Kuchma, Leonid Danylovych

▪ 1995

      In the Ukrainian presidential elections of July 1994, Leonid Kuchma achieved a surprising victory over the incumbent—and first—Ukrainian president, Leonid Kravchuk, by sweeping the industrial cities of eastern Ukraine and the Crimea and dividing the vote in central Ukraine. During the campaign he persistently advocated closer ties with Russia, a policy that endeared him to the former communists and alienated him from the major nationalist centres of western Ukraine. Though Russian was his native tongue, Kuchma was able to demonstrate an adequate command of the Ukrainian language in his campaign speeches. He had served his country earlier as prime minister, from October 1992 to September 1993.

      The new Ukrainian president represented a new breed of politician, that of the industrial managers of the Soviet era. Though Kuchma was born in the village of Chaykino, in the north-central province of Chernihiv on Aug. 9, 1938, his technical career blossomed in the industrial heartland of Dnipropetrovsk. He graduated in 1960 with a degree in mechanical engineering from Dnipropetrovsk State University.

      From 1960 to 1975 Kuchma progressed steadily as an engineer, senior engineer, and assistant chief designer at the construction works in the city of Dnipropetrovsk. He served as Communist Party secretary at the works from 1975 to 1982, and in 1982 he was promoted to the position of first deputy general designer. During those years he also worked at a top secret post (even the precise dates were never made known) as a technical manager at Baykonyr, Kazakhstan, the centre of the Soviet space program. Kuchma's most prestigious position in management was from 1986 to 1992, when he served as the general director of the world's largest rocket construction firm, in Dnipropetrovsk.

      During his time as prime minister of Ukraine, Kuchma often professed himself frustrated with the difficulties in implementing significant reforms and with what he perceived as a lack of substantial aid from the West. Reflecting his management skills, he was appointed chairman of the Ukrainian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs in December 1993. He was also a recipient of the Lenin Prize and in 1994 held the position of professor at Dnipropetrovsk State University and academician of the Engineering Academy of Ukraine. (DAVID R. MARPLES)

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Universalium. 2010.

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