The second anniversary of Ukraine’s Euromaidan is a time for reflection about whether ordinary Ukrainians improved their lot by throwing out President Viktor Yanukovych. For observers at the time, the answer was a resounding yes. Yanukovych, the thinking went, was as corrupt as they come. Sympathizers hoped that by removing him from power and electing Petro Poroshenko instead, Ukrainians would open the way for a transparent and honest democratic government ready to improve ordinary people’s lives.
Amanda Paul, senior policy analyst at the European Policy Center, proclaimed in a 2014 op-ed that “Ukraine has changed forever.” Western governments were no less enthusiastic. In a statement released two days after Yanukovych’s ouster, the German government called the event “a chance for democracy” and German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the “overall extremely encouraging development.” Poland’s foreign minister at the time, Radosław Sikorski, was likewise positive. “I hope Ukraine creates the kind of government which starts implementing difficult, necessary reforms that will prevent bankruptcy and hopefully put Ukraine back on the European track,” he told CNN.
Two years after the revolution, however, even those pundits who were most hopeful seem full of doubts. For instance, in a 2016 Foreign Affairs article, University of Alberta’s Taras Kuzio wrote of Ukraine’s “Euromaidan Dreams Deferred.” Ukrainians apparently concur. A recent nationwide Gallup poll revealed that only 17 percent approve of Poroshenko’s performance—fewer than supported Yanukovych before he was ousted. Meanwhile, only eight percent approved of the work of the country’s cabinet, which is headed by another Euromaidan leader, Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Some 36 percent of Ukrainians who were questioned by Gallup in another poll said they were “suffering.” This constituted both the highest percentage among former Soviet republics and the highest percentage found in Ukraine by Gallup since 2007.
Of course, the hard times, including Ukraine’s economic woes, stem in part from the conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east. But the standard of living and quality of governance in Ukraine have
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