The Svoboda Party (formerly the Social National Party of Ukraine) was formed with the unification of the activists of nationalistic community organizations namely, the Varta Rukhu (Rukh's Guards), the Studentske Bratstvo (Students' Brotherhood), the Spadshchyna (Heritage) and the Ukrainian Veterans of Afghanistan.
Svoboda's ideology stems from "Two Revolutions", a book written by Yaroslav Stetsko, leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). According to the generally accepted definition, a nation is a community bound by blood and spirit. Therefore, the crucial condition for joining Svoboda is that its members must belong to the Ukrainian nation. Atheists and former Communist party members were not eligible for membership.
On 29 September 1991, a coordinating group session was held in Lviv, followed by a founding Convention on 13 October 1991 which announced the creation of the Social National Party of Ukraine (SNPU). The party declared its opposition to the then Ukrainian political players. "SNPU is an irreconcilable enemy of the Communist ideology and those political parties and movements espousing it.… All other parties are viewed by SNPU as, either collaborators and enemies of the Ukrainian revolution, or romanticists wearing pink-colored glasses, " SNPU said in its program, calling for the ousting from power of former Communist officials in order to spiritually rehabilitate the Ukrainian society affected by the decades of Communist rule.
The Convention elected Yaroslav Andrushkiv as leader of the SNPU and the Committee of Authorized Representatives (CAR) was to run the party.
In 1992, the party was actively protecting the property and buildings of the Ukrainian churches in Volodymyr-Volynskyi, Lutsk and other cities from appropriation by the Moscow-affiliated Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
During the 1993 Masandra talks with Russia on the Black Sea fleet division in Crimea, the SNPU participated in the creation of the "Emergency Committee to Save the Nation and the State" and staged street protests in Kyiv.
In 1994, the party campaigned under the slogan "We are Social Nationalists. We do neither belong to the old Communist nor to the new Democratic nomenclature. We have a new vision of the world and we can correctly assess the political developments in Ukraine. "
In addition to Svoboda's first experience in electoral campaigning, the party won the support of tens of thousands of voters, winning four mandates in the Lviv oblast council and several elected officials in the district and city councils in Western Ukraine.
On 16 October 1995, the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine registered the Social National Party of Ukraine under No. 686.
In 1997, in Lviv, the SNPU members disrupted the celebration of the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution on 7 November organized by the Lviv and Crimean Communists. It was the first rebuke the "reds" received since the days of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). The authorities filed lawsuits against several SNPU members.
During the 1998 election campaign, the SNPU jointly with the State Independence of Ukraine Party created the Menshe Sliv (Fewer Words, More Deeds) election bloc. Running in Busk, Lviv oblast, Oleh Tiahnybok, a member of CAR, won a seat as Member of Parliament in the Verkhovna Rada, the country's parliament.
Since 2000, the SNPU has been actively cooperating with EuroNAT, the European association of nationalist parties. In this context, an important event was the visit of Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of France's National Front, who attended the SNPU's 6th Convention on 21 May 2000 at the invitation of the SNPU.
In 2001, the party joined some of the "Ukraine without Kuchma" campaigns. The SNPU was active in forming the association of Ukraine's rightist parties and in supporting Viktor Yushchenko candidacy for prime minister.
In the 2002 elections, Oleh Tiahnybok was again elected to the Verkhovna Rada in the Busk constituency. The SNPU won two seats in the Lviv oblast council of deputies and representation in the city and district councils in the Lviv and Volyn oblasts.
The "Volyn Remembers" campaign run by the SNPU Volyn branch was a landmark event in 2003. The campaign was aimed at re-establishing the historical truth in the Ukraine-Poland conflict, restoring the dignity of Ukrainians and exposing the distortions by Polish chauvinists in their presentation of the 1-43 events in Volyn.
The 9th SNPU Convention on 14 February 2004 adopted a new name for the party - the "All-Ukrainian Svoboda Union" and elected Oleh Tiahnybok as Svoboda's leader.
At its 10th Convention on 4 June 2004, Svoboda declared plans to form a single rightist political party jointly with the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (KUN), the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (Banderites) (OUN-b), OUN and supported the nomination of Viktor Yushchenko for the presidency of Ukraine.
