by Thaddeus McCleary
In the fall of 2004 I began at Missouri Southern suddenly interested in Eastern Europe.
Certainly, following the events of the Orange Revolution left me even more interested in the history, languages, and culture of this eventful region. For me it seems that this project began the moment I took my seat on the first day of my Beginning Russian class.
My biggest awakening from actually going to Ukraine and not simply studying was in realizing that Ukraine is an entirely different country than Russia. It seems cliché, but it is very easy, even for someone who considers themselves acquainted with a region to form a solid stereotype. Being in Russia was a great experience, but an entirely different experience than being in Ukraine.
The Soviet Union ended not in the grassroots replacement of an ideology, but with a collapse that took years for party leadership to realize. Immediately the west became involved in advising these states to draft democratic structures of government without the initiation from the people of each republic. Without involvement, hope could not see these nations through the continuation of shortages, inflation, and public mismanagement. The government “of the people” slowly returned power back to the state in the historical eastern tradition.
Beginning in 2000 the ‘color revolutions’ swept through Eastern Europe, beginning in Serbia and then following in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan.
Though violence took part in the protest activities in several of the revolutions, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine drew such wide involvement that even political opponents joined together in the same places continuing their peaceful political campaigns, even after presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko was subject to dioxin poisoning late in the demonstrations.
Why was Ukraine, a nation so close (geographically and historically) to the seat of the Soviet Union, the site of the most peaceful validation of democratic government?
In May Professor Chris Moos and I set out to discover from those who had witnessed the demonstrations first hand and are taking part in the revolution today.