Obituary: Vyacheslav Chornovil

VYACHESLAV CHORNOVIL, who was killed in a late-night car crash as he was returning to Kiev from an election meeting, managed the difficult transition from Soviet-era dissident to politician, but never quite achieved the success he had hoped for in realising his ideal of an independent Ukrainian state.

Leader since 1992 of Narodny Rukh ("Popular Movement"), one of the main nationalist parties, he was a member of the Ukrainian parliament. As party leader he faced a difficult choice, whether to support the ex-Communists who had turned reformers, such as the current president Leonid Kuchma, or to side with the opposition, which was largely made up of Communists who had not disavowed their past.

A veteran of the Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko era labour camps, Chornovil was quick to take advantage of the openness under Mikhail Gorbachev to revive the activities of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group. He was a constant advocate of national rights and supporter of independence for Ukraine. He was instrumental in forming the pro-independence Rukh in 1989.

At the first semi-free local elections in March 1990, Rukh swept the board in the more nationalist western Ukraine and Chornovil became head of the Lviv regional council, the first former political prisoner to attain such high office in the Soviet Union. He immediately brought in radical measures such as the privatisation of land, shops and homes and ousted the Communist Party from its privileged position.

As confusion over the ill-fated putsch against Gorbachev reigned in Moscow in August 1991, Chornovil was one of the most vocal initiators of a vote in Ukraine's parliament which approved breaking away from the Soviet Union. The vote was later confirmed in a nationwide referendum. But Chornovil came second to Ukraine's first post-Soviet president Leonid Kravchuk in the 1991 presidential election with a quarter of the vote.

Chornovil was born the son of village schoolteachers in central Ukraine in 1937, and studied journalism at Kiev University. He began work as a journalist in the city before moving to the western town of Lviv. By now already active in the burgeoning human rights movement, he had been deeply affected by the wave of arrests that struck nearly two dozen Ukrainian intellectuals during the previous year and produced an account of this persecution that was later published in English as The Chornovil Papers (1968).

He was ousted from a Lviv newspaper in 1966 for refusing to testify at a political trial and was himself arrested in 1967 and sentenced to three years in prison, a term later cut in half. After release he became head of the Ukrainian Helsinki Monitoring Group and edited the underground publication the Ukrainian Herald. In 1972, he was again arrested and sentenced to six years in prison and three years in exile for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda". His strength of character was evident to his fellow political prisoners in labour camp. "The soul of the prison block is Chornovil," one wrote during a 100-day hunger strike in the summer of 1977.

"Conversations between cells are forbidden, but every day he reads us the latest news. The head of the camp, Pikulin, called Chornovil our general." He served his term in exile in the Siberian region of Yakutia. In April 1980, the Soviet authorities again sentenced Chornovil to five years in prison, but he was released in 1983.

Chornovil found political life in independent Ukraine frustrating. In January 1993, in response to the perceived threat of a revival of the former Communist system, Chornovil united with rival nationalist leaders in two other parties to form the Anti-Communist and Anti-Imperialist Front of Ukraine.

The fractious nature of post- Communist politics hit Chornovil's own movement. Rukh split a month ago amid bitter divisions over policy and what some members said was Chornovil's authoritarian leadership. After the split, Chornovil continued to head a half of the party he called Narodny Rukh Number One. By then, Vyacheslav Chornovil's influence was already on the wane.

Vyacheslav Maksymovich Chornovil, politician: born Erki, Ukraine 24 December 1937; married Atena Pashko (two sons); died Boryspil, Ukraine 25 March 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)

comedy

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...