionalism do not work in this country where the most commonly-held piece of legal knowledge appears to be the proverb about the law and the wagon-tongue. [2] For this reason, the system of checks and balances must be strict, while provisions on the organization of power should be as concrete and unambiguous as possible.

The President, in my opinion, should be elected in a direct election and should personally and directly head the government. Parliament should be turned into a smaller single-chamber body, without any influence – apart from the impeachment procedure – on the formation of the executive power. A system regulating parliamentary elections should be codified directly in the constitution. The constitutions should also contain an exhaustive description of a realistic impeachment procedure. Courts should gradually become self-governing and acquire maximum independence from both legislative and executive authority. However, at first judges should be appointed and fully controlled by elected representatives, who obtained their mandate in a direct national vote. For the transitional period it is certainly worth preserving something like the High Council of Justice, which would be formed jointly by parliament and the president and would be able to dismiss judges suspected of especially blatant law violations. This function, however, should gradually be transferred to the Supreme Court, similarly granted with constitutional jurisdiction.  

For a conscious break of legitimacy or the “reset of the Ukrainian project,” a new constitution (in its transitional provisions) should certainly include a chapter on lustration. Government officials, law makers and judges who have brought about the bankruptcy of the Second Republic should be denied the right to hold public office for at least ten years from the launch of the “Third Republic.” It is true that even among the government officials and parliamentarians of the Second Republic there exist rare examples of decent individuals. But their percentage is so insignificant that one should not be afraid to throw out the baby with the bath water, as it were.

At the same time, lustration is not a panacea; in spite of its importance, lustration per se cannot insure against the illnesses of the Second Republic. For the founding stage of the Third Republic, it is less important to get rid of the “old guard” than to be able to create a new one. For even the most perfect constitution does not guarantee the country's movement in the right direction. What must emerge is an individual, or rather, individuals who will start a new tradition in the country – the tradition of living honestly. Only then will the constitution, laws, judiciary and, ultimately, the state and statehood as such acquire proper meaning. For, in practice, the “rule of law” is still applied as the “rule of men.” It becomes then largely irrelevant what laws parliament adopts and the president ratifies, if those “men” are not burdened with the inner necessity to respect the rule of law and are not at all convinced that the rule of law offers more value than the opportunity of dazzling enrichment and impunity offered by the “rule above law.”                       

Ukraine is a country where hypocrisy is imbibed from early childhood, where paying bribes is considered a norm, while paying taxes merely bad manners; where the president with a salary of a middle-rank manager lives in luxury that a caliph would envy; where individual voting in parliament paralyses the work of the only legislative body; where teachers are more and more inclined to sell grades to their students rather than to give knowledge; where the number of titled scholars is inversely proportional to the number of papers published in leading academic journals. Clearly, in such a country it is difficult to hope for an emergence of “new leaders,” uncontaminated by the plague that has literally penetrated every tissue and cell of our society. 

One of the main problems here lies in the fact that, just as in Soviet times it was impossible to have a career without joining the Communist Party, in today's Ukraine it is hard to achieve self-realization without accepting the “rules of the game” enforced by the system. Of course, contemporary Ukraine is a more open and liberal place than the old Soviet Union, which means that today's “new leaders” and “alternative people” are not necessarily dissidents, political prisoners or emigrants. They are individuals who have somehow managed to achieve success without getting embedded in the system of pervasive corruption and hypocrisy. In this context, following the Georgian example and forming the Third Republic's first government and the Supreme Council of Ukraine at least in half from graduates of Western universities who have acquired different ethical and professional standards seems quite attractive. 

Even in today's Ukrainian situation we may therefore look around and find alternatives. But the real problem is something else: how can people learn about “new heroes,” how can they believe and trust in them? How can we escape from the unavoidable and hopeless choice between the “former ones” (more specifically, in modern Ukrainian history, the former prime ministers)? They are precisely those who are totally integrated into the system of the Second Republic, rooted in its system of corrupt servility, and directly responsible for its decline.

In my view, the Ukrainian nation has to go through a certain existential shock in order to break away from this vicious circle. The question of what could provoke a Ukrainian catharsis remains open. We might assume that the collapse of the Second Republic will be triggered by an external impulse, be it the Kremlin's neo-imperial ambitions or a new “Great Depression” in the West. But one thing is almost certain: without such a shock there is no hoping for metanoia (from the Greek μετάνοια – rethinking) and, consequently, for the rebirth of the Ukrainian nation.

I would like to add one last point: What do we see when we look back at the “centuries-long history of Ukrainian state building”? Heroism, tragedy, mutual strife, treason, ruins and – as a consequence – a significant, and sometimes decisive, contribution to the creation and development of other empires. Understandably, such a background can cause depression and the desire to throw our hands up in despair. But it may also inspire us for an experiment, imbued with the pathos of the new and the focus for the future. In order to break away from die schlechte Unendlichkeit of the Second Republic, we have to stop praying for “legitimacy,” lawfulness, “continuity,” uninterrupted power and the bad peace that is supposedly better than a good war.

At present no one knows for sure how to create and organize the Third Republic. We must, however, dream about it. It is our right to try again, to take another chance for a national “success story” that cannot be achieved in any other way than by experiment.          

[1] Symon Petliura, anti-Bolshevik, and Nikolai Shchors, famous Red Army commander, were on opposite sides of the civil war in Ukraine [Ed.].

[2] The proverb goes as follows: “Our law is like the wagon-tongue: it goes whichever way you turn it” [Ed.].

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