Tahrir then and Maidan now, congregations resilient enough to survive snipers’ bullets and police brutality have proven that the odds notwithstanding, it is possible to bring down governments. But they have also proven that toppling the head of state does not make a revolution. It is just the beginning of a long journey that may even — if the revolutionaries fold up the flag and go back home — take the country backward. While Egypt is already halfway through that backward journey, Ukraine has only just begun to feel its way around. Its president, Viktor Yanukovych, has reportedly fled, after being dismissed by Parliament last week. The reinstated Constitution of 2004 has transferred decision-making powers to a parliament till the next parliamentary elections are held. It is alright to sack a tyrannical president, but not so if the new government that is put in place carries weight with only half the country’s population. Worse, if the government goes out of its way to invite the derision of a considerable section of the people. Among its first duties, the new government in Kiev made the abolition of Russian as the second official language of the country its priority. It was a response to Russia’s propaganda that the change of government was a coup, but a juvenile act for a government supposed to represent a country whose population in the south and east are largely made up of ethnic Russians. Already resentful of western Ukraine’s drive to merge the country with the European Union, eastern Ukraine is more convinced than before that its interests lie with Russia.
Not surprisingly, the battle-front has shifted from Kiev to Crimea, a region that was part of Russia till 1954 and still has Russian presence because it is the base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. There, pro-Kiev Muslim Tatars are fighting pro-Russian dissenters. The fight may spread wider. In a country with diverse ethnicities and their nationalisms, the duty of a national government is complicated. It is doubly difficult in Ukraine since, in spite of their pronouncements, neither Russia nor the West will give up their geo-strategic game for control. So, while Russia’s military exercises on the border keep alive the hopes of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, the West’s promise of billion-dollar aid keeps pulling the nation in the opposite direction. As long as the tussle continues, Ukraine will go nowhere.