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Photo: Christian Diemer
 
Just half a year ago, buildings were burning and over 80 people were shot dead on Kyiv's
Independence Square.

 

As part of an excursion organised by the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes, Christian Diemer travels to Kyiv and meets with various figures from Ukrainian civil society, all now trying to come to terms with a post-Euromaidan world.

A return to Kyiv

Vast, elegant, full of contrasts, an ocean of green and blue with golden domes in between – this is Kyiv, capital of Ukraine, home to nearly three million inhabitants. A futuristic mix of torn-down concrete barracks, crumbling stucco façades, mirroring glass towers, some with opulent pyramid or concave roofs or bridges between each other. Seventeen per cent of Ukraine's GDP is generated here, with city-centre rents no lower than in downtown Munich. Wide as an ocean, the river Dnipro divides the city. Standing on the riverside promenade, with the roar of Porsches and Ladas, Hummers and Kamaz behind, it is hard to believe that beyond the green, tree-covered island to which the metro is heading, there is yet another river branch to cross before one even reaches the other bank.

Published in Under Eastern Eyes
Tuesday, 16 September 2014 00:00

On the Brink: An Introduction

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Photo: Christian Diemer
Morning in Goshiv, near Ovruch, Zhytomyrs’ka region, Central Ukraine, back in 2010

 

Ready to get to grips with the real situation in Ukraine? E&M is launching a special series of on-the-ground reports that go far beyond the geo-political struggles that have been grabbing the headlines in Europe.

"Isn't it dangerous there?" "Mustn't it be very unpleasant at the moment?" "Why on earth Ukraine?!"

E&M author Christian Diemer regularly hears such questions when asked about his current whereabouts. And it is certainly true that Ukraine is unlikely to be topping many people's holiday destination lists any time soon. But while the conflict in Ukraine has been dominating the daily news for more than half a year and has long become a war of propaganda, the actual atmosphere and goings-on in the country remain vague and largely undifferentiated to much of the western European audience. Though not for any longer, thanks to Christian's on-the-ground reports from Ukraine, written especially for E&M’s Sixth Sense.

Christian has been working on his PhD about traditional music and national identity in Ukraine since 2012. He started travelling through the country when it was still unimaginable that the spectre of war would be seen again so close to Europe. Back then, Yanukovych was was firmly in the saddle and, despite some people’s frustration, the prospect of another revolution seemed remote.

Published in Under Eastern Eyes
Ukrainian protests in London - 3
Photo: Darya Malyutina; Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
 
Members of the Ukrainian diaspora protesting in London

 

Ukrainians living in London have been very active since the early days of Euromaidan. Motivated by a desire to help compatriots back home and make Ukraine a democratic country, free from corruption, authoritarianism and Russia’s meddling, they have organised numerous protests, the last three of which were connected to the MH17 air disaster. Darya Malyutina, a London-based migration researcher, who has focused on the transnational politics of the Ukrainian activist community, takes us inside their feelings and actions.

Just hours after the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine, a few dozen Ukrainians laid flowers in front of the Dutch and Malaysian Embassies in London. This group of activists then headed to the Russian Embassy and demonstrated there because, according to circumstantial evidence, the plane seemed to have been downed by a surface-to-air missile apparently launched by Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk area.  On 20 July, three days after the tragedy, they gathered with flags and banners for another rally in front of the Russian embassy, chanting "Putin is a terrorist!" "Where are the British? Where are the Dutch and the Malaysians? Why aren’t they protesting with us?", they asked. On 21 July, they were at Whitehall, in front of the prime minister’s residence, calling for sanctions to be imposed on Russia. 

In fact, since the end of November 2013, when Euromaidan started in Kiev, protesting has become a common way of expressing political agency for members of Ukrainian communities around the world. The MH17 crash, an event which may yet have further massive international consequences, was one of the most critical points in the Ukrainian crisis; the diaspora reacted immediately.

Published in Contentious Europe
Friday, 20 December 2013 19:37

Revolution of consciousness

Revolution_of_consciousnessThe Ukrainian people, especially the young generation, have always felt European, they always wanted to be recognised as Europeans and saw their future in Europe.  They share the values of rule of law, freedom and democracy. For them Europe was a promise of hope, and when the Ukrainian government refused to sign the Association agreement at the summit in Vilnius, people took to the streets to fight for their future. 

Published in Under Eastern Eyes
Thursday, 19 December 2013 00:00

The spirit of Euromaidan

The escalator at Maidan Nezalezhnosti metro station in Kiev is the longest I've ever seen. It takes a few good minutes to reach the top, which leaves plenty of time to form expectations about what lies at the end of the climb. Yet nothing you read in the news or see in pictures truly prepares you for what happens after you come out of the underground. The Independence Square (or Euromaidan) is a kind of Hemingwayesque resistance city. It smells like burnt wood and rusty iron and improvised kitchens. Here and there fires lit in old trash cans give rise to grey columns of smoke. A few hundred people are already on the Maidan at 9 am in the morning, most of them holding tall Ukrainian flags.

In the centre of the main boulevard, a festival-like stage hosts speeches from opposition leaders and public figures, as well as live performances by popular Ukrainian artists. On the left hand side, there is a large banner of Yulia Timoshenko's elegant portrait looking towards the sky. People are silent and still, listening to the words coming from the stage. I can't understand a word of Ukrainian except when they say "Slava Ukraini!" (Glory to Ukraine), to which people reply unwaveringly, in perfect sync "Heroyam Slava!" (Glory to our heroes).

Next to the stage, on the Trade Unions House - now a bastion of the "revolution" - a huge screen displays a pixelated livestream of those speaking into the microphones. On the other side of the boulevard, a tall metal Christmas tree is now covered in Ukrainian flags, posters made by protesters and cartoons of Ukrainian politicians and Vladimir Putin. No sign of police or the feared Berkut officers anywhere. No sign of traffic or anything that doesn't serve the purpose of the protest. The Maidan belongs to the resistance.

Published in Contentious Europe
Saturday, 14 December 2013 10:46

#euromaidan

Ziemowit_Joswik

This time it is conspiratorial. From the clutches of the FSB, my friend, the politest, shyest, humblest young Pole I know, Z., has escaped. On a bus he has come, on a bus he will leave, appearing in Berlin for only a few hours before vanishing again into the East. Blackish clouds loom low over Warschauer Straße, where I wait for him, storm front Xavier blows squalls and gusts as he emerges. In the cellar of a Kreuzberg bar, where the world is upside down and no cellular phone can connect or be connected, E&M got this exclusive interview with Ziemowit Jóźwik, long-standing E&M author and the inventor of the #euromaidan.  

Published in Under Eastern Eyes
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