Leonid Kravchuk

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Леонід Макарович Кравчук
Zusätzliche namen:
Leonīds Kravčuks, Леонид Кравчук, Леонід Кравчук
Kommunist, Politiker, Präsident , Staats-und KP-Chef, Staatsmann
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Leonid Makarovych Kravchuk (Ukrainian: Леонід Макарович Кравчук; 10 January 1934 – 10 May 2022) was a Ukrainian politician and the first President of Ukraine, who served from 5 December 1991 until 19 July 1994.

In 1992 he signed the Lisbon Protocol, undertaking to give up Ukraine's nuclear arsenal. He was also a Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada and People's Deputy of Ukraine serving in the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (united) faction.

After a political crisis involving the president and the prime minister, Kravchuk resigned from the Presidency, but ran for a second term as President in 1994. He was defeated by his former prime minister Leonid Kuchma who served as president for two terms. After Kravchuk's presidency, he was active in Ukrainian politics, serving as a People's Deputy of Ukraine in the Verkhovna Rada and the leader of Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (united)'s parliamentary group (from 2002 to 2006). He passed away on 10 May 2022. Kravchuk's presidency is considered to be one of the best in Ukrainian history by social poll rankings.


Leonid Makarovych Kravchuk was born in 1934 in the village of Velykyi Zhytyn (Żytyń Wielki) to an ethnic Ukrainian peasant family. At that time the village was part of Poland (Second Polish Republic). It became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic after the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 when Kravchuk was a child. His father served in the Polish army during the 1930s, and later he and his wife worked for the local osadniks (Polish colonists). During World War II Kravchuk's father perished on the front lines.

Kravchuk married a mathematics teacher, Antonina Mykhailivna Mishura, in 1957. First Lady of the United States from 1989–93, Barbara Bush (wife of the 41st President of the United States George H. W. Bush), described Antonina in her memoirs: "She was the nicest young woman, a math teacher with absolutely no interest in politics".

Kravchuk joined the Communist Party of Ukraine in 1958 and rose through the ranks of the party and of its agitprop department. He became a member of the Ukrainian Communist Party Bureau in 1989, and on 23 July 1990, became Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR, becoming the republic's nominal head of state. On 24 October 1990, the monopoly of the Communist Party of Ukraine on power was abolished, and thus, Kravchuk became not only the nominal, but also the actual head of the republic.

After the 19–21 August 1991 Soviet coup attempt Kravchuk, who did not support the attempt to remove Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev from power, resigned from the Communist Party. After the Verkhovna Rada passed the Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine on 24 August, the constitution was amended to create the post of President of Ukraine. Before the vote for the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine Kravchuk was instrumental in persuading the communists parliamentary majority to accept the opposition’s demands of Ukrainian Independence.

Following the Act of Declaration of Independence Kravchuk was vested with presidential powers, thus becoming both de facto and de jure head of state. Later that year, on 5 December 1991, voters formally elected him president in Ukraine's first presidential election. On the same day, the voters voted overwhelmingly to secede from the Soviet Union—a move which Kravchuk now fully supported. This made Kravchuk the first head of state of independent Ukraine.

Political career

Kravchuk's political creed was avoiding conflicts and straightforward declaration of his position. He was widely considered to be cunning, diplomatic, and cautious. He described himself as a man who refused to take an umbrella because he hopes to "slip between the raindrops." (in an interview by Yulia Lytvynenko at Poza ochi on Inter (Ukraine), 2009)

Such diplomacy helped Kravchuk to retain and strengthen his power over Ukraine during the transition from Soviet rule to independence. He was third in command in Ukraine's CPSU leadership before the fall of Soviet Union even though he didn't belong to the ruling Dnipropetrovsk group. He avoided inflexible positions towards democratic changes and was a compromise figure for both party conservatives and reformists.

