Thursday, February 13, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Ukraine’s Future Depends on Maidan's Addressing Concerns of Country’s Southeast, Commentator Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February  13 – Ukraine’s immediate future may be defined by the positions of Russia, Europe and the United States, but its long-term one depends on the nature of the relationship between those backing the Maidan and those in the southeastern portions of the country, according to a Moscow commentator.

            And that relationship is not, as is often thought, only about ethnic nationalism, about the differences between ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians, Pavel Kazarin argues. It is also and perhaps especially about socio-economic differences between the two which have the effect of intensifying the ethnic ones (

            If the latter is not bridged, he argues, the former will not be; and it is entirely possible that the current status quo will as in the past be “restored,” with little to show for the activism in support of Europe.  “If this happens, then it will not be the fault of the South East. It will be the fault of those who categorically do not want to speak with it.”

            Those supporting the Maidan, Kazarin says, are motivated by nationality and social considerations.  The first has received a great deal of attention, but the second has not. Many of its backs now identify themselves as middle class, as people who have become accustomed to the market and who accept its rules.

            The people in the southeast are not attracted by either of these. The ethno-nationalism on display in the Maidan offends them as ethnic Russians or as bearers of Russian cultural values.  Such people fear that “Ukraine will become a second Latvia” or that the Ukrainian portion of the county will attack the Russian one.

             But these ethnic considerations wouldn’t be as significant if there were not a social divide between the Maidan and the south east, Kazarin argues. If those backing the Maidan would benefit from an opening to Europe, those in the south east with its aging industry almost certainly would be among the losers by being cut off from the Russian market and forced to compete with European one.

            “No one has told the south east how it is supposed to live after the victory of the Maidan and the shift of the country toward the European Union,” the commentator continues. Nor has anyone said how will that region’s industries survive and how will its people survive. Certainly no one among the leaders of the Maidan has done so.

            And that is the problem: “No one is speaking with [the south east] – except however strange it may seem the Party of the Regions,” whose leaders like President Viktor Yanukovich utter “the important words: ‘We are concerned about you.’”

            It is not the case that the south east is condemned to follow Yanukovich’s party, Kazarin says. It is that no one else is addressing the concerns of the people there.  “There is a demand [for such concen] but there are no proposals.” And there aren’t any “because no one in the opposition wants to understand the reality in which this part of Ukraine exists.”

            Those in the Maidan and its supporters are younger, more educated, and less dependent on the state budget. They want the opportunities that change will bring: they are not afraid of what those changes will do to the.  But those in the south east are afraid because they see that change will not, at least immediately, work to their benefit.

            “Instead of cursing the southeast,” Kazarin suggests, those in the Maidan should be “trying to offer answers” to the questions of the residents of the south east.  The main one of these is “What will happen with us?”  If the Maidan offers only the program that works for its supporters, it will not succeed in winning them over.

            Worse, Kazarin says, the Maidan “will be condemned to a repetition of the situation of the last 20 years.”

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