Ukraine revolution on Maidan – How it all happened
Although revolutions rarely achieve their goals, they contribute to the growth of people’s consciousness and the renewal of state structures. They are the driving force for achieving the desired changes. They can be important social and political outbursts, followed by other significant events. Over the past three decades, Ukraine has experienced three dramatic events, which are often called Ukraine revolutions. But were they really revolutionary?
In October 1990, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukrainian students, dissatisfied with the formation of the communist majority in parliament after the 1990 elections, met at the central square of Kiev. The protests led to the resignation of the head of government and became an important element of the chain of events that led to the collapse of Soviet power.
But it did not provide a radical change. The first decades of post-communist Ukraine were marked by the domination of the post-Soviet bureaucracy and the supremacy of criminal leaders, who managed to collect enormous wealth through corruption schemes, mainly through privatization and redistribution of previously state-owned assets.
“Despite the fact that the first” revolution “of 1990 led to the fall of late Soviet totalitarianism, it was not enough to push Ukraine onto the path of liberal reforms,” said Yuriy Matsievsky, head of the Center for Political Studies of the Ostrog Academy National University. “In 1999, by the end of the first term of Leonid Kuchma’s presidency, there was a hybrid regime in Ukraine that combined competitive elections with corruption and nepotism. All of this exists even today.”
The 2004 Orange Revolution was a reaction to the actions of a post-communist kleptocratic and semi-criminal government in power. People went to the streets to protest against fabricated results of presidential elections. They hoped that opposition leaders could make a difference. The driving force was the middle class, which originated in the 2000s and demanded political rights.
“Young educated people whose basic needs are met, and who are aware of the value of self-expression, are prone to protest,” said Yaroslav Gritsak, a Ukrainian historian and professor at Ukrainian Catholic University.
As a result of the mass protests of that period, the falsified results of the presidential election were canceled and opposition leaders Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko were brought to power. However, the main hope of the Orange Revolution became a source of key problems. People were too trusting about their leaders: they overly believed in their ability to change the country and their moral qualities. That was a mistake.
The new government failed to carry out real reforms: the oligarchs and their vested interests, as before, controlled the policy.
The Revolution of Dignity
Ten years later, the protests of Euromaidan, called the Revolution of Dignity, showed signs of a “real” political revolution and were the most radical of all three revolutionary episodes. It was a movement of the ascending vector. People of different social classes went to the streets. The demonstrations were attended by many representatives of the middle class, as well as students, pensioners and ordinary workers. Such a broad coalition, where society was fully represented, was strong and cohesive.
The revolution on Independence square spread beyond the capital. After several attempts of the government of then-President Viktor Yanukovych to brutally disperse the protesters, some regional authorities refused to obey the central government. This was not the case during the previous two revolutions.
Instead of blindly relying on the leaders, Euromaidan tried to attract representatives of civil society and the expert community to power. This was only partially successful. But even this time it did not become possible to achieve revolutionary results and change regime, Matsievsky admits.
Nevertheless, the achievements of the Revolution of Dignity are the greatest of all three revolutions.
Firstly, new characters appeared in Ukrainian politics. They do not belong to the old “guard” and strive for a democratic breakthrough. But as of today their influence is not enough to destroy the system. There should be more of them, and then they can achieve real change.
Secondly, the violence during the Maidan in 2013-2014 united the Ukrainian people as a nation. “Every revolution caused increased patriotic feelings and a desire for freedom,” said Oles Doniy, leader of the 1990 protests and a participant of all three.
Society is clearly eager for democracy. The main theme of the protests was not food and money, but values and human rights. People went to the streets to defend their honor. According to Gritsak, these repeated protests are partly a manifestation of national memory and self-awareness, laid down in the times of the Cossacks.
Whatever the reason, each of the revolutions bore fruit. After each of them, Ukraine became more democratic, and its civil society got stronger. Now it has more power to reform and above all – to fight corruption.
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The Revolution of Dignity in numbers
On December 1, after beating students, outraged Ukrainians gathered at the All-Ukrainian Council. The procession stretched from Shevchenko Park to Independence Square. According to BBC, up to 500,000 protesters joined.
The same day, on the initiative of the protesters, Self-Defense detachments began to form on Mikhailovskaya Square in Kiev. This public formation was created to ensure the safety of protesters, as well as to maintain public order in the territory controlled by activists.
At the end of December 2013 there were 17 hundreds of self-defense on the Maidan; they were formed from almost 5 thousand volunteers. By February, the number of self-defense grew to 12 thousand people, so it was broken into 39 sotnias (hundreds).
On December 14, more than 200 thousand Ukrainians entered the central square of Kiev. That evening, the people on the Square sang the anthem of Ukraine in one big choir – without any help from the stage. During the singing, a crowd of 200 thousand people lit their lanterns.
The most violent days of Euromaidan was the final stage of the Revolution of Dignity – the confrontation between the security forces and the protesters (February 18 – 21, 2014). During this time, 82 people died, another 622 people were injured.
On the evening of February 21, one of the Maidan Self-Defense Sotniki, Vladimir Parasyuk, stated from the stage that the Maidan would not tolerate Yanukovych, so if he did not resign until the morning, self-defense would attack.
On the night of February 22, Viktor Yanukovych left the Presidential Administration and left for Kharkov. On the same day, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine supported the Resolution on his removal from the post of President of Ukraine.
During the protests on the Maidan, a tent camp was organized, for the first month 84 tents were set there. In addition, the Ukrainians built 8 barricades to protect against security forces; Maidan was heated with 700 firewoods in barrels.
But this is not enough. According to the estimates of Freedom House, since the 2000s, the level of democracy in Ukraine is within four to five points, which corresponds to the category of partially free hybrid regimes.
In order to change the situation for better, as many new faces as possible should appear in Ukrainian politics – people who want to change the usual rules of the game.
“In order for a democratic regime to be formed, there are two conditions: first, new players must enter the political arena, and secondly, these new players must accept the new rules of the game,” says Matsievsky.
Doniy stresses the importance of establishing a new value system: he argues that “single heroic flashes cannot change the system. It is necessary to introduce a new value system – European value system - and build state structures on this basis.”
Revolutions rarely achieve their goals. However, they contribute to the growth of people’s consciousness, and renew state structures. They are the driving force for achieving the desired changes. They can be important social and political outbursts, followed by other significant events.
In other words, the so-called “revolutions” are important turning points in the course of long-term evolution, which is the force that brings real change. Apparently, the Ukrainian revolutions are just like that, but the process of evolution is far from being completed.
The Last Revolution in Kiev was in 2014.
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