Ukrainian Election Redux

A presidential election was recently held in the troubled land known as the Ukraine. Some people are waxing hopeful that thanks to having a new president the Ukraine can now finally be put on the mend, get serious about fighting corruption and reverse its slide into destitution and crime. Others see this as an optimization, of sorts, of the existing oligarchic order: instead of having an oligarch (Poroshenko) as president, it is cheaper to have an oligarch’s personal pet (Zelensky) as president, because why should a self-respecting oligarch (Kolomoisky) have to bother with elections.

The Ukraine is interesting for me because it makes such a wonderful case study in collapse: it has been collapsing ever since it gained independence from the USSR. It’s a curious case, because its peculiar congenital disorder has rendered it morbid, and without an external life support system such as the USSR (which is, thankfully, over) or the European Union (good luck with that!) all the Ukrainians are ever likely to do is cannibalize their country until nothing of it is left. Rather than collapse as an event (after which recovery is theoretically possible) what we have in the Ukraine is collapse on rails—an inexorable, systematic hollowing-out and pauperization.

Still, I believe that this last presidential election marks a turning point of sorts for the Ukraine. We should fully expect a great deal of continuity: the oligarchic rule, the widespread corruption, the population loss, the mass impoverishment and the infrastructure decay. Although things that can’t go on forever don’t, in this case they can probably go on for a while yet. But due to the force of external events we should also expect certain discontinuities to occur sooner rather than later.

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