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Maidan was an uprising for independence

Maidan was an uprising for independence
Article by: Vitaly Portnikov
Translated by: Anna Mostovych

But now we have to decide what kind of Ukraine we will have.

When Maidan is mentioned today, people speak primarily about its “values”  — a summary of the hopes and wishes that unified the protesters. And also about the government that came to power thanks to “the spilled blood” and forgot about these “values.” And also about the victims — were they in vain? Such comments are numerous, but what is behind them? What exactly are the values of Maidan?

Yes, we tried to formulate these values at the meetings of the Maidan Council. But it must be understood that each participant in the protest had his own values. What could have united a radical Ukrainian nationalist from Sambir, a supporter of the slogan “Ukraine for Ukrainians,” a Kyiv intellectual of Jewish origin, a Crimean Tatar activist from Sudak, a Russian-speaking student from Vinnytsia, an unemployed Ukrainian-speaking worker from Cherkassy, and an oligarch from the shores of Lake Geneva?

What? European values? But many Maidan participants had no desire for Ukraine to become part of the European Union. Their ideas about the future of the country were more likely to resemble the structure created in Russia or simply the national regimes of prewar times.

National rebirth? But many Russian-speaking supporters of Maidan were absolutely not interested in — and continue to be not interested — in the Ukrainian language and culture. Their ideal is an “improved Russia,” democratic and rich. As for the Ukrainian language, let it be spoken in Lviv and in the countryside.

Struggle against the oligarchs? But the  “oligarchs” themselves, albeit not all, were active participants and sponsors of the protest movement.

Reforms? But they were understood differently by the unemployed worker from Cherkasy, the student from Vinnytsia, and the oligarch from the shores of Lake Geneva. As we can see, there were no universal values of Maidan, and there could not have been.

Then what brought all these people together? What compelled me to stand on the Maidan stage together with Oleh Tiahnybok and other Svoboda (nationalist right-wing party in Ukraine — Ed.) activists and what allowed Oleh to stand with me?

Ukraine was the only value uniting Maidan

From the moment that Viktor Yanukovych entered Ukrainian politics, many of us could not shake the feeling that his real political program was a  road to Russia. He did not really try to conceal it. I remember the question he posed during a break on one of the political shows during the 2010 elections, just after he gave a speech about the importance of European integration. “But you do understand that our future is with Russia?” he asked. For him that idea was so natural that he considered it the general position of “normal” people. Discussions about Europe were a disguise for the sake of money.

All of Yanukovych’s actions as president supported that view: he was not simply building Ukraine according to the Putin model, but he was preparing to surrender the country. The Kharkiv agreements (agreement between Ukraine and Russia extending the Russian lease on naval facilities in Crimea until 2042 in exchange for discounted Russian gas — Ed.), the Russians in the security agencies, the Kivalov-Kolesnichenko language law (law that gave Russian the status of a regional language and often the rights of the state language — Ed.)… Against this background, the association agreement with the European Union appeared to be a natural safeguard against the loss of independence.

The first alarm bell rang out when the authorities refused this deal. But when they applied force, it became obvious that if they were not stopped today, tomorrow could be too late. Because any attempts to stop the liquidation of Ukraine and its transformation into a Putin satellite, similar to a big Belarus, could be smothered the same way.

And then the uprising for independence began. It was the desire to defend Ukraine that united all the protesters — very different people with often opposing views about the future of the country. But everyone understood that if there was no Ukraine there would be no future in it either. The future would be only for Putin and his fellow chauvinists. And not for us.

This is why support for Maidan was greatest where the Ukrainian state was viewed as a value — consciously in the west, intuitively in the center of the country. And to a lesser extent, where it continued to be viewed as a renamed Ukrainian SSR.

This is exactly why after the victory of Maidan — a successful uprising for independence –Russia attacked Ukraine. The Russians did not forgive us for the desire to live in an independent country. We defended this desire at the cost of the lives of the people on Maidan and at the cost of the war.

But now we have to decide what it really will be like, this Ukraine of ours.

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
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