Daily Archives: 6 December 2004

A Ukrainian Caught in the Middle

The following emails are from a responsible adult Ukrainian friend of a friend who teaches at a university in the western part of Ukraine. It took a while to obtain permission to reproduce them (without naming names). I suspect these sentiments reflect a large number of people who are neither blogging nor talking in front of TV cameras.

27 November 2004

It is crisis. Our students as well as schoolchildren are on the streets. The democracy is at its top – those who want to study, come to Uni and study, those who want to go to meetings, go to meetings. Some Universities are closed, ours is working. The problem is that what is going on is very chaotic. Because many people who supported Ushchenko want to strike and are on strike, but I am not sure whether their salaries are still paid or not – nobody knows! The people of different views who understand the danger of ruining economics work – if we all strike, who will work?

Besides, if our students who paid money want to study, how can we not teach them? If we close for now, when will we work afterwards? On holidays? On Christmas holidays? So, there was a decision as meetings are all day round that from 8 till 1 our students study and then those who are eager to show his/her will, go to meetings. In Vinnytsia all the Unis go to meetings, so I won’t give you the exact number – 2000-5000, etc? With Kyiv it is more complicated – they say up to 100,000 people! Or more! West and East are for different candidates and there are threats to divide Ukraine! Can you imagine, e.g., My situation, if my mom and her relatives come from East, who live there and my husband’s family – all of them – live in West! We are really desperate!

The situation is very unpleasant because the majority understands that politicians who were unable to solve complicated problems at their work are using our romantic youth. The young people who are striking are also different: some of them are really supporting their ideas, others are having fun because of total freedom and friendship, some of them are using the situation not to study, some of them are innocent and idealistic, some ignorant and aggressive. I personally don’t know what is going to happen, but I was shocked to know that our school teachers let their children go to meetings alone! (I am speaking about my son’s classmates, he is 15.)

Thank God everything is friendly so far, but people are getting impatient! In Vinnytsia there are no threats as only one candidate is being supported while in Kyiv the situation is more dangerous – both candidates’ supporters came to the capital. So far everything seems alright, but, you know that there are many indecent people who would like to provoke smth unpleasant. I do pray all the time.

3 December 2004

The situation here is really depressing for those people who tend to think and analyze. I believe that our main problem is that we forgot to count our blessings! It is always easier to criticize than do something. Our Uni doesn’t work now – we have a week holiday. Still all the teachers go to work. From Monday we have to teach our students and plus give them all the classes they didn’t come to!

God knows how hard we have been trying to survive all these years. You do remember the chaotic things a couple or more years ago in Ukraine. I can’t say that we are great now, still, the houses are being built, the roads are repaired, you won’t recognize our railway station! There are MANY pregnant women in the streets, my mom has 464 Hr pension (app $80) and she used to have 153 HR (less than $30). The currency rate was more or less stable, people started using bank accounts to keep their savings and what are we going to do now? Genetically we are scared of everything!

Besides, I can’t understand who is fighting whom, as Yanukovitch is working as Prime-Minister for a year and a half and Yushchenko – from the very beginning of the independency of Ukraine (13 years!). Our town mayor (!) accused the government of frauds, etc. But HE IS THE GOVERNMENT! Our local one, isn’t he? Sometimes, I feel really angry because THEY over there USE Me and MY COUNTRY for THEIR political games. My future, the future of my son!

Yes, the media IS very biased and disgusting. So, I have nothing against Joel getting my e-mail. I do have my opinion which is fortunately supported by many people I love and respect.

Sorry for such an emotional letter, I do love my country, I work hard and I am patriotic, but not nationalistic, racistic, fanatic and aggressive. I don’t believe in the power of ultimatums, because they can and will boomerang and again chaos and disorder will flourish.

