Friday, February 21, 2014

History of Ukraine, history of democracy

Does everyone in Canada know someone Ukrainian? Maybe not, but it is not just a prairies thing.  My own neighbourhood is Toronto's Ukrainian district. (Lots of Baltic-states people too; the Poles centre over Roncesvalles way.)

So you cannot help but care about what's going on in Kyiv. But not so easy to know exactly how.  Any government that wants closer ties with Vladimir Putin must have a deathwish, one would think, but it was legitimately elected not long ago.  Does that mean it reflects the views of a lot of people in the eastern Ukraine far from the mob in big-city Kyiv who can fill the square in front of Parliament and demand their own way. (Recall the Cairo crowds who wanted the duly elected Morsi removed. Well, they got that ... and a new Pharoah.)

Events in Ukraine need a historian, I think. And here is one. Timothy Snyder, the American author of Bloodlands and wise thinker on things eastern-European has a long essay in the New York Review of Books
What does it mean to come to the Maidan? The square is located close to some of the major buildings of government, and is now a traditional site of protest. Interestingly, the word maidan exists in Ukrainian but not in Russian, but even people speaking Russian use it because of its special implications. In origin it is just the Arabic word for “square,” a public place. But a maidan now means in Ukrainian what the Greek word agora means in English: not just a marketplace where people happen to meet, but a place where they deliberately meet, precisely in order to deliberate, to speak, and to create a political society. During the protests the word maidan has come to mean the act of public politics itself, so that for example people who use their cars to organize public actions and protect other protestors are called the automaidan.
Hat tip to History News Network for noting this one.
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