Freedom and Responsibility | A new social contract for Ukraine

A protester holds the Ukrainian flag in the snow during 2013-2014 Euromaidan protests in Kyiv

A protester holds the Ukrainian flag in the snow during 2013-2014 Euromaidan protests in Kyiv 

Featured, Op-ed

Article by: First of December Initiative Group

This statement of principles, which is intended to guide national efforts and directions, was presented on November 15, 2015 by the 1st of December Initiative, a group of Ukraine’s leading academic, religious and human rights leaders.

Yevhen Sverstiuk very accurately described one of the most significant characteristics of the Soviet and post-Soviet conditions of our society: the loss of meaning of our words.  This is about the devaluation of words and ideas, about falsity, which became the reflection of the essence of the totalitarian regime and, unfortunately, found its sequel in oligarchical Ukraine.

We dedicate our appeal to freedom and responsibility to Yevhen Sverstiuk and address this appeal to the entire nation:  even that which we are all living through today should give us back the meaning of the words which we are investing in Ukraine.


Initiative group of 1st of December – a free person in a free country

We, the Ukrainian people, need a common dream, a common goal. Without it our recruitment campaigns will dwindle, and the youth will flock to the embassies of wealthy nations.

Our position resembles a grand campaign.  We overcome great distances.  From the height of one historical peak we clearly saw the next height which we wish to attain.  But our advance continues through dangers, among which the most grueling and menacing is the stumbling through the lowland mists, where we are overtaken by doubts and distrust everything –  our guides, leaders and even our own strength.

Our most hopeful guide is the human spirit: when the human spirit is strong, it will necessarily carry us to the next height, when it is weak, it will inevitably confine us to the lowlands.  So let’s look closely at the needs of our spirit.

Freedom and prosperity do not come at the hand of foreign charity, nor are they free of cost

We need clarity. Our position is unprecedented, extraordinary, militant.  Clarity above all means understanding and transparency of the actions of the national leadership and other officials.  Society demands a constant discussion with those in power, because this discussion is required not for psychological reassurance, but for accountability and control.

Clarity means purposeful direction of movement.  We, the Ukrainian people, need a common dream, a common goal. Without it our recruitment campaigns will dwindle, and the youth will flock to the embassies of wealthy nations.  A clear response to the question of the significance of “European choice for Ukraine” is needed in the battle trenches, in national banks, and in the academic institutions of the nation.

Clarity of goals envisages readiness for challenges.  The desire for freedom is not a rational calculation, but a deep internal motivation.  Everyone who has been denied freedom knows that a realization of one’s own dignity arises from this need. This is what enables us to overcome despair, frustration and the temptation to shift blame.  This is a long march, which requires readiness for lengthy trials.

Don’t beg, don’t live a secondhand existence, don’t speculate on the work of others, but create for yourself.

The march toward freedom requires a different rhythm of life from society than in quiet times.  Anyone who promises rapid progress is lying.  Like charlatanism, all easy answers are escapes which lead to catastrophe.  Simple recipes to complex problems have the same nature as corruption: they are calculated to take advantage of innate hopes.  We need to understand that freedom and prosperity do not come at the hand of foreign charity, nor are they free of cost; there will be no quick rescue.  However, our judgment, cohesion and conviction will bring the goal closer.

Work, as the only avenue for self-protection, self-affirmation and self-dignity.  There is no such thing as easy work. But even the heaviest labor, objectively planned, uncontested and mutually supported, by everyone from family to society at large, will bring prosperity and the acknowledgement of our worth in the world community.  Our active motto is – don’t beg, don’t live a secondhand existence, don’t speculate on the work of others, but create for yourself.

Economy. We do not lack natural resources, we don’t live in a desert, nor in the arctic circle.  We have rich mineral resources, fertile soils, spreading pastures, valuable stands of forest, and an industrial inheritance.  All of this needs to be managed.  Our goal – the highest global technologies and the required high level of skills and education.

There is no force in the world that can manage our affairs instead of us

On the path to freedom we need mutual trust. Russia’s war against Ukraine is aimed at our future, though it feeds off the weaknesses of our past.  The enemy has learned our inherent flaws and weaknesses well, our propensity for infighting and the passion of our reactions.  That is why he attacks not only with weapons but psychologically as well.  Our defense is mutual trust and capacity for acts of solidarity.

To overcome, we must learn to trust ourselves.  There is no force in the world that can manage our affairs instead of us. Ukraine has many partners, and we are grateful for their support.  But there are even more of those in the world who would carelessly turn the page on Ukraine.  Only we are capable of furthering our history.

