So I decided to make the best of the time left. I decided to find out more about a new organization called Civic Sector (Hromads’kyi Sektor) of the Euromaidan. On Friday they issued a manifesto calling on a live, televized roundtable involving the state, the opposition, and Ukraine’s civic sector (a number of nongovernmental organizations connected with the protest movement). It issued a number of other demands aimed at the reform of the state that reminded me of what the Student Coordinating Council (SKR) was doing.
I happened to have two Facebook friends who belong to the Civic Sector of the Euromaidan, historian Volodymyr Viatrovych, who was at the Kryp’iakevych Institute of Ukrainian Studies in Lviv when I was there as a grad student, and activist Andriy Kohut, who was one of my students in a Soviet history class I taught at Lviv National University in the fall of 2002.
I met Volodymyr on Instytuts’ka Street, scene of major clashes between demonstrators and police on December 11. Our interview, which took place near the bridge over Instytuts’ka Street, gave me an idea of how this movement emerged out of the Euromaidan protest movement. The Civic Sector promotes nonviolent resistance and the reform of the entire system of government, not just the replacement of one set of leaders with another. Nonviolent resistance became crucial during the state’s attempt to clear out the Maidan on the night of December 11. Like the Student Coordinating Council, the Civic Sector advocates changing laws, institutions, and government practices, rather than focusing on bringing this or that political party to power.
That evening, at the “Crimea” café near the Maidan, Andriy underscored how important organizations like theirs was in stemming violence. When I asked him about a scene I’d seen on YouTube of him trying to stop people from wrecking a bus, he told me that, after the November 30 beating of students at the Maidan, the people had become very violent. People were throwing rocks at police, and they were ready to assault any man in a uniform. Civic Sector and other organizations managed to calm people down and prevent things from getting out of hand, though there were provocations led by frustrated people at the Presidential Administration building on Bankova Street.
How much will organizations like Civic Sector change the system? Based on what I heard at the National Meeting (Viche) on the Maidan (which was already underway when I interviewed Volodymyr), opposition leaders made one major step at organizing the people. Today they announced the creation of the National Maidan Association (Narodne ob’iednannia “Maidan”), which has now acquired on Facebook the unflattering acronym of NOM or GNOM (suggesting “gnome”!). They also outlined a program that this NOM is going to follow. Admittedly there were some fiery remarks by all the speakers, talking about the power of the people, about the Maidan being the heart of Ukraine, that the Maidan had made its voice heard throughout the world, and that each Ukrainian had the power to change things. Still, as opposition leaders onstage read out the National Meeting’s resolution, including the names of all those to be in NOM, something looked fishy. Yulia Timoshenko was on the list for NOM, and many leaders of political parties were there, but why not the students? Why not the journalist Mustava Nayyem, the one who called people to assemble at the Maidan in the first place? The speaker, Oleksandr Turchynov (a former government minister from the old Orange Revolution coalition) read out the resolution and had the whole meeting vote. All raised their hands for “yes,” no one said “no,” and no one abstained. Alas, even yours truly voted “yes” with all the others. As I think about it now, I wish, I just wish, that I’d voted “no” for the NOM’s list of members.
It was a sunny, relatively warm afternoon on the Maidan. The Maidan was full of people of all ages. When the Ukrainian national anthem was played at the end of the meeting, I sang at full voice along with the others. Still, something seemed a little too official, a little too staged, about this event. It seemed like NOM was just an umbrella organization for a bunch of political parties. Moreover, while speakers talked about the need for a new constitution for Ukraine, when it came to economics, NOM’s resolution just said that more Ukrainians would get jobs and better salaries. It was the most vapid part of the resolution (though maybe the long list of names was also as vapid).
As of now, I think that the Eurorevolution, or the Revolution, or whatever you call it here, will not get very far without organizations like Civic Sector and the Student Coordinating Council changing the system from below. It is these organizations that may one day give Ukraine its own version of the Workers’ Defense Committee (KOR) that led to the emergence of the Solildarity Movement in Poland and the eventual fall of the communist regime there. These organizations stand the best chance of convincing people in the east and south to take action aimed at radical reform of the system. I really do not hold out much hope for opposition leaders and their NOM.
After interviewing Andriy, I took one last look at the Maidan. I filmed scenes of night crowds shuffling past tents, bonfires, and a large TV screen featuring Taras Chubaj jamming on his electric guitar. Near one of the tents, I could see two men acting out puppets of Yanukovych and Putin. Like the students the night before who acted out Azarov, Putin, and Yanukovych and later paraded leaders’ portraits upside down in a parade, the state’s leaders all look utterly ridiculous. The question is whether or not their eventual replacements will finally change the rules of the game.