How Ukraine Has Changed Since Maidan
20 February, 2018

Four years ago, Ukrainians took to the streets with the aim returning their country to the path of European integration, ending police brutality and bureaucratic tyranny, and radically changing the system of power.  

In some ways, Ukraine has come a long way since the 2014 Euromaidan revolution. The old militia-style police was disbanded and replaced with a reformed National Police. Ukraine created specialized anti-corruption bodies, and reform followed in other sectors, including healthcare and education. The year 2017 finally saw the long-awaited ratification of the European Association Agreement, as well as the introduction of visa-free travel regime with the European Union.  

But Ukraine is also a country at war. The active conflict against Russia-led separatists in the country’s occupied eastern territories remains the top concern for many Ukrainians and continues to divide society. Moreover, progress has been slow in Ukraine. The lack of judicial reform, infighting within Ukraine’s new anti-corruption agencies, and the struggling economy have only added to rising frustration within Ukrainian society. 

What has really changed in the past four years? What changes does Ukrainian society now expect? What are the issues that divide and unite Ukrainians?

On the fourth anniversary of Revolution of Dignity, Hromadske spoke with Liana Novikova, a junior research analyst at Kyiv National Institute of Sociology, and Pavlo Burkovskyi, a political analyst in Democratic Initiatives Foundations, to discuss these questions.

We sat down with the director of the Institute for Demography and Social Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine Ella Libanova to discuss these questions. 

We have it to discuss if the Ukrainians are ready to protests with Liana Novikova who is the junior research analyst at Kyiv National Institute of Sociology and Pavlo Burkovskiy who is the political analyst in Democratic Initiatives Foundations. Thank you for coming and before we start, I would like to ask you to present the graph because while we are speaking that according to the data from service cabinet of Institutions of Sociology 40% of adult residents of Ukraine were willing to take part in protest actions compare to previous year, the level of protest readiness rose from 43 to 49% and it's probably shanked a bit, but can you explain us? So, how willing are the Ukrainians to protest s and why?

As we see, there is an increase and after that, a decline in readiness to protest and it's mainly due to the readiness to participate in the electional campaign to vote and in 2016 this increase was due to some discussion about the early parliamentary election. There was a massive discussion about this possibility but however there was no parliamentary election and the issue was silent and as a result, we can see that this level of readiness to protest has decreased. And the same time during 2016 and 2017 less and less people are ready to protest in such way of authorized rallies and demonstrations.

Photo credit: HROMADSKE

Petro, what are the concerns of the Ukrainians and also how would you describe that? Because recently there was a number of American publications where kind of speaking that Ukrainians are at the urge of another riot. How true is that?

As you've mentioned Americans let me recall the issue that was discussed in the Washington Post in 2017 on the day of the presidential elections. They said that there are 3 hottest issues in American parties. It's a guns, race and religion. Speaking about Ukraine I also could say that there are 3 hottest issues for Ukrainians - this is social injustice, impunity of politicians and the Russians threat. So there these are 3 main concerns that could mobilize people on the streets and that could trigger the massive protest but at the same time this issue could trigger a massive mobilisation, a positive mobilisation like one which we experienced in 2014 when a lot of people took part in the volunteery in helping the state to cope with this threats.

I would like also to bring another graph where it explains what kind of the political participation people are ready to undergo. So it's about the election campaign its collect signatures. There are authorized rallies but its rather small figures. So, can you comment?

As I said this choice of authorised rallies and demonstrations decreased during past 2 years and people are quite tired and although there is very low level of trust to the parliament and to the President in society it's quite impossible that without some trigger and massive potential impulse there was hardly possible a new protest, new big rally or new Revolution.

Photo credit: HROMADSKE

Would you agree on that is also we discussed that the economic situation is not that good and all other research show that there are other people feel insecure because of the inflation and the other issue and from time to time we hear the news, that every Sunday there are the protests and everything connected to Mr. Saakashvili. Our foreign partners are always looking the same. Is it serious? How big is that?

If you speak about public opinion it figures could be deceptive. If you just return back to the previous slide, you will see that there a number of the protest sentiments was quite low in September 2013, it was just 2 months before the beginning of the Euromaidan. It's just a general picture. If you want to know where the society is moving whether it's a beginning of stop tolerating social injustice or the Impunity or Russian threat, you should make more specialized public opinion posts. If you speak about this digit, I would say that actually there is no sense to worry about. So, yes protest sentiments are quite high but at the same time, it doesn't mean that we are on  the age of some major disruption.

Where is the place of the entire corruption? And to what extent this is the trigger and what do people mean by that?

Corruption is of course the main problem and main issue which is discussed and which worries many people. We live with that, people live with that and maybe it's not enough for us to protest against corruption in such way. Maybe people tend to believe that some peaceful ways of protest will be useful against corruption. Not such ways as rallies and demonstrations.

Photo credit: HROMADSKE

If you allow me to say a few words, in my opinion, corruption is the issue where the social injustice needs the impunity of politicians. I would say that it's like a molot of cocktail and if it really starts steering, we can again see people that would throw the real molot of cocktails to the buildings of politicians, who really involved in corruption. There is also a threat that there is people who participated in the military conflict and these people have very sharp sense of injustice and they really have a resentment towards the people whom they protected and who really don't do what they have to do, they had to change the country and they didn't  meet their commitments.

In fact, there is a huge concern always because this kind of the people especially the weapon and the people who used to fight they extremely? There are the little people who.. not somebody significant who would be ready to protest with using the weapon. Is it the question asked and what are the figures on that if you speak about that or just people are very cautions on speaking that way?

But you know this question is now more and more discussive in mass media and in the society. Maybe it would be useful sociologists and for society to ask about it.

Photo credit: HROMADSKE

I would have the same question but also the following on that we would have the Presidential election in a year. Is it the case that in that period of time that people are not going to do something significant because they know that they what they are saying rather soon?

If you look at the ukrainians and how they behave on the elections our nation is very responsible. If there is a chance that people believe that the elections would be free and fair that  would rather take bailouts not arms. But here there is a threat that vote would be fixed then people could start thinking other ways to protect their right to democracy.