A Brief Ukrainian Primer

Being so actively involved with BBUF this year has rekindled my own interest in learning (and relearning) about our shared ethnicity as Ukrainians. It’s not quick or easy to catch up on decades of neglect and/or disinterest but I’m trying.

Having images of protesting Ukrainians on our daily news reminds me that these are our people. When other parts of the world are hurting because of tsunamis, hurricanes, factory fires, war and all manner of disaster, we act. We donate to the Red Cross. We pray. We look to our government to do something: make a statement, send aid, denounce actions.

At the very least we seek to understand the magnitude of what is happening. Because it isn’t easy, and as much for my benefit as yours, I’ve put together a simple glossary or primer about what’s currently happening in Ukraine. It’s not comprehensive or scholarly. With the situation changing from hour to hour, it is impossible to stay on top of things unless one is reading tweets or blogposts from news agencies.

Here goes: some definitions, some background, some terms you’re likely to see or hear.

Diaspora (dahy-as-per-uh)—1. any group migration or flight from a country or region 2. Any group that has been dispersed outside its traditional homeland, especially involuntarily

#EuroMaidan—a hash tag trending on Twitter defined as the wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine which started November 21, 2013 with large public protests demanding European integration

Maidan—an open space, ie. Independence Square, Kiev

Orange Revolution—“At the end of 2004, Ukrainians peacefully and joyfully rose up against a discredited regime following a discredited presidential election purportedly won by a discredited candidate. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians descended on Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv to reject the claim that the government-backed candidate, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, had won the presidential election run-off. Ukrainians gathered en masse to insist that Viktor Yushchenko, the internationally recognized winner of the poll, be allowed to fulfill his mandate. Kyiv turned orange, as everyone from shopkeepers to taxi drivers to bank presidents adopted Yushchenko’s campaign color as their own. After 17 days of loud but orderly protest, the newly emboldened Supreme Court ordered a repeat of the presidential run-off. Less than two weeks later, Yushchenko celebrated his victory in that poll. In one month, the Ukrainian people had reset their country’s political and geographical orientation and had demonstrated their support for freedom, democracy and truth. The ‘power of the people’ had triumphed – a point clear to anyone who had visited Kyiv during the previous weeks.” Tammy Lynch, Boston University http://www.bu.edu/iscip/vol15/lynch.html

European Union deal—On November 21st Ukraine’s Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich walked away from signing a trade deal with the European Union, as he seemed to turn toward Russia’s Vladimir Putin because of Ukraine’s faltering economy. This is widely perceived as a step backward to Russian domination and has sparked the demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of people.

Extra Reading

With writing that puts the reader squarely in the situation, check out The Economist’s take on the situation. http://econ.st/18XtiY7

CBC News has more background information in this piece. http://bit.ly/199M8v9

For the take from the perspective of Russia’s Communist Party newspaper read the English language translation of Pravda. Ironically Pravda means truth in the Slavic language.