The title Hero of Ukraine was established on August 23, 1998 / Photo from UNIAN

Heroes of independent state

08:53, 21 August 2015
6 min. 306 24 years

While in the past years the highest state decoration - the Hero of Ukraine title - was conferred for highest professional achievements, and, sometimes, upon quite odious citizens, the modern Order bearers are the real heroes. On many of them, the title was conferred posthumously...

UNIAN continues with a small series of publications devoted to the 24th anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence.

The Hero of Ukraine title was established by President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma on August 23, 1998. This is the highest state decoration, accompanied by the Order of the Gold Star for performing an outstanding heroic deed or the Order of the State for outstanding professional achievements. A holder of the title enjoys a number of wage, social security and healthcare benefits.

As of today, the title has been conferred on 412 Ukrainians. In the past years, it was awarded as recognition of top professional achievements, sometimes on the occasion of anniversaries (age or professional activity), often, to quite odious citizens. However, the modern Order bearers are real Heroes. For the most part, they are heroes of an undeclared war, and on many of them the title was conferred posthumously.

Orders for cronies

President Leonid Kuchma was the most generous in terms of conferring the title, making 136 fellow citizens Heroes of Ukraine. Borys Paton, president of the National Academy of Sciences, became the first title holder back in 1998 "for dedication to science and outstanding achievements in the field of welding and special electrometallurgy, which contributed to the global recognition and approval of the authority of the Ukrainian science," as stated in the presidential decree. The first posthumous title went to Vyacheslav Chornovil (1937-1999). MP and a long-time advocate of Ukrainian independence, he was one of the most prominent political figures of the late 1980s and early 1990s who paved the path of the contemporary Ukraine to its independence.

The Hero of Ukraine title was first conferred on academician Borys Paton / Photo from UNIAN

Under Kuchma cadence, most of the Heroes of Ukraine were awarded with the Order of the State. Beside engineers, miners, designers, folk artists, writers and athletes, some members of parliament also were among the chosen ones:

Leonid Kravchuk, first president of the independent Ukraine - "for his outstanding personal contribution to the development of an independent Ukrainian state, long-term active political and social activities”;

The ex-speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Volodymyr Lytvyn - "for outstanding personal merits before Ukraine in the development of statehood-building, political reform, the ideals of civic unity and public harmony";

Ivan Plyushch - "for outstanding personal merits before Ukraine in the development of statehood, fruitful political and social activities”;

Volodymyr Boyko, chairman of the board and CEO of Mariupol Ilich Metallurgic Plant - "for outstanding services to the Ukrainian state in strengthening the country's economy, and years of political activity";

Yuriy Boyko, famous for “Boyko towers” [A purchase of Petro Hodovanets (ex-West Juno) and Nezalezhnist jack-up rigs in the Black Sea, while Boyko was energy minister, has been harshly criticized due to corruption and money laundering allegations, and higher purchase price than that on the market] - "for outstanding personal merits before the Ukrainian state in the development of fuel and energy complex, long-term selfless work";

Yukhym Zviahylsky CEO of the coal mine named after Zasyadko [a place where dozens of miners died on shift] "for outstanding personal merits before the Ukrainian state in the development of the coal industry, years of legislative activity"…

At the same time, the Order of the Gold Star was awarded to only 10 citizens. It is interesting that among the veterans, the military, law enforcers, test pilots and the first Ukrainian cosmonaut, two athletes have also received the title: multiple Olympic swimming champion Yana Klochkova, and multiple Paraolympic swimming champion Viktor Smirnov.

From Gongadze to Bandera

The next president, Viktor Yushchenko, mostly conferred the Orders of the State. 114 Ukrainians have become Heroes of Ukraine during Yushchenko’s cadence. It is noteworthy that one of the first citizens who was awarded the highest decoration posthumously was a prominent Ukrainian journalist Georgiy Gongadze, "for selfless service to the Ukrainian people, civil courage, revealed in upholding the ideals of democracy and freedom of speech, faithful to the art journalism." [a Georgian-born Ukrainian journalist and film director was kidnapped and murdered in 2000. The high profile case is still being investigated as Ukraine’s top officials of that time are allegedly complicit in Gongadze murder]

Gongadze was one of the first to be awarded the highest award posthumously Ukraine / Photo from UNIAN

Late into his presidential cadence (three weeks before Viktor Yanukovych was declared President of Ukraine in 2010), Viktor Yushchenko conferred the Hero of Ukraine title (posthumously) to Stepan Bandera, head of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists "for the invincibility of the spirit in the pursuit of the national idea, heroism and self-sacrifice in the struggle for independence of the Ukrainian state.”

