Every year Ukraine celebrates the Day of Unity. This year it’s the 101st anniversary since the Act of Unity of the-then Ukrainian People's Republic and Western Ukrainian People's Republic was declared at Sofiyska Square in Kyiv.
Why is this holiday so important for Ukraine?
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.
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 reunification (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 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.
The first celebration was held in the city of Khust on this day in 1939. This was not just a manifestation, but the biggest demonstration of 30 thousand of local citizens over 20 years within Czechoslovakia. Unity Day was not celebrated during the Soviet period as an “anti-revolutionary holiday”.
The holiday became an official one after President Leonid Kuchma signed the respective order on January 21, 1999. In 2014 President Petro Poroshenko initiated the Day of Dignity on November 21 and returned the January 22 Unity Day.
Live chain – a symbol of the Unity Day
The main tradition at celebrating Ukraine’s Unity Day is a live chain. The tradition goes back to 1990 when people from different cities and villages on the way between Kyiv and Lviv made up a live chain to mark the date.
Kyiv residents build the live chain every year since 2000 – they line up on Paton bridge to connect the right and the left banks of the Dnipro, as a symbol of unity of Eastern and Western Ukraine. People just grab blue-and-yellow flags and join the rally becoming a part of the chain.
Another tradition is laying floral tributes to the monuments of Hrushevsky and Shevchenko and other prominent Ukrainians and the participants of the Revolution of Dignity and hostilities in Donbas as well.
The Act Zluky (the Unification Act) was not only of a symbolic meaning: unification of Ukrainian lands disabled fratricidal wars when Ukrainians killed each other fighting for the colonial empires (WWI, for example).