Diplomat cites democracy in Ukraine as it marks 311 years of the Pact of Rights and Freedoms

Published July 8, 2021, 11:37 AM

by Jaleen Ramos

Ukraine Ambassador to the Philippines H.E Olexander Nechytaylo acknowledged Ukraine as “the birthplace to one of the world’s first legal documents defining and guaranteeing rights and freedoms of citizens” on the 311th year of the country’s Pact of Rights and Freedoms.

Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk, National Archives of Sweden, November 2016 (Photo from Embassy of Ukraine in Malaysia/ MANILA BULLETIN)

The country marks its Constitution Day every 28th of June to celebrate the anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution of the Independent Ukraine in 1996.

A few decades before the US Constitution was even conceived, a document called “The Pacts and Constitutions of Rights and Freedoms of the Zaporizhian Host,” now known as the Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk, had been adopted by the Zaporizhian Cossacks back in 1710.

The embassy said that it was an “unprecedented piece of legislature that established a democratic standard for the separation of powers in government between the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches, well before the publication of Montesquieu’s ‘Spirit of the Laws’.”

The Orlyk Constitution limited the executive authority of the Hetman and established a democratically elected Cossack Parliament called the General Council, it added.

“The Zaporizhian Host established in the 16th century was a self-ruled republic, where all residents were free citizens that exercised their rights to elect their leaders and to delegate certain powers to the General Council,” the statement read.

The Constitution also acknowledged the unprivileged peasants and townspeople more as it strictly forbade a statute labor, a form of slavery, which is common at that time in nearby Russia.

Small traders were also exempt from all taxes, it added.

The document was written in two languages, namely, Latin and Old-Ukrainian.

The Old-Ukrainian-language original copy was signed by Orlyk and was accompanied by a diploma sealed by the King Charles XII of Sweden found in 2008 by the Ukrainian researchers in the Russian State Archive in Moscow.

Meanwhile, the Latin-language original copy is currently preserved at the National Archives of Sweden. For decades since its independence, Ukraine was trying to make this piece of historic and legislative heritage available for the Ukrainian public.

In May, 2021, the Ukrainian and Swedish governments announced that the Constitution and the mace of Pylyp Orlyk will make its way back to Ukraine for the first time in 311 years and will be displayed in Kyiv as a part of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of Independence.