IamA portfolio manager in a Ukrainian investment firm. Half of my family is Russian, half Ukrainian and my girlfriend is from Crimea and studied in Moscow. I live in Kiev and participated in the protests a lot. Native language is Russian. AMA
Before we start I’d like to say that we will likely talk about some very complex issues. But people’s brains are lazy and instead of exploring this complexity they will rather jump to easy conclusions and stereotypes. Also people’s views on reality will depend a lot on their personal experience which is always limited. I will try to avoid that. For example a big part of the pro-russian or pro-ukrainian division is people’s different relationship to USSR. To illustrate it I will tell you about two sides of my family.
My father is Russian, his father was a doctor on one the first USSR nuclear submarines. Basically that means that the family could be considered upper middle class by USSR standards. After he retired he could choose any city to live in (chose Kiev), government provided him with an apartment here and a car, which was considered very cool. They miss the glory days in USSR, regret it collapsing and are definitely pro-russian. Just so you know Sevastopol in Crimea is not just a Russian military base, it’s also a very nice place which was a favorite retirement destination for high ranking soviet officers and their families, hence the huge pro-russian sentiment there.
My other grandfather was the 7th child in the family, the previous 6 died from hunger during Holodomor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor) His wife’s father was arrested during a wave of repression in 1937 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Purge) and died in prison for nothing. At that time USSR secret service NKVD was pretty much arresting or killing anyone they liked. His wife and my great grandmother got a stamp in her passport that she was a wife of an enemy of the people and could not get official employment, also she was forced to move to another town and lived for half a year in a train station. In 1947 she got arrested for “speculation” for 5 years because she baked and sold bread to survive. It’s quite natural that this part of the family hates USSR and Russia and believes that Nazi soldiers during German occupation were much nicer than soviet NKVD, I am not kidding, this is an actual quote by my grandmother.
Another level of complexity is economics and politics of the current regime in Russia and former regime in Ukraine. My opinion on them both is that they are kleptocracies, systems which for decades were managed with a sole purpose to maximize flow of bribes. These are terrible anti-human regimes, which made societies in Ukraine and Russia closer to feudal times (no rule of law, repression against any opposition, higher class of lords, such as MPs, high ranking goverrment workers, prosecutors, judges, etc. vs everyone else). The only difference between the two is that Russia has a lot of oil and gas and can support this regime without heavy budget deficits every year. To somehow maintain their legitimacy these regimes pretend to be democracies, have sort of democratic institutions and elections but that all is just a show. Another way to maintain legitimacy for the Russian regime is to smear the Ukrainian revolution with heavy propaganda, further dividing societies and inspiring hate. This propaganda reached unseen levels and was successful to a degree even outside Russia. In Russia it was complete success. This makes me very sad.
My relationship to Kiev protests and violence. I totally supported the protests in every way I could. I was there on two of the three police assaults, I was there when violence on Hrushevskogo street started and I’ve seen dead bodies and streams of blood on Institutska street right after the shootings. I’ve seen it all with my own eyes. I’ll remind you that the large scale protests started after a bunch of hipsters were brutally beat up by police and then about a million people went to protest in a 4 million city. 25% of population protesting is huge number and certainly they are not all radicals and terrorists :). On that day a few hundred people fought the police and rammed their lines with a bulldozer which was shown everywhere. It was peaceful afterwards, not mentioning the government imprisoning and kidnapping and killing some activists. Another wave of violence erupted after parliament accepted so called dictatorship laws that pretty much said that all protesting was illegal and you could get 10 years of jail time for it. That pissed people off a lot. Eventually protesters succeeded to make the president flee because enough were willing to die fighting for democracy rather than give up. The parliament is the same and perfectly legit. No radical extremists came to power as the Russian propaganda claims. The new presidential elections are scheduled on May 25th and they will probably be the most democratic ever.
Here are some photos from my phone: Third assault on Maidan, probably the most epic moments of my life: http://imgur.com/EKbuNdD,5IGGEv5,Z6hTYkG,XCi728A,KHzRo0G http://imgur.com/EKbuNdD,5IGGEv5,Z6hTYkG,XCi728A,KHzRo0G#2
And here is my Crimean girlfriend, she got shot by a rubber bullet twice: http://imgur.com/EKbuNdD,5IGGEv5,Z6hTYkG,XCi728A,KHzRo0G#3
Will provide more confidential proof to the mods
Edit: I'll be back in a few hours, have urgent work to do. Keep posting questions, I will respond to most.
Edit2: Frontpage? Are you kidding me? Wow.
Edit3: Thank you all so much for support and discussions, my post being on the front page and reddit gold! I'm done for today, but I will come back and continue tomorrow. This definitely exploded beyond my imagination. As I was commenting there were sad news of the first Ukrainian officer being killed in Crimea. Hope this doesn't escalate.
Edit4: I came back, answered more questions that were not anwered elsewhere and weren't too vague or dumb. I see two more issues I should probably comment on here, because a lot are asking.
First the snipers. There have been some speculations of some mystery snipers shooting both sides. No one has seen any evidence of this and even if so, when the majority of people were killed it was obvious from where the fire was and that area was completely under police control. Period. Investigations are on the way and there's a decent chance of them being successful.
Second, many people believe that when "radicals came to power" first thing they did was to ban Russian language. It was an epic mistake by the parliament to even touch this topic but here's what exactly happened: in the first days after president fleed the parliament did a lot, including cancelling some laws, which they believed were enacted illegaly etc. One of the laws was about regional languages. It said that if some people speak some language in some region - the language can get a status of a regional one and it gets some benefits. It was very dumb and poorly written in details so during 3 years the law was in force no language in no region got that status! The law did not work at all, it didn't "allow" russian or anything like that. They tried to cancel the law to get a new one in a few weeks, because that is required for association agreement with the EU. Funny thing is Russia is protecting Russians in Crimea, which has a separate constitution which defends Russian, and Ukrainian parliament has no authority to change that at all.
You can continue asking, I will be visiting this post again.