A Culture War Report: Facebooking the Ukrainian Protests

Social media is rapidly becoming a common source of news. For me personally, scrolling through my Facebook news feed can feel like picking up the morning paper. I have get to read comics, funny/uplifting stories, and even, these past few weeks in particular, serious current events as they happen. Sometimes, when you’re lucky, networking through Facebook can mean you might be able to contact friends who are near where those events are occurring and get a perspective you might not hear in the news. I had that opportunity with the Ukraine Protests and will be sharing with you the experiences that were shared with me.

Around mid-February I started to see this video circulating on Facebook:

Then on February 20th a Ukrainian friend of mine posted this as her Facebook status:

“Thank you all for your words, your prayers, your thoughts. Around 100 people died in Kiev today. Our president and his gang calls Maydan ‘an act [of] terrorism’. Apparently it’s a new term for ‘freedom’. Many of you are lucky to live in freedom and peace. We want the same. Pray for us. We want to be alive. Thank you.”

I tried to arrange an interview with her for this post, but we had a lot of trouble trying to connect online with the time difference between us. She did, however, manage to send me a few comments from a conversation she had with a friend who was present at Maidan itself:

“When you walk through Maidan… you start feeling it IS the safest place in Ukraine – regardless of the barricades, masked self-defence forces in odd camouflage and gear, the smoke and the tents amidst the Conservatory, City Hall, Flower Clock and all the monuments. And really sad and devastating (even then, before the massive bloodshed!)… to see frightened eyes and faces of the youth wearing the uniform of …troops  cordoning off the governmental block of the city, who weren’t aware of what was needed from them (except for not letting people in), what role and what fate they had since that moment…”

When considering who the protesters were, she said that is was amazing how people who “were not active before” had spend 24 hours at Maidan during the  “terrifying ‘anti-terrorist’ operation” when “that ugly despotic” attempted to “drown the protesters in blood”:

It was amazing to see how people you know being all into cheesy stuff and fancy clothes and nothing like politics… were telling you ‘I cried when I watched that brutal disperse of students… I cannot understand how a human can order such atrocities to be done’.”

I’ve included a recent VICE News Dispatch from Ukraine below. It summarizes the country’s last few days of chaos in a fairly short clip.

According to Global News
, the protests have been going on since November, shortly after ex-president Viktor Yanukovych‘s cabinet “[announced] that they [would be] ditching an agreement that would strengthen ties with the European Union, and instead [would] seek closer cooperation with Moscow.” These protests only recently erupted in the extreme violence that we are now hearing about in the news. While Western news sources seem to have come to the general consensus that the Kiev protests are directly related to Yanukovych’s decision, some Ukrainians seem to think this is an oversimplification of the situation. When I asked a Canadian friend of mine about what her friends and family in Ukraine thought of the protests she said “it’s a confusing issue”, and-

“Unfortunately what we see on the news here or even in Ukraine is distorted. There is almost a separatist movement happening between western Ukrainians and eastern/Russian speaking Ukrainians. Some very violent acts from the “peaceful” protesters, but also some bad decisions from the government too. [We heard there was] a sniper shooting at police, and that same sniper shooting at protesters. It’s hard to know what is true, but the issue is bigger than people just needing a voice and wanting freedom. I know it started off that way, but it looks like the game has changed.”

At this point, it would appear that protesters have been able to get the results they wanted. President Yanukovych was deposed as of February 22nd, and several prominent protesters have been nominated “to head the anti-corruption bureau and the ministry of youth and sports.”

Now that the fighting has calmed in Kiev, Canadian delegates are now being sent to “encourage Ukraine to pursue closer ties with the West.” One of my politically-minded Facebook friends drew attention to the hypocrisy of this show of support by pointing out how Canada responds to protest in its own country:

“I love how the Western “Democracies” are all for armed resistance against the government in Ukraine. I wonder how they would feel if large portions of the population occupied areas of importance and then refused to obey the police?
Oh yeah, they use force.”

[He gave examples from Canadian fracking protests (which we’ve discussed on CWR before), the Oka Crisis, and the 2012 G20 protests]

“The reason they are speaking up and sending delegations [to Ukraine] isn’t because they care about the Ukrainian government killing citizens. It’s for votes. They are dragging along back-benchers from Ukrainian-heavy ridings to go and get photo-ops before the next election.”

Perhaps my friend is right and many Western countries would have been happy to ignore what was happening in Ukraine were it not for the political repercussions once it became highly publicized. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why some Ukrainians are saying this:

“пропоную дати Mark Zukerberg звання Героя України. Без нього б не впоралися”

*Rough Google translation: “propose to give Mark Zukerberg title Hero of Ukraine. Without it, would not have coped”.

Comment taken from a status shared by my Ukrainian Facebook friend mentioned above

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