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Little Reform, Big Corruption Then came the hard part. Having broken up the Soviet Union, Moscow and Kyiv both faced three immediate, vast, and novel challenges: Accomplishing all three tasks at once was essential, but it proved impossible. As a result, like Tolstoy's unhappy families, Russia and Ukraine each failed in its own way.
Ukraine's path to failure started with the compromise between democratic reformers and the Ukrainian Communist establishment. Post-Soviet Russia's wrong turn came in the form of the Faustian bargain its first group of leaders — the Yeltsin team of economists known as the young reformers — was willing to strike in order to achieve their overriding priority: They accomplished a lot, laying the foundations for Russia's economic rebound in the new millennium.
People have learned that the here is them. This has happened in Ukraine, as well. We should give the Ukraine-Russia ceasefire a chance, but if Putin derails it, the US should provide defensive weapons to Ukraine. To help illustrate what lay to the west, the door was surrounded by walls depicting the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum in Rome, Dutch windmills and other European tourist sights. Some even get better. An ethnic Russian who was born and raised in Russia, Sobolev was one of a group of young, politically engaged Ukrainians who were the backbone of the Maidan movement starting back in November
But along the way they struck deals, most stunningly the vast handover of state assets to the oligarchs in exchange for their political support, which eventually transformed Russia into a kleptocracy and discredited the very idea of democracy with the Russian people. That tactical alliance proved to be both brilliant and doomed. Its value was immediate — Ukraine became, as long as Russia acquiesced, a sovereign state. The cost was revealed only gradually, but it was staggeringly high.
Like Russia's Yeltsin, a former candidate-member of the Politburo, Ukraine's new leadership was made up overwhelmingly of relics of the Soviet-era leadership: Leonid Kravchuk, Ukraine's first president, had been the ideology secretary of the Communist Party in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic; his successor, Leonid Kuchma, had been the director of a mega-factory in Dnipropetrovsk that built the SS missiles, the ten-warhead behemoth of the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces.
Once the superpower they had thrived in disappeared, these men, and most of those around them, adopted Ukrainian patriotism, soon proving themselves to be enthusiastic, determined, and wily advocates of Ukrainian independence. Their conversion was intensely opportunistic — it allowed them to preserve, and even enhance, their political power and offered the added perk of huge personal wealth. But because many of the leaders of post-Soviet Ukraine had a genuine emotional connection to their country, they also took pride in building Ukrainian sovereignty, which put them at odds with some of their former colleagues in Russia, including, they would eventually discover, Vladimir Putin.
Russia's economic performance in the two decades following the collapse of communism was mixed at best; Ukraine's was absolutely dire. The result, in addition to massive corruption, was gross mismanagement of the economy. But when it came to democracy, the tables were reversed. Even though the pact between Ukrainian reformers and the Communist Party left the nomenklatura, as the Soviet leadership class was known, essentially intact, it turned out to be remarkably — and mercifully — inept at authoritarian governance.
The Ukrainian Communist Party and the KGB, with their formal ties to Moscow severed, were unprepared to act effectively on their own. Instead of closing ranks to rule the country, the power elites broke into competing clans associated with the major cities and regions. The result was a newborn country that was accidentally pluralistic, allowing democracy to spring up through the cracks in the regime's control. Proof of that came in when Kravchuk lost his reelection campaign. The very fact that he could be voted out of office was an early but important milestone for a fledgling democracy.
It is one that Russia, with its more deeply rooted absolutist political system, has yet to reach. That said, what followed was not exactly encouraging.
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Kravchuk's successor, Leonid Kuchma, began to turn back the clock, harassing the opposition and the media. After serving the constitutionally maximum two five-year terms, Kuchma was able to rig the election in favor of his dauphin, Viktor Yanukovych, who was prime minister. But Kuchma and Yanukovych overestimated their power to manipulate the electorate — and they underestimated civil society. In what became known as the Orange Revolution, Ukrainians camped out in the Maidan — the central square in Kyiv — and demanded a new election. Then came a truly tragic irony. Yanukovych's opponent and polar opposite was Viktor Yushchenko, a highly respected economist and former head of the central bank.
He was the champion of Ukrainian democracy. Largely for that reason, he was hated and feared by many in Russia, notably in Putin's inner circle. Yushchenko was poisoned on the eve of the ballot. The attempt on his life left him seriously ill and permanently scarred, yet he triumphed in the election.
