The Blues Of The Orange

For almost 20 years (from 1938 to mid 50s), millions of Russians studied the history of their country by reading "Краткий курс истории ВКП(б)" ("An Abbreviated Course of History of the Russian Communist Party").  Conceived and spearheaded by Josef Stalin, the Abbreviated Course made mastering the subject easy: no complicated facts, no sophisticated interpretations.  Just conclusions.  The results, so to speak.

Keith Gessen's essay in a recent issue of The New Yorker belongs in the same genre.  Titled "The Orange and the Blue", this piece is an Abbreviated Course of the Orange Revolution.  If you want to know what really happened in Kiev in the fall of 2004, you would have to read something else.  But if all you need is a T-shirt ("Been there, done that"), Gessen's masterpiece is for you.

I love the abbreviated fashion Gessen uses to describe the principal characters of the Orange Revolution.  Former president Viktor Yushchenko is "once the great hope of a Ukrainian democracy."  The newly-elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, is "the failed vote-fixer of 2004."  Besides, "[h]e'd twice been imprisoned as a young man."  (For some reason, Gessen is so obsessed with Yanukovych's "criminal past" that he returns to the subject later in the article).  And here comes Yulia Tymoshenko: "the volatile, charismatic, and beautiful former Yushchenko ally."  Gessen doesn't mention that Tymoshenko too had spent time in the pen — and not for "beating up a drunk" as Yanukovych, but having been accused in serious economic crimes.  But, hey, this is an Abbreviated Course, isn't it?   

According to Gessen, the history of the Orange Revolution started with Yushchenko's "mysterious ailment."  Volumes have been written about this event, but all that Gessen wants you to know is that "[t]he doctors determined that he had been poisoned —  a specialty…of the Russian secret services."  Reminds me of how all "mysterious ailments" in Soviet Russia were blamed by Stalin's Abbreviated Course on "враги народа" ("the enemies of the people").   

The next paragraph starts this way: "A runoff between Yanukovych and Yushchenko…"  Wait a minute!  Which "runoff"?  Before a "runoff", there was the first round of the vote, in which 26(!) candidates participated.  But, hey, if you're writing an Abbreviated Course, why waterboard your readers with details?

Gessen's description of the events that followed the runoff is abbreviated too.  "Well-organized youth movement" and "Maidan Nezalezhnosti" are referred to in passing.  However, the fact that both were heavily sponsored by foreign NGOs is not.  Nor is the fact that in a blatant violation of the Ukrainian Constitution, the country's Supreme Court ordered a repeated runoff (i.e. the third round of the vote) between Yushchenko and Yanukovych ("another round of voting", as Gessen euphemistically calls it).  And that the session of the Supreme Court was televised live to the Maidan so that the terrified Supreme Judges knew that upon leaving the building, they would have to face the furious orange crowd.  But, hey, who cares, is it an Abbreviated Course or what? 

Gessen isn't stupid not to understand that even the sophisticated readers of The New Yorker aren't particularly interested in what happened 5 years ago in a country most Americans would have trouble locating on a world map.  No, his Abbreviated Course has a clear mission: to define the legacy of Yushchenko's Orange Revolution.

Sure, Gessen has no choice but to admit that "Yushchenko's Presidency was, by all accounts, a colossal failure."   But is he the only one to be blamed?  Of course not.  What about these pesky Russians who "started raising energy prices toward European levels" (oh, this despicable Moscow obsession with the rules of the market economy!), "refused to have any contact with Yushchenko" (leaving him apparently with no one in Kiev to talk to), and "presented Ukraine with a huge gas bill, which the Ukrainians…could not pay" (leaving them apparently with no other option but to steal)? 

Besides — as this presumably was Russia's fault as well — "Yushchenko…once the 2004 election had been won, turned out not to be very interested in governance, after all."  Oops!  What then was Yushchenko interested in instead?  "Instead, he was interested in history", answers Gessen.

