They wanted to change their world

ukrainefaceSeeking the latest news on the Russian invasion of Ukraine this evening, I came across a CNN opinion piece entitled “What the West owes Ukraine.” Yes, I thought. What do we owe Ukraine at this moment? What can we do? I started reading.

Timothy Snyder, Housum professor of history at Yale University and author of “Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin,” explains the revolution in Ukraine, beginning with the protests in November and closing with these words:

The cause of the Ukrainian protesters was not to change the world, but only to change their world. What they wanted was normality, predictability, the ability to live their lives the way they chose.

They wanted, in other words, the things that most of us take for granted. But now that their revolution has come, the world faces certain important choices. If we don’t understand the revolution in Ukraine, then we miss something special and unusual: a chance to support democracy.

Moving words. Thought provoking. Rousing.

And then I realized the words were written four days ago, before the Russians invaded Crimea.

Now it’s too late.

The moment has passed. The opportunity is gone. Democracy has lost.

Ukraine has lost.

16 thoughts on “They wanted to change their world

      1. Yeah know the feeling but someone up there should have been street smart enough to realise Russia wouldn’t let Ukraine go without a fight. But here we are now with an impending war looming over us. Sigh.

        1. Then it better be the Europeans’ war. It’s on their doorstep, not ours. Americans won’t stand for involvement in another war, Obama has no stomach for it, and Putin knows it.

  1. My first thoughts when I heard about the Ukrainian revolt were of my professor for World Civ and for Communism in Crisis (an honors course covering the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe … little did we know then that people like Putin would Frankenstein that). Dr. Sydorenko and his family fled Ukraine when he was a child, around the time of a series of massacres in the republic (1941). In the World Civ class (tough, but interesting; loved the class) he had us read Babi Yar, which was about the massacres. Listening to him and feeling the terror he felt as a child was truly life-changing for me. I imagine he is probably deeply saddened and angered by this latest turn of events. He was (and I imagine still is) not a fan of Stalin by any stretch of the imagination, and I feel sure that his attitude toward Vladimir Putin is similar.

    1. Your professor must be heartbroken, and who can blame him? Ukraine had reached the point of actually scheduling a democratic presidential election. And then another Russian thug decided to crush them.

  2. I don’t think democracy over yet. As I write, the Bear has awakened in Crimea but still squatting there, venturing no further. The IMF is on the way to Kiev, the G-8 is sending wolf tickets, Putin is locked into a language of sovereignty that he mouthed about Syria, his military, while rebuilding, still a shadow of the Soviet, and while his economy is “crapatalism” he needs to keep western markets engaged to feed his lower oligarchs. Partitioning the Ukraine may be the way to go here as it’s the old culture versus civilization bugaboo that’s prompts an Euro-Asiatic butcher’s bill every other generation or so. It’s all unfortunate, but a plebiscite considering a redrawing of maps may be the least bloody way to go. I sure as hell hope so.

    1. Dividing the country was suggested by Jim Wheeler, commenting on my previous post. And it certainly looks like there is a sort of natural divide already in place. Still, it should be up to the Ukrainians to work it out — without the presence of an invading foreign power.

  3. I just noticed that, apparently in the course of editing this post, I dropped the link to Timothy Snyder’s fine article. My apologies. If you have not already sought it out on your own, you can find it here. It provides an excellent overview of the unrest that has swept Ukraine since November.

    1. Interesting. I have to say that despite Cohen’s credentials, I disagree with him. I don’t think the West was “forcing” Ukraine to choose between Russia and the West. That’s something the Ukrainians are or were trying to work out for themselves. And while Putin may like Merkel and be willing to talk to her, she’s already said she thinks he’s lost touch with reality. Clearly her assessment and Cohen’s are quite different. And although Russia may think it has interests to protect in Ukraine, that doesn’t justify its takeover in Croatia. (I started to say something about not invading a sovereign nation just because you don’t like what’s going on there, but remembering US actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, decided not to.)

... and that's my two cents