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government and society

The price of civil peace

16.08.2013 | Vitaliy Pyrovych

Ukrainians are not ready to defend their choice by force regardless of the alternative

At the beginning of independence many predicted for Ukraine the unenviable fate of the majority of post-Soviet countries, where hot spots appeared. Many claimed that Ukrainians are so different that in combination with external irritants this will inevitably lead to the appearance of a Ukrainian "Transdnistrias”, “Ossetia and Abkhazia’, “Karabakh and Chechnya” and “Fergana Valleys”. Foreign policy analysts pointed to Crimea as the epicenter of domestic instability. These forecasts were partially well-grounded, though the future showed that pessimists strongly underestimated the peacefulness of Ukrainians and their inclination to searching for compromise

Voluntary “pacification” of Crimea

Up until now Crimea remains the main symbol of regional separatism in Ukraine, which is reflected in its special official status of an autonomous republic. At that, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is also a vivid example of how one can do without a civil war even in the most complicated situation. As a reminder, as soon as Crimea felt the smell of Ukraine’s independence, discussion opened about divorcing Kyiv. A year before Ukraine voted for independence, the peninsula became an autonomous republic inside the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Meanwhile, then the local Communist elite held a referendum about autonomous status in January 1991 intending to turn Crimea into an independent state of the USSR. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the choice between new Russia and Ukraine was put on the agenda in Crimea. At that moment, Kyiv quite successfully played on controversies among Crimean separatists, who factually split into two groups. Supporters of the new Russia led by first and only president of the ARC Yuriy Meshkov and the Crimean Parliament Speaker Serhiy Tsekov lost their war in 1992-1994. Those inclined to strike an agreement with Kyiv’s so-called “communist reserve” managed to preserve influence in Crimea and paid for it by recognizing Kyiv’s supremacy.

This is a simple version of history of the battle of political elites. What is more important, this battle took place on the background of the practically total indifference of Crimean citizens. They supported Meshkov, though categorically disagreed to fight for him.

The vast majority of Crimean residents, as Ukrainians in general, fully agreed with the statement “bad peace is better than good quarrel”.  Noteworthy, around 55% of Crimeans voted in favor of Ukraine’s independence on December 1, 1991. In particular, in Sevastopol 57% residents voted for independence. Although these are some of the lowest indicators in Ukraine, they still prove that the majority chose independence.

From the middle of the 1990s, Crimea has become more attached to Ukraine, which at times takes on rather unpleasant forms for Crimeans, such as the “Makiyivka invasion” in connection with the election of Viktor Yanukovych to office as president of Ukraine. The talks about Crimean separatism, however, are held only by most marginal local and Russian politicians. There is no talk about any action at all.

 

Eternal myth about the East and the West

The entire political history of Ukraine is full of attempts on speculations on the opposition of Ukrainians from different banks of the Dnipro, which looks very primitive since there is central Ukraine, which political analysts call a safety airbag between the western, southern and eastern parts of Ukraine.

The authors of the well-known leaflets on “types of Ukrainians” handed out to the people during the presidential campaign in 2004 were forced to introduce the “second type” so that the gibberish looked at least a bit convincing.

On the other hand, it would be foolish to deny the difference of world outlook between average residents of Lviv and Donetsk, for example. It is true that such differences can be seen most vividly in political preferences and the situation gets heated up quite seriously, particularly during presidential elections that many Ukrainians consider highly important. However, there is no tragedy here. In many countries residents of certain territories traditionally vote for different political parties. But this does not keep them from remaining tolerant towards each other and remaining, to put it figuratively, “one type”.

In 1991, Vyacheslav Chornovol from the West ran against Leonid Kravchuk from the East. In 1994, already ‘westernized’ Kravchuk competed against “pro-Russian” Leonid Kuchma. The latter in 1999 seemed to Halychyna residents as the “lesser evil” compared with Communist Petro Symonenko. Of course, the elections in 2004 were the most indicative.

The Orange Maidan, however, took place peacefully, not counting the minor provocations of supporters of the eastern “white and blue” and the country’s split existed only in the crazy imagination of some politicians.

Similarly, in 2010 Viktor Yanukovych peacefully took revenge because the loser party understood that its supporters would not use force to defend their choice.

Nonetheless, the attempts to capitalize from regional disagreements have not ended. Anti-Fascist marches organized by the government were one of the last such measures. Clearly, the unrealistic fight against fascism is designed to target the electorate in the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine on which Yanukovych will lean on in the presidential elections 2015. The tests – “anti-fascist” measures on the anniversary of the victory in WWII compiled by students and budget-funded employees showed that there is no prospect in this. The other question is whether the current government yields or not to the temptation to break the Ukrainian tradition of a peaceful transfer of power. For Ukraine it will be a new test on keeping civil peace.

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