The internet is awash right now with stories about the protests in Ukraine and the government's violent and oppressive response. Protesters have died, policemen have died, and everything is gearing up for more violence.
The newscasters and political analysts are scrambling over each other to offer explanations and predictions. It didn't take long for someone to start saying that this was a U.S. versus Russia issue.
I have lived in Ukraine and some of my best friends live there. However, I claim no expertise to draw a political analysis of the situation. Rather, as a writer, it is my privilege to take a step back and see the big picture.
What I have to offer is a story.
The nation of Ukraine includes some of the best real estate in the world. Almost every conqueror in Western history made a play to conquer and keep Ukraine. It's rich black soil has been washed in blood over and over as each conquering people wiped out the ones who came before.
The closest it ever came to having its own independence was during the time of the Cossacks, a mixture of freemen, escaped slaves, and landless nobles who were versatile and ruthless fighters. Some have compared them to the mountain men of the American west, tough and hardy.
It all fell apart when their "ally" Russia came to their aid in their wars against the Polish and the Turks. Russia came willingly to save them, and just as willingly stayed to occupy and rule. This has never been far from the Ukrainian mind.
When Communism fell over the East, Stalin used brutal force and artificial famines to starve entire cities into submission and break the Ukrainian will. Millions died before they bowed. When the wall fell, Ukraine was one of the first to break free of the Soviet Union. This helped provide the final blow, as Ukraine's fertile fields were known as the "bread basket" of the USSR and provided food for the sprawling empire.
Still, Ukraine struggled under the weight of corrupt government officials, strong organized crime, and continued interference from Russia. This came to a point when pro-Russia presidential candidate Victor Yanukovich orchestrated a rigged election in 2004, poisoning his opponent, abusing voters, and committing outright fraud.
Lovely guy, huh?
These atrocities led to the Orange Revolution, similar to the one going on now. Yanukovich was thrown out and the poisoned Yuschenko took the lead. Internal strife and opposition tied his hands and he was finally run out of the government, bruised and broken. I met him here in the U.S., where his idea of a vacation was going to a farm and working the fields on a tractor, far from press and prying eyes.
Care to guess who took the reins once he was out of the way? None other than Victor Yanukovich, the same despot who had been pulled from power during the Orange Revolution!
Now we find ourselves in the same spot. Almost ten years later and the Ukrainian people are still not rid of this oppressive, violent snake in the grass. His policies coincide wonderfully with Russia's goals and prosperity, while somehow completely neglecting his own people.
My hat goes off to the Ukrainian people as my heart goes out to them. I feel as bad for the police as I do the protestors. Both are pawns in a ridiculous power struggle brought on by a few power mongers, entrenched in key positions. The people of Ukraine have everything they need to be a great and thriving nation.
If only their government would get out of their way.