Maidan Chronicle – January 12, 2014

Hired Thugs (Titushky) at the Rally for the First All-Ukrainian Euromaidan Forum, Kharkiv, January 12, 2014

Hired Thugs (Titushky) at the Rally for the First All-Ukrainian Euromaidan Forum, Kharkiv, January 12, 2014

It was my second day in Kharkiv, and the First All-Ukrainian Euromaidan Forum was going to conclude.  Already in the morning, there were signs that this would be a tense day.  Ievhen, while accompanying Konstantyn to the Forum’s semi-secret assembly point, Café India, found out that the anti-Maidan was meeting a second day in a row, lining up all along the main boulevard (Sums’kyi Street) and around the Shevchenko monument.  Ievhen was watching a YouTube broadcast of the plenary session of the Forum, which was meeting in the headquarters of Kharkiv’s human rights center run by former Soviet dissident Ievhen Zakharov.  From the morning’s reports, it sounded like the Forum was creating an educational organization.  “That’s just like Prosvita!” I exclaimed with some disappointment (Prosvita was begun as an educational organization aimed at changing people’s consciousness back in 1989; why duplicate it, since it functions today?).  So I was not really expecting much from today’s event, namely the Forum’s manifesto that was to be announced in the afternoon at Kharkiv’s Euromaidan assembly.  Meanwhile, the anti-Maidan, orchestrated as it was, would be right where the Euromaidan used to meet.  It looked like a day full of trouble. 

After getting lunch, Ievhen and I went to the Forum’s plenary session was meeting.  On the way, we saw the same column of people assembled along Kharkiv’s main streets.  We decided to take a bus and avoid some of the anti-Maidan.  Still, we wound up walking down Sums’kyi Street, right past the anti-Maidan’s main stage near Shevchenko.  Earlier Ievhen and I talked about the people who had organized this anti-Maidan, Kharkiv’s infamous governor and mayor, the same types who arbitrarily decided to demolish a memorial plaque to linguist Iuriy Shevel’ov last fall (Incidentally, Ievhen took a photo of me the previous day at the former site of the plaque, still marked by fresh paint that attempted to cover up the deed.).  When I said that these people probably did not have any care for the legitimacy of their actions, Ievhen disagreed.  He said that on the one hand, Kharkiv’s political elite represents a worse version of the old Soviet system.  There are still the elements of “democratic centralism,” where the bosses dictate and the people must follow them, but there are no more features of social justice and legality that the Soviet system at least tried to maintain.  On the other hand, Kharkiv’s leaders do care about their legitimacy.  They constantly harp on how they are looking after the people, creating new jobs for them, improving their standards of living.  All of this is done in a highly paternalistic fashion, where the bosses come first and claim to look after their workers.  Thus, we get the people of the anti-Maidan, the smiling “grassroots organizer” I had met the day before, talking about the Euromaidan activists wasting money on demonstrations while that money should have gone to help children who are ill or disabled.  Ievhen asked me, “I would have liked to have asked her, does she give any of her own money to help these children?”  Yet again, we remembered being the only two people at the anti-Maidan who took our hats off when the speaker had the crowd observe a moment of silence for the recent tragedy in Kharkiv (a fire that not only killed many, but led to people jumping out of the building in desperation). 

