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European Council on Foreign Relations | 21May2015 | Andrew Wilson et al [10 essays]
What does Ukraine think?
With the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the Donbas,
the EU needs more than ever to understand what Ukrainians themselves
think about their future. In What does Ukraine think?, edited
by Andrew Wilson, the authors argue that too much of the debate and the
diplomacy in the current crisis has been conducted without Ukraine.
This volume allows leading Ukrainian experts -- among whom
Sergii Leshchenko, Anton Shekhovtsov, and Andrey Kurkov -- to put
forward their own point of view, giving a flavour of local debates in
the terms and frames of reference that Ukrainians use. ECFR is
delighted to give a platform for what Ukrainians call the “direct
voice” of participants themselves.
The essay collection contains four sets of papers:
- on Ukraine in a time
of war and revolution
- on the political
situation and the war in the east
- on Ukraine’s changing
national identity and regional dynamics
- and on the
difficulties of implementing much-needed reforms under conditions of war
Andrew Wilson says: “Ukrainian writers, thinkers
and politicians discuss the challenges of the war with Russia and of
attempting simultaneously to rescue and reform a moribund economy. Many
take heart from the claim that the new Ukraine is paradoxically
consolidating under so much Russian pressure. Without, for
the time being at least, Crimea and half of the Donbas region, the
other eastern and southern regions of Ukraine are supposedly uniting
behind Kyiv -- making Putin a paradoxical Ukrainian
nation-builder. The authors discuss the nature of the Russian
challenge and the Western response, and report
from key Ukrainian regions like Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk to
test just how united the new Ukraine really is.”
Although full text of the 10 essays is available in the pdf file; the
short snippets reproduced below indicate the gist of each essay.]
"Throughout Ukraine’s independent history, both in Crimea and in the
Donbas region, local politicians and the business elite have wielded
more influence than their counterparts in Kyiv, and those politicians
and business leaders have spared no cost or effort in trying to
convince the local population that the politicians in Kyiv and western
Ukraine were not only corrupt, but also openly fascist."
to Russian propaganda about Ukrainian fascism, Ukrainian society is
more tolerant of diversity than it used to be; it is Russia that is
expressing a narrow, post-imperial, and Orthodox fundamentalism."
- "The sociologists Tatiana Zhurzhenko and Tanya Zaharchenko, on the
other hand, describe how another key border region to the Donbas, the
old Soviet Ukrainian capital of Kharkiv, has only partly overcome its
past as an ambiguous borderland."
- " Moves to tackle corruption, reform the economy, and clean up
Ukrainian politics will be frustrated until the underlying question of
oligarchic power is tackled."
POLITICS AND NATIONAL IDENTITY
Olexsiy Haran and Petro Burkovsky
Ukraine after the Minsk
- On 20Jun2014, "a few days after the presidential election in Ukraine,
emissaries from the Kremlin approached president-elect Petro Poroshenko
to demand that the Ukrainian armed forces declare a unilateral
The EU insisted on this ceasefire. This 10-day ceasefire was a huge
mistake, since it allowed the separatists time to spread their control
to outlying areas, which the volunteer battalions could have easily
- "Only if and when the West decides to rearm Ukraine, at the same time
as increasing sanctions, will Russia have to re-evaluate the cost of
the conflict and the separatists be deterred and prevented from
breaking the armistice in order to take new territory and move further
Poaching, simmering, and
boiling: The declining relevance of identity discourse in Ukraine
- "During the 1990s and at the beginning of the 2000s, language was
part of political identity. If you spoke Ukrainian, you were most
probably against the Kuchma regime."
- "For many, 30 November and 1 December , the days when
protesters occupied the city centre, represented the beginning of a
personal transformation. People who had never been politically active
made a huge jump from their private, normal worlds into something new,
strange, and intense."
- "Few people in Ukraine could imagine just a few years ago that the
core of newborn Ukrainian nationalism would be Dnipropetrovsk, the city
of Russian-speakers, proud of its glorious Soviet past."
[Hrytsak outlines the evolution of Ukrainian identity from the views of
Lypynsky vs Dontsov/Bandera since WWI, the civic model accepted by Rukh
in 1989, the oligarchization during the Kuchma era (1994-2004), the
Ukrainianization of the Yushchenko era (2004-2010), and the dictatorial
Yanukovych era (2010-2014).]
