I found some interesting numbers in one of the past waves of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) Omnibus survey.

In the September 2015 wave (specifically from September 9 to September 24, for anyone wanting that level of detail), KIIS asked more than 2,000 Ukrainians in face-to-face interviews:

  • Would you like to see your oblast secede from Ukraine and become an independent state?
  • Would you like to see your oblast secede from Ukraine and join another state?

KIIS interviewed in all Ukrainian-government controlled areas of Ukraine; they didn’t interview in Crimea or in the “LNR,” though they did interview in the “DNR” (they no longer do). For the overall Ukraine and regional numbers I’m only including Ukrainian government-controlled areas – I talk about the “DNR” numbers towards the end of this piece.

The resounding answer to both these questions? No – fewer than 2% of Ukrainians are interested in their oblast seceding and becoming an independent state or joining another state.

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Well then.

The regional splits are pretty interesting, with western Ukrainians leading the very-small-number separatist brigade (4% for both questions) and eastern Ukrainians at the head of the slightly-larger-but-still-not-very-big crew of those who are ambivalent about separatism (11% for both questions). Boring graphs below.

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I’ll draw your attention to the fact that the overwhelming majority of people in eastern Ukraine (that is, Kharkiv oblast and the Ukrainian government-controlled parts of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts) state that they don’t want their oblast to secede and become either an independent state (88%) or join another state (85%).

Looking at some of the numbers by oblast is more striking, even when taking the small sample sizes into consideration.

Re: becoming an independent state:

  • Just under 9% of people in Zakarpattia (far western Ukraine, bordering Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania) said they’d like to see their oblast secede from Ukraine and become an independent state – the most of any oblast. There isn’t a particularly large sample size here but given what I know about the history, politics and demographics of Zakarpattia I’m not surprised to see higher than other oblasts.
  • Only 3% of people in Odessa oblast and in both Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts (reminder, only the Ukrainian government-controlled parts) said they’d like to see their oblast secede from Ukraine and become an independent state.
  • Exactly 0.00% of people in Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Zaporizhia and Sumy oblasts said they wanted to see their oblast become an independent state. Anyone wondering about the digits past the first two decimal points there should be advised it’s an infinite string of zeroes.

Re: joining another state:

  • Like above, just under 12% of people in Zakarpattia said they’d like to see their oblast secede from Ukraine and join another state. Again, the most of any oblast and not surprising.
  • Just over 6% of people in Donetsk oblast and 5% in Luhansk oblast (again, only the Ukrainian government-controlled parts) said they’d like to secede from Ukraine and join another state. Remember, the other parts of these oblasts are occupied by ostensibly separatist statelets…
  • More than 3% of people in Zaporizhia oblast, less than one percent of people in Dnipro and Kharkiv oblasts and a round 0.00% of people in Chernihiv and Sumy oblasts said they wanted to see their oblast join another state.

But what of separatism in the apparently separatist “DNR”? As I pointed out a few months ago, polling and surveying in a place the “DNR” can’t possibly be easy. I can only imagine how bad social desirability bias (“the tendency of [respondents] to give socially desirable responses instead of choosing responses that are reflective of their true feelings”) might be in an globally-unrecognized puppet state with a laundry list of human rights abuses to its name. It’s likely one of the main reasons no one, as far as I know, tries to do surveys there anymore.

So what did people in the “DNR” have to say about separatism compared to their Ukrainian government-controlled Donetsk oblast brethren across the “ceasefire” line?

As you can see below, the numbers are pretty different; they suggest a plurality in the “DNR” is in favour of becoming an independent state, but are equally split when it comes to joining another state (can’t imagine what other state they were thinking of).

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Even if – if ­– these numbers actually reflect how residents of the “DNR” feel, it’s far from a ringing endorsement of separatism, especially when you consider the level of Ukraine-crucifies-children-level propaganda people there have been hit with over the past two years. And the same percentages of people say yes and no when they’re asked if they want to secede from Ukraine and join another state? Hardly confident numbers for an entity that already considers itself a “separatist” state.

Of course, this all assumes that there are next to no issues with social desirability bias there at all, that respondents definitely wouldn’t feel pressured to say certain things to a stranger in a fiefdom where they could be thrown “in the cellar” for being critical of the regime. OK.

Looking for a popular secessionist movement? You’re better off coming to see me than going to Ukraine.

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