Pravoslavie.ru editorial writer Dmitry Sokolov-Mitrich comments on the events in the Ukraine.
Do you have children? Take them to the Moscow “Experimentanium”. It’s a place where children can learn about certain natural phenomena, laws of physics, geometry and math through play and interesting exhibits. They will see it with their own eyes and touch it with their hands.
One especially popular exhibit among both kids and adults is called the “Chaotic Pendulum”. It is a very funny thing. When you throw it off balance it flounders comically in space like a mad geometrical cripple, or a supremacist construction. It’s an enchanting sight, like the gaze of a boa constrictor. You can find a video of it in any browser.
The chaotic pendulum (or double pendulum, in that it is built by adding another “shoulder” to an ordinary pendulum) is a clear refutation of the thesis that mathematics are all-powerful. All the parts of this construction are alike. At first they move in concord, but once they’ve reached a certain dynamic, they go completely out of control. Each part begins to make totally unpredictable movements that differ in velocity and direction. Points of bifurcation, like micro-discharges, arise in this construction willy-nilly. It is impossible to define these processes mathematically.
There are only two ways to stop the chaotic pendulum. The first is to simply wait until it naturally exhausts itself, when its energy wanes and all its elements of construction again begin to move in concord. The second way is to stop the chaos through external intervention by an invincible force. That is, to simply take it in your own hands and stop it. Not a single part of the pendulum is capable of doing this itself; although by all appearances it desperately tries to do so.
That this chaotic pendulum is a war dance is something that was noticed long ago, and not by me. Revolt in human society is born, continues, and ends according to the same laws as do all kinds of chaos in nature. They don’t tell the children at the Experimentanium about this—they are too young to hear it. But it would not be bad for adults to remember it.
“There are many paths in the field, but there is only one true path.” That romantic song from the film “Uncatchable Avengers” is mathematically accurate. “There is only one true path”—this is the force that sets the double pendulum in motion, and brings it to the state where “civil war is thundering from sunup to sundown.” The pendulum of chaos begins to rock when people stop seeing the paths in the field. Then they no longer care how true their truth is. The greatest lie is that theirs is the only one. Then, of course, everyone understands that they should have insisted not on truth, but on peace. However, then it is too late.
Those who want peace in the Ukraine no longer care who started it. They have long ceased to give a dime about whether the special police really did strip the bearded activist naked in order to torment him, or in order to save the fool from self immolation. The reasoning, passive Ukrainian majority could care less who is sending scores of policemen to the hospital—Yanukovich’s provocateurs, or the spiritual descendants of the men who destroyed the Lvov Jews in 1941. The cowardly good sense of any nation always perceives when the second shoulder of the double pendulum of war has begun to disobey the first. Just a little more and the process of generating chaos becomes irreversible. And here the main thing is to not be frightened by cowardice in time. In some situations, being a coward is the highest degree of courage. In some situations, war can only be avoided through mutual efforts of weakness. This is precisely the situation in the Ukraine today.
“You know what my grandpa said? War always comes suddenly. You can see it coming, like a river overflowing its banks, like a flood. But it comes on suddenly. Understand?”
This is from “Life is a Miracle”, the film by Emir Kusturica, Yugoslavia. This is the history of another wonderful country—a lesson that Russia learned if only a little, but the Ukraine did not. And now it has its own “suddenly” that could happen any moment. And it doesn’t even depend upon the street warriors of the opposition. That country long ago became a toy in the hands of its own oligarchic groups and external “supporters”, and the only difference between the two is that the first are shouting, “kill!” and the others, “pity!”
Apparently, the monks of the Kiev-Caves Lavra and Desyatina Monastery learned physics in school better than all the rest. They were the first to stand praying between the warring sides on Grushevshy Street. These men in black1 have been taking turns to prevent a clash for several days now. Risking frostbite to the point of amputation of their soaked feet and gasping from the smoke of burning tires, risking a stone to the head or a hand grenade, risking at any minute falling under the feet of a crowd, they are praying for the intervention of that very external, invincible power, which alone can stop the pendulum swing.
