Ukraine after the Euromaidan

Challenges and Hopes

by Viktor Stepanenko (Volume editor) Yaroslav Pylynskyi (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection 276 Pages


Ukraine’s protest movement of 2013–14, known as the Euromaidan, and its culmination, the people’s uprising in late 2013–early 2014 became one of the most dramatic world events in recent years. The accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation and military conflict in the Donbas demonstrate that the dramatic dynamics of the country’s ongoing transformation are still far from predictable. This book examines the manifold aspects of Ukraine’s current crisis and its political upheaval. The contributors to the book, Ukrainian experts in a variety of disciplinary fields, explore social, political and cultural reasons and factors behind the country’s transformation in its national and regional dimensions, the impact of Ukraine’s revolution on European and global politics, and also the new challenges of tough reforms with which the country is faced. The contributors share the view that the Euromaidan brought new opportunities for Ukraine’s modern development and the greatest historical chance for the country’s European future since independence in 1991.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Ukraine’s Revolution: The National Historical Context and the New Challenges for the Country and the World
  • The Structure of this Book
  • References
  • Part I: The Euromaidan and Ukraine’s Revolution: Politics, Democracy and Civil Society
  • Ukraine’s Revolution as De-Institutionalisation of the Post-Soviet Order
  • Institutional Traps of the Old Order Heritage
  • What was Wrong and Why the Maidan?
  • The Maidan as an Institution of a New Type
  • The Transformation of the Maidan
  • The Maidan as the Ideal Civic Community?
  • References
  • Ukraine’s Third Attempt
  • References
  • The Ukrainian “Eurorevolution”: Dynamics and Meaning
  • The Initial Spontaneous Protests
  • The Failed Storming of the Maidan
  • The Anti-Maidan
  • Pressure from Russia
  • The Organisation and Content of the Maidan
  • Repressive Legislation and the Outbreak of Violence
  • The First Deaths and the Regional Expansion of the Protests
  • Unsuccessful Negotiations
  • Death of the “Heavenly Hundred” and the President’s Flight
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Before and After the Euromaidan: Ukraine Between the European Choice and the Russian Factor
  • Maidan vs. Anti-Maidan: How Ruling Elites Used Pro-Russian Sentiments to Fight Against Pro-European Protesters
  • How Russian Aggression Destroyed Support for “Russkiy Mir” in Ukraine
  • The Revolution of Dignity in the Context of Theory of Social Revolutions
  • Revolution or Munity?
  • The Upper-strata Can’t, the Lower-strata Don’t Want
  • Reasons for the Revolutionary Crisis
  • How the Spark Became a Flame
  • The Waves of Revolution and Democratization
  • “Fueling Material” of the Revolution
  • The Success and Completeness of Revolutions
  • References
  • Part II: Ukraine’s Revolutionary Challenges in the European and the Global Contexts
  • The Ukrainian Revolution in International Context
  • The Post-bipolar International System
  • Regional Impact
  • The Consequences for the Architecture of International Security
  • The Challenge Facing the USA
  • References
  • The Beginning of Ukraine and the End of the Post-bipolar World
  • Six Arguments to Debate
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Is Neutrality a Solution for Ukraine’s Security?
  • National Security in the Context of Integration Efforts
  • References
  • Part III: Social Economic, Legislative and Humanitarian Issues of the Reforms
  • Ukraine’s Economy: Current Challenges
  • References
  • The Issue of Power Decentralisation in the Context of Constitutional Reform in Ukraine
  • References
  • The “Endless Story” of Local Self-Government Reform: Before the Post-Maidan Challenges
  • References
  • Ukraine’s Migration and Demographic Situation in the Context of Foreign Intervention
  • References
  • Part IV: Regional and Ethno-Cultural Dimensions of the Ukraine’s Transformation
  • The Maidan and Post-Maidan Ukraine: Public Attitudes in Regional Dimensions
  • The Historical Background to Political and Socio-cultural Differentiation in Ukraine
  • Post-Maidan Changes in the Ukrainian Regions
  • Annexation of the Crimea: Public Perception in Different Regions of Ukraine
  • The Only Unitary Country and Rejection of the Idea of Federalization
  • Armed Conflict in the Donbas: Assessments of Citizens in Different Regions
  • Instead of a Conclusion: Do the Ideas of Federalization and of Separatism Have their own Foundation in Ukraine?
  • References
  • Public Opinion in the Donbas and Halychyna on the Ukraine’s Upheavals of Winter 2013–Summer 2014
  • References
  • Crimean Tatars’ National Institutes under the Occupation: The Case of the Muftiyat of Crimea
  • References
  • The Donbas: An Uprising of the People or a Putsch by Slaveholders?
  • References
  • Part V: Language, Media and Culture under Transformation
  • The Problem of Bilingualism in Ukraine: The Historical and International Context
  • References
  • Consequences of the Maidan: War of Symbols, Real War and Nation Building
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Vocabularies of Colliding Realities: A Representation of Conflict and War in the Ukrainian Media
  • Framing the War: From “Crisis” and “Conflict” to “Patriotic War I”
  • Branding the War: From “Hybrid,” “Informational,” “Organizational” to “Full Scale Aggression”
  • “Terrorists” vs “Rebels”: Horror-tales from the Terrorland
  • Federalization – Autonomy – Annexation: Federalism for Whom?
  • Measuring the Scale of the War: Local, National, Global
  • 1) So, is it a civil war? If not – why not? If it is – in what sense?
  • 2) Russian–Ukrainian Interstate War
  • 3) “War Against The West”
  • References
  • Art and Revolution: Kyiv Maidan of 2013–2014
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Series index


