"Neonazis & Euromaidan: From Democracy to Dictatorship" is out now

"Neonazis & Euromaidan: From Democracy to Dictatorship" is out now

The first study on Ukrainian Euromaidan (2013-2014) and Neonazi gangs participating in that coup d'etat is out now in English. This work describes how Ukrainian nationalist groups have developed since 1991 to present day, with the focus on the history of the parliamentary "Svoboda" (Freedom) party (Social-National Party of Ukraine until 2004) and the non-parliamentary “Right Sector”, and analyses the ideologies, psychologies and methods of political action of these structures. For additional information please write to: sbyshok [at] gmail.com

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“Whoever is not jumping is a Moskal [1]” is a chant that women and men of different ages who took to Kiev Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in winter 2013 repeated trying to get warm.  They kept jumping and laughing, for nobody in the ‘brave new world’ of the Ukrainian revolution under Stepan Bandera’s banner fancied gaining the character of a staunch enemy of Ukrainian statehood. 

The dictionary of the contemporary Ukrainian language and slang “Mislovo” calls Euromaidan the word of 2013. The word “maidan” (square) that became popular ten years before and seemed to have acquired a clear European implication. If anything, the EU and US officials welcomed mass demonstrations of citizens in the center of Kiev calling them nothing but a manifestation of a conscious pro-European choice of the Ukrainian people. However, the first shots were heard afterwards and the first blood of the future “holy hundred” was shed.

Mass demonstrations of “angry citizens” in Ukraine had objective reasons. This was a protest against ineffective and corrupt government, against police and bureaucratic abuse of power, against unclear and dead-end policies of the President and the Government. The draconian crackdown by Berkut police unit on a few hundreds of students who took to Maidan who were unhappy that the President had not signed The Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement became merely the last straw, the trigger. Rage accumulated over the years, if not decades, flooded out. “We can’t live this way” decided the people of Ukrainian metropolises. But how can you live?

All national liberation movements, and this is exactly the way participants and sympathizers of the Euromaidan view their strivings, use the popular ideas and political sentiments that dominate the society (or at least its most active part) as their positive manifesto, along with liberation itself from “external” or “internal occupation”.  Thus, exclusively left-wing and left-wing radical ideologies were mainstream in the Russian Empire in 1917, radical Islamism was most popular in Arab countries during the Arab spring of 2012, whereas nationalism, also radical, challenging liberal and people’s democratic “deviations” turned mainstream in the Ukraine of 2013-2014.

Getting used to the “velvet revolutions” of the late 1980s, the civilized world stayed confident that other forms of abrupt regime change with violence and slaughter were impossible in Europe.  That is why when the confrontation in the center of Kiev in February 2014 entered a “hot” phase many experts started to talk about an external force behind the bloodshed. Traditionally this force has been embodied by either the Russian Federation of the European Union or the United States. Everything has depended solely on an expert’s perspective and bias.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is quoted as saying: “People should be told the truth, but there is no need to tell all the truth entirely”.  Unfortunately, this is such half-truth, if not blatant fact spinning that provides the basis for the media picture from which people in Russia and countries of the West, let alone Ukraine, draw their conclusions about what has been happening in Ukraine. Therefore, the maximum task the authors of this research have set for themselves is to overcome one-sided and biased interpretations of Euromaidan and to bring readers nearer to objective assessment of the reasons for and consequences of the new Ukrainian revolution. The revolution that, after its “victory”, has degenerated from uniting all the society in the face of dysfunctional government to relying on repression police machine into strongest polarizing factor. And the strength of this factor is difficult to overestimate.

Ukrainian nationalism has been a political and historical mainstream since 1991 when the country gained independence. It was nationalists – rather than people on the left like in many other countries – who became the major “street” riot force long before Maidan. Mass demonstrations organized by united Ukrainian opposition nationalist parties, Svoboda above all, were only to demonstrate ideologically motivated activists in the flesh ready for violent clashes. By contrast, liberal democratic parties could only overwhelm by mere force – numerous “maidanarbeiters” [2] of preretirement and retirement age who were given emblems before riots and who afterwards lined in front of a “foreman” for earned money. Given disastrously low salaries in Ukraine, let alone retirement benefits, nobody blames them.

When democratic Euromaidan all over the country entered its “hot” stage maidanarbeiters and common “angry citizens” constituting the main body of protesters were not suitable for clashes with the police, armory seizure or attacking municipal administrations. That was when neo-Nazi militants under disguise of the Right Sector that upon closer examination turned out to be a union of previously known right-wing radical paramilitary units took the stage. The red and black flag of the Right Sector unequivocally indicated continuity with the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists of Stepan Bandera. 

When the first blood was shed and Bandera banners started to dominate Maidan, many of those who previously fully supported the Euromaidan gave it more thought. Both the West and the East of Ukraine equally wanted positive changes in society, higher standards of living, rule of law and order – under the auspices of the European Union or without it. However, what the Euromaidan, as well as the government that took over the country after the collapse of the Yanukovych regime, degenerated into fell short of this European dream. Stability and corruption gave place to devastation and … corruption multiplied by actual paralysis of law enforcement authorities and rampant neo-Nazi gangs that “in the name of revolution” commit banditry and vigilante justice.

Against the background of the streets, the new “revolutionary” government consisting mainly of representatives of the Batkivshchyna neoliberal party led by Yulia Tymoshenko marks a shocking contrast. However, Ukrainian neoliberals who gained maximum profit from bloody civil unrest have easily adopted the typical “hate speech” of neo-Nazi and respective rhetoric. Considering the overall ideological and political climate of the country, such a merger of liberalism with radical nationalism and xenophobia could have far-reaching consequences.  

The famous Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy was published two decades ago and has become the bible for coup d’état masterminds all over the world – from Europe and the Arab world to South America. The year 2014 is apparently high time to write a different book. The book about how “democratic” revolutions bring to power political forces that are far less democratic and peaceful than the just toppled dictators.  

It is impossible to understand the consequences without understanding the reasons. It is also impossible to foresee how the situation in Ukraine will develop further without understanding the platform and organizational basis of modern Ukrainian political nationalism that came to be the only striking force of the Euromaidan. This work describes how Ukrainian nationalist gangs have developed since 1991 to present day, with the focus on the history of the parliamentary Svoboda (Freedom) party  (Social-National Party of Ukraine until 2004) and the non-parliamentary “Right Sector”, and analyses the ideologies, psychologies and methods of political action of these structures. The Appendix contains key platform documents of the studied organizations as well as a digest of the most significant crimes that took place during Ukrainian rule of anarchy of February-March 2014.

Being member of no rival party of the Ukrainian revolution (or coup d’état, if you like) but unconditionally sympathizing with the people of Ukraine, authors sincerely hope that the work presented for the reader would become a small brick in building a truly democratic society based on respect for oneself and the people around rather than hatred and xenophobic myths.

Stanislav Byshok (CIS-EMO) & Alexey Kochetkov (Public Diplomacy Foundation), April 2014

[1] Moskal (from “Muscovite”) is a xenophobic and offensive term used by Ukrainians for “the Russian”.

 [2] A term used in Ukraine to signify representatives of paid-out crowds at political demonstrations. Introduced into use during the “Orange Revolution” of 2003-2004. 


For additional information please write to: sbyshok [at] gmail.com