A look at some pre-День незалежності surveys

A look at some pre-День незалежності surveys

Data from two big surveys has come out right before Ukraine’s Independence Day on August 24.

Both surveys only spoke to residents of territories currently controlled by the Ukrainian government (i.e., no one from Crimea or the “DNR/LNR” took part).

I’ve taken a look at both of them and made some notes and some stunningly mediocre Word charts.

The future of Ukraine

When it comes to what they feel about the future of their country, it’s a mixed bag of emotions for Ukrainians.

While almost half (44%) of Ukrainians in the June/July poll said that felt hope when they think about the future of Ukraine, almost as many (38%) said they felt anxiety while almost one in four (23%) said they felt fear for their country’s future.

These emotions have changed over the last ten years. Not surprisingly, anxiety is higher now than it was before 2013 (though it’s flattened out a bit since then) and fear for the future of Ukraine is higher, though this has been relatively stable since 2013.

future UA
Graph: Michael Colborne

The regional breakdowns are pretty interesting and run a little bit counter to what I was expecting:

  • Hope for the future of Ukraine is highest in Donbas (Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, in government-controlled Ukraine) at 56%, but lowest right next door in eastern oblasts (Dnipro, Zaporizhia and Kharkiv oblasts) at 38%.
    • So the most hopeful Ukrainians are the ones closest to – and living in – a war zone?
  • Optimism about the future of Ukraine is lowest in Donbas (9%) and highest in central Ukraine (26%).
    • People in Donbas, it seems, are hopeful but not too optimistic about the future.
  • Anxiety is highest in eastern oblasts (44%) and Donbas (40%) but lowest in central Ukraine (31%)
  • Fear is also higher in eastern oblasts (30%) and southern Ukraine (25%) but lowest in western Ukraine (19%), central Ukraine (21%) and 22% in Donbas.

The age breakdowns weren’t that noteworthy IMO – have a look for yourself. I’d like to see breakdowns and analysis for other factors, like socio-economic status, rural/urban, level of education, employment status, etc., etc., etc.

The status of Russian in Ukraine?

Support for the Russian language having official status in Ukraine dropped to its lowest level ever in this series of surveys (30%).

RU lang
Graph: Michael Colborne

They didn’t provide any breakdowns for this, but I suspect the regional one would be in part what we’d expect (e.g., higher support in eastern Ukraine/Donbas), as well as with older Ukrainians.

Changing social attitudes (and some that change, then quickly change back)

While Ukrainian attitudes towards introducing the death penalty and isolating people with AIDS (!!) have declined since 1991, the same can’t be said for disapproval of premarital sex, homosexuality and the influence of western culture. While disapproval of premarital sex and the influence of western culture are largely the same as they were in 1991, barely over a quarter (27%) of Ukrainians think homosexuals should be treated equally, compared to 34% at the time of Ukraine’s independence.

social attitudes
Graph: Michael Colborne

There was only one regional breakdown given for these questions: western culture was more likely to be perceived as a negative influence in Donbas (49%), southern Ukraine (43%) and eastern Ukraine (39%) than in central Ukraine (29%) or western Ukraine (14%).

This Stalin guy again

Lastly, some Ukrainians still seem to like this Stalin guy, but the love has dropped off to 1991 levels – less than a third (30%) of Ukrainians think that Stalin was a great leader.

Graph: Michael Colborne

The regional breakdown is what I’d expect based on previous Stalin questions, save for Donbas. Almost half (46%) of people in eastern Ukraine thought Stalin was a great leader, compared to 43% in southern Ukraine, 31% in central Ukraine, 20% in Donbas and 13% in central Ukraine.

Still, I’d want to look deeper into the data, particularly at age, socio-economic status, other attitudes, etc., before painting almost half of eastern Ukraine with a broad fond-of-Stalin brush. It’s obviously beyond the scope of this survey but I’d also like to hear from some of these people themselves about why they think Stalin was a great leader. Soviet nostalgia? The feeling that Ukraine needs a super-strong leader in turbulent times? Propaganda?


In conclusion, Ukraine is a land of contrasts. Thank you.

Seriously though, the overarching conclusion I’d draw is this: whatever direction attitudes in post-Maidan Ukraine are moving, we need to dig deeper into data like this to really understand why. Four or five-way regional breakdowns aren’t going to cut it.

Some reflections on KyivPride2016

Some reflections on KyivPride2016

This is my small act of straight-ally solidarity with my LGBT brothers, sisters, friends and family – my account of Kyiv’s Pride march and an attempt to spread some good news after yesterday’s unspeakable act of homophobic violence in Orlando.


What a difference a year makes.

Last year’s Kyiv Pride march was attended by a few hundred brave souls, who were met in Kyiv’s northern suburbs by far-right thugs wielding fists, flares and even firecrackers packed with nails.

