After the Euromaidan revolution, which saw pro-Russian President Yanukovych flee to Russia, great hopes were placed on generation Euromaidan. The social upheaval of the revolution energized the young faces of the protest, who entered political life as the first great wave of Ukraine’s reformers, drafting up plans to radically modernize Ukraine and move it away from Russia.
Fast forward six years, and what was once unthinkable is becoming a reality: pro-Russian forces in Ukraine are preparing for a revanche. Moreover, President Zelenskyy’s government reshuffle in March put an end to the second great wave of reformers who entered politics with his election.
Why had Generation Euromaidan not managed to change Ukraine’s corrupt political system once and for all? How is what was once unthinkable – the return of pro-Russian faces from Yanukovych’s “family” – becoming reality? Crimean-born journalist Pavlo Kazarin views Ukraine’s development after Euromaidan through the prism of a battle of two groups of the democratic forces – the “liberals” and “patriots,” both of which had joined together in the fight against the corrupt, pro-Russian Yanukovych government, but never managed to get along. All that time, the revanchist, pro-Kremlin factions were biding their time and waiting on the sidelines. We offer you an adapted translation of Kazarin’s column at Krym.Realii, RFE/RL’s Crimean desk.
After the occupation of Crimea, everyone believed that Ukraine’s political landscape had changed forever. But, those who lost in 2014, are now back and trying to take revenge.
Despite their differences, the two camps had much in common. At one time, Ukrainian philosopher, writer, and journalist Volodymyr Yermolenko wrote that Ukrainians found themselves in a very difficult situation after the outbreak of the war. On the one hand, they had to protect their country, and on the other hand, they had to protect individual rights and freedoms.
This is natural. One cannot be a liberal and not be a patriot at the same time, because the country is at war. One cannot be a patriot and not be a liberal, because the Kremlin started this war in order to prevent Ukraine from joining the liberal West. […]
Yermolenko wrote that for the new Ukraine, unpatriotic liberalism and illiberal patriotism constitute the road to nowhere. The catch is that both of these platforms (liberalism and patriotism) are usually in serious conflict. Therefore, they require constant communication and the ability to listen to one another.
Five years later, it is clear that the ability to communicate is not Ukraine’s strong point. In the space of five years, both camps have distanced themselves from one another. And, in the end, both of them have come under attack by the revanchists. That is, the patriots were attacked under the “liberal” flag, while the liberals were attacked under the “patriotic” one.
Ukrainian patriots were accused of surrendering certain liberal positions, for example, they were charged with “propagating corruption,” “botching reforms,” and “virtue signaling instead of actually working on changes.” The patriotic camp upholding Ukrainian sovereignty was regularly demolished by liberal market issues. The patriots were regarded as the main obstacle to economic prosperity. […]
As a result, the sovereignty agenda and its supporters became marginal. Any remark from this camp was greeted by accusations of bribery and bloodthirstiness, corruption and insincerity. Moreover, anyone who spoke up for the patriotic camp was instantly classified as a Poroshenko fanatic and not to be taken seriously.
And then, one day, the same began happening to the Ukrainian liberals. Some of them survived Zelenskyy’s inauguration, and even ended up serving in his first government. They promoted privatization, reform and liberalized markets. Then, the patriots raised their “patriotic” banners and launched a public campaign to destroy them, accusing them of “handing over the country to foreign management,” “promoting the presence of foreigners in state-owned companies,” and “lobbying in favor of the IMF and Brussels.”
Specifically, the attack on the liberal camp emanated from the media empire of Putin pal Viktor Medvedchuk. Reformers of all walks of life and generally figures advocating for the modernization of Ukraine were smeared as “Sorosites” – mythical puppets in the nefarious presumed plans of George Soros to control Ukraine. The outcome of this attack was the overall stigmatization of the reformist agenda in Ukraine. Read more: Putin’s best buddy in Ukraine ramps up anti-Soros smear campaign
Six years after the Maidan, both camps have become limp and lifeless. The “Sovereignty party” and the “Reform party” have failed to reach an agreement, and both are now under attack. This entire scenario can be credited to the forces and people that lost in 2014, [namely – figures revolving around fugitive ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, and other pro-Russian politicians – ed].
Ukraine’s “Kremlin party,” which seemed doomed to wither away into oblivion after the occupation of Crimea, has suddenly come to life. Its position is weaker than before, but it now has more allies – namely, the oligarchs and their followers who felt like losers in 2014 and now want to win back what they lost. Their method is simple and targeted – discrediting the opponents.
After the Russian invasion of the Donbas, patriotic and liberal themes were very popular in Ukraine. Of course, they did not suit everyone, so the “kremlinites” learned to successfully mimic what was needed. Therefore, as we sat and watched, finger-pointing and rebukes from the liberals were directed at the patriotic sovereignty sector, and in turn, the liberals were accused of lacking patriotism.
Both of these camps emerged from the ashes of the Maidan. Six years ago, they stood together, arm in arm on the same barricades. But, by the beginning of 2020, they were standing apart, mistrustful of one another, hurling insults and accusations. Even today, they dismiss all communication and shift all the blame onto Ukraine’s neighbor. Each camp intends to carry on proudly and sink alone… but no compromises will be made. And, each camp is ready to continue launching artillery strikes, not noticing that other submarines are firing torpedoes at the ship’s hull.
That’s a great plan, guys, as precise and reliable as a Swiss watch! (statement based on the original quote from the 1998 film, The Big Lebowski-Ed)
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