I thought of all these discussions of ours as we passed the anti-Maidan a second time.  While I am trying to understand people’s negative perceptions of the Euromaidan (noted in opinion polls taken recently), there was something utterly revolting about this demonstration:  people evading questions, people giving scripted answers, and worst of all, people having no respect for the dead.  Admittedly, I am already learning in my questionnaires that there are people quite willing to dehumanize the Euromaidan activists.  The Donetsk engineer who responded to my questions in written fashion called them fascists, loafers, and total ignoramuses, and he even got upset that I would dare ask him if he supported the Euromaidan.  Among the signs being displayed along Sums’kyi Street was one that said, in Russian, “Хочеш на майдан – вали за окружную.”  It roughly translates into, “You want to go to the Maidan?  Get out of Okruzhnaia Highway!,” a reference to the road circling the outskirts of Kharkiv.  What would a Euromaidan activist think of this?  Is this the way to have a discussion of Ukraine’s future?  Am I being a fool for suggesting that there can be a discussion?  (In passing I should note that the day before, while Ievhen and I were taking photos and looking for people I could talk to, a friend of Ievhen’s, a very tall young woman with a Euromaidan ribbon on her backpack, mobile phone camera in hand, was boldly walking through the crowds.  Commenting on the offensive call to get out of town, this Euromaidan said, smiling, “I came here to get some energy!”) 

I had no plans to talk to the anti-Maidan people today.  Everything was too scripted.  I would have probably wound up asking what anti-Maidan people would call “provocative questions.”  So I limited myself to one task, filming a scene that epitomized the hypocrisy of this gathering:  a group of women dancing onstage to a song about the “boogy woogy.”  This gathering that sees me and everyone else as agents of Uncle Sam, whose politicians and public figures denounce U.S. intervention in Ukraine’s affairs, who wax with nostalgia about Soviet times, were dancing to what used to be the most decadent form of cultural expression in the Soviet Union, the American “boogie woogie.” 

Ievhen and I then took some side streets to the human rights center in Kharkiv.  Ievhen explained that the Forum organizers chose to meet here because the authorities wouldn’t be able to get away with attacking a human rights center, one run by such an authoritative figure as Zakharov.  Both this center and Café India were places that tolerated freethinking in Kharkiv (with Café India hosting jazz concerts with the help of such European institutions as the Polish and Dutch consulates and maybe also some German foundation). 

We entered the courtyard of what looked like an ordinary neighborhood of apartment buildings.  What made things different was the presence of dozens of policemen, both on the main street and also at the courtyard entrance.  Some “titushky” were also around, marked by their black clothes and Adidas sports pants.  The courtyard was filled with Euromaidan activists – marked by their Euromaidan ribbons, Ukrainnian flags, and one OUN red-and-black banner.  There were probably dozens there, if not a little more than one hundred.  People near the entrance to the apartment building said there was no way we could get inside the human rights center, as it was packed with people.  The Forum had just completed reading out its manifesto, and its leaders were about to appear and start the procession to the Euromaidan.  As we waited, I spoke with a man from yesterday’s meeting of the Forum section I had attended.  He spoke of efforts by his organization to organize young people in Kharkiv and get them involved in civic education programs. 

The crowd started to get lively when people started leaving the building.  I noticed one of the Kapranov brothers, Vitaly, come out to speak to reporters.  I got out my iphone and started filming him telling reporters about the resolutions the Forum had adopted.  Somehow I managed to get very close to Kapranov; I was right there with the reporters, filming what might be history (the beginnings of a Solidarity Movement in Ukraine, or at least the first fitful start to one?).  Sometimes I turned to the crowd, where a man on a loudspeaker (whose amplifier was being held over the head of the other Kapranov brother (both are twins)) told everyone to line up for their marching column.  I have to admit that I was much more impressed with what Kapranov was telling reporters, that this was about changing the whole system of power in Ukraine.  Perhaps this is what makes the Forum different from Prosvita (which by the way traditionally had a narrow definition of national belonging, one marked by culture, while this movement seems to be about a political nation)?  After Kapranov had made his statement and had answered a couple of questions from reporters, I went with Ievhen to follow the march to the Euromaidan.

