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Support Ukrainians but do not legitimize the far-right and discredited politicians!

VolodyaRecently a number of internationally recognized scholars and public intellectuals signed a letter in full support of Euromaidan protests, backing ‘Ukrainian society’ against ‘Ukrainian government’. Zygmunt Bauman, Ulrich Beck, Craig Calhoun, Claus Offe, Saskia Sassen, Charles Taylor, Michel Wieviorka, Slavoj Žižek and many others celebrated the ‘legal’ and ‘peaceful’ protests embodying, as they claimed, ‘the best European values’, demanded a ‘Marshall-like plan’ for Ukraine, and expressed the hope that, if welcomed to EU, Ukrainians would help to build ‘a new Europe and a fairer world’.

Unfortunately, the letter shows an unacceptable level of understanding, simplification and misrepresentation of very contradictory Ukrainian protests containing very dangerous trends which will be only legitimized more if unrecognized by such esteemed academics.

There is little doubt that Viktor Yanukovych rule is corrupt. It stands for the interests of the richest few in Ukraine’s highly unequal society and is responsible for the brutal suppression of the opposition protest. The majority of protesting Ukrainians coming to the rallies hope for a just, fair and democratic society even if naively connecting this hope to an idealized “Europe.”

Yet Euromaidan is not a conflict between Ukrainian government and Ukrainian society as a whole. Just before the start of the protests, Ukrainian society was almost evenly split between the proponents and opponents of the EU association agreement. In early November, EU association and Customs Union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan each had the support of roughly 40% of Ukrainian citizens, while at the same time many citizens supported both agreements simultaneously and others rejected both of them. Even after the instances of police brutality against the Euromaidan protesters, various polls are showing a 40% to 50% disapproval of the Euromaidan protesters. The support for the Euromaidan is heavily concentrated in the Western and Central Ukrainian regions while Ukrainians living in the East and the South of the country, where heavy industry is concentrated, overwhelmingly disapprove of the protests. They are justifiably worried about the consequences for their jobs and well-being in the increased competition after joining the free trade zone with EU and severing economic links with other former Soviet countries. They reject not democracy but the structural adjustment and austerity measures, coming with the IMF credit, which are not too much different from those bringing recently even more numerous protests on the streets of EU cities. To present the position of just a half of the population as that of the whole Ukrainian society, while silencing the other half’s voice, is a misleading and undemocratic exercise of the discursive power legitimized by high academic statuses.

Although Ukrainian riot police actions were undeniably brutal and Ukrainian government is still failing to punish all those responsible for the violent dispersal of the protest camp on November 30, the Euromaidan protests were not entirely peaceful either. Occupying the Kiev City Administration building was not legal and neither was the dismantling of Lenin’s monument, an act of vandalism disapproved by the majority of Kiev inhabitants. For several hours on December 1, 2013 protesters were violently storming the unarmed police line near the Presidential administration building, until they themselves were finally attacked by the riot police, resulting in the bloodiest street confrontation in the whole history of independent Ukraine, with more than 300 people injured. Despite the popular version blaming the violence on some “provocateurs” numerous investigations show that the overwhelming majority of attackers were the far right and neo-Nazi militants from so called ‘Right-wing sector,’ which unites various nationalist groups participating in Euromaidan.

The letter from established academics, who are mainly politically progressive, surprisingly ignores the extent of the far right involvement  in the Ukrainian protests. One of the major forces at Euromaidan is the far-right xenophobic party ‘Svoboda’ (‘Freedom’). They are dominant among the volunteering guards of the protest camp and are the vanguard of the most radical street actions such as the occupation of the administrative buildings in the center of Kiev. Before 2004 ‘Svoboda’ was called Social-National Party of Ukraine and used Nazi ‘Wolfsangel’ symbol. The party leader Oleh Tiahnybok is still known for his anti-Semitic speech. Even after its re-branding, Svoboda is establishing cooperation with Neo-Nazi and neofascist European parties such as National Democratic Party of Germany and Forza nuova of Italy. Its rank-and-file militants are frequently involved in street violence and hate crimes against migrants and political opponents.

