Staunton, January 27 – The events of the last few weeks confirm that in Ukraine, there is a revolutionary population but almost no revolutionary leaders while in Russia, “an excess of revolutionary leaders is compensated by almost the complete lack of a revolutionary population,” according to Vladimir Pastukhov.
The St. Antony’s scholar says in an essay posted online yesterday that as a result, Russia’s “main problem” is a “permanent false start” in which leaders start moving before the population and Ukraine’s is one in which the crowd assembles before those who are to compete on the field decide what they are to do (polit.ru/article/2014/01/26/ukraine/).
The revolution in Ukraine is not over, he writes, but it is already clear that what matters was not “the occasion for the revolution” – the desire to join Europe – but rather a deeper anger and that “what began as a national movement has very quickly grown into a social revolt,” one in which divisions have become more important than unity.
In this sense, Pastukhov continues, the Ukrainian revolution is typical of revolutions as such: it is “a spontaneous process” which develops according to its own rules and logic and can be prevented or suppressed, on the one hand, or succeed, on the other. But what it can’t be is “managed.”
As a result, the Ukrainian revolution like any other, “however just its slogans in and of itself is very unjust, because after opening the way to revolutionary force one cannot simply put down a barrier” between ideologically justified force and force that cannot be justified in any way or ensure that force will only be carefully “targeted.”
As a revolution develops, those who appear to be leaders at one point are swallowed up by the crowd and replaced by others. And this crowd “actively gives birth to its on atamans,” who may be known at first by only a few dozen followers but who may then attract others to their banners.
The doctrine of Gandhian non-violence is attractive, Pastukhov says, but it has little place in revolutions which occur not in countries governed by those committed to democracy and rule of law but ready to use any amount of force to maintain themselves in power. In those cases, “playing on the nerves of an Asiatic or semi-Asiatic despot” isn’t enough.
Such regimes almost inevitably give birth not to peaceful change but to revolutions, he suggest, and “revolution are like earthquakes: one may not want them but it is better to be prepared for them than not. The leaders of the Ukrainian opposition have turned out to be unprepared for that revolution which they had been provoking for so long.”
The endgame of this Ukrainian revolution is “not beyond the mountains,” the Oxford scholar says. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich made a terrible mistake when he listened to Moscow and pushed through Putin-style restrictive laws” because “what oppresses Russians angers Ukrainians,” a different in national mentality he and Moscow forgot.
As a result, the situation is not going to return to the status quo ante. “Both for suppressing the revolution and for the victory of the revolution will require in fact the introduction of martial law throughout Ukraine.” That is because the revolution has allowed “the latent civil war” in Ukraine to break out into the open.
That conflict will lead to a social split and then to a territorial one. “It would be a serious error” to ignore “the possibility of the breaking apart of Ukraine into two parts,” a development more likely if the revolution succeeds than if it is defeated because “the algorithm of forming autonomous enclaves” like Transdniestria, South Osetia and Abkhazia” is already in place.
At the same time, however, Pastukhov suggests, one must avoid two other mistakes. On the one hand, a breakaway Western Ukraine would not do as badly economically as many assume, especially since it would get massive Western aid. And on the other, the Eastern Ukraine’s leaders aren’t that interested in being drawn into the Russian orbit as many think.
It is one thing to talk about splitting apart as many in the eastern Ukraine do, but it is quite another matter to actually do it. The economic and political leaders there recognize that they would play a much bigger role in a united Ukraine than they would as part of Russia and even that their power and wealth would be threatened by Moscow if they turned eastward.
If the Ukrainian revolution descends into a destructive spiral, that will have terrible consequences for the region and the world, Pastukhov says, but if the revolution succeeds,, it will have “a chance to change the vector of its history and become in the distant future a completely successful mid-sized European state.”
One can only hope, Pastukhov concludes, “that while the Ukrainian people are choosing their path forward, there will be as little blood shed as possible.”