Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny may not be the only blogger with a bright political future. Similar prospects could await the “Proctologist,” a critically minded Ukrainian blogger based in the depressed eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk.
I first reported on the Proctologist—a.k.a. Stanislav Tsikalovsky—in a post on March 30, 2012. At that time, Tsikalovsky was just making a name for himself, especially with a viral video blog in which he stated:
We have no city authorities and no provincial authorities. And it’s not even a question of having no prospects of large-scale change. We have no prospects of any kind of change whatsoever. All that’s left for us, for you, is at a minimum for us, the Donbas, to be enclosed with barbed wire and not be let out, so as not to interfere with normal people’s efforts to develop themselves and build a good country. And at a maximum, I guess, simply to drink ourselves silly.
Tsikalovsky has been going strong, and only getting more popular, since then. His criticism of Luhansk and its corrupt, thuggish, and authoritarian Regionnaire authorities has remained unsparing. They’re easy to lambast and deserve every bit of his ire. Luhansk suffers from a rust-belt economy, collapsing social services, unhealthy living conditions, and a particularly sedentary Regionnaire elite.
As Luhansk journalist Marusia Klymova says about Tsikalovsky’s harsh diagnosis of the city’s many ills:
Slowly but surely the popular blogger is getting invited to television shows as an expert; he’s becoming known [beyond] the Internet … Indeed, the Proctologist was the author of the local saying, “for Luhansk-related reasons,” meaning obtuseness, negligence, disorder, and thievery … He consistently promoted the thesis that Luhansk is the “I City” (or the city of “idiots”)—and we got used to it. Ditto for his suggestion that “napalm” could serve as a universal solvent of the city’s problems. I confess that the stream of negative commentaries about my native city personally upset me … but only until it became clear that this was bitter medicine—and a necessary component of a full-scale information campaign that would proceed from the slogan, “Luhansk is the butt of the world,” to the therapeutic “Luhansk needs the Proctologist!”
Significantly, as Klymova notes, Tsikalovsky has begun proposing solutions to the city’s many problems:
And lo, after several years of destructive criticism of the criminal rule of Serhii Kravchenko (the acting mayor of Luhansk, in case you didn’t know), the Proctologist has suddenly turned to the positive. He’s proposed modern receptacles for cigarette butts. He’s expressed concern for the city’s dying chestnut trees … He’s suggested that there be parking spaces and bike paths for cyclists.
And, last summer, Tsikalovsky announced he had been invited to participate in the city’s reconstruction of Friendship Park. Clearly, the powers that be are out to co-opt him.
If he ever did run for mayor, however, the Proctologist would face not only Regionnaire opposition but also the antediluvian political preferences of the Luhansk population. The city is probably Ukraine’s most pro-Soviet, pro-Communist, pro-Regionnaire, and pro-Russian (in Ukraine, alas, these tendencies generally go together). Voters have solidly voted for the Regionnaires in the last few elections and, when searching for an alternative to express their discontent with Regionnaire misrule, tend to vote for the Stalinist Communists.
Back in March 2012, an interviewer asked Tsikalovsky if he had any plans to run for office. Here’s his response:
I think of it often, but just as often I banish the thought. They won’t elect me because I’ll keep saying that we alone are responsible for our problems. We let them treat us this way. Our people don’t like to hear such things and will reject them. All we want is talk about the Russian language, Russia, and NATO. But we have such politicians in excess.
(For an example of these attitudes, see the Luhansk Communist-sponsored cartoon opposing Ukraine’s association with the European Union.)
Can an electorate such as this ever support the Proctologist? Probably not. But most of Tsikalovsky’s readers and viewers are computer-savvy young people who use, understand, and interact through the social media. They and future cohorts of even more Internet-savvy kids represent Luhansk’s—and, by the way, Ukraine’s—future. The 35-year-old Tsikalovsky is young. So are his supporters. They can wait for the Regionnaires and their acolytes to move on. The Proctologist’s time will come five or ten years from now. And, then, Luhansk might surprise everyone and become a model city.