At Euromaidan, particularly, the far-right attacked a left-wing student group attempting to bring social-economic and gender equality issues to the protest. Several days later the far-right mob beat and seriously injured two trade union activists accusing them of being “communists.” Slogans, previously purview of far-right subculture such as ‘Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!’, ‘Glory to the nation! Death to enemies!’, ‘Ukraine above everything!’ (an adoption of ‘Deutschland über alles’) have now become mainstream among the protestors. On January 1st, ‘Svoboda’ organized a torchlight march to celebrate the birthday of Stepan Bandera – the leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, which for a certain period collaborated with Nazis, participated in the Holocaust and was responsible for the genocide of Poles in Western Ukraine. Of course, this part of Euromaidan would eagerly proceed to building a ‘new Europe’ although in case of success it would doubtfully be much fairer than Nazi’s Neuordnung Europas. Silencing this dark side of Euromaidan, presenting it as a model of ‘civic maturity’ and ‘the best of European values’ only legitimizes xenophobes and neofascists and helps them to win hegemony within Ukrainian civil society.

Certainly Euromaidan cannot be reduced to a fascist riot as it is frequently shown by hostile Russian media. The level of civic self-organization in the protest camp is impressive and the mass rallies are bringing hundreds thousands of people not involved in any political parties or even civic organizations hoping to win fundamental change towards European dream. However, the only political representation of the protests are Ukraine’s three main opposition parties: one of them is the far-right ‘Svoboda’, the other two (led by Arseniy Yatseniuk and Vitali Klitchko) are full of people who have already discredited themselves while being in power after the ‘Orange revolution’ and are well-connected to some of Ukrainian oligarchs. They have neither the intention, nor the ability to seek socio-economic reform to the Ukrainian model of oligarchic neoliberal capitalism. If the Euromaidan succeeds, these very parties, and no one else, will come to power. To ignore this fact and to celebrate blindly any alternative to indeed a corrupt and brutal regime is politically irresponsible.

Ukrainian progressive grassroots movements and civic organizations do really need international support in defense of the urgent social-economic rights of impoverished Ukrainian citizens and in building their genuine political representation from below. But pathetic and superficial words about ‘European values’ and naive castle-in-the-air proposals for a ‘Marshall-like plan’ for Ukraine at a time when the EU is willing and not able to help Greece and other Southern European economies in crisis are not helping them in any way. We could expect from the top world intellectuals and academics a critical and nuanced position, raising and examining all these important, although unpleasant, issues, and not silencing them out while only providing more legitimacy for discredited politicians and the Ukrainian far right in their struggle for power.


By Volodymyr Ishchenko

Volodymyr Ishchenko is a research fellow at the Institute of Slavic Studies, Technical University of Dresden. His research focuses on protests and social movements, revolutions, right and left politics, nationalism, civil society. He has authored a number of articles and interviews on contemporary Ukrainian politics, the Maidan uprising and the following war in 2013-14 for various publications including The Guardian, New Left Review, and Jacobin. He is currently working on a collective monograph “The Maidan Uprising: Mobilization, Radicalization, and Revolution in Ukraine, 2013-14”. He used to be a member of various new left initiatives in Ukraine and a founding editor of left-wing intellectual publication Commons: Journal of Social Criticism.

25 replies on “Support Ukrainians but do not legitimize the far-right and discredited politicians!”

After reading the article, I can say that the writer lives in an absract world of “academia”, not exactly understanding the realities of Ukraine. The west and center of Ukraine is by far much more than mere “half of Ukraine”, it’s around 70% of both its population and territory. And those remaining of people in the East and South of Ukraine that support the so-called pro-Russian vector of Ukrainian development mainly represent the brainstormed remnants of Communism (the so called “sovok”).

The “far-right movement” mentioned by the author is described very incorrectly. The movement has nearly nothing to do with the “neo nazi” or any other nationalistic movements, but is rather a response to the unimaginably fierce pressure from Russia to assimilate Ukraine into Russia & create Belarus #2 ( eliminating Ukrainian language, history and culture in the process). And while some of the actions of these “far-right movement” are at times extreme (i.e. destruction of Lenin monument in Kyiv during Euromaidan), they are only the result of the desire to somehow protect Ukraine from this unprecedented “cultural warfare” that Russia has unleashed on Ukraine.