Trust will require the efforts of government, business, religious and community leaders, volunteers and all of society.

Homo sovieticus must give way to homo responsibilis

Right now, the main test for trust in government is its reaction to corruption.  Isolated arrests and words are not enough.  The situation requires the greatest national vigilance and immediate action to convince people that no one is untouchable.  This depends on the definitive separation of business and politics (government), and the elimination of oligarchic power which is destroying the country.

At the same time, the citizenry also has work to do: don’t participate in political bribery, renounce populism and overcome that weakened psychological state which is called paternalism – the expectation of benefits or favors from officials or any more or less influential forces.  Corruption and paternalism – these are both deep psychic problems which prevent us from trusting our own abilities.  There will never be enough treatment, and it must begin immediately.  Homo sovieticus must give way to homo responsibilis.

We are in a state of war.  All of Ukraine wants peace.  Maidan did not usher in the war.  The war was started by Putin’s regime, which realized that Ukraine was slipping from its grasp.  That is why the war is defensive.  To make peace with aggression would not bring peace to Ukraine but failure.  We should create our own sophisticated defensive technology.  In this time, the primary scientific pursuits should be directed at defense.

The independent future of Ukraine and the sovereign right of our nation to independently choose its future, as well as its own internal and foreign policy must stand behind any compromises.  It is unthinkable and unacceptable to yield in this.  In the field of foreign policy, Ukraine lacks confidence in itself.  Confidence in our own truth would lead us to seek international recognition of Russia as an aggressor nation.

We will be recognized as free when we stand up as carriers of new values and creators of a new Ukraine.  We will be judged on our work ethics, on the maintenance of order in our home and on the fundamental courtesy of our relationships.

In these reflections, we are grounded in the principles of the Ukrainian Charter of the Free Person.  With great respect we approach the many prominent compatriots whose thoughts are close in spirit.

We sense that there is an increasingly clear demand in our society for the emergence of a grand agreement on the future – a new and conscious social contract whose fundamental principles will guide our lives, and therefore support the vision which we seek.

The only rules which will exist and guide our future will be those for which everyone would be prepared to pay the ultimate price.


The desired social contract in Ukraine, in our mind, should be based on a clear understanding of ten principles:

1. Freedom

Our obligation is to build a system in which Ukraine will be free and protected.  This is above all freedom “from”: from the threat of annexation and destruction; from unfairness and social inequality; from poverty; from hate and intolerance.  However, freedom “to” is no less important: to appropriately and critically evaluate state policy; to achieve the full realization of the potential of the Ukrainian political nation, to creatively transform life, to spread wealth.

2. Responsibility

Responsibility lies both with the national leadership and with civil society.  National leadership should have a strictly maintained balance of responsibility.  Any transgression against this balance will grow into conflict or into an attempt to usurp power.  Finding this balance should not depend on political conditions and the shifting direction of political influence.  State administration should generally not rule, but serve.  The criteria for suitability of officials are professionalism, moral maturity and service to the national interests of Ukraine.  Civil society must overcome habits which are inherent in a paternalistic nation. Society must refuse violent tactics and accept partial responsibility for the state of affairs of the nation and for its own future in this nation.

3. Economic independence

Economic independence is only possible through the strengthening of property rights and free enterprise.  Property promotes independence and individual responsibility to the community, and is the basis for growth and strengthening of the middle class, which will sustain the nation’s progress in all social spheres.  To enable economic independence, the nation must guarantee the free movement of people, goods, services and capital, no restrictions on legitimate business initiative and guaranteed freedom of contract.  Instead of delegating the right to organize our lives to authorities in return for certain social guarantees (paternalism), we need to build up horizontal networks, based on cooperation with our partners.

4. Unity

Unity in Ukraine is mosaic in nature, not heterogeneous.  Regional diversity is a national richness, not its unfortunate karma.  Political manipulation of regional differences is unacceptable; attention and tolerance to each other is imperative.  The free development of the Ukrainian language and culture creates a cooperative atmosphere which encourages the free development of national minorities and social cohesion around common values and joint tasks.  We are building our national future and cohesion in a shared history not through force or coercion, but through free and informed choice for the benefit of our shared future.

5. Rule of law and justice

Law and order is based on rule of justice, not rule of laws.  The duty of Parliament is to create legislation that corresponds to current requirements of international law and democratic principles, particularly the principle that “protecting the rights of others, we protect ourselves”.  From the state, we demand a radical renewal of the judiciary and law enforcement structures, as well as a triumph over the oligarchic system, which is an impediment on the path of national renewal.  With all of society, we endeavor to implement reforms of rights, by which we mean the entire scope of tasks related to the reliable protection of fundamental freedoms for all residents of Ukraine, regardless of their origins, language of discourse, faith or beliefs.

