KIEV, USSR (FR) – According to a recent Washington Post report, the Soviet state of the Ukraine has launched an autonomy movement similar to the growing nationalist political parties of the Baltic states.
Like Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, Ukrainian activists called for greater autonomy at the First Congress of the Ukrainian Popular Movement for Perestroika. The Ukrainian Communist Party, which has traditionally held a tight grip on the Ukraine, allowed the congress to proceed on September 8th, 1989.
1,105 delegates called for greater freedom for the Ukraine calling for the Soviet Union to be transformed into a confederation of sovereign republics. Dimitro Pavlychko, one of the leaders of the movement reviewed their goals: “We don’t want to leave the Soviet Union. We want an independent Ukraine within a totally free union of independent republics.”
Although they did not endorse complete independence from the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian movement has alarmed Kremlin conservatives who view any hint of secession of the Ukraine as a potential disaster for the Soviet Union. The Ukraine is more vital to the welfare of the Soviet economy than the Baltic states since it contains 50 million people and a well developed industry. The loss of the Ukraine would mean the entire unraveling of the Soviet Union.
The delegates at the congress gave standing ovations to emissaries from other independent political parties in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. One of the guests at the congress was Polish Solidarity senior adviser Adam Michnik, who told the delegates “totalitarian communism is crumbling” all over the region.
As in the Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia, the independence movement has been dominated by members of the Catholic Church. As evidence of the Kremlin’s awareness of the growing resurgence of various Christian churches in the independence movements, Mikhail Gorbachev has written to Pope John Paul II to arrange a historic meeting which could take place during the Soviet leaders visit to Italy on November 25.
According to an anonymous Vatican official, chief topics for discussion between Gorbachev and the pope would be the Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia, and the status of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. This meeting’s historical significance could be the result of gaining of greater freedom for all Christians in the Soviet Union.