Anton Shekhovtsov – The Feast of Disobedience: Orange Gifts and the Sacred Birth of a Modern Ukrainian Nation

oxfordbrookes3 northhampton3

Sacred Modernities: Rethinking Modernity in a Post-Secular Age

18 September 2009

Anton Shekhovtsov (Sevastopol National Technical University, Ukraine)
The Feast of Disobedience: Orange Gifts and the Sacred Birth of a Modern Ukrainian Nation

The Ukrainian “Orange revolution” that took place in 2004 and became the first mass civil uprising in Ukraine since independence has undoubtedly been a democratic protest against the electoral fraud, voter intimidation and corrupt regime. However, the protest was only a “technical” reason of drawing hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens from all over the country into Kiev’s Independence Square. What were they longing for and why did the campaign song of the main opposition party impel the Ukrainians to “begin life from a new page” and “create this world”? Hardly a simple poetic allegory, these lines mirrored the Ukrainians’ urge to give birth to a modern Ukrainian nation – an identity then absent. After the dissolution of the Soviet Empire, Ukraine became independent but its independence came by default and apparently without any particular national effort. Since 1991, the country survived under its own inertia and the finding of its own national identity was, therefore, long anticipated. By the beginning of the 2000s, Ukraine faced an allegedly paradoxical opposition of the pro-democratic and pro-Western longing for a modern ethno-cultural identity against the ruling quasi-democratic forces of the national inertness supported by the semi-authoritarian Russian regime. While, technically, the 2004 uprising of pro-democratic and nationally conscious citizens was directed at support of the Ukrainian opposition, symbolically, they “annulled the old social contract” by both insubordination to the authorities and police, and the radical change or even abandonment of their old lives. Though the “Orange Revolution” was a not a revolution in its 20th-century sense, the birth of a Ukrainian nation was arranged in a truly palingenetic spirit. Thus, the “annulment of the old social contract” turned into a “religious” feast, a carnival of disobedience. In a transport of joy, the “revolutionaries” protested against the allegedly corrupt cabinet council by banging on industrial iron barrels under its windows, as they protested against the cold of late November – early December by waving their sunny orange banners. From this “original chaos”, to the songs of popular rock/folk musicians and virtually ritualistic slogans of the protesters, the modern Ukrainian nation was born.

Anton Shekhovtsov is currently a PhD student in Political Science at Sevastopol National Technical University, Ukraine. Recent publications have appeared in Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions.

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