Archive for December, 2013

AND THERE WAS A FIFTH SUNDAY…

December 22, 2013

The anti-government protesters who support the closer ties with Europe have rallied in Kyiv on the city’s central square (Maidan) for a fifth straight Sunday.

One of the opposition leaders Vitaly Klitschko addressed the crowd telling the demonstrators, “We have a reform plan, and there is only one way — early presidential and parliamentary elections.” He also said, “We will celebrate the New Year here and we will celebrate Christmas here.” (The Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7.)

It is reported that today’s turnout appeared to be the lowest since the rallies started in late November. It looks like the Maidan is losing momentum. In this connection, the announcement about the formation of a nation-wide political movement called People’s Alliance Maidan may be the most realistic achievement of the five-week protest and prevent the 2015 presidential election from being shamelessly rigged. This political bloc could help preserve informal networks which spontaneously appeared all over Ukraine as a negative reaction to the Ukrainian government’s decision to make a U-turn from an agreement on political association with the EU.

Of course, it may also happen that there will be too many leaders in the new bloc, who (as the Ukrainian political tradition has it) will eventually quarrel with each other. In that case the never-dying rebellious spirit of the nation will still remain. And the pictures of today’s Maidan that my daughter made this morning testify to the presence of that spirit.

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REMINISCING ABOUT THE FUTURE

December 21, 2013

2013-12-20Those who are crying over the toppled monument to Vladimir Lenin in Kyiv may be comforted by the knowledge that every day flowers are brought to the empty pedestal and money is being collected for building a new monument to the leader of the world proletariat.  At some point in the future Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin may also be sitting together on bench in a park peacefully discussing the perspectives of the world revolution (the sculptural ensemble which was imprinted in my memory when I was a child). The re-built statues of the Russian czars Nicholas and Alexander as well as of the hangman Stolypin will also mushroom. Seemingly antagonistic, all these personages are united by being anti-Ukrainians. Their return has become very likely after Putin’s poodle came back from Moscow waiving a promissory note issued by the Kremlin boss. The Prime Minister Azarov says the note has saved Ukraine from bankruptcy. Only a few days before Azarov  was insisting that the Ukrainian economy was very stable.

After a couple of weeks there will be no Maidan. It looks like its leaders are at a loss about what to do next. The President and the government, for whom peaceful protests are no protests at all, simply ignore the Maidan, and, not without reason, rely on General Cold, the New Year celebrations and the protesters’ fatigue for the Maidan’s self-dispersal. Soon after the opposition leaders (if not yet imprisoned by that time) will be put on trial for an “attempt to seize power.”  Later Russian Language will become a required course at schools. First it will be introduced as a “brotherly foreign language”, but after it is made the second official language in Ukraine, the attribute “foreign” will be removed. The word itself (“foreigners”) will acquire a negative meaning , and the worst foreigners will be the Americans. The most popular means of earning money will be participating in paid demonstrations (probably against the same American imperialism), and the most popular civil profession will be “titushki-done job” –dispersing anti-government demonstrations by  athletic young men specially hired for this purpose.  The military equivalent of that profession will be a riot police officer.

As it is planned by Mother Russia, the Eurasian Union with Ukraine as its member, will have been formed by the year 2015. Today it was announced that the Ukrainian president is again going to Moscow next week for respective instructions. I assume that the day when Ukraine will officially join Eurasia will be declared an annual national holiday. Another holiday hysterically celebrated will be Victory Day – with the Great Patriotic War veterans increasing from year to year. The 2015 presidential election in Ukraine will demonstrate the unity between the Party and the people, and the President will be elected by 99% of the voters.  I’ve been through it… A disgusting, sickening feeling…

I might not be so much concerned about monuments to dictators remaining where they are, if their boots weren’t so ill-omened.

MAIDAN: YOUNG, EDUCATED, DETERMINED

December 10, 2013

The protesters, who are now in the Maidan, were surveyed for their beliefs and motives, as well as for their profile (age, educational background, etc.) 70% of them said they went to the Maidan because they were indignant over the cruelty of the riot police that had beaten the protesting students a week before. 53% were here because the President stopped the process of euro-integration. Half of the protesters said they considered their action to be a way of changing life in the country.

