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Monday, June 30, 2008

Land Advice From the Guru

Kyiv Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky: I’m giving the Government the following ideas, okay? The liquidation of all special organizations, from hospitals to clinics and the various…uh…huge land plots…uh…that they own will net Ukraine 10 billion dollars, okay? The liquidation of the system…uh…of the systems of the Academy of Sciences — for example, okay? — that exist only in China and Ukraine and also in Russia will also net…there’s a lot of property there as well.

Sounds like the voice of experience, doesn't it?

The expert accounting and the science behind it reminded me of my favorite Depeche Mode song, “
Everything Counts.”

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Another Not-So-Smart Army Recruiting Ad

If you dream of more than just a job, if you care about the country’s future, if your life has room for heroism, then service in the Armed Forced of Ukraine will help you turn your dreams into reality. Professional training, state-of-the-art weaponry, career advancement, financial security, decent pay, an opportunity to get a college degree, and freedom to choose place of service. Contract-based service in the Armed Forces of Ukraine is real work for real men.

Professional training? Career advancement? An opportunity to get a college degree? Freedom to choose place of service? Perhaps.

State-of-the-art weaponry? Financial security? Decent pay? Dream on!

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Probably the Most Bizarre Version of the Soviet Anthem

Music: Soviet Anthem (church bell version)

Song title: “Slaven,” a fusion of the word Slavic and the word slavyty (Ukr. to praise)

Lyrics & ideology: a mix of pan-Slavic theism, sovok, and communitarianism (reminiscent of Dmytro Korchynsky’s Bratstvo and Nataliya Vitrenko’s PSPU)

Key words: God Almighty, people, right of the people, Slavic Union, (instead of Soviet Union), freedom, resurrection, sun, Kyivan Rus, praise


To put it mildly, I haven’t seen anything more self-contradictory in a long time.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Another NATO Ad

Just one more sensible ad.

Ukraine aspires to become a member of the European Union, which is being protected by NATO. This road has been traveled by the majority of our neighbors: Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Rumania and Bulgaria. Meeting NATO membership criteria is the road to the European Union. NATO is the big league, a European future.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chechetov Can’t Wait for the Orange Coalition to Die

MP Mykhailo Chechetov, PRU: It’s…it’s over! The Coalition’s gone! It…it has died! Forget about the Coalition! It’s gone. It has already died. It’s just agony, death throes, and last convulsions. But they all end in the corpse being removed.

Looks like we have a case of death fetishism here — a political one — and a lot more histrionic than Donnie Pfaster’s.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Back to Barbaric Construction 2

One law for all? Not for these “little Ukrainians,” as Yushchenko calls his countrymen.

Another playground. Another prey.

But some people fight back.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Bicyclist Killed by Car; Evidence Sanitized; Driver Regrets Car Damage

Mr. President, Mr. Lutsenko, do you remember your “one law for all” promise?

How would you like it if someone dear to you died like this? Would the system work for you the way it worked for him?

Voiceover: Here’s the scene of tragedy of two friends who took a night trip by bicycle, moving toward Herzen Street. The road was allegedly unoccupied and both bicycles had their lights on. The friend of the victim survived only because he rode his bicycle in front.

Survivor: There was a heavy blow in the back.
Reporter: You were riding by the roadside, right?
Survivor: Yes, I was in the front, he was in the back, in the back. The car…it was this one…

Text: Oleksiy Bashkirtsev was 22. He was hit to death.

Male eyewitness 1: I saw it. It’s very scary. The bicyclists rode on Melnykov St. They didn’t cross anything, they rode on the curb. And this car drove at a speed of probably up to 180 km/h, and it hit them directly. Of this I’m 100% sure. We saw it.

Reporter: Did they have their lights on?
Male eyewitness 1: Yes, they had their lights on and they rode well, without speeding, nothing like that. He just hit them directly.

Text: In the first decade of June, four bicyclists have been hit. In three cases, the drivers fled from the crime scene.

Male voice: How could this man, this bicyclist…
Male eyewitness 2: The bicyclists rode…

Female eyewitness: He exited the vehicle through the window. What are you talking about? He didn’t use the door, he used the window. What are you talking about? You call him sober?

Driver’s companion: Listen, listen…
Female eyewitness: Listen to what?

Driver’s companion: Look at this door. How can anyone exit it, blyad? Why all this talk?
Female eyewitness: Listen to what? He crawled out of the window. What are you talking about? Look at him. He’s totally drunk!

Text: The driver is Khomutovsky Stanislav Olehovych, b. 1988. Managed to avoid compulsory blood testing for alcohol. Evidence is being sanitized from the case file.

Driver: I didn’t hurt anything, blyad. My poor car!

Text: The murderers are on the loose. It’s time to hit the authorities.
Photo of the victim carrying an animal rights sign: “I want to live.”

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Anti-NATO Slide Film Shown in Soviet High School

A Slide Film for Grade 10

In Russian, the word мир (mir) has two meanings: world and peace.

