How a Scandal Erupted in Lvov Over a Poll on Galician Secession

In the Lvov region, the only region where Poroshenko won in the election, the “separatism topic” was revived.

Discussions on the scandalous topic of a “split along the Zbruch” were provoked by a poll of KIIS (Kiev International Institute of Sociology) about separatist sentiments in the region for which the SBU initiated “proceedings for infringement of the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine”.

However, after wide publicity things went in reverse – like saying nothing criminal was found in the poll . “A representative of the SBU called and reported that verification did not reveal violations,” wrote the director of KIIS Vladimir Paniotto on his Facebook page. 

Galician people were polled at the request of the “Zerkalo Nedeli” agency. The poll with questions was released on social networks, which the SBU immediately reacted to, like saying that sociologists “promote separatism”. Although sociological groups in recent years have conducted such surveys more than once. 

Nevertheless, in Galicia the scandal caused hot disputes, because after elections the question of autonomy indeed emerges among local residents, most of who do not agree with the victory of Zelensky, who more than 70% of Ukrainians voted for.

The Lvov journalist Andrey Drozda on the “zaxid.net” website, which belongs to the family of the mayor Sadovoy, wrote about the isolation of Galicia after the presidential election (in comments the author himself was accused of inciting separatism, and also noted the similarity between the collage featuring the number 25 and the swastika). And the political scientist Victor Nebozhenko at himself wrote on Facebook that “Galicia found itself in an electoral ghetto, having supported the president-marauder”.

In Lvov even t-shirts with a middle finger from Lvov region towards the rest of Ukraine were manufactured, and Lvov residents on social networks in large quantities change their avatars to “25%“, and Poroshenko started to be jokingly called the president of the “Lvov People’s Republic”. By the way, the current president will still come to Lvov for the second day after Easter, on April 29th, probably, to seduce Galicians for the parliamentary election and to praise himself for the language law.

Together with the language law and distribution of Russian passports in the DPR/LPR all of this can shake up the situation in the country even more.  

The Ukrainian news agency “Strana” tried to understand how strong the separatist sentiments in the West of the country are after the presidential election.

Independent Galicia or a part of Poland?

The sensational question to Galicians from sociologists sounded like that: “The presidential election in Ukraine has ended. How do you see the fate of Galicia (the Lvov, Ivano-Frankovsk, and Ternopol regions)?” And the following possible answers were given:

1. As a part of a unitary Ukraine within the framework of the existing constitution.

2. As a part of a unitary, but decentralised Ukraine where regions and local authorities will receive large powers and big budgetary independence.

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3. Galicia must become a subject of a federation as a part of a federal Ukraine.

4. Galicia must become a separate independent state that includes the Lvov, Ivano-Frankovsk, and Ternopol regions.

5. Galicia must join Poland.

By the way, on the Internet there was even a joke – that it is necessary to repeal the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (via which Stalin attached Galicia to the rest of Ukraine), to return Lvov, Ternopol, and Ivano-Frankovsk into the structure of Poland – and thus they automatically enter the EU.

The results of the outrageous research have not yet been published because of the scandal.

During recent research the majority supported a united Ukraine (about 80% of Lvov residents are for unity and against separation, only about 5-7% want autonomy).

In 2014 the institute already conducted a survey about the status of Galicia. Back then to the question “How do you see the fate of Galicia?”, 53.4% of respondents (in the Lvov, Ivano-Frankovsk, and Ternopol regions) chose the option of a unitary Ukraine within the framework of the Constitution. Another 40.4% supported decentralisation. The idea of Galicia as a federal part of Ukraine was not supported by any of the respondents. The idea of the creation of a separate state from three regions was supported by 0.2% of respondents. 2.8% of respondents supported the accession of Galicia to Poland. 2.9% were undecided.

However, the situation cardinally changes when it concerns peace with Russia, which the Southeast can opt for.

During an opinion poll during the reign of Kuchma, on the eve of the Orange Revolution, at the end of 2003, 43% of Lvov residents expressed their readiness to fight for an “independent Galician state” in case of a union of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus.

“Such a poll is needed by the SBU”

Sociologists say: separatist trends in Galicia appear every time as soon as tension between the East and the West of the country increases. Contradictions between the West and the pro-Russia Southeast amplify at times when there is an acute political crisis. And also when disputable topics like the current language law or the recognition of Bandera and fighters of OUN-UPA as heroes emerge (which irritates the East of Ukraine very much). And giving Russian the status of a state language receives a hostile reception in the West of the country.

A powerful drift towards Russia can become the strongest irritant capable of making the West and the East definitively fall out.

However, Poroshenko’s defeat also strongly disturbed Lvov residents. Some of them believe that at the peak of emotions, when after the election all people are still very wound up and not calm, it is incorrect to carry out a poll on separatism. Sociologists prove the opposite: it is just at such moments that it is possible to receive a real sample of moods.

The Director-General of KIIS Vladimir Paniotto does not see anything seditious in the opinion poll that the SBU initiated proceedings against.

