From Storming to Mourning the Security Service in Ivano-Frankivsk – Part 2: Or, From the Corridor of Shame to the Pantheon of Heroes

Police mourning their fallen colleagues, 2 June 2014, central Ivano-Frankivsk

Police mourning their fallen colleagues, 2 June 2014, central Ivano-Frankivsk

This is the second of a two-part blog post. In the first part on the funeral of National Guard soldiers, formerly of Berkut, killed fighting for Ukraine in Donetsk region, I presented the mourning that took place in the city over at least three days since 29 May. Here I look more at the political controversies, as well as the questions for memory and memorial culture, that have emerged in light of these deaths and the burial.

The six men from the region killed in the helicopter, including the three buried in the Memorial Square, were members of the Berkut special police unit until it was disbanded after Yanukovych fled the country and the new government assumed power. These men had volunteered to transfer to the new National Guard, a unit that replaced the Internal Military, and is responsible to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is also in charge of police.

Berkut officers were responsible for beating students and protesters on 1 December, which reignited the initial wave of Euromaidan protests and turned Kyiv’s Independence Square into the fortified tent city that was the heart of protests. Meanwhile, in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, after Yanukovych was deposed, in some places Berkut officers were greeted as heroes.

A Gryfon member and a member of the public

A Gryfon member and a member of the public

Troops from the Gryfon unit stand guard

Troops from the Gryfon unit stand guard

When the Police and Security Service (SBU) HQ was being stormed in Ivano-Frankivsk on 18/19 February, Berkut officers -including the six men killed near Slovyansk in the “anti-terror operation” – were present in the city. Indeed, they were inside the building. First ordinary police officers were brought out of the police wing of the building on Lepkoho Street and were greeting with shouts of “the police are with the people”, so an almost forgiving and celebratory greeting.

Later Berkut officers emerged – including the six men being mourned from Ivano-Frankivsk region – were made to walk through what is termed “a corridor of shame”, a kind of “guard of shame”, basically. The Berkut officers were released from the building, disarmed and their body armour removed, while the crowd mostly booed them. However, what is only now being appreciated is that in abandoning their posts, the then-Berkut officers betrayed their oath and abandoned their duties. Had things turned out differently in Ukraine, this act could have faced serious consequences. At this point, then, these men refused to fire on fellow Ukrainians.

After the police HQ was taken over, the crowd moved towards the Security Service wing of the building. That wing was harder to take and better protected, with “activists”, many associated with Maidan Self-Defence and Right Sector – and notably its youth wing, Tryzub Bandery – soon preparing burning tyres and the Molotov cocktails which caused significant damage to the building. It was then partly looted, while both sides – SBU workers and “activists” – burned documents, with a smaller-scale storming of the prosecutor’s office taking place, too, with documents burned there. The events at the prosecutor’s office remain to this day shrouded in mystery.

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So, Berkut officers, including the six men being mourned and the three men from the city buried in the Memorial Square alongside Roman Huryk, were in February perceived as some of the biggest enemies of the protesters on Maidan. Their unit was declared responsible for murders, hence the “corridor of shame” and, later, after the collapse of Yanukovych’s rule and the formation of new (para)military units, some members of Right Sector and Maidan Self-Defence refused to fight alongside ex-Berkut and Ministry of Internal Affairs fighters in the National Guard. Some of the tensions are still evident in this Vice News dispatch, for example. However, some units are reconciled and it is reported that a someone formerly from the Maidan units was among National Guard members in the helicopter, three of whom are now buried in Ivano-Frankivsk’s Memorial Square.

The Memorial Square is a palimpsest of memorial culture – forgotten Polish-Catholic graves slowly regaining some prominence after the cemetery was turned into a park by the communist authorities and the nearby church demolished to make way for the theatre. Since Ukraine became independent, and especially in the twenty-first century, some Polish graves have been restored, with a memorial to Polish military present, among the graves of Ukrainian cultural, academic and military figures. But the rest of the dead, ordinary people, are generally forgotten as the pantheon of Ukrainian heroes from cultural figures to freedom fighters grows.

The history of the Memorial Square becomes a microcosm of the complex history of the city and its residents. And this time again it will be a site revealing the difficult, ambiguous story of recent history, of Euromaidan and its aftermath, the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Killed in action defending Ukraine from a threat to its territorial integrity, the three men enter the pantheon of heroes here in Ivano-Frankivsk.

It would seem that given Ukraine’s current situation and the tragedy that has befallen the families of the men killed in action near Slovyansk, the term “heroes” would be enough to lend some decorum to this burial in Ivano-Frankivsk. Indeed, largely this has been observed, although a public spat has emerged which has called into question not so much the amnesty granted the men when they belonged to Berkut, but the behaviour of organisations like Maidan Self-Defence and Right Sector, who like to present themselves as living heroes, embodiments of the spirit of Maidan.

Three crosses for the fallen men, 2 June 2014.

Three crosses for the fallen men, 2 June 2014.

The obvious tension that emerged with these men being buried alongside Roman Huryk, once deemed a victim of Berkut or associated snipers, was eased by the dead student’s mother who said she accepted the decision. However, her words reported in the press suggest a sense that the decision was taken over her head and she had little say, as the city council’s executive committee unanimously took the decision. Viktor Anushkevychus, the city’s mayor, spoke briefly on the matter, stressing the “symbolism” of Huryk “hero of the heavenly hundred” and “ex-Berkut heroes of Ukraine” being buried side-by-side, as it shows “that no one will be able to divide us”.

In this official statement, the totemic word “hero” is applied, seeking to heal all wounds and smooth history through what is in current conditions a sensible amnesty, casting aside partisan differences. Forgiveness had been issued to the Berkut men after walking the corridor of shame, they performed their penance, and on top of that they gave their lives for Ukraine, and only then earning their hero status.

However, close to the surface there still bubbles the ambivalence of relations between state and society, as Euromaidan and the deaths of the “Heavenly Hundred”, including that of local student Roman Huryk, have yet to be granted closure. Equally, whoever “we” are, who Anushkevychus states shall not be divided, is not clear. Is it the community of Frankivsk? Is it Ukraine – divided by Yanukovych’s government and now fighting united, with even former enemies now side-by-side? It’s not clear, especially given that Ukraine is now effectively engaged in a localised civil war. It is not proving easy to mobilise public enthusiasm, or indeed men to fight en masse, in what is proving to be a dangerously deadly fight in eastern Ukraine.

Ivano-Frankivsk's newest street, running of Hetman Mazepa Street as part of a planned city centre bypass, is now named after Roman Huryk, the local student killed on the Maidan on February 2014.

Ivano-Frankivsk’s newest street, running of Hetman Mazepa Street as part of a planned city centre bypass, is now named after Roman Huryk, the local student killed on the Maidan on February 2014.

During Euromaidan and the subsequent Crimea crisis, for people here, the enemy was clear: Yanukovych and the Party of Regions, Putin and his “little green men”. But now, heading eastwards to fight against fellow Ukrainians, even if they are supported by Chechens, Serbs or Russians, is less of an easy option than joining what were, at least until the final days of Yanukovych’s rule, largely a relatively safe form of mass protest during Euromaidan. Today, despite the threat to Ukraine, there is very little of the popular nationalism that seemed to flourish after the deaths on Maidan and the fall of Yanukovych. Instead, an atmosphere of fear and apprehension alongside a stubborn pursuit of everyday life prevails. And there is no cathartic compensation, for the community at least  – obviously not for those who lost loved ones on Maidan – as there was when Roman Huryk was killed on Maidan, as by the time of his funeral, the rule of Yanukovych and his government was collapsing. Now, instead, the danger facing eastern Ukraine seems more real -regardless of the physical geographical distance – as local men fought and died there, leaving a trace of distant Donetsk in Frankivsk.

While some groups, particularly Maidan Self-Defence and, increasingly rarely now though, Right Sector, locally present themselves as the bearers of the legacy of Maidan, of heroism, it seems their claims lack social legitimacy. Now, as the threat grows more acute, it could become much more difficult to mobilise men to fight in eastern Ukraine, with volunteers serving in large numbers already now.

Any squabbles Maidan Self-Defence or Right Sector get engaged here in Frankivsk can seem petty when an acute threat faces Ukraine in the east and masses are dying on both sides, particularly with the Ukrainian authorities resorting to increasingly strong-arm tactics, including aerial bombing. (Ukrainian reports state 300 “terrorists” or “separatists” were killed just yesterday, 500 were injured, with two Ukrainian servicemen killed and 45 injured.) The harmony sought by burying the men as heroes, the unifying effect, has been disrupted on the local level by seemingly petty squabbles, as ghosts of past political differences emerge and the corpses of the dead are used for apparent points scoring.

Police HQ on 18/19 February 2014 after being stormed. The anti-Yanukovych graffiti was gone by the next day.

Police HQ on 18/19 February 2014 after being stormed. The anti-Yanukovych graffiti was gone by the next day.

