Published: March 2006

Ukraine

Flags Celebration

Endangered Revolution

Ukraine's bold push for democracy stunned the world, but can it live up to its promise?

By Andrew Meier
Photograph by Anthony Suau

When Viktor Yushchenko rises each dawn to begin the longest days of his life, he stares hard in the mirror. "The president doesn't recognize himself," an aide in his inner circle confides. "For him, it's impossible to square the face in the glass with the man inside. "For millions of his compatriots, however, Yushchenko's face—bloated, pockmarked, and deeply discolored—is a fitting symbol of their long-suffering land, scarred by the past yet surviving against all odds.

For years Yushchenko bided his time. Throughout the dark era of former President Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine, a nation of 46 million in a land larger than France, devolved into a fiefdom of regional clans and robber baron oligarchs. Reformers mounted feeble assaults on the halls of power, but the country was held captive by a criminal regime atop a foundering post-Soviet state. For Ukrainians who yearn to escape Russia's shadow and join the rest of Europe and the West, Yushchenko stood as the last great hope.

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