Recent revelations by Anatoliy Hrytsenko, popularly known as the ‘real colonel’, have dazzled many. In his interview for RBC, former Minister of Defense shockingly said that Ukraine needs authoritarian regime. According to him, it is impossible to overcome deep crisis in times of war without authoritarian methods.
It goes without saying that he sees no one but himself as the leader of the nation. He longs for the role of strict but righteous father of the nation.
Reading his words, I recall an episode from Maidan in 2014. I cannot remember the exact date, but it was around a week before February 20, the day of killings of Heavenly Hundred Heroes. Many rumors, one more fearsome than the other, were circulating among Maidan protesters. People were talking that the decision had been made to destroy Maidan with firearms.
During those days, number of Maidan protesters were rising sharply. Ukrainians from Kyiv and other regions were flooding Maidan to protect their revolution. One could feel tensions in the air. It seemed that soon Maidan protesters would radiate heat.
Meanwhile, steady voice of colonel Anatoliy Hrytsenko were resounding from the loudspeaker. I cannot cite his exact words but remember key messages from his speech. He told that Maidan was in danger and that measures were to be made to protect it. Former Defense Minister addressed those men that possessed registered arms and urged them to take those arms to defend Maidan. His voice was firm and confident like that of authoritative commander.
It seemed that Hrytsenko would create real self-defense unit and, together with his comrades, stand up against Berkut. But no such unit was created.
Everyone knows what happened next. It is no secret that Maidan protesters used limited arms that they had in response to Berkut assaults. In the night of February 18-19, when the Trade Unions Building was set on fire, people used shotguns and slingshots. On February 20, the snipers killed several dozen Maidan protesters on Instytutska street and protesters were shooting back.
Where was authoritarian and authoritative commander Anatoliy Hrytsenko at that time? Was he defending Maidan with other protesters? Was he shooting back at the snipers? No! He just wasn’t there. The people managed to defend Maidan on their own, without his assistance.
Thus, Hrytsenko’s authoritarianism he is so proud of turned out to be buried deeply underground. Most likely, his registered arms were also collecting dust there.
And now let’s turn to the interview I mentioned earlier.
‘You should understand that we face authoritarian methods all the time in our lives and we are happy as they bring results,’ said Hrytsenko. ‘A surgeon near an operating table, a commander of an airliner, a dispatcher of an electric power system, a shift supervisor on a nuclear energy plant and a flight director all have authoritarian style of management. These professionals took personal responsibility and make important decisions without empty debates and votes. And we thank them for rescuing life of a child, softly landing a plane and providing uninterrupted power supply… People understand and accept clear and reasonable rules that improve their lives. We should not fear authoritarianism. What we should fear is lack of responsibility.’
‘He’s so smart he makes me afraid’, the quote from the everlasting movie hit ‘Chasing Two Hares’, is the first thing that comes to my mind after reading this. In the movie, this was the reaction of Sirko family to the preposterous monologue of Holokhvastov. The ‘real colonel’ also said something that is hard to comment on.
To compare a surgeon near an operating table or a shift supervisor on a nuclear energy plant with a political leader is akin to comparing wet and salty, sweet and hot or fluffy and shiny. In industrial relations, everything is built upon hierarchy and division of functions as one gives instructions and other complies with them.
In politics, meanwhile, there are always different opinions on possible solutions of a given problem. For people with a totalitarian mindset, this seems like a mess, but this is how democracy works. As we all know, there are no better way of doing things than democracy and the only alternative to it is totalitarianism. Moreover, every politician should consider humanitarian dimension of society and numerous other factors that are just absent in business-like relations.
Hrytsenko offers simple solution: give me abundant power and I will solve all Ukraine’s problems and take all responsibility.
He probably senses moods of a certain part of the society that longs for a strong leader and, being an apt populist, accommodates to them. Most likely, such sentiments are characteristic of those who feel nostalgic for the Soviet Union when the strong leaders performed all necessary functions, such as feeding, punishing and pardoning. The citizens had nothing to do except for going to work.
We also had the strong leader in independent Ukraine. While positioning himself as a true iron fist, Victor Yanukovych raped the constitution and concentrated virtually unlimited powers in his hands. We learned it the hard way when he built authoritarian power hierarchy, stripped legal owners of their businesses and performed numerous other abuses.
Thus, Hrytsenko’s babbling about ‘good’ and ‘righteous’ authoritarianism is nothing more than populism and flirting with not very smart voters. Smart ones won’t buy it.