This year looked like it was shaping up to be much of the same. A few months ago one far-right leader publicly called for participants to be killed. Another one promised a few weeks ago that the Pride march was going to be a “bloodbath.”

It wasn’t.

Thanks to organizers, who worked with local and national governments to arrange for more than 6,000 police officers and national guards to protect the more than 1,500 marchers, Kyiv’s Pride march in the city centre on Sunday was safe.

Riot police, shields on standby, and national guardsmen held a perimeter around a few blocks of the city, including around the leafy sprawl of Shevchenko Park. Metal detectors framed the few entrances to the interior, pat-downs and bag checks greeting you before you could get inside.

One of the entrances

If there was any nervous tension before the march started, I certainly didn’t feel it.

There were a handful of anti-gay protesters inside the perimeter, a few off to the side holding signs like “No to gay propaganda in Ukraine,” like you might see from a street preacher or someone in an American or Canadian city.

To their credit, they weren’t getting in anyone’s face. No one was getting in theirs. When I did see and hear discussions between marchers and anti-gay activists like them – I deliberately use the term “discussions” here – they weren’t particularly tense or loud.

You know when you’re overhearing an argument and you think “damn, this might escalate”? Not here. I’ve heard angrier arguments at baseball games.

Some of the anti-gay protesters inside the perimeter

I recall two disruptive protesters in total getting bundled away. One got carried off fifteen or twenty minutes before the march started, followed by hordes of journos with cameras (not me, because I was too slow). Another got surrounded nearer to when the march was about to start, shouting something about ‘пидорасы’ (‘faggots’), which is a surefire way to get yourself justifiably bundled away from a gay-friendly event.

As the cops flanked the march and it started to inch forward, the aforementioned handful of anti-gay protesters got shuffled off to the side by the cops, out of the way, tossing a few anti-gay fliers into the air like oversized confetti.

police line
The police line, the march about to start

The marchers themselves were a mix of LGBT Ukrainians, allies and friends. A few Ukrainian MPs (more than last year), a German MEP, foreign ambassadors and embassy staff, families with children and even two fighters from the Aidar battalion.

With drums beating the march made its way to the corner, taking a left at Lva Tolstoho (Leo Tolstoy) and started to make its way down the hill (for the uninitiated, Kyiv has way, way too many hills).

Drums kept beating. Cheers and chants kept coming. A few people looked on from their balconies and behind storefronts, looking more…well, curious than anything else.

After about twenty minutes the march made it to the bottom of the street, to Lva Tolstoho square, and that was that.

Velyka Vasylevska street was fenced off at both its north and south ends, with cops and national guards holding fort against a handful of demonstrators and far-right thugs waiting outside.

bottom of lva tolstoho
Lva Tolstoho square

The square itself was full of buses waiting to ferry marchers out of the city centre to safety, and the metro was ready with special cars to shuttle other marchers away to a station in the southwest of the city.

bus guard
Police guarding buses to ferry away marchers

I was on one of these cars, each one guarded by a pair of police officers in full face shields who, at least in my car, made people feel safe enough to belt out an impromptu rendition of the Ukrainian national anthem as the doors slid shut.

I eventually made my way back into the city centre. Just as the march organizers had warned, there were a few far-right thugs roaming around central Kyiv looking for a fight. Outside the entrances to Teatralna station at Pushkinska and Bohdana Khmelnytskoho, a few anti-gay protesters (peaceful, from what I could see) were holding court with banners.

Anti-gay protesters by Teatralna station. “Papa, Mama, children, home / Ukraine is not Sodom!”

Across on another corner maybe ten far-right thugs stood around, one wearing a ‘Misanthropic Division’ t-shirt, the same gang/hooligan firm/what-have-you that violently broke up Lviv’s equality festival in March. Right around the corner from them was a (larger) group of cops on the ready. I didn’t stick around much longer, but if these barely-out-of-high-school-looking kids with tattoos found trouble, it was likely with them.

Since yesterday I’ve only heard about a few instances of violence after the march, though I know how much of an issue under-reporting of anti-LGBT violence is in this country.

I know it’s going to take a while for the LGBT community to build a proper home in Ukraine. Progress on LGBT rights here isn’t going to come overnight, and I know it’s not going to come without its share of heartbreak.

But yesterday I saw some brave people building that foundation. And when I hear that LGBT Ukrainians are happily telling journalists things like “I feel like I’ve been given a voice,” I think – even as a naïve straight guy from the suburbs – that I’m right to feel optimistic.

Ironically (and sadly) enough, I think President Obama described it best yesterday, when he said that Orlando’s Pulse is more than just a club – it is:

“a place of solidarity and empowerment, where people have come together to raise awareness to speak their minds and to advocate for their civil rights.”

Feels like he could have just as easily been describing KyivPride2016.