Thank you for the comment! I suggest you to check Ukrainian demography. Western and Central regions do not represent 70% of the population. In fact Eastern and Southern regions are more urbanized and populated, and more people actually live there while much more Western Ukrainians had to migrate and work abroad. Besides, I refer to the all-national polls where 40% represent 40% of Ukrainian population, not 40% from some regions.

By referring to those who do not agree with you on the question of European Union as “sovoks” you simply showing disrespect and authoritarian willingness to disregard alternative opinions.

As for the far rights I can only suggest to check many articles about ‘Svoboda’ ideology and practices which are already available. For example, here: Of course, they are nationalists, they have never stopped to identify themselves as such. Their nationalism is directed not only against Russians but also against Jews, Hungarians, ‘illegal migrants’, LGBT, anyone with left-liberal position. Besides, even more extreme and overtly neo-Nazi groups from ‘Right-wing sector’ were participating in Euromaidan.

Kononenko, isn’t your comment “represent the brainstormed remnants of Communism” derogatory and almost racist? In a democratic society don’t you have to respect views of a large part of a population?

1) I wonder what is the source of information, that supports the author’s claim that “…Ukrainian society was almost evenly split between the proponents and opponents of the EU association agreement”. Even if this was so at the “yes/no” level, I wonder why do we observe hundreds of thousands people on the streets supporting Euromaidan, and not a one against it? I think this is a big difference from the Orange Revolution, when Ukraine did have two opposing political movements.
2) No offense, but this article really looks like a quest of search for caveats in what looks like quite a showcase of peaceful resistance. I see a lot of such things in academic circles, and this is really frustrating. Accusing somebody in wrongdoing does not cost you anything, but what are you actually suggesting to do? Why don’t you make it a bit more costly for yourself and draft a “politically correct” letter and ask academics to sign it? Or do you prefer Europe and US to sit silent and watch as Yanukovich cracks down the civil society and turns Ukraine into Belarus?
3) I think author’s fears about “Svoboda” are exaggerated. Euromaidan has its purposes – economic and political ones, but none of them is even remotely close to fascism or nationalism. By supporting Euromaidan we support these values. We also support civil activism in general, which cannot be a bad thing. So why does it matter that “Svoboda” also stands for these values? Following the same logic, you should not sign any petition until you check detailed biography of every protester: what if there is a criminal or true fascist hiding among good people?

> I wonder why do we observe hundreds of thousands people on the streets supporting Euromaidan, and not a one against it?

In fact there really were some protest actions against Euromaidan. But in general demonstrations “against” a traditionally not popular in Ukraine. More often people just don’t go support something, and allow it to die by itself.

So died without popular support
“tax maidan” in 2010
“protests against convicting Tymoshenko and Lutsenko” in 2011-2012
“Rise, Ukraine!” series of actions of anti-Yanukovich opposition in 2013.

There were no actions supporting Tymoshenko conviction, but majority didn’t supported her: since 2008 in polls of Razumkov sociological center 54.5-68.6 percent said they “do not support Tymoshenko”

> I think this is a big difference from the Orange Revolution, when Ukraine did have two opposing political movements.

Basically that orange-antiorange split still stays. You won’t find many people who were voting for Yanukovich before and now support Maidan.

> 3) I think author’s fears about “Svoboda” are exaggerated.

They are not.

> Euromaidan has its purposes – economic and political ones, but none of them is even remotely close to fascism or nationalism.

” Slogans, previously purview of far-right subculture such as ‘Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!’, ‘Glory to the nation! Death to enemies!’, ‘Ukraine above everything!’ (an adoption of ‘Deutschland über alles’) have now become mainstream among the protestors. ”

This was confirmed by many people I know.

There are other nationalistic symbols on Maidan.

Nationalists are not “among”, they become “militia” and “commandants” of Maidan, and Maidan doesn’t have any political body without them.

So there is no sense to talk about Maidan without talking about nationalism. They are too interwoven to talk of them separately.