This march was not like the Euromaidan marches I’d seen in Kyiv.  There was a column of policemen lined aloasdfng the middle of the street.  To their credit, they were there to protect the demonstrators from “titushky” or perhaps some irate members of the anti-Maidan crowd that was not far away at all.  I will admit that it was a little thrilling to hear the marchers calling out slogans that seemed leagues away from the placards of the anti-Maidan:  “Kharkiv, stavai!  Kharkiv, stavai!”  “Bandu het’!”  “Slava Ukraini!  Heroiam slava!”  If I’m not mistaken, they also chanted a slogan directed at the anti-Maidan demonstrators:  “Budzhetnykam svobodu!  Budzhetnykam svobodu!”  Roughly translated to “Freedom for state employees!,” it was a clear reference to all those thousands of people being told to line Sums’ka Street because it was their job as state employees. 

I will admit that I so badly wanted to march with those people and chant those very same slogans, after everything that I had seen at the anti-Maidan.  But on this trip to Ukraine, my role was different.  I was a scholar analyzing the history of a protest movement and its reception by Ukrainian society (for the lack of a better phrase).  Like Ievhen, a professional journalist with official accreditation, I had to be, as Ievhen said it, “above and beside the crowd, not in the crowd.”  And so I ran behind Ievhen as he started to take photos of the head of the march. 

Despite all the offensive placards calling on Euromaidan activists to get out of town, I should note that the march went quite peacefully.  There was a woman in her 60s who stopped Ievhen and asked who was marching.  When Ievhen said that it was a march for the Euromaidan forum, the woman smiled and said, “Okay, that’s clear!”  I’m not sure if she was enjoying the march, or if she was inspired by the march, but she wasn’t upset by it.  There probably other curious onlookers.  As expected, the Forum was not about provoking incidents with the anti-Maidan demonstration.  Thus, the march went far away from the anti-Maidan, to the Iaroslav Mudryi monument near Kharkiv’s national law university (one connected, I think, with the Ministry of Internal Affairs). 

As the crowd assembled for the Euromaidan meeting, Ievhen introduced me to a local businessman from Kharkiv.  In Russian, I asked him what he thought of the Forum.  He saw it as a very positive event.  It was like 1917, where the Forum was advocating power for the people (or in the parlance of the Russian revolutions of 1917, “All power to the Soviets!”).  He saw it as important for the people to reshape government from below.  I was going to ask him about Kharkiv’s economy, but soon Vitaly Kapranov began the meeting, and so we all went up to hear him speak. 

Kapranov began the meeting in simple fashion.  He just had one loudspeaker projecting his voice (the same mini-loudspeaker his twin brother had been carrying over his head).  It felt like a very historic meeting.  Kapranov was summing up what he’d said before reporters some time before, that this was about the people taking power, the people changing the entire system from below.  The network of Euromaidans being coordinated by this forum was creating a horizontal, rather than a vertical, structure of power, aimed at helping out Euromaidans in need across Ukraine, Euromaidans that would make officials accountable for their actions and push for changes to government from the local level on up. 

There were so many reporters around, and as Ievhen pointed out, probably the whole meeting would be on YouTube.  So I was there to film just part of the meeting and then presumably go elsewhere with Ievhen.  A representative from the Crimean Tatars was there, speaking first in Tatar, then switching over to Ukrainian to the delight of the crowd.  There were hundreds on the square, waving Ukrainian flags, maybe a couple of European Union flags, and as far as I could tell, only one OUN flag.  The crowd was made up of all generations.  Some held up homemade signs.  There were speakers in Russian as well as Ukrainian.  There was even a veteran activist from Poland’s Solidarity Movement speaking to the crowd in Polish.  One of the Kharkiv organizers read a letter of support from the Ukrainian diaspora.  She read a letter from Ukrainians living abroad in Europe urging Euromaidan activists to help them organize Ukrainians abroad so that more of them would vote in the upcoming 2015 presidential elections. 

My iPhone ran out of memory for filming and taking photos, so I decided it was best just to listen to the speeches and observe the crowd. 

That’s what I was going to do.  But then, all these unwelcome guests arrived, and suddenly I felt that I’d walked into some kind of trap. 

