Russian has long
As days ago millions of Ukrainians headed to the polls for the third time this year for parliamentary elections, political scientist Olga Onuch argued that language alone does not drive all behaviors and people’s voting preferences.
“The language that [people] use at home, that’s
That pattern, she says, has
Language, undeniably, has at least partially shaped the conversation about national identity. The Kremlin has for a long time claimed that language formed part of the reason for the conflict in the east. Some analysts have claimed that language plays a role in shaping political preferences too.
But Onuch says those that say Ukraine is a country divided by
But patriotism is very strong among those who speak and identity ethnically as Russian too, she added.
“It’s worth exploring those groups a
In April, to Moscow’s ire, Ukraine’s parliament passed a language law, which is
READ MORE: Ukraine's New Language Law, Explained
Onuch says that showed that Poroshenko’s team wasn’t in touch with the population.
“It was about this patriotic, militarist message. It was something
“And focusing on what is a rather restrictive language policy, for instance, was a mistake in the campaign. Tomos - that was very important but perhaps it wasn’t a smart strategy for a political campaign year.”
She said a big problem was that previous politicians - namely the former president - weren’t focusing “on the bread and butter issues.”
“In the last five years a majority of Ukrainians got poorer. People, especially in the south and east are having a harder time just getting by,” she said.
“You can still have a very poor region in the west but perhaps it’s more equal than a region in the south or east. And it’s that inequality and that feeling of inequality that can drive dissatisfaction with certain things or can connect people to certain political preferences.”
She said another important factor is “the feeling that one was a loser of transition”, meaning the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Donbas, for example, saw a huge economic downturn in the years that followed. Today,
“If they perceive themselves as economic or political losers of that transition... they have certain views on the conflict,” Onuch said. “They are less likely to support NATO, they are less likely to support European association..
She said these are
“We keep focusing on language and we want to simplify Ukraine, draw this awful neat line that separates the country into two spaces,” she said. “It hasn’t been that way for a while.”