On the contrary, the aim is to find manifestations of separatism if such exist in the Lvov, Ivano-Frankovsk and Ternopol regions. Such research is most of all useful for the SBU, and the SBU should order them, and not fight against them

“Moreover, such a poll is needed by the SBU – after all, it helps to clear public moods when Lvov residents do not perceive the choice of Zelensky and call those voted for him ‘Zelensky’s retards’. In such situation it is possible to assume that in Galicia separatism can indeed appear. And sociologists do their work,” said the head of the sociological “Rating” group Aleksey Antipovich, in support of his colleague.

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Viktor Susak, the professor of sociology at the Ukrainian Catholic University, also spoke about the legitimacy of the sensational social poll.

“From the point of view of quantitative sociological research methodology, the poll carried out by KIIS among residents of the Ivano-Frankovsk, Lvov, and Ternopol regions about how they see the future of these regions (historically – Galicia) does not show any signs of instigating separatism. There would be such signs if the range of answers to the question didn’t mention the development of a unitary Ukraine, but there is a full range of possible developments, i.e., there is no incompleteness of possible answers. Such is the universal requirement of quantitative research methodology, and it was observed. Secondly, neither the formulation of the question, nor the formulation of each possible answer will push respondents at all to choose this or that option,” said Susak.

“According to all opinion polls, Galicians – super-unitarists, and Galicia will always remain together with Kiev,” assures the Lvov political scientist Taras Voznyak.

And if the West of the country indeed tried to receive autonomy, then, according to Voznyak, the unenviable fate of the West Ukrainian People’s Republic – which existed for less than a year (from 1918 to 1919) and was divided between Poland, Romania, and Czechoslovakia – would await it.

Zelensky is accused of trying to split

Some believe that the SBU’s hype concerning the poll only kindles separatist sentiments, which, apparently, do not exist in Galicia.

“The KIIS poll would obviously show that there is no separatism in Galicia. Because all this talk about the ‘grandmother Austria’, under which it had a good life and about Latin instead of Cyrillic has continued at the level of very narrow dreamy environments for decades and does not go further than ‘talking in narrow closed circles and dreaming a little bit’,” wrote the journalist Mariyana Pyetsukh on her Facebook page. 

Nevertheless, among a part of Lvov residents stories about the “hand of the Kremlin” immediately appeared. They say that Moscow and Zelensky are behind the poll, having remembered that the client of the research is the “Zerkalo Nedeli” newspaper, which is headed by Yuliya Mostovaya, whose husband Anatoly Gritsenko supported Zelensky, and her stepson from her first marriage – Dmitry Razumkov – is an adviser of the future president. Although such a story is hardly meaningful, since the publication carried out a similar poll five years ago.

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The opinion that during Zelensky’s reign Ukraine will be divided to please Moscow is being actively spread on social networks.

“The result of the Ukrainian presidential election, where Petro Poroshenko received the majority of votes in the Lvov region, exactly coincides with the map that was shown in the series ‘Servant of the People’. Therefore there is a great risk that in order to preserve and establish power it will be required to provoke such a ‘cinema scenario’. It will also allow, through public confusion, to stop the integration of Ukraine into the EU and NATO,” wrote the journalist and social activist Ivan Krivoy on Facebook.

By the way, he agrees that in Lvov after the election “a trend favouring isolation can be seen”.

They come from the environments of both radical political communities and individuals who are closely connected to Russian methodologists

Let them post chevrons saying ‘25%’ even more – separatism is more likely to be implemented,” wrote Pavel Fishchuk in the comments section.

Others believe that the scandalous poll, the t-shirts with a middle figure of Lvov towards Ukraine, and the avatar with “25%” are all the phenomena of the same order, which is designed to provoke separatist sentiments.

“Now we understand that t-shirts and ‘25%’ avatars are the pure germs of separatism that were provoked by someone,” wrote the Lvov activist Andrey Vykhopen on his Facebook page.

Despite the avatars and t-shirts, all of this is supported by Lvov residents, and it is also they who write offensive comments towards their compatriots who voted for Zelensky and also blame Donetsk residents.

“The most important thing is not to allow any person whose is registered as living in Eastern Ukraine to enter Galicia. All IDPs can f*ck off!,” wrote the Lvov resident Olga Bai on Facebook.  

By the way, during Maidan there were also more serious incidents in Lvov – the “night of anger”, when in February 2014 local residents burned regional departments and smashed governmental buildings, and earlier occupied regional administrations and proclaimed “governments” in the Western Ukrainian regions. Such processes happened also in 2004, when the western regions refused to recognise Yanukovych as the president and to pay taxes to the center.

And such flashes of discontent with the center, according to experts, can happen at any time. Any unpopular decision in the region made by the central authorities can become the reason for this. Starting with the mitigation of the policy of Ukrainisation and ending with the fight against border smuggling, with which the local population feeds itself.

Aleksandr Kharchenko

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