Mykola Riabchuk

is a Ukrainian author and journalist. He is author of Die reale und die imaginierte Ukraine [The real and the imagined Ukraine], Suhrkamp 2006.

Articles

Pluralism by default

Ukraine and the law of communicating vessels

Ukraine’s pro-western government coalition has collapsed after only one year. Viktor Yushchenko’s victory in the elections in September 2007, called after the pro-Russian “parliamentary coup”, represented an opportunity for the gradual improvement of democratic institutions, writes Mykola Riabchuk. The latest crisis is yet another symptom of the political “pluralism by default” that undermines Ukraine’s long-term democratic consolidation.

Cover for: How I became a Czech and a Slovak

Mykola Riabchuk recalls how the politics of the Prague Spring filtered through to the Ukraine until the crackdown on ‘Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism’ in 1972-73; and how, during perestroika, the roles were reversed and he was able to bring banned literature to friends in Czechoslovakia.

Ukrainian democracy might be highly chaotic and immature – but at least it’s a democracy. Nevertheless, there’s still a lot to do before the country achieves anything like stability – namely, a thoroughgoing reform of the post-Soviet institutions, beginning with the judiciary.

The moral repugnance felt by the West towards the Lukashenko regime in Belarus is not matched by policy ideas. Civil society in the West should stop tolerating cynical realpolitik and put pressure on their governments to blacklist offending officials, says Ukrainian analyst Mykola Riabchuk. As the example of Yugoslavia shows, more sticks for the government and more carrots for the nascent civil society could well bring about positive results.

Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution” directed the world’s attention to a nation formally brushed off as a Russian satellite state. The international press portrayed Victor Yushchenko’s democratic challenge to the fraudulently elected Victor Yanukovych as the birth of Ukrainian independence. But though there’s no doubt that Ukrainian civil society has come of age, is the independence movement as young as all that? Mykola Riabchuk gives a historical overview of Ukrainian relations with Russia, and argues that talk of an East-West divide along pro- and anti-Russian lines simplifies the reality of a culturally and ideologically eclectic nation.

Political ambivalence as a socio-political phenomenon characterizes virtually every post-communist country but especially the Ukraine. Here, the country’s regional, cultural and linguistic discrepancies and the atomizing impact of Soviet totalitarianism on Ukrainian society serve to explain the deep socio-political rifts within. Mykola Riabchuk argues that the post-Soviet elite currently in power cunningly uses this situation for its political survival. Will the Ukraine be able to overcome this ambivalence and usher into an era of more democratic plurality and subsequent unity?

In his analysis of the Ukrainian media landscape and its preconditions, Mykola Ryabchuk maintains that “a situation, when people have plenty of rights on paper but cannot employ them in reality has largely persisted in the post-Soviet space. The only substantial difference between the post-Soviet states and the Soviet Union is that the latter had had a compulsory ideology”. Rather than painting a negative or positive future in conclusion, he reminds that there is a future yet to be shaped.

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