Monday, January 03, 2005


A man standing next to me trained his videophone on the fireworks display. The picture on his little screen reminded me of Soviet-era postcards of fireworks at the Kremlin and Red Square. This was when I finally felt what I'd expected would hit me sooner or later: an acute pang of jealousy. A display like this in Moscow would inevitably occur against the backdrop of symbols of the Soviet past. Same with the language of revolution: In Russian, it's the discredited language of Soviet ideology; in Ukrainian, it is the rhetoric of liberation. "We have rehabilitated the word we," says Oksana Zabuzhko, a best-selling Ukrainian-language author and one of Kiev's most prominent intellectuals. And I think the reason Ukrainians were able to do that is that their revolution spoke Ukrainian, a language that was, in a sense, lucky to have been suppressed rather than hijacked during the Soviet period. So now Yushchenko and his coalition partners can say words like we, the people, or our future—and sound like they are talking about the Ukrainian people and their future rather than recycling the long-discredited symbols and promises of the past.
Masha Gessen, reporting from Kiev on New Year's in the New Ukraine (via Marius)

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