Article title The Origins, Establishment and Development of Democracy as an Institution in Ukraine

Doctor of Law, Professor (Lviv, Ukraine) ORCID ID:


Name of magazine Legal journal «Law of Ukraine» (Ukrainian version)
Issue 11/2019
Сторінки [165-182]

In Ukraine, national traditions of people’s power have a centuries-long history. The history of establishment and development of people’s power as an institution in Ukraine is unique not only given its deep roots and long traditions. Losing and regaining its statehood time after time, even when it was divided by the neighboring States, the Ukrainian people always stood by the idea of people’s power hoping that it would become the basis for the future revival of Ukrainian statehood. The people power context of the Ukrainian national mentality comprises love of freedom and well-developed individualism; it is the force which is almost impossible to destroy. The aspiration to people’s power and justice was a characteristic feature of Ukrainians throughout the thousands-year history of national statehood. In the course of Ukrainian statehood establishment and development, the specific feature of the Ukrainian people was and is the focus on well-organized society, democracy, and people’s power, which is concentrated in law, justice, and truth, as opposed to untruth and falsehood. The aiming at order and people’s power are among those determinant characteristics which were formed by the Ukrainian people throughout the entire period of its existence. The establishment of people’s power as an institution in Ukraine was significantly influenced by the high spiritual level of the Ukrainian people (high value ascribed to justice, kindness, sincerity, goodwill, peacefulness, diligence, dignity, honesty, tolerance, etc.).

The purpose of the article is to define the institution of people’s power as an essential element of the Ukrainian State’s legal tradition; to analyze the people’s power tradition in Ukraine as a consistent outcome ensuing from the development of democratic processes, and to determine the specific features of national State-building.

Establishment of people’s power as an institution is closely connected with the emergence and development of the Ukrainian State-building. The oldest form of direct people’s power in Ukraine was the veche – popular assembly of a community or a city, where every person had the right to express his or her opinion. The veche was an important institution of Ukrainian customary law and was known as long ago as in the times of the tribal society system. Such an assembly of a clan or a tribe elected their patriarchs, and later – military leaders. The veche was characterized as a manifestation of the will of the people, people’s power or people’s rule.

Under the influence of traditions of the szlachta Sejms and elements of the Old-Russian veche, the Zaporozhian Sich formed the tradition of Cossacks’ councils (Rada). The Cossacks’ Rada was the fundamental institution of people’s power in Zaporozhian Republic.

Further development of people’s power as an institution in Ukraine is linked to the establishment and development of Ukrainian constitutionalism, which has its own specific features, with democratism and respect for public and individual rights being the key among them. These fundamental principles have been formed over the centuries in line with the national character of Ukrainians, their lifestyles, values and social relations.

Development of people’s power as an institution in Ukraine was intensified in the period of the Ukrainian People’s Republic/the West Ukrainian People’s Republic, which is represented by a number of constitutional acts and bills demonstrating legal and political maturity of Ukrainians during an attempt to restore national statehood in 1917–1923.

The events of recent years in Ukraine have shown that the veche, which is now better known as the rally, had a crucial role in the political life of our State, especially during the Orange Revolution and the Revolution of Dignity. All in all, Ukrainians have defended their national dignity and demonstrated to the whole world their aspiration to express their will and be free, and for Ukrainians this is stronger even than death. Today, the heroism and sacrifice of those who fought for Ukraine’s freedom also gives us the inspiration to defend independence of our State and democracy.


Keywords democracy; veche, Rada; Constitution; Ukraine



Authored books

1. Bedrii M, Kopni sudy na ukrainskykh zemliakh u XIV–XVIII st.: istoryko-pravove doslidzhennia [Land Courts in Ukrainian Lands in the Fourteenth and Eighteenth Centuries: a Historical and Legal Study] (Halytskyi drukar 2014) (in Ukrainian).

2. Eikhelman O, Proekt Konstytutsii – osnovnykh derzhavnykh zakoniv – Ukrainskoi Narodnoi Respubliky [The Draft Constitution – the Basic State Laws – the Ukrainian People’s Republic] (SUD 1921) (in Ukrainian).

3. Hrushevskyi M, Ocherk ystoryy ukraynskoho naroda [Essay on the History of the Ukrainian People] (Lybid 1990) (in Russian).

4. Myronenko O, Svitoch ukrainskoi derzhavnosti. Polityko-pravovyi analiz diialnosti Tsentralnoi Rady [Light of Ukrainian Statehood. Political and Legal Analysis of the Activities of the Central Rada] (1995) (in Ukrainian).

