How (and Why) to Celebrate Constitution Day
Often overlooked by other national holidays like Independence Day, Ukraine’s Constitution Day is a time to celebrate some of the things that make this country great.
What is Constitution Day?
It’s a state holiday that marks the anniversary of the signing of Ukrainian constitution. It is celebrated each year on 28 June. As that date falls on the weekend, Ukrainians will celebrate from 27-29 June. Monday is a national holiday.
Where Does it Come From?
It marks the anniversary of the date Ukraine finally adopted its own constitution – 28 June 1996. Divided by parliamentary bickering that would become a hallmark of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament), the first parliament was unable to come to an agreement on a constitution. There were 15 constitutional proposals between 1990-96 before Speaker Oleksandr Moroz forced MPs to pass a constitution before leaving parliament. The resulting 20+ hour session led to Ukraine’s constitution being passed at 9.18 am. As the last post-USSR country to adopt a new constitution, Ukraine was also the last place where the USSR constitution was still used.
To see the moment it was adopted, click here.
What’s in the Constitution?
The Ukrainian constitution laid out state symbols, stipulated that Ukrainian was the sole official language, recognised Crimea as an autonomous republic, guaranteed the right to private property, and laid the foundations for strong presidential powers. Some of the presidential powers – including the right to name the Prime Minister – were revoked by constitutional amendment following the Orange Revolution in 2004. They were then controversially reinstated by the Yanukovych-era Constitutional Court before reverting back to the 2004 amendment in the last days of the Revolution of Dignity.
Bits & Bytes
The current Ukrainian constitution is not Ukraine’s first. Ukraine can trace its constitutional roots back to the days of the Cossacks of the Zaporizhian Sich, especially the groundbreaking Pylyp Orlyk constitution – one of Europe’s earliest. It was unique for establishing a democratic process to separate powers, by introducing an elected Cossack parliament to limit the Hetman’s authority. This document also influenced the Ukrainian National Republic’s constitution in 1917.
Soviet Ukraine had four different constitutions – 1919, 1929, 1937, and 1978.
The last place the Soviet constitution was valid was in Ukraine. It was valid from Ukrainian independence until Ukrainian adopted its own constitution in 1996.
As an autonomous republic in Ukraine, Crimea adopted its own constitution in 1998.
How to Celebrate?
Generally, there are events in the city centre, including parades, concerts, fireworks, and plenty of anthem-singing. Due to COVID-19, however, mass events are prohibited and there is no official schedule. Instead of live concerts, many of Ukraine’s most famous singers will be performing online Constitution Day concerts. Be sure to check the social media posts of your favourite singers or tune into the official Constitution Day online concert on Saturday (June 27) at 18.00 by clicking here.
If you are looking for an outdoor event, you could head outside the city to Kyivan Rus Park. The living history park will be putting on special Constitution Day programming, including a horseback archery tournament, medieval fencing workshops, and a “princely” flag parade. For more information, click here.
On behalf of the What’s On staff – Happy Constitution Day Ukraine!