6. Open access

Access to political power and economic resources should be enabled not by bribes or privilege, but by fair competition.  As a result, the understanding of fairness will change, from fairness of equal shares to fairness of equal opportunities.  The nation must develop open and dependable business rules and effective barriers to the emergence of monopolies which threaten competition.  Simple and clear procedures for the separation of business and power must be introduced, as well as sanctions for violations.

7. Involvement

Involvement is the feeling that you have an impact on the nation’s state of affairs.  It involves the responsibility of the citizen as well as the state.  Involvement emerges as a result of national self-determination and develops through citizen access to governance and legislative, particularly constitutional, processes.  The decentralization of power is the principal defense against usurpation of power, and also serves as an important “social elevator” for prospective managerial elite.  We must provide for the constant renewal of power.  New electoral laws must serve the interests of the nation, not the nation’s dominant political powers.  These laws must be based on principles of transparency, responsibility, accountability and independent oversight.

Only a free person who embraces the responsibility to be law-abiding, to pay taxes and to promote the common good can feel involved with the state of affairs in the country.  Then that person has the right to demand service, protection and fairness from the state.

8. Protest

Every person has a right to dissent through peaceful social protest, called to achieve direct influence on the government when the government transgresses the law or violates human rights.  At the same time, it is unacceptable to allow protests to develop into radical civil uprisings, which lead to the destruction of the nation.

9. Dialogue

Dialogue is the collective and constant search for truth, which should involve both government and citizens equally.  In a country where the primary carrier of power is the nation, state officials are required to fully, promptly and truthfully inform the public about the state of affairs in the nation, and to periodically review the national will.  In the communication era, government secrecy is a vestige of authoritarian times, which can be overcome through constant dialogue between equally informed government and society.

10. Freedom of speech and information

All necessary conditions for freedom of speech and information must be created and guaranteed in Ukraine.  Freedom of speech leads to the right of citizens to free thought and access to open information.  The monopoly of the information sphere through oligarchic capital is unacceptable because it distorts the principles and destroys the values of democratic society.  Freedom of speech demands the integrity of journalists and media to their professional responsibility to speak the truth to society, protecting it from any manipulation and political interference.  Both journalists and media should expect legal protection of their rights.

Vyacheslav Bryukhovetzkyi, Bohdan Hawrylyshyn, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Ivan Dziuba, Yevgen Zakharov, Myroslav Marynovich, Volodymyr Panchenko, Myroslav Popovych, Vadim Skuratovsky, Yuriy Shcherbak, Ihor Yukhnovskyi.

  • Vyacheslav Bryukhovetzkyi
    is a Hero of Ukraine (Ukraine’s highest honor), the honorary President of the National University Kyiv Mohyla Academy
  • Bohdan Hawrylyshyn is a Ukrainian/Canadian/Swiss engineer and economist, member of the Club of Rome
  • Cardinal Lubomyr Husar is the major archbishop emeritus of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and a Cardinal of the Catholic Church
  • Ivan Dziuba is a Hero of Ukraine, a literary critic, social activist and Soviet dissident
  • Yevhen Zakharov is the director of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
  • Myroslav Marynovych is a vice-rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, co-founder of Amnesty International Ukraine, and a founding member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group
  • Volodymyr Panchenko is a literary critic and professor at the National University Kyiv Mohyla Academy
  • Myroslav Popovych is the director of the Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
  • Vadim Skuratovsky is a noted Ukrainian art historian
  • Yuriy Shcherbak is a writer, epidemiologist, politician and diplomat, recipient of numerous awards
  • Ihor Yukhnovskyi is a Hero of Ukraine, a scientist and statesman, member of the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

See another piece from the 1st of December Initiative: Ukrainian intellectuals appeal to international leaders and the world community

The Initiative Group “First of December” was created on the twentieth anniversary of the referendum for the Independence of Ukraine.  It includes senior national intellectuals: Viacheslav Briukhovetsky, Bohdan Hawrylyshyn, Volodymyr Horbulin, His Eminence Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Ivan Dziuba, Myroslav Marynovych, Myroslav Popovych, Yevhen Sverstiuk, Vadym Skurativsky, Ihor Yukhnovsky, and aims to achieve the establishment of new rules in the country.


