Watching the Maidan protests in Ukraine

This post will differ from most on this blog in being more of a pure log of links than an a formulated story or opinion.

I’ve been loosely following the protests in Ukraine and its capital Kyiv since they began in November. No surprise there since my main research topic is how protest movements use urban spaces. The EuroMaidan movement is happening just a bit north to Turkey’s Gezi Park protests, but the ability of the rolling waves of antiglobalization, antiwar, Occupy, Arab Spring, take the square, anti-austerity movements to see it as an extension of or parallel to themselves is much more complicated. Like these protests, EuroMaidan raises questions about how politics is done in the street, the rights (or wrongs) of protesters occupying public buildings and interrupting public life, the ways that mass movements involve an interplay between mass calm gatherings and (smaller) mass confrontation, the tactical interplay between unarmed and armed forces, and the quickening and fracturing of political coalitions. These sorts of questions seem pretty similar across different nations, and there are lessons to be learned from each mass movement for all.

While tactical affinities are obvious, the evidence of the presence or absence of political affinities is contradictory. Is an encampment that began with a defense of a European Union agreement comprehensible to those occupying squares against EU austerity inside the Union itself? Is this a movement for democracy, and is democracy being rethought from the street, as Occupy-ers found? Or are politicians “engineering” the occupations and clashes for their own ends? Is the threat of foreign domination in this case represented by Russia and Putin or by NATO and John McCain? Is this a challenge to corruption and concentration of wealth, or the opportunism of a right-wing and its merely ecstatic allies?

I don’t feel close enough to the situation to sort out all the answers to these questions, but the protesters are not just occupying the Maidan Nezalezhnosti, they’re occupying my thoughts. Here are some sources of insight if they are of interest to you as well:

One thought on “Watching the Maidan protests in Ukraine

  1. With regard to your question “are the politicians engineering the occupations”, I would like to clarify that almost exactly the opposite is happening. The official opposition leaders (heads of the formal opposition parties) found out quite early in the game that they had little control or influence over the activists on the Maidan, and have been struggling to stay relevant. These opposition leaders (Klitshchko, Yatseniuk and Tyahnybok) unfortunately are associated with existing political parties that have been largely ineffective in dealing with the Yanukovych government, and so do not have a lot of credibility with the Maidan movement who refuse to compromise on anything less than the ouster of the current regime. Although they are the ones directly negotiating with Yanukovych, (mostly because Yanukovych will not negotiate directly with the Maidan activists) the Maidan is giving them their marching orders and holds veto power over anything that comes out of the negotiations. They recognize that these are not real negotiations, but mostly a stalling PR tactic by Yanukovich. Yanukovych’s power sharing offer of a couple of high level Cabinet position is recognized by the Maidan for the sham that it is. Yanukovych over the past few years has engineered it so that all real power is in his hands. The Premier and the Cabinet Minister’s basically do his bidding or they are out. The Maidan is a true grass roots movement that is very suspicious of all the current politicians on both sides currently in Ukraine.

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