Are the Ukraine protestors really right wing?
March 3, 2014 7:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for some in depth analysis of the Ukraine protest movement. Specifically, the degree to which the nationalist right wing are involved and where they fit into the new government.

Western media has tended to portray the Euromaidan protestors as breaking free of the yoke of a corrupt pro-Russian autocrat. Russian media has portrayed the protestors as ultranationalists posing an existential threat to ethnic Russians.

I am curious as to the extent to which hard right views have currency in Western Ukraine and the influence of the hard right on the recent protest movement. I.e. underneath the dissembling and misinformation what influence hard right elements have on new Ukraine government and to what extent the fears of ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine have merit.

I'm particularly interested in finding sources who have been covering the protest movement for some time and/or who have personal experience of Ukraine.
posted by MuffinMan to Law & Government (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This from the New York Review of Books Blog I found a good place to start.
posted by kerplunk at 7:34 AM on March 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: This was published 20 January 2014... and may be more than helpful. Plus, it's jargon free! Maidan and its contradictions: interview with a ukrainian revolutionary syndicalist
posted by Mister Bijou at 7:37 AM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As someone reading the news in 3 languages (English, Ukrainian and Russian), the biases from each are very interesting. This is my take on the current biases that I'm seeing. (I'm reading both diaspora and ukrainian language paper and web news, Russian articles online and NYTimes, Reuters, Bloomberg, BBC and Politico for US based aspects)

The Ukrainian news is nationalist (nationalist in the way Americans are "RAR 4th of july", not "slavs are the one and only true people"), but also terrified. Svoboda (the rightwing party everyone was freaking out about) does have associations with paramiliatry groups and anti-jewish sentiment, doesn't seem to be getting as much headline space as it did in the opening weeks. Until Russia took over Crimea, the coverage was alternating between remembering the dead, and covering the troubles that the "new" goverment is dealing with. Financial struggles are a pretty big deal, athough no one is quite sure what direction things will end up going in- the Ukraine has a huge bond due in march, and needs aid- Russia extending the aid, and Yanukovych taking it kicked this all off. Of course having another much larger and better organized country invade your land kind of throws everything into chaos, so over the past few days I'm mostly seeing confusion as to allegiances and fear that russia is going to take more of ukraine.

Russian news adds a very different prespective, with a strong initial emphasis on protecting "ethnic russians", but right now it's shifted mostly about protecting the base in Crimea. Crimea is a very very tender subject for Russia- a large part of the local crimean economy is based around supporting the russian naval base and it is is a huge russian vacation spot. I have a harder time reading Russian, so I can't quite delve into the more subtle political commentary.

American news is all over the place, and tends to oversimplify stuff. Ukrainian History is very complex, and americans aren't that familiar with it- particularly the last 200 years, with WWII and Stalin doing a pretty hefty number on demographics. On the other hand, at least the recent news pieces are showing more nuance, starting to fill in some of the background info on things, so that's improving. There's a bit of "cold war" stuff rising up that feels like blatant fear mongering.

NOW, as to your actual questions about how much the rightwing facists have to do with the new government? I'd say they're much better at anarchy and fighting on the maidan than actually governing. Over the past weeks key government positions have gone to Oligarchs/wealthy businessmen, in the hopes that if they have a vested interest in running the country, they'll stop robbing it. As to Ethnic Russians fearing for their lives in Ukraine? it's pretty damn hard to tell a Russian from a Ukrainian just by looks, and everyone understands both languages even if they don't speak both. A person speaking russian isn't going to be ostracised as a Russian- becuase quite frankly they could be either, while a person speaking exclusively ukrainian is definitely going to be marked as western leaning. However, given that Russia just invaged Crimea, I have no idea how things are going to change.

I can do actual linky stuff later. need to get back to work
posted by larthegreat at 8:34 AM on March 3, 2014 [10 favorites]

My brother-in-law is Ukrainian, from as far West in Ukraine as you can get, near the border with Romania.

My immediate reaction is that to label it "right-wing" or "fascist" is utterly ridiculous. He is not a fascist whatsoever, and wants to join the EU and promote liberal democratic values with absolute sincereity. But I suppose it depends on what you consider "right-wing" - Yes, Ukrainians want to be Ukrainians and speak their language. You must understand this in a context of Russians deliberately managing Ukraine, deliberately discouraging Ukrainian language, and deliberately discouring the Ukrainian ethnicity to even exist for many years.

If you are the type of person who thinks anyone anywhere beig proud of their ancient native culture and wanting to preserve it is a "rightist" (and some leftists really do classify these people as rightists, unironically) then I suppose they are.

In my experience dealing with both Ukranians and Russians and visiting both countries, Russians have absolutely no business calling anyone a cultural supremacist and rightist until they examine their own extremely strong Russian pride.

It is a propoganda term, a remnant of Russia's communist past and one moment of glory in WW2.
posted by quincunx at 8:34 AM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think that the support for right-wing parties in Ukraine is overblown in Western media. It's worth noting that Svoboda's 10% showing in the last elections was a big surprise; they had not surpassed 1 or 2% in the previous number of elections. Their performance in parliament has been mixed, I think, and the most recent poll I've seen (Jan 2014) shows them having dropped to 6.7% support. That poll was from the middle of the EuroMaidan protests, in which Svoboda were visible participants, so I would have thought they might have received a bump from that. That they have dropped instead is not a good sign for their party.

They currently have 5 members in ministerial positions:
Oleksandr Sych - Vice Prime Minister
Andriy Mokhnyk- Minister of Ecology
Ihor Shvayka - Minister of Agriculture
Ihor Tenyukh - Minister of Defence

But this out of proportion to their popular support, and is very much because the more popular UDAR (center-right party, led by former boxer Klitschko) did not accept any cabinet positions (because of strategy/politics... whole other story). Going back to that same poll you can see that the UDAR party will be a major force to contend with, while Svoboda might struggle to remain above the minimum 5% support needed to be in parliament.
posted by Kabanos at 6:19 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

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