Svoboda took an active part in the presidential campaign, fighting against the Kuchma regime, notably, in seizing and restoring the functioning of the "Ukrainian House" in Kyiv, blocking the Presidential Administration and the Cabinet of Ministers, and storming the Verkhovna Rada.
Svoboda's first demand to the newly elected President Yushchenko was to carry out the screening of officials (de-communization) and remove from power Kuchmists, former KGB officers and Communists.
The result of numerous meetings of Svoboda leader Oleh Tiahnybok with the Ukrainian electorate was the emergence of the "Program for the Protection of Ukrainians" in seven chapters:
The Genocide of Ukrainians in the 20th century. Overcoming its Effects and Restoring Justice;
The OUN-UPA. Recognition and Gratitude;
The Ukrainian language. Protection and Promotion;
The Migration. Right to a Homeland;
The Energy Generation. Independence and Security;
The Information Space. Liberation from Occupation. State Security;
The Society. Social and National Justice.
To implement the program, Svoboda staged numerous protests, submitted questions from Members of Parliament, tabled appropriate bills, specifically, 'On De-Communization, ' 'On Banning the Communist Ideology in Ukraine, ' etc.
In April 2008, Svoboda presented a draft of the Ukrainian constitution based on its "Program for the Protection of Ukrainians. "
For the first time, Svoboda ran on its own in the 2006 national and local elections. The party's election program was based on the "Program for the Protection of Ukrainians", the party's campaign slogan being "We are in our own God given country. " Svoboda failed to clear the election threshold to the Verkhovna Rada, but succeeded in the local elections where it won 10 seats in the Lviv oblast council, 9 seats in the Lviv city council, 4 seats in the Ternopil city council and in other local councils.
Since 2005, every year on 14 October, Svoboda and Kyiv OUN-UPA Brotherhood have been launching the traditional UPA Marches in Kyiv, a noticeable political event in Ukraine.
Svoboda ran in the 2007 election campaign under the slogan "Svoboda is the Only Strength for Ukrainians!" Despite the fact that Svoboda could not clear the threshold to the Verkhovna Rada again, in terms of voters support it scored twice as better than in 2006. The party staged many high-profile events like the massive marches to protect Ukrainians interests held in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv, Chernivtsi, Lutsk, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk and other cities.
Svoboda entered year 2008 by starting a campaign to protect the Ukrainian film-making industry, climaxing in a 10, 000-strong march in Kyiv. The march ended in Kyiv's central square, the Maidan of Independence, where its participants viewed Ukrainian feature and cartoon films.
At its February 2008 party conference, the strategic decision was taken to participate in all types of elections: local, presidential, parliamentarian and early ones.
The new strategy was tested in April and May 2008 at the early elections to the Kyiv city council and mayoral elections. Accordingly, Svoboda Kyiv branch nominated Oleh Tiahnybok for city mayor and its candidates for the city council.
The campaign was run under the slogan "Ukrainian Power for the Ukrainian Capital!"
The electoral results proved that Svoboda's strategy was correct. According to exit polls, Svoboda cleared the 3% threshold to the Verkhovna Rada. However, many votes for Svoboda were stolen due to fraudulent tallying. It was after the elections in Kyiv that political experts, sociologists and journalists started to talk that in the following parliamentary elections Svoboda would make it to the Verkhovna Rada and form a faction of Ukrainian nationalists.
Currently, Svoboda has 15, 000 members, with party branches all over Ukraine.
At the 19th Svoboda Convention on 27 June 2008 in Kyiv, its participants elected Oleh Tiahnybok as party leader and formed the party's ruling bodies: the Executive Committee, the Political Board, the Party Court, and the Audit Commission.
