Mapping the Maidan

August 2015
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David Marples, a prominent Canadian scholar of modern Ukraine and Belarus, and his younger colleague from the University of Alberta Frederick Mills have published an edited volume of twelve essays dedicated to various aspects of recent events in Ukraine titled Ukraine’s Euromaidan: Analyses of a Civil Revolution.1 The collection lacks the cohesiveness typical of a monograph, suggesting that the themes addressed in each chapter were respectively chosen by their individual authors rather than the editors. It is not an attempt to provide a synthetic understanding of events surrounding the Euromaidan. That said, certain chapters have the distinct potential to be expanded into book-length works, in particular Taras Kuzio’s “Vigilantes, Organized Crime, and Russian and Eurasian Nationalisms: The Case of Ukraine,” and Marta Dyczok’s detailed outline of the media situation during the Euromaidan, “Mass Media Framing, Representations, and Impact on Public Opinion.” It is perhaps a shame if these complex and fascinating topics only receive brief treatment in this kind of edited volume format. Here, Kuzio focuses on how a criminal group from Donetsk usurped power, without devoting much attention to the “nationalist” question, while Dyczok never gets to the deeper analysis of the media’s influence upon public opinion that the second part of her title promises.

The book’s mosaic format works best in short case studies that focus on specific topics, such as “Digital Civil Society: Euromaidan, the Ukrainian Diaspora, and Social Media,” in which Svitlana Krasynska describes three media initiatives by Ukrainians abroad, who tried to deliver objective information about the Maidan to foreign audiences. In “Belarus and Maidan: Lukashenka’s Response,” Uladzimir Padhol and David Marples provide a great analysis of the Belarusian President’s ambivalent and openly opportunistic reaction to Ukrainian events. Frederick Mills’s “Understanding the Euromaidan: The View from the Kremlin” is a useful chapter for English-reading audiences not yet completely bewildered by Russian propaganda, even if it will be familiar material to most Ukrainians already well acquainted with the “view” in question.

Three articles by young Ukrainian scholars — Olesya Khromeychuk’s “Gender and Nationalism on the Maidan,” Natalia Otrishchenko’s “Beyond the Square: The Real and Symbolic Landscapes of the Euromaidan,” and Anna Chebotariova’s “‘Voices of Resistance and Hope’: On the Motivations and Expectations of Euromaidaners” — stand out in particular. These chapters are based on fieldwork carried out by the authors during Euromaidan between December 2013 and February 2014. We see a similar approach with similarly interesting results in William Risch’s “Eurorevolution: A Historian’s Street-Side Observations,” and Olha Onuch’s more developed investigation, “Maidan's Past and Present: Comparing the Orange Revolution and the Euromaidan.”

Thematically and methodologically, Olha Onuch’s essay provides a continuation of her recently published book, “Mapping Mass Mobilizations: Understanding Revolutionary Moments in Argentina and Ukraine.” In this more recent work the author analyzes data gathered directly on the Maidan, in sociological surveys and interviews, as well as Maidan speeches and chants, and conversations with activists, journalists, politicians, especially from the pro-regime camp. Onuch shows that the Euromaidan, despite apparent similarities to the Maidan of the Orange Revolution (the same place and time, as well as a similar motivating force:...

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Originally Published in This Issue of Krytyka