I went back to Independence Square in Kiev on Saturday, and there were two obvious differences from my visit on Friday: it wasn’t raining, and a few thousand more protesters showed up. There were even some speeches from politicians. But it was the same passionless performance, just a lot more of it and more colorful due to the sunshine.
This time I had a local guide with me, arranged by my colleague Valeriy. Nina was very knowledgable about Kiev’s history, and she also taught me a bit about what’s really going on in these protests. It seems that the president has tried to disband the corrupt and inefficient parliament, and as a result the parliament and some of their backers have started paying poor people to come in from the hinterlands and march around with signs. This explains the odd combination of military precision in the marching — everyone in well-organized columns with no random movement at all — and general lack of interest on the part of the participants. Other than an occasional choreographed chant (which never lasted more than a minute), the people marching looked like they could simply be waiting in an unusually long line at the nearby McDonald’s.
By the way, regarding the colored flags: the dark red flags are communists, the pink flags are socialists, and the blue and yellow flags are Ukrainian nationalists. Blue is for the sky and yellow is for the wheat that grows in the famously rich Ukrainian soil.
Nina told me how she and thousands of other Kiev citizens had been there for the Orange Revolution protests in 2004, yelling their demands in the freezing cold, but for this protest she said nobody in Kiev would go near it except to see the spectacle. Her contempt for the whole scene was obvious, and I realized this is probably why my co-workers all told me to stay away: not because they feared for my safety, but because they were embarrassed by this largely fake demonstration in the capital of a country that has long taken pride in its passionate and emotional people.
Nina took me around to see a few sights, such as the birthplace of the Bloody Mary and many fancy buildings, which I’ll put in a separate post. You know me, I took more interest in a well-organized and well-led pack of stray dogs than most of the fancy architecture. To each their own.