Ukrainian artist Ivan Semesiuk on the nature of Ukrainian protest.
The revolutionary events in Ukraine are full of noticeable phenomena and know-hows. One of the most remarkable things is a clearly delicate and respectful treatment of private property and respect for human dignity by protesters. In Kyiv until now none of the privately-owned businesses situated within the conflict zone were damaged. None of the policemen were humiliated by the opposite side of the conflict. Some shop-fronts in Lviv were crushed, those which belong to businessmen affiliated with current Ukrainian authorities and connected to the mafia. At the same time, protesters are being killed, tortured, kidnapped, their property is being ruined, and their dignity and rights are being despised by and spit on by those who represent the regime. Looks unusual, doesn’t it?
It’s rather surprising, especially for Europeans who are used to vandalism at protests, with burned shops, cars set on fire, and showcases as well as policemen’s faces broken.
I’d like to stress it again – anything destroyed in Ukraine since the protests started is in one way or another an asset connected to numerous punitive agencies of the state; no private property was damaged.
It’s well-known that most European street protests with fires, wrecking and attacks on private property have pro-socialist or anarchist traits and slogans. To put it frankly, quite often they look like nothing but plain pogroms.
Namely, leftist pogroms. What can we say? It’s become a European tradition. One can explain its strong presence by the fact that Europe never experienced the dark horrors of a reality created by a leftist experiment called “developed socialism” in its ugliest manifestations. That is why the Ukrainian protest has no socialist coloring; it is purely nationalist in political terms.
Some western observers, horrified while following events in Ukraine, tend to look for neo-Nazi traces among protesters. For Ukrainians such an approach seems merely laughable. The Westerners see that the core of the resistance to insolent authorities is made up of activists from the so-called Right Sector and soccer fans who may remind them of frightful SS-fighters or something similar to them. At the same time, Ukrainian leftists again proved that they were nothing but some kind of enigmatic phantom, because all they could produce until now was a number of round-tables with discussions. And they clearly have demonstrated how impotent they are when it comes to the real need for powerful resistance and protection of compatriots from the state’s criminal activities. This is a peculiarity of the current Ukrainian protest; it is not only social, but also nationalistic by its nature. I use the word “nationalistic” to describe the nation as a political entity, not as an ethnic group. If you really think that it is about Nazis at Kyiv barricades, then go tell it to my Jewish friends who supply the Right Sector guys with food, water and tea, provide them with transportation and fuel, collect money to buy them warm clothes and along with them throw Molotov cocktails at pro-mafia police.
A friend of mine, a typical Kyivan Jew, shared his ironic comment: “These days at the barricades I met plenty of great guys, and you know, somehow they turned out to be ‘fascists’ or ‘Nazis’ “. Another friend of mine, also of Jewish origin and an active protester, joined those who proudly say, “Glory to the nation!” Why? Because all of us, regardless of our origins or religion or any differences whatsoever, are now feeling like a solidly united team, like companions, like a political entity which is able to rise up against despotism and throw down the remnants of its Soviet shackles, namely its sense of irresponsibility and naivety. New kinds of protest are being shaped in Ukraine, along with a new multimillion community of people ready to take their destiny in their hands. One may dare say that the terms like “right” or “left” are getting outdated and senseless, since they do not explain the essence of what is going on in Ukraine.
Thus, the hate towards the socialist experience fuels the protests and gives energy to people who are ready to die fighting autocracy and who call themselves the Right Sector. In fact, they should be called the Sector of Dignity, Freedom and Human Rights.
All of us, Ukrainians, Jews, Russians, Armenians, Moldovans, Belarusians and so on are Ukrainians in a broader sense, as a political nation. We are fighting to liberate the nation from the post-Soviet influence of the Kremlin, we are fighting for our civic rights and freedoms.
So, we ask you not to use old-fashioned cliches and moldering schemes of the past to explain the political present.
Probably some of you were frightened to see a photo of a protester wearing a shield with a controversial symbol, weren’t you? I’d like to tell you that if you strictly forbid a teenager to draw, say, a swastika, he is almost sure to draw one just for the sake of protest and disobedience. Even if tomorrow he is supposed to go to a synagogue or church with his parents. Because this is how the protest may look like. Breaking bans is the destiny of a free people.
Ivan Semesiuk, Ukrainian artist and blogger
From https://www.facebook.com/eurolution, translated by Serhiy Korkushko