Ukraine Assesses 'Orange' Year ; Economic Woes, Political Battles Have Roiled the Nation since Last Year's Revolution
Fred Weir Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
All through the election night of Nov. 21 the rumors flew, by telephone, Internet, and word of mouth.
"People were saying, 'The election has been stolen, the fraud is massive.' " recalls Maxym Savanevsky, an activist in last year's Orange Revolution, which shook Ukraine from its formerly docile, post-Soviet mold.
In the next morning's cold dawn, as early returns seemed to put pro-Moscow presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich far in the lead, people began streaming into Kiev's central square, Maidan, to protest.
"Everyone had orange flags, scarves, ribbons," says Mr. Savanevsky. "Someone started putting up tents, and we knew it wasn't going to be over soon.... On that first night we feared the police would storm us. We'd never confronted the authorities like this before.
"By the next day, people began arriving from the regions. More people than I've ever seen," he says. "It was then I thought: 'Hey, this is a revolution!' "
Ukrainians are marking the first anniversary of their orange upheaval this week with an odd mix of pride, disillusionment, and apprehension.
The tense weeks of protest, keeping the pressure on until opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko was overwhelmingly elected in fresh, democratically run polls on Dec. 26, changed the country forever, says Yaroslav Vedmid, another participant in the protests.
"No matter who comes to power in future, they will fear the peoples' anger," he says. "People have learned that they can make change happen."
But in recent months the revolution's two leaders, Mr. Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, have fallen out amid bitter mutual recriminations, causing a deep split in the ruling orange coalition.
Under their management, Ukraine's economic growth has plunged to 4 percent this year from a bubbly 12 percent in 2004. A recent survey found 68 percent of Ukrainians "disappointed" in current authorities. Meanwhile, the party of the defeated Mr. Yanukovich, whom many accuse of rigging last year's vote, is in the lead for parliamentary polls expected to take place next March.
"The revolution raised society's consciousness and created very high expectations," says Vadim Karasov, director of the independent Institute for Global Strategy in Kiev. "Things have cooled off, and people now say they are disillusioned, but this reflects the contrast between their hopes and current reality. They still support the goals of the revolution, but perhaps have lost faith in individual leaders."
Last September, a leading official went public with allegations of massive corruption within the president's inner circle. Yushchenko responded by firing the entire government, including the firebrand prime minister, Ms. Tymoshenko, and brought in a Russian- born technocrat, Yuriy Yekhanurov. …