Well, Yushchenko's interest "in history" appears to be quite selective, and Gessen obviously approves of the selection.  Gessen: "Yushchenko made the Holodomor the focus of his Presidency."  Gessen [about the Holodomor memorial]: "[t]he museum is…the most purely anti-Soviet memorial I have ever seen."  Gessen loves other  Yushchenko "history projects" as well, especially "the promotion of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (O.U.N.) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (U.P.A.)": Gessen calls O.U.N.-U.P.A. "courageous" and its leaders "brave."

At first glance, a president who's "not very interested in governance" when his country is in the midst of a severe economic crisis is, well, a colossal failure.  But this isn't how Gessen wants Yushchenko to be remembered.  This is how:

"He had martyred himself and his Presidency for democracy, to show that it could be done." 

(What could be done?  Sometimes Gessen abbreviates his sentences to the point of becoming incoherent).

Common dictionaries define "martyr" as "a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause."  Last time I checked, Yushchenko was alive, well and ready to pursue "projects."  Did Gessen inadvertently abbreviate Yushchenko's life too?  

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The Blues Of The Orange

  1. Paging David Remnick.
    Is Keith related to Masha?
    A solid overview on your part Eugene.
    Best,
    Mike

  2. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Soulmates?
    Thanks Mike.
    Best,
    Eugene

  3. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Alex,
    Perhaps Gessen reserves this analogy for a future piece about Yanukovych🙂
    Best,
    Eugene

  4. Keith is Masha Gessen’s brother.
    Great work as usual, Eugene.

  5. Like Novodvorskaya, he appears soft on the OUN/UPA:
    http://www.austereinsomniac.info/blog/2010/3/9/valeria-novodvorskaya-normal-collaborationist.html
    In some circles, there’s an ongoing theme at how Russia is portrayed on matters pertaining to Ukraine.
    http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/difficult-task-defining-banderas-historic-role/401361.html
    This MT article stresses the contemporary Russian qualms with Bandera, while downplaying the present day opposition to Bandera, evident in the Polish and Jewish communities, as well as among a good number of Ukrainians. In addition, at least one major European organization expressed criticism with the official “Hero” status accorded to Bandera.
    The MT article gives a simplistically inaccurate depiction on how the current Russian government treats Stalin. That treatment is nowhere near the level of Yushchenko’s adulation of Bandera. There’s a good deal of Russian government related criticism of Stalin.
    This excerpt is Captive Nations Committee like rhetoric:
    “For many Russians, the quest for historical memory meant accepting Stalin and Stalinism as qualified goods. For non-Russians, the quest for historical memory became inextricably connected to the search for an anti-Soviet identity. The former Soviet republics have focused on the violent, forced conditions under which they were incorporated into the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union, as well as the destruction they experienced under Lenin and Stalin, the repression and stagnation they experienced under Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev and the opportunity for freedom they seized under Mikhail Gorbachev.”
    ****
    A good number of non-Russians went along with Soviet policies. The legacy of the Russian Empire is stacked with many lead individuals comprising non-Russian backgrounds.
    Concerning Ukraine, Open Democracy recently featured two articles which had some disagreement from what can be reasonably termed as a biased against Russia perspective:
    http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ethan-s-burger/could-partition-solve-ukraine’s-problems
    http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/adrian-karatnycky/partition-ukraine-i-think-not

  6. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Anatoly,
    “Keith is Masha Gessen’s brother.” As a former geneticist, I’d ask for more info before agreeing with your assertion. But given your vast experience in demographics…🙂
    Best,
    Eugene

