The Euromaidan events have become a focal point of Ukraine's recent history. While the story of popular dissent and the overthrow of President Yanukovich still needs to be written, this article examines the events through the prism of three leading politicians. Explaining politics through personalities is usually seen as an outdated way of writing history. But in the specific situation of Ukraine this approach opens up an intriguing perspective on the formation of politics. While in reality a variety of oligarchs have become the defining players behind the scenes, the powerful popular dissent that erupted with Euromaidan suddenly raised the problem how this popular force could be translated into the established channels of politics. Elections are the obvious answer, but elections require politicians who appear to be connected with the popular sentiments. With Poroshenko's decision to run for President being the exception, Ukrainian oligarchs predominantly prefer to stay away from public office. So the political system needs intermediaries, i.e. politicians who appear to represent popular sentiment and who are willing to accept the responsibility of office, while in fact they pursue a short-term strategy of maximising political benefit for themselves. This article ultimately argues that Euromaidan created a shift in the political culture of Ukraine. Politicians who traditionally appealed to one or the other identity cluster and who entered Euromaidan in the hope of boosting their popular appeal nearly got burned. It is unclear whether Euromaidan created a new type of national identity for Ukraine, but obviously, as the recent parliamentary elections show, it created a sentiment which favours technocrats who can deliver, and not ideologues who appeal to one or the other of the “old” loyalties.
Astrid Kaltenegger is a student at the University of Graz, Austria, currently finishing her master thesis on Russian law.
She is specialized in International Public Law and International Relations.
Courtney Trevascus is a student at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. She is one year from graduating with a double degree in Law and Arts, with an extended major in Political Science. She has recently returned from an exchange semester at the University of Graz, where she focussed on International Public Law and European Transnational Politics.
Camille Boillet is currently a master student in economic law at Sciences Po Law School in Paris. In 2014 she returned after one year of Studies at Graz University, where she studied International Law and History.