Rebirth of a nation

What continues to amaze me is the lack of understanding among the general public and even politicians in the West that we are watching historical events evolve before our eyes.
A country of 53 million and the size of France is going through a sort of “re-birth”, confirming its national identity. This sounds paradoxical when the threat of the country falling apart in two parts is not unreal; however, in fact this is part of the same process.

When Ukraine became independent in 1991, it was almost “by accident”. I remember that for many years we had to explain to people what Ukraine was, that it was not Russia and actually formed a big country with an enormous potential. Dissident friends in Moscow could not understand why I went to Kiev all the time – you could work in Ukraine just as easily from Moscow because “it is ours anyway”, right? In Amsterdam we opened a Ukrainian Information Center, with the prime task of putting the country on the map, and it turned out to be a task far from easy. People looked somewhat bewildered when you talked about Ukraine as an independent state – nobody really believed it would survive. And even some of my Ukrainian friends were somewhat weary, unsure whether the independence that fell into Ukraine’s lap was there to stay.

Because this is one of the crucial issues here: Ukraine did not have to fight for its independence in 1991, like the Baltic States – it just happened. And for more then 20 years it stumbled along, one corrupt government being succeeded by the next, usually even more corrupt one. With my eyes I not only saw the corruption, I also had to deal with it, and a lot of our humanitarian aid was stolen, misappropriated, or even sold right before our eyes. There were many reasons to loose enthusiasm for the country.

Yet now the fight is on, and it is an amazing one. A new post-Soviet generation has reached adulthood, and they are fed up with corrupt, self-enriching and incompetent rulers. What started as a protest against the decision not to sign the treaty with the EU has turned into something totally different: it is a younger generation that is waging the fight their parents did not have to wage some 23 years ago. And not only in Kiev: as a result of the violence, abductions and the use of snipers that left several demonstrators dead, the uprising is spreading across the country like wildfire, one province after the other falling into the hands of the opposition.

Western media reports on the events, but many focus on the right-wing radicals, on anti-semite “Banderovtsy” or on radicals who are against everything that smells of peace and tranquility. Yet what they forget is that these are elements on the fringes, some of them sent provocators paid to create disorder and to provide a pretext for the government to declare a state of emergency. The fact is, that the overwhelming majority of the demonstrators are young educated people who have taken on their identity as a Ukrainian and are proud of it. It is a country they love, they believe in, and they are willing to defend. As one local put it: most of the demonstrators have two degrees and speak English fluently.

And when one looks closer, one also sees a surprising ability to maintain order in the chaos. A statue close to the battlefield is covered with cloth so it will not be damaged. A shop window with luxury goods bears a note “not to take away goods in case the window breaks”. In spite of the pitched battles, that left many hundreds wounded and at least five dead, only one shop suffered major damage by fire because it was too close to the burning barricades.

One evening, after a truce was called, live streams offered a unique view of the square behind the battlefield, where hundreds of citizens moved at high speed and in organized lines to the front, carrying sacks with ice used to build barricades. From a distance they looked like ants, diligently building their defenses, a labyrinth resembling the front in Northern France during the First World War. Women set to work to chop the ice from the sidewalks so it could be used as building material, or in small “workshops” preparing Molotov cocktails to be used in case of an attack. Even disabled in wheelchairs and blind fellow citizens participated – not the typical radical anarchist only out to create havoc.

As I said, many reports in the Western media misrepresent the real situation, trying to find reasons to be critical and skeptical. Of course, this is the right of the media, even their duty, but when one forgets to highlight the other side – the historical meaning of it all – these reports become a source of irritation, even of disenchantment. In particular because virtually none of the commentators even refers to the magnitude of what is taking place, and the implications this will have far beyond the borders of Ukraine. The future of a whole region is at stake: will democracy prevail or will Putin-style authoritarianism expand further beyond the borders of Russia. Russians are watching the events in shock or in awe, or in both. What they didn’t manage at Bolotnaya Square in May 2012, their Ukrainian brothers are pulling of. It gives hem hope, and it will give them new energy if the Ukrainians will succeed. The events in Kiev are a serious crack in the Putin wall, and that right before the Olympic Games. For the ruler in the Kremlin it could not come at a worse moment.

Robert van Voren

Robert van Voren is a Sovietologist teaching at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas and Ilia State University in Tbilisi. He was Permanent Representative of Ukraine in the Benelux for Humanitarian Affairs in 1994-1997.

 

22 thoughts on “Rebirth of a nation

  1. Pingback: Crisis in Ukraine | Last Bell

  2. My only criticism is the exaggerated 53 million population figure. It’s well closer to 46 million. Otherwise excellent.

  3. Ukraine hasn’t ever had a population of 53 million though had they not lost 17 million peopled during the 20th century due to the Holodomor and the two World Wars it probably would have that population now, even with the exodus.

  4. I am not sure which Western mass media talks about the Ukrainian evens in such light, as I have seen and read some fair and truthful observations. What author refers to is probably more the Russian and pro-Russian media in Ukraine.

