By Natalya Dvali, Editor
It was a dank rainy Thursday on November 21, 2013. Several hundred people gathered on Maidan Nezalezhnosti; most of them responded to the journalist Moustapha Nayem’s post in Facebook calling upon all those who cared to gather in the center of Kiev after Mykola Azarov's government suspended the process of the European integration of Ukraine. It was how Euromaidan began.
Then there was a cruel dispersal of students by Berkut fighters, skirmishes under the Administration of the President, beating and disappearance of activists all round the city, "titushki", endless meetings, dictatorial laws of January 16, burning tires, Grushevskoho Street and the first victims – Sergey Nigoyan, Mikhail Zhiznevsky, Yury Verbitsky, another attempt to clean up Maidan, snipers’ shots on February 18 to 20, Victor Yanukovych's flight, touching "Plyve Kacha" as a tribute to the heroes of Heavenly Hundred, "green little men" in the Crimea, disappearance of young Crimean Tatar men, Antimaidans in the east of Ukraine, another "deep concern" of the West, war in Donbass, early presidential elections, brought-down "Boeing", Ilovaysk pocket, re-elections to the Verkhovna Rada and endless reports from the front: so many Ukrainian military men and so many civilians killed daily. There is no exact statistics of casualties for the year, but official sources agree that there have been several thousand victims.
If you had known how Maidan would end, would you have come to the protest a year ago? GORDON asked this question to famous politicians, journalists, artists, actors and simple activists – everybody who has actively supported the protest movement from the very first hours.
– I would have protested despite everything. Without Maidan, the number of victims in Ukraine would be much bigger. Annexation of the Crimea and war in the east of Ukraine are not a consequence of Maidan. The Russian aggressor had been waiting for a suitable moment for a long time. There was purification of the political system on Maidan that the whole country needed so badly.
– I would have gone to Maidan anyway because there is a simple principle, "Do what you have to, and come what may!" We had to protest against the unfair government. Accusing Maidan of the war in Ukraine is an unfair demagogical approach, an attempt to shift the blame on those who began the civil protest. Those who started killing and not those who came to Maidan hoping for European future of Ukraine are to blame for the casualties.
When Victor Fedorovich agreed on early elections in February 2014, Maidan did not accept it. It was enough to give the government a year and a half and Yanukovych's regime would have been preserved forever. Yanukovych started quickly usurping the power from the first day of his presidency. It passed the point of no return when the people would not accept any concessions from him. These points of no return were dispersal of the student's Euromaidan, flooding the streets with bandits, "titushki" and Berkut officers who beat, abducted and killed activists. Yanukovych went beyond the legal boundaries, so the Maidan rose.
– You cannot think of a worse question. As I am used to being honest, first of all towards myself, I will answer as follows: if I knew that the future would bring numerous victims, sufferings, hundreds of thousands refugees, treachery of politicians who were in power then and who came to power thanks to Maidan, substantial reduction of the territory of the country, and absolutely unclear prospects, I would not have gone to Maidan. Lousy Yanukovych until 2015 is better than grief that befell Ukraine.
– I do not see any unexpected consequences of Maidan. The Russian Federation was set to destroy the national sovereignty of Ukraine. It could not do it with the help of Yanukovych and Party of Regions, therefore, it made another attempt – it annexed the Crimea and launched war in Donbass. The difference before and after Maidan lies only in the fact that on November 21, 2013, Ukraine had a separated society that did not even realize all the threats from its eastern neighbour. After Maidan, we have a united nation that adequately understands all the danger from Russian political leaders.
Maidan created all prerequisites for the formation of modern, European, democratic and independent Ukraine. Those who claim that the protest had to stop after Yanukovych agreed on presidential re-elections in 2015 forget that this agreement was signed against the background of mass execution of activists on Institutska Street. Do you really think that a person who was involved in massacre could further govern the country? You should have Russian, that is servile political mentality to agree with it.
By the way, nobody but Putin forced Yanukovych to leave Ukraine. He could remain in the country, carry out powers within the Constitution of 2004 and give an adequate response to fellow citizens regarding his involvement in murders on Maidan. But Yanukovych preferred to take cover in Russia, the country that financed destruction of Ukrainians. Yanukovych lost opportunity to go on killing Ukrainians after his flight, but this was continued by Putin in the Crimea and in Donbass. The Russian President is led by brutal hatred to free people, and it deprives him of any signs of a human being.
Ukrainians broke the authoritarian regime on Maidan. Russians still put up with the dictator because they are a society of organized slaves. Yanukovych wanted to make his fellow citizens a part of the society of organized slaves with the capital in Moscow. But Ukrainians became a society of free people at whom poorly organized slaves from Russia look with envy and hatred.