However, Yushchenko then did such a poor job in office that Yanukovych, who had failed to become president by cheating inended up being elected fair and square in Over the next four years of Yanukovych's rule, the Ukrainian state became more corrupt and abusive of political rights than it had been even in the last years of Kuchma's presidency. Nonetheless, the legacy of the compromise between the democrats and the apparatchiks see more on through the success of at least two of its main goals: When, two years ago, Ukraine celebrated its twenty-second anniversary as an independent state, the longest period in modern history, it had — for all its troubles — at least avoided violent separatism within its own borders, not to mention a war with Russia.
Then, in November of that year, came the first tremors of the cataclysm.
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Maidan and the Return of History According to Putin's propaganda, the original fault line was within Ukraine, in the form of ethnic tension, and only later did the conflict take on a geopolitical dimension and disrupt relations with Russia. A more objective and accurate version is that the unremitting and escalating crisis of the last year-and-a-half erupted in two stages: Listen to Freeland describe the Russian propaganda machine Sorry, your browser does not support audio elements.
Back then, the leaders and many of the people of Ukraine and Russia shared the dream of joining the political West, a choice that was about much more than geopolitics — it meant choosing the rule of law, democracy, and individual rights over authoritarian kleptocracy.
Now Russia, at least as represented by the most powerful Kremlin leader since Stalin, has turned its back on that dream, while Ukraine's leader, with the backing of most of his people, click to see more determined to keep it alive. Sitting on my uncle Bohdan's couch in central Kyiv, ten days after Viktor Yanukovych's flight from Ukraine, I began to grasp what was at stake. Bohdan is my mother's brother, an agronomist who was born in and grew up in Canada, but moved to Kyiv during the s, around the same time my mother did.
He married a bilingual Ukrainian and, after two decades living there, is comfortable in both Ukrainian and Russian. The citizens of the capital had suffered the bloodiest conflict on their streets since World War II. When I arrived at Bohdan's high-ceilinged, post-war apartment on March 4,he and his wife, Tanya, like so many Kyivites, were glued to their television and its coverage of the political tumult that followed Yanukovych's ouster.
The previous three-and-a-half months had been an emotional whipsaw. In the past two weeks alone, the citizens of the capital had suffered the bloodiest conflict on their streets since World War II. They had also watched their reviled president, Yanukovych, flee to Russia, a provisional government take charge, Russian troops assert control over part of their country, and Putin insist on his right to take further military action. Ukrainians were simultaneously celebrating their eviction of Yanukovych, mourning the victims of the slaughter on the Maidan, horrified by the invasion of Crimea, and fearful of the possibility of a long, grinding war fanned and do my essay ukraine war legacy directly waged by their giant neighbor to the north.
During my evenings on my uncle's couch, I watched a number of extraordinarily dramatic events playing out on the TV screen, including many profiles in heroism. Some dramatized the complexity of the ethnic and linguistic issue that Putin was exploiting to his own cynical advantage. In those do my essay ukraine war legacy days of March, for example, Maksym Emelyanenko, captain of the corvette Ternopil in the Ukrainian navy, was ordered by the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet to hand over control of his vessel.
Captain Emelyanenko replied that, although he was ethnically Russian his Ukrainian last name notwithstandinghe had given his oath of loyalty to the Ukrainian state and he would not betray it. She found Captain Emelyanenko's valor to be both poignant and a stinging rebuke to the Kremlin leader who was now unleashing war on the Soviet fatherland's own children.
It quickly became apparent that peaceful tactics would not succeed against the near-term objectives of Putin. My uncle and aunt, along with many Ukrainians, hoped that passive resistance would prevail as it had in the Maidan demonstrators' stand-off with Yanukovych. That said, I could sense, even in those early days, that Putin's use of overwhelming Russian force to crush Ukrainian resistance was backfiring against his ultimate goal, which was to bring Ukraine back under Russian sway.
