People vs the System. Who wins the battle two years after Maidan

people

 

2015/11/22 • Op-ed

Article by: Olena Makarenko

New angels and old demons. Big positive transformations of society and tightening of the pre-revolutionary knots. Unity and betrayal. All these controversial consequences are the result of the Euromaidan revolution. So what really changed after the revolution? In general, the formula is: we receive success in areas where “new people” are working and failure where the old system remains.

Life goes faster for those who act. Oleksandra Dvoretska is a human rights activist and  heads the public organization Vostok-SOS [Ukr: “East Ukraine-SOS”] together with her husband. He is from Luhansk and she is from Crimea. Because of her active position in opposing the Russian aggression in Ukraine, visiting home for her is dangerous now. However, it doesn’t stop her from working: she coordinates the human rights direction in her organization, lobbying legislature and actively supporting support people displaced from Crimea and East Ukraine.  

Oleksandra Dvoretska

Oleksandra Dvoretska

“For me it is important that the people who took part in Maidan can’t return to their previous lives and pretend that nothing happened, that the revolution hasn’t happened on the level of authorities, but in the minds of many people. This makes it a revolution,” says Oleksandra.

While many honest and helpful public organizations have emerged, there are others who are less trustworthy. However, this does not lessen the achievements of those who really work.

According to the survey conducted by the US Agency for International Development, activities of NGOs in Ukraine has become more efficient and effective. The survey took into account seven indicators: the legal environment in which NGOs operate, their organizational capacity, financial viability, the number of members, services which they provide, technical support and reputation in society.

Compared to previous years, public trust to non-governmental organizations has increased in Ukraine: the reason lies in strong volunteer movements, which work more effectively than  registered associations, that were born after Euromaidan.  

Volodymyr Nebir

Volodymyr Nebir

Euromaidan made people rethink their values and attitude toward their country. Many discovered a love towards their Fatherland and started to identify it in a visible way – a T-Shirt, an accessory a profile picture in social media. Some might have made it sincerely, some not; nevertheless, Ukrainian attributes have now become mainstream. However, talking about real unconditional love, the best example is people who ready to even die for their country.

Volodymyr Nebir is one of the “cyborgs” who used to defend Donetsk Airport. He managed to survive in a very difficult moment and to save his comrades. It is not easy for him to define his love for Ukraine:

“Everyone expresses it in different ways. It is enough is everyone does his own work sincerely, lives according to the truth and is honest. This will lead to other results: throwing rubbish to rubbish bins, not giving bribes, not taking bribes, not using obscene language, which we, by the way, borrowed from Russia. The love to Ukraine starts from such details. Everybody should do things according to his own abilities. But again, everything should be done honestly with truth. Love is in my actions. I can’t describe it by words. Look at what I have done and then decide whether I love Ukraine or not.”

It is hard to say how many such loving soldiers had been serving  in Ukrainian army before the war, but the Army itself had been perceived as totally corrupted and demoralized structure which was considered as a burden for the country previously.

Still today, the Ukrainian Army is regularly criticized. Usually because of the people of the old Soviet generation, corruption, and  other remains of the system. However, new forces are coming to the Army and this war made it to wake up.

So far the police service reform is the only one which has a straightforward positive response. All the old workers of the corrupt traffic police were replaced and the service itself was liquidated. The new strictly selected workers who are mostly young people have formed a totally new service with new functions – The Police.  All external attributes also were replaced. So far the  new police is working in Kharkiv, Odesa and Lviv regions and in Kyiv.

The reform had been overseen by Eka Zguladze, the first deputy head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who had implemented a similar reform in Georgia. There, the success of the reform was also related to a total replacement of people of the old system.

One of the requirements of Euromaidan was to reform the old law enforcement services. And what about politicians? It is fair to say that there are new faces and new forces. For example, the recent local elections in Ukraine brought sensational success to two new political parties – Power of the People and  Democratic Alliance in Western Ukraine, as well as in Donbas. The former has representatives in 20 out of 22 regions where they were taking part and the latter has 27 candidates and is represented in a few satellite cities, in Chernihiv the Democratic Alliance has representatives in regional and district councils. Mykolayiv has also seen a completely new mayor in the city council as IT-manager Oleksandr Senkevych won recent elections. So a new generation is coming. So far it’s too early to evaluate their results.

On the other hand, the word “zrada” (betrayal) can be heard often in Ukraine, especially closer to elections, as many ex-Party of Regions representatives took part in it under the color of different political forces, including pro-presidential Solidarity.

If we follow where the roads of disappointment in society lead, in the end, again we will find the remains of the old system. The oligarchic system is observable in the work of the media, when every channel is owned by someone, it is visible in politics. The events on the frontline in East Ukraine are usually influenced by the people from old Soviet system. This system also is deeply ingrained in other governmental institutions.

The fight with oligarchs, announced by the President Petro Poroshenko, leaves an ambivalent impression. When in March, 2015 Mr. President fired Ihor Kolomoyskyi, an influential Ukrainian oligarch, from the post of Dnipropetrovsk governor, it was explained as a step toward deoligarchisation. When Hennadiy Korban, a politician from the Kolomoyskyiy circle, was arrested in the middle of the electoral race in Autumn 2015, many questioned whether it is really a war against oligarchs in general or Poroshenko’s personal fight against Kolomoyskyi. In any case, Ukraine’s deoligarchisation is far away from being completed.

Euromaidan has taught us to rely on ourselves and to organize ourselves without help of the state. It helped new people to enter politics and government. However, many questions are left unanswered: how to resist the pressure of the old system and how to change it. If we imagine that only 1% of the population is serving this system on different levels, that means almost a half of a million people. The question is how these people can be changed.

Edited by: Alya Shandra

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