The Only Hammer and Sickle in Town? Army Base becoming a housing estate.

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Today I think I found what is possibly the only hammer and sickle remaining in Ivano-Frankivsk in a public space or on a building. And I don’t think that it will survive for much longer. The site, a former military base on vul. Natsionalnoyi Gvardii (National Guard Street), is being turned into a housing estate.

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On my way back from work, my wife called to ask me to get some smoked fish and salads from a great delicatessen (Kuchnia Pani Anny, Mrs. Anna’s Kitchen) on Konovaltsa Street, so I took the opportunity to walk down this street, rather than the parallel and more picturesque Matejko Street. The street name is historical, but it also has contemporary relevance, as the new civilian military defence force formed by the current government to assist the army is called the National Guard. Today the Prime Minister declared that anyone who wants to help Ukraine should join this organisation and is threatening to make the Self-Defence forces who, alongside Right Sector, are refusing to join and want to pursue their own fight, illegal.

I have only ever once previously walked down this street, probably six years ago, when I lived in Ivano-Frankivsk for seven months. It was not possible then to enter this site as it was still an active, if run down, military base. Now the troops are based further out of town and the developers have moved in. With the gates open it was possible to observe – minding for an aggressive dog – the rather impressive artwork that adorns these deteriorating buildings.

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The photos of this relief sculpture, regardless of the moody sky and light, cannot do justice to this work which shows the Red Army marching forth to crush the fascist occupiers of the Ukrainian lands. The mural, meanwhile, still featuring the hammer sickle despite the destruction of part of the work – possibly an overtly ideological message – shows in its colours the crushing of Germany and the advance of the Red Army over the Dnipro River in an offensive from August to December 1943.

Although, of course, the past is contested as regards communism in Ukraine, a system which caused millions of deaths of Ukrainians in Holodomor particularly, it would be a shame if these works were to simply disappear under developers’ bulldozers and wrecking balls. The role of Ukrainians in the Red Army contributed to the end of Nazi occupation and the collapse of Nazi Germany, while these works and what they symbolise – for better and for worse – are part of these lands’ cultural history. Perhaps the mural and relief could be salvaged, being relocated to the neighbouring Battle of the Dnipro museum, officially the ‘Heroes of the Dnipro Museum’, whose presence is probably the only reason why any of the older buildings remain standing and are expected to be part of the architecture of the new estate.

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The facade of the Museum is one of the few places in the city where the Red Star and St George’s Ribbon remain evident, too.

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The plaque on the building is to ‘Double hero of the USSR’ Kyrylo (Kirill) Moskalenko, who was a Marshall of the USSR and led the offensive of the 38th Army on Kyiv which ultimately liberated twelve regions of Ukraine from Nazi occupation.

I’ve yet to visit the museum, but it should certainly prove an interesting site of memory, within a city where most public new memorials now commemorate the deeds of those firmly in the canon of national heroes: authors, historians, politicians and Ukrainian nationalists who fought for the freedom of Ukraine. Even if the soldiers of the Battle of the Dnipro are declared heroes in the name of the museum, their allegiance to the Red Army – which was not something that could be resisted easily – means they don’t make the heroic canon. Still, a trace remains here – but for how long?

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Passing through the Memorial Square again today, where Roman Huryk – one of the Heavenly Hundred is buried – I found a plaque I had not previously noticed. It states: ‘This memorial cross was erected on 9 May 1995 to honour the memory of Ukrainians who died during the Polish-German-Russian occupational regime in Ukraine. Glory to the Heroes.’ Obviously, the date of the erection of the cross, on “Victory Day” (for the Soviet bloc) and the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, suggests that this plaque is a marker of the memory culture of 14 years ago. It is rare now to hear of explicit declarations lumping together the post-World War states ruling western Ukraine as occupying forces, with today a more heroic – rather than victim-centred – narrative emerging for this part of the world, once centred on resistance and insurgent fighting leading to Ukraine’s independence in 1991. Still, though, it continues to reflect the sense in western Ukraine that there was little glory in the fight the soldiers commemorated on National Guard street fought.

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An interesting echo of the Ukrainian cross comes on one of the few surviving graves of the former Catholic cemetery whose site the Memorial Square occupies. I only noticed the inscription on Maurycy Gosławski‘s tomb today. He was a poet and soldier who fought in the 1830/31 November uprising against Russian Rule over Poland. He escaped to Galicia and sought shelter her, before dying of typhus in 1834, with his tomb erected in 1872 when the cemetery was formed.

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The inscription reads ‘My people, my bedevilled people/ You forever build memorial mounds and crosses/ Until the Lord will bring your tears to the Rosary/ and will Himself wash your burning wounds.’ It is a verse reflecting the torment of the Polish people – something that is paralleled in the fate of the Ukrainian people – on the one hand reflecting a pessimistic sense that never will liberty again be seen, leaving only salvation in Lord. Or it could be read in the messianic vein, that eventually, the Lord must set the Polish people free. Alternatively, it could be read as something of an urge to action, to end the culture of mourning and work towards building a better future.

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Opposite the Memorial Square, this graffiti has appeared, commemorating the Heavenly Hundred, with the UPA-nationalist flag alongside the Ukrainian state flag. To the left of this graffiti tribute to the newest members of the canon of heroes is an image of a motley crew of Ukrainian freedom fighters, with the men bearing some resemblance to the pantheon of nationalist leaders, with the woman given a symbolic auxiliary role.

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There remains, though, in the city evidence of a more popular, less insurgent mode of working towards a European future. This is from a popular chain of fast food outlets, Chicken Hut. ‘Together to Victory’.  Those who claim to speak today, however, for the legacy of the red-and-black flag and bring the Ukrainian nationalist movement into the twenty first century, Right Sector, have decided that they are opposed to Ukraine’s Europeanisation and want Ukraine to be ‘a subject of geopolitics not an object’ and they thus reject Russia, Europe and NATO. Sounds like an ideal way to ensure a neverending battle and to ignore a large portion of the popular will and the original urge that drove what became Euromaidan, then the Ukrainian revolution and now, sadly, a chance for various chancers to attempt to usurp power, whether in Kyiv or Crimea.

In Kyiv, Right Sector are refusing to accept the new authorities, despite squirming their way into them there and in the regions, declaring the revolution ‘only 30%’ complete and seem determined to take up an insurgent, armed battle not only in Ukraine but also in Russia, drawing on Russian anti-Putin and nationalist support. This might get them a statue in future and a place among the canon of heroes, but it doesn’t serve the will of most people here to save the country, get life back to some degree of normality and improve the standard of living by aiming towards some European ideal.

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A Trip to Kolomyya: 60 km away and a very different atmosphere

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On Saturday this weekend, my wife – who is a Ukrainian – and I travelled to the town of Kolomyya/ Kolomyja/ Kolomyia/ Kolomea/ Коломия. (With the regular changes to official transliteration methods, it’s not clear what the correct form should be in English). The town is around 60 km from Ivano-Frankivsk and is home to some great tourist attractions and also my wife’s grandmother, which was our reason for travelling.

Among the attractions is the Easter Egg (Pysanka) Museum (above), which has a huge collection of traditional Ukrainian painted Easter eggs, as well as examples from around the world. There is also the astounding Museum of Hutsul Folk Art, behind the Easter Egg Museum, and a short way off the main street, the town’s History Museum, offering a very insightful history of the town. Kolomyya has around 65,000 residents, making it the third biggest town in the Ivano-Frankivsk region after the capital and Kalush. Kolomyya, apart from having museums arguably superior to Ivano-Frankivsk, is a useful transport hub for getting you into some more obscure corners of the Carpathian Mountains or it makes a neat stop off along the way to Chernivtsi. Anyway, the tourist guide bit of this post is done.