– I am very sorry for people who were killed on Maidan, in the Crimea, and in Donbass. It is painful that Ukraine had to face difficult processes after revolution. But even if I had known it all a year ago, I would all the same have gone to Maidan because it is important for the formation of the real civil society and the Ukrainian nation.
Unlike Orange Revolution of 2004, the political component was not so strong on Euromaidan. People did not go out in the support of Poroshenko, Tymoshenko, Klitschko, Yatsenyuk or someone else. People opposed illegal actions of Yanukovych’s regime. The guys who were killed on Maidan wanted fundamental changes in the country. Ukraine would have to go through a civil protest, through victims, through spilled blood. We had no other way out.
When Yanukovych "met Maidan halfway", having dismissed Azarov's government and agreed on presidential re-elections in 2015, it was too late: there were already dozens kidnapped activists in Kiev, executions on Grushevskoho and Institutska Streets, hundreds of the detained. Maidan drove Yanukovych into the corner and would not have agreed on tips from his hands. I stress that it was not a matter of presidential re-elections, the matter was that people will not allow any authorities to behave in an unlawful manner any more.
– It is a very difficult question. If I answer yes, I understand what enormous responsibility I assume. Nevertheless, I will answer yes, I would have gone.
Yanukovych and opposition may have agreed on early presidential elections, but Maidan did not accept it because people understood: if they leave the square and return to their native Rovno, Sumy, Cherkassy, Zhitomir, the local security services or law enforcement officers will snap them one by one. It would be personal revenge of the families of Yanukovych, Pshonka, Zakharchenko for the fact that people dared to oppose their power.
Putin would have done what he did with the Maidan or without it. The Federal Security Service (FSB) realized: Yanukovych will win the following presidential elections, and the Ukrainian people will rise against it. The Kremlin developed a plan covering both the Crimea and Donbass, but it was for 2015. And Maidan-2013 broke plans not only to Yanukovych, but also to Putin.
Thank God, I went through the second Maidan. I had no illusions that we will live in Europe right after the victory of the revolution in Ukraine. It is strange to expect the politicians to change if the voters have not changed. There are the same people on the Ukrainian political stage, but it is not Yanukovych or Putin who are to blame for this. This is the Ukrainian voter who sells his vote for buckwheat, asphalt or 500 UAH. Despite Maidan, part of voters remained scum. Such a schmuk first sells his vote and then resents: the government did nothing for me again!
Pardon, but if someone pissed in front of your door, it is not Poroshenko or Yatsenyuk, even not the Oppositional bloc who are to blame. It is not FSB agents who crap in your elevators and burn buttons. These are your neighbors, your children and you. So it is strange to say: why did we need Maidan, if oligarchs are in power again. If the voter is a fool, how can there be normal Verkhovna Rada? But coming of a conscious honest voter is much closer now thanks to Maidan.
– Definitely, I would have gone. From the point of view of the world history, we have not faced the greatest difficulties in the attempt to defend the independence of our country. Is this independence worth so many victims? I would raise the question in a different way: did we have another opportunity to liberate ourselves and achieve the collapse of dictatorship? We didn’t. I do not doubt: annexation of the Crimea and war in Donbass would happen all the same in the next years with or without Maidan. However, it would then take place under Putin’s exact control, but the Russian President had to make a false start because of the victory of Maidan.
I went to Moscow in 2007 and even then I heard pro-Kremlin figures, for example, Modest Kolerov, speaking about a future war against Ukraine. I repeat, we had and we have no choice: either we run from the Russian concentration camp, or they will press us completely. And we ran. May God help us reach the finish.
– When my friends and I came to Maidan on the first day, we agreed that we would go until the end whatever happens. We were perfectly aware that we risk our lives, that freedom is won with blood. Each of us lost relatives, friends, and acquaintances on Maidan. One of us got into Berkut’s pre-trial detention center, I was taken prisoner in the Crimea. Our cars were smashed, we were beaten. If I had known it a year ago, I would have gone to Maidan anyway to fight against injustice and absence of freedom that were under Yanukovych's regime.
Do you remember Benjamin Franklin's phrase, "If a nation chooses safety between freedom and safety, it finally loses both"? We absolutely agree with it now as we agreed a year ago.
– If I had an opportunity to rewind time a year ago, I would have made everything to avoid human victims. Nobody wanted to die on Maidan, but guys ventured it to overthrow Yanukovych's regime, to return Ukraine on the European way of development, for the nation to have social elevators that would bring average people to power. All of us wanted fundamental changes of the system. None of us would have agreed to live as slaves, to be a sheep herd under another dictator. And the most important thing is that Ukraine did not want and will not become an appendage of Russia.