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'Glory To Ukraine!' It's The Law. Or Could Be, If PM Gets His Way


The expression "Slava Ukrayini" ("Glory to Ukraine") has become widely used by Ukrainians in various contexts ever since the Euromaidan protests that began in 2013. (file photo)

KYIV -- Do svidania, "comrade."

If the Ukrainian government gets its way, the country’s military will soon ditch the official Soviet-era call-and-response greeting that has persisted since Kyiv’s break with Moscow nearly 27 years ago for "Glory to Ukraine!" -- a chant rooted in Ukraine's nationalist past but repurposed and popularized during the 2013-14 Euromaidan street protests.

The proposal came from Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman, who on February 5 submitted a draft bill to parliament that would amend the existing law requiring Ukrainian servicemen and senior officers to greet each other with the Soviet-era "Hello, comrade!" and "Good day, sir!" and swap it with the exchange "Glory to Ukraine!" and "Glory to the heroes!"

Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has not set a date for debate of the bill, but it is likely to receive broad support from lawmakers and civil society, both of whom have backed sweeping de-communization laws that ban Soviet symbols and equate the Soviet and Nazi regimes.

People light candles at Independence Square in Kyiv to form the words "Glory to Ukraine, glory to the Heroes!" during a rally to show support for servicemen on the front line in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
People light candles at Independence Square in Kyiv to form the words "Glory to Ukraine, glory to the Heroes!" during a rally to show support for servicemen on the front line in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Since the Euromaidan street protests that ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych and the start of Ukraine’s ongoing war against Russia-backed insurgents in the country's east, the "Glory to Ukraine!" call and "Glory to the heroes!" response have been widely used by Ukrainians: as a blessing from President Petro Poroshenko in national addresses and press conferences with Western counterparts; as a battle cry from soldiers fighting on the front lines; and as a slogan expressed by so-called Euro-optimists pushing for reforms in parliament.

The phrases might just as easily be screamed by rock stars at concerts, or spoken by athletes in postgame TV interviews, or mumbled by bus drivers encountering a newly paved road.

But not everyone is a fan, and there are likely to be detractors due to the "glory" calls’ roots in the controversial Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), whose members fought to establish an independent Ukraine before and during World War II but also committed wartime atrocities against Poles and Jews.

Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine who still celebrate the Red Army's WWII victories are unlikely to welcome the change, as are lawmakers from the Opposition Bloc, the political party filled with former allies of the Moscow-friendly Yanukovych, and their supporters.

Ukrainian officials' introduction of a phrase made popular under revolutionary WWII-era ultranationalists could be used by Moscow to bolster its claim that a "junta" and "fascist" government control Kyiv.

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