Ukraine's Orange Revolution by Andrew Wilson - review by Stuart Hensel

Stuart Hensel

Drawing Out The Poison

Ukraine's Orange Revolution

By

Yale University Press 232pp £18.99 order from our bookshop
 

Ukraine's Orange Revolution can't be understood without grasping how breathtakingly cynical the old regime had become by the time it tried to steal the 2004 presidential election. Its cynicism was widely understood by average Ukrainians – most of whom were acquainted with the secretly recorded tapes of high-level conversations whose release had poisoned Ukrainian politics during much of President Leonid Kuchma's second term in office. When not manipulating votes, tampering with judges or skimming from state companies, Ukraine's leaders were busy just being thugs. In a couple of telling conversations included in Andrew Wilson's book, President Kuchma, or a voice strikingly similar to his, famously discusses what to do with an opposition journalist who was subsequently found murdered. Kuchma first suggests that the journalist ‘needs to be deported – the scum – to Georgia and thrown there on his ass!’ Later he mentions Chechnya, saying ‘take him there, undress him, the fucker, leave him without his trousers’. In an earlier conversation about the journalist, the head of the security service had already assured Kuchma that ‘the time for him to mouth off will come to an end. I’ll crush this fucker.’

The Orange Revolution reflected the understandable revulsion of millions of Ukrainians unwilling to live in a gangster state. Wilson convincingly argues that the event was never a battle of elites, but rather the first popular revolt against post-Soviet political culture. After a decade of ‘orgiastic corruption’, as he describes it,

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