Historians, diplomats, writers and musicians share their brightest memories of 2011 with The Ukrainian Week
Yuri Afanasiev, historian, proactive member of the liberal-democratic opposition in the USSR and Russia
What happened on 4, 5, 10 and 24 December in Russia shocked and stunned me. I mean, on the one hand, you had the government’s agenda, perfectly predictable and familiar from many earlier developments, for what it calls the “parliamentary election.” On the other hand, though, we saw the unpredictably and unprecedentedly stormy response of a huge part of the population to all this.
Mikael Lyngbo, Danish human rights defender
In 2011, Ukraine’s relations with the world were mostly affected by the trials against politicians. They put Ukraine in the limelight, in a negative sense, and must have damaged the unique positive branding effect of Euro 2012. Also, the trials have moved the gainful prospects of the open window to Europe much farther, if it ever was reachable, which will most likely never open again as the EU is currently concerned with its own financial troubles.
Dmytro Horbachov, art historian
History repeated itself again. Stalin once told Churchill there was nothing he could do about a lampoon written about the UK Prime-Minister published in ‘Trud’, The Labor soviet newspaper, because the USSR had an independent press. Yanukovych claims the judiciary is independent in Ukraine therefore he cannot interfere with the Tymoshenko process.
Vadym Skurativsky, historian, art expert, Doctor of Arts and member of the National Academy of Sciences
Dictatorship was established in Ukraine. André Malraux, a great French novelist, said in 1955, “The world has become just like it is in my books.” His novels reflect the hell of world history between the two wars. Now, the hell has multiplied. Unfortunately, there are no artists who can describe this creeping Divine Tragedy in an aesthetically convincing manner.
Ditmar Studemann, German Ambassador to Ukraine in 2000-2006, Senior Counsel for Deutsche Bank
For me personally, a powerful civil tsunami I would summarize as “We can no longer live like this” was the key event in 2011. It tumbled throughout the entire world covering huge cities and tiny towns: the Arab spring revolutions, Occupy Wall Street, uprisings in China and Kazakhstan, and post-election protests in Russia. The West protested against the financial crisis, the East against authoritarian regimes. One common thing with all these protests is that people in different countries all over the world realize what they no longer want. They realize they want a fair and honest life. Only their means to get this vary. Yet, obviously, all these public protests are the most significant developments for civilization.
Serhiy Zhadan, writer
The Tymoshenko process. In one way or another, this was what determined the world’s attitude to Ukraine and it will keep determining it in the next year. And I don’t think it will improve Ukraine’s international image. I was impressed by the protests of Chornobyl victims and Afghanistan veterans. These were the first effective civil protests under no party flags. And the opening ceremony for the Olympic Stadium in Kyiv - it was supposed to improve the current government’s image. In fact, though, it proved that the public was radically opposed to the government. The audience booing the president at the new stadium is a clear signal, especially before the upcoming election.
Vadym Krasnooky, Mad Heads XL band leader
In 2011, Ukraine ended up with political prisoners, Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko. This has caught the eye of the whole world, let alone the nation. In music, the tribute to Braty Hadiukiny and its leader Serhiy Kuzminsky was the most impressive event of 2011. It was a fantastic, well-organized and huge rock concert where most top Ukrainian and a lot of foreign rock musicians took part. The main thing about it was that the Sports Palace was full for the concert.
Andriy Sereda, Komy Vnyz band leader
One of the cops that beat Ihor Indylo (the student beat to death by the police in May 2010 – ed.) was amnestied, while the other one was promoted. There is no reasonable explanation to this and it’s more terrifying than the Tymoshenko verdict and the failure of the EU summit in Kyiv. This comes from the essence of the current government. Another thing I remember is when Premier Mykola Azarov got yet another piece of paper with a speech in Ukrainian on it. Mr. Azarov is quite a phenomenon indeed. Who else would make two mistakes with the word abó (‘or’ in English – ed.), one word of three letters. He read it as aba putting the stress on the first vowel. I even recorded this on my phone. I wouldn’t like to remember or repeat this nonsense again.
Kasha Saltsova, Khrykhitka band leader
The verdict of Yulia Tymoshenko. Clearly, no politician in Ukrainian is innocent. If putting politicians who broke the law behind bars was common practice, most MPs, ministers and presidents would all be in jail by now. The case has proven that not a single Ukrainian citizen can feel protected as long as the judiciary is tied to the government. No matter what young judges are taught in high schools, they will never serve the law and the nation in practice. Instead, they will learn to get envelopes in saunas, work as dogs leashed to ministers and be afraid. Another thing that impressed me was how much cash the officials laundered on Euro 2012 construction projects, the pressure on successful businesses, raider attacks on enterprises and corruption establishing itself as a national business concept. I don’t think there is one government authority or public institution that wouldn’t break the law for a handout.
On May 16, Ukrainian filmmaker currently jailed in Russia as a political prisoner went on a hunger strike. In a public letter he wrote that he would only stop the strike if all 64 Ukrainian prisoners jailed in Russia for politically-motivated grounds are released
The opposition in Ukraine is mostly reactive and it chooses actions that will be most useful for criticizing the current Administration or gaining the attention of a specific part of the electorate. What Ukraine needs most right now is a consolidating program and a party that could present its own alternative for the country