PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Friday, February 21, 2014

What Ukraine’s History Tells Us About Its Future

Anti-government protesters attend a rally on Independence square in Kiev on February 21. Nearly 100 people have died in the Ukraine protests, and while the country is no stranger to protest, few have been so violent. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

Anti-government protesters attend a rally on Independence square in Kiev on February 21. Nearly 100 people have died in the Ukraine protests, and while the country is no stranger to protest, few have been so violent. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

Interview Highlights: Serhii Plokhii

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.”

Guest

  • Serhii Plokhii, professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

April 29 17 Comments

What’s A Delegate? And Why Do We Even Have Them In The First Place?

Here & Now's Robin Young speaks with Richard Pacelle, professor of political science at the University of Tennessee, to find some answers.

April 29 3 Comments

Bison Set To Become America’s First National Mammal

A bipartisan effort to name the bison the first national mammal of the U.S. has passed in Congress.

April 28 32 Comments

Men Read Mean Tweets At Women And The Video Goes Viral

Two Chicago-area sports journalists gathered the tweets directed at them and asked men to read them to their faces. The result went viral.

April 28 7 Comments

HBO's CEO On Virtual Reality And ‘Sesame Street’

In the second part of our interview with Richard Plepler, he discusses why the premium cable network picked up "Sesame Street."