Saturday, October 18, 2014

RFE/RL: Most of Ukraine's ethnic Russians are loyal to Ukraine (PODCAST)

Here's a summary of this podcast:

  • According to one poll, 87 percent of residents in heavily ethnic Russian regions Kharkiv and Odesa want to be part of Ukraine. Only 5 percent want to be part of Russia or "Novorossiya."
  • 50 percent say their opinion of Russia has gotten worse.
  • 56 percent now have negative views of Russia's president Vladimir Putin.
  • Twice as many want Ukraine's future to be with Europe than with Russia.
  • Meanwhile, 70 percent of Ukrainians say their native language is Ukrainian, even if they don't speak "fluent" Ukrainian.  61 percent say they speak Russian and Ukrainian "equally well."
  • The two big exceptions are Crimea and Donbas, where residents still prefer vertikalnuiu vlast' (vertical power), where they feel more powerless and want to be part of a paternalistic (Soviet) state that takes care of them. It's both cultural and economic that they want a strong state to take care of them. Both Crimea and Donbas, significantly, are filled with forced emigres from Soviet Russia,  but many more in Donbas.
  • Umland notes that Crimea is different because it has a majority of ethnic Russians, and between 40 and 60 percent indeed wanted to become part of Russia. (Minus Crimean Tatars). But Natalya Churikova notes that in 2013, before the Maidan revolution and Russian propaganda took hold, about 10 percent of Crimeans said they wanted to become part of Russia.\
  • Indeed, the Russian citizen, FSB officer and pro-Russian military insurgent leader Igor Girkin once complained that he couldn't find enough local volunteers in Ukraine to fight for the insurgency against Ukraine. He needed Russian troops and materiel. 
  • And as both Umland and Churikova posit, Ukrainians in "Russian" cities such as Odesa, Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk refuse to be "reduced" to ethno-linguistic minorities or majorities; rather, (in addition to any patriotic feelings toward Ukraine), they look to what country or system offers them greater opportunities for political and self-expression. And Ukraine wins. They don't want to be part of "Putin's Russia" where "the state tells you what to do." 
  • People in Crimea and Donbas, by contrast, argues Churikova, still think of Russia as Soviet Russia, and expect certain economic and social guarantees from it that, alas, will probably not be forthcoming, if Russian-controlled Crimea is any guide. Indeed, in Donbas so many were dependent on state employment and state subsidies that they had no sense of agency; they are turning to the side that seems more powerful, more capable of providing for them.
  • Meanwhile, a week from Sunday, Ukrainians will vote for a new Parliament (Rada). But Donbas and Luhansk will probably not be represented for security and practical reasons. And so a "core Ukraine" with more Western values will have a stronger voice in Ukraine's new legislature. Hence, one could argue that Putin has done a lot to make Ukraine, politically, more pro-European and pro-Western! This tendency underscores that Putin's only real option now is to continue with a separatist gambit through military intervention, since Putin has succeeded, through military action, in turning most Ukrainians against him (and Russia).  
  • Sadly, Ukraine's politicians and parties are lagging behind the progress of Ukraine's citizens and civil society. But without Russian meddling, this will change. 
  • Umland and Churikova both agree that the language issue (Ukrainian vs. Russian) is an artificial one. For official state documents Ukrainian will remain the official language. And where most people speak Russian, as before Russian will be continued to be used and taught in schools, regardless of what the law says.
  • ... As for the eastern Ukrainian oligarchs? The fact that the Akhmetov clan has seemed  to have very little influence in Donbas implies  that the pro-Russian insurgents, who are largely outsiders without any local constituency, must have enjoyed extraordinary support from Russia.
  • ... Finally, Whitmore asked Umland and Churikova to speculate what will happen to Russia when, not if, Ukraine "gets to the West." Umland said that Putin "wants the Ukrainian experiment to fail" to discredit Ukraine's push to the West. And Umland thinks Putin is miscalculating that the EU would allow a destabilized Ukraine that could send thousands or even millions of refugees to the EU. Europe won't allow it. Churikova said that now in Russia "Ukraine means freedom" in all post-Soviet states and Putin will not allow it to spread; but it's a question whether Putin will direct all his forces to stop its spread. And what will happen when, and if, the Russian population "sobers up?" 

No comments: