Terrorism is often seen as an act to change things: what if it is used to maintain the status quo?
TODAY IN TERRORISM — It really is quite a thing to witness a people overthrow the shackles of a dictatorial or authoritarian regime. Whether it is years or decades under the yoke of oppressive rule, observing the feelings of joy at liberation on the faces of those now free never gets old.
I started my career in intelligence in the Canadian government in 1983 at what was turning out to be the tail end of the Soviet Union and its vassal states in Eastern Europe (not that we knew then that the end was nigh mind you). We had been in a war, of the ‘cold’ variety, for four decades by that time and monitoring a state with a gazillion or so nuclear weapons was our operational priority.
When true change did come about starting in late 1989 it was almost too good to believe. We all remember the images of the fall of the ‘wall’ (the Berlin Wall) and the amazing celebrations that ensued. I later toured the remnants of the wall in the German city and was left awestruck at this symbol of tyranny.
The wall, and by extension the Soviet Union, fell in part because people wanted change and the extant system was rotten to the core. Citizens had risked (and lost) their lives in the past to end the injustice (Budapest 1956; Prague 1968; Poland 1980) and it all finally came about. The majority prevailed and got the life they wanted.
Some do not seem to have received the memo however.
The 2015 Kharkiv bombing occurred on 22 February 2015, when a bomb hit a Ukrainian national unity rally in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Kharkiv Oblast.
Beginning in 2004 Ukraine had its own shot at ousting a hated regime. The so-called ‘Orange Revolution’ was launched in response to an election seen as corrupt, fraudulent and riddled with voter intimidation. Centring on Kyiv’s Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti), the fed up population did what it could to ‘throw the bums out’. In the end the forces behind Viktor Yushchenko defeated those of the incumbent Viktor Yanukovuych (he was the Prime Minister under the previous Leonid Kuchma who, among other crimes, had the Ukrainian journalist Georgiy Gongadze murdered in 2000).
In the end the ‘good guys’ seem to have won. But not so fast. Other factions were none too happy to see the changing of the guard and Ukraine has been under strain since (not helped by Russian-backed forces in the eastern part of the country and in Crimea).
2015 Kharkiv bombings
On this day in 2015 a remotely-detonated TNT bomb killed at least two people, including a police officer, and injured at least 10 others at a rally in Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv, which was marking a year since the Kyiv uprising that led to the fall of pro-Russia Yanukovych (who had returned to power – it’s complicated). It is not rocket science to suggest that those in favour of the status quo ante were behind the attack.
What to make of all this? There are those who do not like change, either because they stand to lose out or because they want to return to a past ‘utopia’, near or distant (Islamic State and others seek to go back to a mythical Muslim nirvana of the 7th century). The terrorists in Ukraine simply want to protect their interests.
As a third generation Ukrainian Canadian what happens to the land I have never had the pleasure of visiting matters a little more perhaps. All countries, my maternal grandfather’s included, deserves better.