Pretty much copying from other discussions and posts:

1) So, the links to the polls I am referring to:
And we discussed why people do not protest in such a large scale for the Customs Union with Russia here:

2) A petition against brutal attack on peaceful assembly may look, for example, like this: This is signed by over 50 editors of European intellectual journals and our Commons: Journal of Social criticism where I am one of the editors included. So, the blame that we are sitting and remain silent is quite unjust.

But when we see ‘Ukrainian society against Ukrainian government’, ‘peaceful and legal actions’, ‘civic maturity’, not a single word about the far right invlolvement – a very much distorted image of Euromaidan overall backed up by high academic statuses who do not seem to understand what is going on in Ukraine – this is much more, this is an ideological statement helping to legitimize very dangerous tendencies by silencing them out.

3) It matters because the far right are not just standing in a close by near Euromaidan. They are winning political capital there. The rightists are the core of so called ‘guards’ in Maidan camp. They were the people who led the occupation of Kiev city council building and dismantling of Lenin’s monument. Tiahnybok is one of the top-faces of Euromaidan and Illyenko, a committed social-nationalist, is one of 7 people in the ‘presidium’ of the civic organization ‘Maidan’. Just a week ago they organized the largest Bandera birthday torchlight march ever with 10,000 people participating on the New Year Day. Yes, indeed, the overwhelming majority of Sunday mass rallies participants are not members of any party or organization (although, the profile of the permanent inhabitants of the camp would be very different and skewed precisely to party and civic activists and to the far right as well). But this is precisely my point! If we are silencing out Svoboda, we are only legitimizing their successful intervention and political representation of Euromaidan!

In my point of view, the fragmenting of the genuine mass uprising in Ukraine serves only the interest of status quo, and in effect also Svoboda, as it may become the only power to have any revolutionary balls in terms of passion and manpower left to resist Yanukovich after the protests are let to wane away… “Behind every fascism is a failed revolution”, as Benjamin said.

I’m surprised by your conviction that the people who resist the protest have a better understanding of EU policies and its structural problems than the protesters. Are they indeed more educated, have access to better information, more critical theory? Clearly they are smarter than the scholars who signed the petitions? Or is it really just a question of identity politics, irrational fears etc… Really, why this petty populism and need to defend the eastern and southern Ukrainian political apathy and their clearly neotraditionalist allegiance to Yanukovich and his party…

I think Ukraine’s leftists like you (and I don’t believe you are a pro-Russian “agent”), should instead figure out how to mobilize these “silenced” fearful masses. Is there any effort by anyone at all made in this direction? Any attempts of the left to win over the allegiance of Yanukovich supporters? And, hey, why not to strive also on the picture at Maidan where there are masses genuinely ready for a revolution (revolutionary potential of every communist’s wet dream!)? After all, isn’t European integration a strong and old leftist project, currently waiting to be appropriated by the left all over Europe? Why this obsession with fatalist oppositionism that is against any political change?! Is the current politics of being paid off in mafia style by Peking and Moscow indeed better solution than opening up to the liberal capitalism with at least (still) democratic values and rule of law? In fact, I can’t imagine even the worst conspiratorial case-scenario for Ukraine going under the perceived E.U. neoliberal hegemony to be worse than the current corrupt oligarchic capitalism with the putinist values.

What is it exactly that you strive for? Some communist autarky, return to Soviet-style state-socialism? Clearly Scandinavian standards aren’t enough for you. Yet, seems you can imagine a fairer society for Ukraine really possible in the near future, and it is only the darn EU-neoliberals stopping it from emerging…

I would be very interested to know what is your imagined political and economic strategy, alternative to the polyphony of Maidan protests? Who are the political forces to conduct it and the means to mobilize the same masses by proving they are, at the moment, all wrong? How could you build a strong, rich and autarkic communist or socialist Ukraine, that wouldn’t bow to neither the “weak” EU’s nor the strong Moscow’s open or clandestine aspirations for hegemony; that would make the life better for not only the currently protesting Ukrainians but also the workers of the late-Soviet industrial dinosaurs, without broader serious economic consequences.

