Viktor Yanukovich, an ethnic Belarusian, Elected as President of Ukraine

While Belarus itself has been stuck with its authoritarian ruler since 1994, an ethnic Belarusian in neighboring Ukraine has secured the highest position in the country.

Father of the newly-elected Ukrainian President Fiodar Uladzimiravich Yanukovich was born in 1923 in Yanuki in northern Belarus. Fiodar Yanukovich was very young when his father Uladzimir Yaraslavavich Yanukovich moved to Ukraine in 1920-s to work in coal mines. Uladzimir went there with his brother, who subsequently returned to Yanuki in Belarus.

There has been rumors that Fiodar Yanukovich was collaborating with Nazis while in Belarus. Reportedly, Baranovichi regional branch of NKVD, the predecessor of KGB requested in 1945 to “extradite” Fiodor Yanukovich back to Belarus on charges of collaboration with Nazis. However, the genuineness of this story is questionable.

In Ukraine, Fiodar worked as locomotive drive in Donbas, the region of Ukraine rich in coal. His first wife Olga died in 1952, when Viktor was just two years old. Fiodar later re-married and Viktor Yanukovich was brought up by grandmother. Being born in and having grown up in Ukraine, it is not surprising, that Viktor Yanukovich regards himself Ukrainian.

However, Viktor Yanukovich has not forgotten his Belarusian roots. He visited Yanuki, the birthplace of his father, at least twice. Once he went there on an official visit as Prime Minster of Ukraine with accompanied by his Belarusian counterpart Siarhei Sidorski and later paid a private visit. On both occasions, he met the local Yanukovichs and visited the local cemetery, where his grandfather’s brother and other distant relatives are buried.

During his official visit to Yanuki in December 2006, Viktor Yanukovich even vowed to rejuvenate his family nest by building a new road and a diary factory. According to media reports, he thought of inviting all people named Yanukovich from Belarus and Ukraine to resettle in Yanuki. Currently there are only two families live in Yanuki. Both of them are Yanukovichs.

Viktor Yanukovich certainly has sentimental feelings towards his historic motherland, which may facilitate closer ties between Ukraine and Belarus. Hopefully, these closer ties will not lead Viktor Yanukovich to emulate the methods of another ethnic Belarusian president, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has been refusing to give up power for more than fifteen years.

Read more about visits of Viktor Yanukovich to Yanuki in Belarusian at tut.by.

YK

Yarik Kryvoi is the editor-in-chief of Belarus Digest and the founder of the Ostrogorski Centre.

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