It started with a blue vehicle that Ievhen and I noticed when we first arrived at the square.  It was a truck with sound equipment owned by Ukrtelekom, an Akhmetov firm.  Around the time where the Polish Solidarity activist was speaking, it began booming loud music, the pop song “Ukraina,” by Taras Petrinenko (sp?).  You couldn’t even hear the poor man from Solidarity speaking.  Then columns of demonstrators holding up Party of Regions flags and Ukrainian flags came up to the square.  These were the anti-Maidan activists.  One of the speakers then told the crowd that we’d received guests, including “titushky.”  She had all of us sing the Ukrainian national anthem to “welcome” them. 

I knew that trouble was coming, so I was started to worry a little.  At the same time, I felt a great sense of outrage.  These people had chosen to demonstrate far away from the anti-Maidan, and what had happened?  Someone in the local government decided that they had to drown out the demonstration with plenty of noise (pop music, but also speeches being made at the anti-Maidan).  Anti-Maidan demonstrators had come all the way out here to make the Euromaidan activists uncomfortable. 

So I did two things.  First, I sang the Ukrainian national anthem as loudly as I could.  Second, I decided it was time to learn how to operate that video camera I’d picked up in Milledgeville “just in case.”  It took me a while to fumble through the set-up menu, but in about five minutes, I had the camera recording the crowd of Euromaidan demonstrators, the anti-Maidan demonstrators, and what looked like “titushky” among the latter. 

The Euromaidan kept meeting.  Representatives of delegations from different parts of Ukraine came up to the microphone and spoke as loudly as they could over the noise.  They came from all parts of Ukraine.  They included people who spoke in Russian.  They included students draped in the Ukrainian flag.  I filmed as many of them as I could. 

I have to admit that one Russian speaker there gave a very disturbing report about what was going on with the anti-Maidan forces.  The woman said that the Euromaidan had received reports that a local crime syndicate figure, with the nickname “Sviatoi” (meaning “holy” or “sacred,” of all things), had organized a group of “titushky” from his sport club to attack Euromaidan activists assembled today.  As a response, if I am not mistaken, the woman had one of the main speakers, a young priest, lead us in the Lord’s Prayer. 

Suddenly it seemed like I was witnessing a mini-version of the attempted storming (but not real storming) of Kyiv’s Euromaidan in the early hours of December 11.  Speakers had all the men form a line around the Euromaidan, linking their arms together as a defensive wall against provocateurs.  The women were all to gather in the center of the Maidan, in the area of the stage.  Police formed a cordon between the Euromaidan’s wall of defense and the lines of anti-Maidan demonstrators nearby.  One speaker said in passing said that we were surrounded by “titushky” and anti-Maidan protestors, as well as a police cordon.  Also, at one point, as many as three explosives went off – small ones, “petardy” in Ukrainian, one resembling large firecrackers going off.  As Ievhen told me later, one had gone off behind the fence separating the square from the law academy nearby (suggesting that someone at this Ministry of Internal Affairs building had set it off).  Two went off on the other side of the Euromaidan, from the direction of the loudspeaker drowning out the Euromaidan (Actually, it turned out that there were two such vehicles, both on opposite sides of the square; I am referring to the vehicle with loudspeakers on the street that the Euromaidan march had come from.).  The explosives were annoying, and they were offensive, but they were also a sign that the notorious hired thugs, “titushky,” were around. 

The “titushky” were here, the anti-Maidan demonstrators were here, the police were here, and we were surrounded.  My initial sense of outrage became mixed up with a little fear and a few thoughts about what I needed to do if we were charged at by counter-demonstrators.  I decided first to send a Facebook post indicating that we were surrounded by police and “hired thugs” in Kharkiv.  Then I thought about taking off my glasses and standing there like a lineman, taking my hits with the others.  I followed Ievhen’s principle and tried to stay to the side (if not above) of the crowd.  I filmed the column of men gathered to defend the Euromaidan.  I experimented with the camera’s lens, moving it close up to some “titushky” in black hooded coats who were staring blankly ahead, chewing gum, laughing and joking with friends, but not responding at all to such slogans as “Slava Ukraini!” or singing the Ukrainian national anthem (which we did a few times).  I filmed the young man near me waving a Ukrainian national flag and singing the anthem with the rest of us. 

