Saturday, November 19, 2005

Reminder of Why Yushchenko?

I am playing around a lot these days over at my other blog, Orange Dykun, and today posted the lengthy rumination I sent out last year to my list-serve on the pre-run off election debate between the Viktors. It really reminded me of all the reasons that the majority of Ukrainians last year--and me, too--became convinced that Yushchenko had to become the next president.

Here are two paragraphs that really served to remind me:

"In response to an attack from Yanukovych, who claimed that Yushchenko was responsible for the dismal state of Ukraine's treasury due to his policies as PM, Yushchenko said, 'You should have seen the state the treasury was in when I began my government as PM—you’re lucky that I was there before you,' and emphasized how he was able, as PM, to raise funds to pay pensions and wages that were months overdue (unpaid because the government was broke), and to make a start on paying Ukraine’s foreign debt. He went on to discuss how the ongoing problems of the treasury have nothing to do with anything he did, but with the lasting effects of the banditry of a government of corrupt oligarchs who used money from the treasury (as well as from elsewhere) to buy state-run businesses and industries during privatization, and who often bought these businesses at only half their value; and who has spent money on fancy cars and luxuries for itself; who has spent state money on fixing up some of the infrastructure only in those parts of Ukraine where they, as oligarchs, are powerful; who have spent money on fixing up government buildings where they work; and who have spent money on plenty of other corrupt shenanigans that have resulted in the widening of the gulf that exists between the people and the government, such that that gulf arguably is bigger today in post-Soviet Ukraine than it was even in Soviet times, etc."

"Janukovych also tried in various ways to present himself as a populist: he did so only partially by trumpeting the alleged successes of his government. But we will see that he highly politicized these successes in effort to make Jushchenko seem like he didn’t care about issues dear to the heart of say, Russians in Ukraine. Janukovych and everyone else like him are desperate to split the vote, to generate false divisions within Ukraine’s electorate by manipulating Ukraine’s multicultural situation, to split Ukrainians against Russians, to divide and rule. Jushchenko is at his most humane, most eloquent, and most passionate when he discusses the false divisions of the Ukrainian citizenry, and how he wants to build a pluralist, multicultural Ukraine for the benefit of all—for no doubt, Janukovych’s policies will in the end be just as harmful economically to Russians as to Ukrainians, because in the end we’re not dealing with purely issues of culture. In fact, we’re really dealing with a pluralist candidate who wants to help everyone in his country versus a candidate who politicizes cultural divisions in an effort to maintain the rule of a fantastically wealthy and corrupt oligarchy at the expense of everyone else, whether Ukrainian or Russian, or Tatar, or Jew, or any other minority. Everyday people care most of all about bread, and while Jushchenko talks about it in universal and pluralist terms, it's Janukovych who tries to force people to think in terms of khlib (Ukrainian for bread) or khleb (Russian for bread)."

Read the whole thing here. . .

Throughout the OR last year, I was fond of using this trope of bread in my writings, especially in reaction to those articles that really liked to make a big deal of the idea of a very deeply divided Ukraine; for example, I frequently wrote things like:

"The fact of the matter is that while both Yushchenko and Yanukovych have Russian-speaking and Ukrainian-speaking supporters, the majority of the people in this country, i.e., those who have voted for Yushchenko, have realized that while Yanukovych et al encourage people to think in terms of either khlib or khleb, they are preparing to continue stealing the dough as they have been throughout the post-Soviet era."

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