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You're reading: Happy birthday, Ukraine?

I always thought Ukraine’s real birthday was on Dec. 1, not Aug 24. I was in Kyiv in August 1991, learning Ukrainian at “MAU” (pronounced like Chairman Mao), the International Association of Ukrainian Studies.

We were all fearful on the morning of Aug. 19, precisely because Ukraine was largely a bystander to events unfolding elsewhere (unless you count the fact that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s longer-than-expected holiday was on Ukrainian territory in Crimea).

After two days of Ukrainian Communist Party leader Leonid Kravchuk’s prevarication, Rukh nationalists and others deserve credit for making sure the Verkhovna Rada seized the initiative and declared independence on Saturday, Aug. 24, before all Soviet institutions swung back into action on Monday, Aug. 26.

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