- "the strongest support for military action against the Donbas was in
the neighbouring Russian-speaking region of Dnipropetrovsk. Future
developments will depend to a large extent on the position of two other
Russian-speaking cities, Odessa and Kharkiv."
THE VIEW FROM THE REGIONS
Borderlands: The end of ambiguity?
- "In the October 2014 parliamentary elections, Kharkiv emerged as a
stronghold of the pro-Russian Opposition Bloc, which also did well in
Zaporizhzhya, Mariupol, Kryvyi Rih, and even Dnipropetrovsk. A recent
opinion poll demonstrates that, despite the city’s proximity to the
military conflict, only 6.9 percent of people in Kharkiv see the
fighting as a war between Russia and Ukraine, compared to 39.6 percent
- "The pro-Russian group Oplot and the Ukrainian far-right group
Patriot Ukraїny both emerged in Kharkiv, long before the outbreak of
violence in 2013–2014."
- "The war in the Donbas has become a new rupture in contemporary
Ukrainian history, a point of crystallisation for identities,
discourses, and narratives for decades to come."
East Ukraine Beyond Pro
and Anti: Monochrome Prefixes and Their Discontents
- "My own Russophone friends and family in east Ukraine have been less
than supportive about my decision to accept a 12-month postdoctoral
fellowship in St Petersburg. And the region (and Kharkiv in particular)
has seen massive volunteering efforts in support of the Ukrainian army."
- "In the “general south-east” cited by this survey, only 8.4 percent
of respondents agree that “Ukraine and Russia should unite into one
- "... Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann described several decades ago as a
“spiral of silence”, in her attempt to explain why some groups stay
quiet on a particular issue, while others are more vocal."
“The Heart of Ukraine”?
Dnipropetrovsk and the Ukrainian Revolution
- "The transformation of Dnipropetrovsk into “the heart of Ukraine”
cannot be reduced only to the activities of the governor-oligarch
Kolomoisky and the Privat group, although it is connected to them in
many ways. Kolomoisky and his team were able to fill the local power
vacuum after the Maidan unrest."
- "It was in Dnipropetrovsk that
Ukrainian political nationalism has manifested itself most clearly --
the kind of nationalism that does not involve the abandonment of
Russian language or identity."
UKRAINE -- RHETORIC AND
Russia, zoopolitics, and
- "Russia’s national coat of arms depicts an eagle with two heads.
Russian propaganda, too, is a two-headed beast. A two-faced Janus, it
looks in opposing directions, and its contradictory directions show
that there is no solid ideological basis for a new Russian project."
- "Russia, on the other hand, operates according to a “lose-lose”
logic." ... "So, your primary goal must be to kill, so as not to be
killed; to eat, in order not to be eaten."
-"If Russia sees itself not as a country or a nation, but as a specific
civilisation, it can present itself as an alternative to Western
- "The self-proclaimed states of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the
Luhansk People’s Republic, Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia
are the bomb states that Russia throws out, and their only raison d’Ítre is to
The spectre of Ukrainian
“fascism”: information wars, political manipulation, and reality
- "The Kremlin’s focus on the Ukrainian far right and its allegedly
dominant role in the 2014 revolution was part of an information war
intended to delegitimise the opposition to Yanukovych’s regime and,
later, the new Ukrainian authorities."
- Far-right parties and organisations were often exploited in different
political games, either as “scarecrow” parties or fake opposition, or
as private “security firms” employed by more powerful political actors."
CAN UKRAINE REFORM?
Do Ukrainians want reform?
- "Reform agenda-setters: government, civil society, and the West."
- "Sociological data confirms that the elite and the public do not
share the same reform agenda."
- "The most popular choices were: scrapping MPs’ immunity (58 percent),
raising salaries and pensions (51 percent), and scrapping immunity for
judges (48.3 percent) and for the president (34.4 percent)."
- "The anti-oligarch movement was also stopped as the oligarchs came to
be seen as allies of the state in the war with Russia."
- "Ironically, Ukraine is still a long way from creating the kind of
democratic model that the Kremlin clearly fears."
Sunset and/or Sunrise of
the Ukrainian oligarchs after the Maidan?