This book presents the findings of a multidisciplinary research team examining the manifold aspects of Ukraine’s Eurorevolution of 2013–2014 and the country’s transformation. The contributors to the book, Ukrainian scholars and experts from a variety of backgrounds, disciplines and regions of Ukraine (L’viv, Lutsk, Chernivtsi, Kyiv, Odessa, Dnipropetrovs’k and Luhansk), explore social, political and cultural reasons and factors behind the country’s transformation in its nation-wide and regional dimensions, the impact of the Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution on European and global politics, and the new challenges of tough reforms which with the country is faced.

The idea for this book came during discussion at the Ukrainian-Swiss seminar on Ukraine’s Euromaidan in late June 2014. The editors are grateful to Professor Nicolas Hayoz from the Interfaculty Institute for Central and Eastern Europe at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) for his strong encouragement and support of this initiative. We are grateful also to the excellent Swiss team (Denis Dafflon, Andrej Lushnycky and Magdalena Solska), whose support we enjoyed during the preparation of this book. And the work on this volume would hardly have come to fruition without the efforts and attentive management of Tamara Brunner (University of Fribourg). Our special thanks also go to John Heath, whose valuable help in proof-reading has lent an English touch to the contributions while retaining the Ukrainian voice. Furthermore, we highly appreciate the financial support for the production of this volume from the Academic Swiss Caucasus Net (ASCN), an initiative of the GEBERT RÜF STIFTUNG in cooperation with the University of Fribourg.

Finally, we would like to thank the authors who, often sacrificing their summer vacations, have prepared their texts for the volume. This book is the product of their collective insights, and it represents their shared view on the unique chance and the opportunities the Euromaidan has brought for Ukraine’s European modernisation.

Our hope is that this collection of essays will contribute to a better understanding of the complex transformation which is underway in Ukraine and for which there are by no means neat and simple solutions. ← 9 | 10 →

Viktor Stepanenko and Yaroslav Pylynskyi

Ukraine’s Revolution: The National Historical Context and the New Challenges for the Country and the World

Ten years after the 2004 “Orange” revolution, Ukraine again came to be in the main focus of European and world politics. The wave of protest movements, known as the Euro-Maidan, arose in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities. The longest nation-wide protest marathon in the country’s modern history, lasting from November 2013 to March 2014, with the Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalesznosti (the capital’s central square) as its epicentre, became the trigger for the people’s uprising in January–February 2014 and the subsequent dramatic, albeit long-awaited, transformation of the country. The chain reaction of this transformation, concentrated in a brief period of time, involved many dramatic events: the killing of over a hundred protesters by special police, the collapse of Yanukovych’s repressive state apparatus after his flight from the country, the accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation, the pre-term election of the new president Petro Poroshenko in one electoral turnover (for the first time in Ukraine’s complex political history), radical separatism and the ensuing strange, “hybrid” war (officially still called an “anti-terrorist operation”) with many hundreds of militants and civilians killed on the Donbas, and all the complex socio-economic consequences of the country’s radical geopolitical turn towards Europe.

