It is one year since mass protests erupted in Maidan Square in central Kiev and in other cities in the west of Ukraine. The protest movement was ostensibly aimed against “corruption,” (1) but its central demand was to forge economic and political ties with the leading capitalist countries of Europe. The “Euromaidan” movement came to be dominated by right-wing nationalism and led to the overthrow of the elected president of the country in late February 2014. The author of the following article recently joined the editorial team of Ukraine’s web journal Liva.com.ua. The website includes a section of articles translated to English.
Congratulations, my dear compatriots! You have an absolute and unquestionable victory – the victory of foolishness, cruelty, hatred and ignorance over common sense.
Could you have expected just a year ago, as people arrived with their coffees at Kiev’s central square to join the movement proudly called “Euromaidan,” how things would turn out? Could you expect that we would lose Crimea, thousands of our compatriots would die in war and children of Eastern Ukraine would hide in basements (2) instead of starting the school year on September 1, with traditional bunches of flowers in hand? Did you think at that time that you would fear to read the news because of the constant reports of death and destruction? Did you guess that instead of the promised average salary of 1,000 euros for each of you, you would get an unprecedented currency inflation (now at 20 hryvnia per USD) and a Cossack, M. Gavrylyuk, as your future MP? (3)
I know: The intentions of the majority might be sincere and the purest. You wanted to depose the president-oligarch Yanukovych, become a part of the West, overcome corruption and gain new ideals. But did you think that, in reality, you were taking the easy road? The development of society is not a Hollywood blockbuster. Oligarchy and corruption are not monsters from hell that can simply be killed off, and then peace and good order will reign. System changes cannot be achieved by deposing some bad officials and destroying some cities. It is also impossible to impose a new ideology by force or by destroying the monuments of older ideology.
The destiny of countries is not being decided in Maidan Squares. It is decided by hard work, every day – an ability to negotiate; think clearly and follow sound, personal practices; reject corruption (I’m sorry, a box of chocolates for your child’s teacher or a 100 hryvnia note slipped into your medical form – that’s corruption (4)); relentlessly pursue self-education and distinguish good information from bad. And, of course, it’s also about the ability to withstand media manipulation and act on the basis of reason, not blind allegiance.
The victims who were killed in Maidan, it appears, died for nothing, since all we got was war and ruin in all spheres of society instead of a prosperous country. Some may argue and foam at the mouth that we’ll achieve everything promised in a few years. Ukraine will become a highly developed and prosperous country – provided we defeat the monstrous, external enemy. However, the fact is that Euromaidan and all subsequent events in Ukraine have turned back the clock. They have thrown the country backward by decades. New enemies will now emerge constantly because our new authorities need to have “The Big Bad Other” to blame for their own crimes or incompetence.
Have you noticed that last winter, during Euromaidan, we knew the name of every person wounded or killed? Social networks were full of black icons and news reports providing all the tragic details. Everyone grieved for those, believed to be heroes, selected for death and then glorified in the media like the heroes in ancient songs, sacrificed to monsters for the sake of victory. Euromaidan created symbols with hyper-real features out of quite real people.
Today – amidst the war, which is not symbolic, but quite real – the names of the dead are being erased. People are being dehumanized, deprived of their humanity. Today, the victims are counted in dozens, hundreds and thousands. The sheer numbers make it easier to escape, to hide from pain or fear. The war becomes a kind of [soccer] game, watched safely from a distance. When the war is perceived in this way, one doesn’t fear to send new players into the “game,” to replace those dropped from the match after a “penalty card.” Maybe those who dropped out were killed, but who cares? It’s just a game!
Actually, Maidan had integral features of a game. It was a triumphal game – one could watch it and enjoy the smallest achievements. The spectator was drawn to participate in the game, run onto the field and score a goal or, at least, pass the ball. But today, the game has become too brutal. Everyone loses. That’s why we want to turn our backs and put as much distance from it as possible. We don’t want to see it anymore. However, the game will go on for as long as the spectators are in the stands and the players wage their war, hoping to win the “cup.”
But as you should know, there are not only opposing spectators involved in the game. There are also coaches and clubs owners. It is the latter who are benefitting from the spectacle, feeding it to the crowd.
Translated from the original version in Ukrainian that was published on the left-wing Ukrainian website Liva.com.ua. The title of the article refers to the 1964 bestselling book, The Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships, by Eric Berne.
2. ‘Children in basements’ is referring to the speech by Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko last month in the city of Odessa where he pledged to continue the war in east Ukraine, saying, “Our children will go to schools and kindergartens, while theirs will hole up in basements [bomb shelters].”
3. Mykhailo Gavryliuk is a right-wing nationalist who dressed as a Cossack during the Maidan protests and became one of its symbols. He later volunteered to fight in the war in eastern Ukraine. On October 26, he was elected to the Ukrainian parliament (Rada) on the Peoples Front ticket of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Cossacks are Slavic inhabitants of the territory that today includes southeast Ukraine. During the Russian Tsarist monarchy, many Cossack communities became military estates in the service of the Tsar.
4. Health care in Ukraine is public and free, but service can be very poor. It is common to slip a banknote into medical forms when submitted to a doctor in order to receive a better quality of service.