KGB documents about the RUKH movement declassified

On 3 September 2009 public hearings were held at SBU [the State Security Service] to mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Popular Movement of Ukraine [RUKH].
Volodymyr Vyatrovych, Director of the SBU Archives told those gathered that this was the first time that the SBU was declassifying and making public documents from 20 years ago which show the conditions of the restoration of Ukrainian independence in 1991 and provide information about RUKH’s formation and activities.

In of the documents from the second half of 1988 the KGB informs of the creation in Ukraine of a broad civic association, analogous to the Baltic People’s Fronts. The KGB was worried about the influence on the participants of the national democratic movement of Ukrainian centres abroad, for example, the OUN [Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists]. SBU representative Oleksandr Loshytsky says that the movement was greeted with enthusiasm throughout Ukraine. The KGB documents speak of active branches of RUKH in the Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Cherkasy, Kharkiv, Khmelnytsky regions and in the Crimea. The KGB determinedly obstructed the activities of RUKH members. One of the documents speaks of measures by the KGB, MIA and Prosecutor to prevent Viacheslav Chornovil, one of the Horyn brothers and Ivan Hel from taking part in a seminar of independent civic organizations of the Helsinki movement in Moscow. “The KGB are carrying out measures for further control over Chornovil’s behaviour, restriction and documenting of his conspiratorial activities, compromising him among those who share his views”.

Unable to totally stop the activities of the national democratic movement, the KGB tried to influence its further development. “Through operational possibilities positive influence is exerted on the initiators of the “People’s Front”, the document reads, “in order to prompt them to agree programme documents with party bodies”
250 KGB documents pertaining to the situation in Ukraine at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s have been located in the SBU Branch State Archive. However researchers say that this is an insignificant percentage of documents about the role of RUKH in the gaining of independence. Most have been destroyed. There is a hypothesis that they were taken to Moscow in the last days of the Soviet Union. SBU has declassified documents which confirm that a large amount of material from that time was destroyed. On the basis of KGB Order No. 0150 from 1990 irreplaceable documents, videos, photos of the most important events and large-scale demonstrations were totally destroyed.

On 24 May 1991 the KGB’s bulk of material about the first and second RUKH congresses and about the most important RUKH protest actions was destroyed.
According to Volodymyr Lozytsky, Director of the Central State Archive of Public Associations, there are no documents reflecting the enormous work carried out by RUKH, and the next generation will have nothing to study contemporary history from.

Despite the irretrievable loses, the SBU Archive’s documents demonstrate the scale of the Ukrainian national democratic movement at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s and the fierce struggle against them waged by the Soviet security services.

According to National Deputy Ivan Zayets, the documents shatter myths, for example, that RUKH was made by the KGB. He believes that SBU should call on Moscow to return documents.

The poet Ivan Drach who was very active in RUKH recalled how serious the resistance from the authorities directed against the one and a half thousand members of the congress. 15 thousand law enforcement officers were mobilized. “You had to be a virtuosic player in all situations, watching also what happened to the documents. However there were people everywhere who supported us, and those who opposed our activities.”

The material can be accessed on the SBU open electronic archive in each regional centre. The material will also be exhibited on 12 September in Kyiv. SBU is also working together with the History Institute of the National Academy of Sciences on publishing a collection of these documents.

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