Fifteen years ago, on November 19, 2005, President Viktor Yushchenko delivered a radio address that marked the first anniversary of the Orange Revolution, noting the ideals of the Maidan and the challenges facing Ukraine at the time.
The anniversary is celebrated on November 22, and Mr. Yushchenko added that “Ukraine proved that we were citizens ready to importunately defend our major right – the right of choice. All of us standing in squares in Kyiv or Lviv, Odesa or Donetsk will forever preserve this feeling of unity and pride in the people and the country. …But we would never have gained our victory without other squares, no matter which banners and flags they were carrying. Donetsk patriotism, Lviv composure, Kharkiv responsibility, Sumy courage and Cherkasy optimism were all bricks of the foundation of our new country.”
Mr. Yushchenko made the distinction that, although Ukraine had been independent for 13 years during the Orange Revolution, Ukraine became free in November 2004, and “freedom,” he added, “is the greatest accomplishment of the Maidan.”
Mr. Yushchenko inaugurated Freedom Day, an annual celebration of the Orange Revolution, and underscored that this holiday is “to assert the ideals of democracy and national dignity.” He stated: “One year ago, our fight for democracy did not stop. We only started this path on the Maidan. Twelve months ago, we lived in a country with no freedom of speech and no political competition… One of the major demands of the people was to fight corruption. This week, I signed an order on urgent measures to fight corruption and legalize the economy. The government has three months to formulate bills to fight corruption and improve the procedure making state officials account for their income and assets. I pledged to make each state executive declare his/her income and expenses. This demand of the Maidan will become a norm in Ukraine.”
Mr. Yushchenko noted the slogans of the Orange Revolution and the work that remains, including “Bandits in prisons,” “The south and the west are together,” “Freedom cannot be stopped,” “Together we are many, we cannot be defeated.” To ensure free and fair elections, Ukraine needs to maintain a free media climate and free society, he said.
Mr. Yushchenko expressed hope that the unity of the Ukrainian people would be confirmed by the parliamentary elections in 2006. He quoted Volodymyr Vynnychenko, who commented on the threat of political divisions in Ukraine: “The dark and ancient forces divided democracy in Kyiv (perhaps even in Ukraine) into two groups. Every day, this division was getting greater and greater and the fight fiercer. Finally we came to our senses, for the fight was too uncompromising and too harmful for democracy. Seriously and sincerely worried, the people stopped and looked around to ask themselves if there were other ways to reconcile. And they found those ways. All you have to do is to come closer to each other and peacefully shake hands.” Mr. Yushchenko added, “Our strength lies within us.”
Mr. Yushchenko underscored the significance of the Orange Revolution: “We proved to the whole world that we were wise Europeans capable of peacefully defeating dictators. I know those who ruled Ukraine for 13 years cannot accept their defeat. They strive for revenge and spare no forces or funds to restore their totalitarian regime.”
In 2005, perhaps Freedom Day was not fully appreciated for its importance, but Ukraine had changed in the international arena, was being treated as an equal, as a responsible and predictable partner. Ukraine was preparing for a Ukraine-EU summit, where Ukraine was expecting a clear signal for market economy status and to liberalize visa requirements for Ukrainian citizens.
Despite the many challenges for Ukraine at the time and now, Mr. Yushchenko offered encouragement when he quoted Winston Churchill, who said, “Politics is as exciting and dangerous as war. However, war kills you once, while in politics that happens every day and 100 times.”
Source: “For the Record: President Yushchenko’s radio address on the ideals of the Maidan,” The Ukrainian Weekly, November 27, 2005.