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Ukraine Diaries by Andrey Kurkov
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Ukraine Diaries

by Andrey Kurkov

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I've been interested in and troubled by the conflict in Ukraine, a country I'd love to visit one day, since the anti-Yanukovych protests began in November 2013. Since I'm not very good at following news reports, however, this book by the novelist [[Andrey Kurkov]] seemed a good way to learn more about the situation.

The diary entries run from the unexpected announcement in November 2013 that the Yanukovych Government would not be signing an association agreement with the EU, but would instead be developing its cooperation with Russia, to the end of April 2014, by which point Crimea had been annexed and fighting in the east of Ukraine had become the normality.

First off, I can say that it's enlightening to have the perspective of someone is Ukrainian (and not a politician). In the Western media, the conflict is often portrayed as one between ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians. As a Russian-born, Russian-speaking Ukrainian who would like to see his country loosen its ties with Russia and become more open and democratic, Kurkov demonstrates perfectly that the situation is more complicated than that. The divisions really concern the kind of society in which Ukrainians would like to live and how they would like to be governed. These divisions also exist in Russia, but, seemingly, with a greater majority in favour of Putin's authoritarian style.

While supportive of the "Euromaidan" movement, Kurkov is not, himself, part of it and is able to observe its failings. One of the accusations frequently levelled by Russia is that some of those in favour of a closer relationship with Europe are "fascists". Well, yes, some of them are, as Kurkov makes clear, but most of them are not and their involvement does nothing to denigrate the cause of those who want a more open and accountable type of government.

It was also interesting to learn Kurkov's views on those politicians who became known to us during the Orange Revolution, in particular Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, about whom I've not been sure what to think, given the disillusionment that has set in since 2004. Needless to say, he is presenting just one point of view, but his is as good as any and I'm happy to trust it.

When not watching news reports, walking through Kiev to observe the situation for himself and generally worrying about his country, Kurkov is visiting his house in the country, spending time with his wife and children, travelling for work and meeting with friends. I appreciated these details, not just as light relief but also to set the wider events in some kind of context. Yes, the country is in turmoil, but life has to and does go on.

Obviously, the story is not over yet and I can only hope that Kurkov has continued to keep a diary and that it will see publication, as I have learned much more from his diary entries than I could ever glean simply from news articles.
8 vote Rebeki | Feb 2, 2015 |
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When nothing in particular happens in the life of a man and his country, the man might believe his existence to be stable and eternal.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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-16 C, sunlight, silence. I drove the children to school, then went to see the revolution. I walked between the tents. Talked with rev-olutionaries. They were weary today. The air was thick with the smell of old campfires. Ukraine Diaries is acclaimed writer Andrey Kurkov's first-hand account of the ongoing crisis in his country. From his flat in Kiev, just five hundred yards from Independence Square, Kurkov can smell the burning barricades and hear the sounds of grenades and gunshot. Kurkov's diaries begin on the first day of the pro-European protests in November, and describe the violent clashes in the Maidan, the impeachment of Yanukovcyh, Russia's annexation of Crimea and the separatist uprisings in the east of Ukraine. Going beyond the headlines, they give vivid insight into what it's like to live through - and try to make sense of - times of intense political unrest.… (more)

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