Yet another post-soviet revolution

What we have seen in the past few days in Ukraine – and what we still have to see – is not just a mass demonstration like the 2004 Orange revolution (which did not have actually a real revolutionary spirit). The Euromaidan protests that put Kiev literally on fire last week show that Ukraine is only now closing the chapter of the Twentieth century. This is yet another post-soviet revolution in Europe.


The last time I visited Dnepropetrovsk, there still were flowers under the big statue of Vladimir Ilich standing on Karl Marx Avenue. The bronze Lenin in one of the most pro-Russian cities of eastern Ukraine has been torn down and decapitated, along with other dozens of statues of the Father of the Revolution, all over the country. The iconoclastic fury hitting one of the most solid symbols of the soviet past of Ukraine shouldn’t surprise for itself. What is surprising is that it is happening in 2014. I would never imagined to see with my own eyes furious crowds jumping on Lenin’s decapitated head, 23 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. That is probably the most evident sign showing that Ukraine is finally coming to terms with the legacy of its soviet past.

People of Ukraine seemed to have lived the last quarter of century in a limbo where USSR no longer existed and post-soviet era had still to begin. Despite the democratic framework around its institutions (shouldn’t be forgotten that Yanukovich himself went to power thanks to elections judged by Osce observers compliant with the international standards), the concentration of power – together with an old soviet-style economy and a pervasive corruption – left Ukraine half-way on the road of de-sovietization and still highly conditioned by Moscow.

The international aid

Should anybody ask who is behind the Euromaidan revolution and the death toll it cost so far, whether the USA or Russia, the answer is: none. At least not behind the events that led dozens of thousands people fiercely fight in the streets of Kiev, and left more 85 dead on the cobblestones of Maidan Nezalezhnosti. None of the western countries, none of the world leaders, none of the international mediators could claim a share in credit for the removal of Viktor Yanukovich. During the days of the battle of Kiev, I clearly sensed in what people were saying the consciousness of being left alone in the struggle for the change: no one was expecting any aid from other countries, and this made the unity of the country even stronger. Here there is one more similarity with the revolutions that caused the collapse of Ussr: Euromaidan is for Ukraine what Solidarnosc was for Poland or Sajudis for Lithuania.  It is not by chance that Mikhail Gorbachev was the only voice in Russia that warned for the risk of unity of Ukraine: directly from the era of perestroika.

The reactions from Moscow confirm this impression. Despite Russia is not sending its tanks to Kiev, as it did in Vilnius in 1991, more than a few hints suggest the Kremlin will not stand by while Ukraine gets rid of the laces with the Big Mother. Moscow knows the process started is an irreversible one and will use all its metaphorical tanks to stop it.

A revolution without a leader

Exactly like the early revolutions in the Baltics, there is not a commonly recognized leader of Euromaidan. The most powerful figure is at the same time the most controversial, dividing the Ukrainians more than the traditional cutter of the language. Yulia Timoshenko – freed after more than 2 years of imprisonment in Kharkiv – has already made a step back and renounced to run for presidency in the next elections of May 25, due to skepticism manifested by many. She is an (ex-)oligarch part of the establishment that expressed figures like Yanukovich and his aides, and has her responsibilities in the last ten years of political life in Ukraine. The other leaders instead – Vitalij Klichko, Arsenij Yatsenjuk and Oleg Tyahnybok – are too weak to sustain the revolutionary process until its end, and can hardly deal with the strong oligarchs that still rule the country from the backstage. Ukrainians have learned the lesson of the failed Orange revolution and put a little trust in their leaders. They know they can count only on themselves as in every revolution worthy of its name.