Analysis & Opinions - Brookings Institution

When Ukraine Set Course for Europe

| Feb. 20, 2024

The Revolution of Dignity, a decade later

November 2013 seemed like an unlikely time for another Ukrainian revolution.

Nine years had passed since the Orange Revolution, a massive wave of popular protests against a massively rigged presidential election, achieved inspiring success to be almost immediately followed by bitter disappointment. In 2004, hundreds of thousands of protesters filled Kyiv’s central Independence Square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti, drowning the city in orange, the presidential campaign color of Viktor Yushchenko, a liberal and pro-Western candidate, whose rightful presidency was stolen by blatant election fraud.

The Orange Revolution's demand was ultimately granted, and the rerun of the stolen election brought Yushchenko to power. But the Orange coalition quickly fractured and in 2010, Yushchenko's 2004 rival, the thuggish Russia-friendly Viktor Yanukovych, was fairly and squarely elected president. The Ukrainian government was now firmly captured by shamelessly self-enriching oligarchic interests with unambiguous ties to Russia. Staging another nationwide collective action seemed like an effort the disenchanted and resigned nation could not muster.

A sense of agency

In November 2004, I was in my kitchen in a small town in southern Maine, making apple sauce, when NPR reported about the swelling numbers on the Maidan. I dropped the apple sauce and called a friend in Washington, DC, another Ukrainian from Lviv. In a week we were on a flight to Kyiv, me with my nine-month-old daughter and she with her two toddlers. Our mothers met us in Kyiv to pick up our kids and take them to Lviv. We stayed on the Maidan.

Why were we there? What was the use of flying from the United States to stand daily on the Maidan, for a month, in December cold, where among thousands one person made no difference? For one, while the political aims were serious and legitimate, the Orange Revolution transpired in an atmosphere of jubilation. Thousands in orange paraphernalia filled the Maidan, many traveling from other cities or returning from abroad, like I did. For me, it proved the ultimate reunion with friends I hadn't seen in years. A stage was promptly erected, and Ukraine's best performers took turns entertaining and rallying the crowds. The Orange Revolution was the Woodstock for democracy....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Budjeryn, Mariana.“When Ukraine Set Course for Europe.” Brookings Institution, February 20, 2024.

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