13.12.2001 | Viktor Dzereviago, Kharkov

Ten years of independence. Time to wake up


So we have lived, dear compatriots, ten years each counting since 1991 Anno Domini. I am sure that every adult within Ukraine consciously or subconsciously divides his or her life before and after the year of declaring independence, stormy and uncertain, fearful and hopeful.

I wrote ‘ten years each’ on purpose: after the referendum, during which the people, having surprised the world and intimidated the authorities, almost unanimously voted for the independence of Ukraine, the majority of us took a comfortable position of an aloof observer. We hid in quiet nooks, sincerely believing that someone, but not we ourselves, shall construct our happy future. We permitted to convince us that the life as such under the created conditions is a heroic deed and a hard toil. We did not march in step with Ukraine (we have other occupations), and she went to its ten-year jubilee herself, without super-efforts on the side of the authorities, accompanied by screams from inside and outside about troubles, in spite of roguish authorities and nouveau riches. In contrast to widely spread thesis that we repeat the Russian scenario, Ukraine was going it own way.

And what place has other Motherland reached after ten years on the background of negligence of her sons and daughters?

Recently we had nothing to be ashamed of compared to the former sister-republics (naturally, except the Baltic countries). Our presidents did not attack Parliament with tanks, they did not appoint their successors, not introduced the perpetual presidency; our military did not organize coups; we have no military conflicts; we abolished the death penalty; our laws about languages, national minorities and the freedom of consciousness are the most liberal on the terrain of the CIS, our Constitution is not the worst. But I repeat that our successes are not due to democratic spirit and activity of the society: most of us, during the passed ten years, tried their best to prove the validity of the maxim pronounced in the last but one century: ‘Every Ukrainian oven is our fortress, patriots use to lie on them’.

The political advantage was till going, but only owing to efforts of separate enthusiasts in the government. The majority of bureaucrats wanted the ‘old order’, but they did not dare to act, being under the impression of the December referendum and fearing separate desperados, who raised hue and cry in the press in the cases of the attempts to push Ukraine from the democratic path (and such attempts were made: recollect, for example, the beating of the mourning procession during the funeral of Patriarch Vladimir). As a result, the political Ukraine did move, although rather slowly, in the direction that agreed with the common sense. The zenith of this movement was the election of the current Supreme Rada: a distinct procedure was obeyed, which substantially limited the manipulations with the votes, and we got the parliament we deserve, which correctly reflected the mood of the society. And all that occurred as if by itself, without our intrusion!

As to the economic development, it was quire another pair of shoes. Here, seeming to conceal the economic secrets, which is quite proper (but not for our transitive situation!) the state bureaucracy and ruling elite appeared in the conditions of the complete freedom from any public control. A layer was formed of persons, who had a taste to obtain capital and property in the ‘comfortable’ conditions of the lack of control, they cynically used the ‘holes’ in laws left there by accident or on purpose. I believe that it was the people, who formed what we call clans or oligarchs. Naturally they wanted to petrify the conditions, under which they became bosses of this world. To this end the wished to fix juridically what happened de-facto under the conditions of the legislative chaos and informational vacuum. So, according to my observations, about four years ago they decided that it was the proper time to infiltrate the power structures. The sphere of their interests expanded from their own businesses and districts to the entire Ukraine. And they started to furnish this ground according to their wishes: they brought to politics the aversion to the free spreading of information, the assurance that they were omnipotent, the disdain to the society and the magnified interest to law profitable for them (often illogical and dishonest). It was the time when a number of changes, sometimes scandalous and sometimes quiet, occurred in political parties with respectable democratic image. ‘Father-founders’, liberal romanticists, were pushed aside and exchanged for ‘pragmatic businessmen’. Now these parties belong to the circle of the parties known as ‘centric’ or ‘backing the President’.

These events, that is the appearance of the ‘third side’ in politics, was missed by the public, which must be the main figure in the civil society. This is not surprising, taking into account the talent of our ‘businessmen’ to achieve their goals silently and efficiently. But the further passivity was unnatural and very dangerous.

How could we miss the first display of the political activity of the self-appointed ‘masters of life’? Having lost the election by party lists, oligarchs decided to gain the political capital by supporting the acting President in his attempts to be re-elected. Then new phenomena appeared on the Ukrainian political scene: purchasing signatures for candidates, shaping voters’ lists from various databases (that is massive faking signatures), etc. These were just ‘little tricks’, transparent and transparently immoral. But we were silent. We cannot be excused by the fact that by the time the majority of mass media were already bought, and they refused to publish materials undesirable for the strong of this world. The public ceased to protest against the immoral methods in politics. We agreed with the subterfuge that this was not swindling, but ‘political technologies’.

Then it became worse. Encouraged by our indifference, the ‘political technologists’ became smarter, during presidential races the ‘tricks’ became smoother. It was the time when the remaining fragments of the free press made public the facts of still infrequent cases of forcing workers of budget organizations to vote. This is a brutal trampling both of human rights and Ukrainian laws! We kept our mouths shut and obtained the referendum conducted by the doubtful ‘people’s initiative’ and with doubtful questions. We again kept mum, then they drove us to the senseless pre-term voting; the conditions, under which it was done, did not give guarantees that the results were fair (all this disgrace got a virgin name ‘using administration resources’). That was the time when out authorities began to demonstrate what they did not dare to show for the last 10-15 years: complete ignoring of the public opinion (both inside and outside the country). The bosses ignored how they looked in the eyes of a man in the street. Indeed, why do they pay attention to this figure, if this figure does not pay attention to anything? The behavior of the ‘executive power’ after Gongadze’s disappearance and the ‘cassette scandal’ is a sheer proof of this statement. Other proofs of this are: putting flowers at Shevchenko’s monument surrounded by dense ranks of law-enforcers, dismissal of the first successful government and noisy celebration of the Day of Russia Navy in Ukrainian Sevastopol, etc. We already saw similar tricks 10-15 years ago. And who is to blame that we again ‘have what we have’?

However, although we were sleeping for ten years, these years in Ukraine were not bad and full of interest. Unfortunately, to go on sleeping becomes dangerous. Let us wake up! My congratulations with the great holiday, dear compatriots!

10 August 2001

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