“What we are left with is the familiar feeling that we have to start all over again. But since the Orange Revolution, at least we know that the people are prepared to give it a go.”

Yuri Andrukhovych, Ukrainian author, born 1960

The Russian composer Tchaikovsky has been called ‘a Ukrainian by creative spirit’. Ukrainians love their music, whether it’s traditional folk, the rock songs of the much-loved band Okean Elzy, or the thriving electronic scene.

It is said that the 30km exclusion zone around the former Chernobyl nuclear reactor has become a haven for wildlife. There is nothing else positive to report from this source of catastrophic devastation.

Famously, Ukraine’s peaceful ‘revolution’ of 2004 chose orange for its name and the colour of its ribbon symbol. The defeated President, Viktor Yanukovych, led the ‘blue’ Party of Regions. Predictably, Yanukovich’s success in the 2010 Presidential election prompted the headline in the world’s press, ‘Ukraine’s Orange Revolution Turns Blue’.

In the 1920s, the Ukrainian Woman’s Union was one of Europe’s largest feminist organisations; also in that decade the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America was established by some who had emigrated to the US and Canada. Feminism was considered counter-revolutionary during Soviet times, but has re-emerged since independence in such activist groups as FEMEN


Known as the ‘Empire’s breadbasket’ during Tsarist times, Ukraine with its rich black soil went on to be a major agricultural provider during the Soviet era. Stalin’s disastrous collectivisation of agriculture led to the Great Famine of 1932-33, which is officially classed as genocide by the Ukrainian parliament.

Despite its professed Euro-Atlantic leanings, Ukraine remains on good neighbourly terms with Russia, though its dependence on increasingly expensive Russian gas supplies has caused friction.

Russian is widely spoken, but the prestige of the Ukrainian language has been boosted by the official post-independence policy of ‘Ukrainisation’ – the same term used by the Bolsheviks for their revival of ‘indigenous’ cultural life in early Soviet days.

Though the country’s recent change in status from ‘free’ to ‘partly free’ (Freedom House) has caused dismay, Ukraine’s nonviolent ‘Orange Revolution’ grabbed the world’s attention and inspired many.

Those were the early days of internet-influenced protest. Today, a third of Ukrainians are online, with news sites offering the plurality that is under strain elsewhere in the country’s media.


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