Ten years since Maidan, the start of a new world
Remembered with great passion in Ukraine and deep resentment in Russia, the “Revolution of Dignity” has brought into play not only the geopolitical and economic interests of the Ukrainian people and of the various parts of the "Russian world", but above all their deepest moral and spiritual interests that transcend the ideological.
This week Ukrainians marked with passion the 10th anniversary of the freedom rally that began on 21 November 2013 in Kyiv’s Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti), a date much resented in Russia.
On that day students, activists and journalists gathered to protest the decision of the government of then President Viktor Yanukovych not to sign the European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement.
For this reason, the rally was also called Euromaidan, hinting not only at the aspirations of Ukrainians towards the West, but above all the call to Europe to fully express its identity.
Remembering those tense days brings us to review all the moments that have led to the start of the new age of "world war", from Russia's invasion of Ukraine to the attack by Hamas terrorists against Israel, connecting events and circumstances that seemed distant in time and space, and which now overlap and intersect more and more, opening to the common fear about a "new world order" that will arise out of it, amid opposing and increasingly contradictory visions and polarisations.
Those days can, above all, shed further light on the future of the European continent, where elections next year will not only reshuffle more or less traditional alliances, but will force everyone to rethink the role of their people, nation or region, their conscience as citizens and social groups, even as militants or anti-militants of a global war.
Maidan has also been called the Revolution of Dignity (Revoliutsiia hidnosti), bringing into play not only geopolitical, economic, and ideological interests, but above all the deepest moral and spiritual interests of the Ukrainian people and the various parts of the Russian world.
Over the three months in which the Maidan,[*] the square was occupied, 104 protesters and 17 security forces died. President Yanukovych fled to Russia and early elections were held that rewarded the proponents of European integration.
A few weeks later, in early March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea and began the conflict in the Donbass, the hybrid conflict that later became an all-out war.
For Vladimir Putin and his supporters, Maidan has become the main bogeyman of the world's ills, a feeling that had already spread among the increasingly exasperated Russians since the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine in 2004, when for the first time "little Russia" broke away from Moscow and sought closer ties with Europe.
From that moment on, Russia began to feel threatened, and aggressive slogans calling for the establishment of a "multipolar world" began to be heard, while explicit repression against internal opposition intensified.
It was the end of Putin's first term, during which he had adopted a seemingly conciliatory tone, open to collaboration with everyone, but the signs of change that led to the current situation were already there.
In 2004 the political confrontation ended with a compromise between pro-Russian and pro-European factions, respectively led by Yanukovych and Viktor Yushchenko. The latter became president, but brought his rival into his administration.
The schism between Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions vs its western and northern regions remained in the background, the former leaning towards Moscow and the latter towards the West.
The propaganda machine, on both sides, made tensions worse until 2010, when Yanukovych won the election thanks to the "Donbass clan", the group of pro-Moscow oligarchs and businessmen who occupied the halls of government, plunging the Ukrainian economy into a vortex of corruption and abuses.
In addition to forcing people to take sides, this election sparked strong populist tensions in Ukrainian society, of opposition to all institutions deemed unworthy and corrupt, ultimately symbolised by the anti-caste actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who eventually became a wartime leader of total resistance, forced to switch roles but still engaged in the fight against domestic corruption.
Corruption limits civil liberties, as was the case during Yanukovych’s three years in power, and the push towards Europe was not so much generated by an ideological choice, but by the need to reclaim an acceptable model of social coexistence.
This factor today is stifled by apocalyptic proclamations and metaphysical abstractions about "traditional values", yet it remains the real problem facing today’s globalised world, from the United States to Russia, from Africa to China, as evinced by the surprising populist waves of recent years.
From Donald Trump to Jair Bolsonaro, to the recent election of Javier Milei in Argentina and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, the leaders "of the people" embody the anger and frustration caused by an economic system that increasingly impoverishes the masses to enrich the ruling castes, and in the end the real war is the same in all latitudes – it is a war for social justice, however you want to define it.
Putin was right to call the Maidan a "coup d'état" since the legitimacy of Yanukovych's ouster and regime change remain an open question, centring the debate on its geopolitical aspects and ignoring the true aspirations of citizens.
In a sense, it could be said that even the radical positions of Hamas terrorists and the very right-wing government of Bibi Netanyahu muddy the reality of life in Israel and Gaza, reducing everything to an epic ethnic clash, supported by religious ghosts just like Putin's wars.
Thus, national and international agreements and conventions are bypassed, justifying all forms of violence and dictatorship.
Maidan is a very Ukrainian moment, just as the Gaza war is linked to the eternal conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, but their standardisation allows all the world's centres of political, military, and informational power to use local events to impose global schemes.
The changes that these conflicts are already causing in Ukraine – and it is not known how they will change life in the countries of the Middle East – must instead raise awareness about reality rather than the motivations behind propaganda.
We need a transparent and sustainable economy, a balanced and non-politicised justice system, global communication linking markets and peoples without stifling monopolies, a role for religious communities that is not unnecessarily emphasised and political movements that are not artificially polarised; in short, we need a new model of society, which everyone must learn and regulate according to their own home, nation, and continent.
We need to start again from the Maidan in every country, and not let the tragedies of recent years leave only rubble and piles of corpses. Most of all, we need a real "Euromaidan", not centripetal, but increasingly "outgoing".
Europe does not get stronger only by aggregating and absorbing other states and other territories, since its nature is mainly historical, cultural and religious, not really geographical (what are Europe’s real borders, its real Ukraines, i.e. borderlands?).
Reflecting on the most recent events is only the starting point to rediscover the deepest aspect of conscience, the "who we are" and where we come from rather than "we have to get out of here" as soon as possible.
The rift between Russians and Ukrainians is not a new or a sudden problem, nor is the conflict between Jews and their neighbours, with all the deportations, flights and diasporas that went along with extermination and destruction.
Only by trying to prevent further bloodshed and devastation will peace negotiations settle the reasons for these conflicts.
A "state of war" plays into the hands of those who do not want to allow individuals and peoples to be in charge of their own life in their own society and in the whole world, and negotiations or concessions are not enough to find true peace.
What is needed is for everyone to take responsibility for what they do, women and men of all parties to the conflict, a "synodality" that is not confined to ecclesiastical spheres, but is open to the contribution of anyone who wants to commit themselves to rebuilding their home and nation, building a new world.
[*] A term that entered Ukrainian via Turkish indicating a public gathering place.