Now I will focus on giving a sense of the atmosphere in the town and what can be judged from observing the urban space about attitudes to the recent events, including the Revolution.

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This is outside the town’s History Museum. The plaque to nationalist leader Roman Shukhevych, complete with UPA emblem and the ‘Glory to Ukraine/ Glory to the Heroes’ slogan, is admittedly larger than the museum’s own name plate, but this kind of imagery is – after months in Ivano-Frankivsk – unusually rare in Kolomyya.

Saturday felt like an ordinary day, no different from any other visit to Kolomyya. We arrived by bus from Ivano-Frankivsk, a typically overcrowded bus which was designed for maybe 40 people at most, including standees, but managed to carry 60 or more at one point. It was market day in town, with the main market heaving while the central street, Chornovola, was full of people trading cheese, fruit, flowers and other things. The cafes seemed fairly full as we passed them.

What was most striking the difference to Ivano-Frankivsk’s urban space which, as far as informal notices and such like around the city, is dominated by nationalist imagery, including the adverts for joining paramilitary organisations like UNSO or the stickers placed over municipal institutions supporting Right Sector (Правий Сектор), not to mention marches by that grouping and even more extremist associates.

In Kolomyya, we covered the entire town centre and some suburbs by foot and noticed very little nationalist imagery, slogans, stickers or colours. Instead, the EU flag and the original objectives of the early civil revolution of November and December 2013 seemed more evident. The Easter Egg museum, like the nearby Pysanka Hotel, flew the flag alongside the Ukrainian one.

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The Town Hall, which also doubles as the centre of the town’s revolutionary resistance committee, does not feature a single red-and-black flag. Instead, the flags of Ukraine, the EU and the Ukrainian Navy fly side by side, below the town’s crest.

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On the balcony by the flags there remains a plaque to Polish-Lithuanian revolutionary and freedom fighter (who is also an American hero), Tadeusz Kosciuszko. He was a leader in the 1794 Uprising which sought to defend Poland’s 3 May 1791 constitution and Poland’s sovereignty against encroaching Prussian, Austrian and Russian empires. Given the circumstances facing Ukraine, it seems apt that a trace of Kosciuszko remains in the town.

Generally, though, the extent to which the past of other communities once significant in western Ukraine is remembered is a contentious issue and best left for another time. No doubt any deepening of Ukraine’s relations with Europe will lead to the questions of the Polish and Jewish past in the region being examined more closely. (Back to tour guide mode: Kolomyya is also an important site for Jewish history, with one of the town’s synagogues remaining.)

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Below the Kosciuszko plaque, there is another, this time commemorating Ivan Franko, the man in whose honour Stanislaviv was renamed Ivano-Frankivsk in 1962. Kolomyya probably has a better claim to being named after him, since he was imprisoned here in 1880, as the plaque notes, while he also spent a fair amount of time having his syphilis treated. (I’d have got a photo of the clinic, but it’s a bit out of the centre, on the way to the train station.) It seems apt that two democratic revolutionaries are honoured on this one building which is now the headquarters of the national resistance committee.

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Here the symbolism is dominated by the colours of the Ukrainian national flag, with the local crest (the eagle) prevalent alongside the Ukrainian trident within the circle of the EU starts. I can’t recall seeing this imagery in Ivano-Frankivsk for a long time, apart from on the beanie hat of a small boy who was travelling on the same bus to Kolomyya in the morning. While the entrance to Ivano-Frankivsk’s administration building is covered in Right Sector stickers and paramilitary recruitment posters, Kolomyya’s is free of any such imagery. Even the small poster remembering the first Maidan dead is restrained and sombre, avoiding any nationalist symbolism.

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 Indeed, even local shops – and not just this one – are proud to fly the EU flag, with this banner saying ‘Ukraine is Europe. Your contribution is important.’ This remains an echo of what seems to be, in the urban of space of Ivano-Frankivsk, largely forgotten, namely Euromaidan – the civil movement towards a European Ukraine.

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The only red-and-black nationalist UPA flag we saw flying in the city was outside this shop, Euro Second Hand. So even this shop has some connection to the European ideal, this time reflected in cheap clothes – seconds, second hand or sales items – imported to Ukraine and sold at affordable prices.

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The only Right Sector sticker we could locate in the town was – not unsurprisingly – on the memorial to the Maidan dead constructed on the city’s Rally Square opposite the town hall tower. While Right Sector had left a tasteful wreath, their representatives also decided that it would be worth putting at the top of the this memorial the group’s familiar sticker of a balaclava-wearing man.

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Seeing as no one from Right Sector was killed on Maidan, I interpret this as further evidence of the organisation attempting to appropriate the Maidan dead for its own cause of national revolution.

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Nearby there was also some kind of rock monument, perhaps symbolic of a Ukrainian grave-mound (могила) constructed in villages and towns to mark those killed in war, uprising and revolution. It is not clear what the pile of rocks in the town centre is supposed to signify, but someone had the idea of graffiting it with the slogan ‘Glory to UPA, the Heroes of OUN.’

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Next to this graffitied pile of rocks there was one of the town’s memorials to Taras Shevchenko whose 200th anniversary was celebrated a week ago. In fact, it’s more of a memorial to a memorial – one which was destroyed in 1914 by invading Russian troops. Still, no one a hundred years on has thought to turn this monument into a symbol of anti-Russian sentiment. I’m not so sure it could survive in Ivano-Frankivsk without a few stickers or red-and-black flags.

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At some point on Saturday, possibly while we were at grandma’s house, a march through the city did take place, as the local press reported. There was one red and black flag, although the main message of the protest was anti-war and calling for Crimea to remain with Ukraine. It is also clear that young people, possibly students and college pupils, were largely involved, again suggesting something closer to the spirit of the early days of Euromaidan.

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They gathered, admittedly in very small numbers, by the main Shevchenko monument in the town, although there was no trace of their presence when we passed the monument.

In Ivano-Frankivsk yesterday there was also a student-led anti-war protest calling for national unity. The weather was pretty foul, while students also tend to go home on weekends here, so that probably limited the numbers present. None, unlike in those in Kolomyya, bore any EU symbols, though. Today in Ivano-Frankivsk, meanwhile, there was another rally although the pictures show that this too, like the one on Friday, was hardly well attended.

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On a wall near the Kolomyya’s History Museum there was also evidence of a more radical strand to the earlier stages of revolution, this slogan calling for ‘Death to Yanukovych’. There’s also a faded happy birthday message to someone on the same way.

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This plaque, meanwhile, shows Kolomyya’s willingness to cater to visiting tourists, although sometimes, despite the best intentions, mistakes can emerge. After all, English is a real pain in the arse to spell. 

What the visit to Kolomyya suggests is that the situation in Ivano-Frankivsk, with the domination of the urban space by nationalist imagery and marches, could be something of an aberration, a local specificity, rather than something that prevails across the entire region. This is significant, since those who appropriate the balcony at Friday’s rally, claimed to speak for the people of the entire region, as well as the city. Indeed, their main gripe was with the regional administration. It seems that if support for Right Sector in Ivano-Frankivsk is marginal, and their apparent domination of the city space is an effect of their ‘successful PR’, as one representative of Self-Defence told me on Wednesday, then broader support across the region is even more of an illusion.

