Academician Igor Yukhnovsky died

On 26 March 2024, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi announced on his Telegram channel the death of a renowned scientist and public figure, the patriarch of Ukrainian physics, Academician Ihor Rafailovych Yukhnovskyi. On 1 September, he would have turned 99 years old.

“Igor Rafailovich Yukhnovsky has passed away. A bright, kind, wise man. An honorary citizen of Lviv. Creator of Ukraine. The face of independence,” Andriy Sadovyi wrote.

Academician, politician, “father” of the referendum for independence

Yukhnovsky’s name was known to all witnesses of the formation of Ukrainian independence in the 90s of the last century. He was elected to the last Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian SSR (thus our land was named under the rule of the USSR) and created the first opposition group there called the Narodna Rada (People’s Council). He was one of the initiators of the referendum on 1 December 1991, which confirmed the independence of our country, and then took part in the presidential election and came fifth. Later, he was a member of three convocations of the parliament of the already independent Ukraine. From October 1992 to March 1993, he served as First Vice Prime Minister. From 2006 to 2010, he served as the head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory.

Ihor Yukhnovsky in the last years of his life. Source: “Локальна історія”

Ihor Yukhnovskyi was born in the village of Kniahynyne, which at the time belonged to the Volyn Voivodeship of the Polish Republic, and in September 1939 was captured by the USSR. During the German occupation, he lived in the city of Kremenets. After the return of Soviet troops in 1944, he was mobilised and fought as a sapper in the 201st Reserve Battalion of the Main Command of the Soviet Army.

After the war ended and he was demobilised, he entered Lviv University, studied very successfully, conducted scientific work, and in 1951 he became the head of the Department of Theoretical Physics at the university. In 1969, after defending his doctoral dissertation, he became the director of the newly established Department of Statistical Theory of Condensed Matter at the Institute of Theoretical Physics of the USSR Academy of Sciences in Lviv, which, thanks to Yukhnovsky’s efforts, became an independent institute in 1990.

A choice in favour of Ukraine

But by then, the scientist had already decided to devote his life to politics. He refused to run in the 1989 elections to the Supreme Council of the USSR and stayed in Ukraine. “I realised that being a member of the Ukrainian parliament was now more important, that it was here that an independent state would be built, that it was now more important than my science,” the scientist later recalled. And so it eventually happened. As soon as on 16 July 1990, the Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian SSR (the Parliament) adopted the Declaration of State Sovereignty, and less than a year later, Ihor Yuhnovsky raised the issue of organising an all-Ukrainian referendum on independence.

Academician Yuhnovsky on the rostrum of the Verkhovna Rada. Source: UAinfo

The world scientific community is better known for the achievements of Academician Yuhnovsky in the field of statistical physics, theoretical studies of particle systems and problems of condensed matter physics. He is the author of more than 500 scientific articles, 7 monographs and textbooks. But we remember him as one of the founders of the independent Ukrainian state and the guardians of national memory. Now he has become a part of it himself…