The celebrated, if rather pompous, UK professor of history, Timothy Garton Ash, repeated a now sorrily familiar canard on the BBC World Service on Sunday when he said that what had happened in Ukraine is “definitely a revolution”. The next day I read in the International New York Times that the revolution in Ukraine may need to be “better represented” in the about to be formed interim government.
When analysts comment about Yemen it is sometimes said that the Gulf Arab-backed interim deal that changed the president, and consequently the government, did not represent the “revolutionary forces”. That is perhaps a better formulation.
The “revolution” in Ukraine hasn’t really affected the apparatus of the Ukranian state, even if it has weakened the state’s writ. Despite Yanokovich having something akin to a democratic mandate, the revolution obliged him to depart and has aided the chances that his nemesis Tymoshenko, a failed premier, will take over. In the meantime the speaker of the old parliament keeps the presidential chair warm.
The revolution hasn’t affected the structure and membership of the police, intelligence services and the military, but it has succeeded in giving the interior and defence ministers the sack.
The revolution has seen self-appointed groups enforcing popular justice on the streets of Kiev, but is being actively resisted in the east of the country.
Egypt is going through a comparable (non) revolution. In either case was it the popular will or the shadow state that wrought the change? In Ukraine the oligarchs didn’t like the former president’s method of crowd control, in Egypt the military initiated two changes of president in two years and are about to finish the job by once again assuming the country’s political leadership. However perhaps one of several differences is that, while Egypt cannot control the Sinai, it doesn’t any longer fear the loss of part of itself to a powerful neighbour.