27 February 2014

"The zombies are coming out."

Zemlyanoi Val street, Moscow. View from my hostel window. Source.

I decided to stay overnight in Moscow tonight, rather than fighting the crowds early tomorrow to get to the city in time for the start of the Evangelical Alliance's annual meeting. Judy agreed to handle this evening's class alone, and off I went on the so-very-familiar electric train from Elektrostal to Moscow's Kursk Station.

At the station, I had a light meal. As the dramatic events in Ukraine were unfolding, I was reminded by constant station announcements that Kursk Station handles a lot of traffic to Ukraine. While I sat eating my meal, train departures for Kharkiv and Simferopol resounded through the cavernous station.

Last week I wrote a few reflections on Ukraine in my blog. Then, on Saturday, we had a long discussion of the events in Ukraine at our Friends meeting. Some spoke about young people's weariness with corrupt politics, whatever orientation ("East" or "West") their parents and grandparents might have. Another person pointed to the cruel treatment of a governor by pro-Europe protesters as a sharp reminder that mob rule has a way of fogging truth and nullifying ideals. As our discussion ended, we decided to commit ourselves to keeping our eyes on developments, spend the week praying, and decide on the following Saturday (at monthly meeting for business, the day after tomorrow) whether we have any sort of  Godly leading to make a statement in the name of Moscow Friends concerning Ukraine.

Before we left the meeting, one of our younger people, always in touch with the world through his phone, told us that power in Kiev was apparently shifting even as we were sitting there, and that nobody knew where the elected president was. This was only one day after an agreement between regime and opposition had been brokered by international figures and signed by representatives of Poland, France, Germany, as well as the president and three opposition leaders.

All the calculations of politicians and pundits alike were confounded by the persistence of the Euromaidan protesters. These people could be sliced and diced by analysts into a spectrum of interests and identifications, but they were united by discontent. What was the exact nature of this discontent? Aside from a minority of paid provocateurs, pathological Russia-haters, habitual brawlers, and other extremists, there seemed to be two broad groups--young people who wanted a better future, and (speaking generally) their parents and grandparents who could not abide seeing these children humiliated and shot at.

The association agreement with the European Union, in its concrete terms, was no miraculous sweetheart deal for Ukraine. But the pro-EU movement didn't seem to depend on whether those terms were great. They were attracted by the vague but powerful foretaste of European welfare-state and anti-corruption values which this agreement represented. These are already so taken for granted in much of Western Europe that the fashionable Euro-skepticism of the anti-EU movement in Western Europe does not itself project an alternate vision for Europe's future. In other words, it's not that pro-European Ukrainians are positive about something that Euro-skeptics are negative about. These young people simply want a degree of normalcy that Western Europeans, whatever they think of Brussels, already take for granted. It may have been possible for the politicians to make a timely and coherent argument against that agreement in the months before the projected date of its signing, but the president's last-minute reversal simply felt insulting to those anticipating this path to normalcy.

We don't always get what we want. I'm sitting in the little kitchen of the hostel where I'm staying overnight, and another guest, from Dagestan, is smoking, drinking tea, and passing on to me what his grandmother is telling him from Ukraine. "Chaos, anarchy, open looting," he reports. "In any revolution, people lose their human face." He goes on, "It's always this way. The cycle repeats itself. The rich people know which way to twist to gain from the new situation, and the poor people can only depend on themselves." Finally, he challenges me: "Do you have any sort of faith inside your soul? If God isn't there, something else will fill that space. Just look at what's happening in Ukraine; the zombies are coming out."

Strictly preserving my own right not to have a confident and ready analysis of Ukrainian developments, I appreciated reading these observations: Uilleam Blacker, "Ukraine: Divided or Diverse?" and Taras Kuzio, "Crimea--from playground to battleground." And this evening's news update: Oleg Sukhov, The Moscow Times, "Ukraine Warns Russia as Tensions Build."

(March 2: To all Friends, a statement on Ukraine.

One young man to another, overheard earlier today on a local bus: "I really don't want to get sent to Ukraine."

Fair or not, I confess, I'm haunted by the tension between these two articles: "Christian hospitality Center Opens Doors at Sochi Olympics" and "Sochi's 'Tolerance House' Offers No Solace for Gays."

Ron Dart asks Frank Schaeffer, "What is the great contribution your mom and dad and L'Abri made to the evangelical and reformed world...?" A fascinating interview. (See my comments on Frank Schaeffer's memoirs here.)

Big Daddy Wilson in Poland: "Love Is the Key."


Marshall Massey said...

Splendid ministry from that guest from Dagestan. I Peter 3:15-16 springs to mind, of course. Are you willing to tell us how you answered him?

Johan Maurer said...

What ensued was a long, friendly, and very personal conversation between Christian and Muslim.