If the Maidan, a sort of Ukrainian contribution to the arsenal of the worlds’ protest movement and direct public engagement in policy-making, has repeatedly occurred over the last ten years, there must be deep and latent public dissatisfaction with the governmental politics, with the social, economic and political situation and with the conditions of the political regime in the country. The phenomenon of Ukraine’s Maidans also proves that Ukrainians, despite the historically rather lengthy corruptive impact of Russia’s imperial domination and the country’s Soviet heritage, still preserve the virtues of dignity, freedom and justice and cherish their love of independence and individual rights. And many of these characteristics ← 11 | 12 → are usually associated with the European concept of natural rights. In our mind, the European identity is still retained deep in the Ukrainian psyche. Those feelings of being a part of Europe in many ways were also combined with the people’s striving for their own independent state. Indeed, the pro-European and pro-independence parallels have closely coincided in many glorious and tragic episodes of national history, from the tradition of the early medieval Kyivan Rus’, the Cossacks’ glory of the seventeenth century to the Ukrainian People’s Republic of 1917–1920, and continued in the struggle for an independent state by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army during the Second World War and in pro-Ukrainian activities by many hundreds of members of the Ukrainian intelligentsia and Soviet dissidents, imprisoned and killed by the communist regime in the period from 1920 to the 1980s. In this national historical continuity, following Ukrainian independence in 1991 the Maidans of 2004–2005 and 2013–2014 became another stage for Ukrainians’ striving for their freedoms and also for a European future.

Indeed, without knowledge of the national historical context, it is hard to understand why the Ukrainians once again surprised both the Western world and national policymakers with their determined support of European Association. Democracy has always been an integral part of life of Ukrainian communities since the Middle Ages. We should remember that village residents elected not only a Viyt (from the German, Vogt), but also a priest for the local church, as well as a teacher who taught all the children in the community. It is also worth noting that this word of German origin referring to the mayor elected by the town or village is directly connected to the prevalence of Magdeburg Law in Ukraine from the fourteenth century onwards – a system of local self-government that at that time was widespread throughout Central and Eastern Europe. The easternmost city in Ukraine to follow this democratic legal system from 1664 on was Glukhiv, 300 kilometers northeast of Kyiv. The traditions of managing local self-government and living according to the law rather than the will of a master were inherent to the majority of the Ukrainian population for centuries.

For hundreds of years, Ukrainians have considered themselves part of the cultural and legal landscape that is currently called the European Union. That is why the manifestations in support of European integration that took place in winter 2013–2014 in almost all big cities in Ukraine from East to West were entirely natural and logical. ← 12 | 13 →

The European-oriented part of Ukrainian society (according to sociological surveys, the major part of the population) generally accepted the growing deterioration of life in Ukraine over the last three years, in their hope that the Association Agreement would oblige the authorities to reform the state according to European standards. Instead, the authorities headed by President Yanukovych conducted their own rather simple game based on the principle of “who will give more”, while trying to cheat all.

In order to better understand the power dynamic in Ukraine in late 2013, it is worth recalling the joke that was widespread during the presidential elections of 2010, especially in business circles: in essence, the contest between Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovych for presidency was the contest between a dairymaid and a butcher, in which the first was willing to acquire a cow (the country) to milk it for a long time, while the second intended to kill it and sell the meat. Such a collision was beautifully depicted at the end of the 1990s by Mancur Olson1 comparing the authorities in post-communist countries with stationary and roving bandits.