After the deaths of the ex-Berkut officers in the helicopter near Slovyansk, a local councillor, Mykola Kuchernyuk, stated that the deaths were partly a result of this looting of the security service and the failure of Self-Defence and Right Sector to return the bullet-proof vests and so on. (A big PR stunt emerged a few days ago, stressing that Self-Defence returned some vests, but the numbers don’t add up.) Indeed, after storming the the Security Service and Police HQ in February, the “activists” of Maidan Self-Defence and Right Sector looted some equipment, largely bullet-proof vests and shields, that were intended to be sent to Maidan in Kyiv or used in Frankivsk, if things got further out of hand.

Kuchernyuk can’t understand why the Self-Defence still need these vests, since ‘there has not been a single provocation noted by police against them’. In an escalation of the war of words that his first article provoked, Kuchernyuk has even called for an “anti-terror operation” in the city… to get rid of Self-Defence. He argues that the units have failed to disband or join the National Guard or Territorial Defence, as a parliamentary degree required them to do by 18 May. In the city, he believes, Self-Defence are terrorising the population and the authorities with their methods, including the APC outside the police HQ. Kuchernyuk also rejects the organisations’ claims to speak for the people of the city – since, as he rightly recognises, the people of the city largely want peace and quiet, rather than paramilitary organisations fighting over local positions of authority.

The reemergence of the spectre of recent history and the failure to lay to rest the complexities and controversies that saw the city divided and protesting in February against the state security apparatus, which is now afforded hero status, put Right Sector and Self-Defence in a difficult situation. People in the city and the local press remembered that it was these organisations that formed the Corridor of Shame and then looted the security service, taking away vital protection equipment. Of course, lacking the benefit of hindsight, the actions in February seemed justifiable in working towards bringing down Yanukovych’s rule and his security apparatus.

So, in a sense one aspect of the response from the Maidan “activist” core is understandable: don’t blame us, we were doing what we had to at the time. And their response that some politicians and councillors today, including Kuchernyuk, are seeking to exploit the helicopter tragedy for political gain today, seems reasonable. More questionable, perhaps, is the assertion that the “corridor of shame reflected the demands of the community”, as it is never clear in the conditions of mob democracy that emerged during the sharp end of protests here which elements of the community are represented in the actions of the most active elements.

Of course, the response to the accusations against Right Sector and Self-Defence have taken on an ad personam quality, with Kuchernyuk’s past membership of the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (United) emphasised, since this Party sided with Yanukovych against Yushchenko around the time of the Orange Revolution presidential elections. This led to the councillor being labelled now “a potential Judas separatist” (see the caption accompanying the linked article’s picture). This same report, which neatly spans in its allusions to betrayal the entire cultural-historical spectrum relevant here in western Ukraine – from the crucifixion of Christ to the martyrdom of today’s Ukraine – also attempts, however, to falsify recent history.

What a building that hasn't been subject to an arson attack looks like. Apparently.

What a building that hasn’t been subject to an arson attack looks like, apparently, according to frankivsk.net.

The report claims, ‘As everyone knows, really Right Sector and Self-Defence protected the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MBC) of Ukraine buildings from marauders. And it is only thanks to Right Sector that there were no arson attacks on the MBC in Ivano-Frankivsk.’ Maybe in Ukraine there is some technical definition of arson (підпал) that I’m not aware of and the term does not in fact cover throwing burning molotov cocktails through windows of a building with people inside. But I saw the building on fire that night. And maybe there is some definition of ‘marauders’ that I don’t understand, but the aftermath of the events of 18/19 February suggests a significant level of looting and damage, with repairs subsequently estimated at $1 million.

Now, just maybe, the young men and teenagers we saw filling up molotov cocktails were not part of Right Sector. But that seems unlikely, given the commands that were being issued that evening and the fact that numerous Tryzub members – incorporated into Right Sector – were out that evening.

It seems that the controversies emerging from Euromaidan and subsequent protests have a long way to run. And, rightly, in time they should be debated, but such squabbles appear unbecoming while the dead are waiting to be buried or have just been laid to rest.

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Top: “Eternal glory to the heroes who fell for the freedom and independence of our fatherland.” Bottom: “And in the memory of generations to come your names will not be forgotten.”

Still, it is interesting to observe now are the local-level debates, confrontations and images that emerge, giving some insight into the way the memory and subsequent history of events is constructed. While battles rage in eastern Ukraine now, with civilians and combatants dying and suffering injuries, here in western Ukraine some apparently rather petty battles are taking place, battling for the future: the future right to write history and secure the strongest claims to the totemic term “hero”.

For now, though, aside from petty struggles seeking to usurp apply labels of good and bad, heroism and betrayal, the sensible approach to push forward for now a sense of amnesty and unity reveals the complex processes that await the historiography of Euromaidan and its aftermath. And these processes are evident in vernacular memory, which recognises often that circumstances change, individuals as members of organisations end up in unforeseeable situations that make them seem an enemy to some, heroes to others, then another change and perceptions are reversed.

In this way, vernacular or popular memory can seem to serve as a better archive of the ambiguity of historical events. However, over time it can submit to authoritative narratives that emerge which want a simplified history, black and white definitions of heroes or enemies, making the imagined nation or the political state, rather than ordinary people, the agents of historical and political change.

Mothers and children mourn in monumental form their fallen fathers and brothers. The Red Army war memorial, Ivano-Frankivsk, 2 June 2014.

Mothers and children mourn in monumental form their fallen fathers and brothers.
The Red Army war memorial, Ivano-Frankivsk, 2 June 2014.

Meanwhile, whatever the grand narratives of relations between western Ukraine and the Red Army, ordinary people still come to mourn their lost loved ones a sites of memory around the city, including the Red Army memorial. No longer the premier site of memory in the city, it still has significance for families affected, as the Memorial Square now becomes the central site of mourning and heroism in the city.

And, sadly, these new sites of memory, mourning and heroism emerge because of further tragedies befalling families in this region in military action that, in turn, is causing tragedies for people in eastern Ukraine and elsewhere.

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Maidan Cleared Up, Mothers Calling for Order, the Pillar of Shame and More Minor Marches

The traces of Maidan around the city are slowly disappearing, even the spaces around the hardcore of Right Sector and Self-Defence who still remain on the square outside the Regional Administration but in more smaller and less conspicuous numbers. The tent from the Rally Square (Vichevyj Maidan) by the Post Office, the original site of an occupation and protest in the city from November, disappeared last week.

On the square outside the Regional Administration Building in the past week a makeshift memorial to the Heavenly Hundred, as those killed on Maidan in Kyiv are popularly referred to, has appeared.  It is constructed from the rudimentary wooden shields that have come to symbolise the fighters on Maidan, alongside the tyres which burned for long days and nights in the winter of 2013/2014, while also shoring up the barricades.

Heavenly Hundred Monument or the Pillar of Shame

A Makeshift Memorial to the Heavenly Hundred, Ivano-Frankivsk – or in fact a ‘Pillar of Shame’.

Looking through the local press again I have learned that this memorial, as I interpreted it, is in fact ‘a pillar of shame’, which, according to one activist interviewed, is aimed at expressing an urge for ordinary people to change their behaviour and thus change society. The idea is for people to come to this pillar and inscribe it with the names or photos of  ‘officials who have taken bribes’ or demanded other payments. It is thus intended as a symbol of the civil revolution that is expected to follow the battles conducted by those who carried such wooden shields.

Yesterday there was no indication of the intentions surrounding this installation, hence my initial reading of it as a makeshift monument.

ImageImage The Regional Administration has also finally decided to clear up it’s own sign which for a couple of months was plastered in Right Sector stickers. The sign is clearly brand new, as the stickers are a pain to get rid of (as I’ve found putting my hands to work around the city). Presumably the tax payers of the region have funded the new sign, as well as the door that was smashed up and recently replaced.

Meanwhile, Chicken Hut, the fast food chain, has finally removed its own pro-European poster, declaring that ‘Together we will be victorious’ while showing the Ukrainian trident surrounded by the EU stars. It’s back to special offers now.

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Chicken Hut's old pro-Europe poster

Chicken Hut’s old pro-Europe poster

Still, some entrepreneurs have not given up on the European symbolism. Two enterprising you women on a busy crossroads on the way out of the city towards Lviv and Kalush were attempting to sell flags, including the EU flag, the Ukrainian flag and the black and red nationalist flag, to passing vehicles. In the fifteen minutes I was waiting for a friend near there I did not see them make a successful sale. My friend says that they had been there for some two weeks, so business must have been good at some point, although I think the peak may have passed.

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Selling flags to passing motorists on vul. Halytska out of the city on Saturday 5 April 2014.

The end of February and the first weeks of March seemed like particularly worrying and tense times in Ivano-Frankivsk, as various groups, including Right Sector and its allies Patriot of Ukraine, appeared to appropriate the city space through posters, marches and occupying various administrative buildings demanding personnel changes. Since then, however, the city has been largely calm, with the attempt to revive daily rallies by Right Sector and Self-Defence unsuccessful. Instead, the atmosphere of the city has been one of getting back towards some kind of normality in the new conditions of tensions over Crimea and now southern and eastern Ukraine. Perhaps springtime has helped as more people take to the city streets and various cafes are putting their tables and chairs out on the streets again.

