Following Michael Mann, we can classify the sources of social power into 4 categories:
3. administrative/political, and
Ruling elites in different societies tend to specialize in different sources of power:
- Egypt is traditionally ruled by generals (from Nasser to Sadat and Mubarak, and now Al-Sisi),
- China and France are dominated by bureaucracies,
- the United States – by economic elites (see Bill Domhoff’s Who Rules America?), and
- Iran by ideological elites (the ayatollahs have the final say).
And Ukraine? Without doubt, it’s the economic elites.
Although protests in Kiev were triggered by the decision of Yanukovich government to turn away from the association agreement with the European Union in favor of closer integration with Russia, the motivations of protesters quickly shifted to a general rejection of
the oligarch-dominated policies of Yanukovich’s Party of Regions.
It is generally believed that the main financier and the real leader of Party of Regions is Rinat Akhmetov, the richest Ukrainian oligarch (with Forbes-estimated fortune of $12.5 billion).
President Viktor Yanukovych (foreground, second from left) and Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov (to Yanukovych’s left) gather with supporters at the Party of Regions convention in 2009. (Yaroslav Debelyi) Source
It would be nice if we could point an accusing finger at the Party of Regions as the only corrupt, oligarch-dominated element in Ukrainian politics.
Unfortunately, other parties are no better.
All Ukrainian politics is thoroughly dominated by billionaire oligarchs.
The second richest man in Ukraine, Victor Pinchuk, is married to Olena Pinchuk, the daughter of former President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma.
Viktor Pinchuk, Leonid Kuchma, Bill Clinton, and Olena Pinchuk (Source)
The main party that was in opposition to Yanukovich, the Fatherland Party,
is lead by the fiery Yulia Tymoshenko, sporting her customary braid. Tymoshenko herself is an oligarch, worth probably close to $1 billion. She is commonly known as the “Gas Princess,” because she made her fortune in the gas industry during the chaotic 1990s. Tymoshenko has been the Prime Minister until 2010, and she has a good shot at the Ukrainian presidency in the elections scheduled for May 2014.
Tymoshenko and Turchynov
Another potential candidate, who has a good chance of winning presidential elections, is Petro Poroshenko,
the number 7 in the Forbes’s list of Ukranian billionaires (estimated fortune: $1.3 billion).
When the corrupt Yanukovych government fell, the Maidan protesters (Maidan is the central square of Kiev, which became the symbol of the Ukrainian revolution – actually, both of them – the Orange one in 2005 and the current one) declared that they don’t want to return to the old oligarch-dominated politics. But the protesters wishes were ignored by the new rulers of Ukraine.
The acting president, Oleksander Turchynov, and the prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk,
are both long-standing members of Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party.
Turchynov began his political life in close association with Serhiy Tihipko (number 9 on the Forbes list of Ukrainian billionaires) and with the same Leonid Kuchma, the Ukrainian president from 1994 to 2005. No wonder the Maidan protesters objected to Turchynov elevation – in vain.
"This new bunch of leaders we've got are just the same as the last ones, and the ones before that. ... We're staying put till we get what we want," said a Maidan protester.
Perhaps the most striking evidence of the domination of the Ukrainian state by the wealthy oligarchs is the appointment by the newly installed government in Kiev of two billionaires, Ihor Kolomoysky and Serhiy Taruta, as governors in Dnepropetrovsk and Donetsk.
An investigation into Ukrainian power structures leads one to a depressing conclusion: all power holders are either billionaire oligarchs themselves, or are merely oligarch stooges.
Next: what are the consequences of the oligarch domination of the Ukrainian polity?