The second anniversary of Maidan has forced Ukrainian society to re-think what was accomplished, and what has yet to be achieved on the nation’s winding path to freedom and democracy.
Participants of new political protests in central Kiev. The demonstrators are protesting against what they see as the unsatisfactory work of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Photo: Sputnik
The further we get from the tragic events of February 2014, the clearer are the problems and tasks that Ukrainian society has to resolve on its way to freedom and real democracy.
The demonstrations that took place in Ukraine on Feb. 20-21 during the second anniversary of the shootings of Maidan activists in the center of Kiev are yet further evidence of how difficult a period of its history Ukraine is going through. And even though they weren’t the start of a new, wide-scale action, the sentiments reigning in Ukrainian society showed there in the most concentrated state.
Recommended: "What's next for Russia and the post-Soviet space in 2016?"
The spirit of Maidan
Talks about Maidan 3.0 have been circulating in Ukraine and outside of it all the time, practically from the moment the previous resistance in the center of Ukrainian capital ended in 2014.
Those talks, it seems, again originated in February (or, to be precise, on the evening of Feb. 26, 2014), when during Maidan 2.0 a popular assembly took place, and the candidates for the posts of the Cabinet of Ministers were introduced to the Ukrainian citizens. Then, a lot of words have been said and plenty of promises given, which the future Cabinet of Ministers promised to fulfill in the nearest future.
This was a PR move, aimed at getting a virtual, nationwide mandate of trust, a form of carte blanche for the upcoming work. Ukrainian society, in turn, decided that after such a procedure it had responsibility for the government that it supported, with all the following outcomes.
And the outcomes were such that since that moment an idea of a new Maidan started living its own life. First it was a sort of a warning for the Cabinet of Ministers: if something happens, we will replace you. From bad to worse, both deputies and representatives of public organizations started scaring each other with the prospect of a new Maidan.
Abroad the phenomenon of Maidan was, as a rule, viewed in a pretty simplified way. Russian media used it as a bugaboo for their own domestic policy goals, they presented it as chaos, as anarchy leading to the breakup of the state, and blamed the Ukrainian government for being incapable of coping with the popular element, setting it off against the exemplary order in Russia.
In the West, mass protests in the Ukrainian society were reviewed differently as well: from admiration to scorn and blame for not following democratic procedures.
This is evidence that the idea of Maidan is not understood completely, not only in the West or East, but also by some representatives of the Ukrainian political elite. The experts also have to give scientific evaluation to this phenomenon, but even now, on the example of the analysis of two Maidans, one can assign certain preliminary characteristics to it.
The defining characteristics of Maidan
First of all, we should underline that a Maidan doesn't occur spontaneously and suddenly. It's society's response to a violation, or an attempt to violate its fundamental, basic rights and freedoms. In particular, the action of 2004 started after the falsification of the results of presidential elections, and the Maidan of 2013 was a response to a refusal of the Ukrainian authorities to sign an Association Agreement in Vilnius. Both times, human rights of choice were violated.
Despite the fact that almost 10 years have passed between them, they sort of became a logical continuation, one after another, with one difference: if at the first Maidan the main moderators were representatives of the Ukrainian political elite, at the second, the lead violin was played by civil society, which decided by itself which of the politicians to allow on the stage and which to refuse, whom to support and whom to hiss off and exile from its territory.
Aside from that, Maidan is aimed at long-term resistance. The passionate energy of society is stable and even: it receives its charge from the other regions of the country that both morally and physically support the protesters in the capital. That's the fundamental difference between protests (meetings and demonstrations) and Maidan. The psychological influence on government and society is hard to overestimate.
It's a unique showing of direct democracy for the twenty-first century, which is the heritage of practically all of Ukrainian society, a sort of a sacred instrument, the access to which is open for everyone, but the effect from which is only possible if there's a universal goal and a collective will, which as a result has to lead to creation of the necessary synergies.
That's why Maidan can't be compromised, whoever and however people tried to do it, within or outside the country's borders. But one can't imitate it artificially either because of the reasons stated above.
That's why, it seems, it's impossible to provoke Maidan with the methods used by so-called “radical right-wing forces” (in the first case), and then the “Revolutionary right-wing forces,” by any means or at any price.
Why it’s unrealistic to talk about a new Maidan
Various domestic actions with political or economic demands are, no doubt, a stress for the acting government in any country of the world. But confrontations were, are and will happen. Not a single democratic society can do without them. Especially Ukraine, which is not living though its best times in economic and political spheres, and on whose territory open warfare is going on, won't be able to do without them.
The real reasons for various protests in Ukrainian society lay, primarily, in the economic dimension. At the base of the popular dissatisfaction is the lack of positive political results from those transformations that the government is trying to carry out with varied success.
In the first place it concerns the fight with corruption, which looks rather like its imitation, the worsening of the social sphere and employment problems. At the same time, as practice shows, the stratum is ready to endure and wait if it knows for sure why and for how long. That's why one can consider that nearly all somewhat serious protests are the result of the government's mistakes in its dialogue with society.
Speaking of domestic protests, one has to mention the fact that not a single one of them had anti-state sentiments or was followed by radical calls to violent change of authority.
Even the hearings in the parliament about the vote of censure to the government on Feb. 16 haven't caused any fundamental indignation in society. And it's not the result of its passivity, but, rather, is evidence that after Maidan 2.0 and the events that followed, Ukrainian society in general has changed for good, became more tolerant and wise in its own way.
Aside from domestic problems, the Ukrainian government is experiencing the heaviest pressure from Russia – which doesn't abandon hope of bending Ukraine to its will. However, giving in to pressure from Russia is not in Ukraine's plans.
Recommended: "From Maidan to Mukachevo: Evolution of the Ukraine crisis"
The failure of the “Novorossiya” project and Russia’s entrance in the Syrian campaign forced the Kremlin to change its tactics towards Ukraine. In this situation, Kiev is inclined to think that Russia doesn't want to abandon its strategic goal, and aims to shift the focus to undermining work within the Ukrainian government using all available resources.
In first place, Moscow is trying to influence the politics of the country through representatives of the political and economic elite who have sympathies for Russia. In addition, it is no secret that the Kremlin launched the information war against Ukraine to destabilize the country from within.
As it seems, there are no reasons for Moscow to decrease its pressure on Ukraine. Concerning Western partners of Ukraine, those are more bothered by fundamental problems, like the lack of economic reforms, weak resistance to corruption and, thus, low efficiency of the state apparatus. They consider the protests Ukraine's own business.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.