Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Alexander Motyl in World Affairs: Heard and Overheard in Ukraine

Conversation between two women in a mini-bus:
The driver has turned on the radio, which is playing Russian pop music loudly.
First woman: (to driver) Would you please turn that down a bit? I’m trying to read.
Second woman: (to first) Actually, he should turn it off completely. It’s our right.
First woman: (laughs) Rights? We have no rights in this country! Only obligations.
Second woman: (nods silently)

Conversation between two men:
First man: So tell me. Have things gotten better or worse in the two years that Yanukovych has been president?
Second man: Better!
First man: Better? How can that be, what with all the restrictions on business, the corruption, the— How could things have gotten better?
Second man: They haven’t gotten worse.
First man: Yes, but have they gotten better?
Second man: Of course they’ve gotten better! They’ve gotten better because they haven’t gotten worse!

Conversation between a Communist and a non-Communist:
First man: You understand, of course, that I’m on the left.
Second man: You were a member of the Communist Party, weren’t you?
First man: I was an agitator then. And I’m still a member.
Second man: But you know that your party leader, Petro Symonenko, is a millionaire.
First man: I don’t believe it. Where did you read that?
Second man: It’s in all the papers, on the Internet.
First man: I don’t believe it.
Second man: But everybody knows!
First man: I don’t believe it.
Second man: So how do you think you’ll do in the elections?
First man: I think we’ll get more votes than last time.
Second man: And the Party of Regions?
First man: Not so well as last time.
Second man: Do you think there’s any chance of reconciliation between the Soviet partisans and the nationalist insurgents?
First man: Never! I served in the Soviet Army during World War II, and I’m the head of the veterans’ organization in my town. And I can assure you: it’ll never happen!

Monologue by a professor:
We’re currently experiencing the second wave of dekulakization. The first wave occurred in the early 1930s, when the Bolsheviks expropriated the land of the kulaks, the rich peasants. The second is taking place now, with the Yanukovych regime’s crackdown on small and medium business. And do you know what these two waves of dekulakization have in common? It’s not about wealth. It’s about autonomy. It’s about independence. Neither the Bolsheviks nor the Yanukovych regime can tolerate an autonomous society that could act independently of them. That’s why the Bolsheviks had to destroy the kulaks. And that’s why the Yanukovych regime will never permit the emergence of a strong small and medium business sector.

Conversation among three men:
First man: The Party of Regions—they’re all bandits, thieves, crooks! I know these guys personally. They’re cutthroats. They’ll do anything.
Second man: Did you know Akhmetov?
First man: I played cards with him when he was just a card sharp. Smart guy. He beat all of us.
Third man: He runs the country. He runs everything. If you want to survive in the Donbas, you’ve got to be on his side.
Second man: And what about the Party of Regions?
Third man: They’re aligned with him and his people. It’s like the mafia. They control everything. They run everything.
First man: But we’ll smash them.
Third man: Ukraine is dead. There’s no hope for the future.
Second man: You’re assuming that the power holders have a plan, that they’re clever and united.
Third man: They disagree only about how much to steal and where. Other than that, they’re united. And Ukraine has no hope.
First man: Just you wait. One day we’ll smash them.

Conversation between two intellectuals, a husband and wife:
First intellectual: The opposition is as corrupt as the Yanukovych regime. There’s no choice in the elections.
Second intellectual: Don’t be stupid. If you think that way, you’re supporting the regime.
First intellectual: Not at all! I’m going to vote for the people I believe in. How can I vote for someone I don’t trust?
Second intellectual: In that case Yanukovych wins. It’s imperative that the Party of Regions not seize complete control of the Rada. If they do, all is lost. They’ll destroy democracy completely and make sure that Yanukovych wins.
First intellectual: But there’s no moral difference between the regime and the opposition!
Second intellectual: But there’s an enormous political difference! Don’t be stupid. Think strategically.
First intellectual: And abandon my principles?

Conversation between two women waiting on line:
First woman: I’m Russian and I was born in Leningrad, you know.
Second woman: And how long have you been in Ukraine?
First woman: A long time. I love the country—and especially Western Ukraine. But you know what the main difference is between Russians and Ukrainians?
Second woman: What?
First woman: Russians love their country. Most Ukrainians don’t. But I do.

Alexander J. Motyl's blog

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