Ukrainian calendar has obviously got some dates that are more problem-plagued than others. May events of the last two years, including the anniversary of Odesa tragedy and Victory Day, prove this true. On these days, the old world represented by elderly pensioners and pro-Russian Ukrainians clashes with the relatively new one represented by pro-Ukrainian youth
Warmed by May sunshine, thousands of Russian world followers take to the streets all over Ukraine. Those people seem to live in their alternative world with fascists eating children for breakfast, cruel junta fighters using their army boots to squash all the opponents, “liberation war” in Donbas and contemporary Europe seen as Nazi Germany. Dialogue is usually impossible with them. Stubborn pensioners would tear to pieces anyone risking to unhinge the walls of their world and to offer an alternative point of view. Saint George's ribbon, heroic war fights of grandfathers, sister nations, gay fascists from Europe are all those elements forming a small cave where some Ukrainians are comfortably living with Soviet songs, Stalin’s holy image and monks from Athos.
It could be okay, if those ideas had not been enrooted in the minds of younger generations. The march of The Immortal Regiment held in Kyiv on May 9 serves as proof. “Why do you ban wearing Saint George's ribbon, a symbol used all over the world? Why do you want to go to Europe we have already defeated?” These were not the questions asked by a 70-year-old lady dressed in Soviet military uniform decorated with fake medals. In fact, they came from a 13-year-old teenager who took serious offense at ATO fighters asking him not to wear orange and black ribbons. Had he been born earlier, the boy would have believed in the mythical honorable mission of the Soviet Union in Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. There are no doubts in his young head yet.
Most proponents of these ideas must have forgotten or may have no idea at all of the fact that Saint George's ribbons had not been widely spread before 2005. They were introduced on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, at the instigation of Vladimir Putin.
Those people get reinforcement of their mindset in everyday life, not at least with the help of Russian propaganda. Those people see a Hitler follower in every man dressed in army fatigues and a junta gendarme in every policeman. They refer to the May 2 tragedy as to “Odesa Khatyn.” By the way, pro-Russian Ukrainians borrowed the term from Russian media. Nevertheless, aggressive Russian world representatives seem not to care about the fact. They have no intention to analyze causes and consequences of fire at the Trade Union House in Odesa's Kulykove Pole.
A closer look at the march of The Immortal Regiment and May 2 demonstration in Odesa reveals Russian roots. To be more specific, the roots that go back to the former Party of Regions members and current representatives of the Opposition Bloc, who act as political providers of spin doctor technologies devised around the Kremlin. MPs Yuriy Boyko and Vadym Novynsky are poster boys of the campaign. They wanted to organize a prayer service in Odesa's Kulykove Pole in spite of the police cordon around it and were spotted in front of TV cameras in Kyiv’s Park of Eternal Glory on Victory Day. Former Minister of Taxes and Revenues Oleksandr Klymenko, being on the wanted list of Interpol, got exposed too. Members of his organization took part in the march of The Immortal Regiment using their own brand marks. None of them seem secure yet. Two years after Yanukovych’s escape, pro-Russian forces are probably testing their boundaries and opportunities and estimating their potential audience. May 2 and 9 events could have been much more violent, if they had mass support and an open border with the Russian Federation. The thing is that the 2014 Russian Spring in Eastern Ukraine was partly organized with the help of Russian “guests.” If that was the case now, we would most likely see many Russian guests (such as bikers, for instance) who would gladly visit Ukraine on the May days to protect Orthodox Communists from the deadly nationalist threat, in addition to the babushkas.
Local and state authorities also do not seem certain about what they should do. Officials seem to either not yet realize how they should behave in the new circumstances, or they do not want to work proactively. Police and patriotic activists do more or less all right in the area of law enforcement, while preventive work is far from perfect. Odesa inhabitants handle the situation, based on the “once beaten twice shy” principle after the fire at the Trade Union building. Patrol police, National Guard and volunteer battalions from all over Ukraine safeguard the city. Law enforcement agencies seem to cope with their work. In fact, they confiscated dangerous stuff during public gatherings. Meanwhile, there is not yet an understanding of how to deal with the ideas of the Russian world deeply enrooted in some minds.
Public activists traditionally outpace authorities in counteracting hostile techniques. Blocking of MPs Boyko and Novynsky at Odesa airport is an example of public preventive measures. Participation of infamous pro-Russian figures in the public gathering and their passionate speeches could have added oil to the fire in the turbulent city. Actually, preventive measures in dealing with the Russian world fall on the shoulders of general public. Veterans of the war in Donbas try to reason pro-Russian compatriots not to use Soviet and Putin symbols, while nationalists try to dispel myths about the history of “Soviet” Saint George's ribbons and “bourgeois nationalists.” “You are from Azov, so you must be against Ukraine,” concludes an old man from Odesa seeing a boy wearing T-shirt with AZOV inscription. “Oh no, I am pro-Ukrainian,” the bearded boy assures. “So you must come from Western Ukraine,” the old man tries to fit an unusual participant of the Kulykove Pole demonstration into his clichés. “Oh no, I come from Odesa. My parents and grandparents also live here,” the nationalist breaks the mold. “You must be Banderite and bourgeois nationalist,” the old man of the Russian world persists. It’s not working. A conversation starts. Not only about Odesa. Not only about Khatyn. About ribbons in Kyiv. About canonization of Stalin in Kharkiv and “repeating Berlin” in Dnipropetrovsk. In the absence of any efficient counteraction against Russian ideas, people’s diplomacy seems to be the only way to disrupt aggressive Victory demons.
Although there’s been a sharp reduction in trade and commercial ties with Russia and in Ukraine’s dependence on its neighbor, some key sectors still show levels of interaction that pose a threat to national security