The participants are rather determined as regards their goals: 74% said they would leave the Maidan only after all their demands are met (signing the Association Agreement with the EU, resignation of the President and the Cabinet of Ministers, setting free the protesters who have been imprisoned, stopping the reprisals). The others said they would be satisfied even if only major demands were fulfilled. Half of the participants are Kyivans, the other half came from other regions of  Ukraine. 92% of those who arrived in Kyiv to protest say that they came at their own expense. The average age of the participants is 36 years old. 38% are younger than 30, and 13% are older than 55.

More than half of the Maidan participants (64%) graduated from universities. 12% are students, 7% are workers.

More than 50% use Ukrainian in their families, 27% communicate in Russian. The other part speak both Ukrainian and Russian in their households.

2013-12-10Splitting off souvenirsHere’s a sketch from the place where the monument to Vladimir Lenin was standing only a couple of days age. On the pedestal the red-and-black flag of the Ukrainian Rebellion Army and the blue flag of the European Union are fluttering. Under them there is a blue- and-yellow sign saying “Ukrainians, you’re the best!” and some red candles that are traditionally used to commemorate the victims of the Holodomor.The beheaded granite body of the communist “Fuhrer” on the asphalt is surrounded by a dozen people. A pensioner with a hammer and chisel in his frozen hands is trying in vain to split a piece from the monument for a souvenir. A young resident of Lviv gives him directions, and then, losing patience, says, “Give the instrument to me. I’ll try – once I worked with stone.” He takes a chisel and after five minutes of hard work (“The chisel is blunt!”) he smiles happily showing a chipped piece of granite.

THE FALL OF THE MONUMENT

December 9, 2013

2013-12-08lenina-nemajeMy lifelong friend called me last night and said that the monument to Lenin in the center of Kyiv was toppled and destroyed. There was joy in his voice, and I knew why. Some people may say that fighting monuments is ridiculous, but for people my generation symbols mattered a lot, and the removal of the red idol from the face of the city 2013-12-09lenina-nemaje2became a remarkable event. Lenin was the bloodiest dictator of his times. He initiated the communist revolt in October, 1917. He introduced the policy of state terror (“the more of them you execute, the better”), and the first concentration camps in the world were his invention. In 1921 he conquered Ukraine making it a part of Russia, which entailed the Holodomor and the mass reprisals of the 1930s in which millions of Ukrainians died. Even if the present-day Maidan results into nothing but the removal of this monument, the protest action won’t be in vain.

2013-12-08lenina-nemaje4After the marble statue fell down from the pedestal, people started knocking off small bits of it for souvenirs. They were queuing up to take a heavy hammer and to splint off fragments of the monument. It reminded me of the Berlin Wall being demolished in 1989. The passing cars were honking unceasingly their approval.

2013-12-08Valera-42-builder-I-have-a few-pieces-of-historyIn Ukraine there are many holidays – official and semi-official, public and informal. How about introducing another holiday: Day of Fallen Idols – to remember the 8th of December when the monument to a monster of cruelty fell at 6 p.m. on that day.

With my unstable blood pressure I measure it periodically. It is recommended to think in the process of measurement about something which is (or was) pleasant in your life – just to relax and, probably, get a better result on the monitor. I’ll think about the fall of the monument.

MAIDAN, STUDENTS AND CREATIVITY

December 2, 2013

Image077During yesterday’s protest march through the streets of Kyiv the participating students could be recognized not only by their age, but also by their chants and by the wit of the posters and banners they were carrying. The shouts MO-HY-LAN-KA (Kyiv Mohyla Ac ademy), KA-PEH-EE (Kyiv Polytechnical Institute), KA-EN-U (Kyiv National University) were heard all around. Most of all I liked their rhythmic call: If not we, then who? If not now, then when?

The posters were charged with humor which only young minds could create. The slogan popular in the times of the Soviet regime Yankee, Go Home! was reinvented in the form Yanek, Go Home! (Yanek  is a derogatory shortening of the President’s last name). The name Yanukovych was also played upon when it was transformed into Yanuchesku by analogy with the Romanian dictator Ceausescu, who was notorious for living in luxury while the country was poor. I also heard the form YaKHAMovych : the Russian word хам (pronounced khahm, the equivalent  of the English cad) was the President’s nickname when he was serving his two prison terms.Image023

About a year ago Viktor Yanukovych was speaking about the preparation for the New Year, and he was about to say that the New Year tree was already decorated. He was speaking in Ukrainian but, forgetting the Ukrainian for the New Year tree, made a long pause before he said the word in Russian: yolka. Generally, it’s considered to be a sign of poor education and low literacy when a person mixes both Russian and Ukrainian in his speech, so the word yolka (instead of the Ukrainian yalynka), which was brought into prominence by a long pause, convulsed the TV audience , and was later used many a time on the Internet  to poke fun at Yanukovych. Hence, the appeal ZEHka na Yolku (The convict belongs on the “yolka” = should be hanged there) sounded quite natural on the lips of angry students.

