History seems to be going in circles.
Back in the 1970s – early 1980s – the vast majority of Soviet citizens were ashamed to live in their country, ruled by Leonid Brezhnev, a senile asthmatic pronouncing endless inaudible speeches, basking in praise, bending under the weight of decorations awarded to him by his Politburo peers or leaders of ‘friendly’, or ’brotherly’ countries.
Brezhnev died in 1982 and in 1985 a youthful and energetic Gorbachev came to power, leading the Soviet Union to choose a European market democracy — civilization, in other words.
Thirty years later, Brezhnev tops the list of most popular Russian leaders of the 20th century, while Gorbachev competes with Boris Yeltsin for the title of worst leader at the bottom of the list.
In 2011, the ‘criminal pro-Russian regime’ of Victor Yanukovich had the wildly popular former PM, Julia Timoshenko, jailed for signing a deal with Gazprom on terms supposedly favorable to Russia.
“Julia! Julia!”, chanted the crowds at the Maidan who cheered her triumphant return after Yanukovich’s violent overthrow in February 2014 for refusing to sign an association agreement with the EU.
Several days ago, Timoshenko travelled to the Ukraine’s westernmost and most pro-European region of Lvov and came back concluding that Yanukovich was not so bad after all.
Addressing her fellow Verkhovna Rada deputies Timoshenko, the leader of the Fatherland Party, said that people there call the present Kiev policy “systematic genocide”:
“We had a walk around the city, talking to people. I’ve never seen so many tears, curses, such hopelessness as these people are demonstrating, after consistently fighting for Ukraine’s independence and a pro-European choice. They would say that if the democrats in power cannot rule the country, they should resign and bring back the “criminal power” that improved people’s lives”.
“If that’s the feeling there, you can imagine what people in the rest of the Ukraine think”, she concluded.
There’s at least one good fact for the Ukrainians in all this. While Brezhnev became popular with Russians only post mortem, Yanukovich is still alive and well and Ukrainians do have a chance to invite him back to rule in his benevolent, ‘criminal’ non-European way.