Yesterday, however, local press reported that there was a march by ‘Frankivsk residents’, ‘the community’ or Right Sector and Self-Defence – depending on which reports you read – on the Police HQ again, following a march four weeks ago which I witnessed. I did not witness yesterday’s events as they were not pre-reported extensively in the press, and I was lecturing anyway at the time it took place. Today, the police HQ was free of any protesters when I passed it and it has been peaceful all day. And it also seems that the candidate that Right Sector had wanted for the local head of police, which incited the occupation of the police HQ from a month ago, is not in the running. Equally, the head of the National Resistance organisation in the city is not in the running, as reported in an article which again uses the problematic notion of ‘the community’, assuming that there is some sort of consensus in the city as to who are acceptable and unacceptable candidates.

Still, despite their differences and threatening to break off relations, the Self-Defence and police are still cooperating, with local press reporting successes where arrests have been made during joint patrols. Here someone was caught with some marijuana, for example.

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The march through the city was both a protest against the new man assigned as regional head of the Security Service (SBU/ СБУ) as well as a reason to mark the memory of the Heavenly Hundred. This report shows that a poster was placed on the burnt out entrance of that section of the police, but there was no sign today of this memorial to those killed on Maidan , merely a trace of the graffiti that it had covered.

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The report cited above is problematic because it frames those protesting as ‘the community’, whereas at 1pm on a Wednesday, many members of the community, including students who were one of the chief initiators of protests in the city, are busy working. It also means that it is easy for anyone disposed to presenting western Ukraine as extreme-nationalist such “patriotically”-minded reports can be used against the authors’ intentions.

This report, meanwhile, ignores the aspect of honouring the Heavenly Hundred and declares the march to be intended as a call for combatting corruption. However, it also mentions a civic protest by mothers of Ivano-Frankivsk who called for order in the city. Presumably this was a call not only to the police but also against the actions of Right Sector and others. Its reference to ‘Frankivsk residents’ is less troubling, since a greater mix of the city’s population and its varying views and approaches to protest and power are accounted for.

The mothers’ protest seems more closely aligned to the civil revolution or perhaps better, transformation, that characterises the urges of those involved in the initial civil society protests from November. An organisation called Ivano-Frankivsk 2.0 has emerged which is seeking to transform the city space into a more pleasant place to live, highlighting some of the hidden and blindingly evident problems in the city which nevertheless regularly features high up in rankings of the best places to live in Ukraine.

Equally, this protest against a questionable development by the city lake is framed as a civil society protest, connected to the spirit of Euromaidan and the battle against corruption in local authorities. Indeed, some of the women who speak in the lengthy video may have also been those outside the police HQ on 9 April calling for order in the city. The problem by the lake is the fact that a smaller lake was filled in for building purposes, ostensibly for a sports centre but it seems developers want to put flats in this attractive location. Some of the women who speak further into the video appeal to “European” values, which caring for the environment are said to characterise.

Of course, aside from some attempts in blogs or by tracing other news stories around the city which do not relate to Euromaidan and its consequences, it’s hard to get a feeling of the everyday in the city which continues in the atmosphere of the tense new normality that is emerging.

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What may have an instant affect on city residents is the planned price rise for bus journeys, going up from 2 UAH to 3 UAH. A 50% increase, although it has been at 2 UAH for about three years now, so it’s unlikely that with the rise in petrol prices that transport services will be profitable. On the other hand, incomes are not rising, while other prices are – so this will be an additional squeeze. In positive transport news, after creating a mess in November by moving long-distance and international bus services out of the city, a ticket office for the regional and long-distance bus stations has opened right in the centre. And the system works fine, as I tested it today buying a ticket for a weekend trip, although if it becomes popular the tiny kiosk will prove insufficient.

At the university, lectures go on, seminars continue and some students fear imminent war, while others are more pragmatic or perhaps simply stuck in their rhythm of 30+hours a week of classes, thus unable to dedicate much energy to much else.

So while certain organisations involved with the violent, sometimes armed, side of revolution in Ukraine seem determined to appropriate control of the public space and local politics, it seems that functional mechanisms are working to resist such domination. Civil society is active in its various ways – whether through protest, clearing up rubbish or shaming corrupt individuals, – seeking a transformation of the city and Ukraine, while local authorities are resisting the pressure to install certain candidates despite the pressures of baseball bats or mobs marching through the city. And, for most people in the city, life just goes on.

Speaking to a Shopkeeper about the Boycott of Russian Goods, Corruption and Storming the Security Service Office

Recently I attended a child’s birthday party and the conversation turned to the topic of Maidan, revolution and the future elections. Some of the guests at the birthday were local businessmen, lawyers and officials. Their identities will remain anonymous, but what we discussed grants insight into the workings, experiences and consequences of recent events in Ivano-Frankivsk and around Ukraine that cannot be gained from simply walking around the city, working at a university or consuming media, whether local, national or international.

So this post will offer insight into how Maidan was funded and organised, the Security Services’ work in Ivano-Frankivsk, including responses to their HQ being set on fire (which I witnessed), as well as life after Revolution, including the boycott of Russian goods and the role of Right Sector in the city.

Most of what I write is a representation of people’s first-hand experiences, or what they heard from those who were at the heart of the action. I end on a comment on further attempts to come to terms with the recent past in the local and national press, as well as in society.

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A billboard in Dolyna, Ivano-Frankivsk region, calling for a boycott of the ‘occupiers” products.

We’ll start with the boycott of Russian goods by a few small chains of local convenience stores. One of the people I spoke to owns a few shops in the city and helped to organise the local boycott, which received significant local and national media attention. Indeed, the media attention was so great that the shopkeeper started to ignore his phone as tv crew after tv crew turned up at his stores. His female staff, meanwhile, made sure that they turned up to work with their best make up and hair styled, he said.

The idea for the boycott started as a patriotic attempt to support the Ukrainian economy. The shopkeeper stressed that in interviews he made sure that his views were not presented as an anti-Russian act, but as a pro-Ukrainian one. While the action brought positive PR, there was also a crisis when some young locals went around one shop involved in the boycott and found products still bearing Russian barcode numbers, with the film quickly going viral around Frankivsk. The initial planned response to this setback on the second or third day was to abandon the boycott, removing stickers advertising it from the shops’ windows.

However, the shopkeepers decided to continue and conducted a further clearance of Russian products, upsetting some customers as Snickers and chewing gum fell victim. As the shopkeepers and consumers have found, however, it is not easy simply to judge the provenance of a product by the barcode. The BBC has reported on an app created in Ukraine to aid identification, as some products bear a Ukrainian or another country’s code yet were manufactured in Russia.

The Greenfield Tea brand has proved particularly difficult, as both the BBC article and shopkeeper noted, as it claims to be a British company, but is merely registered at a PO box in London. The ultimate owners are Russian, but the barcode is Ukrainian, with the tea being packaged in Ukraine. Equally, a brand that appears Polish, and has a Polish barcode, Żubrówka vodka, is in fact owned by a Russian corporation now. Meanwhile, cat food is problematic because Whiskas is an international brand with profits largely not going to Russia but what enters the Ukrainian market is produced there. And customers have been complaining that their fussy cats won’t eat anything else, but the danger of a backlash or bad PR in social and traditional media mean that Whiskas stays off the shelves.

Product Boycott

 

As this poster being circulated on social networks shows, plenty of the brands do not seem Russian at all but merely global, part of the brand collections of conglomerates. For example, I bought some Oral-B toothpaste recently whose packaging was entirely in Russian, but the stated place of manufacture was Germany, whereas the barcode suggested that it was actually Belgium and Luxembourg. Equally, Nescafe and Nestle are Swiss, but their products for the Ukrainian market are produced largely in Russia. Persil, meanwhile, is a German brand but if you go to a store here, some versions of it are produced in Poland while others in Russia. Lays crisps (chips) may be produced in Russia here, but the ultimate owner is American (PepsiCo). Coming from Leicester, the home of Walkers Crisps, as I do, these are the kind of things you know. So it seems that such social media campaigns are not really accurate in terms of targeting purely Russian products.

In the age of globalisation and mega corporations, the patriotic act of a boycott proved much less simple than imagined. Only switching petrol providers can be relatively unambiguous, as brands like Lukoil and TNK are boycotted.

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A boycotted Lukoil petrol station seen from the Bandera monument in Ivano-Frankivsk.

Despite pressure from salesmen, arriving at the stores as regularly as TV crews, pleading the Ukrainian provenance of their brands or appealing for compassion, fearing losing their jobs as no one is buying their tea, the shopkeeper held out. And, he admits, since the boycott and good press, business has picked up a fair bit, offsetting some losses incurred by abandoning Russian or Russian-made goods that were already in stock.

Another aspect of post-revolutionary life that has improved business for the shopkeeper is – for now – the end of what was, effectively, extortion caused by corruption at various levels in state institutions. During the Yanukovych years, after easing off in the “Orange” years, shakedowns and raids, as well as state inspections, increased significantly, reaching levels that recalled the bandit years of the 1990s. State institutions under Yanukovych got in on the act, so the fire department, for example, would call up asking for some booze or other goods with the hardly implicit threat that not obliging them would see some costly inspections take place, which inevitably would find some fault or other with fire safety. The fire department weren’t the only ones at it.

