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National Emblems of Ukraine

The national emblems – the coat of arms, the flag, and the seal – alternated during the millennium of Ukrainian history owing to various political, social, cultural, and other factors.

The contemporary coat of arms, a trident or a tryzub, is an ancient symbol of the Ukrainian people, dating back more than 3000 years. In the 10th century it became the dynastic coat of arms of the Kyivan princes, including Volodymyr the Great and Yaroslav the Wise. With the restoration of Ukrainian independence, the trident was adopted as the official emblem of the Ukrainian National Republic in 1918. By an Act of Parliament on February 19, 1992, the trident once again became the national emblem of Ukraine, symbolizing the united historical development of the Ukrainian people.

The combination of the blue and yellow colours reaches far back into pre-Christian times. These colours predominated on the flags of the medieval Kyivan State and were prominent during the Cossack age.

On 22 March 1918 the blue-and-yellow flag was ratified as the national flag of the independent Ukrainian National Republic. With the unification of all Ukrainian lands in 1919, it became the only Ukrainian flag. With the trident, the blue-and-yellow flag for many years symbolized the aspirations of the Ukrainian people for independence.

Following the Declaration of Independence, the blue-and-yellow flag was adapted as the national flag of Ukraine by an Act of Parliament on 28 January 1992.

The Constitution of Ukraine

On June 28, 1996, the Verkhovna Rada adopted the Fundamental Law of Ukraine, its Constitution. According to the Constitution Ukraine is a sovereign and independent, democratic, social, legal state with Ukrainian as the official language.

The Constitution assures human and civil rights, freedoms and duties. It states that every person has the right to the free expression of views and beliefs. Every person has freedom of thought and speech. The Constitution guarantees the rights to life, personal inviolability.

According to the Constitution cultural heritage is protected by law. The duty of citizens is to respect the state symbols, to defend the Motherland, its independence and territorial integrity.

The Constitution outlines the activities of the Verkhovna Rada. Its main function is making laws. The people’s deputies are elected to the Verkhovna Rada for a term of four years. The Constitution specifies the power and obligations of the President who is the head of the State. He is elected for a term of five years. He can’t be elected for more than two full terms.

The highest body of the executive power is the Cabinet of Ministers. It carries out the domestic and foreign policy of the State. The Constitutions also outlines the activities of judicial power.

The Constitution of Ukraine consists of 15 chapters and 161 articles. The day of its adoption is a state holiday – the Day of the Constitution of Ukraine.

The Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk

On June 28th 1996, independent Ukraine adopted a written constitution, providing the foundations on which the nation can build. But relatively few people know that this was not the first constitution signed in Ukraine: that in fact, as far back as April 5th, 1710, a document underpinned by similar ideals had been ratified for the protection of the nation. This document, the “Pacts and Constitutions of the Laws and Freedoms of the Zaporizhzhya Army” was the first constitution in the modern understanding of the word to be written in Europe, and actually pre-dates the American Constitution by some seventy years. While George Washington is known everywhere as a father of the American Constitution, Hetman Pylyp Orlyk has a similar role in Ukrainian history. It was he who successfully negotiated this pact between the Grand Prince of Rus, the Zaporizhzhya Army and himself, Hetman.

On April 5, 1710, Pylyp Orlyk was elected Hetman of Ukraine and on that day a unique document in European and world history was signed. The Constitution outlined the fundamental principles the Ukrainian state would uphold after “the liberation with God’s help of the Motherland from subordinacy to Moscow.” The Constitution was adopted by the General Council and came into being with the election of the Hetman. The Swedish King Charles XII officially recognized the validity of the Constitution, assuming responsibility for guaranteeing Ukraine its independence and the integrity of its borders.

In the document, Ukraine was proclaimed a Christian republic under an elected Hetman. The Constitution asserted the full sovereignty of the Ukrainian state within its borders. The Council was to be the highest administrative authority. It was to meet three times a year. The country was to be subdivided into separate regions, each of them democratically electing its representative to the Council.

Pylyp Orlyk’s ambitious plans for his country, unfortunately, were doomed to failure: the Constitution was in reality acknowledged only in Ukraine to the east of the Dnipro, and even there for only four years. The document itself was hidden for generations, and only came to light again in the twentieth century.

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