Well, this has been the week for Ukrainian heroes, and they all appear to be named Alexander! Ukrainians, in their dialect, say, and write the name, as Oleksandr. Either way, the name, of course, derives from the Greek and spread widely all over the world due to the popularity of Alexander the Great of Macedon. In classical Greek the name is Αλεξανδρος which derives [quoting a sentence from the source I just linked] from the Greek root αλεξω (alexo) “to defend, help” and ανηρ (aner) “man” (genitive ανδρος). In short, “Defender of Men”, he’s our guy!
Well, our new hero is named Alexander Semchenko, in the photo accompanying my link, he’s the nerdy looking guy on the left wearing glasses. According to the story in PolitNavigator, Alexander accomplished a feat possibly even more heroic than anything done by his namesake the King of Macedon. Sure, the latter was forced to fight big battles, against a massive swarm of Persians, but Alex also had his own army behind him, not to mention cheering fans.
Whereas our Alexander walked out all by himself into enemy territory — no army, no fans, just himself — and told the Truth about the Ukrainian political system on live television. I’ll get into more detail later about Semchenko’s brave rant. For now, the abridged version: Semchenko blasted President Poroshenko and defended the people of Donbass. This may not sound like much to people who just take for granted freedom of speech and that people can express their views, even heatedly, without getting assassinated. But given the realities of ever-increasingly totalitarian Ukrainian political life, this was a true feat of courage. Semchenko must have balls the size of those giant globes on the roof of the Daily Planet. Semchenko could have been literally beaten to death on live TV, instead of just having a bottle of water thrown in his face. Even now, the day after, Alexander faces violent retribution from Ukrainian nationalists. I fear for his life, and I hope he is wearing a flak jacket. But back to our story…
A Profile In Courage
Semchenko is described, by profession, as a “polito-log”, which is a Russian word that doesn’t have an exact English translation. I usually translate as “pundit”. He’s a guy who writes newspaper articles, blogs, appears on TV, etc.
So yesterday, August 4, Semchenko appeared as an invited guest on a talk show in Kiev. The host of the show is Maidan activist and Ukrainian Nationalist ideologue, name of Mykola Veresen. If you want to see what happened on the show, the link I provided has the video embedded. The host and guests chatter mainly in Ukrainian, and also partly in Russian, for those who know these languages. If you don’t know the language, then you can still follow the action through universal body language.
The day following this high drama (which is actually today, August 5) there were some further ramifications, Ukrainian oligarch Evgeny Muraev, who (in typical Ukrainian fashion) is a Deputy in Parliament, and also owns the television channel News One, decided to fire his news anchor Mykola Veresen. Because of Veresen’s inappropriate behavior during the live broadcast.
In the spirit of “Fair and Balanced” Muraev also announced that Semchenko will be “temporarily” banned as a guest on the show. Likewise, another one of Veresen’s guests, an “artist” and also a TV host, name of Sergei Poyarkov. Poyarkov and Semchenko really went at it on live TV, it was the catfight of the century. Here is what Muraev had to say about all of these shenanigans:
“Having seen what happened yesterday on TV, this is what I have to say: All of his [Veresen’s] guests showed themselves to be uncontrollable and poorly-raised people, very distant from the concept of dialogue. With regret I have to state an obvious fact: The civil conflict in our country has long ago reached such a point where people have simply ceased to listen to or hear the opinions of others. In the social media, all attempts at debate quickly transform into rudeness and banning commenters. As a result of this, people have built bubbles and settled into small cliques where they only communicate with fellow-thinkers. The very same thing is happening on the air, where guests arrive with formed and hardened opinions, which they seek to bombard upon the others, using shrieks and cursing.
“I understand this problem, but it does not excuse [the behavior of] neither Veresen, nor Poyarkov, nor Semchenko. The management of this channel has decided to part ways with the host of the show [=Veresen]; and by the same token, these guests, who allowed themselves to descend into hysterics, will temporarily not be invited back onto the show.”
Next: This story is actually bigger than I initially thought, and raises a lot of interesting questions. I will continue next time with a profile of Muraev, and then circle back to the actual content of Semchenko’s brave rant. In the meantime, everybody please cross your fingers and hope that nobody gets hurt. Ukrainian politics can be fun, but it can also get quite ugly, when the Violent Sektor decide to involve themselves.
[to be continued]