One of the main problems of modern Ukraine has always been a weak economic policy. Over the last three years, President Yanukovych sequentially refused any attempts to restrain deterioration of the economic situation. The Ukrainian government kept an artificially overstated exchange rate of the national currency, which led to a significant deficit. Ukraine’s economy also suffered from the decline of exchange reserves, excessive exchange control, and high interest rates that made both foreign and domestic investment almost impossible. Additionally, Ukraine had almost no access to international financial markets. The general budgeted deficit made up 8% of the GDP, which is predicted to decrease by 1.5% in 2013, while industrial production already decreased by 5.4%.

Most likely, the main goal of the economic policy of the previous regime was to transfer financial resources and companies into the possession of the “Yanukovych family” – a group of young businessmen that quickly bought up private and state companies for next to nothing. They were the only “sanctioned” buyers in the key industries, and the worse the economic situation was, the cheaper these companies were.

If we accept this assertion as the most probable motive for Yanukovych’s behavior, his tactics in late 2013 become clear. Indeed, he was not ← 13 | 14 → really planning to sign the Association Agreement with the EU, but was essentially playing poker with both the EU and Russia, trying to bargain for the highest possible stakes for himself. Although bargaining with Russia was not so much about entering the Customs Union as about refusing to sign the Association with Europe. It is also important to understand that for most Russian leaders and also for most Russian people, the loss of Ukraine is not considered from a pragmatic and economic viewpoint, but from an irrational, emotional one. This attitude is barely understandable for either Europeans or Americans, who mostly think in the categories of community, region (state) and nation, in contrast to Russians, who think in the categories of empire. For Russians, symbolic trophies like having countries bow to their imperial might are much more important than any economic advantages or losses.

Those who believed that the crisis in Ukraine would soon end as a temporary phenomenon, or that everything would just “dissipate” if Ukrainian rulers received the Russian 15 billion grant or if “the Maidan got mugged” were deeply wrong, for better or for worse.

In recent months, the systemic crisis in Ukraine that preceded the Maidan has been mentioned by many observers. And this book is also an attempt to explore various factors and reasons that led Ukrainians to their Euromaidan. Although here we can suggest one of many other explanations of (and justifications for) the Ukrainian revolution in 2013–2014, a reason of an existential nature: the response to the threat to a fundamental human right, the individual right to one’s own life.

In our opinion, the main problem of Ukraine, as a certain community inhabiting a certain territory, is that we have become dangerous for ourselves. The danger emanated from our streets, squares, fields and roads. Soon, staying in one’s home would feel dangerous as well. It is this enhanced sense of danger that brought large masses of Ukrainians to the streets and to the Maidan. That is why no one would detect linguistic, confessional or any other phobia – the danger was so real that it basically leveled all other contradictions between people and united them not for money or even for the sake of an idea, but for joint survival.

For decades, Ukraine has been a safe haven for its citizens; at least the overwhelming majority of its residents born after Second World War saw it as such. After Stalin’s death, totalitarian reprisals were a thing of the past. Arbitrary actions of repressive bodies were limited by the government’s monopoly on violence; therefore, criminals were penalized under ← 14 | 15 → the law, while dissidents were proclaimed either insane or criminal, leading the majority of the population to believe that if they didn’t violate a set of certain rules proudly called “socialist justice”, they would be completely safe. The Communist Party would not share its right to institutionalized violence with anyone – that is why it kept all the official repressive bodies under its rigid control.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (February)
Protest movement Ukraine crisis Revolution Global politics Euromaidan
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 276 pp.

Biographical notes

Viktor Stepanenko (Volume editor) Yaroslav Pylynskyi (Volume editor)

Viktor Stepanenko is Leading Research Fellow at the Institute of Sociology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. He obtained his PhD from the University of Manchester. From 2009 to 2012 he was a member of the Advisory Council at the Kennan Institute. His research interests include social theory, ethno-cultural issues and democratization. He is the author of several books and numerous articles. Yaroslav Pylynskyi is currently Director of the Kennan Kyiv Project Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He received his kandydat nauk (PhD) degree from the Institute of Ethnology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. His research interests include ethnic issues, migration, language politics. He is the author of over 100 publications in academic and periodical editions.


Title: Ukraine after the Euromaidan