Usually, the Constitution Day of Ukraine is a day off, but during the war, all holidays are canceled, so we continue to work for the victory. But we remember that on June 28, 1996, after five years of futile attempts, after 23 hours of continuous sitting of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the main the Law of our state was finally adopted.
Until June 7, 1995, already independent Ukraine lived under the modified Constitution of the Ukrainian SSR of 1978, and from June 8, 1995, to June 27, 1996, under the “Constitutional Treaty between the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and the President of Ukraine on the basic principles of organization and functioning of state authorities and local self-government in Ukraine for the period before the adoption of the new Constitution of Ukraine”, which was de facto a kind of temporary Constitution.
But we wanted to mention the Constitution of modern Ukraine, but a document entitled “Pacts and Resolutions of the Rights and Freedoms of the Zaporozhian Army” of April 5, 1710, which most of you know as the Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk or The Constitution of Bendery.
The modern name “Constitution” comes from a literal translation of the Latin name of the document: Pacta et Constitutiones legum libertatumque exercitus zaporoviensis (“Pacts and Resolutions of the Rights and Freedoms of the Zaporozhian Army”). The word “pacts” (from the Latin pactum) here means “treaties”, “agreements”, “conditions”, and “constitutions” (Latin constitutiones) means “decrees”, “decisions”, “laws”. In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, “constitutions” were the resolutions of the highest legislative body, the General Sejm.
Even in the West, the Pylyp Orlyk Constitution is considered the first democratic constitution in history. It sets the democratic standard of separation of powers in government between the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary long before the publication of the treatise On the Spirit of Laws (1748) by the Enlightenment philosopher Charles Louis de Montesquieu. Orlyk’s constitution also limited the hetman’s executive power and established a democratically elected Cossack parliament, the General Council. Unfortunately, Pylyp Orlyk’s project of an independent Ukrainian state never materialized, and the constitution written in exile never came into force.
Photo – Latin version of the Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk, which is stored in Sweden. In 2021, the historical document was brought to Kyiv to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence. The photo was taken in St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv. The author of the photo is unknown, but they are definitely one of the photographers of the Office of the President of Ukraine.