For now, the regional administration is holding out against the attempts to usurp power although it seems unlikely that Right Sector will shift away from its attempts to impose its will by force.

Still, the trip to Kolomyya was a refreshing change from the atmosphere in Ivano-Frankivsk and revived a sense of the initial purpose of the protests in Ukraine. Just as focussing on Kyiv gave a false impression of the situation in Ukraine generally, it seems that focussing on a regional capital gives a misleading image of the situation in the surrounding area.

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Yesterday Kolomyya also saw the funeral of the world’s oldest woman, Kateryna Kozak, who died at the age of 117 (in the 118th year of her life according to this funeral announcement). She lived through Austro-Hungary, the West Ukrainian Republic, the Second Polish Republic, Soviet Rule, German rule in the General Gouvernement, the USSR then Independent Ukraine. Her life, like that of my wife’s grandmother, is a reminder of how much historical change, how many empires, this part of the world has seen. Let’s hope that another geopolitical change isn’t on the way with events in Crimea.

Sunday in the Park with Taras: On Shevchenko’s 200th birthday.

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Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ukraine’s national poet, the Kobzar – the Bard, Taras Shevchenko. This whole year is being marked as Shevchenko year, with celebrations planned not only in Ukriane but also around the world among the diaspora and academic community. With the current events in Ukraine, however, the planned festivities have been somewhat overshadowed and muted. Still, Shevchenko’s place in the Ukrainian revolutionary tradition and canon is guaranteed, with this reflected in various cultural re-appropriations of his image. This article shows some very creative approaches, although the image of Shevchenko as Che Guevara features a somewhat misjudged slogan: ‘She’. Yes, it is the first sound in both men’s names, although in English I see ‘she’ – something perhaps more appropriate for yesterday’s celebration of International Women’s Day.

In Ivano-Frankivsk there was a poetry reading today on the Vichevyj Maidan (Rally Square) by the post office, while a much more widely attended event was held on the square outside the Administrative Office. Begun with the now obligatory Mass, the celebrations included music – including the playing of the bandura, the instrument of the Kobzar – various poetry readings as well as political speeches on the current situation.

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Today, however, my wife and I avoided the large-scale events organised in the city – although we will attend some Shevchenko-related events in the coming week. Instead, we took a walk along Shevchenko Street – formerly ulica Lipowa and Lindenstrasse, owing to the lime/linden trees which line this wonderful street that leads to the main park in the city, which is also named after Shevchenko. This street is home to the university where we both work and is also where my wife’s first home is. As the photo below shows, her first home – where she lived into her early twenties is falling into disrepair. It had been used as a teaching space for the pedagogical department and also as accommodation for lecturers and their families. Unlikely to be saved any time soon, the collapse of the building would free up some prime city centre real estate.

This photo also shows some of the attempts to revitalise Shevchenko Street, making it – at least for two thirds of the way – a pedestrian thoroughfare and the city’s calling card. However, renovations which were begun – bizarrely – at the start of November 2012 have hardly progressed, leaving the street in quite a mess. Here, though, some of the new paving stones and lamps are evident. The mayor had promised that the renovations would be finished in time for this 200th anniversary and if they weren’t, he said, the responsible authorities would be made to walk on their knees along the street to the park and the Shevchenko monuments located there. Our walk did not, sadly, reveal any bloodied rags and scraps of mid-range navy or black suits, so we can only assume that this threat was not fulfilled.

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Shevchenko Street, at the city centre end, starts with a relief plaque to the Bard, placed there on the 175th anniversary of his birth, as the photo above shows. It is modest, and now adorns a beauty salon, but is tasteful. Less successful, however, was the most recent monument – below – to Shevchenko, where the sculptor seems to have lost any sense of proportion giving this son of the peasantry a rather oversized head and huge hands. By all accounts, Shevchenko was a stocky chap but here he seems  to have been given the proportions of a hobbit. This statue, which was erected three years ago, is an exact replica of the Shevchenko monument in Ottawa. The sculptor is from the Ukrainian diaspora and there are plans to show a film made in the 1990s in Canada on local television in Ivano-Frankivsk.

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More successful, however, was this original sculpture in the park, also featured at the start of this post. It shows Shevchenko is his later years, rather than the above sculpture which bears the image of a young Shevchenko that also features on the 100 UAH banknote.

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Here, by this statue we witnessed a young girl with her father who was explaining to her the importance of the poet and then with great reverence she laid a flower by the memorial, signally the respect with which he is treated in the country and features much more prominently in the life of the nation than, say, Shakespeare in Britain.

The walk in the park did not pass without incident as we encountered – as is usual around here – a thoughtless and selfish driver who declared it his right to park inside Shevchenko Park.

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My wife asked him whether he really needs to park right inside the park, since many other people with prams managed to cope without driving right into the park. After some pretty foul language from him, he decided to confront me about ‘how I got so wise’. I didn’t have the time or the will to explain. It seems that while some aspects of behaviour are being transformed by the revolution, such as teachers refusing gifts, the revolution can only truly be declared victorious when drivers stop being arseholes, parking in parks or on pedestrian crossings or jumping red lights.

An interesting outcome of the confrontation with this man was that a young woman carrying a 1980 copy of Shevchenko’s work Kobzar apart from suggesting that ‘he’s not worth it’, also thought I was Polish. (Knowing Polish, I tend to speak Ukrainian with a Polish accent). She thanked me first as a Pole for all the help my apparent nation had offered Ukraine, then I pointed out that I am British. She then thanked me for all the help Britain had offered Ukraine. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that in all likelihood Britain won’t do too much to help and seems more interested in the billions of Russian oligarchs.

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This post will now take the form of walk along Shevchenko Street to Shevchenko Park. Here is a view of the start of the renovated section at the corner with Horodynskoho Street. It is clearly very much a work in progress, although there is a clear impression of the intention to create a wonderful thoroughfare. It took a campaign by ordinary residents of the city last year to save the linden trees which gave this street its original name, with council and developers claiming the trees were variously a danger to lives or property, or that they could be replaced. The campaign was successful involving a series of protests and petitions, and it’s clear that the trees have now been given special protection.

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This set of pictures shows a building a little further up Shevchenko Street adorned with gargoyles or chimeras, as they are known here. This building housed the first Ukrainian language secondary school in the city. It also bears plaques to three Ukrainian men. The first is to Stepan Lenkavsky, an activist in the Ukrainian interwar nationalist and independence movement, who became leader of the Organisation of Ukrainian Revolutionary Nationalists in exile in Munich in the 1950s and 1960s, hence the OUN symbolism on the plaque and also graffitied onto the wall beneath it. He was most famous for authoring the Ten Commandments of the Ukrainian Nationalist, with his plaque here bearing the first: ‘You will secure a Ukrainian state or die fighting for it.’

The second plaque here is to Oleksa Hirnyk, another pupil of the school. In 1978 he burned himself to death close to Taras Shevchenko’s tomb on the 60th anniversary of the declaration of an independent Ukraine. He is an official, state-recognised Hero of Ukraine, although for a long time his fate was silenced, while Shevchenko’s poetry provided the inspiration for his resistance to Ukraine’s Russification under Soviet rule.

The third plaque features Mykhailo Dyachenko, another graduate of the school, and a nationalist activist who was the chief poet of UPA who died in 1952 fighting NKVD forces in Ivano-Frankivsk – then Stanislav – region.