During the revolutionary days of February 2014, the fire department called again calling for a donation but this time, unusually, of tushonka,or canned meat. This unusual request aroused suspicions, while the explanation that it was for “Afghan veterans”, who were supporting the revolution in large numbers in this part of Ukraine, was dismissed. The shopkeeper eventually elicited the information that the meat was to be donated to the state’s internal military and special forces. Since turning down this request, nearly two months ago, and the change in power, the shopkeeper has not faced any further extortion. How long this lasts will depend on how successful the civil revolution demanded by ordinary Ukrainians is.

The shopkeeper knew that the tins of meat could not possibly be for the Afghan War veterans because he was clued up as to how the local Maidan activists from Frankivsk in Kyiv were funded. While I tried to indicate in November how the local occupation functioned in Frankivsk, what happened once the centre of attention shifted to Kyiv and those most active here moved to the capital, I’ve not been able to fathom. Yes, there were local donation boxes and ways of transferring money to secure accounts, while others volunteered to take activists to Kyiv by bus or other means. Equally, once in Kyiv it was possible to find support on the Maidan, getting food and shelter. But donation boxes would not cover those costs. There are theories and rumours of US/EU/CIA funding etc., but what I found out about was how local businessmen, involved in businessmen with turnover much greater than shopkeeping, were funding local activists.

The logic of it is quite clear – if you are a small or medium-sized business owner and the business climate created by the Yanukovych-era authorities was disastrous, then investing in revolution makes sense, while also satisfying an urge to do something patriotic.

Of course, it was far from clear that the Yanukovych regime would fall until he actually fled the country. So funding revolution was a dangerous act, and it turns out that the local Security Services (SBU) had compiled a case against the businessman who had helped fund sending Frankivsk residents to Kyiv to Maidan. One of the lawyers present had seen the reports and evidence some two inches thick in a file, with sixteen years in prison being the sentence demanded of this businessman. However, before he could be sentenced, the local SBU office was stormed on 18 February, once mass killings were initiated in Kyiv. (The new authorities in Kyiv have started to release their findings from their investigations today.) And then the Yanukovych regime started to unravel and collapse.

However, on the night of the storming of the SBU office, the fate of Yanukovych and his apparatus was not clear. So, the storming of the security office in Ivano-Frankivsk and the smaller raid on the Prosecutor’s office by the court, involved the destruction by protesters of numerous files and documents, as well as computers and other equipment. The fear was that if the Yanukovych regime were to survive, then the evidence gathered would implicate not only the businessmen funding activists in Kyiv but also the activists themselves who had been traced by the Security Services.

The lawyer explained that one favoured method is to trace mobile phone signals. A phone usually active in Ivano-Frankivsk which then remained in Kyiv for a few days or weeks was clearly indicative of someone being on Maidan. And many such individuals who returned to Frankivsk either in December after the initial wave of protests or later in January and February were summoned for interviews or “chats” at the SBU.

So as well as some demonstrators collecting weapons and shields from the SBU building on 18 February, part of the reason for storming the building – aside from expressing anger – was to destroy evidence which could have been used against significant numbers of the local population were there to be a clampdown on protestors and activists.

 

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The main entrance to Ivano-Frankivsk Security Service HQ burns on 18/19 February 2014.

Who those active in setting fire to the security service HQ were, is not clear, and I doubt there will be an investigation. But on that night, alongside ordinary people, Right Sector and Self-Defence were evident, although by then, the leading locals activists from those organisations were in Kyiv as the situation in the capital was becoming fatal. Since the collapse of the Yanukovych regime, Right Sector especially became more visible in the city, although for the past three weeks, they have not been significantly evident – in terms of marches, rallies or propaganda materials – in the city centre.

At the moment, no one is really sure who Right Sector are (beyond those who generalise about right-wing, neo-Nazis and so forth). Well, the reality on the ground is that regardless of the ideas that Right Sector and affiliate groups claim to promote, no one really knows who they are.  Here is Mustafa Nayyem’s view, in English. Nayyem, a Ukrainian activists and journalist of Afghan origins – not a veteran but a former migrant – was one of the first to initiate civil protests in November when the decision to abandon the EU Association Agreement was announced. He sees Right Sector, like many in Ukraine, as a murky group with connections to funding by oligarchs and even the Yanukovych regime itself, so an organisation which may have swallowed up the smaller nationalist organisations that now come under the RS umbrella.

In Ivano-Frankivsk, after a period when the local media seemed to en masse (and some of my students too) buy the idea of Right Sector as Ukrainian patriots, the backlash is now starting, with one local journalist producing (in Ukrainian) an astute critique of the ‘parasitism’ that characterises the organisation nationally and on the local level while dismissing the myths it has built up around itself. Indeed, 75% of its members in the city are under 18 and simply from the Tryzub youth organisation, which was subsumed under the RS umbrella. It provides those youths once seen around the city, marching around with baseball bats, but hardly suited to genuine (para)military action.

However, it is clear what young lads with a few weapons are good for. Locally, according to the people I spoke to recently, Right Sector is becoming associated with, or always was associated with, protection rackets and dodgy businesses. Hence the rather selective approach taken by Self-Defence and RS to meting out justice on businesses perceived as being corrupt. The local market was targeted, for example, for its Party of Regions associations, yet other businesses that could be suspected of similar remain safe.

Of course, as the article by Roman Kapiy on the local Right Sector argues, those who were under its banner in Kyiv, along with Self-Defence and others, radicalised the revolution and pushed forward the collapse of the Yanukovych regime. However, it is worrying now how such groups attempted – on the local level – to fill in the power vacuum, repeating the methods of violence and raids that were associated with the Yanukovych era. However, it seems – at least locally – that this is coming under control again, while the state authorities in Kyiv are beginning to establish what happened in Kyiv in February and are setting about establishing what is going on now.

As Nayyem has argued, supporting Euromaidan doesn’t make you a Right Sector supporter. However, it does make you responsible for challenging them – whoever they are and whatever their ideas are – to make sure that the initial hopes of a civil revolution, and a shift towards “Europe” – as imagined as a civil, open society with improved quality of life and incomes – becomes possible.

That’s why I encouraged my students to head out to Maidan in November already. And that’s why, in my own little ways, I’ve been trying to critique and challenge the authoritarian and extremist nationalism that prevailed in the vacuum after the collapse of Yanukovych’s regime.

 

Fake Heritage, Slow Fast Food, a Glossy Magazine and a Book

The situation in Ukraine remains perilous – with the Russian annexation of Crimea, the uncertainty over who is ruling in Kyiv and the rise of the far-right into positions of power within local and national structures of authority. However, as this blog hopefully reflects, in contrast to what remains the focus of the general media, in everyday life a certain normality or normalisation is (re)-emerging. An everyday order that has emerged as a mixture of what went before Euromaidan, the revolution and Crimea, and something new, overshadowed by tragedy, danger and fear.

So, although the most popular posts here have been about Right Sector and far-right marches, there’s little new to report on that front. I’m  not hiding or censoring anything – simply, there was a purge of right-wing imagery from public spaces, the revived rallies were largely a failure, while protesters claiming to represent the people of the Ivano-Frankivsk region have disappeared from the police HQ and instead their leaders seem content to occupy, now legitimately with keys and suits rather than violently, offices within the regional administration.

When there were demonstrations, protests, arson attacks or torchlight processions, this blog covered it. Now there are none, the everyday prevails. Hence the perhaps, for some, flippant title and subject matter of today’s post.

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For several years, a historical building – namely a brewery first opened in 1767 – in the centre of Ivano-Frankivsk close to the market on Novhorodska Street was being renovated which here, most often, equates to a complete rebuilding. This is what happened in the case of the city brewery which under communist rule and indeed in the early years of independent Ukraine still produced beer. (My father-in-law chose this company for his free shares that were issued to all Ukrainians at the time of marketisation of the economy. Not a wise choice, it turned out, although the rest of my wife’s family chose better, opting for the local energy company.)

The brewery closed down and fell into disrepair, a situation so grave that the old brewery was torn down and replaced with this replica, or simulacrum, belonging to the category of fake heritage. It is now a restaurant belonging to the local chain Royal Burger.

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The plaque here states that this building is ‘a monument of architecture’, so the equivalent of being listed in Britain. It was the ‘malthouse of a brewery’ and is protected under No 1137-N. ‘It is protected by the state and any damage is punishable by law.’

It is noticeable that this plaque, unlike others in the city, makes no mention of the year of construction. It is unclear how this building can be considered a ‘monument of architecture’ and a listed building when it is a replica. And if damage is punishable by law, then whoever gave permission for this “reconstruction” and then for Royal Burger to take over the building without making any effort on the internal decoration to reference the building’s heritage should be prosecuted.

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For some reason, the architects decided to attempt some fake authenticity by leaving two fried-egg-shaped patches of uncovered brick, as if the plaster had fallen off the walls of this brand new construction. Indeed, beneath these plaster cast prostheses of authenticity there is one of the few signs of any history to the building. The bared bricks reveal the names of Polish and presumably Austrian brick companies, a handful of which may have been salvaged from the original. However, such bricks are easy to come by and theme pubs around the area are full of them without making any pretence to authenticity.

