Russo-Ukrainian War: How Ukrainians Ruled the USSR for 31 Years After Stalin

The Arch of Friendship of Peoples, known in Soviet times as the Monument to the Reunification of Ukraine and Russia, was installed in 1982 to celebrate 60 years of the USSR and the 1 500 years of Kyiv.

“As now we want nothing to do with Russia, there is a proposal to get rid of these monuments completely. Bulldoze them in the river! Three years ago, in 2015, we passed laws banning communist symbols. These monuments will disappear sooner or later,” Yulia said, guiding me on my walks through Kyiv.

From Stalin’s death in 1953 to the disintegration of the USSR in 1991, the Soviet Union was ruled by Ukrainians for 31 of those 38 years.

“There is so much bitterness against the Russians – but there were several Ukrainians at the helm of affairs, who sat in the Kremlin in Moscow and issued orders that affected the entire Soviet Union, including the Russian Federation. Like Gorbachev, why blame only the Russians for all your ills and bad decisions?” I asked Yulia delicately, scratching the back of my head. Yulia fell into a puzzled silence before coming to her senses.

“Gorbachev was half Ukrainian – on his mother’s side. Her dad was an ethnic Russian. But it is true that three people who led the Soviet Union after Stalin were Ukrainians: Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev and Konstantin Chernenko – and they betrayed us all.

He brought many of his Ukrainian supporters to Moscow and placed them in powerful positions. Most members of the Politburo were ethnic Ukrainians. Among Communist Party members, Ukrainians outnumbered all other nationalities and formed the largest electoral bloc. Crimea was transferred from the Russian Federation to the Republic of Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainian nationalists were released from Gulag prisons and labor camps.

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