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Virtual bridge Wrocław-Lviv 4

Researchers from the Institute of Sociology of the University of Wrocław, the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences together with sociologists, historians and political scientists from Lviv University have created a Virtual Bridge between Wrocław and Lviv. One form of cooperation is to inform you about what is happening in Ukraine. We are giving the floor to scholars from Ukraine.

Nataliya Chernysh
PhD in Sociological Sciences, professor of the Department of Sociology
Historical Faculty of the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv
Vice-president of the Sociological Association of Ukraine
Fulbright Program Scholar

War and sociologists. Reflections on the rise of the Ukrainian nation

In this issue of the Bulletin, I would like to continue to analyse and interpret the new information contained in the surveys on the population of Ukraine, Russia and some other countries, and concerning the Russian-Ukrainian war starting on 24 February 2022.

I will start with data from both state-dependent Russian sociologists (the All-Russian Centre for Public Opinion Research (VCIOM; see vciom.ru website) and from the so-called independent sociologists in Russia. Unfortunately, I was not able to access the website, so I will present the data downloaded from it and published by “Ukrainska Pravda”. 23 March 2022 O. Roshchyna published a post entitled: “In Russia, support for the war with Ukraine has increased even more – sociologists.” She claims that among average Russians, support for Russia’s war with Ukraine continues to grow, while the potential for protest decreases. According to the data from 17 March 2022, the decision to conduct a “special military operation” by Russia is supported by 74% of Russian respondents. Compared to 25 February 2022, the share of supporters has increased by 9%, but 17% of respondents (8% less than on 25 February) rather do not support the operation. 10% of respondents are ready to participate in mass protests and 85% do not intend to do so. In January 2022, 17% of Russians surveyed reported their readiness to participate in protests [1].

What does this dynamic indicate? It is believed that in totalitarian societies sociology is dying because the population is either deceived by propaganda or afraid to express its opinion. However, it is worth paying attention to the verbal messages of the representatives of such a society: despite the relativity of the published results, their detachment from reality, it is still possible to sketch a picture of “exposure to propaganda radiation” in Russia, to assess its success and the degree of intimidation of the people, in addition to examining it in a certain historical period. There is also hope for “other” sociology, that is, for the work of those sociologists who do not belong to “official sociology,” who do not prepare data to order. However, in the case of the Russian-Ukrainian war there is no reason to expect a miracle. I am mainly referring to the polls conducted by the Levada Center, which has no ties to the so-called official narrative. It has conducted at least six polls directly or indirectly related to the war since the beginning of the Russian invasion in Ukraine. Virtually all of them show overwhelming public support for Putin’s regime. Although only a relative majority of respondents (i.e. 52%), according to a news report dated 30 March 2022, believe that things are going in the right direction, at the same time 83% of respondents approve of Putin’s actions [2]. This can be read as follows: the situation may be bad, but it is not Putin’s fault.

Or take the results of a poll conducted among Russians by a group of the so-called independent sociologists between the end of February and mid-March 2022, which was later reported by ‘Radio Svoboda’ [3]. As in the case of the VCIOM data, the differences between the first and second surveys also indicate an increase in the number of people supporting the ‘military operation’ and the independence of the DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic) and LPR (Luhansk People’s Republic), which are not recognised by anyone. This increase in pro-government sentiment can be explained by the strengthening of Russian state control over the media and the abolition of freedom of expression, spreading fear and prejudice. At the same time, pessimism about personal finances is growing in the wake of sanctions. However, sociologists do not link the war to the imposition of sanctions. According to the data, 71% of Russians support the war against Ukraine. Moreover, Russians who support the war mostly experience such emotions as pride, joy, respect, trust and hope. Once again, there is a cognitive dissonance in the majority of the Russian population who, even against the backdrop of their own troubles, are unaware of the causal link between sanctions for the war assault and the acceptance of Putin’s aggression against Ukraine.