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Further along the street, as well as some wonderful examples of nineteenth and twentieth century urban architecture, you find the point where the renovations of Shevchenko Street have come to an end – namely just outside what is nominally the main entrance to the university. The paving stones are ready and waiting to be laid, while the workers have a portakabin available, but there doesn’t seem to be an urgency – despite the ideal weather for the job – to lay them. Not even to reach a few metres further so that it would be possible to enter the university without traipsing through mud. Thankfully the massive trenches that had tainted the street for months have been filled in. The state of the street has meant a significant increase in graffiti in this area, and none of it really that creative or humorous.

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Further up the street, you get a sense of the eclectic variety of architecture on this street which reflects all eras of the city’s history. The street existed as a thoroughfare to hunting grounds in the seventeenth century when it was founded, then it became a more exclusive area of the city, hence some of the lovely townhouses. However, it also houses the university which – beyond any nice buildings it acquired – can’t be said to have contributed greatly to the city’s architectural heritage in any positive way. The building behind the green fence is the death trap where I am expected to conduct my classes, the Humanities Block, which featured in this post about health and safety at work and fire safety. Opposite the university are some communist-era blocks of flats, while a nineteenth century Austrian-era building features most probably a remnant of the Soviet-era service sector, shoe repair. The red sign suggests membership of an updated form of cooperative, while the plastic windows and doors are clearly a twenty-first-century imposition on the building.

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Further up the street there is evidence of great care being taken to renovate Austrian- and Polish-era buildings, even with their fine and intricate details, as the pink building shows. The row of buildings, meanwhile, shows a series of architecture from interwar modernism blending into Austrian-era bourgeois architecture. The building furthest to the right houses some of the finest rooms owned by the university, with this building knows as the Building of Academics. Here doctoral dissertations are defended and dignitaries hosted. Further down is the house where one of Ukraine’s leading contemporary writers, Yuriy Andrukhovych, lives.

Behind the red car is a more recent architectural addition which has taken a form common in the city, namely “renovating” an existing building while in fact substantially altering it and effectively putting something new in its place. This is also evident in the form of the house behind the high fence where a local oligarch, or probably a “minigarch” lives. Next door to this minigarch’s house is a nineteenth-century building which has fallen into disrepair with no chance of it being rescued.

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Also in Shevchenko Park is the Rukh (Movement) Central Municipal Stadium which is still home to the largest local football team, Precarpathia Ivano-Frankivsk. The results board outside, however, still refers to the relative glory days of 2010/11 when the team was in the second-flight of Ukrainian football. Since then, following bankruptcy, the club has declined and despite talk of takeovers, it looks like it will be a long time before the city sees a decent standard of football again. The stadium could probably do with significant investment, since the stand in the third picture is apparently much too steeply built to enable fans to see the whole of pitch without obstruction. The most popularly attended events at the stadium now are rock concerts, with Okean Elzy having performed in spring and Skryabin in autumn.

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The mix-and-match form of the stadium gives it a certain accidentally modernist charm, while the traces of the efforts to extend its use are evident. Probably in the 1990s and early 2000s there was an internet and gaming club here called Kiberia. It is not quite clear, though, what this entrance gate was supposed to achieve, despite a vague resemblance to a 2D parthenon.

So, this was a walk along Shevchenko Street – one of the most historically and architecturally significant in the city – and into the park, which is a trace of the initial reason for locating a city here in the 17th century. In 1662, the Polish nobles, the Potockis, thought this would have made a great hunting ground.

This is by no means an exhaustive history of the street, merely a set of observations from a Sunday walk on the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great Ukrainian bard Taras Shevchenko. Still, this brief overview shows this street to be something of a palimpsest, reflecting better than any other in its architecture and history the 200 years that have passed since Shevchenko’s birth and indeed the entire history of the city.

After the Revolution: The everyday, getting ready for war and a sticker album.

The world’s eyes are still on Ukraine, but now focussed on Crimea. This is a huge country, so Simferopol is 1,100km away from Ivano-Frankivsk. But the threat of war is real throughout the country and the tension can be felt here, too. In practical terms, it means that a couple of people I know here have received papers calling them up as reserve officers to the army, while a qualified doctor I know has volunteered to join the medical corps. For now, these people can continue their everyday lives but could be called into service at any point. Many people in the city have also volunteered to join the military, while – as will be discussed below – paramilitary formations are also recruiting.

Beyond this, for most people, life goes on in this time of post-revolutionary attempts to stabilise everyday life while the threat of military conflict lingers. In terms of the most evident symbol of revolution in Ivano-Frankivsk, the burned out Security Service building, locals have volunteered to collaborate with the authorities to restore the building. In Kyiv, meanwhile, a team of volunteers from Kolomyja, a large town in Ivano-Frankivsk region, have restored “Lovers’ Bridge”, which was damaged by fire during the violent clashes in the capital. 

Around the city, it seems slightly livelier than it had been at the weekend and earlier in the week, when the fears of war and conflict were perhaps at their strongest. There seem to be more people in cafes and bars, while the upcoming Women’s Day holiday on 8 March has added a bit of colour (beyond blue and yellow, red and black, and grey) to the city. Despite the fears of economic difficulties in Ukraine, prices are fairly stable aside from products which are clearly imported, like fuel and bananas. There have been, however, some limits imposed by the biggest bank on credit card transactions. At one point, it was as low as 200 UAH, so about $20. This can get you about 15kg of bananas now, or 22 litres of milk, or four bottles of good Ukrainian wine in a supermarket. Businesses operating with a largely foreign client-base are sensing some degree of wariness from clients, with currency instability not aiding their situation, according to people I have spoken to. Meanwhile, students’ classes are running as usual, with no strikes or demonstrations for now.

The rest of this entry will take the form of a picture essay – linking between photos of stickers, posters and graffiti I have taken in recent days. Just to be clear for readers who expect “objectivity” – these are photos I have taken solely in the places I encounter as I walk around the city. These images are not an objective sample of the state of mind or political positions of Ivano-Frankivsk residents. They are merely a representation of what is visible on the city streets, and hopefully a fairly representative sample of what is currently visible.

 

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This sticker is from the Spilna Sprava (Common Cause) civil society organisation. It states ‘I won’t leave Maidan until Yanukovych resigns!’ That aim has obviously been achieved and now it is not clear what Common Cause can achieve, as its leader – the rights lawyer, Oleksandr Danyliuk – reportedly fled to London fearing arrest. In January, during the Kyiv protests in January occupied for a few hours several ministry buildings. The organisation still promotes greater reform of Ukraine’s political and power structures. If it has left Maidan after achieving this goal, then its space on the streets has been filled – in Ivano-Frankivsk – most evidently by Pravy Sektor/ Right Sector.
As this article shows, in an attempt to present Right Sector as something of a civil society organisation, Right Sector emerged in the city once the original student-led protests left for Kyiv. The former student Maidan was taken over by Right Sector, thus changing the face of the local revolution. As this article concludes, the aim of the Right Sector activists is a “Ukrainian Ukraine”. Like so many representations of the Right Sector coalition of nationalist organisations, it is written as if Ukraine lacks a regular armed forces.

 

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Here, some homemade, improvised shields outside the Right Sector-dominated encampment outside the Regional Administration (White House) feature a poster advertising a rally which took place on 26 February promoting the ‘Day of Solidarity’. This was intended to promote the rights of Russian speakers in Ukraine and thus territorial integrity. This meeting was scheduled before any evident Russian move on Crimea, but did reflect something of society’s concern over what could happen next following the new parliament’s short-sighted decision to scrap the existing language law (which the interim president has not signed into law). Lviv intellectuals were some of the first to speak out against what could be perceived as discriminating Ukraine’s Russian speakers. This has become a mainstream concern now in these times of crisis, as traditionally Ukrainian-language media outlets are now happily switching between languages and making overt shows of bi-lingual national unity.

