Feb. 23, 2014
Watching the news programs in The Netherlands during a short stopover I am amazed at the low quality. Not only is a lot of the news old, lagging considerably behind the changed reality, it is also limited both in depth and in scope. A few days ago, while a battle raged in Kyiv and some one hundred activists had been shot dead, the Dutch radio canceled a radio interview with me “from the front” because of “more important news”: the country had won a gold medal in Sochi. And not the first! No, it was the 19th or 20th, but still this was considered more important than the war right on the doorstep of the European Union.
I am flabbergasted how little historical understanding people have. What is now happening in Ukraine is the biggest revolution in this part of the world since 1917 – and it is probably also the most organized revolution in history. A Slavic nation with a population of 45 million has torn itself away from the strangling hold of a post-Soviet authoritarian regime in Moscow. The battle is not yet over, but I have no doubt they will win. One of the main reasons for believing so is the fact that this is the revolution of the first post-Soviet generation, who stood up against a regime that treated people like cattle and stole as much as they could. Not for nothing were they waiting at Kyiv airport to remind Tymoshenko that they had brought victory, and not she.
As I said, this revolution in Ukraine was incredibly organized. Walking down Khreshchatyk, within 100 meter distance you could see barricades with burning tires and grenades exploding and café’s working as if near the Stefan’s Dom in Vienna, and people sitting an sipping their coffee – including fighters in full battle gear. From here, Western Europe, it might have looked like chaos, but it was not – until the February 18-20 attacks the ‘free state’ around Independence Square was probably the cleanest part of Kyiv!
What is now happening in Ukraine will change the future of the whole of the region. Not only in Ukraine, but in the region as a whole. It definitely will make the regimes in Moscow and Minsk more authoritarian, and the human rights activists there will suffer, undoubtedly. But at the same time it will give people hope, in particular the young generation. Even though he himself was largely silent, Obama’s words “yes we can” will have a new meaning here: yes, we can, we can get rid of these crooks and swindlers, and yes we can liberate ourselves from the afterlife of Communism.
Lenin statues are toppled by the dozen across Ukraine. It is highly symbolic. Ukraine is now finishing the unfinished business of 1990-1991: it is bringing communism to its final resting place.
Robert van Voren is Professor of Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies at VytautasMagnusUniversity in Kaunas and IliaStateUniversity in Tbilisi, and was Permanent Representative of Ukraine in the Benelux for Humanitarian Affairs in 1994-1997.