Svoboda's Executive Committee consists of Oleh Tiahnybok - party leader; Oleksander Sych - deputy for ideology; Levko Martyniuk - deputy for public relations; Ruslan Koshulynskyi - deputy for general issues; Anatoliy Vitiv - deputy for party discipline; Oleh Pankevych - deputy for work with lawmakers, electoral commissions and observers, as well as on issues of national memory; Vasyl Pavliuk - deputy for economic issues; Bohdan Beniuk - deputy for relations with the Ukrainian diaspora; Andriy Mokhnyk - deputy and chairman of the Svoboda's Kyiv branch; Ihor Yankiv - head of the Svoboda's Party Court; Valeriy Chernyakov - head of the Audit Commission; Oleksiy Kaida - head of the Svoboda's Secretariat.
Svoboda's Political Board consists of all Executive Committee members, heads of oblast organizations and Yuriy Illienko, Iryna Farion, Markiyan Lopachak and Bohdan Chervak.
The party's central structure incorporates the Political Education Institute (headed by Ruslan Zelyk); the Legal Service (headed by Oleh Makhnitskyi); the Central Human Ressources Service (headed by Bohdan Stadnyk); the Information Technologies Service (headed by Yuriy Naumko); the Press Service (headed by Yuriy Syrotiuk); the Central Accounting Office (headed by Yaroslav Peleshak); and the International Relations Service (headed by Taras Osaulenko).
The party structure also incorporates the Economic Board (headed by Vasyl Pavliuk); and the Youth Policy Service (headed by Markian Lopachak).
Svoboda's Security Service is directly accountable to the party leader.
A number of Svoboda supporters are united in affiliated organizations in the USA, Canada, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Italy, the United Kingdom and other countries.
An updated version of the party's "Program for the Protection of Ukrainians" was adopted at Svoboda's 19th Convention. Currently the Program includes eight chapters:
Power and Society: Radical Clean-up and Fair System;
Economy: Economic Independence and Social Justice;
National Health: Overcoming the Demographic Crisis and Raising the Quality of Life;
Citizenship and Migration: Right to a Homeland and Protection of the Living Space;
Information Space and Education: Preserving National Identity and Cultural Development;
Historical Justice: State Building and Overcoming the Consequences of Occupation;
Foreign Policy and Defense: the European-Ukrainian Centrism and a Strong State;
Crimea and Sevastopol: Establishing a Constitutional Order and Ensuring Stable Development.
On 15 March 2009, Svoboda scored a convincing victory in the early elections to the Ternopil oblast council, winning 34. 69% of the votes. The party's campaign agenda centered around five topics and was titled "Ukrainian Victories to Start from Ternopil!"
As a result, Svoboda formed a 50-strong faction in the 120-strong Ternopil oblast legislature. Oleksiy Kaida, head of the Svoboda Secretariat, was elected chairman of the oblast council, with Oleh Syrotiuk- head of the Svoboda local branch, becoming faction leader. Svoboda members of parliament chaired four commissions, namely on Social-Economic Development, Industrial Policy, Transport and Communications, Investments, Entrepreneurship, Foreign Economic Relations (Serhiy Nadal); on Justice and Legal Policy, on Democratic Civilian Control over Armed Forces and Law-Enforcement Agencies (Leonid Bytsiura); on Social Policy and Labor, Migration, Pensioners, Veterans and Disabled People (Maria Chashka); on issues of Spirituality, Culture, Freedom of Speech and Information (Mykhailo Tymoshyk).
The 20th Svoboda Convention on 24 May 2009 approved the final version of the "Program for the Protection of Ukrainians" and the draft of the national constitution drawn up by a team of experts chaired by Professor Oleksander Shevchenko, LLD, of the Kyiv Shevchenko University.
Delegates at the 20th Convention unanimously nominated Oleh Tiahnybok for president of Ukraine.
In June 2009, Svoboda vehemently protested against the constitutional coup hatched by the two largest parliamentary factions: the Party of Regions and BYUT (Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko). Svoboda members of parliament initiated emergency sessions of the Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv oblast councils which passed resolutions condemning the coup and demanding the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada, early parliamentary elections, a referendum on the system of government in Ukraine (presidential, parliamentary or mixed) and the de-communization of officials.
According to the results of the 2012 parliamentary election, 2 129 933 people voted for the party, representing 10-44% of those entitled to vote. Svoboda, subsequently, won 37 parliamentary seats.