Soviet Union Table of Contents
National assertiveness was awakened much more slowly in the Ukrainian Republic. Although Gorbachev seemed willing to grant extensive concessions to the small Baltic nationalities, he was much less inclined to allow them for the much more numerous Ukrainians, whose natural, agricultural, and industrial resources have been so vital to the Soviet Union and whose size has contributed significantly to the country's large Slavic majority. The Ukrainian nationalist movement severely threatened the state, and Soviet authorities have used harsh measures against Ukrainian national and religious leaders. Nevertheless, a democratic national movement gained momentum in the late 1980s. It was particularly strong in the western regions of the Ukrainian Republic, where the population had not been exposed as long to a policy of Russification as had the people of the eastern regions of the Ukrainian Republic. A democratic front with a program similar to the Baltic popular fronts, a Ukrainian cultural club to preserve Ukrainian culture and history, and an ecological movement have been formed and have gained an increasing following. The crucial issue for Ukrainians in the late 1980s was the use of the Ukrainian language as the official language of the republic and as the language of instruction in the republic's schools. Ukrainians raised demands for transforming the Soviet Union into a voluntary confederation of free republics.
Another important development in the Ukrainian Republic was the revived activity of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Several bishops and clergy and thousands of believers of the illegal church appealed to the Supreme Soviet in 1988 for the church's legalization. Also, clergy and thousands of faithful began to defy the authorities by holding open religious services.
Data as of May 1989