Eventually, the Euromaidan organizers brought in a set of large loudspeakers and hooked them up to the microphone.  At first, they wound up drowning the square in loud squeals, but eventually, they managed to broadcast a Viktor Tsoi song, “Changes,” performed in Ukrainian by Okean El’zy.  The speakers had everyone dancing, jumping, while someone joked over a microphone, “Those not jumping are titushky!”  A song about changes, reminding Ukrainians, Russians, everyone from the Soviet Union about those days of Gorbachev’s Perestroika, where people were talking about changes, yet were too afraid to make them.  It was highly appropriate for times like these. 

With enough sound to fight back the official loudspeakers drowning them out, the Euromaidan speakers shared their impressions of the Euromaidan movement with others.  Dmytro Pylypets’, a local Euromaidan activist who had been attacked and stabbed, gave a rousing speech.  So did the writer Serhiy Zhadan.  Other speakers directed their speeches at the anti-Maidan demonstrators, the policemen, even the “titushky.”  They spoke in Russian so that their messages would be unambiguously heard.  One woman said that all of these people who were forced to be here could take their revenge on the officials who had sent them here on Election Day.  They could vote against all those people who had forced them to stand here and cause other people trouble, while they themselves were being exploited by their bosses.  It was amazing.  Perhaps, just perhaps, someone on the other side of the barricades heard them and agreed? 

I was convinced that I was going to be stuck here for a long time.  Thus, fear gave over to a sense of inconvenience and irritation.  Where, after all, could I go to the restroom?  But Ievhen, who turned out to know the situation much better than me, said we could go.  He led me to an exit manned by a couple of Euromaidan activists (one of whom had a helmet and a green German military jacket on).  I took some leaflets from a nearby table, both of us left the Euromaidan.  So much for me being “surrounded.” 

We took a look at the scene outside the Euromaidan.  There were a few dozen or so onlookers along the street.  The blue Ukrtelekom vehicle with loudspeakers was being guarded by police in helmets (a dozen or more of them).  They weren’t Berkut.  They were from the state security agency “Hrifon.”  Still, they reminded me of all those Berkut forces guarding Kyiv’s Lenin monument during mass demonstrations in late November.  They weren’t there to protect the Maidan.  They were there to protect loudspeakers stifling its message.  Ievhen noted that they probably were also here to beat people up should a provocation ensue.  

We went for a walk around the Maidan, going through a nearby underground metro stop.  In the metro stop, life went on as usual in kiosks and small shops.  We left an exit that took us right to that other side of the barricade I’d been filming, the one with anti-Maidan demonstrators and “titushky.”  There, I filmed one more scene before my video camera lost power:  a group of policemen in Hrifon uniforms, but not with helmets on, protecting a second Ukrtelefon vehicle with loudspeakers that was broadcasting some Russian pop song about “New Year’s Day.”  Dozens of people of various ages were milling around.  Some guy in his 20s walked past with his girlfriend.  Another guy his age was coming at our direction, just trying to get down the street.  There were about 4 or 5 “titushky” near us, standing near the metro entrance.  They all wore the same things:  black sweat pants and black hooded jackets, black tennis shoes, presumably some of their outfits made by Adidas.  They were smoking, gossiping, not really paying attention to anyone.  Ievhen compared them to hired thugs who were around in Kharkiv even before the nickname “titushky” appeared – hired thugs involved in a major brawl over a Kharkiv supermarket several years ago.  They were just like these guys, only they wore white gloves so that the police would know that these were “ours” and thus shouldn’t be touched. 

