Here & Now's Robin Young speaks with Richard Pacelle, professor of political science at the University of Tennessee, to find some answers.
Ukraine is no stranger to massive protests, but not violent ones. So what can a studying Ukrainian history teach us about what will happen next in the country politically?
Harvard professor Serhii Plokhii joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss the link between Ukraine’s history and its future.
How this protest is different from ones in the past
“It started, really, as a really peaceful event, almost a street party. There were concerts and poets were reading their poems and things like that. But because the political elite was unable to reach a compromise that would satisfy people on the streets, eventually, that all kind of deteriorated into violence. And I keep government responsible for that, and political class in general.”
“‘Til this recent events, what was interesting that these political forces that couldn’t agree on much agreed on one thing: that all these issues have — they have to be resolved peacefully. So compromise was the name of Ukrainian political culture since 1991, and to a degree, people who were in power, they understood that they had to do that because of the diversity of the regions — ethnic diversity, historical, different traditions, linguistic differences. And it is the current government that is now in power for three years that basically violated this, this unwritten agreement among the elites that issues should be resolved peacefully and on the basis of compromise.”
On Ukraine’s unique positioning between Russia and Western Europe
“Ukraine is historically a country that is positioned, really, on the border. It was positioned on the border between Western Christianity and Eastern Christianity, Christianity and Islam. Jews were important part of Ukrainian history since sixteenth century, at least. So there is multicultural character that is there.”
“What happened with this particular crisis was that Ukraine wanted to sign association agreement with European Union, and Russia’s position was that Ukraine had to choose: either stay with Russia or go west. And that was a significant, significant factor that brought to the current crisis, so it is certainly complicated factor. But Ukraine managed to do that for the last 20-plus years, so just going back to the old and tested policies — I guess this is the way out of the crisis.”
On the resolve of anti-government protesters
“What we see today and now is certainly the mobilization of the public opinion in general, and those who support pro-European direction of Ukrainian policy, and they are prepared to stay on the cold squares and streets of Kiev now for three months — it’s really very cold there — and even to die if it is necessary.”