Cross post from romaninukraine.com:
To me, the story of Ukraine is the story of vanquished aristocracy. Twice in Ukraine’s history, first by the Mongols then by the Bolsheviks, the most capable Ukrainians, the successful, the talented, the leadership were obliterated — vanquished, killed or deported — a potentially ruinous blow for any society and testimony to the resilience of Ukrainians. Between these catastrophes, we have tremendous assimilation pressure from Russian- or Polish-imposed feudalism and its violent resistance by our kozaks.
These warriors kept the Ukrainian idea alive and for this we owe them a debt of gratitude, but for all their legendary self-reliance and ferocity, the kozaks failed to create a society prosperous enough to endure among hostile neighbors. An agrarian morality is insufficient for prosperity.
And the Ukrainian soul, if judged by the poets, is an agrarian soul — a peasant soul, if you’ll forgive the term — longing for the return of its ancient kings and glory.
Tonight, Ukrainians are in the streets. They say they want to join the European Union. I don’t believe them. I don’t want to believe them. I prefer to believe that they want three things: property rights, economic opportunity, the ability to travel.
I prefer to believe this because when I consider the other possibility, I see serfs begging for better masters. I see people who want all the benefits of a free society and none of its responsibilities.
No one has ever begged their way to freedom. Property rights which are true and lasting cannot be given, they must be earned. In the words of Lord Byron, “He who would be free must strike the first blow.”