Getting Violent

Viktoriia Biliaieva
National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy”
Faculty of Social Sciences and Social Technologies
Master Program of Political Science (1st year)
from Zaporizhzhia city

EuroMaidan started as a peaceful movement. No one could possibly think it would turn violent. But it did. By chance, I witnessed the first clash between protesters and Special Forces. On the one hand, I was shocked by such developments and terrified as my friends and I stood on the way of protesters in masks who were trying to run away from Berkut. But I have to admit it also appeared to be funny and exciting, and the second filling was dominant. Only the next day, when my friends and me watched videos and photos from the epicentre of the clash, we realised that we were in real danger, which brought doubts about the possibility to justify violence. That attitude changed again as violence proved to be needed in order for the revolution to win. That is why I feel that my attitude to violence as a means of achieving goals by people changed considerably in the course of the revolution from inability to imagine its use to understanding that it may be the only way to change the situation that cannot be changed otherwise.

I started my way of changing the attitude towards violence form incapability to assume that violence would be used at all. As Ukrainians had an experience of peaceful change of those in power, I was sure that peaceful protests would be successful sooner or later. I felt that non-violent actions were the only legitimate way to influence the authorities and make them hear the desires of people because such actions do not cause any harm or deaths. That is the essence of democracy for me: the ability of people to influence the government and politicians not only through election, but also through peaceful demonstrations. Nevertheless, as Ukraine was not democratic enough, it began to be obvious at some point that those in power did not pay any attention to the demonstrators and were not going to fulfil their demands. What is more, the authorities violently dispersed the students’ protest. As a result, some protestors decided to change tactics and to use more radical methods to pursue their aims.

The next stop in my journey through different attitudes towards violence was connected with my witnessing it. I did not directly take part in the clashes between the protestors and police, but I was a bystander during the first two encounters. When I was there, I experienced a shock because I had never experienced something like that. I was frightened – or I should say – I tried to feel frightened because I was extremely excited and interested in what was going on. It was difficult to make cool judgements at that moment. The ability to understand the danger of violent actions appeared the next day after the first clash and strengthened after the second one. Those two clashes led to me to a conclusion that using violence was dangerous and unacceptable. I thought that violence could not be justified as it could cause destructions and, what is more important, people’s deaths. So, from my inability to imagine the use of violent actions, I came to the understanding that violence is something unnatural and unjustifiable in any situation.

However, that was not the last step in the development of my attitudes towards violence as a means of action as I started to accept it after certain events. Ukrainian authorities began taking violent and unlawful measures against the people who were just exercising their right to express their opinions through demonstrations. As a consequence, people had to use violence as an answer to the government’s actions. People had to defend themselves. And their courage to throw stones, use sticks and make Molotov’s cocktails brought them victory. They had no chance of losing, so they had to fight. What is more, I discovered another interesting feeling. To tell the truth, I was not present in Maidan (Independence Square) during the most dangerous period when the real war between protesters and police occurred. But the next day I was there, although the situation was still uncertain. And I understood that I felt safer being in Maidan with other people than watching the stream and clicking a refresh button to get the latest pieces of news. Unfortunately, people died; and that is what makes me extremely sad. But I also feel that without people ready to fight nothing would have changed. The main thing now is to develop gains that were achieved at such a high price.

All in all, I strongly feel that one of the consequences of the revolution in Ukraine was the change in my attitude towards violence as a way of achieving certain aims. At first, I could not imagine violent actions in the centre of the Ukrainian capital. However, witnessing the first acts of violence caused excitement which changed to a complete rejection of it. But the actions taken by the government made it clear that the people had just two choices: to be violently dispersed and later subjected to unfair trials or to believe in themselves and to fight performing some violent actions. The latest developments showed that the second choice was right. That is why my attitude to violence changed dramatically. Although I was not capable of imagining using violence by protesters just three months ago, I came to the conclusion that sometimes violence could be justified. When trying to achieve fair goals and answering unjust actions on behalf of the opposing side, violence may become the only way to win.



This essay is part of a series of student writing on the Euromaidan, part of the the Student Views of Euromaidan project.

For more information on this series and a full index of contributions, please see the introductory post.

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