Translated by: Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu
Source: 1st of December group

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  • Robert Drake

    They only actually need three principles…

    Freedom of the media and press and free speech, so that the government, business interests, and police cannot abuse their power or illegally enrich themselves without the voters and the public being aware of their abuse…

    Laws, lawmakers, and courts that are not corrupt and which actually enforce justice and equality.

    An element of the population as military or security that is willing to uphold freedom and law on the basis of the civilized principle itself, and the aversion to self enrichment or the perversion of the principles of liberty and fairness while exercising any authority. And this element must have oversight and checks against the abuse of its authority.

    All the rest follows, the security of private property, fair trade and commerce, the freedom from corruption, government transparency, the regulation of monopolists and monied peddlers of influence,… and the expectation of honesty and integritty in public affairs and business.

    • miguel

      I agree with you in principle and everything you say Mr. Drake.
      However one thing you do not acknowledge is with Freedom of Media comes responsibility.
      And you do not acknowledge they can be corrupt themselves.

      As we have seen with this war in Ukraine, some nations of Europe and the world refuse to hold Kremlin sponsored media to task with lawsuits and even banning them from broadcasting for their fake stories.

      The “West” seemed to be on top of this except in the areas of elections.
      Russia brings all other aspects of news to probabilities of outrageous manipulation and lies.
      The West have lost that morality compass in favor of the freedom of allowing many to express ‘journalistic freedom’
      The needs to be a push back from the citizens on the world to hold the media they get to task.
      This usually is controlled by capitalism, if a group of media lies, they do not get traffic and they go under.
      But now with them having big budgets, they seem more controlled by advertising then subscriptions.

      The Courts have big part to play where the line of freedom of media and speech come into play, each nation has to decide for itself where that is.
      Today’s current generation seems one of wanting all freedom and no responsibility.
      That needs to change, some regulations need to be maintained on those ‘freedoms’ to make sure they do not get abused.

      So a strong mantra of journalistic ethics for those who go into journalism classes, as well as regulations for when the ‘freedoms’ of journalism are abused is needed as part of the realization of giving freedoms to the journalist community.

      Yes, journalists should have their freedoms protected strongly, but with those freedoms comes responsibility and if they abuse them, they should be castrated by all, the citizens that buy the media, the government that regulates the media, and other journalists that are in the business.

      To the authors of the article-
      An excellent article and I think are some thoughts that need to be reinforced through the teaching of government at both primary school and reinforced to those that begin their career in government.

      Should be required part of syllabus material for all citizens of the world to go through, then the world would be a happier place.

      I would also add to the Economic policy a large amount of encouraging small business entrepreneurship by the government in forms of tax breaks etc.
      It helps keep citizens believing in a dream, it promotes the reinvestment of capital by established businesses, and it increases employment.
      But with that also comes government regulation and supervision to prevent ‘front’ companies for foreign businesses that work to subvert Ukraine, also businesses that create tax shelters out of fake businesses, and also those organized crime groups that utilize false businesses to launder money and hide illicit activities.

      An article I will print out and share, thank you for your efforts and thought that went into this.

      • Quartermaster

        The US media is deeply corrupt. The refuse to report the abuses of the Federal Government, unless it is in the hands of the Republican Party. Even if the Democrats do exactly the same thing as the Republicans, they can do no wrong in the eyes of the US media. With a fair, unbiased media, you will accomplish little. As it is, because of the corruption of the media, the US sinks further and further in the morass of moral and financial bankruptcy. Financial bankruptcy follows moral bankruptcy as sure night follows day.

      • Robert Drake

        Accountability, and the ability of the public to hold the media accountable are actually part of what I would include in the definiton of “freedom of the press” in this sense. Otherwise it is simply “freedom of propaganda” which is meaningless and is only another form of “info wars.” It takes an energetic and informed public to keep the media from distorting events and their meaning … well as using the media to degrade and misinform public opinion on behalf of a partisan and non objective (corrupted) interest in reporting and examining events. Russia is full of examples of this… maybe to the exclusion of any real truth, which is horrendous.

        However, Poroschenko and Channel 5 in Ukraine trying to push Savik Shuster the in depth broad spectrum political program SHUSTER LIVE! of of Ukrainian television completely, is a good example of this too. Poroshenko should be ashamed of not protecting the rights of his citizens to speak out.

