â€˘ A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
It was one of the icons of Ukraineâ€™s â€śOrange Revolutionâ€ť: Yulia Tymoshenkoâ€™s blond braid, coiled around her head like a crown, hit news pages the world over as she stood defiantly alongside Viktor Yushchenko at Independence Square in Kyiv (Kiev) in 2004 to protest a rigged presidential vote.
The traditional Ukrainian braid became a permanent feature atop Ms. Tymoshenkoâ€™s head in the run-up to the elections, underlining her patriotic credentials and appeal in the nationally minded western part of the country. It soon became the worldâ€™s most famous political hairstyle and a central part of her image as the Orange Princess.
So when Tymoshenko, now Ukraineâ€™s prime minister, turned up to a cabinet meeting last month with her hair combed back into a modest bun, tongues were set wagging.
â€śNo supermodel or Hollywood actress can create such a furor over a change of hairstyles as Tymoshenko,â€ť wrote leading news magazine Korrespondent. â€śMinisters, journalists, and even political analysts forgot about the agenda and started guessing what had prompted her to change her image.â€ť
With the next presidential election approaching in January, was she trying to soften her patriotic image in an effort to appeal to Russia-friendly voters in the east and south of Ukraine? After all, she has recently been courting closer relations with the Kremlin.
Or perhaps this was an â€śanticrisisâ€ť hairstyle, an attempt to distract from questions about her handling of Ukraineâ€™s significant economic woes or to present a more austere, professional image.
For her part, Tymoshenko pleaded with reporters not to read anything into her new hairdo. â€śA normal woman is simply obliged sometimes to change her image. I, too, continually try to be a normal woman. Unfortunately, work gets in the way.â€ť