  7. Leopolis says:

    >>>No complicated facts, no sophisticated interpretations.
    I absolutely agree with you. Living in Ukraine during that time, my perspective of the Orange Revolution events is obviously different from both Gessen and Ivanov.
    >>>Gessen’s description of the events that followed the runoff is abbreviated too. “Well-organized youth movement” and “Maidan Nezalezhnosti” are referred to in passing. However, the fact that both were heavily sponsored by foreign NGOs is not.
    Whether foreign NGOs provided $100, or $100 million, or $100 billion — they still cannot get people out on to the streets. Ukrainians chose to protest election fraud — this is a fact.
    The oft-repeated “foreign NGO” involvement sounds a exactly like the “enemies of the people” claim that you mention. How do you get millions of Ukrainians out on the streets? Well, of course the foreign NGOs were behind it all. As my Ukrainian friends say, “if the Orange Revolution was funded by the West, then I want my money, plus interest.”
    >>>What about these pesky Russians who “started raising energy prices toward European levels” (oh, this despicable Moscow obsession with the rules of the market economy!)
    Please explain to me how a monopoly like Gazprom adheres by market rules? Obviously, global oil prices dictate European gas prices but Gazprom is still the only game in town.
    Of course Ukraine doesn’t play by market rules either — the “pro-Russian” Yanukovych now wants to renegotiate prices and get a cheaper deal.
    All the talk about UPA-OUN and who is so-and-so’s brother are all red herrings. Throw in a couple of Yushchenko is a Nazi references and there you go — the events of the Orange Revolution are rewritten. Which brings us back to the problem of “no complicated facts, no sophisticated interpretations. Just conclusions. The results, so to speak.”

  8. The “results” are that shortly after the so-called “Orange Revolution” thoughts started arising on how corruption lingered on with the country not functioning as well. Some anti-Kuchma proponents have acknowledged that Kuchma’s legacy has made a bit of a comeback, due to what transpired after Yushchenko became president.
    The protests during the so-called “Orange Revolution” had a carnival like atmosphere, inclusive of what can be reasonably described as gimmicks to make them more popular. Some of the outside Western NGO election monitoring left something to be desired in terms of objectivity.
    These points serve to partly explain how Yanukovych was able to rally back.
    FYI, it’s not only Russia raising the issue of Yushchenko seeking to popularize the legacy of the OUN/UPA.
    The negatively inaccurate imagery of Russia and pro-Russian views outside Russia include “red herrings.”

  9. Regarding the so-called “Orange Revolution,” here’re some links of possible interest:
    http://97.74.65.51/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=10157
    Rachel Ehrenfeld isn’t someone who could be considered as “soft” on Russia.
    This view is in line with what Ehrenfeld and some others have expressed –
    http://www.counterpunch.org/nagle12242004.html
    During the period in question, I recall a poll of Chicago’s Ukrainian population which said that 90% of them backed Yushchenko. If I correctly recall, Yanukovych received over 40% of the vote in the election which resulted in Yushchenko becoming president.

  10. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Dear Leopolis,
    Thank you for you comments. I like your reaction to my post. This is exactly what I aimed at and hoped for.
    It isn’t fun, is it, to read an abbreviated version of what you care about and have a different view of? I know the feeling: I experience it every time I read a MSM piece on Russia. My only question for you is whether you’re as upset with my abbreviated description of Gessen’s pieces as you’re upset with Gessen’s abbreviated course of the Orange Revolution? Or your emotional reaction is driven solely by your ideological preferences?
    “Подобное лечат подобным”, said a classic. I agree. For as long as Gessens write their pieces, there going to be my posts. Keep checking it out. You know already my style: “no complicated facts, no sophisticated interpretations. Just conclusions. The results, so to speak.”
    Best Regards,
    Eugene Ivanov

  11. Eugene
    The sound bite culture has become more evident and is likely to stay. There’re many more sources out there to easily access, while time (24 hrs. a day) remains a constant.
    At the time of the so-called “Orange Revolution,” I sensed that what happened wasn’t quite as some were suggesting. This was verified to me by my own sources throughout Ukraine.
    The first sentence of your last paragraph is in agreement with what has been communicated back to me. Simultaneously, other Ukrainians were more apprehensive back then.
    A broken record closing:
    Among the high profile English language commentariat circles, note the kind of Ukrainian, Russian and Serb views typically getting the nod over other perspectives from these communities. This predicament doesn’t help in better understanding the dynamics in the involved countries.
    Best,
    Mike

  12. Can orange mold growing in discrete spots cause shortness of breath, what is the best way to remove it?
    Lately I’ve been wheezing after running and in general feeling like it’s harder to breath, is it possible orange mold is causing this?

  13. Jpg cdkey says:

    You have good insight on the issue, i have bookmarked your site. I have to show my pal this.

