The Unexpected Revolution: Ukraine’s Historic Urge for Unity

No one could have expected such developments in the very centre of Kyiv, let alone such an outcome, though everyone expressed a strong will for change.

However, this Unexpected Revolution, or coup d’état, as many prefer to call it, is not just about changing the government. The Ukrainian nation is now struggling to shake off the negative legacy of its past and of the stereotypes still dragging Ukrainians back to the simplistic and overgeneralized division between West and East. We know that Euromaidan began as a protest against hailing the process of signing the Association Agreement and it might have ended there if properly addressed by the government. Unfortunately, this did not happen and people’s frustration with the failing Euro-integration, triggered a general feeling of frustration with the situation in the country – something that had been latent rather than surfaced and regardless of their political affiliation, people came out into the streets.

Thus, the Maidan may have started as a reaction to the government's policy with regard to Euro-integration, but the issue is not that much connected to politics, it is about Ukrainians speaking out loud as a people. The political forces in opposition would naturally want to take the credit for the popular protests that started in November, but they are in fact riding the waves that rose without their initiative.

This unexpected and powerful initiative is of historic importance for the Ukrainian people – a rare chance to put an end to falling victims of the old stereotypes (of the Western Ukraine being all nationalistic and of the Eastern Ukraine being all bandits). This resulted in the breaking down into antagonistic groups. The disillusionment in the government and in the situation in the country united people supporting the Maidan. The tragedy of those killed, the “Heavenly Hundred” – people of different age groups and from different regions and backgrounds – has at last made people aware of the fallacy of the stereotypes still ruling in Ukraine. The question that remains is Can it wake up everyone?

Unfortunately, the political propaganda from both inside and outside still holds many people especially in the regions as captives and a surprising number of people still hold false stereotypes and fears as their own perceptions and feelings and defend them vehemently. Of course, people's opinions differ and it is normal for each country to have a variety of views and parties and there should be no ruling ideology, unless it is a totalitarian state. Nevertheless, this difference of opinions should not affect the core relations between the representatives of one nation. It is extremely frustrating to see that the manipulated information and the distorted image of the events in Ukraine destroy the newly-born sense of unity and the vicious circle closes again.

Strikingly often, we can see that the media take one aspect of the revolution and twist it in such a way that people start panicking, especially if it touches upon the same sentiments that caused pain during the Revolution of 2004 and after, when Yanukovych was elected President. One of the most dreadful failures and outcomes of the Orange Revolution of 2004 was that it built much of its rhetoric on this division between East and West. This difference has historical roots that cannot be denied, but these wounds of the past should be healed, not used by political forces to build their support. Under no circumstances should such mistakes be repeated. But what we see now is that the difference between East and West of Ukraine is more and more emphasized. 

This is the unique moment for Ukrainians to finally overcome the division and to finally fuse into unity. Today, this is even a more important task for Ukrainians rather than European integration. Integrating Ukrainian people into one nation would in fact be the first major step towards entering the European society as a European nation of integrity. 

Diminishing the tendency of identifying regions of Ukraine with certain political forces would be the most valuable outcome of the Unexpected Revolution. A new leader, who would make it, would have been the best option for the Ukrainian nation now. 

This is the key moment, but it is prone to slip away as the representatives of the temporary government are making mistakes by adopting laws that address insignificant matters instead of crucial ones such as external media and internal propaganda play on the fallacies, hysteria and mutual misperceptions between East and West of Ukraine. As the pre-election campaign is starting and leaders care more for mounting their electorate instead for caring for the unity (at least relative!) of Ukraine. 

This Maidan should serve as catharsis that will finally bring Ukrainians to understanding their unity. Until Ukrainians pass this stage of realizing that misunderstanding existing between the West of Ukraine and its East should be left in the past. This division will continue to serve as a source of discord and therefore as a tool in the hands of various political groups and forces that will annul the achievements of the Unexpected Revolution and will prevent Ukraine from moving forward.

 Edited by Laura Davidel
 Photo credits:  via Reuters