Ukraine’s 1991 Independence Movement: Chernobyl, Communism, and a Student-Inspired Revolution

An Interfront – a Marxist-Leninist invention – is a variant on public diplomacy that Moscow utilized in the 90s in order to thwart the independence movements spreading within the periphery of their various USSR dependencies. One of the nations in semi-revolt in the 1990-91 Soviet Union Republics was Ukraine and, specifically, an area in Western Ukraine called Galicia.

5.4 million of Western Ukraine’s 10 million citizens lived in Galicia in the 1990s. It was Ukraine’s revolutionary base of operations, a transformative fountain of progressive passion and youthful advocacy.

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They organized mass protests on local parliaments and their consequently pro-Russian majority legislators. Being outside of the hardline influence of the Central Committee, the youthful partisans used their city newspapers and other miscellaneous pre-World Wide Web information infrastructures to spread the cause and enliven the pockets of Ukraine that – demographically or ethnically – were more Sino-centric than purely Ukrainian in origin.

But as it turns out, other than the pocket of uneducated/rural Eastern Ukrainian citizens, more than 90% of all Russian Ukrainian’s were completely on board with the sudden surge of democratic self-advocacy, even if the eastern parts of Ukraine really couldn’t actively voice their opinions in the manner in which the West did for fear of immediate communist retribution or oppression.

The focal reasoning for this slightly surprising bottom-up disloyalty is economic. While one shouldn’t just automatically assume ethnic Russian Ukrainian = pro-Russian/communism, the history of Tsarist Russia details a lot of cases of citizens – due in part to the closely intermingled nature of the Tsar and the Orthodox Church – innately believing that their Tsar or Emperor is just simply immune from scrutiny and or vocal protest.

Obviously in retrospect we can clearly state that to not be the case, since Tsar Nicholas II was ultimately overthrown in the early years of the 20th century.


But USSR Ukrainians had more than a few reasons to not provide meaningful courtesies such as loyalty or support to soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, given the fact that Moscow and its policy arm – the Central Committee – had been brutally and consistently milking their resources and labor for pennies on the dollar:

  • 95 percent of Ukraine’s economy was controlled by Russia at the time; Moscow was also responsible for NINETY percent of products that were being made within Ukraine’s borders.
  • Moscow paid Ukraine 48 roubles per tonne for their sugar exports, whereas the comparative price per tonne in Russia was…73 roubles.

The fruits of their labors is a donation to the historically oppressive central committee? I don’t think that’s how healthy economies are born…

And so this monopoly on all of the USSR’ currency within the sister republics had absolutely massive effects – not only on severe poverty and the growth rates of innovative technologies – but also on the long-term environmental health of Ukraine. Ever heard of Chernobyl?

You have, but it’s been covered exhaustively elsewhere/everywhere, so I’ll skip the obligatory timeline summary of events. It was one of many crimes perpetrated against mother Earth committed under the watch of Lenin’s nation.

A term that’s been used to describe communist Russia and its unconscionable abuse of wildlife and natural resources is:

Environmental Imperialism. The uniformly bad consequences of localized nuclear plants or other greenhouse gas related excavations is on par with toxic waste being dumped in Africa.

  • 40% of women reported miscarriages in the years following Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union.
  • 46% of Ukraine’s secondary schoolchildren suffer from one or more types of chronic illness.

But even despite all of the horrible malnutrition of Ukraine’s soil and air, hopeful news prevails for the possibility of a very productive industrial economy in the near future.

A German study graded – out of 100 possible points – former USSR states and their comparative abilities to potentially integrate into the European market:

  1. Ukraine – 83
  2. Latvia-Estonia-Lithuania – 77
  3. RSFSR – 72
  4. Georgia – 61
  5. Tajikistan – 18


Bernie Sanders: The Issues Candidate

Bernie Sanders the candidate never really impressed me in the sort of transcendent manner that he did for some and I’d admit that I wish I wasn’t so callous to the point that I’m almost a little jealous that people around my age (24) could fall so totally and completely in love with a political figure such as Sanders.

It seemed to me that his appeal in 2016 was his straight forward, issue-centric exploration of American political ideas/ideals. He enthusiastically repeated himself on the campaign trail (Sanders famously likes to write every word that he speaks aloud, apparently), illustrating his economic or tax-related concepts with the practiced clarity of an old preacher.

A vote for Bernie is a vote for a refreshingly different political standard of anti-personality, pro-thought governing…literally the exact opposite standard of Donald J. Trump.

