This Day in History: the Unification of Ukraine Day

This Day in History: the Unification of Ukraine Day

This year, the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF) proudly celebrates the 30thanniversary of its existence. Although the USUF was officially registered in September 1991, the Ukraine-related activities of the Foundation’s founders and its numerous supporters began much earlier. Being synchronous with Ukrainian independence, the USUF will recollect some of the significant events that preceded- and contributed to the adoption of Ukraine’s Declaration of Independence in August 1991. One such milestone in sovereign Ukraine’s - and the Foundation’s - history is Ukraine’s Unification Day (“Den Sobornosti” or “Den Zluky”) celebrated on January 22.

Officially reinstated in 1999, Unification Day relates to several pivotal moments in Ukrainian history.  Thus, on this day in 1918, following the collapse of Tsarist Russia and Ukraine’s first, short-lived attempt to establish independence, the then Ukrainian Parliament, the Tsentralna Rada (Central Council), declared the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UPR) as an independent, free and sovereign state.  The Rada instructed the new country’s government to negotiate peace with the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire and declare Bolshevik Russia an enemy. This decision and the subsequent participation of the UPR delegation in the WWI peace negotiations led to the first international recognition of the UPR as an independent state.

Inspired by this example, the people of Galicia, Bukovina, and the Western Ukrainian lands that belonged to the disintegrating Austrian-Hungarian Empire created the Western Ukrainian People’s republic and initiated its unification with the UPR. The process of reunification of the two historical parts of Ukraine was completed on January 22, 1919, with the proclamation of the Act of Unification of the Ukrainian People's Republic and the Western Ukrainian People's Republic into a single independent state.  This event took place on St. Sophia Square in Kyiv and was witnessed by thousands. Tragically, the unification process was disrupted by the Bolshevik occupation of Ukraine and the creation of the USSR in 1921.

Many more significant episodes have occurred in Ukraine since then, and its transformation continues.  However, one critical lesson that the events of the early 20th Century and contemporary history teach us is that unity is key to the strength of the nation.