Ukraine's sweet smell of success
By Helen Fawkes
BBC News, Kiev
Wednesday March, 30, 2005
 
 

Orange merchandise celebrates the revolution
It may look like an ordinary range of perfumes.

Tall see-through glass bottles contain different fragrances.

But it is the orange ribbons attached to each of them that sets them apart.

"We feel very proud about the Orange Revolution and we wanted to create something to remember that special time," says Lydmila Bedrina, director of the Russian Cosmetics Company, which is based in Kiev.

"Every one of our employees stood on Independence Square during the big demonstrations by the opposition."

The company has developed a fragrance for each round of Ukraine's presidential elections, as well as the inauguration of Viktor Yushchenko.

Fragrant support

They use orange ribbons like those worn by the opposition.

Their mass protests were sparked by a disputed ballot in November.

The perfume for that round of the vote is marketed as smelling of bitter oranges.

"I like the one dedicated to the day that Yushchenko came to power, as it best reflects the strong emotions I felt when I saw him as our president for the first time," says Masha Ulyanchenko, a shopper in her 20s.

They each cost around $6.

As commiseration for the supporters of the losing presidential candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, the company has also produced a collection of blue-and-white perfumes.

But it is being outsold by the orange range.

Building trust

Last winter hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in Kiev's Independence Square.

More than three months on, the protesters are gone.

But there is a growing trade in memorabilia commemorating the "Orange Revolution".

Former president Leonid Kuchma was unpopular in many parts of Ukraine - while Victor Yushchenko enjoys a high approval rating.

The latest opinion poll conducted in all regions of the country found the new president to be trusted by more than 60% of respondents.

That is a third higher than during the elections.

"The revolution was a success and the right man won. People want to associate themselves with that success," says Hryhoryi Nemyrya, a political analyst.

"Young people especially are moved by the romantic aspect of Ukraine's revolution. It has become very symbolic and almost like a legend now."

Thriving business

In a subway under Independence Square a new store has opened.

Called "The Orange Revolution Shop and Museum", it only sells items which celebrate the mass protests.

There are portraits of Mr Yushchenko, as well as T-shirts, key rings, calendars featuring pictures of the new president and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

You can also buy orange flags, jumpers, bags, pens, and mugs.

Many of the open air stalls which line the capital's main street are also cashing in.

"It seems to me that you can buy more orange things than ever before, even compared to when there were all the demonstrations. It's not about making a political statement any more, but a fast buck," remarks Oleg Lazarev on his way through Independence Square to his office.

When the protests started the opposition supplied much of the orange gear as it was their election campaign colour.

But there was so much demand that street traders also started selling the goods.

Now their biggest customers are Ukrainian tourists and foreign visitors.

"You want a piece of history?" Oleksandr, a street trader, asks passers-by in English.

"Just two dollars for a hat, three for a scarf."

New markets

Visiting the scene of the mass protests has become part of the tourist trail.

For $150 you can even go on an "Orange Tour" of Kiev.

"You will feel the atmosphere which was created by the supporters of Viktor Yushchenko, who defended the democracy and freedom of Ukraine," says the website of Sun City, the Ukrainian tourist agency which offers the trip.

Far from winding down, this orange industry is now preparing for a new market.

In May Ukraine hosts the Eurovision Song Contest.

It is thought that the memorabilia will be popular amongst many of the thousands of people who are expected in the capital.