The problem is that Trump has now – in 2019 – taken America by the throat and dragged us back eight steps.

Do we want to risk going back 8 more steps and falling down a dark well with murky anti-democratic water to maybe never return from…to try and pull America’s weak-limbed body back up to where it had comfortably sat during Obama’s eight year presidency? (my metaphor is falling apart – i know – only spider-man could take 8 steps back down the interior of a concrete well).

Or do we want to crawl forward two steps at a time with a comforting sense of consistency and certainty? Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will crawl for you (maybe even in a funny zombie-like manner). They will fall back on moderate principles and enact practical systems that will most likely feel more like a 1960’s center-leaning Republican than anything.

But then what if this sort of heightened level of hyper political self-consciousness that I’m doing here (and many \, many other political analysts/commentators do) is adding onto an ever-growing pile of stinky, nasty cynicism that’s continuing to dirty up and stain political conversations in America?

Everybody has an opinion from their armchair, and everybody has an opinion of what other people’s armchair opinions may be. America is jam-packed with a bunch of rip-off, Nate Silver minions with average intelligence and quick triggers, scurrying around and slapping red solo cups (ideas) out of people’s hands, particularly the many groups of fervent and very young Bernie supporters.

Are they outspoken and often very wrong about hot button issues, such as when recently a USC student filmed herself passionately screaming at a pregnant Chelsea Clinton for her ‘perceived’ islamophobic comments two weeks prior? Yes.

But for each of these boisterous supporters, there are ten more that are interested solely in Bernie’s ideas for a more equitable political and economic climate in America, such as my dad – Terry – and his longtime friend, Pat (who I was partly named after – my middle name is Patrick).

The both of them wanted/want Bernie for all the right reasons – taxing the wealthy, reversing/easing the harmful symptoms of climate change, etc.

But it’s just not practically feasible to try to elect a candidate based solely on their ideas alone – and don’t think for a second that I don’t realize how unfortunate and depressing such a statement is for the state of politics in America.

Sanders’ unique wielding of grassroots politics, utilizing small donations from supporters to fund his campaign reveals a lot about the potential for a truly Democratic election process.

Sanders’ supporters have a really truly huge online presence, turning an election year sideways, fading the line between supporter and political aide. A journalist bashing other Dem candidates while at the same time not disclosing that he’s working for (or in the midst of a test trial to eventually work for said candidate…sure, whatever) a rival candidate is unethical and doesn’t speak volumes of Bernie actually backing up all of his big talk in regards to gender/race related representation.

“Journalist” David Sirota is white, male…very similar to the race/sex of nearly 80% ofthe staff working for Bernie in his 2016 campaign, though he seems to have taken the criticism to heart, bringing much more diversity to his 2020 team (that in itself is an important signal, not at all coming off as a false PR note: it’s refreshing to see a candidate accept faults and then actually put in the effort to correct them).


A campaign aide masquerading as a journalist (such as Sirota has been doing) doesn’t set a great early tone for Bernie’s ever-growing campaign team. Apparently Sanders had sent out a mass email to his supporters before entering the young 2020 race, calmly denouncing any form of harassment and asking for the utmost of civility.

But hiring an attack dog such as Sirota as a senior communications official doesn’t exactly ring of empathy or non-division, which are as far way from most campaign offices that you’d have to buy a plane ticket in order to reach them.

For me, the problem with Bernie Sanders really does’t involve Sanders himself all that much: I simply can’t get the memory of his predominantly millennial-aged, crybaby supporters rioting at the 2016 Democratic National Committee, refusing to get behind Hillary Clinton. They were one of many factors that caused the worst and most unorthodox Republican candidate in decades to get elected (despite famously not even winning the popular vote).

Bernie has made himself into a noteworthy figure in modern American history, but based on his actions and impact on the 2016 presidential election, not on the 2020 election.

At the risk of sounding overly cruel (I’ll take it): if there’s anything that could sum up Bernie’s 2020 run, it’s the story that came out a week ago alleging that 77-year old presidential candidate had cut himself on the glass of a shower door and had to receive 6 stitches.

The passion of the Sanders campaign and its supporters doesn’t come around every four years, a very unheard of and uncommon form of passion (cutting your head on a sliding glass door whilst exiting the shower? Very rare, I’d think).

Messy, very unlikely, hard to explain how it could happen or if he needs more help traversing this new ground. Bernie will always be a provocative conversation starter but  if we’re being realistic…he won’t be stationed and parked outside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, anytime soon.