Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  44 / 120 Next Page
Basic version Information
Show Menu
Previous Page 44 / 120 Next Page
Page Background

44

DECEMBER 2016

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

Young Ukrainian leaders battle Russian pressure, endemic corruption

and a moribund economy in pursuit of a new, independent identity.

UKRAINE IN 2016:

THERE’S NO

GOING BACK

BY WI L L I AM GL EASON

William Gleason spent five years teaching in Ukraine

(1995-2000), including three as a Senior Fulbright

Lecturer at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla

Academy, and two as the founding director of the Ful-

bright Program for Ukraine. As coordinator for Eurasian studies at

the Foreign Service Institute until recently, he returned to the capital

every year since 2000, and last year led a weeklong seminar there on

the nature of modern history at the invitation of The Kyiv-Mohyla

Academy. He is now an independent scholar/writer on Ukraine.

F

or most of its history, Ukraine has been

treated as a stateless borderland of scattered

peoples wedged between competing civili-

zations—principally Poland and Russia. But

over the past quarter-century, that percep-

tion has been replaced by a new orientation,

a new identity that is Western in design and

democratic in substance.

The students at the National Univer-

sity of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, where I taught in the 1990s and

returned in 2015 to conduct a seminar on modern Europe,

certainly believe that a historic change is underway in their

country, one that will not be reversed. And they have been

instrumental in making it a reality. Both students and faculty

at Mohyla, the best university in Ukraine, played a key organiz-

ON RUSSIA

ing role in the Orange Revolution of 2004 and the Euromaidan

movement of 2013-2014.

Now they are united in their determination to Europeanize

their education and Ukraine’s future. None of these students

lived under Soviet power. Twenty-five years have passed since

Moscow ruled Ukraine. Almost two generations of students and

young people, in general, have reached maturity since 1991,

when the USSR imploded. Many now hold leadership positions

in business and government. As one student put it when the

seminar began: “We are not hesitant. Our parents often hesitated

and sometimes, even, our older brothers and sisters. We know

that freedommust be earned and can disappear. It has to be

fought for, sometimes. It is always fragile.”

The co-manager of the Sherborne Guest House, a boutique

hotel where I lodge during my annual trips to Kyiv, would agree.

As she mused one afternoon while I was checking in: “Until

2014, 90 percent of our guests came from Russia—90 percent!

But since the summer of 2014, zero guests from Russia. Not one

Russian guest over the past 18 months. Not a single person.

But our rooms are still full—full of Ukrainians and visitors from

elsewhere.”

She continued: “To me, that says it all. It tells me that Ukraini-

ans and Russians are no longer members of an extended family.

It also tells me that Ukraine may finally become a real country, a

country more sure of itself, a country with its own identity.”

FOCUS