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If you want some genuine plaster-falling-off-the-walls experiences, then you don’t have to walk far. You could walk fifty metres around the corner to see this building.

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Or you could just look out of the window of Royal Burger and see across the road another building that belongs/belonged to the brewery complex. It won’t be long at all now until this building disappears from the city’s architectural landscape. Unlikely to be replaced by the Royal-Burger-type fake heritage, I’d imagine an apartment block springing up in this prime real estate location quite soon.

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The situation is quite desperate, as the back wall has partly collapsed, even if the walls appear quite smooth and may have been treated in the not-too-distant past, perhaps when the brewery was still active.

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Further attempts at referencing the heritage and history of the building are evident in including the name of the owners who took over the brewery in the nineteenth century, the Sedelmajers, who took over from the founders of the city, the Potockis, who had owned the brewery. The link that provided that information also notes that the original promise in 2007 was that a condition of rebuilding was that beer would continue to be brewed on the site. That never happened, of course.

A further attempt at referencing the history of the building is in the writing forged – an apt word – into the windows. It states ‘Piwo w Stanislawowie’, which doesn’t really make any sense reading it. It means ‘Beer in Stanislawow’, with the ‘l’ appearing particularly inauthentic as it ought to be a Polish ‘ł’. If anything, it should say ‘Piwo z Stanisławowa’, Beer from Stanisławów, or better still actually refer to the name of the beer once made there, Stanisławowskie.

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This is perhaps the most egregious example of a masking of the destruction of the city’s heritage in the twenty first century, although the destruction of buildings continues apace whether deliberately, by allowing huge apartment blocks to spring up on the site of small, one-storey houses, or by allowing old buildings to fall deliberately into disrepair before being replaced more cheaply and by more profitable buildings that pay lip-service, if that, to what had been there.

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Inside Royal Burger there is no attempt to even make passing reference to the building’s history. It is simply a generic fast-food joint that even in its menu effaces any indication that this building is in Ukraine or central Europe. Even McDonald’s make the effort, when moving into another foreign country, to make food which include some citation of local ingredients or classic dishes. The menu at Royal Burger is a purely generic interpretation of what was once American-style fast food. And the name and logo themselves reflects the building, as a kind of rip off of Burger King.

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My wife and I got some food in the restaurant – if I frame these whims as anthropological expeditions, I get away with doing a lot more stuff like this with her and have a chance of eating unhealthy food. I opted for the signature dish, the Royal Burger, er, Royal Burger meal. It’s two meat patties – possibly a pork and beef mix, that’s what it tasted like – in a sesame seed bun with decent sauce and salad. The chips were pretty decent, to be honest. However, the burger was problematic.

Unlike Burger King, these patties were not flame grilled, more slopped in some oil and fried or heated a bit, school-dinner style. And they were of an odd size and oddly positioned, so being smaller than the bun they shifted about like hockey pucks and meant the whole burger was quickly destroyed, falling into pieces and the salad going everywhere.

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The coke that accompanied the burger meal only arrived after about fifteen minutes, together with this Caesar Salad. To be fair, the salad was definitely fresh as when we ordered we were told there would be a wait while it was prepared, so perhaps defying the idea of fast food, and it was pretty alright. And both meals, the burger and the salad, were brought to our table. We won’t be going back to Royal Burger, as it’s quite pricey for what you get, and not really a nice place to be, especially with the horrors wrought upon the building.

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Now, in media news, a bit of shameless self promotion. I found out today that I have been featured in a glossy magazine, Ivano-Frankivsk’s Versal which is like Vogue in terms of content and approach. For anyone who hasn’t read Ukrainian Vogue, it’s quite an upmarket magazine that includes some serious social commentary and cultural news, alongside loads of adverts. This magazine, Versal, aspires to that. A former student got in touch and asked for my views. So I wrote an email, having not eaten for forty eight hours, as it was while I was suffering from food poisoning. So were I fully functioning, I may have said something more profound on my debut in a glossy magazine. (This was not the interview with a journalist I mentioned in a previous blog – that’s still to come out).

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So on the cover of this ‘fashion magazine’, aside from the adverts, the featured topics are ‘Sexual training in Ivano-Frankivsk?’ (Answer: you might have to go to Lviv for now.); The Psychosomatics of Women; and Be Trendy – Love Ukrainian products.

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Inside, a feature with yours truly above an advert for a very good restaurant, Franko, which seems to be getting into austerity mode by promoting its three-course deal for 75 UAH, now less than £5 ($8) with the gradual collapse of the currency. The transliteration of my surname is technically correct but stylistically questionable, but not qualms as my words aren’t changed too much (Ukrainian journalistic practice isn’t always up to scratch on this point). I talk about my rising awareness of the seriousness of the situation in Ukraine in November 2013, trying to get students then to realise the same, while I end on an appeal for people here not to live in fear of the minor powers who have demanded bribes in the past and to rise above that. Then I make a call for people to realise the multicultural, multinational history of the city, rather than submit to the quixotic but ultimately dangerous appeal of nationalism, which writing this email in late February I sensed was on the rise. Indeed, a day later the torchlight procession took place.

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What is particularly touching is that I have been included in a feature which presents ‘conscious, passionate Ivano-Frankivskians’, three people who talk about ‘what to do to make things better in their own country’. I have been accepted as a full resident of the city, and indeed even an honorary Ukrainian! I recall that when I first posted about the torchlight procession, a response even from people who have been friends and colleagues for years was that I didn’t have the authority to write and that people could do what they want in ‘their city’. Implicitly, despite having spent over two years living here, even friends didn’t judge that the city could ever be mind, I’d always be an outsider.

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It’s also nice to feature in a magazine that it so eclectic – social commentary alongside adverts for ‘Hair Empire’ salon and a wonderfully insightful history of Hutsul, so local mountain-dwellers, jewellery and traditions.

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This evening, meanwhile, my wife and I attended the booklaunch of a collection of articles written since November 2013 by five leading male Ukrainian authors. Four – Taras Prokhasko, Ivan Tsyperdiuk, Yuriy Andrukhovych and Yuriy Vinnychuk were present today in Ivano-Frankivsk, while Serhij Zhadan was absent, possibly still recovering after being badly beaten up during what proved to be fatal protests in Kharkiv earlier this month. The book is title ‘Euromaidan: Chronicle of Perceptions/Feelings (відчуття)’.

The four authors spoke, but did not enter into discussion, then read from their book. It would possibly have been more interesting to have attended their talk held at 5pm at Hotel Stanislaviv, rather than this 6:30 pm meeting at Ye Bookshop, but I had other commitments. Here there was some attempt, I felt, particularly by Andrukhovych, to overstate his role and literary figures’ role more generally in the protests. However, he did have interesting insights into censorship practices employed until the collapse of the Yanukovych regime, with the entire block he was staying in in Kyiv having its internet quite literally cut – the cable was removed – once the authorities worked out he was blogging and translating from there.

Vinnychuk was the most humourous and irreverent of the four, while the whole book generally should give something of an impression of the changing emotions, feelings and perceptions as the protests then revolution proceeded. The local press have covered this book in more detail here.

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It is useful and insightful that the authors have chronicled their articles, their views, as this will prove a useful document in challenging the totalising narratives and histories that will inevitably emerge shortly and continue to be battled over in future, as to what the real “Euromaidan” or “revolution” was. Here, five authors with differing views and experiences, who themselves changed their minds and their feelings changed over time, create a stumbling block to that kind of totalising claim, even if the role of literary figures might come to be exaggerated somewhat, as it has done in the past (Milan Kundera, looking at you).

In an architectural aside, the ceiling and colour scheme more generally differs very little from that in Royal Burger. But the Ye Bookshop is an evidently new building with no pretence to heritage.

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And to finish off for today, two posters from the university – No to War in Ukrainian and Russian, both accompanied by calls to reject bribes. The two strands of what seems to concern Ukrainians here most right now in one place – a civil revolution and saving the country from war.

Frankivsk’s New Soviet Theme Pub, Young Professionals and a local news update

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Last week a new bar opened in Ivano-Frankivsk on Kurbasa Street, near the Philarmonic Concert Hall, in the city centre. My wife and I visited it for the first time this afternoon. It is called ГОСТ, a reference to the Soviet-era standards agency which continues its work today in providing standards for quality and measurement across the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The name of the pub is unusual in that it references the Russian version of the name of the agency, rather than the Ukrainian ДЕСТ, while the theme of the pub is unique for this western Ukrainian city, since it is a Soviet theme bar. Not some kitsch appropriation of Soviet and communist symbols, but a kind of homage to the everyday tastes of life under communism.

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There are in the city plenty of bars and cafés which remain Soviet in style, including one of my favourites, Renata, above. Another old favourite, Bilyj Kamin’ (White Stone) no longer exists, but this great article shows that cafe, which is now a jewellers, alongside a couple of other (accidentally) retro cafes in the city.