5. Mytsyk Yu ta Bazhan O ta Vlasov V, Istoriia Ukrainy [History of Ukraine] (3-tie vyd dopov i pererobl, Vyd dim “Kyievo-Mohylianska akademiia” 2010) (in Ukrainian).

6. Pankevych I, Tradytsiia vybornosti vlady v Ukraini [The Tradition of Electing Power in Ukraine] (LNU imeni Ivana Franka 2015) (in Ukrainian).

7. Shcherbytskii O, Sudy v byvshem Velykom kniazhestve Lytovskom [Courts in the Former Grand Duchy of Lithuania] (Vylna 1912) (in Russian).

8. Sichynskyi V, Chuzhyntsi pro Ukrainu [Foreigners About Ukraine] (Slovo 1991) (in Ukrainian).

9. Svorak S, Polityko-pravova dumka Ukrainy ХІХ–ХХ stolit pro narodovladdia [Political and Legal Opinion of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries of Ukraine on People’s Rule] (Vydavnytstvo Prykarpatskoho natsionalnoho universytetu imeni Vasylia Stefanyka 2015) (in Ukrainian).

10. Terliuk I, Istoriia derzhavy i prava Ukrainy (Donovitnii chas): navchalnyi posibnyk [History of the State and Law of Ukraine (Pre-Old Time): A Textbook] (Atika 2006) (in Ukrainian).

11. Todyka Y, Osnovy konstytutsyonnoho stroia Ukrayny: uchebnoe posobye [Fundamentals of the Constitutional System of Ukraine: Textbook] (Fakt 1999) (in Russian).

12. Tyshchyk B ta Boiko I, Istoriia derzhavy i prava Ukrainy [History of the State and Law of Ukraine] (In Jure 2015) (in Ukrainian).

13. Tyshchyk B, Zakhidno-Ukrainska Narodna Respublika (1918-1923). Istoriia derzhavy i prava [Western Ukrainian People’s Republic (1918–1923). History of the State and Law] (Triada plius 2004) (in Ukrainian).


Edited books

14. Hrushevskyi M, Istoriia Ukrainy-Rusy [History of Ukraine-Rus], t 1 (Sokhan P holov redkol, Naukova dumka 1994) (in Ukrainian).

15. Stavniichuk M, ‘Formy bezposerednoi demokratii’ [‘Forms of Direct Democracy’] v Konstytutsiine pravo Ukrainy [the Constitutional Law of Ukraine] (Pohorilko V red, Naukova dumka 2002) (in Ukrainian).



16. Chekhovych V, ‘Ukrainska holovna vyzvolna rada’ [‘Ukrainian Chief Liberation Council’] v Yurydychna entsyklopediia [Legal Encyclopedia], t 6: T-Ya (Shemshuchenko Yu vidp red, Ukrainska entsyklopediia im M P Bazhana 2004) (in Ukrainian).

17. Chukhlib T, ‘Pakty ta konstytutsii zakoniv i volnostei Viiska Zaporozkoho 1710’ [‘Covenants and Constitutions of the Law and Liberties of the Zporoshye Troops 1710’] v Entsyklopediia istorii Ukrainy [Encyclopedia of Ukrainian History], t 8: Pa-Pryk (Smolii V holov redkol Naukova dumka 2011) (in Ukrainian).

18. Shcherbak V, ‘Zaporozka Sich’ [Zaporizhzhya Sich] v Entsyklopediia istorii Ukrainy [Encyclopedia of Ukrainian History], t 3: E-Y (Smolii V holov redkol, Naukova dumka 2005) (in Ukrainian).

19. Vehesh M, ‘Karpatska Ukraina’ [‘Carpathian Ukraine’] v Entsyklopediia istorii Ukrainy [Encyclopedia of Ukrainian History], t 4: Ka-Kom (Smolii V holov redkol, Naukova dumka 2007) (in Ukrainian).


Journal articles

20. ‘Osnovnyi zakon “Samostiinoi Ukrainy” spilky narodu ukrainskoho’ [‘The Basic Laws of Independent Ukraine is the Union of the Ukrainian People’] Samostiina Ukraina (1905) (in Ukrainian).

21. Kubiv S, ‘Stolittia svobody y nezlamnosti’ [‘An Age of Freedom and Unbreakability’] (2017) 3 Pravo Ukrainy 9-10 (in Ukrainian).

22. Yermolaiev V, ‘Viche v Kyivskii Rusi: pytannia kompetentsii (IX – seredyna XII st.)’ [‘Viche in Kievan Rus: Issues of Competence (IX – mid-XII century)’] (2002) 24 Visnyk Akademii pravovykh nauk Ukrainy 45-55 (in Ukrainian).