Monday, November 14, 2005

On the Road to a Documentary, III: Tradition

Part III: Tradition
(still from video)

"With us, corruption is a tradition. It is deeply embedded. It is a sickness like leprosy that eats away slowly at the body, and most of Ukraine has been sick with corruption for a very long time. Where there was Russian rule before the Soviet Union, it is even worse. But the communists were terrible for the whole country. They brought corruption here [to Western Ukraine] to the point that it is a terrible problem here too. It will take time for things to change. They didn’t [change] after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and we needed a revolution to get things moving finally in the right direction. We are truly now in the evolutionary phase. The Orange Revolution was a break with the past, and about what people say about Yushchenko today, that he is just the same as the old powers. . .I think he has done the right thing; it is good that people who continued to work in the old way, for their own interests, are out of the government now [from earlier comments, it is clear that he meant both Tymoshenko and Poroshenko]. Ukraine is changing, but it will be a long and slow process. . .”

-Petro Dmitrovych Kalynjak, official in the county government of Pidhajtsi; also, was head of Yushchenko’s campaign headquarters during the election and is current head of the local branch of the People’s-Union Our Ukraine (Yushchenko’s political party) in Pidhajtsi. He has been an active part of the anti-corruption, anti-oligarchy opposition movement since at least 1998, but he also played an active role in the same movement in the late 80s and early 90s. That is, the Soviet state was also dominated by a click of corrupt and authoritarian politicians, and opposition to corruption and authoritarianism, be it of the communist or post-communist variety, has a long history in Ukraine.

Mr. Kalynjak is an example of the continuity between then and now

The OR did not happen in a vacuum. The US did not come here with big money and flashy PR tricks to dupe simpleton villagers and unthinking city folk into voting for Yushchenko and into unwittingly participating in a “revolution” that served mostly American interests.

What about what Ukrainians themselves wanted? Whose interests were served? The answers are not as black and white as the critics want them to be. . .

The question critics of US foreign policy should ask about the revolutions in Yugoslavia, Georgia, and Ukraine is this: What is to be done when the US for its own geopolitical reasons actually sides with the people—i.e., the poor and the critical mass of the angry—in their struggle against corruption and authoritarianism? The answer should not involve denying the authenticity of those people’s movements, or begrudging the grassroots activists of a poor nation for accepting whatever money they could get hold of.

The OR was not about Yushchenko. It was about a whole lot more, and it is making a positive difference in Ukraine today.

1 comment:

petro said...

Here, here. I totally agree with your conclusion. Living here in Ukraine the effects of the OR are obvious everywhere. It's annoying to me when certain fellow diaspora from the U.S., who do not live here, make sweeping judgements about how the OR was "all for nothing". I find it disrespectful to those that stood (and slept of course) on maidan during the OR (which i also witnessed first hand). Their commitment to a new Ukraine for their children and grandchildren is paying significant dividends regardless of the politicians and their games.

Thanks for your blog. Is it ok if i link to it from mine? i am new to blogging and not sure what linking etiquette is. please let me know if you want me to remove the link.

all the best.