I have been living in the Netherlands for the last two months and during this period I have had an opportunity to feel a genuine interest towards the so-called “Ukrainian Crisis”. In fact, I am sceptical about the usage of a word “Crisis”. However, under this umbrella we can unite events that took place after Yanukovich’s refusal to sign the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine: the Revolution of Dignity followed by illegal Crimea annexation and unannounced hybrid Russian-Ukrainian war in the East Ukraine. After a couple of conversations about Ukraine and its current situation, I realised that the Russian propaganda is working efficiently. Russia Today (RT) channel is notorious in this respect. The channel, that is nothing but a tool of Kremlin to create a false image among English-speaking world, is constantly using censorship, denying facts and publishing fake news. In fact, the team of StopFake counted hundreds of such cases while monitoring Russia Today. Thus, I myself as well as Beyond the EU feel responsible for giving some sort of an “insider perspective” on the Ukrainian Crisis and, thus, debunk top ten of its Western myths.
Myth 1. Ukrainian revolution was all about the EU
Social protests started with student demonstrations against Yanukovich’s decision not to sign the Association agreement. In fact, the Ukrainian youth was protesting under the slogan “molod nacii za evrointegraciu” (“Youth of the Nation for European Integration”), which clearly underlines the Pro-European orientation. Such student movements took place all over Ukraine. However, after the active week, mood became more pessimistic. Frankly speaking, while being on Maidan at that time I thought that it was the last days of the movement. However, on the night of November 30th, the state special forces, “Berkut” and riot police brutally dispersed peaceful protestors, mainly consisting of students, who has been seriously injured. As a result of beatings of defenceless students, the discourse and people’s attitude on Maidan shifted. In two days, hundreds of thousands came to Maidan under the slogan “our children have been beaten”.
There were no more indecisiveness and youthful credulity. The questions of EU-Ukraine relations and European Integration became irrelevant for protestors, as anti-regime, anti-Yanukovich and anti-police rhetoric prevailed, later followed by Pro-Ukrainian and anti-war discourse. Moreover, shift from “the European” to Ukraine-centred approach was easily noticable by the amount of EU and Ukrainian flags on Maidan. Indeed, flags with official symbolic of the EU constituted the majority of flags during the first week of protests, whilst after students had been beaten, protesters brought Ukrainian flags to Maidan, which became a blue-yellow ocean of freedom. Even the main location of protests shifted from the European Square to Maidan (Independence Square). Later, it became clear that Ukainian revolution is not a political one, but primary social, or I would say “values revolution” (Sviatnenko &Vinogradov, 2014).
Myth 2. EuroMaidan was a far right movement
No doubt, some of the radical groups took part in the revolution as, for instance, football fans. However, despite their contribution in terms of forming defense structures and serving in the volunteer battalions when the war began, they were neither at the core of the Maidan nor influential enough to shape revolution’s progress. In fact, Ukrainian revolution was driven by the most active part of modern Ukrainian society. There were entrepreneurs, intellectuals, artists, academics and students. It could be called creative and middle class revolution, but definitely not the far right-wing one. In fact, according to results of social survey conducted by Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, professionals with higher education constituted the major part of Maidan (Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, 2014a).
No doubt, it was a struggle for human rights, freedom and justice. In fact, Euromaidan was culturally and religiously tolerant. Besides, during my ethnographic study on Maidan, I had conversations with different, even opposing, ideological forces: United Left Party of Workers and Peasants and the UNA-UNSO (right-wingers). On the question about their attitudes towards each other, the representatives of both ideologically opposite forces answered that they are brothers, and despite the fact that their ideologies differ, they “now are united in an effort of Ukrainian Revolution”. Moreover, at the early Presidential election both right-wing candidates – Tiahnybok and Yarosh – together received less than 5% of votes, which is insignificant comparing to nearly 20% of seats that far fight parties got in the parliaments of France and Hungary (Front Nationale and Jobbik respectively). Obviously, the role of far right during the Revolution of Dignity is overestimated.
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