Introduction to the new book by the editor-in-chief of Ukrainian left site Liva.com.ua
By Andriy Manchuk
This book is an attempt to describe what happened in Ukraine after the victory of “euromaidan,” free of the propagandistic clichés of the Ukrainian government and the “Russian world”. A sad book, whose predictions were fulfilled during the political upheaval in Kiev, and soon came to life before our eyes. It describes how a great Eastern European country has in just a few years become a zone of systemic crisis – where in the east, in the gray zone of the ATO, there is endless war, from which looters, officials and smugglers profit, and to the west, in the Volyn forests, thrives an “Amber Republic” of criminal prospectors.
This nightmare seemed impossible just a few years ago, when the current rulers of Ukraine projected bright prospects of prosperity before us in the bosom of a united Europe. However, the naive dreams of Ukrainians crashed against the European Union’s Iron Curtain. Its officials see in Ukraine only a market for their products and a reservoir of cheap labor, denying us even a consolation prize in the form of the cherished Schengen visa. Residents of the country rapidly grow poorer – according to the State Statistical Committee, 72% of Ukrainians consider themselves poor – and almost every month the authorities reduce social benefits and raise tariffs to the heavens to get the next ration of financial credits.
Dignity and independence, so harped on by patriotic politicians, are ultimately reduced to the shameful practice of foreign control. Ministers with passports of foreign powers, together with home-grown “democratic politicians,” reaching power from the Maidan rostrum, carry out forced neoliberal reforms. These have greatly aggravated the crisis processes of recent decades — the country’s rising unemployment and high prices, increasing mass exodus of migrant workers, unavailability of high-quality education and health care to the poor. And the privatization of state property enters into the final stage, when the country will sell off the land – property robbed from the hands of the people.
The base determines the superstructure – the economic crisis compounded simultaneously by the tightening of the political regime, unprecedented in the modern history of Ukraine, whose previous liberalism in political life contrasted favorably with most other post-Soviet countries. The government has consistently reduced citizens’ rights and freedoms. We have a de facto prohibition on leftist ideology and constant persecution of dissidents. Hate speech and political censorship have become the norm for the Ukrainian media. Informing is elevated to the status of public virtue. Dozens of people have been imprisoned for journalistic activity and comments on social media, and people around the Interior Minister supervised the controversial website that unlawfully publishes personal data of Ukrainian citizens, provoking the massacre of innocent people.
Right-wing extremist combatants entered into the government, army and police in large numbers, and commit shocking crimes with virtual impunity. A poor country of frustrated and desperate people, many of whom brought home weapons from the front, along with the baggage of the criminal experience they acquired, turns into a hotbed of banditry. During the mobilization, the authorities staged a real hunt for Ukrainians trying to escape it, catching them in schools and workplaces, on the streets, on public transportation, in shops and even on the beach. And criticism of these illegal actions by the state was equated to treason.
Clericalism, xenophobia, obscurantism is becoming the norm everywhere – and, in terms of social backwardness, we confidently overtake the parallel processes in Russia, no matter how much our frenzied patriotic intelligentsia deny it. Ukraine has destroyed hundreds of monuments; officially banned hundreds of movies and books; culture, education and history are at the mercy of chauvinists and nationalist officials who rename thousands of streets and entire cities, spitting on the opinion of their inhabitants. Even nature suffers from the crisis – its resources drained for predatory short-term profits, with the full connivance of corrupt officials and state bodies unable to cope with the banal problem of garbage disposal. And failures at the Olympics and the European Football Championship bear witness to the decline of Ukrainian sport, which has long degenerated into match-fixing by the oligarchs who bought the clubs, violence by right-wing fans and a boxing show with participation of the Kiev mayor.
Our pre-apocalyptic world increasingly resembles that of Third World countries, a comparison disdainfully rejected by racism-infected inhabitants, confident in the European birthright chosen for the great future of Ukraine. The crisis built up for many years through the restoration of the market – through Kravchuk, Kuchma, Yushchenko, Tymoshenko and Yanukovych – and finally took a qualitative leap, triggered by the catalyzing action of “euromaidan”.
This book dissects the different aspects of socio-economic, political and cultural life of post-Maidan Ukraine. But even this broad view of the situation cannot cover the entire set of problems that on a daily basis generates the crazy reality of our country, transformed into a landfill of neoliberal reforms, and perhaps – into the springboard for a future world war. After all, our armchair patriots have long dreamed out loud about the cleansing nuclear fire.
Things are not as bad as it might seem from the news. Everything is much worse. The country tumbles into the abyss – and if you think you’ve heard something hit the bottom, it doesn’t mean that we have finally reached it.
Just now there could be someone scribbling your denunciation – for example, for the fact that you are reading this book.
Translated by Greg Butterfield