 

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This is the Right Sector-dominated camp in the city, outside the administration building. Today it seemed surprisingly quiet, with the only person evident sitting further away and guarding a collection box. Perhaps the rain kept the activists inside. However, today also saw a civil society campaign against Right Sector, with a group of people putting in an appeal today with the city’s mayor to have him act against the group’s overt presence on the streets.

The people who came reflected citizens’ concerns about the number of people in masks and the number of people from Right Sector carrying arms around the city. As the video in the link above makes clear, the leader of Right Sector has forbidden the wearing of masks, although this seems to make little difference. Some of those appealing to the mayor were from Samoobrona (Self-Defence) which was associated with Klitschko’s Udar (Punch) party who feel let down by their former brothers in arms. The mayor answered in strong terms, stating that he was opposed to these masked figures’ attempts to usurp power. He is also concerned about the arms finding their way to organised criminal elements. As I witnessed myself, the storming of the Security Service building was both a show of power but also an attempt to gain arms.

 

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As this board outside the Regional Administration main entrance symbolises however, Right Sector activists are finding their way into legitimate organs of power, including the city and regional administration, as well as the national government, so it might not be so simple for the mayor to keep order in the city and keep masked and armed figures off the streets.

 

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One of the stickers on the nameplate of the Regional Administration is this one, which is currently the poster most evident around the city. It comes from the Ukranian National Self-Defence organisation, which is a far-right political party with a paramilitary section that has seen action in numerous conflicts outside Ukraine. Here, on this poster marked with stylised bullet-holes and blood, is what the organisation can offer. It includes a ‘Street revolutionary course’, generally military preparation including medical skills, mass-event organisation, peaceful and non-peaceful forms of protest, psychological preparation, ideological preparation, agitation and educational work, climbing lessons, shooting practice, training camps, history lessons and ‘Strikeball’ or Airsoft in English.

 

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It is impossible to tell, of course, how many people will be successfully recruited by these posters, of which there are hundreds around the city right now. Of course, anyone reading them will also be confronted by the traces of ordinary everyday life which continue. Here, the Ukrainian National Self-Defence poster competes with offers for a cheap flat, new jobs, business managers, while elsewhere in the city there are plenty of offers for loans or work in Poland.

 

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Here the Ukrainian National Self-Defence is recruiting alongside, or on top of, an ‘Address to the Nation’ from Stepan Bandera, around whom something of a nationalist cult has been built in these parts, partly in response to Communist-era efforts to particularly discredit him. This is continued by Russia today, which believes neo-Nazi, Fascist “Benderovtsi” have taken over Ukraine leading to some excellent memes onlineImage.

This plays on the mispronunciation of Bandera’s name in Russian-language propaganda, so here we have Banderas, Bond, Ostap Bender and Mr Bean. 

To me, the cult of Stepan Bandera seems quite odd, since he was not necessarily the most influential or successful nationalist leader at the time, although he was probably the most radical, causing a splintering of the Ukrainian nationalist movement during World War II. So the cult that has developed could be seen as developing in response to attempts to trash his reputation under the Soviet Union and since then.

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This is a further Ukrainian National Self-Defence recruitment poster, calling for people to join the paramilitary force. I have not seen a standard military recruitment poster yet, although I imagine that might be because the rush to sign up was a natural urge in many people. Equally, the state system might not be as quick at getting posters published, what with bureaucracy to get through.

This poster calls for mobilisation following ‘the military aggression of the Russian Empire against Ukraine’. It seeks volunteers to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the state’s sovereignty. It calls above all for ‘hunters, sportsmen and “security forces” with arms’. The latter could include ex-Berkut, the special forces unit, who were disbanded around most of Ukraine. While the reference to sportsmen is ironic in that one of the great criticisms of the Yanukovych regime was that it had trained up “titushky” or sportsmen, who were sponsored to pursue boxing or martial arts, but could be called upon as a kind of paramilitary reserve when necessary. Indeed, when this Maidan began in November, Ivano-Frankivsk was due to host the national boxing championships, sponsored by the Party of Regions. It seems that such men can be hired for any cause, while there is recognition that there must be now a number of armed people around the city.

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This less fancy poster, meanwhile, is an announcement of the formation of a student self-defence organisation. Given the proliferation of groups, some with similar names, it is not clear whether this Self-Defence is connected to any of the other self-defence organisations. And if it is, whether it is closer to the Udar-linked Self-defence or the Ukrainian National Self-Defence. In the past, students opposition leaders in the city were seen flanked by guards sporting the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel symbol.

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Although far/extreme right organisations prevail over the city’s informal visual communicative spaces and in terms of the resources committed to promoting themselves, as well as in organisations that are visible around the city, it’s not all like that. Aside from remembering that almost everyone in the city has little affiliation with such organisations, civil society continues to work to improve the city while most people try their best to get by.

Svoboda, meanwhile, which despite its origins at the Social National Party of Ukraine, now appears a relatively moderate right-wing force compared to others that are emerging. Tyahnybok’s party has produced a rather nice calendar which features Ukraine’s national poet Taras Shevchenko, who was born 200 years ago, with this anniversary subject to many special events this year.

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Looking unusually like Lech Wałęsa probably would have done had he been involved in the current protests, sporting the orange helmet associated with those active on the Maidan and a baseball bat, the quote from Shevchenko’s poetry says, ‘Ukraine will rise and blow away the fogs of subordination, then the world will know truth.’

 

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Another change inspired by the revolution that affects everyday lives above all else is the social willingness now to resist corruption and bribery, rather than accept it as part of “the system”. Here the top poster (the bottom one is the location of a first aid point for the Maidan) states: ‘Dear Citizens! If in kindergartens, schools, universities or state offices someone demands or seeks to induce a BRIBE phone immediately on … (the HQ of Ivano-Frankivsk self-defence). ENOUGH feeding state workers with our own cash.’ 

I’ve yet to see this system put into action, but I’d be interested to know how it works. I should inform the students of the numbers, although I’m worried that the self-defence might send round to bribe-takers a few lads with baseball bats or worse.

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Not all of civil society is seeming to work hard for the revolution. While in Kyiv the Trade Union building was a hotbed of revolutionary fervour, providing one of the main bases until it was burned down, in Ivano-Frankivsk there has been no sign of active trade union support for the revolution. Indeed, judging by the main Trade Union building, which doubles as a travel agency, there is no sign of revolution. You can read a month-old newspaper pasted to the notice board or find out about the Futsal tournament that the union newspaper sponsored.

 

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At the university, the main entrance door featured these stickers from Right Sector which no one thought to rip down. The top one calls for ‘Justice on the land of our forefathers. Long live the national revolution.’ The national revolution being the term for the kind of extremist revolution called for in the programme of Ukrainian social nationalists, covered in a previous post. The lower sticker, on another major entrance gate to the university, states ‘Be a fighter, be victorious’.

 

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The sticker below is in a busy passageway in the university and calls for people to join the Patriot of Ukraine organisation, which was responsible for a torchlight parade through the city on Friday last week.

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In Shevchenko Park near the university, however, there is an antifa sticker on an information board about cycling routes covering the city’s historical attractions.

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Here Youth Against Fascism defaced some Svoboda graffiti, which seems to be a regular event around the city. Another piece, that I’ve not photographed yet, states ‘Svoboda prydurkiv’, or ‘Freedom/Liberty for morons’.

