A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidan’s three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the country’s stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard – and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.
People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.
Is the name
Emir Kusturica & The No Smoking Orchestra at all familiar to you? It should
be. They are a contemporary incarnation of the famous Zabrabjeno Pusenje which
has been a symbol of change for Yugoslavia ever since the beginning of the 80s.
Even though the music played by the original band would seem innocuous and
benign by today standards, it raised quite an uproar in post-Tito communist
Yugoslavia. Luckily for us, however, frontman Nele Karajlic had time to answer
some questions about some of his successes, the music they produce and how he’s
sure Miles Davis hails from a different planet.
Now I’m not American, so Thanksgiving doesn’t mean much to me, but as I celebrated the holiday with my cousin and her family in Denver a few years back, I am aware of the tradition where everyone tells one thing they’re thankful for. So last Thursday night, when myself and some colleagues were lucky enough to attend the CCRDF Thanksgiving dinner in the InterContinental Hotel, we decided to do the same; each one taking a turn at telling everyone else some things were are thankful for. Now, as foreigners living in Kyiv, we often find ourselves grumbling about things we find difficult to deal with here, but there are many good things about life in Kyiv and this week I thought I would share with you some of the things for which I am thankful to Ukraine and its people. Firstly, I am thankful to people like Alexa Milanytch, Mike Perry and Leon Larkin who organised such a great feast and raised lots of money for good causes in so doing: there are lots of people like that in this town and the generosity shown by them would bring a tear to a glass eye.
It’s a terrifying thought, isn’t it? One that’s likely to bring you out in a sweat while making you all weak at the knees, but it looks like our worst nightmare could come true, and as 17 January looms ever closer it seems ever more likely that Viktor Yanukovych, the man who was ousted from power during the Orange Revolution for blatant election fraud, will be the next president of Ukraine.
According to the most recent polls, Yanukovych now leads with 24.8% of the votes, and nearest rival, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, after a short rally based around her TV appearances over the flu, has slipped back to only 16.6% probably because of the accusations in the press that she’d been trying to exert political leverage from the H1N1 outbreak.
In fact, now she is only a couple of points ahead of the young Yatsenyuk who’s surged to 14.7%.
There was a real hullabaloo going on outside the What’s On office on Friday last week, and when we went out to take a look we found that a crowd of Communists had gathered to witness the unveiling of the statue of Lenin at the bottom of Shevchenko Boulevard duly restored after some vandals cut off his hand and his nose a few months back. Since then he has been kept covered as the restoration work took place, guarded by some Reds 24 hours a day.
During the unveiling ceremony, the Communists chanted and sang, in much the same way supporters as Dynamo Kyiv do at a home game.
During hard times many turn to tough measures, and it would appear that a few Kyivites are resorting to some tried and tested Wild West ways and have taken to robbing banks. One hapless Billy the Kid wannabe rushed into the Oshadbank on Yarmoly Street on Saturday armed with a gun and demanded the cashier hand over all the cash. The cash she happened to have amounted to a grand total of 700hrv, which is well worth risking a lengthy prison sentence for.
This robbery followed quickly on the heels of another hold up at an Oshadbank last Wednesday. This time it was the turn of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and they proved a little luckier, getting away with $1,500 and 5,000hrv in cash.
The most successful bank robber in the recent spree, however, is Jesse James who was crazy enough to enter a Kyiv branch of ProCredit on 17 November armed only with an axe.
Despite repeated rhetoric from Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko declaring she would easily overturn President Viktor Yushchenko’s veto of the bill that would assign an additional 1 billion hryvnia ($125 million) to fight the supposed flu epidemic, she fell well short of the number of votes required.
Only 231 out of the 316 lawmakers present voted to override the veto, a great deal less than the 300 required. The proposal was supported by 152 members of the Yulia Tymoshenko bloc, 32 members of Our Ukraine-People’s Self Defence bloc (hold your horses! Isn’t that the president’s bloc? They voted against his veto? He’s really hit bottom now!), 27 Communist Party members, 19 from the Lytvyn Bloc and one independent deputy.
Did anyone fall off his or her seat with surprise there? No, probably not. And it’s a sad indictment of the damage this country’s leaders have done to the political process that no one bats an eyelid never mind ends up on the floor with shock and disappointment when reading such headlines.
When Yushchenko and Tymoshenko led the Orange Revolution, the people who turned out in their millions to support them were putting their necks on the line in the hope of a better democracy and more honest governance, but now that neither have materialised and both the president and the prime minister are widely regarded as being as corrupt and self-serving as those they set out to oust during the 2004 mass demonstrations, it is hardly surprising the good people of this country have lost all faith in the democratic process.
Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they don’t understand the meaning of these words.
Pulling Strings Located on Hrushevskoho Street – the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades – children’s favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. What’s On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.