Part three – Research trip to Миколаїв/Николаев

The Ukrainian Steppe is endless.

At least it felt like this last Sunday morning, when a part of the group packed its belongings into a Marshrutka and started its trip to Mykolaiv, one of the biggest shipbuilding centers in the former Soviet Union, founded during the times of the Russian Empire by Prince Grigory Potemkin in 1789 in the very south of Ukraine.

The gleaming sun burned down merciless and blurred the boarders between heaven and earth, contrasting the yellow of the lushing endless sunflower fields with the continental blue of the sky, arguing wordlessly for the rationale behind the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Even the nuclear power plant in Yuzhnoukrainsk was not able to disrupt the harmonic picture.

The Petro Mohyla Black Sea University in Mykolaiv, a former branch of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, acted as our host on behalf of Prof. Oleksandr Pronkevich, his team and Christoph Schütz, who works there as a Bosch-Lecturer.

Prof. Pronkevich was not only a delightful partner and entertained the group with his intelligent humor, but also established a well-balanced program for the participants and helped with many individual appointments for interviews and background-talks. No wonder that he got elected as the “Person of the Year” in Mykolaiv.

During numerous meetings with journalists, activists, academics and a lovely museum guide, the participants of the Summer School learned a lot about the Maidan in Mykolaiv, its structure, its leading people and especially about the peculiarities of the Revolution in this region.

On 7 April 2014, some pro-Russian demonstrators (often referred to as “Titushki”, i.e. sporty dressed criminals that would do anything for money) tried to size the local administration building. They were stopped by pro-Ukrainians.

Why didn´t the seizure work out in a city whose main East-West Prospect is (still) named after Lenin? It may be pointed out briefly that the loyalty towards the state as such is high in Mykolaiv since its ship-industry is highly dependent from state contracts. That’s a mayor difference to other cities, whose population might be rather loyal to a certain group and thus resemble a neo-feudal state of being.

Another factor is the strong presence of the military in this region, which is also considered as a power loyal to the state – especially after the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in March 2014.

The research trip ended with a highlight: a boat trip on the Inhul River, during which the sunset against the industrial shipyard background cooled down the hazy-heated heads.

It was a great trip. Yet everybody felt released when the rain started to pour while the Marshrutka went further to the north, on her way up to Kyiv, where the hot sun of the Steppe reverberates in the shells of the sunflower seeds that are spread along the roads – or lie down right at the feet of an unlucky Titushok who would do anything for money love.

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