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Tolerasty Vs. Sovok: Ukraine's Battle Over Values

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Oleh Kotsyuba of the Ukrainian journal Krytyka says this time around, the battle on the streets of Kiev is not really about politics, it’s about the rise of a new set of values.

Kotsyuba tells Here & Now’s Robin Young that when Ukrainians took to the streets in 2004 and 2005 in the Orange Revolution, it was over a contested election and charges that the vote had been rigged. There were two sides each with a political party.

This time around, what brought protesters out is the government’s decision to not sign a much-anticipated agreement to deepen ties with Europe. “Europe,” says Kotsyuba, has come to mean very basic things, like clean streets, lack of corruption, politeness, friendliness, even cleanliness — things very hard to argue against.

Europe also has come to stand for tolerance and cultural openness. Kotsyuba says protesters have gone out of their way to say, “many voices, one Ukraine,” to welcome everyone into their movement. But that openness has also led to a reaction from the right, which lumps all those values together into an ugly term, “tolerasty,” suggesting decadence and dangerous sexual and moral values.

Protesters for their part call everything that is not European, “Sovok,” meaning “dustbin,” and point out fear of difference and change are values of the Soviet past.


  • Oleh Kotsyuba, online editor for Krytyka, a leading intellectual and cultural journal in Ukraine. He’s also a PhD candidate in Slavic languages and literature at Harvard.
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