The day after I arrived in Kyiv, I met Yegor Sobolev, a year-old activist, over cappuccinos at a cafe on the Khreshchatyk, Kyiv's central boulevard. An ethnic Russian who was born and raised in Russia, Sobolev was one of a group of young, politically engaged Ukrainians who were the backbone of the Maidan movement starting back in November He was a confidant of Mustafa Nayyem, a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan who was celebrated for launching the protests through a Facebook call to action. Sobolev and Nayyem are both former journalists who had tried to uncover the skullduggery and looting of the Yanukovych regime, and then had been motivated to political action by their revulsion at Yanukovych's brutality.
Both men would be elected to Parliament several months later, as advocates of democratic and economic reform. Chrystia Freeland sitting down with Yegor Sobolev for coffee in Learn more about Putin Mr. Operative in the Kremlin The great irony of Vladimir Putin's intervention in Ukraine, as Chrystia Freeland notes in this essay, is that the world may never have heard of him if not for Ukraine's separation from the USSR in In the new and expanded book, Mr.
Operative in the KremlinBrookings scholars Clifford Gaddy and Fiona Hill detail the origins of Putin's rise, his leadership styles, what drives him, and how far he is willing to go. Foreign Affairs has called Mr.
People have learned that the country is them. The capital was, almost literally, grievously wounded. The air was thick with smoke from bonfires, reeking with the stench of burning tires. The once-elegant Khreshchatyk was a grimy tent city, the avenue itself denuded of its cobblestones because protesters had pulled them up to throw at the armored special forces who were firing tear gas and live bullets at them.
A steady stream of Kyivites, many of them stylish matrons in long fur coats and high-heeled leather boots, made their way to Institytska, the steep street leading up from the Maidan. Their mission was to lay bouquets on the two-story-high mountain of flowers in tribute to the victims of police and snipers, known as the Heavenly Hundred it sounds less mawkish in Ukrainian.
But Kyiv also felt invigorated and united. Share a thought or photo using MyUkraine. See what others are saying: Now, in the wake of the Maidan and in the midst of the Russian land grab, Ukrainians had come to see that both are critical and that they are mutually reinforcing. By early March of last year, as it became glaringly obvious that Ukraine was fighting not just for its political soul but for national survival, support for the agenda of the pro-Maidan provisional government and the sense of solidarity under pressure started to flow south and east — into the very regions that both Putin and simplistic international media coverage had characterized as pro-Russian.
A comprehensive poll done in April by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, one of the country's most respected polling firms, found, for instance, that in those regions of Ukraine Nearly 70 percent were opposed to the unification of their region of Ukraine with Russia; only But they are showing themselves to be equally patriotic. They are defending their country from foreign aggression. Read more things are happening.
Culturally, historically, linguistically, and even religiously southern and eastern Ukraine were quite different, and did not always appreciate the Galician assumption that the western Ukrainian version of Ukraine was the best and truest one. One of the paradoxical consequences of the Russian invasion was that southern and eastern Ukraine were proudly asserting their versions of Ukrainian identity as equally authentic and powerful.
But that protest didn't take place in Kyiv's Maidan.
It happened kilometers east in Kharkiv, the capital of eastern Ukraine where Zhadan, who was born in the Donbass, now lives and works. His writing — think Trainspotting set against a grim post-Soviet backdrop — is very popular in Russia, but he writes in Ukrainian, partly, he says, as a political act. Before I left Kyiv in March, I took a final walk along the Khreshchatyk.
Two hand-written signs, taped to the walls of buildings, stood out. Freeland describes how Zhadan represents a paradoxical consequence of the Russian invasion: Western Ukraine, known as Galicia, had long seen itself as the most nationally conscious region, the one that would lead a broader effort to knit the nation together and build a sovereign state. Blue and Yellow vs. I spent a day in Dnipropetrovsk, a city just miles from the Russian border, whose citizens are largely Russian-speaking and whose industry was vital to the Soviet Union to wit: Leonid Brezhnev was born and educated there, and it remained his lifelong political powerbase.
Gr8 mtng MP Petro Poroshenko today, overlooking Maidan ; Rus-speaker from south, says Rus invasion has united country pic.
Apartment buildings were draped in blue and yellow, the colors of the national flag; every second car sported the same colors; many election officials wore shirts worked with traditional Ukrainian embroidery. This political shift provoked another twist of Ukraine's linguistic kaleidoscope. Now that civil society's common enemy was Yanukovych and the Kremlin political values he represented, speaking Ukrainian in public came to symbolize the fight for democracy, notably including in the east.