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The Blues Of The Orange

For almost 20 years (from 1938 to mid 50s), millions of Russians studied the history of their country by reading "Краткий курс истории ВКП(б)" ("An Abbreviated Course of History of the Russian Communist Party").  Conceived and spearheaded by Josef Stalin, the Abbreviated Course made mastering the subject easy: no complicated facts, no sophisticated interpretations.  Just conclusions.  The results, so to speak.

Keith Gessen's essay in a recent issue of The New Yorker belongs in the same genre.  Titled "The Orange and the Blue", this piece is an Abbreviated Course of the Orange Revolution.  If you want to know what really happened in Kiev in the fall of 2004, you would have to read something else.  But if all you need is a T-shirt ("Been there, done that"), Gessen's masterpiece is for you.

I love the abbreviated fashion Gessen uses to describe the principal characters of the Orange Revolution.  Former president Viktor Yushchenko is "once the great hope of a Ukrainian democracy."  The newly-elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, is "the failed vote-fixer of 2004."  Besides, "[h]e'd twice been imprisoned as a young man."  (For some reason, Gessen is so obsessed with Yanukovych's "criminal past" that he returns to the subject later in the article).  And here comes Yulia Tymoshenko: "the volatile, charismatic, and beautiful former Yushchenko ally."  Gessen doesn't mention that Tymoshenko too had spent time in the pen — and not for "beating up a drunk" as Yanukovych, but having been accused in serious economic crimes.  But, hey, this is an Abbreviated Course, isn't it?   

According to Gessen, the history of the Orange Revolution started with Yushchenko's "mysterious ailment."  Volumes have been written about this event, but all that Gessen wants you to know is that "[t]he doctors determined that he had been poisoned —  a specialty…of the Russian secret services."  Reminds me of how all "mysterious ailments" in Soviet Russia were blamed by Stalin's Abbreviated Course on "враги народа" ("the enemies of the people").   

The next paragraph starts this way: "A runoff between Yanukovych and Yushchenko…"  Wait a minute!  Which "runoff"?  Before a "runoff", there was the first round of the vote, in which 26(!) candidates participated.  But, hey, if you're writing an Abbreviated Course, why waterboard your readers with details?

Gessen's description of the events that followed the runoff is abbreviated too.  "Well-organized youth movement" and "Maidan Nezalezhnosti" are referred to in passing.  However, the fact that both were heavily sponsored by foreign NGOs is not.  Nor is the fact that in a blatant violation of the Ukrainian Constitution, the country's Supreme Court ordered a repeated runoff (i.e. the third round of the vote) between Yushchenko and Yanukovych ("another round of voting", as Gessen euphemistically calls it).  And that the session of the Supreme Court was televised live to the Maidan so that the terrified Supreme Judges knew that upon leaving the building, they would have to face the furious orange crowd.  But, hey, who cares, is it an Abbreviated Course or what? 

Gessen isn't stupid not to understand that even the sophisticated readers of The New Yorker aren't particularly interested in what happened 5 years ago in a country most Americans would have trouble locating on a world map.  No, his Abbreviated Course has a clear mission: to define the legacy of Yushchenko's Orange Revolution.

Sure, Gessen has no choice but to admit that "Yushchenko's Presidency was, by all accounts, a colossal failure."   But is he the only one to be blamed?  Of course not.  What about these pesky Russians who "started raising energy prices toward European levels" (oh, this despicable Moscow obsession with the rules of the market economy!), "refused to have any contact with Yushchenko" (leaving him apparently with no one in Kiev to talk to), and "presented Ukraine with a huge gas bill, which the Ukrainians…could not pay" (leaving them apparently with no other option but to steal)? 

Besides — as this presumably was Russia's fault as well — "Yushchenko…once the 2004 election had been won, turned out not to be very interested in governance, after all."  Oops!  What then was Yushchenko interested in instead?  "Instead, he was interested in history", answers Gessen.

Well, Yushchenko's interest "in history" appears to be quite selective, and Gessen obviously approves of the selection.  Gessen: "Yushchenko made the Holodomor the focus of his Presidency."  Gessen [about the Holodomor memorial]: "[t]he museum is…the most purely anti-Soviet memorial I have ever seen."  Gessen loves other  Yushchenko "history projects" as well, especially "the promotion of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (O.U.N.) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (U.P.A.)": Gessen calls O.U.N.-U.P.A. "courageous" and its leaders "brave."

