Thursday, November 20, 2014
Maidan: 12 Months that Shook the World
Twelve months ago, the sudden, dramatic turnaround by Viktor Yanukovych and his lackeys in government and the Verkhovna Rada about Ukraine’s accession to the European Union Agreement, orchestrated by the Kremlin, has gone down in history as a most fateful decision that destroyed peace, stability and security in Europe.
On the other hand, the subsequent popular, national Maidan revolution, blazoned with abundant flags of Ukraine, EU, NATO and OUN, opened a new chapter for Ukrainians and genuinely liberated Ukraine from Russia’s prison of nations.
In the course of a year, traitors were uncovered, a new generation of heroes was anointed, the first Lenin monument in Kyiv crashed to the ground on December 8, 2013, followed by hundreds more across Ukraine, Yanukovych and his henchmen fled Kyiv on February 22, 2014, Putin launched the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014 on February 28, 2014, and Russia bared its imperialistic nature. World leaders and pundits consequently began to understand what generations of Ukrainians and other former captive nations have been saying about innate Russian aggression.
What began on November 21, 2013, as a massive national demonstration on the streets of Kyiv against Yanukovych’s decision, known as Maidan, evolved into a national revolution that despite Russian instigated violence and killings managed to oust Russia’s governor in Ukraine and his supporters. It also cemented the Ukrainian nation’s yearning to become a part of Europe and break the chains that have bonded it to Russia for nearly four centuries.
The events associated with that day will be inscribed in the history of Ukraine along with other manifestations of national will, self-determination, independence and sovereignty:
January 22, 1918 – declaration of independence of Ukraine;
November 1, 1918 – declaration of independence of Western Ukraine;
January 22, 1919 – proclamation of unity of Ukraine;
March 15, 1939 – declaration of independence of Carpatho-Ukraine;
June 30, 1041 – declaration restoring independence of Ukraine;
August 24, 1991 – the ultimate declaration of independence of Ukraine.
To commemorate this day and its heroes, President Poroshenko is expected to sign Decrees on Annual Commemoration of the Day of Dignity and Freedom on November 21 and the Day of Unity of Ukraine on January 22.
“Ukraine is the territory of dignity and freedom originated from two revolutions – our Maidan of 2004, which was the Holiday of Freedom, and the Revolution of 2013, the Revolution of Dignity. It was an extremely difficult challenge for Ukraine, when Ukrainians demonstrated their Europeanness, dignity and desire for freedom. As President of Ukraine, I must documentarily attest it and sign the Decree on the Day of Dignity and Freedom that will be celebrated by Ukrainians on November 21 from here to eternity,” Poroshenko explained why the dates would be officially recognized.
In time for the anniversary of Maidan, Civicua.org, called Prostir, a Ukrainian NGO dedicated to fostering Ukrainian national and democratic values, released the results of a national survey about Maidan – or Euromaidan as it is also called to emphasize the linkage between Europe and Ukraine – that confirmed the national scope of the revolution.
The survey found that some 20% of the population actively participated in the revolution on the streets of Kyiv or their hometowns. With Ukraine’s population at 45.3 million, that means there were 9.6 million revolutionaries. They were supported with goods, services and funds by 9% of the population.
Those figures by themselves are a testimony to the widespread desire of Ukrainians to change their status and fulfill their sovereign aspirations.
RFE/RL related a heartwarming story about Maryna Sochenko of Kyiv, who told the radio’s correspondent that her sketchbook was permanently at her side on Maidan from the first day. The radio report continued that a year later, Sochenko flips quickly through an endless pile of canvasses and drawings in her studio as she marks the first anniversary of the protests with an exhibition of her portraits of the faces of Maidan.
“There were so many different types of people,” she observed. “The most interesting thing is the geography, of course. I didn’t go looking for people. They came to find me. This one is from Sevastopol. This one from Kherson. Here is a journalist from Kyiv. All of Ukraine is here.”
Prostir reported that the largest group of protesters, according to the survey Fund Democratic Initiatives of Ilko Kucheriv and the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, were western Ukrainians. Of them, 7% participated in protests in Kyiv and 26% in other cities and villages. About one-third of them helped the protesters. In the Central Kyiv region, 9.5% of the people participated in the revolution and 2% in other urban and rural areas, while 7.5% helped protesters.
At that time, Ukrainian community organizations, trade unions, municipal agencies and small businesses chartered buses, trains and other forms of transportation for their people to join the revolution.
Of the demonstrators, 25% had higher education; 15% – special secondary schools; 14% completed secondary 14%; and 7% – middle school. All age groups were represented in the protests from teenagers to senior citizens, the survey showed.
In analyzing what Euromaidan meant for them, the demonstrators’ prevailing opinion (38%) was that it was a “conscious struggle of citizens coming together to protect their rights,” another 17% believe that the protests were spontaneous. One third of the respondents regarded Euromaidan as a coup against the Russian-controlled Yanukovych regime, 16% thought it was prepared by the political opposition, and 15% felt it was sponsored by the West.
Of those who took part in protests in Kyiv, 76% said they would vote in a referendum for Ukraine’s accession to NATO, and among those who took part in protests outside Kyiv, supporters rose to 90%.
Another revealing characteristic of the Euromaidan revolution was that it was a rebellion against Yanukovych and his cabal and Russia staged by all Ukrainians – Ukrainian and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, as well as Catholics, Orthodox, Jews and others.
Regardless how you analyze the numbers, Euromaidan was a national revolution for a better Ukraine, one that would be a member of Europe, and one that would shed its shackles to Russia.
Srdja Popvic and Slobodan Djinovic, in their article “Remember What They Died for on the Maidan” in the November 3 edition of Foreign Policy, observed:
“Western governments have failed to reinforce the message that though democracy may not be a perfect system, it is still better and fairer than any other system civilization has ever discovered. Do not forget that it was the Ukrainians, not Germans, French, or Brits, who put their lives on the line and died by the hundreds this spring on the Maidan under the banners of the European Union. They gave their lives for these values. Are we going to let their sacrifice be in vain?”
Support for Maidan is not universal. As can be expected, Russia detests Maidan as much as it detests the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), democracy, free press and human rights. Its news outlet “RT” vindictively commented that Maidan signaled the start of Ukraine’s destruction.
Indeed, we – those who participated, survived, witnessed it or watched the web streams – can’t let Maidan’s sacrifice be in vain no more than we can let the sacrifices of their predecessors who fought for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and indivisibility be in vain.
Proclamations, monuments, gravestones, stamps and memorials are visible examples of eternal memorials. A greater impact will be made if the memory of Maidan inspires and lives perpetually in the hearts and souls of Ukrainians everywhere.
See Prostir’s website for a slideshow about Maidan: http://www.slideshare.net/ProstirUA/ss-41804556