Ukrainian Leader on Soviet Politics

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

FOLLOWING are excerpts from an interview with Leonid Karvchuk, chairman of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet, in Kiev on March 29.

What is your frank assessment of Boris Yeltsin's political leadership these days? How do you see this conflict between Yeltsin and [Soviet President Mikhail] Gorbachev?

I always say that if we judge [Russian leader] Boris Yeltsin by declarations, by speeches, he sincerely supports the idea of sovereign Russia. He wants to give the Russian people what they deserve. And I understand him in this.

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But is it necessary to confront Gorbachev to do this?

We in the Ukraine are also making certain steps toward sovereignty. But we are not confronting Gorbachev.

I understand there are a lot of personal things here, because Yeltsin was a member of the Gorbachev team. Then he was excluded. Naturally there are some ill feelings and the desire to prove that he can do better. This desire to prove himself makes him want to jump ahead. But in politics, it is impossible to pose unrealistic goals. We can promise lots to people, to raise salaries and pensions threefold, and people will like it. But how can you promise it, knowing that every year we have a recession?

If Yeltsin means to export valuables and gold, to sell resources, gas, oil, well, of course, it is a way. But it is a way toward dependency, not toward industrial development.

Equally Gorbachev should not, when he makes a decision, be guided by personal feelings. What matters is the country, the people.

Here the personal insults, the personal ill feelings, cannot be taken into account. The most dangerous thing in politics is to be insulted.

It is impossible to stress this thing - who is older, who has more power. They should sit down at the table as equals and make an agreement. I cannot see any other way.

You grew up in the countryside of the Ukraine. How did your family personally experience the process of collectivization [of Soviet agriculture] and how do you view it?

I view collectivization, especially the way in which it was carried out, extremely negatively. I was eyewitness to this collectivization in the western part of the Ukraine, when everything was taken from the peasants - the cattle, the seeds, even the primitive equipment they had - and forcefully they were compelled to join the collective farms. Those who resisted were exiled. A lot of people from my native village were exiled only because they resisted.

For our family, this question did not exist. My father and mother were very poor peasants. We had only one hectare [2.5 acres] of land, it is very little. That is why we didn't have a horse or some tools. We didn't have anything to lose.

I am against compulsion. I am against any compulsion. I am against nationalism. I saw the results of nationalism in my own native village. In my village I saw the results of chauvinism. There were a lot of Jews in our village, and I saw the prejudiced attitude on the part of many Ukrainians toward the Jews. It took many forms - force, insults against their national dignity.

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