Yushchenko conferred the Hero of Ukraine title on Stepan Bandera (posthumously) / Photo from UNIAN

Only 12 Ukrainians received the Order of the Gold Star from Yushchenko. Mainly, they were the professionals who had been on the first line response teams at the Chornobyl disaster site in 1986.

Viktor Yanukovych, now fugitive and hiding in Russia, issued a total of 40 decrees on conferring the Hero of Ukraine title during his incomplete presidential cadence. We should give him his due as only two MPs were among the awardees: Grigory Omelchenko and Boris Deich. The Order of the State was also conferred to Metropolitan Volodymyr, primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church; an acknowledged actor Bohdan Stupka; university rectors and heads of state-owned enterprises in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions; as well as ordinary miners. The Order of the Gold Star was conferred on five citizens. Among them there was just one test pilot of the first class Serhiy Troshyn. Four “Stars” went to the miners for "heroic and selfless years of mining and high production rates."

War heroes

Petro Poroshenko, current president of Ukraine, awarded the Order of the Gold Star to 126 Ukrainians in just over a year of his cadence. Most of the Orders were conferred posthumously.

The Maidan protesters who had been killed during a popular uprising against the Yanukovych regime in early 2014 (the so-called Heavenly Hundred) were awarded "for civil courage, patriotism and heroic defense of the constitutional foundations of democracy, human rights and freedoms, selfless service to the Ukrainian people, manifested during the Revolution of Dignity."

The Heavenly Hundred are the Heroes of Ukraine / Photo from UNIAN

The Ukrainian troops who protected and defended the country in the east were awarded "for exceptional courage, fortitude and heroism displayed at protection of national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine."

Among them are:

Dmitry Mayboroda, commander of the AN-26 crew from the 456th separate brigade of military transport aircraft of the Air Force (posthumously). After his plane was hit by Russian-backed militants over Luhansk region, he never let go of controls before the aircraft crashed, thus giving enough time for the rest of his crew to successfully evacuate.

Kostyantyn Mohylko, captain of AN-30B cargo aircraft, shot down over Slavyansk, sacrificed his life while steering the falling plane away from the residential areas.

Colonel Yuriy Kovalenko, who took part in reconnaissance missions and in combat, accompanied military convoys and guarded military bases, along with a detachment of the 3rd separate regiment of the special forces. He was fatally wounded during a mortar shelling.

Senior Lieutenant Yevhen Zelenskiy, commander of the special group of the 8th special regiment of the “North” Operational Command of the Land Forces, who was killed while performing special task to release another group of troops from militant captivity in Schastya.

Ukrainian troops protecting and defending our country in the east have become Heroes of Ukraine / Photo from UNIAN

In addition, among the awardees is the Ukrainian female pilot Nadia Savchenko, who remains in Russian captivity, "for invincibility will, civic courage, sacrificial service to the Ukrainian people." [Savchenko was abducted by Russia-backed militants in Donbas last summer, and then taken to Russia, where she was charged with complicity in the murder of two Russian journalists. However, the defense has provided evidence, she couldn't have been involved in the crime as she had been captured before the journalists were killed.]

Senior lieutenant Volodymyr Hrinyuk, company commander from the 30th mechanized brigade, is the youngest among the ATO fighters awarded with the Order. His company’s assault team managed to break through a so-called Debaltseve arc in February, seizing part of the village Lohvynovo village. Another of the young war heroes is Ihor Herasymenko, commander of the 95th airmobile brigade, who successfully seized and held the Karachun mountain without losses of personnel and equipment. Later he managed to bring another strategic height - Saur-Mohyla mound – back under control of the ATO forces

Heroes of Ukraine, Colonel Ihor Shaptala and Colonel Serhiy Hordiychuk took part in many combat missions in the ATO zone and were recognized for holding their positions at Saur-Mohyla and Debaltseve bridgehead.

Major Oleksandr Petrakovskiy, company commander of the 8th regiment of the special forces, managed to bring 1,000 troops out of ambush near Schastya with minimal losses. After being wounded, the Hero of Ukraine has been remaining in coma for a year. It is the volunteers, not the state, who have been helping the family of the Hero.


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