Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Orange Revolution is dead--long live the Orange Revolution!

The Queen is dead--long live the Queen! is the call of those who bemoan and grieve the death of a good governor and celebrate the peaceful and orderly transition to a new good governor. The embodiment of the traditional rule is dead and succession is successful to a new ruler, so the institution of the Queen and the new Queen alike should live long.

The Orange Revolution is dead--long live the Orange Revolution!

One narrative about the Orange Revolution (I wasn't there; I am offering this in good faith from multiple sources):

In 2004 Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych ran against each other for the presidency of Ukraine. Yushchenko not only had broad support as standing in opposition to the now unpopular Kuchma regime, but he had probable financing from Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky, who opposed Putin and the Kuchma-Yanukovych intended succession. Yushchenko also had a coalition with the charismatic Yulia Tymoshenko--the woman who just lost the election to Yanukovych.

It was a very dirty campaign by Viktor Yanukovych, a man who had served prison time for robbery and who was chosen from a field of obscure potential successors to Kuchma. It is not known how much Yanukovych knew about the tactics, but it was obvious he was prepared to engage in his own minor dirty tricks.

The Yushchenko campaign chose orange as its color for banners, pennants, etc., and the Yanukovych campaign chose blue. Publicly, orange dominated. The dirty tricks from the Putin-affiliated Kuchma security apparatus included police spies on the Yushchenko campaign as well as free trains for the Yanukovych campaign. But the dirtiest trick was the ricin or dioxin poisoning of the frontrunner Yushchenko on September 5, 2004, at a dinner with Kuchma's security people who were supposed to be helping with security for all presidential candidates. The poisoning didn't kill the handsome, popular Yushchenko, but sickened him and permanently pocked and disfigured him. He looked visibly aged by decades.

This kind of underhanded, criminal and ghastly behavior has a long and dastardly history in the Soviet Union, one which Putin carried forth to Russia, and it seems simply now a part of that political menu of options. Grigory Mairanovsky was a Soviet poisoner who earned his Ph.D. for devising such hideous assassination techniques, and from Gorky to modern Russian journalists, the criminal attacks continue. The original claim was that Yushchenko was poisoned with ricin, a biological toxin relatively easy to manufacture, but the more common claim now is that he was dosed with dioxin. In any case, it was both horrific and it backfired, with his support growing even more fervent when he survived the attempt and came back to campaign, weakened and disfigured, weeks later.

While many observers agree that Yushchenko won in November, the results were muddied and the December 26, 2004 runoff was more monitored and the consensus from neutral observers internally and externally was that Yushchenko won by approximately a 52-44 percent margin (├ůslund & McFaul, 2006, p. 3).

It took a public occupation of the government squares and buildings from November 22-January 23, 2005 (the most intense period Nov 22-Dec 8, opposing the official declaration of a Yanukovych victory), when the peaceful but amazingly persistent frigid weather protests by scores of thousands kept the issue moving toward the Supreme Court, which finally declared Yushchenko the victor.

Subsequently, Yushchenko was unable to move the economy forward and the looming threat of Russian interference or even invasion helped convince enough Ukraine voters to put in the now moderated and somewhat more sophisticated Yanukovych.

The strength of nonviolence is not its ability to make money or engage in the pothole politics that can decide elections. The strength of nonviolence, as always, is that it enables change without violence and with much more grace.

The Orange Revolution is dead. Long live the Orange Revolution!

├ůslund, Anders & McFaul, Michael (Eds.) (2006). Revolution in orange: The origins of Ukraine’s democratic breakthrough. Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.




Terri said...

A reminder that democracy doesn't happen in a voting booth, but in the streets. Power to the peaceful!

Eric Pottenger said...

Tom, your essay makes absolutely no mention of western interests, nothing about NATO and the European Union, nothing about US government sponsorship, nothing about the recent 4% approval rating of the Yuschenko government, and yet you include biased tidbits about Russian meddlers, about Putin and the Soviet Union. are you suggesting that only Soviet or Russian-backed candidates are capable of resorting to violence to achieve political ends? are you suggesting that only Yanukovich had outside political support? are you suggesting that the so-called Orange Revolutionaries existed in some (pro-western) historical vacuum? this is a convenient reading of history, biased (bordering on propagandistic), not scientific, and not inclusive.

nonviolence is a superior political methodology, spiritually-superior in some circles, especially when it's a component of a larger search for truth. as I've read, that's also how Gandhi saw it.

your essay, on the other hand, has turned nonviolence into a smaller truth, a Machiavellian truth, a not-truth: temporary tactical and political advantage.

Tom H. Hastings said...

Yes, nonviolence can be tactical, it can be strategic, and can be a spiritual position. Gandhi made it all three. Does that invalidate it as the method by which Ukrainians defended their democracy? Would you rather that they either were apathetic or would you rather that they chose violence? My point--and you are quite correct that Ukrainians were vastly disappointed with the failure of the West to support Ukrainians under the Yuschenko banner--is that Ukrainians did this. Obviously, the US support for the Orange Revolution was nominal, not real, or Ukrainians would have benefited from US economic help during the Yuschenko administration.