Friday, December 02, 2005

Day 3 of OR: Stills of Pidhajtsi Demo

Below are photos of an OR demonstration in the town of Pidhajtsi, about which I have written many times on this blog. It is a small town of pop approx. 4,000 (or up to 7,000 if you include the immediately surrounding villages of Halych, Stare Misto, and Sil'tse) that is located in the state of Ternopil, and is appox. 35km from the town of Berezhany (pop approx. 25,000) and 75km from the city of Ternopil (pop approx. 250,000), and is 40 km from the town and castle of Halych. Thus Pidhajtsi is in the heart of Halychyna (Galicia), and is perhaps one of the most representative of places indicating what Galician identity and heritage are all about. Many of its inhabitants will claim that Pidhajtsi is the heart of Galicia, which makes it a perfect place from which to talk about so-called "West Ukrainian Nationalism" and the role that it played in the OR.

The Pidhajtsi region or county was one of Ukraine's most fiercely pro-Yushchenko regions, which is witnessed by the fact that it had the highest voter turnout and most votes for Yushchenko in all three rounds of the election fiasco of 2004. Also, people from Pidhajtsi who were in Kyiv during the OR like to claim that their's was the first, giant-size poster proudly proclaiming where its barers were from to appear on Independence Square, which further suggests the fierceness of support for change that came from this town. (That poster is now in the town museum.) The people of Pidhajtsi have long suffered some of the highest rates of unemployment, some of the lowest rates of higher education, and therefore some of the highest poverty rates, and along with most of Western Ukraine some of the most disasterous infrastructrual problems in all of Ukraine. (Click here and scroll to the bottom to "Ukrainian Weekly Article About Pidhajtsi," for the piece I wrote about the collapse of the gymnasium in Pidhajtsi a month before the elections in 2004.)

All of which is to say that the people of Pidhajtsi, along with those of the rest of Western Ukraine in general, have suffered from a much greater degree of post-Soviet neglect by comparison to the people of many other regions of Ukraine; which also means that their fierce patriotism has mostly to do with the fact that they have more to gain through economic change than most anyone else.

And by the way, Western Ukrainian poverty is not due to the fact that, as some have stated in a totally unfounded claim, that Western Ukraine was Yushchenko's own little fiefdom that he ruined through his fondess for neoliberal or Milton-and-Thomas-Friedmanesque economics. Yushchenko, as head of the national bank for years and PM for one year, has more or less never directly controlled Western Ukraine. Furthermore, as national bank chief in the 1990s, he actually helped to stabilize the situation in Ukraine in general by doing his part to bring hyperinflation under contol; as PM he saw reforms that resulted in state workers and pensioners getting paid for the first time, for some in months, and for many in years. Whereas Yushchenko did his part as national bank chief and briefly as PM to inact reforms for the benefit of the country as a whole, Western Ukraine's deeper immiseration relative to the rest of Ukraine is due to the neglect of authorities and oligarchs whose attention has been focused elsewhere. It was totally false for anyone to have ever argued that a Yushchenko presidency risked spreading the ruination of the Western regions to the rest of the country. Unfortunately, a number of Western leftists completely swallowed this anti-Yushchenko propaganda of Ukraine's eastern-based oligarchs. These Western leftists bought this bit merely as stooges of their own ideologies, which is a really sorry situation, since those who supported Yanukovych in Ukraine did so in largepart because they too are victims of poverty, misinformation, and the authoritarian control of the eastern oligarchs over their regions. The real risk, which still looms as Ukrainians head for the very important parliamentary elections, is that the post-Kuchma oligarchy will deepen its control, resulting in an ever worsening state of generalized neglect and ruin throughout the country. Once again I repeat here that one could wrote a book along the lines of What's the Matter with Kansas, and call it What's the Matter with Donbass? and ask the important question of "Why do people vote or support those forces that work against their own, long-term, best interests?

I have a longer peice on the role of so-called "West Ukrainian Nationalism and the OR" in the works; for now enjoy these photos.

One other point: the OR happened throughout Ukraine and not just in Kyiv. I hope the series of three photo posts I have done here (this one, and the two below from Berezhany and Ternopil) helps to illsutrate how important this is to keep in mind. . .

(once again, these are all stills from video footage)

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