Renata is located on the central Nezhalezhnosti Street and today tables and chairs were out for the first time this year as temperatures reached 22 degrees Celsius. Other Soviet-era legacy bars and cafes that I enjoy include Krystal and Pirizhkova. The latter specialises in savoury and sweet buns, as well as soups and chicory or wheat-based coffee with condensed milk. The recipes have remained unchanged there for decades, likewise some of the staff. Krystal like Renata offers a fuller menu, including booze, with cognac probably the most popular choice to go with soups, salads, meat patties on bread and coffee still made with Soviet-era, I think Hungarian, espresso machines. Pirzhkova attracts all sorts of people, from kids to pensioners seeking quick and hearty food, while Krystal and Renata tend to attract an older crowd, those who still remember the Soviet days.

These cafés fascinate me and probably deserve a post of their own. ГОСТ is an exceptional case, however, because it is the first stylised Soviet theme pub, designed and run by people whose childhood incorporated the final years of the Soviet Union.

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The city features plenty of other stylised theme pubs referring back to other periods in the city’s history or to imagined visions of other countries’ pubs. The original among this type of pub, opened a decade ago, Desyatka, features Austrian/Habsburg and Polish stylings. Pyatnytsa tries to look like an English pub, while Legenda, recently opened at the end of Nezhalezhnosti/ Sichovych Striltsiv mixes British and German themes. Piwnica on Sichovych Strilstiv goes for an interwar-Polish vibe, while Leprechaun – well, no need to explain that one, likewise Bavaria. While pubs in Poland already a decade ago, if not longer, such as PRL in Wrocław, adopted a faux communist-era look, ГОСТ is the first Soviet-era stylisation I have encountered in Ivano-Frankivsk.

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The menu features plenty of good, old-fashioned solid dishes as well as a few favourites from the time. It doesn’t go in for daft names for dishes (unlike the city’s kitschy nationalist/ UPA-themed Bunker on Hrushevskoho), it’s a no-frills kind of place. The menu begins with hard spirits, cognac top of the list of course and avoids anything unlikely to have been available at the time, so it’s purely Ukrainian and CIS-sourced food and drink. The beer on tap is from the First Private Brewery, established in 2004, but with its own no-frills image and Zhyhulivskye, which is a type of beer made in the USSR. Known until Stalinism as Viennese beer, it became Zhyhulivskye with a recipe guaranteed by the ГОСТ agency. Now numerous breweries make their own version of it. This beer is part of a trend of reviving Soviet-era brands by Ukrainian producers, including chocolate bars with seagulls and matrioshkas on them, or soft drinks – like the one in the first picture. They also only sell Pepsi, and in bottles with old-school labels. If I’m not mistaken Pepsi beat Coca Cola to the Soviet market, although it was overtaken post-1991/92.

The food menu includes a few salads, nothing too fancy, pierogi, varennyky and pancakes, before ending on desserts, including the outstanding smoked dried plums with walnuts in condensed milk. Really, it is amazing, and all for 12 UAH, so about 75p or $1 right now, meaning prices are comparable to the Soviet legacy bars and cafés.

Like the revival of certain brands, I would suggest ГОСТ is an indicator of a – perhaps surprising in the current climate in Ukraine, particularly the west – certain “Ostalgie”, to use the phrase applied to East Germany and the rise of a fascination with or curiosity about communism among different generations, including the one which did not have experience as adults of it.

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ГОСТ is decorated with photos of Ivano-Frankivsk in the Soviet era, as well as various objects including an East German typewriter, a Soviet-era radio and Russian- and Ukrainian-language books from the period. The interesting thing about the photos is that they make clear how much public memory overwrites or sidelines the communist period. It’s easy to find images of interwar or pre-WWI Stanislav(iv), or even the Second World War city under German occupation, yet harder to get a sense of what the city looked like and lived like under communism.

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Whether there is a genuine sense of Ostalgie or it’s simply a nice-looking bar with very decent prices that attracts its clients is hard to tell. However, the bar is proving a hit. Last night my wife and I couldn’t get a table, so we popped in for a soft-drink, some soup and the smoked prune dessert this afternoon on the way to the market. Last night the clientele was largely folk from our generation, mid-late twenties and early-thirties.

It was the same in the place where we ended up last night, another bar/restaurant that opened this month, Kondrat on Chornovola Street, between the centre and the university. It occupies a building that has seen two bars that were central to Frankivsk’s cultural life in the past, Chimera and Marmulyada. Kondrat last night was also filled with people of our generation and, recognising a few faces in there, people who would be classed as young professionals (but not yuppies). Why this might be interesting is that Frankivsk is a student city, with three large universities in a city of some 240,000. However, in contrast to a British university city which would be overrun with students, here the students seem largely absent at weekends.

This is possibly a result of their relative lack of income and lack of time, but also of a habit of often going back to home villages and towns each weekend. Instead, the folk filling bars and cafes of a weekend, aside from the regulars in Soviet legacy bars, seem to be an emerging class of young professionals, suggesting some disposable income and thus the potential formation of a middle class in Ukraine among our generation.

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The relative liveliness in the cafes and bars of the city this weekend, while partly a result of the improvement in weather, also suggests that the city is experiencing some degree of normalisation despite the threat of war and ongoing mourning. What is almost certain is that people were not out celebrating the signing by Ukraine of part of the EU Association Agreement. Although the Yanukovych government’s refusal to sign was the final spur to mass protests against the Party of Region’s rule, yesterday’s achievements hardly seem like a success given the cost at which they have been achieved – over 100 deaths of activists and police – and the annexation of Crimea by Russia. There is also a realisation that much is to be done t0 transform life in Ukraine. ‘Social Revolution’ is what the above graffiti calls for and this idea of a civil revolution, changing everyday behaviour and experience, particularly the phenomenon of bribery, is a desire and ideal – regardless of coverage of Right Sector or pro-Yanukovych rallies, as took place today in parts of Ukraine – ordinary Ukrainians across the country can share.

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Of course, though, with the incorporation of Right Sector or Self-Defence activists into local and national institutions there could easily be greater official legitimacy attached to more nationalist interpretations of the historical past and recent events. Local MP and Deputy PM Oleksandr Sych wants  to revive the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory which, modelled on the Polish IPN, will become a political instrument for seeking to construct a singular, unitary version of the past.

The poster below for an exhibition, meanwhile, suggests a particular interpretation of Taras Shevchenko’s 200th birthday,with the national bard again stylised as a revolutionary, but this time one with a nationalist bent. The event was organised jointly by the Regional State Administration’s Office for Culture, Nationalities and Religion and the Ivano-Frankivsk Stepan Bandera Regional Museum of the Battle for Liberation. I would wager that, at least on a regional level, such collaborations will only become more common, as the state apparatus comes to sponsor a particular nationalist reading of the past and present.

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Shevchenko, the national bard, appears here in the guise favoured by Right Sector’s youths – a bandana masking the face, while he is “supported” by two Molotov cocktails. The exhibition was in honour of his 200th birthday and the ‘Heavenly Hundred’ of Maidan dead, none of whom were from Right Sector.

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Here meanwhile there is a poster for another project, this time of a more civil type, calling for a revival of the tradition for each household to have a portrait of the national bard. Below is a poster promoting the ‘social revolution’ – rather than the dangerous national revolution desired by Right Sector and its social nationalist affiliates. The small black poster states that if you give or take bribes then you have the blood of the Heavenly Hundred of your hands.

The ideological appropriation of the Maidan dead by Right Sector is worrying and, I believe, immoral. But the message of the small black poster, a form of moral blackmail perhaps, should nevertheless be more effective in assisting the social revolution in Ukraine that will change everyday life for Ukrainians, slowly, for the better.

In local news, certain media outlets continue to peddle the myth that Right Sector and others represent ‘the city community’, as these organisations continue to oppose certain appointments, particularly in the police department. It seems mass social support is not forthcoming, while the rallies which were re-launched last week and appropriated by Right Sector and Self-Defence, seem to be having little resonance. Meanwhile, Right Sector which claims to be against all forms of traditional politics and condemned the system, has now decided that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. It has announced it will become a political party. However, Right Sector and Self-Defence refuse to cooperate with the new National Guard, a military organisation created by the state which recruits reservists and volunteers. They argue that their men cannot fight alongside former police who had been on the other side of the barricades in Maidan. The local authorities have agreed to form a separate unit for them but won’t arm the RS/Self-Defence unit, which is quite wise.

Sections of the local press, however, finally seem to be developing a critical stance towards the local patriots who consider themselves to be the voice of the community, with an important regional newspaper, Galician Correspondent, criticising the ‘double-standards’ of those calling for lustration. Indeed, it turns out the chosen candidate for head of police among those claiming to represent ‘the people’ and ‘the community’ is an ex-KGB agent!

The real army, which is raising funds from civilians who dial 565 which gives them 5 UAH or 30p/50 cents, is visiting local schools to explain what to do in case of emergency and war. Since most of my students didn’t know what to do in case of fire at the university, they might also want to come and give some talks to undergraduates.

In media news, you can catch the latest local news and debate on an online tv station, IF-TV from 6pm each day. It broadcasts live on the massive jumbotrons around the city at that time, too, and probably has more viewers there than online. Last night, there were more presenters than viewers most of the time. However, it has to be said that the level of local news sources online, in newspapers and on tv here is very impressive. Whereas my home city, larger than Frankivsk, has just one newspaper and tv news bulletins are limited to a couple of bulletins a day on BBC or ITV, here there are at least three newspapers, three full-time tv stations and over half a dozen internet news portals covering the city and region. I was interviewed by one outlet earlier this week and when asked what was most exceptional about Ivano-Frankivsk, I mentioned the media landscape, which surprised the intelligent and insightful young journalist I was talking to. The expected answer tends to concern food or drink, which brings this post full circle.