We went down the street that took us past the Euromaidan and back to the street that had the second set of Ukrtelefon loudspeakers.  Among the crowds of onlookers milling around were titushky.  We could see about a dozen of them standing with police in front of a nearby hospital.  We saw one of them inside a café next to us, staring out the window now and then as he got something to drink.  But they kept shifting around.  In an instant, all the guys in front of the hospital were gone.  Trying to track down the titushky, Ievhen noted, is real detective work.  We went through some nearby alleys that led to apartment courtyards.  Such alleys tend to be the most favorite hangouts for titushky and other criminal groups.  No one was there, except for a couple of African-looking young men who were smoking outside some shop.  We went to a nearby café to try out the WiFi there and get something warm to drink (Kharkiv had been getting cold the past two days, after such warm weather on January 6-7.). 

My computer wound up having too many problems connecting with the Internet, so instead of worrying about that, I used my iPhone.  Two of Ievhen’s friends, a rock musician and an architect, happened to run into him as we were drinking coffee.  They came over to our table, and we joined them in drinking cognac that the architect had managed to smuggle into the premises. 

Under the guise of a sign that warned patrons that bringing alcohol from outside the premises was strictly forbidden, we made various toasts together, and while Ievhen began transferring photos he’d made, I spoke with the musician and the architect about Kharkiv.  I wanted to know how Kharkiv was different from places like Lviv or Kyiv.  Amid toasts to ourselves, to Ukraine, to the next generation, I got a long answer in the form of a historical sketch of the “Slobozhanshchyna,” a region settled by Cossacks who had escaped Muscovite serfdom and wound up serving the Muscovite tsars as a security force.  They stressed that this was the steppe land, a “wild east,” where people were constantly on the move, and thus in need of being controlled.  Thus the “east,” as opposed to Galicia, is all about restless people being controlled by others, people used to taking orders from others.  While Galicia had political parties and constitutional rule under Austria, Ukrainians here in Kharkiv had nothing.  Despite these differences between east and west, things have been changing.  The architect noted that his son, born in 1985 (I think), never attended a Ukrainian school in Kharkiv (there are so few of them here), but in interacting with Ukrainians, he is able to speak Ukrainian freely when he goes to places like Lviv.  So the Ukrainian language is becoming familiar to people here, despite the Russification of schools.  Thus these barriers between “East” and “West” are coming down, I think, bit by bit. 

The architect admitted that we were breaking the rules about drinking in the café, and I got worried when one of the café employees scolded us.  But it turned out she was complaining about Ievhen using electricity.  The booze went unnoticed. 

After Ievhen and his friends had one last smoke outside, Ievhen and I headed home.  By that time, it was past 5 o’clock, maybe even 6.  The Euromaidan was empty.  We saw a young man with a “Maidan” vest on, standing near the metro station entrance, asking people if they wanted to sign up as Maidan volunteers.  He was working for the political organization “Maidan” formed at a Kyiv mass rally on December 22, 2013.  Ievhen and I talked with him for a while.  I told him that I was a historian covering the Euromaidan movement, and Ievhen told him he was a journalist.  I asked him what the Euromaidan movement meant to him.  He said, “It’s about the European standard of living!” he said, laughing a little.  Ievhen asked him how many were out getting volunteers.  The man said about 20.  He said that he’d just started doing this volunteer work.  I asked him how Kharkiv residents treated him, if he felt any aggression from people.  He said he didn’t experience any aggression.  There were just people who told him, “Why bother with it?”  There were people who even went up to him and asked such questions.  Otherwise, he’s been left alone.  Ievhen told him about the students who had launched the “Granite Revolution” in the early 1990s, bringing about a prime minister’s resignation.  It seemed like the man had never heard of it.  We found out that this volunteer was studying at the national university in Kharkiv.  One of us asked him what his university classmates thought of this protest movement.  He said that very few students were interested in it.  I remember asking him if he had heard of the Student Coordination Council in Kyiv (remembering that they were trying to make contacts with students in the east).  He said he’d heard of it, but not much.  Both Ievhen and I wished him the best of luck, and then we took the metro to the stop at the historical museum.