 

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Whoever youth against fascism are, they’ve not managed to work on all the Svoboda graffiti yet.

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Here, meanwhile, someone thinks the Lviv Antifa are ‘arseholes’.

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Here, a space which has been competed over, next to a children’s play area by the Potocki Palace walls, sees neo-Nazi graffiti and a link to the old Social Nationalist Assembly website crossed out. Others campaign for freedom for political prisoners, while to the left of the tree others have used graffiti to declare their love or wish happy birthday.

 

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These are just a set of photos I have taken in the past ten days or so around the city. They’re not an objective representation of the views of the people of Ivano-Frankivsk. However, they do show which groups are represented most evidently on the streets right now, while the graffiti challenges symbolise that there is some organised anti-fasict work in the city somewhere. However, most important is that the people of Ivano-Frankivsk are still able to approach their democratically-elected mayor and ask for protection from him. And they still believe him and state institutions capable of doing so. Let’s hope it gets the masked, armed men off the streets and out of people’s minds. And if anyone is really looking for somewhere to put their fighting skills, then the regular Ukrainian might be the place to do it. But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

And, a final note. As the spontaneous rally in support of Russian speakers in Ukraine shows, it could be that out of these times of crises will come an image of Ukraine not built on stereotypes of division of east and west, but a sense greater unity and understanding. And this can be achieved without ‘national revolution’.

  

Honouring the Dead: With a Torchlight Procession. And an update on the revolutionary everyday.

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Photo from http://firtka.if.ua/?action=show&id=48465, which outlines the route of the procession through the city centre and suggests the number of participants was ‘close to a hundred’. This longer video suggests the number of participants, and torches, was significantly higher. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUAwnKqa4U0

Yesterday evening (28 Feb 2014), around 6:50 p.m., I was walking through the city centre along Sichovych Striltsiv Street and became aware that I could hear a crowd shouting or chanting. I thought that perhaps a rally was being held, this being a now-traditional time for gathering, on the original site of Euromaidan protests in the city – on Vichevyj Maidan, by the post office. However, when I reached a corner and could get a view of that square, I could see that a torchlight procession was taking place. Having eaten nothing but dry crackers since Tuesday owing to food poisoning, I thought – briefly – that my mind was playing tricks. Although I couldn’t track the procession yesterday, I understood correctly that it would head to the Memorial Square, where an Ivano-Frankivsk student, Roman Huryk, who was killed on Maidan in Kyiv, is buried. (See my previous post on that.)

Ukrainian funeral and mourning traditions are regionally and ethnographically diverse, and some do involve lighting torches, although not in mass numbers and then marching through a city with them while chanting slogans (more on those below). The associations of this march with a tradition in Nazi Germany are clear not only to me, but also to numerous people who have commented in social media on this march. The comments on the post about it on Typical Frankivsk’s VK page is insightful, as are the comments under the Firtka article.

Ukrainian funeral and mourning traditions include long-term, public mourning, including wakes held 40 days after a death, as well as marking a death again on the ninth day afterwards, which was the purpose of this torchlight procession. It is clear that the population of Ivano-Frankivsk would want to mark the death of local-student Roman Huryk and others from the region, Ukraine and beyond killed on Maidan, although public opinion – as far as it can be gauged from these comments – suggests that including a torchlight procession was not the wisest option.

More pragmatic responses to the torchlight procession in the city suggest that candles would have been a better option and there was no need for someone to consciously prepare dozens, perhaps hundreds, of torches for parading through the city. Other pragmatic or strategic responses suggest that this was not the right time to hold such a procession (implying that it might be ok in future – after all, Svoboda have in the past few years been holding torchlight processions around the country in honour of dead Ukrainian heroes). The main concern in such responses is the current context of Crimea where a military confrontation is brewing as the peninsula is held by Russian or Russian-backed forces.

Responses worrying that this is the wrong time are concerned for the perception of western Ukraine, which is framed in Russian media stereotypically as a region of fascists, Nazis and “banderites” (Bandera/ UPA/ OUN supporters) and nationalists. Thus, there is a fear that such processions can simply provide evidence for such stereotypes which, it is believed, also prevail in more pro-Russian parts of eastern Ukraine. A typical response to this appears to be that Ukrainians in their own country shouldn’t need to be concerned about what Russians or anti-Ukrainians think, as they are free to mark their dead heroes as they see fit. I’ve yet to read or hear a denial that this is not a National Socialist inspired form of marking the dead or making a statement. Either there is among some of those approving of this torchlight procession ignorance of the associations of this form of march, or there is no sense of shame attached to it.

What is clear, however, is that what could have been a march to honour the memory of Roman Huryk and others killed on Maidan, has not received any extensive media coverage. Firtka focused on the torchlight procession aspect, while no other local media, usually quick in updating their sites with local news and commemorative actions, have even mentioned the march. It seems that there is ambivalence towards this form, with coverage of the protest not possible without drawing attention to the torchlight procession. Editors are clearly showing restraint, perhaps fearful that this march could be used to validate the stereotype of western Ukraine.

It is clear, however, even from the video on YouTube of the procession that not everyone was carrying a torch, thus not everyone was necessarily aligned to whichever organisation thought they were a necessary accessory. This was supposed to be a general, civic march in honour of the memory of the dead. In the video, you can see priests leading the procession, followed by a marching band, then a crowd with numerous torches, but not held by all. (The role of the priests here becomes an interesting comment on this article from the Polish press, featuring the archbishop of Ivano-Frankivsk, proclaiming the Church’s important, key role in the Maidan. It should be borne in mind that this was the city of Andrey Sheptytsky.) In the video you can hear the following slogans:

Honour and Glory to the heroes of Stanislav.

Glory to Ukraine/ Glory to the Heroes.

Glory to the Nation/ Death to the Enemies.

Ukraine/ Above All.

Heroes Never Die.

At the end of the video, the Lord’s Prayer is chanted.

The first slogan has been fairly common place in the city, reflecting upon the memory of local heroes, using one variant of the pre-1962 name of the city. The second slogan is the most prevalent not only in the city but now in the Maidan movement, regardless of affiliations. It is used in parliament, it has become a commonplace greeting on the stages at rallies around the country, while it has also been chanted at a Georgia-Russia rugby match and at a CSKA-Spartak ice hockey match in Moscow in support of Ukraine. The third slogan, Glory to the Nation/ Death to the Enemies marks something of an escalation in the arms race of nationalist markers. As Glory to Ukraine/ Glory to the Heroes becomes commonplace, this is – I believe – is now the marker of the ideological nationalist. This also applies to Ukraine Above All, which also seems to have fairly obvious connotations. ‘Heroes Never Die’ has been chanted at funerals by crowds around the country.

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An Italian/Mexican pizza restaurant in Ivano-Frankivsk bearing the slogan, ‘Glory to Ukraine/ Glory to the Heroes’.

Why has there been an arms race in slogans or nationalist identification, and what suggests the normalisation of the nationalist greeting Glory to Ukraine/ Glory to the Heroes (Слава УкраїніГероям СлаваFrankivsk (Bunker), require you to respond on the door to gain entry. However, it has been possible to mumble something vague or just one person in your party to reply in order to access the places. With the events of Euromaidan, however, the greeting has become commonplace, entering workplaces, greetings between friends, as well as becoming ubiquitous at rallies.

