Viktor Yushchenko, former Ukrainian president who held office from 2005 to 2010, spoke Thursday in the Rackham Amphitheatre about his vision of the future of Ukraine.
Yushchenko spoke as a part of the fifth-anniversary celebration of the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies. Ronald and Eileen Weiser, who founded the center with a $10 million donation in 2008, were in attendance.
The title of Yushchenko’s speech was “Shades of Orange: A Decade of Ukrainian Democracy,” a reference to the Orange Revolution that occurred after the 2004 presidential campaign and election.
“In my personal opinion, our biggest problem and challenge is that we are not united, we do not stand as one, we are not integrated internally” Yushchenko said through a translator.
He added that Ukraine’s multiple languages, religious variations and differing history textbooks contribute to the country’s fragmentation, and that he’s working to build a more united Ukraine.
Yushchenko blames the lack of nationalism on the country’s breakup into sections controlled by different nations over the past 300 years, each imposing their own culture. He emphasized that Ukraine declared independence from Russia only 22 years ago.
Ukraine’s desire to become a European Union member state was also discussed, but Yuschenko said the country needs to take important steps domestically to improve elections and judicial and legislative systems before it can consider joining the international body.
Lansing resident Michael Brown said he drove to Ann Arbor to attend the lecture because he regularly follows Eastern European politics and wanted to get Yushchenko’s perspective on the current Ukrainian government.
“Ukraine has made a lot of progress under his administration, and now it seems to be going back a little,” Brown said.
As a part of its fifth anniversary, the Weiser Center will also be presenting exhibits on Ukrainian history and lifestyle in the Hatcher Graduate Library, the Michigan Union, Lane Hall as well as the center’s offices in the International Institute and School of Social Work Building.