Clearly you seem to know better political tactics than integrating with the western Europe… But do cut down a little on the the divisive and outworn anti-fa alarmism. This isn’t Spanish Civil War.

Thank you for an extended comment! Clearly most of the questions require a new article which I may probably write in the future. Just two issues:

1) Eastern Ukrainians do support CU and do not support EU not of irrational fear but because of economic rationality. They work on those mechanical engineering enterprises oriented towards the post-Soviet markets and in the coal mines which will be under undisputable danger for closure after EU association signed. Meanwhile the free-trade zone does not promise them any clear prospects for Ukrainian industries growth. Issues of identity conflict are definitely present but should not be exaggerated. The same is about the Western Ukrainian who are working or have other family members working in EU countries and it’s pretty much understandable why they would be very strongly pro-EU association besides nationalist feelings against Russia. You need not to be a top-star academic to understand the dangers for your job. The ‘traditionalism’ of support for Yanukovych is also exaggerated as many Eastern Ukrainians went back voting for seemingly dead Communist Party just a year ago unsatisfied with Azarov’s neoliberal reforms.

2) And about ‘alarmism’. Of course, it is not a civil war yet but progressive minded people, LGBT and racial minorities are already under a danger of the physical attack from the far rights who are becoming more and more aggressive and self-confident. Check this links, for example:

And after the Euromaidan started it becoming even worse. People are beaten for distributing trade union leaflets. Groups of the far right youngsters demand ‘Glory to Ukraine’ chanting from random people on the streets (this is not an exaggeration, I know the person who was pursued in this way)

The author’s fears about Svoboda are exaggerated? Ask Hungarians, who’s national monuments were ruined, burned in West Ukraine by people who claimed themselves to be related to Svoboda. They have also assaulted Hungarian tourists visiting Uzhgorod and Beregovo, particularly a group of children.
This article is speaking the truth.

Really, Volodymyr Ishchenko? Internationally respected academics are concerned about and willing to lend what influence they have to support Ukrainian protesters, to try to protect them from reprisals, and you choose to deflect attention from their protests against this corrupt regime? Hundreds of thousands come out to protest — less than 5 percent came out in support of any party, and 70 percent were moved to protest government violence, and you want to make it about Svoboda and an east-west split? “There is little doubt Yanukovych’s rule is corrupt?” Little doubt? Where is your outrage about the Yanukovych regime’s attempts to control the media and prevent people in the south and east from free access to information, leaving them to the ‘hostile Russian media’ you mention? You call mention of “European values” “pathetic,” but I think you know full-well that this is shorthand for the rule of law, accountability and transparency — what is pathetic about that?

1) A petition against brutal attack on peaceful assembly may look, for example, like this:

But when we see ‘Ukrainian society against Ukrainian government’, ‘peaceful and legal actions’, ‘civic maturity’, not a single word about the far right invlolvement – a very much distorted image of Euromaidan overall backed up by high academic statuses who do not seem to understand what is going on in Ukraine – this much more than ‘protect them from reprisals’, this is an ideological statement helping to legitimize very dangerous tendencies by silencing them out.

2) Yes, precisely because the rallies involve masses of people not belonging to any political parties we have to say it as loud as possible that they are politically represented by discredited opposition with the far right Svoboda included. Because they are very efficiently promoting their agenda among the masses establishing hegemony in the civil society. Just a week ago they organized the largest Bandera birthday torchlight march ever with 10,000 people participating on the New Year Day! And, yes, Eastern Ukraine does not support Euromaidan even after police brutality.

3) People in the Eastern Ukraine have unlimited access to Internet and can watch the same anti-government Moreover, they watch Ukrainian channels much more than Russian (there are systematic TV audience data, you may find it on Telekritika or Mediabusiness web-sites). Up to the recent changes in editorial policies major TV-channels (Inter, 1+1) were more or less objective to the Euromaidan. For example, on November 30 they broadcasted everything about the brutal attack of the riot police.

4) Talks about ‘European values’ are truely pathetic and unscientific essentializing. In fact, ‘European values’ is an empty signifier where you can put whatever you want, fascism included (the far right are growing everywhere in Europe in fact). And if you are calling a protest with heavy far right involvement as an example of the best European values, you are legitimizing far right as a normal (even best!) part of imagined Europe.

