Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech at Ukrainian Government lunch in Kiev

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Marienski Palace, Kiev, Ukraine
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: Between 1330 and 1500.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 663

First may I thank you for your warm and generous hospitality, both to me at this lunch today, and to all the British people who have poured into Kiev in recent weeks to mount these British days in the Soviet Union.

It is the largest collection of events, displays, exhibitions, celebrations and festivities which any country has ever arranged in one month in the Soviet Union, and we are very proud of that.

The message which we bring you with this Britain festival in Kiev is one of friendship, of coming together to celebrate the end of the division of Europe. It is also a message of pride and confidence in our achievements.

Whatever form the new Europe takes, its foundation will remain the individual nations and peoples, each proud of their identity and their history and wanting to preserve them, while also being ready to work together to make [end p1] themselves more prosperous and more secure. That is the spirit in which we come to Kiev: certainly not the first invasion in the history of the Ukraine, but definitely the most friendly!

But we don't want it to be just a one-off occasion, which after this month is over is little more than a pleasant memory. We want it to be the beginning of much closer and more regular contacts of every sort—trade, joint ventures, artistic and cultural events and so on.

If I may put it this way: Britain in one form or another is here to stay. That should be the pattern of the future.

We are particularly pleased that this event is taking place in the Ukraine and in Kiev. Kievian Rus was the first of the Russian states and Kiev itself is known as the mother of Russian cities. You were traditionally one of the great political and cultural centres of Eastern [end p2] Europe and I am sure that will be so again as the barriers between East and West fall away.

We know, too, some of the tragedies of Ukraine's history: the terrible destruction in World War II and more recently the Chernobyl disaster. In a strange way, it is disasters such as that and the earthquake in armenia which forge particular bonds of sympathy and understanding between the peoples of different nations.

We remember the great bravery shown by those who fought the fire at Chernobyl without regard to the danger to themselves, indeed I was able to meet some of them and congratulate them on their heroism.

My visit to the Soviet Union comes at a time of great change in your country. It is easy to welcome freedom. It is not so easy to accept the heavy burden of personal responsibility which comes with it. [end p3]

Freedom means that you don't just look to the state to tell you what to do or to provide automatically for your needs. It means that you take decisions for yourself and for your family. It means that you accept responsibility for making a success of your job, of the work of your factory or your institute.

It is a very different world from one in which the state decides everything, and none of us underestimate the difficulty of the transition. But if the great reforms on which President Gorbachev has embarked are to succeed—and we all profoundly hope they do then each individual has to be ready to make his or her contribution, not just sit back and wait for somebody else to do the difficult bits.

The greatest mistake which anyone could make would be to imagine that our economic success in the West comes from some magic ingredient: it doesn't. It comes from hard [end p4] work, initiative and readiness to take responsibility.

May I also make another point. We all recognise that a time of great change brings problems with it. There is no intention or desire on the part of the Western democratic countries in any way to add to those problems or exploit them. On the contrary we want to be constructive: and we believe that the best way to help is by providing a framework of stability and security in Europe. [end p5]

May I once again thank you Mr. Ivaschko, for your hospitality. I look forward to seeing more of your great city and its history this afternoon. Meanwhile, may I ask you all to drink a toast to President Gorbachev, to a successful future for the Ukraine and the Soviet Union, and to friendship between our peoples.