Forty-eight percent of Ukrainians blame Moscow for the war in the Donbas, while 33 percent blame both Moscow and Kyiv and nine percent blame only Kyiv, according to polls conducted by Ukraine’s Razumkov Centre for a report on the evolution of Ukrainian identity.
That report, now available online shows that Ukrainians overwhelmingly support a Western orientation for their country and membership in Western institutions like NATO, something that makes the findings about their attitudes toward the war in the eastern section of the country somewhat surprising.
On DSNews.ua, commentator Yuriy Vasylchenko says “it is difficult to imagine Croatians would have blamed their government for the fact that the puppet republic of Serbska Kraina was set up on their territory.” Why then, he asks, are so many Ukrainians doing exactly that?
Some blame Ukraine’s information policy ministry and its failure to conduct effective propaganda. Undoubtedly, there is some truth in this given its fitful performance, but to lay all the blame on that government agency would be “incorrect.” Instead, he says, this set of attitudes reflects the promotion of several myths by politicians, experts and posters on Facebook.
Among these myths are the following, Vasylchenko suggests:
- First, “the military conflict is useful for the authorities of Ukraine and the Russian Federation” because they use it to justify failures in other spheres and to make profits.
- Second, he writes, there is the myth that “Ukraine could have avoided the war by agreeing with the leaders of the separatists already in the spring of 2014.” This myth, he says, “works particularly well among residents of the Donbas and” displaced persons.
- Third, there is the myth that “simple people are not guilty when politicians unleash a war. This is a very dangerous myth because it justifies the Russian occupiers and their puppets in the Donbas.”
The last myth explains why Ukrainians are overwhelmingly negative to the Kremlin regime but are either neutral or positive toward Russians as such, Vasylchenko writes. And that is why many Ukrainians are quite ready to forgive and forget those who have acted as they have in the Donbas or even in the extreme case to consider them “innocent.”
In other words, the commentator continues, “there exist [in Ukraine] a significant number of citizens who do not yet understand that the detonator of the conflict were those residents of Donets and Luhansk oblasts who called on Putin for support.” These were “simple pensioners, miners or ordinary lumpen,” he writes.
“If there had not been their anti-Maidan, there wouldn’t have been a war,” and consequently today, Vasylchenko says, “almost 40 percent of [Ukraine’s] compatriots are ready to make peace with these people.” That points to real dangers ahead: explosions like those in the Donbas “could be repeated somewhere else.”
There are of course “other myths,” he argues, including the notion that “reforms lead only to impoverishment of the population” or that the authorities are using the war to justify their failure to reform. But it is critically important to understand why these myths are now so widespread.
“The Ukrainian authorities,” Vasylchenko concludes, “have themselves created fertile ground for the development of [such] harmful myths. Kyiv doesn’t yet have a clear and well-defined strategy about the future of the occupied territories.” And until it adopts one, he says, “the number of victims of the myths about the war will alas only grow.”
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