“Parade upon blood” held in the Maidan
Today, in spite of the numerous protests, a parade was held in Kyiv to celebrate Ukrainian Independence Day. It was the most controversial of the recent weeks’ events for numerous reasons. First of all – its opponents have dubbed it the “parade upon blood”. Before it was held, many of the sites were cleaned and removed – those commemorating the heroes of Maydan; places where the wounded and dead fell during the revolution. The opponents of the parade underlined that both Institutskaya Street and the Maidan are virtually all sacrosanct by the blood of the Nebesnaya Sotnya and there should be no celebration held there at all – even more so now, when the east of Ukraine is still suffering from heavy fighting. How could one do it, if there are still soldiers dying in Donbass – and dying for the very independence one is to celebrate?
The context of the ATO has a more practical dimension. Virtually every soldier I talked to was against the parade, and its fiercest opponents were those still stationed in the east. For them, the weapons “frozen” in Kyiv only for the sake them being shown-off in the Khreshhatyk and “pensioners having fun” is a notion hard to comprehend. Moreover, the soldiers who are due to depart for the east right after the parade spent the last month learning to march – thus wasting time and the energy when there is such a shortage at the front.
During the parade itself, however, I saw lots of enthusiastic Kyiv citizens who claimed in unison that the parade was a necessity. “We need to raise spirits, fill hearts with new hope and show the world Ukraine is sovereign and independent…” All were draped in national colours, wearing Ukrainian national embroidered shirts, shouting “Slava Ukrayini!” and applauding the soldiers.
Myself, I had some mixed feelings. I wanted to see the parade before I left for the ATO zone, and the decision to organise the event and the way it was done could say a lot about the new government’s style. What disappointed the spectators the most was the thing that I personally liked – the parade was relatively modest. It was easy to believe that the very soldiers and equipment will be sent to eastern Ukraine straight away. This is the format I would be glad to accept: the capital applauding its heroes departing for the front.
The organisers also introduced some traditional folk dances and songs into the programme, but the sound quality was really poor, and the wounded soldiers invited to the event had problems gaining access to the VIP zone. Basically, none of the objectives were fully achieved – the viewers who craved an impressive show were disappointed, and those who wanted to honour the fallen were rather disgusted. And it was not, by any means, a display of military might and power.
There remains an open question, therefore – was it worth it? Sparking off such a controversy only for tradition’s sake? Well, I doubt it. Today, the Maidan has finally come to an end, and the new authorities have symbolically taken over and marked the territory, hanging their sign over the memorial grounds. Last night, the Automaidan held a happening – they used white paint to symbolically mark out the silhouettes of bodies in the places where activists were shot in February: a very outspoken piece of street art. This morning, all of the silhouettes had been painted over with grey paint. Nebesnaya Sotnya left to itself, and the Independence Day was to be celebrated according to the one, top-to-bottom scenario…