Recent polls show the prevailing sentiment among Russians regarding not only aggression against Ukraine, but also towards the West collectively. According to one of them, 86.6% of Russians allow and support an armed invasion of other European countries by the Russian Federation. 75.5% of respondents approve of the idea of a military invasion of Poland and believe that it should be followed by Ukraine. Almost 75% of respondents approve of the use of nuclear weapons by the Kremlin. 41% of Russians support the invasion of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, and 39.6% support the invasion of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary [4].

Thus, it can be argued that Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine is fully or partially supported by Russians (between 71 and 74%), support for a hypothetical invasion of a number of European countries is growing, and at the same time respondents fail to see the correlation between the aggression against Ukraine and the sanctions being implemented and the worsening of their standard of living. This can be interpreted as a success of Putin’s long-standing propaganda and as a consequence of the lack of freedom of speech and the absence of independent media, or more precisely as a result of the Putin regime’s unwilligness to clearly articulate the aims of the war and the real situation in Ukraine. One reason for this is the legitimisation of the Russian people’s hostility towards Ukraine and ‘the whole, collectively meant, West’ by means of official, pro-Putin sociology.

As far as the Ukrainian population is concerned, their preferences and prevailing moods are also changing dynamically in the direction of increasing support for the consolidation of Ukrainian society, the formation of a new, united Ukrainian political nation and the accumulation of efforts to repel Russian aggression. The difference between the attitudes of Ukrainians and Russians is that the former stand for values such as democracy, freedom and independence of their country, while the latter stand for the values of totalitarianism, fratricidal war and conquest of other people’s territories. As argumentation, I present data from empirical research of one of the leading institutions of Ukraine – the sociological group RATING. In previous issues of our newsletter, I quoted the results of the first three waves of RATING polls published since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war, and now I will focus on the fourth (March 12-13), fifth (March 18) and sixth (March 19, 2022). I would like to emphasise my credit for the agency. Its surveys have been systematic despite the war, increasingly concrete and covering a wider range of war issues.

According to the fourth nationwide survey of Ukrainians in the ongoing war, 76% of respondents believe that things in Ukraine are going in the right direction. This is the highest percentage of declarations in the history of the measurement. Only 15% have the opposite view. It is worth noting that in all regions and among all age groups the assessment of the direction as correct is dominant. During the war, the self-esteem of the population has increased significantly. Today, Ukraine is seen as a potential ‘leader’ among other European countries (34%) or the so-called ‘middle’ countries (42%), while two months ago it was seen as an ‘outsider’. At the same time, 63% of respondents see Ukraine as a ‘leader’ among the countries of the former Soviet Union, while two months ago it was seen mainly as a ‘medium’ country. 56% believe that the main goal of the Russian invasion is the complete destruction of the Ukrainian nation, and this opinion also prevails in all regions of Ukraine. A realistic way to end the war is for the majority to find compromises during negotiations with the participation of other countries (64%). At the same time, almost a third believe that it is necessary to abandon negotiations and fight until the liberation of all territories, and only 1% – that it is worth agreeing to most of Russia’s demands. Ukrainians are not ready to give up either Crimea or Donbass: most believe that Ukraine should use all opportunities to regain the occupied territories of Donbass (86%) and Crimea (80%). Residents of all regions are convinced of this, and this figure is higher now than in pre-war times. Support for Ukraine’s accession to NATO has fallen slightly from a record 76% to 72% in the last two weeks. The main reason for this is the lack of a decision to close the airspace over Ukraine, which is demanded by almost 90% of Ukrainians [5].

According to the fifth poll of 18 March 2022, 77% of respondents believe that things in Ukraine are moving in the right direction (+1% compared to last week’s data). Only 14% hold the opposite opinion (-1% respectively). The results are equally positive in all regions of the country. Belief in victory remains at its highest level: 93% of respondents believe that Ukraine will be able to repel Russian aggression. Confidence in victory is also noticeable in all regions of the country. The vast majority of respondents (82%) believe that the threat of partition of the country is unlikely; this certainty has significantly increased as a result of the unification of the nation during the war. According to Ukrainians, the most friendly countries to Ukraine today are Poland, Lithuania, the United Kingdom and the United States. At the same time, there is a regional consolidation in international sentiment: today, these countries are considered equally friendly by the inhabitants of all Ukrainian macro-regions. The same applies to hostile countries: Russia and Belarus are hostile countries for the vast majority of Ukrainians, regardless of where they live. It should be noted that support for the creation of a military-political union of Ukraine, Poland and the UK has increased from 61% (in January 2022) to 85%. Today, support for such an alliance is higher than support for Ukraine’s integration into NATO (72%) [6].

