by Chris Moos
Instructor of International Business
When I think back to earlier this year during the application process and then the actual McCaleb study itself I realize that it has been one of the most rewarding activities I have done with a student at Missouri Southern State University. The trip itself was filled with those little moments of worry, surprise, amazement and now with a real sense of the events and their importance to citizens of another country and culture.
It has been over five months since traveling to Ukraine and it is amazing how many of the statements and opinions we heard during the trip have much more meaning now that current events have revisited the Orange Revolution that began in 2004. I remember clearly hearing one person’s opinion that elections are good because that is the only time the politicians do something for the people. Then, a few months later as Ukraine moved ever closer to the elections of September 30th this year, I began to see actions by the outgoing legislature there that were aimed at benefiting the average citizen.
I was an avid observer of the original Independence Square protests in December of 2004. The pictures and reports of this mass demonstration of political will through civil disobedience in a formerly communist country were truly amazing. During the McCaleb trip there was a token protest in the square over disagreements between the President and Prime Minister. While the original involved thousands of people, these latest ones could not have involved even one hundred. Having a frame of reference to better understand this form of exercising political power in Ukraine made it much easier to view the post election posturing and statements by Ukraine’s elected officials and threats of renewing Independence Square protests in early October of this year.
It was easy to begin the McCaleb study with a mindset thoroughly grounded in a western or US oriented viewpoint. Through the experience of the study many of the actions that have occurred in Ukraine are very natural as the citizens and leaders there begin to define their own style of democracy and governance. This job is not an easy one. Unlike the beginnings of the United States which were grounded in a resentment of the existing governance and citizens call to arms to revolt for their freedoms, Ukraine to a great extent was thrust into democracy through the breakup of the Soviet Union. Like the family who invited us to their home in Dnipropetrovsk, there were many people who were satisfied with the socialist government under the Soviet system. They had worked their whole lives under one system and were secure in their positions and promised pensions. With the breakup and movement toward democracy and free market economics these people were at a disadvantage and nearly everyone was harmed financially. It is only natural for people to call for a return to the familiar and known system. It is comfortable. But even with this desire a large portion of the citizens are actively involved in voting, protests and thereby helping to define what Ukraine will become.