Image068I also took a picture of the poster Run, Vit’ka, Run (Vit’ka  is a familiar variant of Viktor). While I associate the poster with the novel by John Updike Rabbit, Run which I read some fifty years ago, the students may have exploited the song performed by Eminem. This way or the other, but at the moment we think about the same thing and see eye to eye.Image070

One last note. Mr. Yatseniuk, a Maidan leader, said that he had consulted lawyers and a legal ground for students missing their lectures was found. The students will be considered as those who are taking part in the academic conference How I was defending Ukraine, and will not be punished for truancy. 🙂

A NEW MAIDAN

December 1, 2013

The word “maidan” was borrowed into Ukrainian from Turkic languages and means “a square.” The word may be  as old as the Indo-Iranian community itself. In the cities of New Delhi and Ghazipur, India, there are playgrounds called Ramlila Maidan. A square situated in the European part of Istanbul, Turkey, is Taksim Meydani. Towns and villages with the proper name Maidan may be found in Syria, Iran, Kirghizstan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Romania and Serbia. The central square of Kyiv is named “Maidan Nezalezhnosti” (Independence Square).

However, in Ukrainian the word also developed a metonymic meaning: a protest rally against the existing regime. The Maidan of 2004 (the Orange Revolution) resulted into new presidential elections (the elections a month before had been rigged), and when this time the current President Yanukovych started shilly-shallying about the Association Agreement with the European Union, students of Kyiv universities arranged a “Euromaidan” demanding that the Agreement should be signed, which was quite natural: young people want to have the perspective of  travelling, studying, and, probably, living wherever they choose. They started keeping vigil in Independence Square round the clock. But only a few hours after President Yanukovych refused to sign the agreement in Vilnius, the Euromaidan was brutally broken up at 4 a.m. yesterday, and about thirty students were hospitalized.  The brutality of the action against the students brought about a much more powerful Maidan this morning. No less than half a million people filled the central streets of the capital city.

Protesters are calling for the president and government to resign and for early elections to be held. Demonstrators and police clashed outside the presidential building.
There were attempts to break down police barricades with a bulldozer, with police responding with stun grenades and tear gas. Medical authorities say 200 people have been injured. The police have said that around 100 of their officers have been hurt. A group of demonstrators has taken over the Trade Union House. The stand-off was continuing as darkness started falling. Demonstrations were also reported in other Ukrainian cities.

Viktor  Yanukovych has reportedly held an urgent meeting with the country’s security council secretary, interior minister, the head of the Kyiv city administration, and other officials at his residence outside Kyiv.

This  morning  I was with the demonstrators and took a lot of pictures of the march and the rally.  Here are some of them.

Image0391)Meeting place: at the monument to Taras Shevchenko

2)The blood of our children cannot be forgivenImage046

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3)Marching to Independence Square

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4)The banner: WE ARE AGAINST A POLICE STATE
Image0835)The police are guarding the monument to Lenin. The demonstrators shout: “HAN’BA!” (Shame!)

Image0856)The future of Ukraine

Image0877)”I love Yu ” (Yulia Tymoshenko is the opposition leader, who was sentenced by the kangaroo court and currently imprisoned)

Image0898)The U.S.A. and Georgian flags were also carried by demonstrators

Image1009)You see better if you are higher

10)…or if you are on stilts (the next twoImage108 pictures)

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Image11211)In the Maidan

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12)Back home

When I was coming home, an old lady, who usually sits at the entrance door of our high-rise at this time of the day, saw my blue-and-yellow ribbon fixed to the overcoat and asked: “Have you been to the Maidan?” — “Yes, I have”, I answered. “Oralee?” (Were you shouting?) — “Oralee!” (Yes, we were), was my reply.


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