The sixth survey of the RATING agency was the largest in terms of the number of thematic blocks and problems highlighted [7]). It is structurally divided into two components: language problems and problems of population adaptation to war conditions. These issues are very important and therefore I intend to discuss them in more detail in the next newsletter. Today I will briefly touch only on those issues that relate to the argumentation of my claim about the formation – from the perspective of sociology – of one modern Ukrainian nation. This thesis can be presented as follows.

  1. A nation is built on the same values for the entire population. Using R. Inglehart’s terminology, the key trend of modernity is the shift from materialistic to post-materialistic values. The modern Ukrainian nation is built around such post-materialist values as a free and independent Ukraine, where the rights and freedoms of all are respected, where everyone has the right to self-expression and self-development, and where materialist values cease to play a leading role. By contrast, the Russian Federation continues to be dominated by materialist values close to the majority of its population, including those inherent in its armed forces. This is reflected in the massive looting carried out by Russian soldiers on a massive scale, the looting of civilian property, crimes and murders (such as in Bucha near Kiev), and within Russia itself, the justification of the Putin regime’s atrocities by its own survival.
  2. European values based on democracy dominate the axiological space of the Ukrainians. Hence, the desire of the majority of Ukrainians to join the European Union. Russia, on the other hand, has created a space of totalitarian values with a cult of one person whose priority plans include the destruction of European and, more broadly, Western civilisation. The main values here are the destruction of all dissidents, including the civilian population of neighbouring countries, the cult of brute force, genocide and disrespect not only for the lives of the Russian Federation’s imaginary enemies but also for its own soldiers, whose bodies are not taken away when they leave Ukrainian settlements and are left unburied, often mined. Therefore, the values of the Ukrainians are directed towards the future, and those of the Russians are a return to barbarism.
  3. The values of the Ukrainian population cease to be regional, they become common, national. If until 2014, as sociologists, we noted a certain difference in the values and value orientations of the population, e.g. in Lviv and Donetsk as the centres of the western and eastern regions, nowadays, as evidenced by the results of the surveys presented in our newsletters, the regional differences are losing strength, and the axiological space is becoming common. Of course, values in contemporary Ukraine are not completely homogeneous; they have their own specificities and to some extent change depending on local conditions: for the inhabitants of the occupied territories, survival is still of value, for the rest of free Ukraine, freedom and independence are the dominant values.
  4. The foundation of a nation is civil society. As far as Ukraine is concerned, we can say that a strong and responsible civil society is already largely formed. We consider this to be an accomplished fact.
  5. The cementing feature of the value space is that Ukrainians have rid themselves of the inferiority complex that was formed in a nation long stateless. Today Ukrainians feel equal to Europeans and are even convinced that they can serve as an example of defending European values not with words but with deeds.
  6. An important role in the formation of the modern Ukrainian nation is played by such a factor as social capital; its main components are trust in fellow citizens and trust in authority. Currently, sociologists are noting an unprecedented level of trust in the President of the country, the armed forces and other state institutions and non-governmental organisations such as voluntary work. This cements the modern Ukrainian nation, helps integrate and consolidate all parts of the social organism built on solidarity.

I would add that other leading scholars of our country hold a similar view. Important in this regard is an interview with the Director of the Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine E. Golovakha for the News portal of 30 March 2022. He believes that Ukrainians have made the final choice and the formation of a modern European nation is coming to an end in Ukraine. According to Golovakha, Ukrainians, in addition to consolidating themselves, are also consolidating the world, uniting it around democratic values. The scientist’s conclusion is unequivocal: we will come out of this war as a fully integrated European state and will have very good development prospects [8]. This idea is also supported by the director of the M. Ptukh Institute of Demography and Social Research, E. Libanova, who records the emergence of a completely different social portrait of a Ukrainian [9]. During the interview, Libanova lists five new features that make up this portrait. An important part of her analysis concerns immigrants from Ukraine. She stresses that the war caused Ukrainians a deep psychological trauma that deepens with each passing day, but at the same time, not surprisingly, it shaped a sense of unity and a need to unite.