Prayer between the barricades has already become the point of attraction of responsible action. Now, Uniates and even followers of the schismatic Philaret have joined the “Moscow popes1”. Church canons forbid them from praying together, but they have found a way around it—by singing Christmas carols. Activists and “Berkut” [special police force] fighters are also helping the peacemakers. Politicians and public figures are coming with words of support. You might say that for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Church is, while maintaining neutrality, interfering in street politics through the method of direct action. They are showing the politicians who are playing in their own “Experimentanium” an example of responsible behavior. They are calling both sides to reason and mutual weakness, upon which any strong government alone is built. You don’t like being weak? Well, then keep it up, go on flexing your muscles at each other. Do you have children?
Update: A Time article from January 28 entitled “Ukraine: Kiev Protests Hijacked by Right-Wing Groups” describes processes now happening in the Ukraine that fit Sokolov-Mitrich’s appraisal to a T. Here is a portion of it:
Not long before midnight on Sunday, a few dozen men in ski masks and camouflage surrounded the headquarters of the Ministry of Justice in the center of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, and smashed out the first floor windows with baseball bats. They made short work of the bars over the windows, prying them out of the walls with their clubs, and climbed inside. It was the third federal ministry the group had seized in a week.
Calling themselves members of Spilna Sprava, or Common Cause, the group has emerged as one of about a dozen obscure organizations competing for distinction, if not outright leadership, in the uprising against President Viktor Yanukovych. These groups range from right-wing radicals and soccer hooligans to military veterans and mobs of stick-wielding goons. And to the gall of more-established opposition figures, like the world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, they have become the revolution’s most commanding presence. Anyone with a stake in resolving Ukraine’s political crisis—including the diplomats watching fretfully from the E.U. and U.S.—will likely have to reckon with the role of these groups. But they are becoming increasingly hard to control.
Two months ago, few people in Ukraine had ever heard of Common Cause. In the vibrant patchwork of activists that make up the country’s civil society, they were a minor presence, best known for picketing against corruption, monitoring elections and rallying for human-rights and democratic change...
But the government’s attempts to clear the streets over the past two weeks have marked a dark turn for this uprising. Several protesters have been killed in clashes with police, and the revolt has become increasingly violent, erratic and unpredictable. The radicalization of Common Cause is so far the starkest example in this shift…
The original political leader of the revolt, Vitaly Klitschko, has been negotiating with the government for hours, but according to Time, even he was a bit worried about this emerging group.
On Sunday night, Klitschko was unable to stop Common Cause from taking command of the Ministry of Justice.
When he arrived after midnight, a few ministry workers were still barricaded in their offices inside the building, whose entrance was guarded by a row of masked men brandishing clubs and bats. Flanked by two bodyguards, Klitschko took in the scene with a pained expression, and after refusing to speak to the press, he uttered only one phrase—“What have you done?”—to the activists of Common Cause before walking briskly back to his Range Rover. “Clown!” one of the activists shouted after him. “Stop posing for the cameras and start building the barricades!”
One subgroup that is playing a large role consists of Afganistan war veterans (“Afgansty”), who are still dealing with their PTSD by looking for another war.
Before dawn on Saturday, they helped seize another government building in Kiev, the Ukrainian House, a massive convention hall where a large detachment of government troops had been stationed. The storming of that building involved the use of Molotov cocktails and fireworks hurled inside. But thankfully, no lives were lost, as Klitschko managed to negotiate the surrender of the troops blockaded inside.
“The younger guys wanted to flood the floor with gasoline and burn [the troops] alive,” says one of the Afgantsy who participated in the siege, Oleksiy Tsibko.