  5. The time has come to get over the old Soviet propaganda myths about the Ukrainian nationalists and Ukraine in general. Ukrainians like Jews want to live in the country of their own where they can freely speak Ukrainian language, where they can make a European choice and ultimately in the country that will no longer be under the Russian dictate.
    Quote from Jewish Journal

  6. I have been going to Ukraine for 13 years doing missions work and have seen a country grow and turn from sad, depressed people to a country of people with pride and taking on responsibility. I’m glad the next generation has risen up to help their parents and grandparents in this situation. I talked to a grandpa and grandma in Western Ukraine that hadn’t even had communication with the outside world and now to see these people rise up and fight for their freedom makes me proud of them. They will succeed in this and become the great country they are meant to be. LONG LIVE UKRAINE!!!

  7. Few Americans even know where the Ukraine is much less the battle for independence that is happening now. It isn’t that we do not care. Our government isn’t apt to do anything that would look bad with our “fragile” relationship with Russia. However many of our citizens would provide support for Ukraine’s fight for independence if they understood more about what is happening in the Country and why.

  8. Brzezinski wants to ensnare both Russia & US in Afghanistan abyss. (Poland Zbiggerpower New Statesman Aug 2009) Vatican Osservatore Romano editor Vian said on May 18th that Obama “is not a pro-abortion president.” Proves Vatican abortion stand to encourage Catholics to breed and to encourage non-Catholics to abort out of spite. The Vatican likes the abortion status quo in the USA for this reason. Their purpose is only conquest, not faith. Carolignian Brzezinski spawned Zia al Haq, Khomeini, and bin Laden – breaks up superpowers via Aztlan and Kosovo as per Joel Garreau’s Nine Nations. Brzezinski, Buckley and Buchanan winked anti-Semitic votes for Obama, delivered USA to Pope’s feudal basket of Bamana Republics. Michael Pfleger and Joe Biden prove Obama is the Pope’s boy. Obama is half a Kearney from County Offaly in Ireland. Talal got Pontifical medal as Fatima mandates Catholic-Muslim union against Jews (Francis Johnson, Great Sign, 1979, p. 126), Catholic Roger Taney wrote Dred Scott decision. John Wilkes Booth, Tammany Hall and Joe McCarthy were Catholics. Now Catholic majority Supreme Court. Catholics Palmisano, Grasso, Damato, Langone, Mozilo, Ranieri, Dioguardi, Palmieri destroyed American industry. Subprime construction mobsters had hookers deliver mortgages to banks. McCain’s Keeting started it all. They find American cars too advanced to use or their mechanics to fix. Ellis Island Popeholes brought in FDR. Their slovenly, anti-intellectual work ethic produces vacuous, casuistrous blather and a tangle of contradictory regulations as Pio Nino banned democracy. Their clubhouse purges provided praetorian training for corporate misgovernance. Every American boom has been caused by an Evangelical Revival and every major Depression by the domination of new Catholic immigrants. NYC top drop outs: Hispanic 32%, Black 25%, Italian 20%. NYC top illegals: Ecuadorean, Italian, Polish. Ate glis-glis but blamed plague on others, now lettuce coli. Their bigotry most encouraged terror yet they reap most security funds. Rabbi circumcises lower, Pope upper brain. Tort explosion by glib casuistry. Hollywood Joe Kennedy had Bing Crosby proselytize. Bazelya 1992 case proves PLO-IRA-KLA links. Our enemy is the Bru666elles Sineurabia feudal Axis and the only answer is alliance with Israel and India. They killed six million Jews, a million Serbs, half a million freemasons, a quarter million Gypsies, they guided the slaughter of Assyrians and Armenians, and promoted the art of genocide throughout the world now they are relentles sin their year to canonize nazi pope. They had no qualms hijacking American policy in Vietnam or Balkans to papal ends, but when American interests opposed those of the papacy in Iraq and Iran, they showed their true fangs (Frum, Unpatriotic Conservatives). See for example George Marlin’s history of the conservative party in New York or Paul Johnson’s Modern Times, extolling the rise of Carolignianism of Adenauer, de Gaulle, and Gaspieri, forgetting that Hitler, too, was Carolignian and a Catholic altar boy. They could not countenance a Mormon President or a Kenyan Pope! They broke their own coalition with their foreign adventures and with their unwillingness to extend home and school subsidies to other races, as evidenced by their missing their own Obama moment when they could have elected a Kenyan pope. Obama was Brzezinski’s revenge, to break up the USA, as feared Kenyan pope would break up Vatican.

  9. A really great article. And the generation of young ukranions is totally different from the previous one just because they are bornd in independent Ukraine and never were such slaves like their parents and grandparents.

  10. Pingback: Euromaidan in Kyiv Ukraine - Fight for Freedom, Human Rights,Democracy

  11. this is a very informational analysis of current events in Ukraine’s story since its’ independence in 1991. I recommend it highly.

  12. This speaks volumes. Thank you for the great article which I will forward to all my non-Ukrainian
    friends so that they may better understand as well. I wish my grandparents were alive today so that they may witness this great historical event. To my Ukrainian brothers & sisters, keep fighting!
    The world is watching!

  13. Pingback: Ukrainian Priests & Lunch-Break Photography | art in short bursts

  14. Pingback: International Higher Education & Professional Government in Ukraine | Higher Education + International Development

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