The heroes are the young generation in Ukraine, who started and fuelled this revolution and who made the impossible happen. What happened in Ukraine, today and over the past months, gives hope to the whole region. We now see that indeed desovietization is taking place, that the effects of disastrous Soviet rule are gradually eroded. Ukraine today – maybe Russia some time in the future.
My fear is that on one hand in Ukraine Tymoshenko will try to claim victory. Sure, she spent her time in jail, but this is not her victory and I doubt she will show that modesty. She herself was corrupt, like the disposed Yanukovych. Maybe she stole a bit less, and she probably had better taste, but she still belongs to the generation of political leaders we would like to see leaving the stage – and not filling the stage with their ego.
Unfortunately, the young generation is not yet ready to produce future leaders. It will take time to prepare them, to educate them, and to let them blossom. But I have no doubt they will come, and I have no doubt the country is heading toward a much better future.
That future will have to be fought for. There are many bumps in the road ahead, bumps and pinholes, big and small. Some are internal issues, others are more of a foreign nature. Undoubtedly, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin will now be “eating his tie”, angry at what happened next door, angry at his own stupidity to put his cards on a loser like Yanukovych, and determined not to allow this to happen in his country as well.
And that is my second fear. Repression in Russia will become stronger, more vicious and ruthless. The fact that during the Olympic games a Moscow court found the defendants of the Bolotnaya case guilty is telling: no need to pretend, no Potemkin village needed. Russia has become a police state, and the country should (and the world may) know. Ukraine spoiled Putin’s Games, and knowing Putin’s character this is bad news: he lost face, it has become a personal thing. And like an elephant he will remember: sooner or later he will lash back.
My heart goes out to those who lost their lives in Ukraine, but also to the democratic part of Russian society. God be with them, there are hard times ahead. They deserve our support, and not the support Western Europe gave to Ukraine: empty words, until 100 demonstrators were shot down like ducks in Kyiv and the politicians opened their eyes.
Robert van Voren is a Sovietologist teaching at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas and Ilia State University in Tbilisi. He was Permanent Representative of Ukraine in the Benelux for Humanitarian Affairs in 1994-1997.