As Malawians wrestle with their own crises, farther afield in Europe a revolution that could have far-reaching consequences is taking shape. Remember the story of how the first world war started? Some minor bickering between two sovereign entities, one small and one relatively large, that soon enough escalated to an assassinated Archduke, and was quickly followed by a declaration of war? Well, this is a little bit like that, just a little bit. Except, it isn’t an Archduke that has been killed, but a group of mainly protesters. And there isn’t really any other country involved. Well, there are – Russia and the EU (which is not really a country), but not really. It’s just Ukraine that’s involved.
In a nutshell, some elected autocrat in a large and fertile country in eastern Europe had expressed interest for his country to sign a trade agreement with the EU, and was undertaking discussions to this effect. He then suddenly changed his mind, and decided instead to cosy up to the Russians, to the delight of Mr Putin who apparently promised $15 billion in loans. This move infuriated some people within his country (no doubt some people within the EU, and even some Americans). The infuriated Ukrainians took to the streets, and camped outside the main square in Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine. A Police clamp down, snipers and 88 civilian deaths later, and the autocrat was deposed by parliament, but refused to step down as president, even after an acting president had taken over power. Protesters (who some alleged were in fact ‘fascists’ financed by external forces) overrun his palace (while he was away), and he is currently missing, some say he is in Crimea – which is pro-Russian and has a majority Russian population…meanwhile one half of the country is in favour of joining the EU (or at least having closer economic links with the EU), while the other half has not recognised the interim government now in place in Kiev and wants to side with and is seeking protection (and help) from Russia – which has indicated somewhat indirectly that if they are attacked Moscow will give help…. that’s what has just happened in Ukraine the last 3 months.
I can’t remember where I read this next bit, but yesterday I read somewhere that some Oligarchs had a role in Ukraine’s revolution?? In the same article, fascists were mentioned. There was even a picture of Obama as one of the main players in the crisis. All of which reminded me of this book by Herve Kempf. At this juncture, a poster is most appropriate:
Arguably, what has just happened in Ukraine has been something of an opposite: Pro-EU protesters (or fascists, depending on who you choose to listen to) triumphing over Pro-Russian forces. At least three statues of Lenin have been brought down…
Anyhow, my real but extremely unlikely fascination with Ukraine began after I read The Red Prince by Timothy Snyder, a very interesting book about a crumbling European dynasty. At the centre of the story was Wilhelm Von Habsburg (Vasyl Vyshyvanyi) an Austrian prince who adopted a Ukrainian identity by choice with the hope of becoming its monarch – an extension of the Habsburg European dynasty.
In my professional life, I have met and got to know one Ukrainian national, Sasha, who in the past did some work for my company. Obviously, I can’t disclose his full name.
Looking at the current revolution, I wonder where Sasha now is? Further, I wonder what Vasyl Vyshyvanyi the Archduke would have made of this revolution, considering he witnessed two major revolutions, and fought in a world war in which everyone from the Germans to the French, British, Americans and Russians were involved….?
What is clear and undeniable is that Ukrainians are people who are extremely passionate about their country, an admirable quality, and an attitude not immediately noticeable in most Malawians in regards to their own country.
I’d like to think that in comparison to Malawi, there are many more better educated people in Ukraine, but I do not know. This reference to education in this sense is the lines of saying they are well read and at least know for example about the various revolutions of the 19th and 20th century and their outcomes.
I’d also like to think that a certain level of income is necessary for people to be forthright with their government, for people to be able to demand accountability for wrongdoing (without worrying about savings, salaries and jobs), but again I do not know, so this is a hypothesis yet to be proven. Even though some commentators who observed the revolution in Tunisia suggested that a large middle class was an essential ingredient for that particular revolution, these are probably just thoughts and observations yet to be proven, if they haven’t already been proven.