This autumn I deliberately avoided adding any posts about the Maidan to this blog. There is a lot of information out there already, overwhelming in both amount and scope. But the existing online sources, I noticed after a while, tend to be Kiev-oriented, for obvious reasons. So I asked the writers of Kharkiv if there’s anything they want to say about this, to add their voices to the mix. Here, in my translation, are some of their replies.
Rostyslav Melnykiv (poet, critic, scholar of literature)
People have gone to the streets for a simple reason: citizens of one of Europe’s largest countries have no rights. As a state, Ukraine does not provide even for basic human rights, and the greatest offenses are committed by those who should be protecting these rights instead: representatives of the law enforcement and judicial system. News of the brutal beating of unarmed students by a special police force became the final straw that broke our patience. In this context, Europe appears to symbolize an “ideal government system”, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948.
It is hard for me to predict how this peaceful demonstration in the square will end. I foresee two pessimistic scenarios (writing on 16 December 2013): either Belarus or Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, the intellectual level of the current ruling elite will not allow it to choose a third, more reasonable option for Ukraine. We should also consider the Russian influence: not just external, but internally as well — on the level of legislative and executive branches of government, security forces, and such.
At the same time, I’d like to hope for a more positive development. Among the factors that could enable it, the Western world’s active role is hardly insignificant. In my opinion, it’d be very effective to freeze bank accounts and prevent doing business in, living in, and traveling across Europe and America for all those involved in human rights violations in Ukraine — starting with members of the ruling party and their families.
Igor Zarudko (poet, writer, activist)
Well, what can I say regarding Euromaidan in Ukraine? Only that Ukraine is becoming a country shaped by the civil society we discussed twenty years ago. Just now we’re becoming one nation, one shield for our country. Once upon a time, 300 Spartans fought for their rights to life and freedom of movement in Sparta. Now fate has it so that the Ukrainian nation is fighting for, and defending, its right to a peaceful and happy life. A life without corruption, without thugs and injustice, without those who humiliate and repress a great country, a country that proved its hospitality during Euro 2012, a country that welcomes anyone who visits it. The Ukrainian people want to live according to European democratic values. And it will happen, today or tomorrow, we will succeed! Ukrainians in the twenty-first century will not tolerate dictatorships. Some time ago we chose independence, and we defended it. Now we choose prosperity, and we’ll do everything to defend it, too.
Andrei Krasniashchikh (writer, critic, scholar of literature)
[President] Yanukovych is weak, and a coward. He is even more cowardly than Yushchenko, despite trying to position himself as tough and strong-willed. But even more than “weakness”, the term applicable to the current government is “hypocrisy”. Dishonesty. You can see it on their faces: that cunning yet slightly confused and apologetic look that says: “I’m just about to lie to you. Please forgive me.” And we forgave them and forgave them — hey, we’re all human, after all. But for how much longer?
What these authorities have taught us is that they cannot be trusted. Ever. We now know that if they arranged for a public bench to be put up, they’ve pocketed some of its cost; if they’ve built a church, they’re laundering money; if they passed a law, things will only get worse.
It’s simple, really: for ordinary bandits or thugs, we are all lokhi, mere sources of money that need to be milked. When these bandits or thugs come to power, this doesn’t really change. How could it?
The story with the European Union was just another lie, the most recent trick, which made our distrust complete, absolute. Who are they? Oligarchs? A criminal dictatorship? They’re crafty and sharp, but they aren’t clever. This government, no matter what it does, is capable of cleverness only in hindsight. And this — not weakness, not deceit — is what will bring it to ruin.
Oleh Kotsarev (poet, writer, journalist)
Why would a writer join the Maidan? The main reason is twofold (on top of an instinctive rejection of the Yanukovych regime). First — human rights, human dignity. Here on Maidan we stand for mutual respect, rather than a might-makes-right approach. No, I do not hope to override the laws of nature. But, you know, I happened to see a trial of one of the arrested protesters. He had been beaten (many suspect it was by the police) and needed a doctor, but the surrounding police forces bluntly refused to let an ambulance pass through. Such things should never happen! And second: I don’t want Ukraine to be a member of the Eurasian Club of dictatorships. Not just in the interest of the Ukrainians who took to the streets, but in the interest of the democratic West as well. The authoritarian monster now positioned in place of the former Soviet Union poses a serious threat to all free countries. This is not a prediction, it is simply axiomatic.
Tamara Bel’skaia (artist, writer)
In 1991 we lost a remarkable country due to the éminences grises who tempted a bunch of violent and unintelligent people with a string of glass beads. Now, a generation that grew up on commercialism doesn’t even need glass beads anymore to throw a fit of self-destruction. An advertisement, a mirage, a few empty words are enough.
The vast majority of the country’s population grew up without any sense of homeland. They just wish they could leave this place, doesn’t matter for where. Universal concepts like morality and culture have been replaced with “tolerance and European values”. Notions of honour, dignity, meaning and purpose have been methodically destroyed, and are now served up in the style of consumer advertising: “Because you’re worth it”.
This profanation is an inevitable consequence of the farce performed under the name of democracy. We’re growing blue wheat for shadow puppeteers in exchange for gastric juices (see “The Second Invasion from Mars” by the Strugatsky brothers). And meanwhile, fools can be incited to attack a defective government, to distract them from contemplating who is doing all this, and why. I send sincere condolences to the people of Kiev, who are forced to watch this orgy.
Disclaimer: These opinions are solely the writers’ own. They’re listed in the order they were received. More voices from Kharkiv may be added in the future.
I did not ask Serhiy Zhadan to contribute to this collection. Instead, here’s a photograph my father, Patrick Breslin, took of his performance on 4 December 2013 in Kharkiv.
For a level-headed, thoughtful and thorough analysis of the phenomenon of Euromaidan (as well as some of its inherent problems and dangers), watch Ukrainian historian Andriy Portnov here (in Russian). As far as informed contemplations are concerned, this is one of the best I’ve seen to date.