Propaganda and the Ukrainian Uprising

Timothy Snyder does an excellent job of sorting through the misinformation about the Ukrainian revolution. He notes, "the message from authoritarian regimes in Moscow and Kiev was not so different from some of what was written during the uprising in the English-speaking world, especially in publications of the far left and the far right." The people in Maidan Square, if the extremes of Western and Russian media are to be believed, were instigating a rightist "putsch," to use Pravda's term, against a democratically-elected government. 

Snyder reports that there were some far right elements in the uprising, but that was because Viktor Yanukovych had all but eliminated the center right, along with pretty much all other political opposition to his kleptocracy. But joining the rightists and the nationalists were Jews, Russians, environmentalists, as well as a great number of ordinary Ukrainians. The uprising was instigated by a Muslim journalist named Mustafa Nayem, who used social media to rally support for the uprising that eventually sent the Ukrainian president running for his helicopter. Synder concludes,

Whatever course the Russian intervention may take, it is not an attempt to stop a fascist coup, since nothing of the kind has taken place. What has taken place is a popular revolution, with all of the messiness, confusion, and opposition that entails. The young leaders of the Maidan, some of them radical leftists, have risked their lives to oppose a regime that represented, at an extreme, the inequalities that we criticize at home. They have an experience of revolution that we do not. Part of that experience, unfortunately, is that Westerners are provincial, gullible, and reactionary.

Snyder overlooks some of the new Ukrainian parliament's more questionable actions, like abolishing a law that ensured a legal status for Russian and other minority languages. Nor does he offer an explanation for the pro-Russian demonstrations across Ukraine. Are those protesters dupes of the propaganda machine? Or do they have genuine grievances as well? Nevertheless, Snyder clarifies the sequence of events that led to our current predicament.


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