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Soviet Dissident Levko Lukyanenko Dies at 89

The Ukrainian politician, who spent 25 years in Soviet prisons, helped craft Ukraine’s declaration of independence in August 1991, but also became known for white nationalism.

9 July 2018

One of Ukraine’s symbols of independence, Levko Lukyanenko (pictured), died on 7 July in Kyiv after a long illness, RFE/RL writes.


Lukyanenko started his political work in 1959, when he founded a party called the “Ukrainian Union for Workers and Peasants,” according to the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. His political activity led to his arrest, along with those of other members of his organization, in 1961. Initially sentenced to death, Lukyanenko soon saw his punishment reduced to 15 years in prison and in labor camps.


After being released in 1976, he became one of the co-founders of the Moscow Helsinki Group, set up to monitor Soviet compliance with the Helsinki Accords. Signed a year earlier, the accords were meant to foster cooperation between Soviet bloc countries and the West on a number of issues, and included landmark human rights provisions.


Lukyanenko was arrested again in 1977 and charged with anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda. This time he received a sentence of 10 years in prison, and five years of exile, which he spent in Siberia. He was pardoned in November 1988, at the height of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika era.


After his imprisonment ended, Lukyanenko was elected, in 1990, a member of the Ukrainian parliament. A year later he became one of the authors of Ukraine’s declaration of independence, adopted on 24 August 1991 – days after the failed coup in Moscow by communist hardliners had led to widespread instability throughout the Soviet Union.


Lukyanenko went on to serve several mandates as a member of the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, as well as the country’s first ambassador to Canada.


In addition to his acclaimed deeds in support of Ukraine's independence, Lukyanenko's biography contains a fair share of controversy for statements that critics deemed anti-Semitic and supportive of white supremacy. In a 2008 article for Personal-Plus magazine, cited by the Kyiv Post, he spoke out against mixed marriages between Ukrainian women and people of other races, saying that such women should leave Ukraine and surrender their citizenship.

“Do we, Ukrainians – people of the white race, want to become different from who we were before, for instance, black, yellow, red? Cases of marriages of Ukrainian women to representatives of other races prove that not everyone values their white race. Ukraine didn’t have colonies in Africa or Asia so it doesn’t have moral obligations like other European countries,” he wrote.


Before that, in 2005, Lukyanenko spoke at a conference called “Dialogue of Civilizations: Zionism as the Biggest Threat to Contemporary Civilization,” along with white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan head David Duke, according to another Kyiv Post article from that time. Wikipedia, citing historian Per Anders Rutling, says Lukyanenko gave Duke a standing ovation and presented his own theory that a satanic, Jewish-controlled government had planned and implemented the man-made famine that killed millions in Soviet-era Ukraine.



  • After a moment of silence held in his memory in Ukraine’s parliament, speaker Andriy Parubiy said that Lukyanenko had spent all his time, until his last moments, writing books and memoirs. “He constantly supported Ukrainian warriors in Donbas and stayed true to his own opinions and judgments,“ Parubiy added according to Ukraine TV channel 112 Ukraine.


Compiled by Melissa Castano

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