Leonid Kravchuk

Leonid Kravchuk

"For hockey player see Igor Kravchuk"Infobox_President|name=Leonid Kravchuk
Леонід Кравчук

order= 1st President of Ukraine
term_start=December 5, 1991
term_end=July 19, 1994
predecessor=Stanislav Gurenko (First Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine)
Vladimir Ivashko
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet

successor=Leonid Kuchma
birth_date=Birth date and age|1934|1|10|mf=y
birth_place= Velykyi Zhytyn in Poland, now Rivne Oblast, Ukraine

Leonid Makarovych Kravchuk ( _uk. Леонід Макарович Кравчук; born 10 January 1934) is a Ukrainian politician. He was the first President of Ukraine from early December 1991 to July 1994.


Kravchuk was born in Velykyi Zhytyn (now Rivne Oblast), which was part of Poland at the time of his birth, but became part of Ukraine after World War II when he was a child. He joined the Communist Party of Ukraine in 1958 and rose through the ranks of the party and its "agitprop" department. He became a member of the Ukrainian Politburo in 1989 and the chairman of the Verkhovna Rada in 1990. With the weakening of the Soviet Union, Kravchuk became the effective leader of the republic. He left the Soviet Communist Party (CPSU) in August 1991 and began to support the Ukrainian independence movement. He officially declared his support for Ukrainian independence after the August 1991 Soviet coup attempt. Later that year, he was elected President of Ukraine in Ukraine's first presidential elections.

Kravchuk ran for a second term as President in 1994, but was defeated by his former Prime Minister, Leonid Kuchma. He remains active in Ukrainian politics, serving as a member of Verkhovna Rada and the leader of SDPU's parliamentary group (from 2002 to 2006).

Political portrait

Leonid Kravchuk's political creed is avoiding conflicts and straightforward declaration of his position. He is widely considered to be cunning, diplomatic, and cautious. He describes himself as a man who refuses to take an umbrella because he hopes to "slip between the raindrops".

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 Dnipropetrovs'k group. He avoided inflexible positions towards democratic changes and was a compromise figure for both party conservatives and reformists.

After becoming president of independent Ukraine, Kravchuk successfully attempted to achieve and strengthen formal sovereignty of the country and develop its relations with the West. He withstood the enormous pressure from Russia and refused to retain the common Armed Forces and currency inside the CIS. Another of his stands has been refusal of nuclear weapons based on Ukrainian territory.

Kravchuk's economic policy has often been criticized. He failed to avoid corruption in the privatization of country's industry and promote effective financial decisions. Ukrainian annual inflation rates from 1992 to 1994 reached the world's highest record of 10000%. Millions of loans given by semi-government banks defaulted. This led to delays of many years in salaries for industry workers, teachers etc. The collapse of the Black Sea Steamship Company became the saddest symbol of Kravchuk's era. This global merchant fleet, the largest in the world (based mostly in Odessa), was covertly sold out to foreign companies, mostly for fake debts. Hundreds of sailors who hadn't 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.

Soon after his defeat in 1994, Leonid Kravchuk joined the powerful business and political group known as Kiev Holding or the Dynamo Group. This group, led by oligarchs Viktor Medvedchuk and Hryhoriy Surkis, is formally organized as the United Social Democratic Party of Ukraine or SDPUo (Ukrainian: Соціал-демократична партія України (об’єднана), СДПУ (о). Despite formal centrist/social-democratic slogans, the party is widely associated with big business, organized crime, corruption, and media bias in favor of President Leonid Kuchma. In 2004, Hryhoriy Surkis was banned from visiting the United States, due to his alleged involvement in irregularities during the Ukrainian presidential election, 2004. The group also took a strongly pro-Russian and anti-Western stand. Analysts say that TV channels and other media controlled by the group have started a sharp anti-U.S./anti-NATO campaign.

Kravchuk has been highly criticized for remaining one of the leaders of SDPUo, specializing in negotiations and public relations, despite his declared pro-democratic and patriotic position. In November 2004, following the disputed Ukrainian presidential election, 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.

Kravchuk is the deputy secretary of the International Parliament for Safety and Peace (see [http://www.internationalparliament.org/en/presidency_of_supreme_council.htm] )

Leonid Kravchuk is the author of books dealing with his career and Politics of Ukraine (some of them were translated into English).

Kravchuk is married to Antonina, has a son Alexander and three grandchildren - Andrey, Maria and Ylena Kravchuk, Andrey's daughter.

See also

*History of Ukraine
*Politics of Ukraine
*President of Ukraine
*FC Dynamo Kyiv

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