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A group of Ukrainian lawyers waited on the Maidan, day after day, holding a sign reading LAWYERS OF THE MAIDAN. People who had been beaten or otherwise abused by the state could report the wrongdoing and begin a legal case. Lawyers and others on the Maidan were not thinking of the enduring problem of Russian political philosophy: how to generate a spirit of law in an autocratic system. And yet, by their actions on behalf of a vision of law, they were addressing the very problem that had haunted Ilyin.

A hundred years before, in the waning years of the Russian Empire, Ilyin had wished for a Russia ruled by law, but could not see how its spirit would ever reach the people. After the Bolshevik Revolution, he accepted that lawlessness from the far Left must be met by lawlessness from the far Right. At the very moment that Putin was applying Ilyin’s notion of law to Russia, Ukrainians were demonstrating that the authoritarian shortcut could be resisted. Ukrainians demonstrated their attachment to law by cooperating with others and by risking themselves.

If Ukrainians could solve Ilyin’s riddle of law by invoking Europe and solidarity, surely Russians could too? That was a thought that Russian leaders could not permit their citizens to entertain. And so, two years after the protests in Moscow, Russian leaders applied the same tactics to Kyiv: the homosexualization of protest to evoke a sense of eternal civilization, and then the application of violence to make change seem impossible.

In late 2011, when Russians protested faked elections, their leaders associated the protestors with homosexuality. In late 2013, confronted with the Maidan in Ukraine, the men of the Kremlin made the same move. After two years of anti-gay propaganda in the Russian Federation, the ideologues and entertainers were sure of themselves. Their starting point was that the European Union was homosexual, and so the Ukrainian movement towards Europe must be as well. The Izborsk Club claimed that the EU “groans under the weight of the LGBT lobby’s domination.”

In November and December 2013, the Russian media covering the Maidan introduced the irrelevant theme of gay sex at every turn. When covering the very first day of protests by Ukrainian students in favor of the association agreement, the Russian media sought to fascinate its readers by conflating Ukrainian politics with handsome men and gay sex. A social media page of Vitali Klitschko, a heavyweight boxer who led a Ukrainian political party, was hacked and gay material introduced. Then this was presented as a news story for millions of Russians on a major television station, NTV. Before Russians could apprehend that pro-European protests were underway in a neighboring country, they were invited to contemplate taboo sex.

Right after students began their protests on the Maidan, the Russian television channel NTV warned of “homodictatorship” in Ukraine. Viktor Shestakov, writing for Odna Rodina, claimed that “a specter is haunting the Maidan, the specter of homosexuality. The fact that the first and the most zealous integrators in Ukraine are local sexual perverts has long been known.”

Dmitry Kiselev, the leading figure in Russian television media, warmed to the theme. In December 2013 he was appointed the director of a new media conglomerate known as Rossiia Segodnia, or Russia Today. Its aim was to dissolve the Russian state media’s pursuit of news as such into a new pursuit: of useful fiction. He greeted his new staff with the words “objectivity is a myth” and set the new editorial line as “love for Russia.”

On December 1, 2013, the world press reported the beating of students by Ukrainian riot police the previous night. As Ukrainian students huddled in a church tending their wounds, Kiselev found a way to formulate their protests as sexual geopolitics. That evening on Vesti Nedeli, recalling to his viewers the Great Northern War of the early eighteenth century, he described the European Union as a new alliance turned against Russia. This time, however, Kiselev claimed, the Swedish, Polish, and Lithuanian enemies were warriors of sexual perversion. Poland and Lithuania were not in fact enemies of Russia in the Great Northern War. Getting one’s own history wrong is essential to eternity politics.

In another episode, Kiselev expressed his delight to have discovered a magazine with a nude photo shoot of Klitschko from a decade earlier. On the set, Kiselev stroked the black riot gear worn by the Ukrainian police as the camera zoomed in. Meanwhile, the newspaper Segodnia breathlessly praised itself for publishing a photograph that framed Klitschko together with a gay Ukrainian writer. In the Ukrainian context, these were two activists at a press conference. In the Russian press, the sexual orientation of the one and the male beauty of the other was the story.

European integration was interpreted by Russian politicians to mean the legalization of same-sex partnerships (which was not an element of Ukraine’s association agreement with the EU) and thus the spread of homosexuality. When the German foreign minister visited Kyiv on December 4, the newspaper Komsomol’skaia Pravda headlined the meeting as “Gay firewood on the Maidan fire.”

While the Putin regime had crushed protests at home in 2011 and 2012, it sought to redefine politics as innocence rather than action. Rather than asking how past experience might instruct reformers of the present about possibilities for the future, Russians were meant to adapt their minds to a news cycle which instructed them on their own innocence. One eternal verity of Russian civilization turned out to be sexual anxiety. If Russia were indeed a virginal organism threatened by the world’s uncomprehending malice, as Ilyin had suggested, then Russian violence was a righteous defense against penetration. For Putin as for Ilyin, Ukraine was part of that national body. For Eurasia to come into being, Ukrainian domestic politics would have to become more like Russian domestic politics.

When Yanukovych announced that he would not sign the EU association agreement in November 2013, this was celebrated by the Russian government as a victory. But Yanukovych had not actually agreed to join Eurasia, a move that would have been even more unpopular among Ukrainians. In December 2013 and January 2014, the Kremlin tried to help Yanukovych crush protest and thereby make it possible for him to complete his turn from the EU towards Eurasia. Yanukovych claimed that both Europe and Russia wanted Ukraine, and each needed to pay him off. While the EU refused, Putin was ready to offer Yanukovych money.

On December 17, 2013, Putin offered Yanukovych a package of $15 billion in bond purchases and reduced prices for natural gas. The aid seemed to be conditionaclass="underline" it was offered along with Russian requests that the streets of Kyiv be cleared of protestors. By then the Ukrainian riot police had already failed twice in this mission, on November 30 and December 10. They had also been abducting individual protestors thought to be leaders and beating them. None of this was working, so Russians came to help. A group of twenty-seven Russian specialists in the suppression of protests, officers of the FSB and instructors from the ministry of internal affairs, arrived in Kyiv. On January 9, 2014, the Russian ambassador to Ukraine informed Yanukovych that Ukrainian riot policemen would be given Russian citizenship after the coming operation to crush the Maidan. This was a very important assurance, since it meant that these policemen did not need to fear the consequences of their actions. If the opposition won in the end, they would still be safe.

Moscow apparently calculated in January 2014 that a more competent application of violence would break the protests and transform Yanukovych into a puppet. It did not enter into Russian calculations that Ukrainian citizens were on the Maidan for patriotic reasons of their own. When the Yanukovych regime introduced the Russian-style dictatorship laws of January 16, 2014, this suggested massive violence to come. Russian-style laws did not have the same consequences in Ukraine as in Russia. Ukrainian protestors saw them as offensive foreign implants. When those two protestors were killed on January 22, the Maidan grew as never before. Remote-control counterrevolution had failed. Moscow was unable to move Ukraine into Eurasia by helping Yanukovych to repress the opposition. It was time for a shift in strategy. By early February 2014, it appeared Moscow no longer aimed to maneuver Yanukovych and Ukraine into Eurasia. Instead, Yanukovych would be sacrificed in a campaign to provoke chaos throughout the country.



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