Right Sector march through the city, the police HQ is blockaded, plus a local news update

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Today, a march by far-right social nationalists under the Pravy Sektor/ Right Sector (Правий Сектор) banner took place in Ivano-Frankivsk. Right Sector is a hastily constructed confederation of various radical and far-right Ukrainian nationalist organisations that emerged in the course of the Euromaidan protests. The clearest programme is declared by the Social Nationalist wing which was incorporated into the confederation.

Around 150 men and two women, some clearly barely in their mid-teens while most were twenty- and thirty-somethings accompanied by a few men closer to middle-age, marched along Hrushevskoho Street, along the city’s central Nezalezhnosti Street and to the headquarters of the local police. This is the building whose wing housing the Security Service was burnt out on 18/19 February, while the police side escaped largely unscathed. The members of Right Sector marched unopposed through the city centre, with some members of the march carrying baseball bats and shields. Most of the men wore branded Right Sector bandanas over their mouths and noses, leaving only their eyes visible. A handful wore full balaclavas, while the large majority were dressed in combat fatigues. Some preferred tracksuits, with adidas the brand of choice.

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Those marching at around 16:00 today chanted slogans including, ‘Ukraine/ Above All’, ‘Glory to the Nation/ Death to the Enemies’, ‘Glory to Ukraine/ Glory to the Heroes’, ‘Right/ Sector’ and ‘Bandera, Shukhevych/ Heroes of Ukraine’. The last slogan was new to me and was not one that I had heard as part of the torchlight procession which took place in the city, headed by social nationalists Patriot of Ukraine. Bandera, the most heavily mythologised leader of the Ukrainian Organisation of Nationalists (OUN), is well-known. Shukhevych, meanwhile, was a follower of the Bandera faction of OUN who then collaborated with the German occupiers before becoming leader of UPA, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army before his dead at Soviet hands in 1950. They also chanted ‘ACAB’ or All Cops Are Bastards, showing that they know the first three letters of the English alphabet very well.

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Here is where I encountered the march around 16:10 this afternoon, at the start of the pedestrianised section of the city’s central Nezhalezhnosti Street. The men of more military appearance headed the parade while there were some stragglers still wearing armbands over their everyday clothes at the end.

Once outside the Police HQ – they could have got their much quicker had they taken the most direct route, up Konovaltsa Street then onto Sakharova but obviously they needed to show they could appropriate the city centre – the Right Sector boys, men and two women initially faced the wall, as if they intended to piss up the police HQ. When the command came, however, they turned around and listened to the local leader, Vasyl Abramiv. (His surname suggests he might have quite an interesting family history.) After some chanting demanding that representatives of the police come down and speak to the crowd, Abramiv declared his indignation at the cowardice of those in the offices who ‘refuse to listen to us who speak for the Ukrainian people (narod).’ He declared that Right Sector had fought the Security Service, it had fought against the Yanukovych regime and it was prepared to fight the new government. ‘Our brothers didn’t give their blood for a government of oligarchs’ and others associated with the old regime. He demanded full ‘lustration’ of new local and national authorities, a process designed to expose anyone who cooperated with the previous regime, so that only those ‘who will fight for Ukraine and the Ukrainian soil’ will be in power. Abramiv then declared that as of tomorrow the local Right Sector will form a ‘military headquarters’ which will be armed and will divide members age-appropriately.

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At one point a man not wearing any clothes identifying his allegiance – the Right Sector activists all wore red and black armbands – got into an argument with one of the Right Sector men, effectively telling them to stop being a bunch dicks. There was something of an angry confrontation with him, a bit of rutting, but no punches thrown. However, the Right Sector cameraman who was standing close to me did make sure to get a very good shot of the man who argued with them while later I overheard some Right Sector members asking if anyone knew who the guy was. After throwing a few very loud bangers, which generated some rather primitive cheers of joy and the reprimands from more senior figures, the Right Sector men and two women (whose roles were medic and photographer, so auxiliaries but also people who actually might have to do some work, rather than stand around and look aggressive while masking their faces) marched off. They went to pay their respects to Roman Huryk, hero of the ‘Heavenly Hundred’, who was a student in Ivano-Frankivsk and killed on the maidan in Kyiv. Not a single local news report has mentioned the march through the city centre* and this time there has not even been an attempt to sanitise or bowdlerise the slogans chanted. Pravy Sektor/ Right Sector is being normalised, even glorified, by the local media.

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* very late today, 12 March, this report embedded a six-minute video made by Right Sector, while the whole article framed as a march by concerned citizens of Ivano-Frankivsk and activists, whereas it was exclusively Right Sector in reality.

As they marched away they revealed that by the main entrance the Ivano-Frankivsk Police HQ there were standing calmly a group of men belonging to the Maidan Self-defence (Самооброна Майдану) organisation. This is the largest non-party organisation, a kind of umbrella group coordinating between the National Resistance Headquarters (Штаб національного спротиву) which includes political leaders and the disparate organisations that form the Self-Defence. In Kyiv, Right Sector forms one unit of Self-Defence, among a number of organisations, yet in Ivano-Frankivsk they appear as competing organisations, with Right Sector and its confederates in fact much more visible on the city streets.
The Self-Defence representatives were also dressed in military fatigues but carried only ex-police shields and no weapons as far as I could establish. Other members of Maidan Self-Defence were standing among the crowd when Right Sector turned up, identifiable by rather professional-looking tags more reminiscent of academic conference identifiers than military dog-tags. Most of those in the crowd were from the Kolomyja Maidan Self-Defence and had arrived as an organised group by bus. They departed as soon Right Sector had left, marching to their bus in an orderly fashion. Their bus could have been parked better, although the police had closed off this busy street causing traffic chaos around the city, meaning that pedestrians were free to walk where they wanted.

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Others belonging to Maidan Self-Defence arrived by car, with the Opel, above, with a number plate-type sign in its window screen declaring that this vehicle is part of the Self-Defence. Whatever the legal validity of this sign (perhaps as much as Del Boy Trotter’s “Tax in Post” message), in practical terms the Self-Defence do have significant freedoms in the city in the current situation. There are more volunteers patrolling the city alongside police than there are official police and other state organisations keeping peace and order in the city, according to this news report. There are 60 official police etc. while there are 70 volunteers, with forty of those from Self-Defence.

I encountered the protest outside the police HQ around 13:30 today on my way to teach a class and then chanced upon the Right Sector march on my way back. At 13:30 there were just a handful of men from Self-Defence blockading the doors, while the official state traffic police blocked traffic along the street and a few men from Right Sector were hanging around with armbands showing their allegiance. On my way back from work, I encountered the Right Sector march in the city centre and decided to follow it to the police HQ. After Right Sector left, I spoke to the Self-Defence lads remaining by the entrance to the police HQ. I introduced myself as a Briton who has been in Ukraine for nearly two years and is keenly interested in events. They put forward a tall young man who spoke very good English, although we spoke largely in Ukrainian. He told me that he had come back from working in the USA at Christmas and has been involved with Maidan Self-Defence since then. I asked him what he and his colleagues thought of Right Sector. He answered, and his comrades agreed, that ‘they just came here for the PR (піаритися)’. A great Ukrainian verb made from the English ‘PR’ literally meaning ‘to PR yourself’. A colleague of the man who had been to America said that in a month Right Sector would fall apart and they’re a bunch of posers with no idea of discipline. The tall man who had been to American said that they were sick of Right Sector promoting themselves and forgetting that Self-Defence had been there from the start. They also said that in Kyiv, at least, Right Sector was part of Self-Defence in terms of being a subordinate unit of organised divisions. In Frankivsk, however, no one has any idea about who Right Sector’s allegiance is to and what orders they are following. There is clear tension between the groups and any cooperation seems to be uneasy. The Self-Defence lads on the door of the police HQ, meanwhile, were very demonstrative in refusing to take Right Sector’s newspaper which teenage girls with RS badges were handing out to the crowd.

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Now, the question is why are there even people outside the police HQ today and what do they want? Well, it all started late last night when activists, largely from Self-Defence but also Right Sector, blockaded the building to stop the new head of police in the city, nominated by Ministry of Internal Affairs officials in Kyiv, from taking his post. They are opposed to Volodomyr Smich (literally, his surname means Laughter, so plenty of potential for jokes there). There are rumours that he was involved in initiating a trial against some activists involved in the initial protests in 2013.

