Kyiv, Novemeber 24, 2014. Civic activists want to re-name Donetsk National University in honor of the late Ukrainian independence activist, Vasyl Stus. This was stated at Ukraine Crisis Media by former Ukrainian dissidents Levko Lukyanenko and Vasyl Ovsiyenko, and civil activist Arseniy Pushkarenko. In his youth, Stus moved to Donetsk from the Vinnytsia region of western Ukraine. It was in Donetsk where Stus first fell in love with Ukrainian language and literature, and his agitation for an independent Ukraine resulted in his arrest and imprisonment for 26 years in the Soviet Union. He died in a Soviet prison in 1985. Now that the Ukrainian nation has been re-born, and the Donetsk National University has moved to Vinnytsia, it is especially fitting to re-start the project.
The initiative to re-name Donetsk National University in honor of Vasyl Stus was first launched in 2008 by Donetsk students, stated Pushkarenko. Over 5000 students signed a petition in favor of the initiative. However, administrators and professors blocked the initiative from being fulfilled. “On the 11th of July of 2009, out of 294 delegates, 293 voted against, 1 abstained, and no one voted in favor of this initiative,” said Pushkarenko. The Party of Regions’ stranglehold on the Donetsk region prevented any progress in this regard. Ironically, Donetsk National University has recently been moved to Vinnytsia, the capital of Vasyl Stus’ home region, which makes changing the university name an even bigger priority. “We hope that through the continuation of the 2009 initiative, the university with get the name of Vasyl Stus by the New Year,” stated Pushkarenko.
Lukyanenko and Ovsiyenko support the initiative and hope that their national visibility will aid in the project’s success. Lukyanenko believes that former resistance to the proposal in Donetsk demonstrates how many Ukrainians are still stuck in the past. “It showed us how the authorities of Ukraine and the managers of universities have not gone far from communist notions and Russian imperial positions,” he said. “Donetsk authorities considered these initiatives from the point of view of Russian chauvinists.” Despite the protests and petitions of students, Ukraine’s educational leaders have resisted efforts to cherish Ukraine’s national history. “For the former authorities, someone who fought for Ukrainian independence is an undesired person,” continued Lukyanenko. Both former dissidents hope that Ukraine’s revolution and new authorities will ensure that this pro-Ukrainian initiative is successful in order to honor a fighter for Ukrainian freedom from the Soviet Union.