“Ukraine`s Euromaidan” by Marta Dyczok, a Canadian-Ukrainian Associate Professor of History and Political Science at the University of Western Ontario is an interesting collection of the author`s podcasts or ‘a kaleidoscopic chronicle of the events’ during the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine and related episodes. 

Ukraine`s EuromaidanIn the introduction, the author provides some information about the state of mass media in Ukraine, recalling their Soviet past and current nature: although censorship was lifted and a push for free press was given by Mikhail Gorbachev in the mid-1980s, a bunch of independent minded journalists and intellectuals had been publishing samvydav (samizdat) in Ukraine with limited reach. When Ukraine parted ways with the socialistic system, most of the Soviet media system remained in state hands. The Kuchma government not only allowed independent press to appear and publish, but also privatized some of state-controlled media. But as Dyczok notes, the privatization took place in a non-transparent manner, when the former state media became owned by newly emerging oligarchs: this situation created a pattern of interdependency between political and corporate elites that continues to the present day. Following the Orange revolution, state pressures on press noticeably decreased, but corporate pressures increased, a practice where media owners dictated what topics were to be included or excluded from the public sphere. After Victor Yanukovych was elected president in 2010, the situation deteriorated even further. Corporate pressures remained and state pressures returned. By the summer of 2013, many analysts were writing that the situation with freedom of speech was worse than any time in Ukraine’s modern history.

Nevertheless, such circumstances pushed for emergence of a new type of mass media initiative, which mainly chose the Internet as their platform. And it was one of those new media projects named Hromadske Radio (Public Radio in Ukrainian), which was a new voice of free speech against state and corporate sponsorship, contacted M. Dyczok and offered to prepare podcasts. The first podcast of a total of 42 by M. Dyczok was aired on 3 February 2014. Since they were made during the following year and a half not only in Kyiv, but also in Ukrainian provinces, Canada, even Turkey, the author has given a good view to the Euromaidan-related events from different perspectives.

In the very first podcast dated 3 February 2014, the author provides information from Kyiv talking about the motives of protesters, popular dissatisfaction with the corrupt government. 

The next podcast aired a month later broadcasts protest against Putin`s military intervention and the so-called referendum in Crimea. The rally organized by Ukrainian Canadian Congress involved also Crimean Tatars, Latvians and ordinary Torontians. In general, Canada`s attitude and support to Ukraine and Ukrainian case is emphasized many times throughout the book: 

Canada`s Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the first G7 leader to visit Ukraine, while his country took the lead to impose the sanctions against the corrupt Yanukovych regime in Ukraine and then Putin`s Russia when the latter invaded Crimea, a step that was followed by the more powerful U.S. and EU. Stephen Harper became also the first foreign leader Petro Poroshenko met with as Ukraine`s post-Euromaidan president and the only G7 leader to travel to Kyiv for presidential inauguration. As Poroshenko was taking his oath, Harper repeated “Canada has and will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine.” Canadian government also started to send non-lethal military equipment (communication systems, medical kits, night vision goggles, military clothing) to help Ukrainians secure their border against Russian aggression. 

Although Canada and Russia had maintained relatively friendly relations until 2014, Putin`s domestic policy that strangles human rights and freedoms shifted Canada`s public opinion on Russia. Putin`s aggression to its western neighbor raised more sympathy of ordinary Canadians to Ukraine case: to the author`s casual question “Do you know where Prime Minister is today?”, a check-out clerk answered: “In Ukraine, where he should be.”

The support to Ukraine across the Atlantic was demonstrated once again when Petro Poroshenko was warmly received in North America: standing ovations on Canadian and American parliaments after his speech, live broadcast of his visit on national TV channels of both countries. 

On one of her podcasts, the author also draws parallels of separatism/federalism in Canada and Ukraine: Quebec separatism has been calmed down by quiet, peaceful and civil methods as a domestic affair. In Ukraine, however, separatism seems to be stoked from abroad, while legitimate issues are being distorted by a neighbor`s pernicious foreign policy agenda, through military intervention. 

The author touches upon social activities in Canada, especially those organized by a large Ukrainian diaspora, to promote Ukraine case and raise funds for the war-torn country. Among such activities were annual Ukrainian festival, the biggest one in North America, in the vicinity of Toronto, concerts with all tickets sold out, Toronto Ukrainian Film Festival. Furthermore, Ukrainian Church in Canada was collecting clothing and funds for people fighting against Russian intervention. 

Interesting is the comparison of approaches of media in Russia and Ukraine to the conflict: Russian press uses its propaganda tools to brainwash the ordinary citizens by repeatedly claiming that national-fascist, anti-Semitic banderites have seized power in Kyiv, threaten and kill Russians and Russian-speaking population of Ukraine. Both officials and media from Moscow referred to the Maidan protest as a coup, the new government as a junta. These media messages, which are also delivered into Ukraine, deliberately incite hatred and deep division between Russians and Ukrainians, the author concludes. 

In Ukraine, the war in Donetsk and Luhansk is described as an Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO). However, Ukrainians people believe that it is not just a war nor the aggression of one state against another, it is “the collapse of an old world order and movement away from a no longer viable model of society.”

Serhii Plokhii, a Harvard professor, who was interviewed by M. Dyczok noted that the roots of Russia`s present action go back to at least 1991. When the days of Soviet Union were counted and constituent republics were leaving it, Russia`s claims for Crimea, eastern Ukraine were first voiced. Annexation of Crimea in March 2014 was related by Putin directly to the humiliation of 1991. Some refer to Putin`s actions as an attempt to re-create the Soviet Union or even Russian Empire. According to Mr. Plokhii, Russia is looking for a more effective and cheaper way of dominating the area through its military, culture and language, economic power. Some of the reasons of the current of war should also be searched in pre-1917 period, when, during in Russian Empire, the right of Ukrainians (and also Belarusians) to exist as a separate nation was denied. The same rhetoric is now used by Putin, who repeats that Russians and Ukrainians are the same people. 

The author did also touch upon the issue of Crimean Tatars, by covering Second Crimean Tatar Congress held in Ankara, Turkey on August 1-2, 2015. The event attended by over 400 delegates from 14 countries proclaimed a strong position of never giving up on their historical lands. 

In conclusion part, M. Dyczok notes that the years 2014-2016 were challenging for all Ukrainians, including journalists. Although the Ukrainians felt they had won the corrupt president Victor Yanukovych, they had to face a worse and more difficult conflict labeled “information war” of Russia. Having occupied Crimea and kindled separatist movements in south-east Ukraine, the Kremlin launched a sophisticated propaganda machine, which declared all pro-Westerners fascists, the Kyiv government illegitimate. The extended goal of Russia`s information war was to de-legitimize Ukrainian authorities, cause panic and instability, and present Russia as a desirable alternative. 

Since the information war was part of a bigger conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Ukrainian journalists, who strove to adequately react to Russian propaganda, became linked to matters of national security. However, caught unprepared and with lack of a tradition of war journalism, both Ukrainian government and press were not so effective in delivering true messages to international community especially in the earlier stages of the conflict. Yet, the Kyiv authorities made several important and controversial moves to resist Russian informational propaganda: Russians television and radio broadcasts into Ukraine were banned and the Ministry of Information Policy was created. Despite the fact that major media corporations are still controlled by oligarchs, the author expresses some optimism, in the example of Hromadske Radio, about successful transition and development of several Ukrainian media into professional and unbiased press.

 

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