This report states that initially today there were some fifty men all from Self-Defence (it also has better photos than me) blocking the street, while Right Sector also turned up in the early afternoon in smallish numbers before the big march around 16:00. Speaking to the press, the Self-Defence issued a statement stating that they do not want to have in a position of authority in the police a man who refuses for now to undergo lustration, i.e. a check on his past. Shortly afterwards, the new head of the regional administration agreed to make all administration workers undergo lustration and barred any ex-Party of Regions figures from taking up posts. Then a little bit later, the new head of the regional administration found that his office had been blockaded by Self-Defence and ‘local businessmen’, according to this report. Together they made a series of demands, including cancellation of certain taxes on wealth and various aspects of certification for motor vehicles and business-related issues. There was ‘Tax Maidan‘ in November 2010 which saw the small-and-medium-sized business community protest against a new tax code, so this protest in Ivano-Frankivsk could be seen in that context.

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However, the approach to getting your point across seems very much in the spirit of the post-revolutionary times where there is an evident degree of mob rule and rule by force. The problem is somewhat compounded by the local press which happily write that these activists speak, as the above-linked report wrote, ‘in the name of the city community’, becoming a local echo of Right Sector’s claims to speak ‘for the Ukrainian people’. An ex-student I encountered today outside the police HQ as she passed by from university on her way home said to me that “they don’t speak for us”, referring to Right Sector. While the issue of the police head was not something she had contemplated, she expressed great concern with the way local democracy was functioning. There is a clear contrast with the rather impressive local council meeting of 26 November 2013 when the still-functioning council took important decisions and voted in the open air, in front of a more representative group of the local community. However, now there is clearly a growing vacuum in local power structures, it seems that it is possible to seek to impose by force or by threats – the blockaders of the regional governor’s office have threatened to block major road routes in Ivano-Frankivsk region on Friday if their demands are not heard – decisions upon a weak, nascent administration.

With the lack of evident structures of law & order in the city, too, it is possible for far-right organisations to march armed and unopposed through the city, while promising a much more radical ‘national revolution’ and preparing, as Abramiv said today, for war not only against Russia but also for battle against any authority deemed unsuitable. Although there was an appeal to the mayor to stop masked, armed groups from marching through the city, there is little evidence of them being stopped. And, sadly, there is little readiness for some kind of civil resistance to such groups – except perhaps from within a Self-Defence increasingly frustrated by the behaviour of Right Sector, although they Self-Defence – as argued above – are contributing to a degree towards mob-democracy. (This report includes them forcing at gunpoint the revolution on the city’s main market.) In Warsaw in 2010, I recall an innovative approach to blocking right-wing marches through the city on independence day by using peaceful resistance methods – simply blocking streets with sit down protests where the right-wing organisations were due to march. Eventually the police were forced to take them down side streets and out of the heart of the city. Since 2010, of course, in Warsaw there have been more violent clashes on 11 November, although 2010 still remains for me an example of effective resistance. However, I don’t see – for now – much potential for mass civil resistance to the rise of the right in Ivano-Frankivsk.

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However, on the civil resistance and activism front, it’s not all doom and gloom. There is a boycott of Russian products by a chain of local shops who are now refusing to stock them, with about three-quarters of those asked for a local news station’s vox-pop in favour. There was a peaceful protest outside the city architecture department complaining about illegal and inappropriate buildings, while this was accompanied yesterday by the launch of a new brand and image for the city.

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The logo reminds me of four jelly babies stuck together and generally seems to have divided opinion in the city. The idea seems to have been to develop the logo on the basis of the shape of the city unique constructivist town hall, while also resembling the shapes found on Precarpathian embroidery. Perhaps the logo is not great, and some of the English slogans involving the initials IF not very well thought-out. However, there are included in the project some important and innovative ideas for improving the visual appearance of the city which is often spoilt by inappropriate development or unappealing signage.

In other news, a group of foreign students at the city’s Medical University read the poetry of Shevchenko in twelve native languages,  from Arabic and English to Sindhi and Turkmeni. And today workers got going again on finishing Shevchenko Street and promise to do so by the end of April.

International Women’s Day in post-Revolution Frankivsk

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This was the scene this afternoon (8 March) at one of Ivano-Frankivsk’s main informal street-trading points in the city centre. Here it is possible to buy flowers year round, and often twenty four hours a day, while the number of traders increases around the time of any relevant holiday or festivity. It is also possible to buy seasonal fruit here at other times of year.

Today is International Women’s Day (also known here simply as the 8 March holiday). It is an official state holiday, meaning that Monday will be a day off work, with the weekend holiday transferred to the nearest working day. For the first time since the mass killings on Kyiv’s Maidan and the growing tensions over the occupation of Crimea there is something of a sense of festivity around the city. The flowers being sold on the streets or carried in the hands of often smiling women, sometimes together with oversized teddy bears (they seem to be a – literally – big thing this year) are adding a bit of colour to the city streets.

Children have also today added, quite literally, some colour to the city streets, by drawing on the Vichevyj Maidan (Rally Square) – the original site of pro-European protests in the city – anti-war and patriotic graffiti.

ImageAt the top, it says ‘I am against war. I am for peace.’ While the man in the hat with the Ukrainian flags is saying ‘No to war.’

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This one says ‘Crimea is Ukraine. East and West together.’

 

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This is a close up of the children’s street art which says, ‘I am against war. I am for peace.’

Sadly, some in the city think it is appropriate to stick Right Sector stickers outside the Children’s Puppet and Mime Theatre on the city’s main street, covering part of its poster advertising its schedule for the month.

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Another sticker that promoted a different far-right cause has been mostly ripped away, but when we tried with our bare hands to take off the Right Sector sticker it proved impossible. The glue is very strong, so we’ll have to come back with a sponge. Or the kids painting the street can get creative on some of the far-right propaganda around the city and spread their more peaceful message.

As for women’s day, the holiday has added some colour to the city and, together with some sunshine – rarely seen in the past couple of weeks around here – brought a fair number of smiling people out onto the streets, filling cafes again and perhaps allowing some brief escape from the tensions.

Today’s festivities, which are not marked in Britain at least in such popular ways, have been affected by the nascent moral revolution in the city which has taken to combating bribery and corruption. Teachers have been asked not to accept gifts from their pupils in schools. My wife, supervising her students’ internships at schools around the city, yesterday witnessed this in practice, bringing out some degree of confusion among the children. Although, she reports, in some classes the kids were happy to scoff the chocolates they had brought with their classmates instead.

While in Britain most coverage of International Women’s Day frames it with a feminist slant or with focus on global attempts to achieve greater gender equality, in Ukraine today’s festivities seem to be more popular, part of an annual ritual of present giving without much reflection upon women’s place in society. Interestingly, Ukraine performs quite well on overall measures of equality. But scrolling down to the maps of Europe here reveals something that can be felt when living here. Education and economic participation are areas where women are very highly represented, yet in the political sphere Ukraine performs much worse. And this is evident in terms of the revolution, where women’s voices are rarely heard, as in politics more generally.

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This screenshot of a Facebook post from Oleh Lyashko, leader of Ukraine’s Radical Party and highly outspoken parliamentarian, comes from one day of heightened crisis on Maidan. He calls in point 4 – after stressing that cash donations should be made only by the Maidan stage, diesel should go to Kyiv’s City Hall and water is required there too – for women’s help. He writes, ‘Women, become volunteers – your help is required in making sandwiches.’ This statement seems somewhat symbolic of the sidelining of women in the revolution which after its civil society beginnings has become something of a male-dominated struggle over power and authority. With women relegated to the role of sandwich makers or, even in the early days, providing entertainment with singing, while the men dominated the stage with speeches, the question emerges of whether women will have sufficient representation in post-revolutionary Ukraine.

If men are able to dominate discourse, presenting themselves as the heroes of the revolution – whether in its democratic, negotiated forms or in its more violent, insurrectionary modes – while women fulfilled auxiliary roles, then this hierarchy may well be reproduced subsequently. After all, in post-1989 Poland, with a coalition of Solidarity activists and the Roman Catholic Church prevalent, significant aspects of women’s rights were reduced compared to what they had under communism. And there are elements in the new interim government, including the deputy PM Oleksandr Sych – who represents Ivano-Frankivsk – who are keen on a moral revolution, where women’s reproductive rights and expected social roles are likely to be a site of political debate, most likely without significantly representative participation from women who will be affected.

Today, keeping to the theme of Women’s Day in my English lessons with children aged 9-12, I asked them to name any famous or successful women they know. The first name to come out, from a girl, was Whitney Houston. She seemed as astounded as me that this was what she had said. The second name, from a boy, was Catherine Ashton, showing that children are clearly following the news. Only after a couple of actors and singers did Yulia Tymoshenko emerge, with one boy then commenting “stara baba” or “old woman” about the ex-PM. We then read a text about Pocahontas.

Teaching students and discussing women’s issues, it generally emerges that female students are happy to cede the political sphere to men and concentrate on the educational and economic aspects of their existence. This is fairly pragmatic, although the dangers of doing so are evident when it could be that very soon, in the name of the revolution, a moral transformation is sought from above and women’s lives will be affected without significant political representation.

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Writing of festivities and celebrations, tomorrow is the 200th anniversary of Taras Shevchenko’s birthday. (Ukraine’s national poet should, quite obviously, be played by Will Oldham/Bonnie Prince Billy in any English-language biopic.) While this was supposed to be a huge year for Ukraine, even being marked in Cambridge where an oligarch funds Ukrainian studies, it seems the celebrations will be rather subdued in the current atmosphere.

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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.