Ukraine has a weak state but a strong society, Russia just the opposite

A young man holding the Ukrainian flag at the Maidan on February 24, 2014 (Image: Bulent Kilic / AFP)

A young man holding the Ukrainian flag at the Maidan on February 24, 2014 on top of an improvised memorial for the Heavenly Hundred, the Ukrainians shot to death by security forces of the Yanukovich regime during the Maidan protest two days before (Image: Bulent Kilic / AFP) 

Analysis & Opinion

Russians laugh at any suggestion that the Ukrainian people came out to the Maidan to make history and insist that they were driven there by American political technologists, a reflection of the fundamental contrast between their country and that of the Ukrainians, Russian political analyst Andrey Okara says.

That contrast – Ukraine has a weak state but a strong society while Russia has a strong state but a weak society – has another important consequence, he says. In Russia, war leads to dictatorship and blocks reform, while in Ukraine, it can open the way to modernization.

Putin (Image: Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP)“The legendary 85 percent of Russians who support the current order in Russia are incapable of believing that society can be the moving force of revolutionary events,” the result of their projection of their own situation onto others which in fact are quite different, the political analyst argues.

And they further believe, he continues, that “no modernization is possible because during a war, there must be a mobilization type of administration and a military dictatorship,” again a conclusion suggested by their own national experience of state and society but one that doesn’t extend to others like Ukraine.

In Ukraine, Okara says, “the will of society is not an abstraction.” It is a reality with which everyone must deal. And consequently a conflict which in Russia may become “an obstacle for modernization” can and “should be transformed into a catalyst and promoter of mobilization.”

Ukraine today, he argues, finds itself in “a unique situation.” The state is weak and ineffective, but Ukrainian society has shown itself “capable of solidarity and synergies and of mutually supported action on the basis of mutual trust.”

Ukrainian youth (Image: that means that the antimony Russians assume exists between war and modernization does not necessarily exist in Ukraine and that it won’t exist even though the current Ukrainian government has gained significantly more power than its predecessor. Ukrainian society is still more powerful than the state, and that is the basis for hope.

If Ukrainian society demands modernization just as it demanded dignity and integration with Europe earlier, then modernization will happen regardless of the nature of holdover Ukrainian officials and all the difficulties that Ukrainian society and the Ukrainian state now face and will face in the future.


Edited by: A. N.

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  • puttypants

    great article. Ukrainians tend to be more independent in their thinking and always have been.

    • Dirk Smith

      More European for sure; unlike the mongol muscovites.

  • Oknemfrod

    The title in and by itself keenly encapsulates the fundamental difference between the Ukrainian and Russian peoples today. Most Russians simply cannot fathom the amazing ability of the Ukrainians of all walks of life (and ethnic backgrounds) to self-organize at the turf level without any support and ukases from the government and often against its resistance – the ability they have amply demonstrated throughout the Maidan and the ensuing events. To those who ask what are palpable achievements of Ukraine to date, this is the answer: Active and progressive civil society abjectly absent from Russia. Without such society, no further accomplishments are possible.

    • AndrewO

      In any situation you need to assess your internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as your external opportunities and threats. Ukraine’s leadership has yet to perform such an analysis and act accordingly – building on your strengths (Ukraine’s civil society), minimizing your weaknesses (regional differences), taking advantage of opportunities (through effective diplomacy and information), neutralizing your threats (anticipating and disrupting all aspects of Putler’s grand plan to turn Ukraine into a subservient vassal state).

  • Michel Cloarec

    How could one believed that Ukraine would sit down and wait for the invader to rules ?
    The FSB must have had very bad employees !
    Democracy will prevail, democracy could be subjuged by violences but can´t die because democracy is coming from the people, that is what happening in Ukraine and therefore Ukraine must have all the support necessary. Ukraine is the doors to more democracy in the world . What Ukraine is suffering just now makes the fights worth more to fight against the evil (whatever it is) but the real people knows .
    Remember the Nobel Prize Girl said !