A peaceful protest against an authoritarian but basically humane regime; those with a penchant for violence surge forward, those who revel in violence are at the forefront, the most ruthless being the most distinguished, and finally, total disregard for human life and unbridled mayhem. Does this scenario look familiar? 1917, for instance? As we all know, the violence of that uprising became ultimately concentrated in the hands of a small group of sadists, and went on for 70 years. This must not happen again.
Recent revolutions of all shades and seasons have been covered differently by news media on different sides of the globe. It is very confusing for those of us who do not live in these countries, and hard to know what precisely is going on. After all, chaos is chaos. In an attempt to give voice to people living in the Ukraine who have commented on this article in Russian, we have translated some of those comments.
Olga: “Ukrainian oligarchs love money with an insatiable passion, it means more to them than millions of human lives.
“Many, many people, fogged by the mythical ideas of “fairness”, are now seeing an enemy in their own, ordinary fellow citizens.
“Yesterday in the metro I saw an entire column of people who arrived from somewhere else with their ‘leader’. Two Kievan manifestants were returning home from Independence Square. One was demonstrating his home-made firearms, talking interestedly about the seizure of administrations in regions; true, you could tell from the conversation that the hero-thug imported into Kiev from the western regions is still far from them.
“Last night they took over the Ministry of Justice. In the bedroom communities it is quiet so far. The center is suffering badly. You wait with fear for news—will the madness and dirty aims of the billionaires win?”
Valery: “’For some, war is gain’—this is about those representatives from abroad who created the camps in western Ukraine to teach fighters, and this situation of seizing buildings and objectives speaks unequivocally that this is not a spontaneous war, but one prepared and financed from the outside. I’ll cite one example, that a reward of $10,000 was promised to anyone who would help find a missing activist…”
Larisa: “A good article. Unfortunately, the external forces are trying to swing this pendulum even harder. They pay 300 grivnas (about $35) [this is actually a good sum for people in provincial Ukraine.—ed.] for every day spent on Independence Square, and 500 (about $59) if you throw things at the “Berkut” [special police force]. Buses are driving around to towns and villages to gather ‘protesters’. This is information from people living in Chernigov province (Ukraine).”
A Bulgarian: “The European Union needs slaves. How sorry I am for the Ukrainians who want to join the EU. They don’t know what is waiting for them, and believe the promises. They will cry, but it will be too late…”
Alevtina: “It is a pity that people here in the Ukraine are blind like kittens and don’t see the total depth of things, that this is all to undermine Russia, that they have ended up in the epicenter in their steps toward Russia. To me it has always been clear as day that strong countries are not needed; they are a counter-weight to the West, to America. They have been trying to shake us all our lives and prevent a reunion of republics. It is very terrifying that it is happening this way. Lord, preserve and save us!”
Sergei: “Brothers and sisters, and those who simply are not indifferent, let’s at least here, amongst us ‘Orthodox’, not divide our Ukraine and our people into those who are ‘for’, and ‘against’; into as you say ‘Banderovsty’ and us ‘normal’ people. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand!!! God has given us to all live in the same country, on the same land, and we ‘people’ just DIVIDE AND DIVIDE; but do we pray for those who we don’t ‘like’? Eh? Lord, give us reason, and prayer! God save the souls of us foolish ones!”
Ksenia Mereschenkova: “Lord, save and preserve us sinful Ukrainians, we know not what we are doing; but none of us needs a war, and we should be praying to prevent it. My soul cries out, Lord help us!”
Ekaterina: “Yes, it’s all true; it’s not important who started it. To me, a mother of three children, it’s no longer important who started it all. To me, who was born in Sebastopol (Ukraine), it’s not important who started it. Word has it that buses are on their way to Sebastopol with “fascist-banderovtsy”2 to start a “Euro-Maidan” in my native city… And we are praying to the Most High for peace. And it’s not important who started it; let them stop it.”
1 Derisive term for priests.
2 Banderovtsy were a fascist group of ruthless thugs in western Ukraine during WWII, who terrorized the local population.