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Georgia’s Long Shadow

On a Saturday night in Lviv, Ukraine’s westernmost large city, young Ukrainians gather to hear some of their favorite pop and rock groups. The concert is plugged as a neutral event to raise voter awareness among young people, with a suitably balanced name: “Youth-For! Youth-Against!” But to the surprise of many, the concert soon turns into an official rally for a presidential candidate, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

Between sets by famous pop stars and rock groups, Yanukovych activists distribute free T-shirts, stickers, and flags, as well as pamphlets outlining his political platform. “The young are for Viktor Yanukovych,” reads one banner they hand out. “The young are for patriotism and for a stable life,” reads another.

At this concert, though, the young were not for Yanukovych. When a local activist for Yanukovych’s Party of Regions gets up to extend Lviv’s warm greetings to Viktor Fedorovich, cries of “Shame!” muffle his stump speech. Many trample on Yanukovych pamphlets, fueling the agitation of activists. As the concert wears on, counter-protesters arrive, waving banners and sporting T-shirts in support of Yanukovych’s main rival, Viktor Yushchenko.

They unfurl their own home-made banners that read “Degradation,” “I Don’t Want to Become a Stool Pigeon,” with a clenched-fist graphic. Curious students arrive. And by the end, anti-Yanukovych protesters outnumber Yanukovych supporters.

(TOL 15.xi.04)

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