At first glance, a president who's "not very interested in governance" when his country is in the midst of a severe economic crisis is, well, a colossal failure.  But this isn't how Gessen wants Yushchenko to be remembered.  This is how:

"He had martyred himself and his Presidency for democracy, to show that it could be done." 

(What could be done?  Sometimes Gessen abbreviates his sentences to the point of becoming incoherent).

Common dictionaries define "martyr" as "a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause."  Last time I checked, Yushchenko was alive, well and ready to pursue "projects."  Did Gessen inadvertently abbreviate Yushchenko's life too?  

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Blues Of The Orange

  1. Paging David Remnick.
    Is Keith related to Masha?
    A solid overview on your part Eugene.
    Best,
    Mike

  2. Alex says:

    The last quote – about The One Martyr For Democracy – is indeed hilarious. It seems the phrase would make more sense if it were about “martyring” the whole Ukranian nation instead.
    Cheers

  3. It is indeed like the Short Course — only the information that we want you to have.

  4. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Patrick,
    Had a discussion with my son on “abbreviated” vs. “short.” He’s voted for “abbreviated.” Given all the money spent on his education (guess by whom?:), I agreed with his choice.
    Best Regards,
    Eugene

  5. Pardon the opening of my last set of comments, which was intended to be posted right after SO.
    Best,
    Mike
    PS – “short course” reminds me of when my local pool changes from a 50 meter lane length to 25.

  6. The “results” are that shortly after the so-called “Orange Revolution” thoughts started arising on how corruption lingered on with the country not functioning as well. Some anti-Kuchma proponents have acknowledged that Kuchma’s legacy has made a bit of a comeback, due to what transpired after Yushchenko became president.
    The protests during the so-called “Orange Revolution” had a carnival like atmosphere, inclusive of what can be reasonably described as gimmicks to make them more popular. Some of the outside Western NGO election monitoring left something to be desired in terms of objectivity.
    These points serve to partly explain how Yanukovych was able to rally back.
    FYI, it’s not only Russia raising the issue of Yushchenko seeking to popularize the legacy of the OUN/UPA.
    The negatively inaccurate imagery of Russia and pro-Russian views outside Russia include “red herrings.”

  7. Regarding the so-called “Orange Revolution,” here’re some links of possible interest:
    http://97.74.65.51/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=10157
    Rachel Ehrenfeld isn’t someone who could be considered as “soft” on Russia.
    This view is in line with what Ehrenfeld and some others have expressed –
    http://www.counterpunch.org/nagle12242004.html
    During the period in question, I recall a poll of Chicago’s Ukrainian population which said that 90% of them backed Yushchenko. If I correctly recall, Yanukovych received over 40% of the vote in the election which resulted in Yushchenko becoming president.

  8. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Mike,
    Thanks much for your, as usual, thoughful and informative comments. I usually hate reducing discussions over complicated matters to a sound bite. But in the case of Yushchenko’s Orange Revolution, I have no reservations whatsoever: this was a hoax.
    The problem is that many folks back in Kieve in 2004 sincerely believed that they were participating in something else. The post by Leopolis clearly reflects this.
    Best Regards,
    Eugene

  9. Eugene
    The sound bite culture has become more evident and is likely to stay. There’re many more sources out there to easily access, while time (24 hrs. a day) remains a constant.
    At the time of the so-called “Orange Revolution,” I sensed that what happened wasn’t quite as some were suggesting. This was verified to me by my own sources throughout Ukraine.
    The first sentence of your last paragraph is in agreement with what has been communicated back to me. Simultaneously, other Ukrainians were more apprehensive back then.
    A broken record closing:
    Among the high profile English language commentariat circles, note the kind of Ukrainian, Russian and Serb views typically getting the nod over other perspectives from these communities. This predicament doesn’t help in better understanding the dynamics in the involved countries.
    Best,
    Mike

  10. Can orange mold growing in discrete spots cause shortness of breath, what is the best way to remove it?
    Lately I’ve been wheezing after running and in general feeling like it’s harder to breath, is it possible orange mold is causing this?

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