Updates and analysis from the barricades
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Well, having seen off most of the Thanksgiving guests who arrived from out of town for the holidays, I'll finally have time to do some in-depth analysis and updates of what is going on Ukraine.
Let me just share a few thoughts on the involvement of pop stars, rock stars, boxers, athletes, and other assorted entertainment people in the Kiev protests. Americans unfamiliar with Ukrainian culture may feel a bit queasy seeing this because we naturally assume that the pop stars of Ukraine have the same kinds of spoiled rotten attitudes, lifestyles and stupid leftist politics that our own home-grown glitterati do. Let me set your minds at rest. The entertainment and show business folks of Ukraine are of a different stripe altogether.
In great part this stems from Ukraine's history, especially under the Communist rule, but the tradition of the artist as crusader for freedom, who raised and inspired the population to a higher goal of freedom and independence is an old and noble tradition. It dates back as far as you care to go, but we can begin with Ukraine's Shakespeare -- their Robert Burns -- there really is no comparison in any other culture that I am aware of -- the national bard, poet, conscience of his nation, and father of his country -- Taras Shevchenko. As I wrote in an earlier post (scroll down to "A Ukrainian looks at Ukraine") Shevchenko's poetry so inspired the population, and his criticisms of the Tsar and the feudal system and all the injustices that Ukraine had to live under, that it brought him unwanted attention from the Tsar. He was exiled for his "crimes against the Tsar" and spent decades in the Far East - forbidden to own paper or pen.
During the Communist years, from the earliest days, it was writers and artists and intellectuals who stood against the system, and as a result, during the terror years of Stalin, when literally millions of Ukrainians were either starved, shot or imprisoned, almost the entire class of artists and educated classes was wiped out.
It has taken decades to recover these talents, as even during later years of the communist regime there was a systematic system of imprisoning, intimidating, and otherwise silencing dissidents, who almost exclusively came from the educated ranks and those of musicians, painters, and artists. I could write reams and reams about the people I have met personally and whose stories I have read who spent decades imprisoned -- even during the Glasnost era.
And so today, the plethora of rock stars, pop singers, wrestlers, boxers, film stars, etc. who come to entertain the crowds gathered in the freezing cold -- are really the leaders of a democracy movement. Because they have always been the first victims of oppression and repression, they are the natural leaders of a movement which seeks freedom and liberty.
For too long Ukrainian artists and writers were forbidden to sing their own songs, to speak or write in their own language, to make films about their own history, and so on and so on. This is such a completely different history from the American experience that it is understandable that there is some suspicion on the part of Americans unfamiliar with this history.
More later with more links and news updates and thoughts on what may happen and what it may all mean. Reading Ukrainian tea leaves -- coming up soon.