The Euromaidan Revolution of 2014, also known as the Revolution of Dignity, was centred on Kyiv’s main square, as was the 2004 Orange Revolution. On the occasion of the first anniversary of the Euromaidan Revolution, CIUS organized a three-day symposium and invited the Ukrainian writer Andrey Kurkov to deliver the 49th annual Shevchenko Lecture, which served as the keynote event of the symposium. Kurkov’s talk, delivered 9 March before an audience of almost 200 at the University of Alberta, was entitled “How Many Maidans Does Ukraine Need to Become Different?”
In the first part of his talk, Kurkov gave a personal account of his development as a writer in the context of the changes taking place during the late Soviet period, when the Soviet state and economic system began to unravel. It was in this period that Kurkov began to leave the Soviet past behind and identify himself with Ukraine, which became independent in 1991.
According to Kurkov, one of Ukraine’s consistent problems since independencehas been the lack of state-builders among its political elite. In the years following independence, Ukrainian politicians never considered Ukraine as national property. Using the analogy of building a house, where the owner begins by fencing the property on which the house is to be built, Kurkov pointed out that no agreement with Russia was ever concluded to delimit Ukraine’s territory. The failure to protect national territory extended to Ukraine’s informational and cultural space. In the Donbas and the Crimea, media and information outlets were controlled by local elites who used them to maintain a Soviet-type mentality among the local population.
Last year’s Euromaidan Revolution was provoked by the actions of Viktor Yanukovych, who, ironically, wanted to avoid such a scenario, having lost power following the 2004 Orange Revolution. The goal of the demonstrators in 2004 had been to secure honest elections, which was achieved, but disillusionment followed when politicians failed to initiate fundamental reforms. This allowed Yanukovych to come to power in 2010. He sowed the seeds of the Euromaidan Revolution when he began posting officials from the Donbas to positions of authority throughout the country, alienating local officials and businessmen.
During the first stages of the Euromaidan Revolution, demonstrators had no clear goals, and the Maidan became a forum for discussion, resembling a type of open university. Those discussions, the readiness of a minority of demonstrators to confront the authorities with force, and the subsequent war have all politicized people. The result is that Ukraine has entered a period of nation-building that is also a period of danger, as the country faces a difficult road ahead.
It is clear that many Ukrainians want to live in under the rule of law, but corruption is difficult to root out, especiallywhen the country is at war. Russia’s leaders hope that dire economic circumstances will exhaust Ukrainians,leading themto abandon the struggle with Russia and turn against their government.Kurkov concluded that if there are no reforms, there may be a third Maidan revolution caused by mounting economic and social problems, which would be disastrous for Ukraine.
Following his talk and the subsequent the question-and-answer session, Ihor Kruk, president of the Ukrainian Professional and Business Club of Edmonton, which co-sponsored of the Shevchenko Lecture, thanked Mr. Kurkov for his presentation. The other co-sponsors of the 2015 Shevchenko Lecture were CIUS and the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies (MLCS) at the University of Alberta. CIUS director Dr. Volodymyr Kravchenko spoke briefly at the beginning of the event and served as moderator, while Dr. Natalia Pylypiuk of MLCS introduced the speaker.
Andrey Kurkovalso participated as a commentator at the opening session of the symposium on the Euromaidan Revolution and subsequently met with students at MLCS. Before coming to Edmonton, Kurkov also gave lectures in Winnipeg and Toronto. In Winnipeg he gave two talks, one at the University of Manitoba and the other at the Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre (Oseredok). These were co-sponsored by the Central and East European Studies Program and Oseredok.In Toronto, Kurkov gave a lecture at the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre, which was co-sponsored by the Petro Jacyk Centre for the Study of Ukraine, the Centre for East European Russian and Eurasian Studies, and CIUS. In Toronto, Kurkov also met with John Ralston Saul, president of PEN International, and other Canadian writers.
In conjunction with his speaking tour in Canada, Andrey Kurkov gave two interviews that were published in Canadian newspapers. One appeared in the Edmonton Journal
) and the other in the Toronto Star (http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2015/03/15/in-ukraine-a-clash-of-two-mentalities.html
). Following his departure from Canada, Kurkov wrote about the symposium and his impressions related to his trip to Canada (http://cultua.media/pro-ukranskih-patrotv-kanadi
Andrey Kurkov is a world-renowned Ukrainian novelist, movie scriptwriter, and essayist. A member of PEN International, he has published 18 novels, 7 books for children, and more than 30 filmscripts. His works have been translated into 36 languages, including English, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, German, Swedish, Turkish, Japanese, Chinese, and Hebrew. Among Russophone writers in the post-Soviet space, Kurkov commands the largest international audience and is also Ukraine’s best-selling author abroad.
In his novels, Kurkov satirizes life in post-Soviet Ukraine, often using strategies of the animal fable to deal with political and social issues. An example of this approach is his novel Death and the Penguin (1996, English 2001).
In 2004 Kurkov openly supported Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, after which presses in Russia refused to publish his works. An independent thinker and fine essayist, Kurkov has frequently participated in the civic life of Ukraine, using his excellent command of English, German, French, Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian to represent the interests of Ukraine’s artists, reformers, and human-rights activists internationally.
Kurkov’s most recent work, Ukraine Diaries: Dispatches from Kiev, documents the Euromaidan Revolution from its inception in late November 2013 through April 2014. The diaries dispel many colonial myths and portray Ukraine as a political nation. The book has appeared in German, French, Italian, Estonian, and English, and recently in Ukrainian. Polish, Russian, and Japanese editions will appear shortly.
Photo: Andrey Kurkov.
The Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) is a leading centre of Ukrainian studies outside Ukraine that engages in and support research and scholarship in Ukrainian and Ukrainian-Canadian studies. If you would like more information on the Institute, please visit our website at www.cius.ca.