Soon after his defeat in 1994, Kravchuk joined the powerful business and political group known as Kyiv Holding or the Dynamo Group. This group, led by oligarchs Viktor Medvedchuk and Hryhoriy Surkis, is formally organized as the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (united). Despite its formal centrist/social-democratic slogans, the party is widely associated with big business, organized crime, corruption, and media bias in favor of former President Leonid Kuchma.

In 2004, Surkis was banned from visiting the United States, due to his alleged involvement in irregularities during the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election. The group also took a strongly pro-Russian and anti-Western stand. Analysts say that TV channels and other media controlled by the group started a sharp anti-U.S./anti-NATO campaign. Kravchuk was highly criticized for remaining one of the leaders of SDPU(o), specializing in negotiations and public relations, despite his declared pro-democratic and patriotic position.

During the 2004 presidential elections Kravchuk actively supported the candidacy of Viktor Yanukovych and was a member of the Yanukovych team that negotiated with the opposition in the aftermath of that disputed election. In November 2004 he told the media that he was afraid that the resulting crisis would cause the disintegration of the country, intensifying movements for certain regions of Ukraine to join other countries.

On 25 September 2009, Kravchuk declared during an interview with the newspaper Den that he left SDPU(o) and became unaffiliated again. He explained this based on the fact that his former party decided to join the Bloc of Left and Center-left Forces to run for the 2010 presidential elections. He was indignant due to the fact that the political council of the party decided to accomplish that behind the closed doors in non-democratic order. He called it [the] "block as the artificial union without any perspectives". Kravchuk endorsed Yulia Tymoshenko during the 2010 presidential elections campaign.

During the 2010 election campaign he accused incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko of having "turned into Yanukovych's aide. He has actually turned into an also-ran. His task is to slander Yulia Tymoshenko every day and prevent her from winning [the presidential elections]". Kravchuk explained his shift in support from Yanukovych to Tymoshenko was caused because he felt Yanukovych "turned his back" on all the issues Kravchuk wanted him to address as president: the Ukrainian language, culture, and the Holodomor. "Only the dead or the stupid do not change their views", he stated in December 2009 when he also voiced the opinion that voting for Yanukovych in the second round of the 2010 elections would indicate an anti-Ukrainian position.

President of Ukraine


On 6 May 1992, Kravchuk met George H. W. Bush in the United States and signed an agreement for the full removal of all nuclear tactical weapons from Ukrainian territory by 1 July, and in return obtained a credit line of $110 million dollars to buy U.S. commodities.

During Kravchuk's leadership the government of Ukraine's economic policy was often criticized. He failed to avoid corruption in the privatization of the country's industry and promote effective financial decisions. Ukrainian annual inflation rates from 1992 to 1994 reached thousands of percents. Millions of loans given by the semi-government banks defaulted. This led to delays of many years in salaries for industry workers, teachers, etc.

The collapse of the Black Sea Shipping Company became the largest negative symbol of the Kravchuk era. This global merchant fleet, the largest in the world (based mostly in Odessa), was covertly sold out to foreign companies, mostly for false debts. Hundreds of sailors who had not received their salaries were trapped for years on board their vessels throughout the world. Kravchuk's own son was later accused of taking part in this fraud.

Shocked by these developments and also by growing tensions with Russia, the voters of industrial and predominantly Russian-speaking southeastern Ukraine supported Kravchuk's main rival, Leonid Kuchma, in the 1994 presidential elections. Kuchma won under the slogans of fighting corruption, reconstruction of the economy, and further integration with Russia. Kravchuk's reliance on bureaucratic pressure, support of pro-Western nationalists, and media bias did not serve him well.

In February 2003, Oleksandr Moroz, the leader of Ukraine’s Socialist Party, charged Kravchuk and other 300 public high-ranked officials as being members of the Freemasons.

Administrative reform

On 25 February 1992, as President of Ukraine, Kravchuk, issued Presidential decree 98/92 About the changes in the system of central bodies of executive power of Ukraine.

