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Dissident movement in Ukraine
Glossary

INDEPENDENT TRADE UNIONS

16.11.2006

These independent trade unions were attempts to form an alternative to official workers’ organizations during the 1970s and 1980s.

Workers’ protests and public actions in the form of strikes had occurred before during the Khrushchev period.  The rise of the human rights movement in the USSR at the end of the 1960s also provided an impulse for the creation of independent trade unions which were formally not prohibited by Soviet laws. At the end of the 1960s - beginning of the 70s, such attempts were made by Ivan Hryshchuk from Kyiv, as well as the Donetsk engineers V. KLEBANOV and A Nikitin. All three were subjected to punitive psychiatry.

On 26 February 1978 V. KLEBANOV founded and headed the “Association of the free trade union of workers of the Soviet Union’ which was joined by several dozen people who had, like him, had sought the reinstatement of their infringed rights in the waiting rooms of higher Soviet State and Party bodies in Moscow.  The group was made up of about 156 people, just less than half of them from Ukraine.  The trade union declared its objective to be to defend the violated rights of workers and made no political demands. Nevertheless, by the end of March 1978 the most active members of the trade union had already been arrested, and some had been placed in psychiatric hospitals.

The next phase in the independent trade union movement was the emergence of regional groups of the Free Inter-Trade-union Association of Workers (SMOT)..

In the 1980s there was an attempt by Edward. Kritsky to create an independent drivers’ union in the city of Kryvy Rih.  However the trade union movement never took on mass proportions in Ukraine or in any other republics of the USSR. It is only possible to talk about a serious workers’ movement from July 1989 when the whole country was rocked by a wave of miners’ strikes. At that time 182 Donbas mines held strikes.

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