Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
The aggressive de-Russification that has been carried out in recent years by the Ukrainian authorities meets rejection and persistent resistance. In a number of regions the Russian language remains the main language of communication, and supporters of its recognition as the second State language, and in many others — at least a regional language (which should work in parallel in official institutions) dominate. In the regions of Ukraine where native speakers of Russian dominate, opponents of the country’s entry into the EU and NATO prevail.
This is evidenced by the large-scale research published on February 22nd of this year by the sociological “Rating” group. Its representatives interviewed from December 12th to December 28th, 2017 30,000 residents of Ukraine, 1,200 in each region (usually during a survey sociologists are limited to such a selection nationwide). The picture after this survey looks like the following.
Since June, 2014, up to December, 2017, the number of those who support giving the Russian language official status (second State language or a regional language) decreased only from 34% to 29%, despite the ongoing Russophobic hysteria of politicians and the media, the terror of nationalists, and the ban of Russian organisations and the rigid pressure of their activists. Moreover, after the drop in September, 2015, the number of supporters of Russian being an official language grew considerably to 26%, having reached 30% by May, 2017.
At the household level Russian is spoken by 24% of residents of the country, and 29% use the Ukrainian and Russian languages equally (without wishing to abandon the latter). Speaking Russian dominates in the Odessa (45% for Russian as the second State language, and 32% for a regional language), Kharkov (28% and 37% respectively), and the Ukraine-controlled parts of Donetsk (33% and 35% respectively) and Lugansk (26% and 44% respectively) regions.
In the regions of the South sociologists recorded an approximate equality of forces between supporters and opponents of the Russian language: in Nikolaev 43% are opponents and 54% are supporters (in total for second State language and regional language), in Dnepropetrovsk it is 48% versus 48%, in Zaporizhia it’s 52% against 43%, and in Kherson it’s 57% against 39%.
In the same regions there is a prevalence of those who would be ready to vote against a referendum on the entry of Ukraine into NATO is today observed: in the Odessa region — 59% are against and 15% are for, in Kharkov — 60% and 22% respectively, in Donetsk — 56% and 21%, in Lugansk — 36% and 23%, in Nikolaev — 46% and 23%, in Dnipropetrovsk — 37% and 31%, in Zaporizhia — 49% and 34%, and in Kherson — 47% and 31%. Further, even in the center of the country the number of opponents of NATO is inferior to its supporters, and in the West those who are sympathetic towards the North Atlantic Alliance absolutely dominate.
Kiev hasn’t in general yet been able to overcome the situation in this direction, the number of opponents of NATO countrywide is now 34%, like it was in April, 2015 (between these two values there are regular insignificant fluctuations).
In the same regions, opponents of Ukraine’s entry into the European Union (at most — 50%, versus 24% who are “for” in the same combative anti-Maidan Odessa region) prevail, although these figures in general are slightly lower than the number of opponents of NATO. This is explainable — an anti-Russian military alliance causes bigger rejection a priori.
Also, the number of supporters of the federal structure of the State is also higher in the same places (38% in Odessa, 39% in Donetsk, etc.), and the supporters of a unitary State – i.e., the most unified (and, correspondingly, with language too) and organised from the center model of a State – is only slightly less.
To check the results it is possible to compare the “Rating” survey published on February 5th of this year, which was conducted from November 15th to December 14th, 2017 by the “GfK Ukraine” company, commissioned by the International Republican Institute (USA) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
The sample size of the survey was also quite solid — 7,200 people.
It follows from the survey that the negative attitude in Ukrainian society in relation to Russia is subsiding. The maximum peak was recorded in September, 2014, i.e. right after defeat near Ilovaisk (66%), and the second-largest — in September, 2015, i.e. right after signing the second Minsk Agreement (61%). By December, 2017, the share of opponents of Russia in Ukrainian society decreased to 48%.
The number of NATO supporters synchronously decreases with this. The maximum (48% for and 28% against) was reached in the same September, 2015, and remained in November of the same year, coinciding with the data of “Rating”, which recorded peak support in Ukraine concerning accession to the North Atlantic Alliance (46% for and 30% against) in December, 2015. In December, 2017, a large-scale sociological survey commissioned by the Americans showed that in Ukraine 37% (in September, 2017 it was even 34%) support the country’s entry into NATO and 26% are against it.
“Political strategists say that the decrease in the number of persons interested in entering NATO and the EU and also the withdrawal of a sharply negative attitude towards Russia are the effects of wear and tear. The more there will be talk about the aggressor country, the less people will trust it,” stated the political scientist Ruslan Bortnik to the Ukrainian “Strana” publication. On the other hand, notable fatigue in Ukrainian society from aggressive rhetoric and hatred has “swung” moods towards those that were observed in the country prior to the victory of Maidan.
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