Independence Day of Ukraine: what happened on August 24, 1991

Independence Day is celebrated every 24th August in Ukraine. On this date, in 1991, the Verchovna Rada – the Parliament – adopted the Declaration of Independence Act and established the independent state. A choice that represented yet another blow to the Soviet Union – after similar decisions already taken by Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Georgia – and which was confirmed by a referendum held on 1 December of the same year.

All in one night

The Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine came after the August putsch, the attempted coup in the Soviet Union organized by some members of the Soviet government against President Mikhail Gorbachev. The text was largely written during the night between 23 and 24 August and was then approved by an absolute majority by the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR in an extraordinary 11-hour session. At the same time, there was also a vote to hold a referendum in support of the declaration of independence and to create the National Guard of Ukraine. On August 26, the permanent representative of the Ukrainian SSR to the United Nations informed the office of the UN Secretary General that his mission to the international assembly could be officially designated as the representative of Ukraine.

The referendum

The referendum on the independence of Ukraine was held on December 1, 1991, with a single question on the card: “Do you approve the Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine?”. The votes in favor were over 90%, with a turnout of more than 80%. On the same day the presidential elections were also held, which saw the victory of Leonid Kravčuk who, a week later, signed the Belaveža agreement together with Russia and Belarus, which sanctioned the dissolution of the Soviet Union. On 2 December 1991, the day after the referendum, Poland and Canada were the first states to recognize Ukraine’s independence, followed by the US on 25 December.