Annually, Ukraine celebrates the National Unity Day on January 22. This day, in 1919, the Act of Unity of the-then Ukrainian People's Republic and Western Ukrainian People's Republic was declared. We will tell about the history of the holiday and its great importance for modern Ukraine.
The unity of Ukrainian People's Republic and Western Ukrainian People's Republic was preceded by the IV Universal of the Central Council of Ukraine of January 22, 1918 – it proclaimed Ukrainian People's Republic a sovereign and independent state. Western Ukrainian People's Republic was proclaimed later that year – in November 1918. And on January 22, 1919, the two republics officially united.
“From now on, the parts of united Ukraine, which were separated from each other for centuries, are merged – Western Ukrainian People's Republic (Halychyna, Bukovyna, Hungarian Ukraine) and Ukrainian People's Republic. The centuries-old dreams came true, while the best sons of Ukraine lived by them and died for them. From now on, there is united independent Ukraine’s People’s Republic,” the Universal on unity stated.
The next day, on January 23 the Congresses of peasants, workers, and soldiers of Ukraine began its work as the all-Ukrainian parliament. The Act of rReunification (Zluky Act) was approved by the supreme legislative body. According to the Act, the Western Ukrainian People's Republic became the Western Oblast of the Ukrainian People's Republic. The trident officially became the national state emblem, replacing a golden lion on the blue, earlier approved in the Western Ukrainian People's Republic.
Apart from the VI Universal, the Congresses of peasants declared that the Ukrainian People's Republic “had no intention to gather foreign land under their rule”.
The state border of the Ukrainian People's Republic was much longer on January 22, 1919, compared to the modern border. The Ukrainian People's Republic included the following ethnic lands: Kuban, Stavropolye, Chernomorshchyna, Eastern Slobozhanshchina, Starodubshchyna (now part of Russia), Beresteishchyna and Homelshchyna (now in Belarus, Chelm Land, Podlachia, Nadsanie, Nothern Lemkivshchyna (now in Poland), Southern Lemkivshchyna (now in Slovakia), Marmaroshchyna, Southern Bukovyna (now Romania), Transnistria.
Whether it is a holiday or not
Firstly, Unity Day was celebrated on January 22, 1939, in Khust city. It was not only a manifestation but the largest demonstration of the locals with the participation of 30,000 people over 20 years within Czechoslovakia.
Generally, during the Soviet regime, Unity Day was not celebrated as a ‘counter-revolutionary holiday’.
The holiday became an official one after President Leonid Kuchma signed the respective order on January 21, 1999. In December 2011 the then-President Viktor Yanukovych canceled the holiday together with the Day of Freedom on November 22. Three years later, in 2014 President Petro Poroshenko initiated the Day of Dignity on November 21 and returned the celebration of the Unity Day on January 22.
Live chain as a symbol of the Unity Day
The main tradition of the celebration of Ukraine’s Unity Day is a live chain. The tradition goes back to 1990 when people from different cities and villages on the road between Kyiv and Lviv made up a live chain to mark the historical date.
Kyiv residents build a live chain every year since the 2000s – they line up on Paton Bridge that connects the right and the left banks of the capital, as a symbol of unity of East and West of Ukraine. Everyone who wants to join the event just grabs blue-and-yellow flags and joins the chain.
Moreover, it is used in Ukraine to lay floral tributes to the monuments of Hrushevsky and Shevchenko, as well as other prominent figures in the history of Ukraine, including the participants of the Revolution of Dignity and hostilities in Donbas.