        And in the most basic sense, in the room that I had here, I also meant mostly to use the term freedom of expression as the support of the freedom to speak out politically and to publicly criticize power and the government — as contrasted with arrest and death threats that silence those that might otherwise speak out about corruption. Something like 21 Noviya Gazietta reporters have been killed in Russia since independence… and this is the newspaper owned by Gorbachev. (!) The most famous of these was reporter Anna Politikovskaya who was assassinated in front of her apartment lift in Moscow in October 2006. She was a person highly critical of Putin. My favorite quote of hers, courtesy of EuroMaidan’s ( ) editors is:

        “Putin’s style of politics displays deep personal resentment. Putin has many times publicly demonstrated that he fundamentally does not understand the purpose of a debate, especially a political debate. According to Putin, a discussion between a superior and his subordinates should not be possible.”

        The USA is better than this, though its corruption is legitimized by bad law and corrupted lawmakers on behalf of business and toxic ideologies… its corruption is insidious and harder to get out or stop, though what freedoms do exist allow this situation to be exposed. Even with this, people STILL need to express the energy to keep these institutions accountable. The USA’s consumer based society will die if it does not chose what it consumes wisely, and sadly it has the potential to take much of the rest of the civilized world with it… that element of responsible action that you mention is absolutely necessary in this regard.

  • Czech Mate

    I worry about Ukraine and came here to try to get some hope from the people themselves. I mean EU “leaders” have abandoned Ukraine and are finally bowing down to Putin under the pretext of anti-terror coalition. So hypocrites like Hollande want to fight despicable islamic terrorists with the biggest state terrorist called Putler.

    I am worried that the fake sanctions didn’t bring fascist Kremlin to its knees as they should by now had they been real sanctions. And people of Ukraine are struggling while the politicians are quickly losing any remaining trust.

    That is what the russian monster ever wanted- the biggest push for democracy in modern European history to FAIL and to fail badly so that it will cement his throne.

    You can see, that every bully can be seem stronger by weakness of his opponents. Something that fits all too well with Putin vs comrade Merkel, useless Hollande and the coward in chief Obama. They all share the blame for the rise of russian fascist beast.

    Ukraine has been through a lot but it is still breathing and I hope it will never stop fighting realizing its wounds have made her ever stronger.

    Glory to Ukraine and dog’s death to Putler!

  • Quartermaster

    I am a citizen of the US. The problems you list above are all present in the US. The government is deeply corrupt, and as the corruption increases, civil society declines. There is a cabal that pushes for equality, but all it really means is a disrespect for property and law. As one Political Scientist, Dr. Jerry Pournelle, has said, “Free people are not equal, and equal people are not free.” in any society that respects individual achievement, equality is an impossibility. If you restrict equality as a state that exists before the law, then you can have that limited form in that a rich man who is charged with murder has as much of chance of being put to death, as a poor man under the same charge.

    Obama is a symptom of the corruption that exists in the US body politic. He is all mouth, and supports Ukraine with words, but from my time as a US Army Tanker, words don’t mean much when you are in combat for the life of your country. While the US is a wealthy country, that wealth is now increasingly in question as the Federal Government is bankrupt. That state exists because of the corruption of the voters in the US.

    I wish I could give you more encouragement, but Ukraine is on its own in this fight. I wish you the best and hope you win this fight.

    • miguel

      Media can be a fickle bunch, but overall your right Quartermaster.
      Thank you for your service.
      There is a voice of reason that comes from the Republican side and a voice of activism and emotion from the Democrat side.

      Who would have thought that in the running would be an active Socialist Party member running for POTUS in this day and age in America, after all of BHO’s and Billary’s failures.

      There is a large clash of ideologies coming between those mindsets, acting on emotion and acting with facts and reason.
      Then you have had the Russians who have been welcomed to the table and invited to media to expose the world to a Soviet media, which has actively worked to subvert the items that made America strong.
      Capitalism business and National Defense were trademarks of Republicans, and those items made America strong.
      Russians seek to subvert that, using Russian oil money etc..
      It is no wonder the far left has been increasing in influence, people are battling for the new money of the Russians that come to the playing field.
      That has affected American politics.
      I think the Republicans can capitalize on the failures of BHO and Billary, and with the bleeding of Kremlin money left and right, it might be able to swing the voters if it promotes a centrist type of candidate to POTUS.
      Promoting Trump, although he is entertaining, is not good and will polarize America more.

      The swing voters, the ones that do not actively vote but will vote when there is too much moving in one direction or the other – far left or far right, are key to mobilize and encourage participating.

      Anyway, the article above I think has good guidelines for all to remember.
      And to point out the citizens have as much a role to play and responsibility for the way politicians and media act.

      Ukraine brings a lot of complex issues to the forefront, and I pray for strength for the decision makers, and the citizens who criticize them, to make the right choices about the future of the world regardless of party affiliation.