“…while Ukrainians living in the East and the South of the country, where heavy industry is concentrated, overwhelmingly disapprove of the protests. They are justifiably worried about the consequences for their jobs and well-being in the increased competition after joining the free trade zone with EU and severing economic links with other former Soviet countries. ” – seriously? I don’t think people who are against EU integration are that much into it in order to understand all the consequences and changes it will cause. As well as – let’s be honest – vast majority of those who represent themselves as pro-EU today. Let’s stop pretending we are talking here about “free choice” and “choice of the geopolitical perspectives of the country” – for those standing at numerous “maidans” and for their opponents it’s more a question of visions and loyalty towards the existing regime (under “regime” I mean not Yanukovych and his supporters but more the system of “norms” and understanding of what should be regarded as normal and positive).
As for “Svoboda” issue – I agree with the author in many pionts. But, with regard to the situation as a whole, there are a few issues which are questionable for me. First of all, where is the place of the people, who don’t support “Svoboda”, but do not correspond perfectly with the image of “Svoboda opponents”. For example, I have friends who are against “Svoboda”, but who would not accept equating UPA as a whole to “nazis”. Or, those people from Lviv, who are against or neutral to “Svoboda”, but who have red-and-black ribbons on them. I have to admit – I am speaking now about the people, whom I know personally – that it’s not only about neutrality against “Svoboda”, these people with red-black ribbons share the values of equality and tolerance as well as, I believe, the author and his supporters do. “Svoboda” guys, no matter how brutal they behave, are sneaky and smart – during last decade they have practically monopolized many issues and symbols, which are important for big groups of people in Ukraine – now those are associated mostly with “Svoboda” and radical rights; and “Svoboda” represent themselves as the main re-translators of some topics providing a certain “picture” of the last with no alternatives. And, in case now we will share everyone into black and white demanding public blame of everything connected with “Svoboda” it will actually bring this party new supporters.
Other important question is that “Svoboda” is censured only in such discussions like this one – in-side the intellectuals’ communities or in social networks. But if we really want to decrease the influence of “Svoboda” it should be done in off-line spaces, where the message can reach the actual auditorium.
It’s not that I am saying that the text is not good or not right, but the question is if it is the right message to reach the goal. If the goal is to resist radical rights in Ukraine.

Thank you, Lesia!

This article is a response to Western intellectuals and directed to the Western audience in general stating the most important facts of Euromaidan dark side which are quite known in Ukraine but much less known in the West as it appears to be. The biggest problem of the letter I was criticizing is not that it is speaking about Svoboda in a not-efficient way but that it does not speak about the far right strong involvement in this way normalizing and legitimizing them. I felt it is necessary to state clearly who they are and what they do at Euromaidan.

As for the reasons to support CU in the Eastern Ukraine I replied above. We should not exaggerate the irrationality of either Maidan supporterts or its opponents, otherwise, this is a very dangerous elitist position denying people the right to decide for themselves.

There is much misrepresentation and many inaccuracies here, some of which have already been pointed out. I will choose to focus my critique on one particular moment: the Bankova incident on December 1.

It was initiated by some extreme radicals, led by several government provocators, as the evidence later showed. The tractor used in the skirmish was “accidentally” sitting there at one end of the street, from which the rioters entered Bankova. Later, pictures of a man walking by the tractor, once it was commandeered by the rioters, was identified as a police officer. Another video shows a couple of quite easily identified “rioters” ending up BEHIND the riot police ranks, calmly observing the action, then SQUEEZING THROUGH the ranks of police, with the latter paying no attention to them, and re-joining the protesters on the other side. Huh? Another photograph, published in Russian media, taken from WITHIN the President’s Administration, hints at the fact that they KNEW to be there and take pictures from just the right angle.

