Reflections on the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution from Dissident Myroslav Marynovych

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On 16 January 2014 the hot phase of the violent confrontation during the Revolution of Dignity began. More than 100 people, now known as the Heavenly Hundred, were killed by «Berkut» Special Forces. A month later, the criminal authorities and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia, and Russia started the annexation of Crimea and the occupation of Donbas.
Protesters pass cobblestones from hand to hand on the Maidan

Protesters pass cobblestones from hand to hand on the Maidan

Tvoe Misto media-hub talked about these events with one of the Maidan’s moral authorities, Myroslav Marynovych – a dissident, founding member of the first human rights organisation in the Soviet Ukraine «Ukrainian Helsinki Union», Vice-Rector for Appointment and Mission of the Ukrainian Catholic University.

Which problems emerged in the state and society in the post-Maidan time?

One of the post-Maidan problems is that young people do not want to build state verticals and do not trust them. However, during the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States [pointing to the crimes of the financial elites and aiming for structural changes in the economy], no clear leader emerged as well. It was the same during the umbrella protest movement in Hong Kong. In the Muslim revolutions, in particular, young people did not want verticals. However, a new state cannot exist without them.

Protesters at barricades during the Revolution of Dignity

Another problem is that the slightest dispute among Ukrainians turns into hostility. Such hostility breaks all state principles. After the Orange Revolution, the supporters of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, then president and prime minister respectively, lost the movement in endless battles in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukrainian Parliament. Now, it’s the same. There may be reasons not to love Poroshenko or Zelenskyi, but the question arises of whether we love Ukraine. It is worth learning to negotiate and sit down at the negotiating table.

We have two typical states. The first is the state of «maloros», or the «little Russian», who sees everything but doesn’t care. The second is that we are going to the Maidan. It would be nice if there was something in between.

I am very worried if the natural Maidan happened now. People have access to a lot of weapons, and in the event of a mass protest, students would no longer stand still for several months. Secondly, there is the danger of a typical «Black Council» that already occured in the history of Ukraine, when the hetman [leader of a cossack state] is overthrown by ordinary cossacks, while the enemy army stands on the border and waits for intergovernmental confusion to intervene. Today, I am afraid of this, because it’s easy to overthrow, but there is no alternative.

Did Maidan lose?

Maidan did not lose – we would be defeated after Maidan. This must be very clearly distinguished. All Maidans in Ukraine were victorious. Beginning with the 1990 Granite Revolution in Kyiv, when Russia’s idea of ​​a new union treaty was levelled off. There were three victories on the Orange Square and the Revolution of Dignity. But what’s next?

A protester plays the piano during the Revolution of Dignity

Maidan cannot solve everything. We have to decide. Revolution of Dignity gave us a lot of public energy, which we did not use to the end. We didn’t work on the vision, the organization of that process. We have chosen the right President and committed him to reform the country. However, a democratic society does not work that way – it constantly puts pressure on the elected government. A good example of such pressure was during the «No Surrender» campaign [against the withdrawal of troops from the demarcation line in Donbas, announced by the Ukrainian government in October, 2019]. Then, the society did not exaggerate in the protests, they were controlled, but it clearly showed Zelenskyi that he could face problems through the «red lines».

Our people do not distinguish between the concepts of «order» and «strong hand». Many may say that Ukraine needs a «strong hand». And the «strong hand» is a character who has a truly clear idea of ​​who must be punished and who mustn’t. And his appetites grow to the extent that he is established in his right.

Dignity

We do not create dignity, it’s not our product. It is given to us by God. And it was this phrase that we said to Yanukovych on Maidan – that he mustn’t humiliate us, because we are worthy people, and the Orange Revolution sang «We are not cattle, we are not goats.»

Protest camp on Independence Square during the Revolution of Dignity

When the Lord gives dignity, he does not take it away. It is with us all the time. It can be ruined, muffled, but not lost. Because at any moment, it can be restored by a good, fair and heartfelt act.

After a 20-day hunger strike in the camp, I was taken to various prisons to be «taught.» When criminal convicts, to whom I was sent to the cell, saw my face, they silently and without question treated me to their bread. It is obvious that criminals were not convicted just like that, but by such actions they instantly restored their dignity.

The time in camps and prisons

I first realized this during a difficult time in prison. I have already spent a year under investigation, my hair was cut, and I was taken from Kyiv to Kharkiv in the «stolypin» – a carriage for prisoners. In the morning, guards announced that they would walk us to the toilet. I was sitting in a separate cage for particularly dangerous state criminals, and after hearing that, I prepared a towel, soap, a brush and toothpaste. The soldier opened my cage, looked at what I was holding, and began to swear wildly.

Protesters pass cobblestones from hand to hand on the Maidan

I stood there pondering what I had done wrong, what made him so angry. In his glance, I saw that he reacted to my things. Then, I realised. I thought I was human, but Soviet rules did not presupposed that. As a result, I made the inner decision that they could do anything to me, but they would not degrade my dignity, I would remain a worthy person. This is their problem, not mine.

