Ukraine: Birth of a Modern Nation

Ukraine: Birth of a Modern Nation

Ukraine: Birth of a Modern Nation

Ukraine: Birth of a Modern Nation

Synopsis

In 2004 and 2005, striking images from the Ukraine made their way around the world, among them boisterous, orange-clad crowds protesting electoral fraud and the hideously scarred face of a poisoned opposition candidate. Europe's second-largest country but still an immature state only recently independent, Ukraine has become a test case of post-communist democracy, as millions of people in other countries celebrated the protesters' eventual victory.
Any attempt to truly understand current events in this vibrant and unsettled land, however, must begin with the Ukraines dramatic history. Ukraine's strategic location between Russia and the West, the country's pronounced cultural regionalism, and the ugly face of post-communist politics are all anchored in Ukraine's complex past.
The first Western survey of Ukrainian history to include coverage of the Orange Revolution and its aftermath, this book narrates the deliberate construction of a modern Ukrainian nation, incorporating new Ukrainian scholarship and archival revelations of the post-communist period.
Here then is a history of the land where the strategic interests of Russia and the West have long clashed, with reverberations that resonate to this day.

Excerpt

In late 2004, hundreds of thousands of orange-clad protesters occupied the Ukrainian capital's city center to protest electoral fraud and the poisoning of an opposition candidate. A very modern revolt, the Orange Revolution featured slogans text-messaged to cellular phones, protest songs set to rap, and big television screens on the streets showing larger-than-life opposition leaders. The events in Kyiv were one of the most televised revolutions in history. Although the Ukrainian media at first obeyed the outgoing regime in minimizing the protests, Western television crews worked freely, and viewers all around the world received daily updates from Ukraine. The images of Kyiv's Independence Square filled with demonstrators and the tents set up on Khreshchatyk Boulevard became familiar to a large international audience. Almost a “reality show” of a popular rebellion against corrupt authorities, the reports from Kyiv remained the top news until January 2005, when foreign viewers cheered the bad guys being voted off the new island of democracy. The winners of the Orange Revolution, meanwhile, faced the much less photogenic struggle to reform their country—an effort that would rarely be featured in international headlines.

The media coverage of the Orange Revolution did for Ukraine what the shrewdest politician could not: make millions of people around the globe care about the fate of democracy in Ukraine. Before this popular revolution, many of Ukraine's new sympathizers had known little about that land, which gained independence only in the late twentieth century with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many journalists had to look at the map to find out where Ukraine was—in southeastern Europe, bordering on Russia in the east; on Russia and Belarus in the north; on Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova in the west; and washed by the Black Sea in the south. Ukraine is a land of mighty rivers, most of them flowing southward and emptying into the Black Sea. The Dnipro (or Dnieper), in particular, has served for centuries as a chief trading route and is now a major source of hydroelectric power. Mountains are found only near Ukraine's borders: the Carpathians in the west and the Crimean Mountains in the south. Almost the entire country consists of vast plains that alternate with woodlands in central and northwestern Ukraine. The flat and treeless plains of southern and central Ukraine are now largely under cultivation, but for millennia the steppes (prairies) were wide-open . . .

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