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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Who does the Maidan represent?

History often shamelessly manipulates people and sometimes whole generations and nations. And no one knows who will benefit from the ongoing disturbances
24 February, 2014 - 18:11

Irrespective of the outcome of events, what is going on in Ukraine is a national tragedy. But it is in fact a European-scale tragedy, also for Russia which was, is, and will be part of Europe, no matter how hard her unity with Judeo-Christian civilization may be denied.

But still there are some differences between Ukraine and Russia. One of them is that this text, a priori critical of the Maidan and the Ukrainian opposition, is being published in Ukraine, not in Russia. It is possible to do one of the two things in Russia now: either to expose hirelings of “the global cabal” on the Maidan (the cabal seems to be the entire world) or to call the opposition the power of light and Yanukovych the prince of darkness.

Being very well aware of those who project me as a deputy of Kiseliov and those who are speaking, so far without any proof, of Yanukovych’s provocation, I am forced to state: oppositional extremists in Kyiv have foiled the debate on constitutional reform, i.e., fulfillment of one of the Maidan’s demands.

Does this not remind you of something in our common (in this case, also common with Poland) history? Alexander II was assassinated on the eve of (some versions say on the day of) discussing a draft constitution with Loris-Melikov. But neither his assassins nor many in his inner circle needed a constitution. Nor does the extremist part of Ukraine’s opposition need a constitutional reform.

For it is a proven fact that the extremists who were assaulting the Verkhovna Rada opposed the Maidan’s demands and the actions of the parliamentary opposition. It is a defeat for Ukraine’s civil society.

When on-the-street commanders began to come to the fore, I said that they should be kept at bay under any circumstances and that Hrushevsky Street romanticism would get the upper hand over the Maidan’s peaceful sobriety. For the right and left extremists of all nationalities, in all countries, fight not for democracy for all but for their own power even if it is power within the limits of their gangs.

Today’s social knowledge is metaphorical. This is clearly insufficient in the language of Russian political science, which considerably limits its scholarly capability. Art is as important as science in researching the world of today, especially such a phenomenon as totalitarianism – not so much a concept as a metaphor. On a closer examination, fundamental works on it cannot be classified as part of the discourse of a certain science and some of them are no more than “literary fiction” prose. Therefore, I resort to examples from history, literature, and film.

Throughout the world, extremist groups are parasites of an institutionalized society. The priority of struggle for power inside these groupings is obvious. In history, this has been confirmed by the experience of all communist parties and terrorist organizations. This is the subject of Optimistic Tragedy, A Clockwork Orange, and Romper Stomper starring Russell Crowe. There are examples galore. For this reason, the actions of right- and left-wing extremists could in no way be in line with the Maidan’s strategy and tactic.

This is part of an all-European trend. The No.1 enemy of democracy is now a rapprochement between democratic forces and extremists in the broadest sense, which shows in Europe in different ways. In the EU, it is integration of right-wing populist and nationalist parties into the establishment (they are quite respectful of Putin and his regime) and even tolerant attitude to the EU states in which they come to power (Hungary). Yet there is a good example – Greece – of resistance on the verge of going outside the law.

Russia and Ukraine have a different trouble. Extremism is the authorities’ double and rival here. It may either totally supersede the democratic discourse, as it happened to Navalny or speak out on behalf of and thus compromise the national democratic movement, as it happened in Ukraine.

One can argue as much as possible about Yanukovych’s provocation, saying that everything was ready for these developments. Yes, it was because he could not but be preparing for various options – this is the nature of the authorities, because he still controls the situation in Ukraine, grinning over incantations about his frightfulness, stupidity, and powerlessness. Those two billion, another installment from Russia, of course, strengthened him. But if he crushes the opposition now and presents this in a favorable light to the West, the Kremlin will find it very difficult to turn him into a puppet, as it failed to do so with Lukashenko and Nazarbayev. Even 15 billion will not suffice here. This may incur as much displeasure of the Kremlin as did the independent behavior of Josip Broz Tito and Mao Zedong.

Yes, he will be an independent dictator, as were and are all the mentioned above personalities. So it may happen that people in Kyiv are dying for this kind of future for Ukraine and Yanukovych. History often shamelessly manipulates people and sometimes even whole generations and nations. And no one knows who will benefit from the ongoing disturbances. Even he himself is, by all accounts, unaware of his future.

As for the future of Ukraine, I would raise the question of what kind of identity the Maidan is defending. If it is a European identity, it is commendable, but if this boils down to “but I’m not a moskal,” then it is a Russian – and primitive – mechanism of self-identification. The Russian identity boils down to “I’m not the entire world,” while self-determination through the denial of belonging to just one neighboring nation is a sign of pettiness.

Another, also ticklish, question is who the Maidan represents. It is even more acute now: who do the militants represent? Civil war advocates are lamenting why Kyiv is not rising up, why Ukraine remains silent. Shortly before the assault of extremists on the Verkhovna Rada, I advised my online friends to see the results of an all-Ukrainian sociological survey, The Moods of Ukraine, conducted by two polling services – the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology and the SOCIS Center for Social and Marketing Studies (http://www.kiis.com.ua/?lang=rus&cat=reports&id=227&page=1). Only one person tried to justify more or less seriously the refusal to see these data. Others did not wish to see them, referring to a mysterious Ukrainian soul and saying that any polls are rigged.

This is easy to explain. Any polls called into question the legitimacy of their slogans and calls. The ratio is fifty-fifty with respect to all the key issues, including integration into Europe. By all electoral estimates, Yanukovych and the Party of Regions are ranking first. The Maidan remains a local Kyiv phenomenon in spite of what is going on in western Ukraine. The news from Lviv shows that what is going on there is diametrically opposite to the Kyiv events. There is a local and regional consensus in Lviv and some other cities of the region.

Let the people in the know correct me, but it seems that no clan or oligarch interests intersect there – there is nothing to divide (or the time has not yet come) and a self-contained life is possible. This is my impression. And western Ukraine does not seem to intend to order an all-out mobilization in support of the Maidan. The visits of young people to Kyiv more look like an attempt to neutralize the radically-minded part of western Ukrainian society.

But the trouble is not in this. What is occurring is not even federalization but autonomization of Ukraine. It is a trouble for the entire Europe and, therefore, for Russia whose interests have long been at variance with the interests of Putin.

I will give no recipes or lectures in conclusion. I will only cite the observations of two Russian writers – a classic and a contemporary.

I am quoting the umpteenth time Chekhov’s short story Episode from a Practice, but it is the best description of a pre-totalitarian society, a sensation of the absurd that comes in this kind of life, “when both strong and weak fall victim to their mutual relations, unconsciously subservient to some unknown guiding power that stands outside of life, irrelevant to man.” This is what is now going on in Ukraine. It is the triumph of a power that stands outside of life, irrelevant to man, which Aleksandr Ilichevsky manage to see through:

“Looking now at a photograph of the handcuffed Volyn governor, I vaguely understood that I had already seen this somewhere – I could imagine the army, the sad expression of a face, and an awkward pose. I could not possibly understand this until it dawned on me that I had read, not seen, this – a mixture of episodes from The Captain’s Daughter, The White Guard, and Red Cavalry.

“A tragedy always occurs outside human will. The people who are convinced that they can control fire in the negotiations in front of an abyss of burgeoning violence are mortally mistaken.”

By Dmitry SHUSHARIN, historian, political journalist, Moscow, special to The Day