This slide film mixes facts and figures with Soviet propaganda.

The use of “Vremya vpered” (“Forward, Time!”) as part of the soundtrack surprised me. In the ‘80s, this piece of instrumental music by Georgi Sviridov served as an intro to the Soviet news program Vremya (Time). (If you play piano, you can try this.)

I guess the soundtrack found its way into the video by the person who shared it, not by the anti-NATO propagandists. The slide film dates back to 1985.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

NATO Info Campaign Kicks Off

They’ve finally launched some NATO commercials. Note how these two build on the Euro 2012 theme.

The North Atlantic Alliance was founded in 1949. Among NATO members are the majority of European countries, Canada, and the US. The main objective of NATO: collective defense of freedom and security of allied member countries. They are ready to defend common values by both political and military means. NATO is the big league, high standards, successful countries.

Ukraine and NATO:
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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Commies Rally Against NATO as Scheffer Visits Kyiv

A few hundred Communists and Progressive Socialists sweated outside Kyiv Mohyla Academy, where the NATO Secretary-General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, came to deliver a speech.

The protesters carried anti-NATO signs and chanted anti-Orange slogans. Riot police cordoned them off from a few dozen Nasha Ukrayina supporters, who played Orange Revolution theme songs.
Interestingly, the Party of Regions ignored the Kyiv event and instead pursued Scheffer in several eastern Ukrainian cities he visited.

Yesterday, PM Tymoshenko presented Scheffer with a 2004 white paper by then-presidential candidate Yanukovych in which he had advocated the idea of gaining NATO membership by 2008.

National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

Have you seen my childhood?

United Colors of Russia

"NATO, here's your mohyla!" (mohyla means grave in Ukrainian)

Man waves a Nataliya Vitrenko Bloc banner

Nasha Ukrayina banners

Monday, June 16, 2008

Paul McCartney Rocks the Rain Away in Kyiv

All my troubles seemed so far away,
Now it looks as though they're here to stay,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Generations of Ukrainians love this song, and so do billions of people all over the world. But who loves the scenario?

Billionaire Viktor Pinchuk, the man who brought Paul McCartney to Kyiv, is certainly not one of them. He wants no trouble. His bring-a-star-for-PR program aims at generating positive publicity and securing a bright tomorrow for himself and his family. In other words, PR = McCartneyPinchuk.

But does their bright tomorrow strike a high note with the “bright tomorrows” of millions of his fellow Ukrainians and their families? That’s the billion dollar question that reverberated through my brain as I stood in the pouring rain at Independence Square in Kyiv, the capital of one of Europe’s poorest countries, yet home to a dozen billionaires.

Here, at Maidan Nezalezhnosti, as we Ukrainians call it, the Orange Revolution took place in November 2004-January 2005. The goal of the Orange Revolution was to amend the social contract from a zero-sum game to a win-win game. That goal remains unmet.

It was here that on Saturday, June 14, 2008, at 9 p.m. EEST, we Ukrainians would meet Sir Paul McCartney, who came to Ukraine to perform his Independence Concert. (Proceeds from the sales of VIP tickets would go to help children with cancer.)

Actually, aside from Gen-Xers like me, the audience included scores of Soviet-born baby boomers, in their 50s and 60s, some of whom came from all over the former Soviet Union to worship the idol of their youth.

Long before glasnost and perestroika, The Beatles had become a legend in the USSR during the Khrushchev thaw of the mid 50s-early 60s. Despite this quasi-liberal post-Stalinist interlude, the Iron Curtain remained intact. The watchdogs of communism gnashed their teeth at the counter-cultural dimension of Western music, viewing it as “capitalist propaganda” and therefore a threat to the Soviet way of life. (I touched on this phenomenon in my previous post.)

I made a big mistake by not bringing an umbrella. Drenched to the bone, I had to desert my perch near the entrance to Fan Zone 3, and run for cover under the canopy of the Trade Unions building, the one with the red clock tower.

Before the concert began, they ran a telethon with major Ukrainian cities, Chas buty razom (Time to Be Together), along with a warm-up feature film about the local impact of The Beatles.

One of the interviewees shared his memories of how, back in the 60s and 70s, The Beatles records could only be purchased on the black market, at several times the monthly salary of a Soviet yuppie. At that time, a Soviet citizen’s love affair with Western civilization could cost them their career.

And guess what? All of a sudden, they put Kuchma in the memoirs mix! That’s no accident. Former President Kuchma, the autocratic leader whom the Orange Revolution cursed with "Kuchmu het!" ("Down with Kuchma!"), happens to be Pinchuk’s father-in-law.

I failed to catch Kuchma’s recollections of The Beatles era due to poor sound, but I instantly recalled the guitar gigs he pulled on television during his first presidential campaign in summer 1994. (I was 14 at the time.)