Moreover, the people who suffered the most from the Bankova skirmish were INNOCENT people, who got arrested simply for BEING THERE and DOCUMENTING the event or even being in the vicinity of Bankova. The stories of the “Bankova 9” are very well publicized. They were mistreated, beaten, left out to lie on cold pavement for hours in the yard of the President’s Administration, until finally they were taken to various precincts, beaten again, then taken on to the next precinct and on and on. The cases against them were being fabricated out of thin air. If not for the protests and the pressure, they would be in rotting in prison by now, I’m sure. As it stands, thankfully, they have been released. All but one. (I haven’t been keeping up to date about his fate, but last I heard, he was still incarcerated). Ignoring this is not simply overlooking important facts, but willfully ignoring them. For someone who claims to come from the “left”, it’s an egregious simplification of the situation in Ukraine.

I’ve had my share of discussions with people, whose hatred of the right-wing politics (I am no fan of them either, just for the record) blinds them to any other principles and considerations. They hate more than they love. Haters will be haters – doesn’t matter what wing of the political spectrum they inhabit. I wonder if the author belongs to this category of people or not. If not, then why such one-sided argument?

Bohdan! I am stating several times in the article that riot police actions were indeed brutal. It is very unjust to call my argument ‘one-sided’. I am not justifying Berkut violence but I am criticizing very misleading statement about entirely peaceful and legal protests in Euromadain.

You are mistakenly exaggerating the role of supposed ‘government provocateurs’ on December 1. The careful investigations, for example:, show that the overwhelming majority of attackers were the militants from the ‘Right-wing sector’ participating in Euromaidan. Later they blamed the opposition for they betrayed ‘the revolution’, did not support the storming of the Presidential administration and called them ‘provocateurs’ although they were genuine. Moreover, Svoboda-associated activist played a key role in seizure and directing the tractor against police line. Quoting from Ivan Katchanovski:

‘In contrast to numerous news reports in the Ukrainian media advancing a claim that the tractor/bulldozer in the attack on the presidential administration was used by agents provocateurs, the leading Ukrainian media, as far as I can tell, did not report this video implicating instead a journalist/anti-traffic police activist associated with Svoboda. The leaked video, which was shot by Dzindzia himself, shows that he took a leading role in seizing a tractor/bulldozer and breaching a traffic police cordon. The video shows a tractor driver requesting Dzindzia to return his keys. It also shows that Dzindzia tells the police officers, who formed a cordon near the presidential administration, to surrender and threatens consequences after the tractor/bulldozer arrival and shortly before the tractor launched the attack. It provides support to the public statements by investigators that Dzindzia seized the keys and that he played, along with radical nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations and groups, a key role in the storming of the presidential administration on December 1:

You use a lot of quotation marks.

Quotation marks are used to indicate quotes from other sources. Initially, you select words (not phrases) from the academics’ letter to the Guardian.

But following that, there continues be the considerable use of quotation marks without citations and sources. This is generally a rhetorical mechanism to indicate irony or sarcasm.

If that’s your intent, it makes your article fairly confusing.


I “scribbled” the following notes:

Yes, V. Ishchenko does accurately point out that many Western accounts, including the Open Letter alluded to, omit the role played by the far-right, particularly Svoboda, in the EuroMaidan protests. Likewise, the author insightfully points out that the statement by academics lacks nuance Although the possibility of Svoboda becoming a major political force in Ukraine (Ishchenko’s reference to the prospects of neo-fascists winning “hegemony in civil society seems farfetched) does not bode well for the country and its people, Ishchenko’s narrative contains “blindspots”, which ironically also lack nuance in characterizing the actors in the EuroMaidan and its opponents.

Ishchenko approaches the emergence of the EuroMaidan without locating it within a specific political and
socio-economic context. For the last three years the Yanukhovych-Azarov government has been touting its Euro orientation without any reference to the serious problems, mentioned by Ishchenko, that a trade agreement may cause. These problems were suddenly discovered just before the Vilnius summit? Either or both the incompetence and mendacity of the regime accounts for this “oversight”. How are citizens supposed to react to this?

Omissions in Ishchenko’s piece, which are relevant to an understanding the “contradictory nature” of the Maidan and that immediately come to mind are:

Why is there no mention of the pertinent actions, particularly in the pre-Vilnius summit period of Russia, who by the acknowledgement of the regime exerted substantial pressure on it?

Why is the current economic situation and that the government was faced with default ignored?