- "Despite the country’s Revolution of Dignity and continued Russian
aggression against Ukraine, local oligarchs have become even more
powerful and influential, and pose a significant threat to Ukraine’s
European development. Oligarchs control the state apparatus, mass
media, and whole sectors of industry."
- "... the traditional oligarchs, who had to share their profits with
Yanukovych. Rinat Akhmetov, for instance, was granted control of
metallurgy and energy, Igor Kolomoisky had the oil industry, and Dmitry
Firtash and Sergei Levochkin controlled the gas, chemical, and titanium
- "This unofficial pact prevented the eradication of the clans’
wealth-generating systems, traditionally powered by corruption,
conspiracy, and crushing competition."
- "... the EU imposed sanctions against 18 individuals who embodied the
old regime." ... "Interestingly, none of the influential oligarchs who
accumulated wealth during Yanukovych’s reign were on the list."
- "Even with Yanukovych’s people removed from their posts, corrupt
courts of justice have continued to pass judgement in the former
president’s favour: ..."
- "Compared to 2014, Akhmetov’s influence in parliament has
considerably decreased." ... "Some of his long-term allies have
defected to the clan of his rival, Ihor Kolomoisky." ... "Today, the
oligarch’s main resource is his good relationship with Prime Minister
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who has taken no steps in the past year to limit
Akhmetov’s voracious appetite."
- [Dmytro Firtash was arrested in Austria at U.S. request, was released
on 125 million Euro bail, but U.S. extradition request was denied by
- "Meanwhile, Firtash continues to wield control over two dozen
deputies, including his close business partners, Sergei Levochkin and
his sister Yuliya Levochkina, Yuriy Boyko, and Ivan Fursin."
- "Ihor Kolomoisky’s clan significantly increased its sphere of
influence after Yanukovych’s fall." ... "Kolomoisky was one of the main
beneficiaries of Yanukovych’s regime and even attended the former
president’s private birthday celebrations." ... "Kolomoisky has, in
other words, been prevented from grabbing even more power; but it is
still a key member of the oligarch system which survives intact."
- "This last decade has seen the almost invisible emergence of a new
breed of oligarchs in the agrarian sector."
- "The oligarchs’ financial influence over politics must be removed."
... "Financing parties from the state budget and limiting political
advertising would be a start, ..." ... "Ukraine should, therefore,
create a public state television channel, ..."
- "Equally important is the reform of justice, ..."
- "Therefore, including anti-oligarchic measures in a reform package
might well be the greatest service that European institutions could
provide to Ukraine."
About the authors
is an analyst at the National Institute for Strategic
Studies and coordinator of security programmes at the School for
Policy Analysis, Kyiv Mohyla University.
is a journalist, writer and Executive editor for
Krytyka Journal and Critical Solutions, an online media project.
Olexiy Haran is professor of Comparative Politics and Founding
Director of the School for Policy Analysis, Kyiv Mohyla University.
is a Ukrainian historian and essayist, a professor
at the Ukrainian Catholic University (Lviv), and author of several
publications on modern Ukraianian history.
is a Ukrainian novelist, author of 18 novels and
most recently Ukraine Diaries (2014), a first-hand account of the
EuroMaidan, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the uprisings in the
is a member of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
Previously he was an investigative and political journalist and deputy
editor-in-chief of Ukrainska Pravda.
is a Ukrainian historian and essayist. He is
currently a visiting professor at the Humboldt University in Berlin.
Anton Shekhovtsov is a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Legatum
Institute and a Research Associate at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic
Co-operation in Ukraine.
is a journalist, educator and civic entrepreneur. She
led the Reform Watch project at the Kyiv Post which analyses
Ukraine’s post-Maidan transformation and now works at the Ministry
of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine.
is a senior policy fellow at ECFR and permanent
Reader in Ukrainian Studies at the School of Slavonic and East
European Studies (SSEES), University College London.
is a Ukrainian philosopher, essayist and
an analyst at Internews Ukraine. He teaches at Kyiv Mohyla Academy.
He is the author of two books and dozens of articles published in
Ukrainian and European media.
is the 2015 Einstein Fellow at the Einstein
Forum in Potsdam, Germany. Her monograph on cultural memory
and hybridity in contemporary literature of Kharkiv, Ukraine is
forthcoming from CEU Press.
is Research Director of the Russia in Global
Dialogue Program at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in