Over the past six month, polls show that Ukrainian attitudes toward Russians have improved slightly but this does not mean that more of them want to be integrated in any entity dominated by Russia. Instead, it represents a sobering up from the earlier euphoria about Europe and a desire to become a normal independent country.
Aleksey Garan of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy says that these shifts represent “the concluding stage of saying goodbye to the Soviet past. In the future, [Ukraine and Russia] will each go along their separate paths.”
“An enormous number of [Ukrainians] are for better relations with Russia… No one wants to fight with a neighbor, but no one wants to put up with his outbursts either,” the Ukrainian scholar says. Instead, it has become finally clear that we will not be able to live in one apartment. We are neighbors, but from the point of view of Ukrainians we no longer can be called fraternal peoples or strategic partners.”
Garan’s conclusions are quoted by Tatyana Ivzhenko of Moscow’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta” today in a report about new research that has been carried out by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology and the Kucherin Democratic Initiative Foundation concerning Ukrainian attitudes about Russians and Russia.
The two institutes found that despite a somewhat more positive view of Russians than six months ago, Ukrainians do not want to be part of any Russian-dominated entity let alone part of the Russian Federation. The share of Ukrainians favoring membership in the Russian-dominated Customs Union remains unchanged at 18.6 percent.
Half of all Ukrainians back developing closer relations with the European Union, but slightly more than a quarter of all Ukrainians – 27 percent – now oppose having their country join either the Customs Union or the EU, the former because of Russian dominance and the latter because of recent disappointments at the level of help Ukraine has received.
Until 2014, the researchers say, “Ukrainians always were more positively disposed to the Russian Federation than Russians, according to Levada Center polls, were to Ukraine. But now the attitudes of Ukrainians to Russia and Russians to Ukraine are almost equal in terms of positive and negative attitudes.
About a third of each nation has a positive attitude toward the other’s country, and just under 60 percent in both has a negative one. Those global attitudes track as well on the views Ukrainians and Russians have about the implementation of a visa regime between the two countries and other such measures.
But the most striking and important change in Ukrainian attitudes toward the Russian Federation is this: In 2009, 23 percent of Ukrainians supported the idea of some combination of Ukraine and Russia into a single state. Now, fewer than ten percent do – a figure identical to the percentage of Russians who would like to see a common state.