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The Romanian Revolution Was Televised

The Romanian revolution was a complex affair. It was a dramatic triumph that had the whole world for its audience, a world that keeps wondering long after the final curtain how much of what it saw was real. If I hadn’t lost my normally skeptical head to the euphoria of December, I would have questioned the single most evident source of news about the revolution: television. But it was precisely television that seduced me during my visit and made me lose sight of things I already knew. I have raged enough against TV to know that the medium is eminently manipulatable. But even though I knew that the extraordinary figure of sixty-five thousand dead (used as an accusation against Ceausescu at his “trial”) was considerably lower, I did not ask anyone at the time what caused such astounding discrepancy. I had seen the bodies on television, but only a few and always the same bodies. I didn’t ask how such thing could be possible.

Imagine the shock and dismay of our newsmakers and our idealists–including myself–when most of these horrible events we saw with our own eyes on television turned out not to have happened at all. How could the grizzled, experienced Western journalists who are sworn to hard facts have missed the many clues and glaring contradictions that pointed to artifice? The astounding truth of the matter is that much of the glorious Romanian “revolution” was, in fact, a staged play, a revolution between quotation marks. Let me also say that for all that, there were heroes, martyrs, and true revolutionaries. A mass uprising did take place, but it was skillfully manipulated by the men who run Romania today. It could also be true that for a few glorious moments the first rebels to arrive at the television station created a free atmosphere unparalleled in the history of the country, an atmosphere in which all ideas of “taste” and “propriety” lost meaning. Whatever could be put on the screen was, whether it was a one-legged beggar with a delirious story or a rock video brought out of a secret drawer. But it couldn’t have been long after, however, the young revolutionaries (if that’s who they were) started becoming “responsible,” and the “spontaneous” provisional government showed up with its own TV script. The television station then became the headquarters of the new government, which, as far as most people were concerned, was born out of video like Venus out of the seashell. And hats must be off to the producers of the exceedingly realistic docu-drama of the strategic military center from where, in a charged atmosphere reminiscent of Reds or Dr. Zhivago, generals with telephones on both ears shouted orders at troops on vast invisible battlefields in every part of the country.

Today I stand abashed by my naivete. Much of that Romanian “spontaneity” was as slick and scripted as a Hollywood movie. If I were in charge of the Emmys, I’d give one to the Romanian directors of December 1989. Many aspects of the televised drama remain extremely mysterious. I still do not understand Secretary of State Baker’s offer to allow the Soviets to intervene on the side of the “revolutionaries.” He must have known at least in outline the true shape of the Romanian situation. I cannot believe that the CIA was as taken in by the exaggerated reports of massacres and fighting from East European news agencies as the more naive press organizations were. The administration must have had reasons for going along with the hysteria of the press, in part because it distracted from the U.S. invasion of Panama but also because a deal must have been made with the Soviets, a deal that, I am sorry to say, leaves Romania where it always was: in the Soviet sphere of influence. Many people now believe–in the face of mounting evidence–that the mastermind of the Romania operation was the KGB, that the Romanian revolution was a beautifully orchestrated piece of Kremlin music conducted by Maestro Gorbachev. What’s more, the operation had the full cooperation of the CIA. I recently bought a T-shirt in Washington, D.C., that says: “TOGETHER AT LAST! THE KGB & THE CIA. NOW WE ARE EVERYWHERE.” Even one T-shirt can sometimes be smarter than all the news media.

SOURCE: The Hole in the Flag: A Romanian Exile’s Story of Return and Revolution (Avon Books, 1991), by Andrei Codrescu, pp. 204-206

While I agree that even one jockstrap can sometimes be smarter than all the news media, I don’t think Codrescu’s faith in the omnipotence of the either the KGB or the CIA is all that grounded in reality. The CIA utterly failed to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union (and one or two other things more recently), and the KGB‘s successor FSB did a lousy job of predicting Ukrainian reactions to Putin’s machinations in their elections. There’s a difference between planning a new stampede in a particular direction and belatedly trying to ride herd on a stampede already underway. In 1991, Codrescu predicted that Ion Iliescu’s National Salvation Front would keep Romania in the Soviet orbit. Well, we know how that worked out, even though Iliescu himself has managed to hang onto power.

The Head Heeb‘s guest blogger Alexander has more on the most recent Romanian elections, and so does Doug Muir at Halfway down the Danube here and here and here.

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