It is understandable why in light of the mass killings and tragic situation in Ukraine why this has happened. Equally, it is clear why nationalist symbolism has become widespread in the course of the revolution. However, there is also a sense that the Glory to Heroes slogan/greeting is also used unthinkingly, becoming visible when an affront is committed against this new everyday ritual. Such affront can be caused by a foreigner refusing to respond as “required”. Indeed, in one workplace I was asked – before the mass killings took place – what I do when greeted with the slogan. I suggested that the response ‘Heroyam slava’ sounds quite like ‘heroine’s lover’, which was an attempt to deflect the conversation. (Before the revolution I also had a tactic of deliberately mixing up non-typical Ukrainian greetings – so to ‘Slava Ukraini’ I would respond ‘Voistino voskres”, which means ‘He truly resurrected’, which is part of the Easter greeting tradition.)

Now, at a time when such play is inappropriate, I generally give a nod, a handshake, or a vague mumble, although there is evidently an affront felt particularly in the company of strangers. What is hard to communicate is that my intent is not an affront to those who have newly joined the pantheon of Ukrainian heroes, the ‘Heavenly Hundred’ (Небесна Сотнія), or even to the Ukrainian nation. It is simply an attempt to remain aware – even at times of heightened emotion – a sense of the historical significance that this slogan carries, what and who it has represented in the past, including values and actions that I cannot accept (both for family reasons and out of a an ethical position). The same stands for torchlight processions. More people, though, seem to be aware of what they are associated with than the everyday slogan.

What is noticeable is that in the very first days of what became Euromaidan, organisers and activists in the civic protests were suggesting alternatives to the then popular chant ‘Whose not jumping is a Moskal” (a Muscovite). And it had an effect.  However, that was in the days of the initial civic protests, which generally seemed to have been an upsurge of popular frustration and desire, as well as an indication of an unexpectedly vibrant although still fragmented and developing civil society in Ukraine. Nationalist symbols and organisations were evident, but not dominant, and seemed to largely indicate a kind of mobilising populist patriotic nationalism. Since the protests turned violent and fatal in Kyiv, nationalist-leaning organisations have become more prevalent and this is evident now in the city in terms of who and what is visible on the city streets as the face of protests and Euromaidan.

While defenders of the torchlight procession have suggested that people are free to mourn the dead and express their feelings as they wish, and that such a protest does not break any laws, this fails to explore the question of who has power over the city’s streets. Currently, as the various roadblocks and the Self-Defence/ Pravy Sektor-police patrols of the city’s streets suggest, it is the organisations who have fought and are prepared to fight who are given authority and become the public face of the post/pre-post-revolutionary city, as well as legitimacy for the future. This is not to say that the entire city has turned nationalist. Far from it. The everyday revolution continues.

Market-stall holders on the central market, previously in the hands of a Party of Regions figure, are now renting their stalls from the city which took control of the market. The stall-holders staged a protest and won out. Locals involved in a dispute with a garage cooperative also won their battle. This is all part of a general realisation that the biggest difference to everyday lives will be made by taking action against corruption which previously was largely treated as a necessary evil. Passports are now being issued according to regulations, rather than with extra payments required, while there is a widespread call for avoiding giving bribes in any situation. Even Women’s Day, 8 March, has been targeted – with parents asked not to give teachers presents, as is usual, and instead donate the value of any intended gifts to support those injured and the families of those killed on Maidan.

My fear, however, is that those organisations – Pravy Sektor, the Church and whoever else – who claim to have done the most for Maidan, measured in the number of deaths suffered or the level of spiritual inspiration purported to have been instilled in the people, will – as is already becoming evident – demand greater representation in the new structures of power. They will do so in the name of the people, claiming to represent them and speak for them, and thus claiming the right to seek policies in accordance with the organisations’ views. Speaking in the name of a singularly imagined people or nation, this will likely forget the disparate, diverse nature of Ukrainians (and others) who first came onto the squares of Ukraine in November.

Roman Huryk’s Funeral and his intriguing burial place.

ImageRoman Huryk (Роман Гурик) was a student in the second year of his philosophy studies in Ivano-Frankivsk who was killed on 20 February 2014 in Kyiv. He travelled to the capital with his father initially in December then returned in February when he was shot dead by a sniper as he shielded a female medic on Hrushevskoho Street. His final words entered on a social media website were: ‘It’s now or never. Everyone to Hrushevskoho Street. To death.’ Two memorial gatherings were held at the Prosvita Centre, the HQ of student resistance in the city, this weekend, gathering thousands of mourners. His funeral was held today in Ivano-Frankivsk, attended by tens of thousands on the city’s streets. His body was laid to rest in the city’s Memorial Square, close to the Franko Theatre in the city centre.

A video of his funeral procession and burial is available from 5 Kanal, while further links to reports and photographs from local media can be accessed here: videos, photos, more photos, including the one borrowed above, and more from the local newspaper Reporter.

The funeral procession began at Prosvita with Huryk’s body taken to the front of the regional administration building a short distance away. The procession continued after a service lasting around an hour issued from the balcony of the administration building to the cathedral, where a shorter service was held. The coffin, with its lid still of, as is traditional here, was then taken past Huryk’s home on Mazepy Street, then to the university nearby. From there the procession headed towards the Memorial Square, although – quite wisely – it did not take the most direct route, past the partly-burnt out offices of the police and security service. The procession at Prosvita started at 10 am. It was around 1:45 by the time it reached the Memorial Square. However, the procession was so long that some in the procession were still on the corner of Sakharova Street, near the security service building, by the time the burial was over.

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This bus provided sound to the masses gathered with speakers tethered to the roof, with recent rallies having been plagued by poor audio equipment and volume levels.

It was announced today that a new road in Ivano-Frankivsk, an extension of Pivdennyj Bulvar currently called vul. Projektna (Project Street) will be named in honour of Huryk, while the square in front of the Regional Administration building (ODA, aka The White House), will be renamed Heroes of the Maydan Square. The collective term for all the anti-government victims killed in Kyiv is the ‘Heavenly Company’ or ‘Heavenly Hundred’ (Небесна Сотня). A sotnia is a term first used in Cossack military for a unit of 100 fighters, with the term subsequently applied throughout the history of Ukrainian military formations.

Huryk’s burial place is symbolic, since it is the city’s pantheon of national heroes and fighters for the freedom of Ukraine. As the university’s website announced, Huryk will be buried ‘alongside heroes of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) as a hero of Ukraine.’ The Sich Riflemen were a unit formed of Ukrainian paramilitaries who were incorporated into the Austrian forces in the First World War before forming the core of the Ukrainian military in Western Ukraine which was an independent republic in 1918/19. UPA is a more controversial organisation, active in 1942-1949, fighting occupation of Ukrainian lands, meaning it was involved in ethnic cleansing of the lands during Nazi occupation before becoming an anti-Nazi force and then fighting against Soviet occupation. It seems, however, the university made a mistake in aligning Huryk with UPA, since the Memorial Square represents more the broader Ukrainian Organisation of Nationalists (OUN), formed in 1929 in western Ukraine before splitting into moderate and radical factions in 1941.

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You will build a Ukrainian state or will die fighting for one. To the eternal memory of those who died in the name of a free Ukraine. The fighters of UPA, the First Ukrainian Division Galicia* and member of OUN.

* NB this was a division of the Waffen SS.

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For Ukraine. For Freedom. For the Nation. – the emblem of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists.

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This contains earth from symbolic graves of Ukrainian Sich Riflemen.

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This is one of two sets of crosses dedicated to the Sich Riflemen. Huryk was buried at the end of this one.

It is clear to see how the tragic deaths in Kiev fit easily into a paradigm of western Ukrainian memory built around the idea of heroes who fought for Ukraine at various points in the twentieth century under various, contested nationalist banners.

