The second Gorshenin Institute's Annual Social Reserch Program "Ukrainian statehood" is an invitation to reflect together on the future of Ukraine.
In the course of 2008 we have been studying the mood, feelings and views dominating in the Ukrainian society with regard to Ukraine's potential, capabilities and its future.
We asked Ukrainian citizens in all 25 regions what they think about such issues as land, army, foreign policy, language, education, development of modern technologies.
We asked them what kind of country they would be comfortable to live in.
Ukraine has come about as a state and society. However, after the years of Independence the country hasn‘t become a self-sufliciant player on the international arena. Besides, Ukrainian government has not managed yet to establish constructive dialogue with its own citizens. The Ukrainians still have negative attitude towards state institutions, blaming them for not caring for real interests ofthe people and rather focusing on race for power and weaith.
Ukrainians' apprehension of their Motheriand as an entity is reflected in preference of the unitary state expressed by the dominating majority.
Ukrainians have not decided yet what path Ukraine should take and what strategic partner to choose - Russia or the West. The geopolitical choice the people are facing - is conditioned by different historical and territorial models of perception of the Russian and Western worlds. One of the models rests upon Soviet stereotypes that treated the West as a potential aggressor; the other one incorporates the image of the West as the big brother and protector.
Today Ukrainians‘ geopolitical aspirations are formed against the backdrop of negative expectations of Russia. Those concerns make more and more people look westwards and thus are reflected in decrease of Russian influence in favor of the EU.
During the last years the need for mutual economic cooperation has gradually overcome the stereotypes of the past. Ukrainians realize that it will take a long time before Russia stops being its main strategic partner to cooperate with and to take into account. However, the European Union attracts more and more Ukrainians by high-paying jobs and visa-free travel possibilities.
This tendency remains even in spite of increasing number of the EU sympathizers. Ukrainians gravitate to neutralism in both - political and military spheres. In defiance of their criticism towards the national army, being - in their opinion - unable to protect Ukraine in case of a military or economic threat from abroad (primarily from Russia), people still feel negative about any military cooperation with other countries as they presume it to pose a threat no territorial independence of Ukraine. On the other hand, they like cooperation in military exercises, peace and humanitarian missions and regard positively any assistance in modernization of their army.
77% of people have felt hardship caused by the crisis in late November 2008. Prices hikes and exchange fluctuations have shattered material well-being of Ukrainians. The crisis' main consequence is a sharp decline in standards of living. However, the situation has made people to manage their finances more rationally.
The crisis has hit not only the poorest citlzens but also those who used to feel rather confident about their income. That is why more and more Ukrainians have to ask for assistance from the state.
The research shows that current social security mechanisms display their inefficiency against the backdrop of the crisis. This especially effects retirement system.
Permanent political crises and inability of political forces to meet them in a rational cooperation have led to the loss of credibility towards all official institutions and increased public disaffection. Political and economical troubles, chaos in the system of law, corruption and living at poverty line, cause criticism regarding the authorities - both central and local.
Ukrainians see corruption as an integral part of their society. Besides they accept corruption as the "matter of fact" phenomenon. Overwhelming majority of people would bribe an officlal to obtain a favorable solution. The most corrupt among state structures - according to Ukrainians - are courts and law-enforcement bodies. This reinforces peoples' feelings of defenselessness. Ukrainians feel anxious for their health or property, they are not sure if they become a victim of a crime a guiity party will be punished. They claim “Law of the fittest" has replaced juctice in Ukrainian judicial system.
Mistrust in authorities and lack of civility in political parties - are the key factors for shaping of positive public attitude towards majoritarian electoral system. The proportional system does not satisfy voters who want to elect certain individuals able to take personal responsibility.
Most of the respondents do not see land as commodity for sale. Moreover, they want it: to be returned into the state ownership. They feel even more negative towards mere possibility to sell land to foreign citizens and companies. Ukrainians fear that foreigners wil buy all Ukrainian land and locals will not be able to work on it.
At the moment there is no single strategy for urban development. Former soviet methods proved to be archaic, but none of the new ones changed the status quo. Both state and citizens show conservatism as they designate modern development trends by old soviet principal of obligatory connection of residential centers to industrial of agricultural facilities. Meanwhile, more than half of Ukrainians living in rural areas say their towns/villages are not developing at all.