When we got out of the metro station, we saw that there were crowds of people coming our way.  We saw that the column of anti-Maidan demonstrators was finally winding up its business, folding up banners to the accompaniment of what sounded like club music from Europe.  I imagine that in a few minutes all of the people remaining in line were gone.  It was probably 6 p.m.  Ievhen had seen them form a line as early as 8 a.m.  So people had spent an entire day, Sunday, out at the anti-Maidan demonstration. 

Crowds of them were jamming the minibuses headed in our direction home, so we took an empty tram instead.  Ievhen noted that the tram conductor was carefree in the way she collected money for tickets, suggesting something about how corruption works here (taking money here, taking money there…).  We just had to walk a block home. On the way, some drunk guy asked us for a cigarette.  Ievhen gave him one.  His speech slurred, the tall man in his early 20s said, “Thanks!  I don’t smoke, but you know…” (referring to getting drunk that night).  Soon, we were in the comforts of home, and Ievhen related all our adventures to his wife Ija. 

I was emotionally exhausted.  I finished up one more chronicle, that of my first day in Kharkiv, around 1 a.m., and I just couldn’t go on anymore.  As I told Ievhen and Ija, the stress from being in the crowd had gotten to me.  Ievhen said that I’d probably gotten all this stress because, in being in the crowd, I didn’t know what was going on.  He’d known ahead of time that there wouldn’t be serious trouble, because he’d figured out what was going on with the police, the anti-Maidan demonstrators, and the titushky.  The local authorities had decided to intimidate, back off, then intimidate again.  So it was all about creating a certain psychological affect.  Those who stood above or aside from the crowd could figure this out. 

Alas, I had wound up in the crowd.  I had told a colleague before coming to Ukraine a second time that I was going to stay away from it, or above it, or to the side, to see how all kinds of Ukrainian citizens perceived the Euromaidan protest movement.  It meant, if necessary, going to places like Donetsk and talking with even the most adamant adherents to the Party of Regions.  But too much had happened at the square honoring Iaroslav the Wise.  Too much had happened at the anti-Maidan demonstration.  As I think about it now, I was deeply bothered by the organizer who not only evaded my question about what to do with Ukraine’s debt crisis, but how she acted like there was no political crisis.   When she said that the protestors should wait until the next election, she said, “A year isn’t long in the global scale of things, is it?”  But would the protestors on Night Watch in Kyiv agree with her?  Could they just wait for another presidential election?  Also, this anti-Maidan organizer said that she was getting paid, the streets in Kharkiv were being well taken care of, and that she saw that things were going well here.  Was this the right way to deal with a political crisis? 

Was it right to deal with a political crisis by telling one’s opponents to get out of Kharkiv?  People who also lived in Kharkiv and paid taxes?  People who paid taxes to administrators who sent thousands out on the street to tell them that they didn’t belong in Kharkiv?  And last, but certainly not least, what mayor or governor would go out of his way to intimidate a peaceful assembly of people not even within earshot or site of their own demonstration?  Why the loudspeakers drowning out the noise?  Why the crowds of counter-demonstrators?  Why the stories about titushky coming to beat people up?  And why throw a can of tear gas into a bookstore the previous day, because a group of intellectuals were meeting there? 

In some ways, historian Timothy Snyder was right to call this a revolution based on common sense.  Watching officials go out of their way to intimidate opponents, seeing their “supporters” ignore such a simple, commonsense matter like paying respect to the dead… how could I not take sides?  How could I not become part of the crowd? 

In the coming days I’m hoping to interview at least one anti-Maidan activist in Donetsk.  Perhaps that will at least restore a sense of being next to the crowd, if I can’t put myself beyond it or above it.

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