On this day: a bid for independence

a sign “ukraine is leaving the ussr” at the rally in support of the nation_s independence next to ukraine_s verkhovna rada in kyiv on 24 august, 1991.

24th August 1991: Shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union, people gather in Kyiv, Ukraine to demonstrate in favour of independence. The sign reads, “Ukraine is leaving the USSR”.

Demonstrations for freedom from Moscow broke out across the USSR in 1991. Some were violently crushed by the Soviet Army, on instructions from the communist government, resulting in civilian deaths.

75 Years Ago: Kyiv, Ukraine in Ruins.

The Second Battle of Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine concluded in freezing conditions on the 22nd of December, 1943, when the Red Army defeated the occupying Germans.

The first battle took place as part of the infamous Operation Barbarossa in 1941, when the Soviets were defeated, and over 600 000 were killed or captured in the Ukrainian capital. Comparatively, around four-thousand Ukrainians were recorded as dead more missing in the second battle.

This photograph, shortly after the Nazi defeat, shows the major boulevard Khreshchatyk, Ukraine’s most famous street, in ruins.

Kiev_Kreschatik_after_liberation_November_1943 Khreshchatyk Kyiv Ukraine Second World War Two

Russian Orthodoxy – GONE!

ANDRIY BARANSKYY

The Lavra in Kyiv

In a centuries’ overdue move, and one that is going to lead to more Russian aggression in Ukraine, the Constantinople Patriarchate approved Ukraine’s split from the Russian Orthodox Church overnight. It is being called the biggest split in all of Christianity in a thousand years.

Russian Orthodoxy was forced on Ukrainians over several centuries, finishing with the forced conversion of my family’s Ukrainian Catholic villages in the west of the country when Churchill gifted the country to Stalin after the Second World War (thanks for that, Winston!).

What will happen now? Well, in anticipation of this move, the Russian military has already stepped up attacks in Ukraine’s east, with people being killed in record numbers again. It has to be understood that Russia’s Church – in the past decade or so – has become a weaponised political party that effectively runs the country, behind only Vladimir Putin.

Additionally, experts are predicting staged attacks on Russian churches, so that Putin can blame them on “fascist Ukrainians”, and attack and invade even more.

What I’m worried about is attacks on the thousand-year-old Orthodox monasteries and cathedrals in Ukraine, such as the Lavra complex in Kyiv. I sure hope they’ve stepped up security at those locations.

This move removes a major aspect of Russian colonialism from Ukraine.

I’m not sure why Russia never comes up alongside the likes of France and Britain and Spain in discussions about colonialism and cultural appropriation (because people think Russia is romantic?). The Russians were just as brutal as anybody else (see the Holodomor). And – unlike other nations – their behaviour is ongoing (see the annexation of Crimea, the invasion and occupation of eastern Ukraine, the ongoing invasion and occupation of one-fifth of Georgia, and the illegal occupation of Moldova).

The next few weeks are going to be chaotic for Eastern Europe.

Four Years

Kyiv Ukraine Euromaidan Memorials Sonya Heaney May 2016

A memorial to the dead I photographed in 2016.

Today is the fourth anniversary of the end of Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution. On the 20th of February, 2014 pro-Russian snipers took to the streets and shot and killed as many civilians as they could manage.

pro-russian-snipers-shooting-ukrainians-in-kyiv-ukraine-20th-february-2014

Snipers in the same spot the memorials are now.

The revolution resulted in overthrowing the corrupt, dictatorial oligarch in charge of the country, but he fled to Russia and paved the way for Putin’s invasion shortly afterwards.

On this day: the independence of Lithuania

On the 16th of February 1918 the Council of Lithuania (Lietuvos Taryba) declared the independence of Lithuania and the re-establishment of the Lithuanian State.

Lithuania_Flag_Grunge_by_think0

The reason I know about this? Because I was watching the live feed from the protests in Kyiv, Ukraine and they talked about it! Three months of protests and look at all the people still there!

KyivProttests16thFebruary2014