The same day 17 years ago the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the first Constitution of the new independent Ukrainian state, new main law of the country.
The Constitution consolidated legal principles of the independent Ukraine, its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Constitution contained the historical experience of the Ukrainian nation as well as the best world practices.
One of the most important pages in the history of the world constitutions belongs to Pylyp Orlyk elected as a Hetman of Ukraine in exile in the 18th century. “Pacts and Constitutions of Rights and Freedoms of the Zaporizhian Host” (1710), written by him, are considered to be the first Constitution of the Ukrainian state. In general Pylyp Orlyk’s Constitution was in keeping with the then trends of the European political thought development (especially, in consolidation of church’s independence from secular power), and in some aspects the “Pacts and Constitutions of Rights and Freedoms of the Zaporizhian Host” even passed ahead of the European political theory and practice giving preference to the principles of constitutionalism as compared to the idea of the state absolutism and harmony enforcement prevailing in Europe at that time.
The next important step of the state-building process in Ukraine was the adoption of the “Statute on the state government, rights and freedoms of the Ukrainian People’s Republic” (Constitution of the Ukrainian People’s Republic). The document was approved by the Central Rada of the Ukrainian People’s Republic on April 29, 1918. On November 13, 1918 the West Ukrainian People’s Republic (ZUNR) adopted the Temporary Constitution. But tragic events of that epoch prevented both documents from being properly implemented.
It’s worth mentioning that the Constitution of the Ukrainian People’s Republic was based on the democratic standards acknowledged nowadays as fundamental principles of state-building by the international community. The document declared the national sovereignty as a main source of state power. It also declared indivisibility of territory, cultural rights of the national minorities, local governing and the principle of separation of powers. It should be noticed that the Constitution defined all citizens’ equality regardless of age, religion, race and sex, consolidating basic rights and freedoms. Death penalty was canceled.
Taking into account such a rich constitutional heritage, creation of the new Constitution of our country has been started immediately after declaration of independence of Ukraine in 1991, involving the world’s best experts and local professionals. It was completed in 1996 when the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Constitution of Ukraine.
Long and difficult path of political self-determination proved immortal will of Ukrainian people to have its own statehood and to be sovereign among other free nations of Europe and the world.
Extremely significant is that the Constitution of Ukraine of 1996 not only incorporates key principles of statehood, democracy and fundamental rights and freedoms, but also determines Ukraine’s foreign policy as the one directed at ensuring its national interests and security by maintaining peaceful and mutually beneficial cooperation with the international community on the basis of universally recognized principles and norms of international law.
Adoption of the Constitution of Ukraine was a starting point of the new epoch in the history of our state. It contributed to the stabilization of social, political and economic situation in the country.