First Tunis, now Kiev: Comparing the Arab Spring and Ukraine's Soviet Winter

Published February 26th, 2014 - 03:10 GMT

From Tunis to Triopoli, Cairo to Damascus, the popular protests that shook the Arab world in 2011 may have now reignited Ukraine’s very own Orange Revolution whose seeds were sewn 10 years ago. Kiev in 2014 is the latest hotspot of revolutionary turmoil to capture news headlines.

Last November, as the Ukrainian government sought stronger Russian ties (and rejected a closer EU alliance that was concurrently in play) peaceful student protests flared in the capital city. Stand-offs with authorities veered from calm to angry and quickly morphed into deadly violence.
Days of brutal clashes between police and anti-government protesters incited parliament to oust President Viktor Yanukovyvh (accused of violence against the people, he’s now a man on the lam, with a warrant issued for his arrest!). The city has been burning for months and turmoil intensified this past week with fatalities approaching 100 and hundreds more wounded.

Did the Arab uprisings influence this country’s split across its European and Russian identities? It’s tough to call but the Arab Spring has set a daring precedent for 21st century rulers who choose to ignore their people’s demands.

While revolutions often boil down to economics, the onset of unrest often leads to chaos and shape-shifting within any movement--no matter how organized it may appear during the first wind. Yet, protests - whether in Europe, the Middle East or elsewhere are fomulaic with each movement following the same dance steps. They commence peaceful protests and work social media to rally support. Big Brother may be watching, but so is the rest of the world as Little Brother uses personal tech gadgetry to broadcast real-time and uncensored action on the ground. Awareness expands, dialogue ensues, and support grows.

The Arab Spring demonstrated that the real challenge is not in deposing a leader but in successfully filling the power void so a new future can be realized. In Tunisia the experiment of Arab democracy has been solidified with a new constitution, while in Egypt the country still contemplates its fate under General Sisi. Uprisings in Bahrain and Yemen have had inconclusive results, and Turkey, despite the power of Taksim Square protests, has made scant headway in reforms.

If the Arab Spring is any guide, the Ukranian people face a long and difficult journey before they can declare the revolution that began in Kiev’s Independence Square a success. But their shot’s been fired; and the world has heard. Can change be far behind?

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