Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Revolutionary Redux

While spring normally brings blooming chestnut trees and plunging necklines to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, this year things have taken a turn for the not so pleasant. President Viktor Yushchenko, swept into power after the 2004 Orange Revolution, on Monday disbanded the Verkhovna Rada (the nation's parliament) and called for new elections in May. A creed that has gone largely ignored by the powers that now rule that hall.

This ongoing rift in Ukraine, between overbearing Russian influence and illegal involvement in the east, and the desire among many Ukrainians to turn to the ideals of the West, saddens me as much sitting here thousands of miles away as it did more than two years ago during the revolution.

Hope filled the streets in December 2004, as hundreds of thousands of Ukraine's citizens took to Maydan Nezhalesnosti (Independence Square) to finally right the wrongs done to them by a corrupt system that since the fall of the Soviet Union, had always placed the cart before the horse by putting corrupt capitalism before democracy. Oligarch paradise.

Standing with the throngs on the streets as an observer for those frigid days and nights filled me with pride for these people that we had lived among. How long can you let someone stand on your neck before you finally scream "Enough!"? For those brave Ukrainians, the time had long since come.

But as so often is the case, whether the U.S. or Ukraine...the politicians had to come along and fuck the whole thing up. The beautiful alliance that Yushchenko had struck with Yulia Tymoshenko, the firebrand that would be not only the face but the voice of the revolution, fell apart like so many had before it over political ambitions and infighting.

While the United States has endured poisonous politicians and pathetic presidents in the past (and now), the firm bedrock foundation of two hundred and thirty plus years of democracy ensures stability and an eventual passage of power. But in Ukraine, that foundation is one built on the bodies of the farmer and the factory worker, of hundreds of generations grounded firmly in subjugation and servitude, misery and malcontent. An underlying sadness permeates the ground in a country with the richest soil in the whole of Europe. Soil that has but for a few short years, never been owned by the people of Ukraine. Long before Stalin and the Soviets starved millions of Ukrainians in the great famine of the 1930s, these people were slaughtered and passed around by empire after empire.

This history only made the Orange Revolution that much more glorious. The hope that permeated that hardness that had surrounded so many Ukrainian hearts was without question, the most beautiful thing I've ever witnessed outside the birth of my son and my wife on our wedding day. While I could never be accused of being an overly emotional being, just writing about what I witnessed there brings me close to tears.

But now as the streets are filling again, this time split between those who would serve another master in Moscow and those who again must stand for a truly free and independent Ukraine...I don't feel hopeful as much as I do fear for these times.

Thanks to Yushchenko's lack of foresight and his unwillingness to share power, he dismissed his former revolutionary partner and prime minister, Tymoshenko, in 2005. The man whose corruption and attempted theft of the 2004 election now fills the emboldened Prime Minister post. And Viktor Yanukovych, the Iron Fist of Donbass (a convicted criminal who served two prison terms) is not afraid to get things done the old ways.

It may seem odd to some that the Ukrainian national anthem is entitled 'Ukraine Is Not Dead Yet'. There is a reason.

Ukraine has not perished, neither her glory, nor freedom.


Post a Comment

<< Home