Citizens in Kiev Take Small Step in Revolution
by Aeshna Chandra on Friday, February 7th, 2014
It’s not a revolution. No one has quite said the words, “it’s a revolution” out loud, but what’s happening in Ukraine bears a distinct resemblance to the Arab Spring revolutions that swept the Middle East in recent years.
Ukraine’s government changes the rules to suit itself: President Yanukovych’s administration recently passed—and then unpassed after the resignation of his prime minister and entire government—several anti-protest laws that critics lambasted as ushering in a dictatorship, according to the Wall Street Journal. These laws are accused of denying citizens their basic rights to freedom of assembly and speech. However, amidst the confusion and riots, a new patriotism has begun to bud in Ukraine, one that would love to see Ukraine move closer to the European Union as opposed to Russia. The New York Times reports that just last Sunday, tens of thousands of pro-EU citizens demonstrated for hours in Kiev’s Independence Square, despite police intervention that eventually resulted in hundreds of injuries and even a few deaths.
The government and the citizens were not on the same page regarding whether Ukraine should remain with Russia or join the EU. Yanukovych and his administration wanted to stay loyal to Russia, while popular opinion wanted to continue negotiations to form a trade agreement and have Ukraine join the European Union. Russia’s interest in Ukraine stems from Ukraine’s proximity; it acts as a buffer between Russia and the rest of Europe. Additionally, a Ukrainian city houses all of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, while Ukraine itself is the second richest and biggest former Soviet state behind, of course, Russia. Meanwhile, the government of Ukraine values Russia’s considerable assets, aid that could easily go to another country at Putin’s whims.
However, the government failed to perform its sole purpose: serving the people. A deal with the EU would lead Ukraine into a new age. Many think that potential membership, though difficult and a precursor to drastic change, would be the best option for the people and the country of Ukraine in the future. These disparities between government and public ideologies grew and expanded until the country seemed ready to erupt.
So, as any logical government would, Yanukovych and his administration quit.
So far, nothing good has come out of the riots in Ukraine. The government is in shambles, people are dying, severe injuries happen on a daily basis, and the country is torn between staying true to its Soviet roots and joining the rest of Europe in their ambitions and goals. If this quasi-revolution follows the path of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution ten years ago, Yanukovych will remain in power, and little will change. But if the fervor with which Ukrainians have fought is considered, shouldn’t the possibility that they have learned from the past be considered as well?
Nothing changes like people. Governments take years, if not decades, to alter their countries and policies; education stays the same, stifling any new or intelligent thought. But people change every day, inside and out, all as a result of their experiences. The people of Ukraine who, ten years ago, experienced a trial run of-sorts for what they are experiencing now, have learned what to do, where to do it, and how to do it.
And the people have changed. These riots have sparked a new type of patriotism, a love and a passion for a new country, the same love that they learned after fighting for their country ten years ago. Regardless of what Yanukovych decides, whatever government he forms, whichever way he decides to go, the President of Ukraine doesn’t matter. The fact that his citizens have come out against him says everything. It says that they want what’s best for their country. It says that they will do whatever they must for their country. If the people decide that they want the EU, they will join the EU.
We live in a time of spreading democracy, of revolutions that shake up regions, not just countries, and of an increasing number of nations whose people take a stand for what they believe in. So, in the end, it does not matter what happens in the tug of war with Ukraine, but it does matter that the people of Ukraine have learned from their past. It matters that they stood up against the laws that undermined their freedom. It matters that they fought for what they believe in. And it matters, now and in the future, that the protesters won something. It matters that the government quit because the protestors can now claim a victory against Yanukovych. If the Arab Spring is any indication, such a small victory can quickly unravel into legitimate change.
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