Ukrainian students hunger strike and protest against government, 1990


Resignation of Prime Minister Masol, new multi-party elections, military service to be completed on Ukrainian land only, dissuade the formation of a new Union Treaty that would have strengthened the bonds with the USSR, and the nationalization of the Communist Party's property.

Time period

2 October, 1990 to 17 October, 1990



Location City/State/Province


Location Description

Maidan Nezalezhnosti, meaning Independence Square
Jump to case narrative


L'viv's Student Brotherhood, Kiev's Ukranian Students Union


Not known

External allies

Traditionally pro-Communist workers from the Arsenal factory

Involvement of social elites

Stepan Khmara, Mykhailo Horyn


Prime Minister Masol, government of Ukraine, Soviet Union

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Not known

Repressive Violence

Not known


National-Ethnic Identity



Group characterization

Ukrainian students

Groups in 4th Segment

Stepan Khmara
Mykhailo Horyn

Groups in 6th Segment

Pro-Communist Arsenal factory workers

Segment Length

3 days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

10 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

Many of the demands of the students - such as the resignation of Masol and the abandonment of a Union Treaty - were met immediately at the end of the hunger strike. The other demands, such as multi-party elections and voluntary instead of compulsory military service outside the borders of Ukraine, were achieved within two years following the campaign.

The campaign organizations were still active by the end of the campaign, and it was only after the campaign that the pressure on the students involved began.

Both the leading organizations and the overall campaign gained momentum and members. Although the campaign started with a core of a few hundred students, thousands more came to protest and sympathize with those students. Also, notable social elites and originally pro-Communist workers joined the campaign.

Database Narrative

Dissatisfied with lack of democracy and the Soviet Union’s influence on their country, Ukrainian university students in L'viv established the Student Brotherhood in March of 1989.  In December students in the capital city of Kiev formed the Ukrainian Students Union. 

The two groups agreed on a list of demands for the Ukrainian government, including the resignation of Prime Minister Masol and the establishment of new multi-party elections.  They also demanded that their military service be carried out on Ukrainian territory, the nationalization of Communist Party property, and the dropping of a proposed Union Treaty with the Soviet Union. 

To demonstrate their commitment, the Students Union and the Student Brotherhood built a tent city encampment and on 2 October launched a hunger strike at the Maidan Nezalezhnosti, (Independence Square) in Kiev. The hunger strike was influenced by the example of the Chinese students’ hunger strike in Tiananmen Square in 1989 (see Chinese students campaign for democratic reform (Tiananmen Square), 1989).

Before the Ukrainian students organized their hunger strike, there had already been protests by others. On 30 September, 200,000 Ukrainians launched a demonstration in Kiev to coincide with the opening of the second session of the Supreme Court. A general strike followed on 1 October, but did not garner as much support. 

The next day, 2 October 1990, the students began their hunger strike. They erected about fifty tents in the Independence Square. A core of about 150 to 200 students participated directly in the hunger strike while another 2,000 joined at the site. The strikers were joined every day by several thousand protestors, sympathizers, and onlookers from cities throughout Ukraine. 

On 15 October, more students in Kiev carried out a demonstration in front of the Ukrainian Parliament building after a live television broadcast showed the efforts of the hunger-striking students in the Independence Square. 50,000 students were involved in this demonstration and one of the student leaders, Oles' Doniy, announced the students' demands before the parliament and also called on students to stage sit-ins in their respective institutions of higher education. 

After hearing this call, the students successfully seized the University building that day. The students demonstrating at the Supreme Soviet broke up into smaller groups to march throughout the city to schools and factories passionately stating their demands. Some wore symbols, such as a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag.

The campaign gained significant partners and allies, including prominent activists such as Stepan Khmara -- a Ukrainian politician and human rights activist -- and Mykhailo Horyn -- an activist and politician. 

Workers from the Arsenal factory in Kiev supported the students as well. The Arsenal factory had been memorialized since 1917 as a factory that had led to the victory of the Bolsheviks, a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. Therefore, the support of these pro-Communist workers for the students protesting against the Communist dominion of Ukraine was seen as a symbolic turning point and victory for the campaign.

The authorities were largely blind-sided by the hunter strike and its success in garnering support from students all over the country, and the increasing amount of protests and demonstrations. In two weeks the government capitulated, agreeing to meet some of the students' demands on 17 October 1990.  Military service would be restricted to Ukrainian territory except for volunteers; the proposed treaty for union with the Soviet Union would be dropped.  As the months went by other demands were met: Prime Minister Masol resigned and the Supreme Soviet agreed to allow multi-party elections.


The Ukrainian students were influenced by the hunger strikes by Chinese Students at Tiananmen Square. (see Chinese students campaign for democratic reform (Tiananmen Square), 1989)(1)


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Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Yein Pyo, 14/09/2012