Kuchma’s unexpected two cents created cognitive dissonance for the Independence Concert, given Kuchma’s controversial role in Ukraine’s independence. Understandably, the event sponsors had a more favorable opinion of their extended family member. Later on, some other domestic policy issues would also pop up, adding to Kuchma's ever-present aura. (Tabloid has a few snapshots of the Kuchma family present at the concert.)

Anyway, the countdown finally reaches zero and Paul McCartney mounts the stage. He screams, “Pryvit druzi!” (Ukr. hello friends!) and sends ripples of joy throughout the rain-bedraggled Independence Square. His opening song: “Drive My Car.”

After a while, the rain almost subsided and I made it closer to the stage, finding my way through thousands of ecstatic folks of all ages. (An estimated 350,000 people attended the Independence Concert.)

It was a great pleasure to hear Paul McCartney cheer up his audience in Ukrainian. Naturally, I felt a little uncomfortable when I heard “the Ukraine.” Apparently, the event planners failed to instruct Paul, in the most polite manner, that we no longer live in “the Ukraine.”

“The Ukraine,” as in “the Ukraine girls really knock me out,” defined our country as a Soviet republic — as a province of Russia — not as an independent country. Since Ukraine became independent, we say Ukraine, without the definite article. And, of course, when we talk about the Ukraine, we say Kyiv, not Kiev. Well, because many Ukrainians speak little English and often converse in Russian, the outdated usage did not register with the audience.

A few more caustic observations. The telethon kicked off with two hosts: Ani Lorak, who spoke Ukrainian, and this other guy, a member of Comedy Club Ukraine (can’t recall his name), who spoke Russian. Here comes politics. On the one hand, this bilingual commercial approach traditionally serves to attract Russophone audiences. On the other hand, it provides a disincentive for Russified Ukrainians to learn or relearn Ukrainian.

Paul McCartney punctuated some of his songs with a playful combination of spasibo-dyakuyu/dyakuyu-spasibo, or thank you in Russian and Ukrainian, respectively. While I certainly don’t believe that he meant to upset non-Russified Ukrainians like me, I suspect that this learned meme reflects the event planners’ segmentation of Ukraine’s linguistic landscape.

In the 2004 presidential election, which sparked the Orange Revolution, Mr. Pinchuk favored Viktor Yanukovych of the Party of Regions. The PRU owes much of its popularity to being the driving force behind the bid to make Russian a second official language in Ukraine. If approved, the measure would effectively kill the Ukrainian government’s modest efforts at reviving the Ukrainian language. That, in turn, would preserve the linguicidal legacy of Russification in eastern Ukraine.

So here’s my question: Does making Paul McCartney a party to this intimate policy issue — no matter how subtly — promote Ukraine’s independence?

One can study Russification on a family basis. Judging by their public appearances, neither Viktor Pinchuk nor his wife, Olena Franchuk, former President Kuchma’s daughter, speaks Ukrainian.

Ironically, Kuchma does speak Ukrainian. A native of Kostobobrovo, a small village in Chernihiv oblast, Kuchma spent most of his pre-political life in Baikonur and Dnipropetrovsk, where he learned Russian and unlearned Ukrainian. After becoming President of Ukraine in 1994, Kuchma relearned Ukrainian without unlearning Russian.

His linguistic success story — one of his few presidential achievements of which Ukraine can be proud of — begs the question of why his daughter and son-in-law can’t master Ukrainian. After all, they want to be perceived as supporters of Ukraine’s independence, correct?

That said, the show was terrific, a time travel experience from a true legend. Ageless Paul McCartney rocked the rain away and received the warmest reception from the people who were having the happiest time of their lives.

As the concert drew to a close, they begged him to perform “Yesterday,” and he did it! It was midnight, but the people walked away with their eyes shining. Thank you for coming to Kyiv, Paul!

As the concert drew to a close, they begged him to perform “Yesterday,” and he did it! His valedictory song brought tears to many eyes. It was midnight, and the people walked away with their eyes shining bright. Thank you for coming to Kyiv, Paul!

My advice for Mr. Pinchuk: Put the people first and do more for Ukraine!

Maidan under heavy clouds

Crossing police cordons

In half an hour, I'd be taking a shower

Taking a shower

Damn, I should have brought my own umbrella!

The last shot I made before deserting my position and running for cover

My "drydock" vantage point

Ani Lorak and (dunno his name), hosting the Chas buty razom (time to be together) telethon

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Leeeeooooniiiid Kuuuuchmaaaa!

Verka Serduchka, cultural neighbor

A Pinchuk Foundation promo

Waiting for showtime

The Union Flag flies over Maidan

The sky goes orange...

And there he goes again!

The countdown

"Privet druzi!" (Rus. hello, Ukr. friends)
"Drive My Car"

"All My Loving"

"Got to Get It Into My Life"

"Let 'em In"


"Calico Skies"

"Mrs. Vandebilt"

"Eleanor Rigby"


"Back in the U.S.S.R"

"Let It Be"

"Hey Jude"


"Yesterday" (Novy Kanal)

Thank you, Paul!