Why are policies of the Yanukhovych-Azarov government not considered?

What are the approval ratings for the government?

Svoboda itself and the far right are not treated with nuance. For exanple, what is the explanation for the fact that Tiahnybok discouraged attacks on the President’s offices and Svoboda’s support for Euro integration seems questionable. Who is responsible for the “Kozatsky Zabavy”? The role of Korchynsky’s Bratsvo?

Haven’t many of the Maidan spokespeople including Ruslana distanced the Maidan from the actions of the far right?

Was the Euro issue just a trigger for anti-government protests and pent up anger of the population toward the regime was released?

Why the anemic anti-Maidan actions in the East and South? Kyiv’s anti-Maidan seemed like a gathering of individuals putting in a day’s work for compensation.

What are the implications of the Russian bailout? Dependence on Russia?

For what reasons do majorities in the east and south oppose AA with the EU and/or the EuroMaidan? Polling data?

In these regions, what progressive and civic organizations or movements are defending “the social-economic rights of impoverished Ukrainian citizens and in building genuine political representation from below”? Those that support entry in the Customs Union?

Bohdan, thank you! These are all relevant questions showing your far above average understanding of what is going on. However, you should understand that I was not writing a research paper to be able to include all the nuances and an exhaustive context. I was writing an intentionally short and polemic text aimed to emphasize the most important and politically dangerous ommissions in the open letter by academics.

Commenting on just a few of your comments:

Why did Tiahnybok discouraged attacks on the President’s Administration? Because they proved to be inefficient and they did not mobilize the real masses behind them. And before that we should ask, why Tiahnybok and other opposition leaders were not intervening to stop the attacks immediately but were waiting for a couple of hours at least. Don’t you think they could be waiting to see how the situation under the President’s Administration would resolve and later they did not dare to lead the protesters to join the attacks?

About distancing. No, I did not see the evidence of really strong and determined statements to distance Maidan from Svoboda actions. Did you? Check this excellent analysis of very timid statements from the opposition before Bandera march who were afraid to break the alliance with Svoboda:

The last comment. I am reffering to grassroots social movements, independent unions, human rights organizations. Many of them are wisely neutral on the issue of EU/CU, or against both of them, or allow diverse opinions. I think leaving Ukraine balancing between both of these blocs would serve the best interests of Ukrainian people.

The rhetoric used by the author in his article is not new. It overlaps almost completely with the rhetoric used by the ruling Party of Regions against the pro-European and pro-democracy grass-root Solidarity-type movement that is emerging in Ukraine these days. In other words, Mr.Ischenko presents quite sophisticated indirect defense of the current Ukrainian regime. Today, on Jan 16, 2013, in the span of 20 minutes this regime has passed without any discussion and with procedural violations some 10 bills which effectively ban the freedom of speech, the freedom of expression, and the freedom of peaceful assembly killing remnants of parliamentarism and democracy in Ukraine. Is the author satisfied? Is he proud? He should be.

All I can see in this article is the fact that Volodymyr Ishchenko is now trying to monopolize the Ukraine’s protest representation aimed at the Western leftists and influence their opinion. But not all Ukrainian left activists share his point of view. Volodymyr’s account of situation has many weak points and exaggerations. The main mistake lies in using old political oppositions in spite of current reality which develops faster than theory. Volodymyr has very likely become the captive of his previous intellectual visions and habits which prevent him now from proper observation of fresh life. It is too hasty to make any conclusions now, so the main advise for those who want to have an adequate image of ukrainian protests and last tendencies – just use the internet, read as many various sources as possible and do not trust individual accounts that pretend to have exhaustive explanations and judgements…

Andriy, anything specific on the ‘weak points’, ‘exaggerations’, ‘old political oppositions’ ? Who exactly from Ukrainian left would insist to silence out the regional split, violence, the strong participation of the far right in Euromaidan, especially now? ‘Previous intellectual visions and habits’ sounds really intriguing.

Mister Ishchenko,

Thank you not only for the article but also for the effort to engage in the debate following it. Your responses and constructive attitude towards the discutants provide a very productive insight not only in the situation but also the ongoing debate.

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