Foreign policy

After becoming president of independent Ukraine, Kravchuk achieved and strengthened the formal sovereignty of the country and developed its relations with the West. The Kravchuk administration walked a tight rope between escalation of Ukrainian–Russian tensions and a policy of cooperation with Moscow. Brinkmanship with Russia in matters of post-Soviet settlement (most notably the fate of nuclear weapons and the Black Sea fleet) was often accompanied by speculation about Ukraine's imminent departure from the Commonwealth of Independent States.

He refused to retain the common armed forces and currency inside the Commonwealth of Independent States. Rather than NATO expansion, Kravchuk wanted Ukraine's participation on an equal footing with the Central European countries, Russia, and NATO in building a new, inclusive security architecture for Europe. According to the 'Guidelines for Ukraine's Foreign Policy', approved by parliament on 2 July 1993, 'Ukraine advocates the creation of an all-embracing international system of universal and all-European security and considers participation [therein] a basic component of its national security'.

The status of the Russian Black Sea Fleet's presence in Sevastopol and the Crimea was not resolved by a 20-year lease agreement until 1997, three years after Kravchuk left office. Another of his stands was the refusal of nuclear weapons based on Ukrainian territory. He was one of few country leaders who agreed to surrender Ukraine's nuclear arsenal.

  • About the creation of the State Customs Committee of Ukraine (the very first Presidential decree) – establishing the State Customs Committee
  • About the Armed Forces of Ukraine – establishing that the Minister of Defense is subordinated directly to the President of Ukraine
  • About accepting the duties as the Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces of Ukraine
  • About the Administration of the President of Ukraine
  • About the creation of the State export-import bank of Ukraine
  • For providing security for higher officials of Ukraine – establishing the Directory of the State Security
  • About the creation of the Ukrainian-German Fund
  • About the Parliament of Ukraine
  • About the Higher Attestation Commission of Ukraine
  • About the creation of the National Space Agency of Ukraine
  • About the protection of the State Border of Ukraine with the Republic of Moldova
  • About the urgent measures in construction of the Armed Forces of Ukraine
  • About the declaration for the local state administration
  • About a ministry of Ukraine
  • About the Memory Book of Ukraine
  • About the announcement of 12 June 1992 as the day of mourning
  • About the Doctor's Oath
  • About the Council of National Security of Ukraine
  • About the participation of Ukraine in studying of Antarctica
  • About the liquidation of the Kyiv Military District

Post-presidency activities

Following his departure as President, Kravchuk served as a member of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukranian parliament) from 1994 until 2006.

In July 2020, Kravchuk was chosen to represent Ukraine at the Trilateral Contact Group (formed to facilitate a diplomatic resolution to the war in the Donbass region), being appointed to replace Leonid Kuchma. He maintained this position until February 2022.

Personal life

Kravchuk was married to Antonina Mykhailivna Kravchuk. The couple married in 1957. She rarely attended official events with her husband.

Kravchuk and his wife had one child, Oleksandr Leonidovych Kravchuk (born 1959), president of the State Company "Nafkom-Ahro" and the former FC Nafkom Brovary. Kravchuk had two grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. After Kravchuk stopped working for the Ukrainian state, he lived in a state-owned dacha in Koncha-Zaspa until his death in 2022.

Kravchuk had heart surgery in June 2021. He was reportedly in ill health by this time. On June 29, 2021, the first president of Ukraine missed the solemn meeting of the Verkhovna Rada on the occasion of Constitution Day due to heart surgery. After surgery, the head of the Trilateral Contact Group was placed in intensive care and connected to a ventilator. In July, the media reported that Leonid Kravchuk had been in intensive care for a month.

On 10 May 2022, a family member told the Ukrainian News Agency that Kravchuk had died at the age of 88, after suffering from a “long illness.” His death was also confirmed by unnamed officials in Kyiv, as well as Andriy Yermak, head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's office.


  • Member of the Order of Liberty Member of the Order of Liberty
  • Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise
  • Order of the October Revolution
  • Order of the Red Banner of Labour

Keine Orte


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