Live streaming from the Danyliw Research Seminar on Contemporary Ukraine is available at http://krytyka.com/en/danyliw2015.
The Annual Danyliw Research Seminar on Contemporary Ukraine kicked off its 11th conference event with a lively examination of ‘The Maidan Effect’—the character and reach of the EuroMaidan revolution’s lasting effects across Ukrainian society.
Olga Zelinska presented her analysis of resolutions passed by local Maidan movements in 57 localities across 20 regions of Ukraine. She observed that claims made to the national government dominated the political work of local Maidans for most of the revolutionary period. Only at the very end of Yanukovych’s presidential regime and towards the annexation of Crimea did the demands of local Maidans begin to invoke the attention of local leaders with demands for snap elections, demand for police reform, and similar asks.
Interestingly, Zelinska suggested that, even as local Maidans “acted as a loud speaker to [Kyiv] Maidan protestors’ demands,” local politicians harnessed the energies of local Maidan movements and merged the demands of protestors with their own political interests. This ironically led to the entrenchment of local authority even as it simultaneously bolstered the political legitimacy of the local Maidan movements.
Olena Fimyar spoke about Maidan’s lasting effects—or, rather, the lack thereof—in Ukrainian schools and pedagogies. Fimyar claimed to be “taking a stand against the state of development of Ukrainian Pedagogy” with her research, and articulated the political thrust of her analysis in her amended title: “Is Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed a Viable Alternative for Ukraine?”
Based on research conducted in public schools in L’viv, Fimyar argued that students and teachers have experienced little change in the power structures that shape their roles in Ukraine’s school system. Teachers articulated the experience of being an oppressed class, which has little control over the nature of their educational work. One teacher reportedly told Fimyar that educational reform should be terribly easy to implement in Ukraine, as teachers are without agency, trained to do whatever they are told to do by the government. Students also lamented the absence of change, expressing the sense that their community had, perhaps, become more patriotic, but their ability to speak freely in school remained low and the authoritative pedagogy typical of Ukrainian schools remained unchanged.
In discussion, Iulia Shukan contributed to Zelinska’s statements with the observation that many local Maidan movements have institutionalized different timelines in public memory. Traumatic local events such as police attacks often caused deviations between the local narrative of Maidan and the dominant timeline emerging from Kyiv. These variations in timing and chronology have also shaped the claims and strategies of Maidan movements across Ukraine and should be incorporated into the analysis.
Amandine Regamey echoed this message, warning that a failure to properly incorporate chronology into the textual analysis of the resolutions passed by local Maidans could produce a troublesome disconnect between text and context, obscuring the plurality of meanings represented by a seemingly identical demands.
In response to Fimyar’s presentation, Natalia Stepaniuk noted that parents also play an important role in fostering educational reform. Stepaniuk, herself, has observed how many parents of school children in Ukraine were empowered by the Maidan movement to fight corruption in schools. Jesse Driscoll argued that reform will prove impossible unless teachers are fully welcomed and integrated into the conversation.
Mychailo Wynnyckyj raised the important question of whether a positive program of reform has been fully articulated. He suggested that demands for change during the time of the Maidan protests were largely grounded in claims that the ‘old’ system was inadequate and needed to be thrown out; however, few arguments were made about what sort of system should be out into place in its stead. He argued that a clear and positive vision for the future is a necessary step towards fostering sustainable change.