By Graham Phillips. Originally published on http://www.grahamwphillips.com on August 9th, 2013 (see below)… photos from various sources, provided for illustration –
The new values had not replaced the old ones which were quickly and consciously destroyed. Ukraine appeared in the situation of anomia.
Anna Tkach, WAVE Magazine
The explosion of Chernobyl Reactor No.4 on April 26th 1986 caused the deaths of a still disputed and never-knowable figure which could be even be in the region of a million, infected countless more, and had many Ukrainians carrying a sense of shame for what became a defining national symbol. Further, Ukrainian state payments to those affected saw an estimated 7 million at one time in receipt of benefits, giving rise to allegations that a ‘victim culture’ had taken hold in the country, and that most benefits had never reached those most in need. It was understandable, then, that as a new decade dawned, hopes were pinned on better times. But those hoped-for 90s never came, as Ukraine in the 1990s collapsed into a post-Soviet morass of mortality, poverty and immorality.
The country’s economy immediately hit problems in the 90s, GDP falling year-on-year as the newly independent nation, as of August 24th 1991, endured hyperinflation and a crippling collapse in economic output. By 1999, the Ukrainian economy had fallen to its lowest point, with GDP around half what it had been in 1990. Coupled with this decline was a newly liberal Ukraine, breaking free from Soviet shackles with abandon which sent waves crashing through society.
Sex and Society
The age of first sexual experience was 19 for men and 20 for women in 1980s Soviet Union, but this swiftly shot down in a newly independent Ukraine – by the mid-90s more
than 50% of women and 80% of men had sex before the age of 17.5, and greater than half the country’s teenagers had at least 3 partners before the age of 20, with many doing so unprotected.
Between 1992 and 1994, the number of legal abortions had increased by over 9%, the number of illegal by 23%. Nearly half of the sexually active females became pregnant at least once during their teenage years. Ukraine’s HIV / AIDS rate was low until the later 90s – only 429 people were reported as HIV sufferers in 1995, 210 Ukrainian and 219 foreign. But what would grow to be an epidemic, with now up to 500,000 potentially infected, had its seeds sown in the 90s. A spread of sexual infection saw syphilis among 14-year old boys rocketing 400%, 800% for 15-17 year olds, increasing in the area of 500% among teenage girls as teenagers broke free of Soviet sexual shackles with scant regard, or awareness, of dangers.
Shockingly, in the 1990s, abortion was the main form of birth control in Ukraine, with there being 104.2 per 1000 women in 1993, by 1994 the number had risen to between 110 and 115. Post-Soviet rule, the Ukrainian government grappled with the twin challenges of implementing a new social education system and converting public information and welfare literature into the Ukrainian language, in pre-internet era. Sex-education programmes were concentrated in clinics and medical facilities, rather than the general public, and almost completely excluded men, leading many men to believe that the woman would take responsibility. Contraceptives were new to most, unrecommended by many GPs, and prohibitively expensive.
Divorce, also rose sharply in the 90s, with the number per thousand population rising from 3.9 in 1991 to 4.4 in 1993, making near 230,000 divorces. There was a sharp difference here in urban rates, of 5.5 per thousand, and 1.9 per thousand in rural areas, reflecting both the difficulties and temptations of 90s Ukrainian city life. Within ten to fifteen years, around 75% of divorced men, but only 50% of women had remarried. The child staying with the mother in 90% of cases made for an accompanying surge in single-parent families.
Poverty and Population
By 2000, Ukraine’s population had decreased from over 51.7 million in 1989, to just under 49.5 million, down 2.2 million. This was largely centered in Ukraine’s industrial east, with a precipitous decline in employment there – the closing of many mines and factories – contributing to the Donetsk region’s hemorrhaging 500,000, over 9% of its population. Nearby, Lugansk lost 11%. A growing death rate played a part in this. In 1991, the year Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union, the death rate had shot up from just under 630,000 to almost 670,000, while the live births rate went down from just over 657,000 to just under 631,000.
By 1992, deaths had rocketed up to over 697,000, while live births had plummeted to just under 597,000. Death figures hit a peak in 1995, with close to 793,000 deaths reported, meaning over 1.5% of Ukraine’s population died that year. Births shot down from 657,000 in 1990, to 385,000 by 2000. In 2000, the net decrease in population was near 373,000, compared to a net growth of 27,600 in 1990, a reversal of over 400,000. Population decline not due to a net increase in deaths over births was mainly caused by emigration, with over a million Ukrainians leaving the country in the 90s, some sources putting that figure in excess of 1.5 million. Immigration into Ukraine also dropped, down from more than 538,000 in 1992, to around 50,000 by the end of the decade, potential incomers nervous about walking into the maelstrom of Ukraine at that time.
The 90s were a time of searing poverty in Ukraine, with 52% of the Ukrainian population reporting in 1998 that they had insufficient money to feed themselves. Yet they were also a time when many in Ukraine got very rich, very quickly, with the culture which now sees Ukraine’s 50 wealthiest oligarchs accounting for 85% of the country’s GDP born.
The Rise of the Oligarchs
Rinat Akhmetov, born in 1966, is Ukraine’s wealthiest person, with a fortune of $16 billion-plus putting him both at the yearly top of Ukraine’s rich list, and regularly top 50 on the Forbes list. He rose from a family of a coal-miner father and shop assistant mother. Much of his life up until 2000 is the subject of debate and dispute. It is known that in the 1980s Akhmetov worked as an assistant to Akhat Bragin, a man law enforcement agencies classed as a powerful criminal boss. And it has been alleged that Akhmetov’s empire began with the extorting of properties in Donetsk in the early 1990s. Akhmetov himself claims he made his fortune through risky investments in coal and coke in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union. Yet in the investigative history book Donetsk Mafia: Anthology, Ukrainian author Sergey Kuzin claims Akhmetov held the role of a ‘mafia thug‘ in his early years, something Akhmetov has always vigorously denied.
After the 90s, Akhmetov founded System Capital Management Group, in 2000, and has been its sole proprietor since 2009, with company assets worth an estimated $30 billion. Modern Akhmetov, politician and owner
of football club Shakhtar Donetsk is ranked as Ukraine’s number 1 philanthropist, with reports on his donations ranging from tens of millions, to even hundreds of millions of dollars. He has defended himself against allegations of ties to organised crime through a robust PR operation and numerous lawsuits against media both local and international. His Wikipedia page is rigorously maintained to reflect accusations retracted. Yet, despite all the philanthropy, say the name Akhmetov to a Ukrainian and a typical response is one word: ‘bandit’ (gangster).
Prime Minister of the 90s Pavlo Lazarenko was convicted in August 2006 in the United States, for money laundering, wire fraud and extortion. A count by the United Nations put the amount he had looted from Ukraine during his 1996-1997 tenure at $200 million. During his time in national government, Lazarenko maintained a close business relationship with fellow Dnipropetrovsk native Yulia Tymoshenko, then CEO of Yedyni Energosystemy Ukrayiny (United Energy Systems of Ukraine), a monopoly that imported Russian natural gas.
In addition to money looting, Lazarenko was also implicated in the murder of Yevhen Shcherban, a wealthy businessman and leader of Ukraine’s Liberal Party; and he reportedly planned to assassinate Oleksandr Volkov, a close associate of President Leonid Kuchma. As public uproar grew against Lazarenko, who had resigned before being forced out in 1997, he fled Ukraine in 1999, claiming asylum in the USA. He remains there in prison, serving a 9-year sentence. In 2004 Transparency International named Lazarenko the eighth most corrupt political leader in recent history.
Part 2 Coming soon