I believe that these are only some of the events and phenomena that characterize contemporary Ukraine and are currently of unique scientific interest to sociologists and representatives of the social sciences and humanities in various countries. And we, Ukrainian scholars, invite our Polish colleagues to take part in discussions of the new social processes and phenomena we are witnessing today.

REFERENCES:

  1. Рощина, ПідтримкавійнипротиУкраїни в Росіїщебільшезросла – соціологи. [O. Roshchina, Support for war with Ukraine has further increased in Russia – sociologists] URL: https://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2022/03/23/7333901/
  2. Одобрение институтов, рейтинги партий и политиков. [Approval of institutions, ratings of parties and politicians] URL: https://www.levada.ru/2022/03/30/odobrenie-institutov-rejtingi-partij-i-politikov/
  3. Независимыесоциологи: 71% россияниспытываетгордостьиз-завойны с Украиной. [Independent sociologists: 71% of Russians are proud of war with Ukraine] URL: https://www.svoboda.org/a/nezavisimye-sotsiologi-71-rossiyan-ispytyvaet-gordostj-iz-za-voyny-s-ukrainoy/31757535.html?fbclid=IwAR2pPrGG–BIR98vu4W9S0BL5gyLDFxYS1ioMzro_vt-eUNJlGigh698N8E
  4. Єременко. 86.6% росіян підтримує збройне вторгнення РФ до інших країн Європи: результати соціологічного опитування. [A. Jeremenko. 86.6% of Russians support Russia’s armed invasion of other European countries: results of opinion poll] URL: https://activegroup.com.ua/2022/03/16/866-rosiyan/
  5. Четверте загальнонаціональнео питування українців в умовах війни (12-13 березня 2022). [Fourth nationwide survey of Ukrainians during the war (12-13 March 2022)] URL: https://ratinggroup.ua/research/ukraine/chetvertyy_obschenacionalnyy_opros_ukraincev_v_usloviyah_voyny_12-13_marta_2022_goda.html
  6. П’яте загальнонаціональнео питування українців в умовах війни (18 березня 2022). [Fifth nationwide survey of Ukrainians during the war (18 March 2022)] URL: https://ratinggroup.ua/research/ukraine/pyatyy_obschenacionalnyy_opros_ukraina_v_usloviyah_voyny_18_marta_2022.html
  7. Шостезагальнонаціональнеопитування: адаптаціяукраїнцівдоумоввійни (19 березня 2022). [Sixth nationwide survey: adaptation of the Ukrainians to the conditions of war (19 marca 2022)] URL: https://ratinggroup.ua/research/ukraine/shestoy_obschenacionalnyy_opros_adaptaciya_ukraincev_k_usloviyam_voyny_19_marta_2022.html
  8. Ткачук М. СоціологЄвгенГоловаха: Якщоминездамося – вийдемо з цієївійниабсолютноінтегрованоюєвропейськоюкраїною. [M. Tkachuk, Sociologist Eugene Golovakha : If we do not give up, we will come out of this war as a fully integrated European country] URL: https://novynarnia.com/2022/03/30/yegolovaha/
  9. Фещенко Р. Портрета бсолютно іншого українця. Інтерв’ю НВ ізпрофесоркоюЛібановоюпрокардинальнізміни в суспільстві. [R. Feshchenko, A portrait of a very different Ukrainian. NV interview with Professor Libanova on radical changes in society] URL: https://life.nv.ua/ukr/socium/viyna-v-ukrajini-yak-zminilosya-ukrajinske-suspilstvo-interv-yu-nv-z-elloyu-libanovoyu-50229900.html

Published by: Maria Kozan

6 May 2022

last modification: 6 May 2022