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Project: The Colors of Revolution

Orange Revolution values continue
Ukranians realize role in democratic government

by Thaddeus McCleary

Independence Square in Kyiv.
Independence Square in Kyiv.

Beginning November 22, 2004, in the capital of Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of protestors gathered on Independence Square.

Following allegations of election fraud in support of Party of Regions candidate Viktor Yanukovych, protestors met in cities throughout Ukraine, refusing to accept the results. Journalists quickly named the event the “Orange Revolution,” as the color representing the Our Ukraine party of Viktor Yushchenko is orange.

Helen and Thaddeus McCleary outside of the  Pecherskaya Lavra Monastery in Kyiv.
Helen and Thaddeus McCleary outside of the
Pecherskaya Lavra Monastery in Kyiv.

Though the title was quickly publicized, no mention was made to Eastern Europe’s associations with the term “revolution.” In 1905, laborers marched to the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia led peacefully by the priest of the Russian Orthodox Church. A simple plea to Tsar Nicholas II for fair labor regulations took a devastating turn as crowd was met by the guns of the royal police, leaving over 100 laborers dead.

In February 1917, armed rioters took over government buildings in St. Petersburg including the Winter Palace of Nicolas II, firing on police that stood in their way. A provisional government was put in place after the autocracy was dissolved, which only led to another revolution in October by Bolsheviks under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin.

“I didn’t even want to leave the house during the [Orange] Revolution,” admitted Helen, a seasoned Kyiv city tour guide. “You never know what could begin the violence.”

Helen, like many other outsiders at the beginning of the Orange Revolution, felt no assurances for peace as crowds began to form on Independence Square in Kyiv. “During the Orange Revolution, I went to the National Archives. I thought that wisdom could surely be found in records even from the 10th Century.”

Crowds await the decision of the Constitutional Court on Independence Square, Kyiv.
Crowds await the decision of the Constitutional Court
on Independence Square, Kyiv.

As the international community stood ready for a disaster, Ukraine quickly shocked the world by becoming unified even between members of opposing parties. The two candidates quickly joined the masses of people gathered, using the time to extend their campaigns in expectations of a new election. Remaining outdoors during the beginning of a harsh Ukrainian winter, citizens wearing colors of opposing parties stood peacefully in support of the oversight of a single branch of government.

The ideals of the Orange Revolution did not begin at the failure of the system of government, but at a need to reaffirm democratic processes. The result was much more than a welcomed decision by the Constitutional Court; the demonstrations marked the realization by the Ukrainian people of their role in a democratic system of government.

Ukraine has established their own identity through their decision to become active in the actions of their government, rather than gradually losing freedoms originally granted to them at the fall of the Soviet Union. The nation’s many ethnic and ideological factions continue to unify, continuing the spirit of the Orange Revolution even today.

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