However, what is intriguing about Huryk’s burial place, the Memorial Square, is the broader symbolism that it holds. However, these other ghosts of the past are currently inevitably overlooked. The Memorial Square has been built on the site of a former Catholic, largely Polish, cemetery which was adjacent to a church knocked down in the communist period and replaced by the Franko Theatre. The current Memorial Square largely lacks any trace of the previous graves, although a few have survived and remain in place. The largest structure within the Square is a chapel which was consecrated in 2002 ‘in honour of the memory of participants of national liberation struggles for the freedom of Ukraine’, according to the inscription.

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There remains in the Memorial Square, however, this particularly interesting gravestone, whose inscription to some extent reflects the narratives of heroism albeit in Polish.

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The grave is for Zygmunt Mroczkowski, a doctor of medicine, who died on 13 May 1888; his adopted daughter Helena Csiszarik and his wife, Ksawera Mroczkowska (née Wartersiewicz).

At the top of the headstone there is a plea to God for him to return Poles their fatherland, his grandchildren their family homelands and bless the Polish lands.

Below there is a plea taken from Polish Romantic poet Juliusz Słowacki’s Testament: May the living not lose hope and bear before the nation the torch of education; and if necessary they head to their deaths one by one like the rocks thrown by God at the ramparts.

These words from Słowacki bear an uncanny resemblance to those placed on social media by Huryk before his death who is buried a few metres away.

Further Polish traces at the Memorial Square include this monument to Poles who died fighting in the First and Second World Wars, as well as to those whose remains rest in this space. It was donated by ‘Rodacy’, or fellow Poles, while Huryk’s grave is visible behind it. This is a memorial to those whose traces remain barely visible in what was once a major Polish and Catholic cemetery, yet at the same time it reawakens those traces and raises the ghosts of the past, showing that these were for centuries shared Polish and Ukrainian spaces, where relations passed not without trouble. Indeed, those commemorated in this monument may well have died fighting against Ukrainians, as well as potentially alongside them against Russian incursion after World War One.

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These spaces were also inhabited extensively by Jews, but few traces remain evident in the city of their lives here. The Kosmos cinema a few dozen metres from the Memorial Square and Franko Theatre was built on a Jewish cemetery, although no traces of that fact remain evident.

Still, the fact that Huryk now rests in a space that may be currently overtly overwritten by a narrative of Ukrainian heroism associated with nationalist movements, yet still contains traces of the multinational past of the city, brings hope that such a vision of a “European” city and memory can prosper. However, the Memorial Square also reveals the drama currently manifesting itself in terms of Ukraine’s future, its relations to its neighbours and the idea of Europe, as nationalist tropes become distinctly everyday features, intensified in the course of Euromaidan, here in western Ukraine.

Days 13 and 14: Poetic manifestations, court threats and a moral quandry

The region-wide general strike in Ivano-Frankivsk continues, with a mass rally each day outside the regional administration building. However, the local Party of Regions councillors have complained to a court about the strikes. Equally, the large-scale blockades of ministries and state administration buildings in Kyiv have been considered by a court, which has given protesters five days to clear the pickets before threatening the use of force. Whether the government would dare to use force against the population again is unclear given the global coverage that the clearance of the Euromaidan on Independence Square received and, in particular, given the popular outrage and mobilisation that this inspired. The blockades could, however, inspire dialogue between the opposition and the government following the failed vote of no confidence.

It is becoming clear that the initial pro-EU protests have become more political, with bringing down the Yanukovych-Azarov Party of Regions government the dominant aim now that the EU Association Agreement is an unlikely prospect under that government. This realisation has meant a shift away from the insistence on a purely civil protest, focussed on Ukraine’s and the city’s proto-civil society and the rise of political parties’ influence. For the first time, then, party tents appeared at Ivano-Frankivsk’s evening rally, with Svoboda and Batkivshchyna present. Of the opposition parties, Klitschko’s Udar was absent. Earlier in the protests, before the failure of Ukraine to sign the agreement, Svoboda had pitched tents outside the Regional Administration in the city, but these were removed as the civil nature of the protests prevailed. This is unlikely to be repeated now as the civil side of the protests fades and government-level negotiations take centre stage, against a background of the continued popular occupation of Kyiv and blockades of government/ state institutions.

Since the start of the protests in Ukraine, it has been evident to me that ordinary people themselves clearly sought to distance themselves from being declared “political” – as being “political” was perceived as necessarily being involved in a party, something that clearly bears some form of social stigma. Thus the civil thrust of the protests and manifestations was expressive of a popular will, although it is now clear that the civil movement can now achieve little without engaging with opposition political parties, even if this arouses some degree of scepticism. (A number of cities’ Euromaidans barred political figures from appearing on their stages, at least initially).

Although the protests are increasingly political in terms of the accepted involvement of politicians, ordinary people’s actions and generosity are the spine of the Kyiv protests.  Ivano-Frankivsk citizens raised around 80,000 UAH (some €750) in two days to offer support for the 1,500 or so locals who are in Kyiv. Indeed, the Kyiv Christmas tree at the centre of the re-occupied Independence Square, is now decorated with flags from all over Ukraine, although western regions are predominant.

The protests have also inspired alternative forms of creative use of the streets that would not happen in any other circumstances. Thus, starting yesterday, a Literary Maydan was launched, with local people – as the pictures below show – coming to Mickiewicz Square to read their own poetry or literary creations, as well as works by others. Starting at midday, the event was still going strong after 3 p.m.

At the university, meanwhile, the system of a semi-strike continues, with students told by the dean of one department to reschedule classes for the first and second lessons, meaning that they can strike from 11:30 onwards. They should also ensure that the reschedule only their core courses, rather than attend the many minor subjects. (I have written about this previously). The students are coming to appreciate this European-style scheduling, which has reduced their contact time by half, so to something approaching European standards.

Tomorrow, however, I face something of a quandry, since a group has asked me to teach our scheduled class in the third period, which is the time that the strikes begin. Since few lecturers are evidently striking or even encouraging protests – in contrast to this excellent Lviv lecturer – my reservations have struck the students as unusual. I have thus proposed to meet 15 minutes before the scheduled seminar at a neutral point – the corridor by the lifts – to take a democratic vote on how to conduct the class and where to conduct it, with options of the usual classroom, a university cafe or a city-centre cafe available, as well as any students’ own suggestions. Since these are the first strikes these students have participated in, or indeed ever heard of in many cases, it can be difficult to communicate the moral economy of a strike – so there is no sense that holding the third class is an expression of a lack of solidarity, that it is breaking the strike and could be the action of a “scab”. I have left myself at mercy of the students’ democratic will, although even the concept of majority voting can be difficult in a system where there are class monitors who are often entrusted with taking decisions on behalf of the whole group. It is rare for any group to have overtly split opinion and dividing itself accordingly.

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Literary Maidan in Ivano-Frankivsk, 4 December 2013. Ordinary people gather to read their own poetic work or recite others’ literary creations by the Adam Mickiewicz monument in the city centre.

 

Our Home is in Europe not in Asia

Our Home is in Europe not in Asia

This adapted map, hanging on the door of a city-centre bookshop, highlights the Europe-Asia, so Europe-Russia dichotomy that enables a mobilising framing of the geopolitical battle over Ukraine.
While certainly shocking and orientalising to some, it is also notable that this binary continues to be applied in some scholarship. A particularly vivid example of this is Ewa M. Thompson’s ‘Imperial Knowledge: Russian Literature and Colonialism’ (2000).