This saved me from humiliation and shame, I returned to this cage as a normal person after this «toilet walk». The soldier continued to lead the prisoners, but in the end, he was purple with rage. He was ready to eat us because he was humiliating himself by trying to humiliate us. Then, it saved me all the time during the camp, when I was being searched and undressed.

About truth and sacrifice

What is needed is a critical mass of people who will start telling the truth and doing what corresponds to the values. When dissidents appeared – few who began to tell the truth – the Soviet Union did not manage to resist. People have said more than once that we are crazy. There seemed to be no chance that we would win, but at the same time, we heard the voice of conscience.

We had very clear coordinates of good and evil, truth and falsehood, which is currently lacking. Previously, [in the Soviet times] the truth could be distinguished elementary – it was on the other side of the «iron curtain». Today, the Internet in Moscow is available to everyone. Everyone could learn the truth about the Maidan if they wanted to. But there is no filter by which a person identifies the truth. This should not be a reason for despair and the conclusion that the truth can no longer be found.

Officers of the Internal Troops and the Berkut Special Forces on Hrushevskoho Street in Kyiv

People know the truth by sacrifice. I can give you an example of Yushchenko [Ukraine’s third president], before and after he was poisoned. Before that, Galicia was very critical of Yushchenko. However, when people saw that he was paying a high price for his truth, they became ready to go for it.

About Russia

For comparison, I cite the principle of «zero sum»: many conflicts in the past were due to the fact that people believed that there is only one truth and it is worth fighting for it against all others. In the age of postmodernism, everyone was right and it was determined that no one has absolute truth, but there are only many different opinions, and the truth is somewhere in between our thoughts. Postmodernism has got rid of conflict to some extent, but it has created relativism – every truth has a right to exist.

In this system, Putin, Surkov, and others are deliberately launching absolute fakes under the guise of Russian opinion. The Kremlin believes that Ukraine is a fascist state. Forming its point of view on Ukraine, the West includes this position as a legitimate opinion of Russia.

At first, the West could not say that Russia was spreading lies. He took into account the idea that Ukraine is a fascist state. And as a result, where is the truth? Fake destroys this structure. To restore this truth, we must say that the absolute truth exists. This is what secular society cannot say because then the existence of God must be acknowledged.

About the West

Were it not for the West, we would cease to exist long ago. I don’t even know if we would have independence. The army of another Muraviov [Red Army commander who invaded Ukrainian People’s Republic in 1918] would once again flood Ukraine. Then, the West worked very hard, and we can owe our existence as a state to the world order, created by the West after the World War II.

Protesters create a barricade of fire from cars during the Revolution of Dignity

This is a difficult time because the West has lost the most important thing – solidarity. In the first years after the war, the West was a single fist. Today, each state has pursued its own interests. However, in recent months, there have been signs that the West is beginning to realise the crisis it has entered. 

We need to work on influencing further progress in the West. In Zelenskyi’s team, the minister of foreign affairs Kuleba works pretty well, he has had a number of successes and taken many right steps. However, in this situation, the West must see a consolidated Ukraine, because we reproach the West that it’s not in solidarity, though we are just the same. We are a «mosaic» of many identities, and do not have a single view of the situation. Those Ukrainians who support Russia are happy to come to the West, and start to talk there. I’ve been horrified several times for the damage that one such speaker can do.

What is the formula of unity for Ukraine

We need to look for a formula for unity. In Galicia, people think that Ukraine will be united when the whole country will think like Galicia. And Donetsk residents who came with Yanukovych did what they thought was necessary. There is a formula for unity in diversity – it’s just for Ukraine.

We had this form on Maidan because then, it didn’t matter where you came from or what your religion was. Those who were on one side of the barricades were accepted. This formula is mastered when there is enthusiasm and an outbreak of Maidan. Once we disagree, we do not know how to implement this formula in everyday life.

Reference

Revolution of Dignity, or Euromaidan – national-patriotic protests in Ukraine against corruption, arbitrariness of law enforcement and special services, as well as in support of the European vector of Ukraine’s foreign policy. One of the main reasons for the protests was the excessive concentration of power in the hands of former President Viktor Yanukovych and his «family», the reluctance of the people of Ukraine to accept the actual and de-jure transformation into one of Russia’s colonies.

The Revolution of Dignity lasted from November 2013 to February 2014. 21 November, the government of former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov thwarted the signing of the European Integration Agreement. 30 November, criminal authorities used special forces to disperse a peaceful student protest on Independence Square. After the street fighting, the criminal government fled to Russia. More than 100 people, now known as the Heavenly Hundred, were killed in the protests. Subsequently, the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the occupation of parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions began.

Interview by Roman Lamansky

Translated by Vitalii Holich

You can read a Ukrainian language version of this story here.

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Lviv Now is an English-language website for Lviv, Ukraine’s «tech-friendly cultural hub.» It is produced by Tvoe Misto («Your City») media-hub, which also hosts regular problem-solving public forums to benefit the city and its people.

 



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