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Olga Zelinska

Olga Zelinska is a PhD student at the Graduate School for Social Research in Warsaw, Poland. Her research interests cover social movements in Central and Eastern Europe, with the particular focus on recent Ukrainian Euromaidan protests. She has an MA from Central European University and work experience in the Ukrainian NGO sector.

Graduate School of Social Research, Warsaw, Poland  



Draft: Not to be Cited Without Permission

Local Governments and Maidan Protests

by Olga Zelinska  Graduate School of Social Research, Warsaw, Poland

Ukrainian Maidan began in November 2013 with the sudden termination of country’s foreign policy course directed towards European Union, and lasted until February 2014, ending with a change in the executive government, occupation of Crimea and the start of an armed conflict with Russia in the East of Ukraine. During this time, the center of claims making was the Maidan, which is both the name of a square in downtown Kyiv and a catchword of the protest movement as a whole. Whereas most attention has been on Kyiv Maidan, I examine the local Maidan in the cities and towns across Ukraine.


I used a contentious politics perspective (Tilly and Tarrow, 2007) to analyze the claims made by local Maidan protesters toward local, national and international governments. In the process of claim making, demands addressed to local governments occupied substantial share, and their importance was increasing over time. In this context analyzing and understanding the reaction of various local governments in the localities where Maidans occurred is crucial.

The empirical basis of claimants demands examination is a the qualitative analysis of 94 resolutions issued by the local Maidan rallies in 57 localities across 20 regions (oblasts) of Ukraine that contain the demands addressed to national and local governments. These documents are expressions of political protest: they are the people’s demands and their plans for future action. To grasp the reaction of local authorities I also analyze 193 addresses adopted by 68 local authorities of various levels (I focused on legislative bodies, starting from village and city council, through rayon to oblast council) during Maidan events in 20 oblasts where local Maidan protests occurred and where resolutions were voted.


Theoretical Perspective


Contentious politics are defined as interactions involving claim-making, collective coordinated action and government targeting (Tilly and Tarrow, 2007, p. 4). From this viewpoint, the Maidan can be identified as contentious politics, with local non-governmental actors targeting a set of national, regional and local governments. Maidan participants create a political identity of people who see the Ukrainian government at all levels as something that can, and should change. They staged political performances such as mass assemblies and the occupation of administrative buildings. They drew on previous repertoire of contention - 2000 ‘Ukraine without Kutchma’, 2004 ‘Orange Revolution’, 2011 ‘Tax Maidan’ - and constantly innovated. In this regard the Euromaidan protest, which took place on November 21-30, 2014 on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kyiv can be considered a ‘transformative event’ (Tilly and Tarrow, 2007, p. 183) – the staged transgressive performance which triggered further contention.


As the further analysis suggest, the same theoretical framework is applicable to the reaction of local governments in Ukraine and their positioning towards Maidan claims. They too, issued claims toward national government and coordinated the actions of other self-governments as collective claim-making bodies. Opposition of governments within state structure is rare yet emergent phenomenon (Tomescu-Dubrow et al., 2013). Put this way, this article should be seen as a case study and contribution to the literature claiming the protest to state structures is no longer an individual(s) thing, but relates to broader scope of collective action.


Maidan classification, timing and stages


Today, most scholars refer to the Ukrainian 2013-2014 protest events as Euromaidan (Pishchikova and Ogryzko, 2014; Way, 2014). For my analysis, there are problems with using this term. First, the prefix ‘euro’ suggests that all Maidan protests were about Ukraine’s relationship with Europe as a whole. Yet, there was great differentiation in the target of Maidan protests that often dealt with local, rather than Europe-wide claims. Second, the ’euro‘ prefix disguises the anti-Maidan protests which, in the larger scheme, are part of the broader protest picture.  For these reasons, I will use Maidan as the general name of the protest. Moreover, as the following research details, the majority of the protests happened outside Kyiv in the cities and towns across Ukraine. Thus, the remaining article will focus on the local Maidans.


This article focuses on Ukrainian contention that started on November 24, 2013, the day of the first mass protest in the capital Kyiv, to February 27, 2014, a week after Ukraine’s President fled to Russia. A short history of the Ukrainian protests and government response contextualizes this article[1]. On November 24, the Ukrainian government suspended the signing of the Association agreement with the European Union, with the effect of blocking the process of Ukraine’s European integration. This triggered major contentious events: violence against protesters, mainly students, in attempt to dismantle the pro-European tent camp in the central Kyiv on November 30; creation of ‘All-Ukrainian Union ‘Maidan’ in Kyiv on December 22; adoption of anti-protest laws in Ukrainian parliament on January 16, 2014; the subsequent escalation of violence by radically-oriented demonstrators in Kyiv on January 19; police opening fire on demonstrators on February 20; President Yanukovych’s escape from Ukraine on February 22, and appointment of the new executive government on Maidan. Russia’s incursion into Ukraine officially began on March 1, 2014, when the Russian Federal Assembly granted President Vladimir Putin with the right to deploy the army to Crimea (“Путін оголосив Україні війну [Putin Declared War on Ukraine],” 2014). This caused a qualitatively new phase in Ukrainian contention.





[1] The following media sources and documents were used to prepare the overview (“Agreement on the Settlement of Crisis in Ukraine - Full Text,” 2014, “Euromaidan Rallies in Ukraine - Dec. 8,” 2013, “Formation of a Police State Cloaked Under the Budget? Focus on Ukraine. January 13-19, 2014,” 2014, “Fugitive Viktor Yanukovych Out of Sight but Running Out of Options,” 2014, “Maidan-2013: The Battle Rages on. Focus on Ukraine. December 2-8, 2013,” 2013, “Profile: Ukraine’s ‘Right Sector’ Movement,” 2014, “Refusal from Euro-Integration: What Next? Focus on Ukraine. November 18-24, 2013,” 2013, “Three Months of a Ukrainian Revolution: Is This the Last Straw for Yanukovych? Focus on Ukraine. February 17-23, 2014,” 2014, “Ukraine Parliament Pushes Through Sweeping Anti-Protest Law,” 2014, “Люди Поставили Ультиматум: Відставка Януковича До Ранку [Maidan Issued an Ultimatum: Yanukovych’s Resignation Before Morning],” 2014, “План дій, затверджений Народним Віче [Action Plan approved by the People’s Viche],” 2014, “Резолюція Євромайдану  [EuroMaidan Resolution],” 2013, “Резолюція Євромайдану ‘Про заборону Януковичу підписувати угоду щодо приєднання України до Митного союзу’ [EuroMaidan Resolution ‘On prohibition of Yanukovych signing an agreement on Ukraine’s accession to the Customs Union’],” 2013, “Резолюція Євромайдану ‘Свободу політв’язням! Ні - політичним репресіям!’ [EuroMaidan Resolution ‘Freedom of Political Prisoners! No to Political Repressions!’],” 2013, “Резолюція Народного Віча ‘За європейську Україну!’ [Resolution of People’s Viche ‘For European Ukraine!’],” 2013, “Резолюція Народного Віча «Про заснування Народного об’єднання «Майдан» [Resolution of the People’s Viche ‘On the establishment of the People’s Union ’ Maidan’’],” 2013; Chernichkin and Podufalov, 2014; Gorchinskaya, 2013; Gorchinskaya and Shamota, 2013; Колодій [Kolodiy], 2014)

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