Collective attitudes and levels of enthusiasm or indignation change quickly here. Whilst Monday was shrouded in a sense of general apathy and disillusion at what seemed to be endless negotiations in Kyiv, this atmosphere has now lifted owing to the events in Kyiv and the large number of deaths. Although Monday also saw the formation of a Student Resistance HQ, with a group of activists – seemingly associated with or at least protected by right-wing organisations – setting out fairly reasonable, largely everyday demands to rectors and national ministries for improving student living conditions (but not touching upon the educational process itself very much), it seems that this event did little to engage the students’ mass enthusiasm.
These demands did, however, lead to a large-scale meeting of students, student representatives and university authorities. Lecturers, as usual, were left out of the process. The university now calls such gatherings ‘traditional’, although the reports from the meeting suggest little was done to actively address the demands raised by the Student Resistance.
Today, however, following the fatal violence in Kyiv and the increasingly radical atmosphere in Ivano-Frankivsk, a mass student march and strike took place, beginning around 9:30 am and eventually making its way to the city centre where at least 10,000 students gathered and formed a rally. Apparently this strike is now permanent, although there is a decent chance that the same negotiated conditions will emerge as in December, where the strike hours were reduced to 12:00-14:00 and lecturers were expected to, though in reality rarely did, conduct classes after 2 p.m., while the timetable was reduced – ironically – to a European-style curriculum of core courses. Equally, it could prove to be the case that students themselves will request that lecturers hold classes despite the strike, as happened in late 2013.
What is certainly different, however, in today’s protests – as these images show – is that some students are attending them in masks, military gear or armed with baseball bats, indicating the rising radicalisation of the protests around the country and their increasingly violent nature. It also shows that there is no fear of any intervention by police, special forces or indeed university authorities.
The university rector was encouraged by activist protestors to lead the university’s march into the city. Perhaps fearful of the fate of a predecessor who, despite having been elected to the post of rector shortly before the Orange Revolution of 2004, was forced out of his post by student protests after that revolution’s conclusion, the current rector is taking a more active stance and siding with the student protester despite his attitude in 2013 being one of clear reticence.