Further away from Russia

The policy of both the Russian and Soviet authorities towards Ukraine and Ukrainians tended to counterpose different parts of the Ukrainian ethnic group, one of which was interpreted as "loyal", "pro-Russian", the other — separatist or nationalist.

At one time, the Cossacks were considered such a "separatist" part of the Ukrainian ethnos, to the point that the Cossacks could not be classified as Ukrainians at all, but considered as a separate "Slavic-Tatar" tribe. This opinion, in particular, was shared by the Russian historian Nikolai Ulyanov, who wrote:

"Zaporozhian Cossacks have long been genetically linked with predatory Pechenegs, Polovtsians and Tatars... The figure of a Zaporozhian is not identical to the figure of a native Little Russian, they represent two different worlds. One is settled, agricultural, with culture, lifestyle, skills, traditions inherited from the Kiev times. The other is a nomadic, idle, who lives as a robber, developed a completely different temper and character under the influence of the lifestyle and mixing with the steppe dwellers. Cossacks were born not from South Russian culture, but from an enemy culture that was at war with it for centuries."

The emergence of Ukrainian separatism, according to Nikolai Ulyanov, was connected with the claimed "capture by a small handful of steppe freemen of a country huge in terms of territory and population" in the middle of the 17th century, "the capture of Little Russia by the Cossacks" (this is how this author named a whole section of his work). The Little Russian population, the peasants, according to the author, always gravitated towards Russia, and only the Cossacks' financial interests did not allow this aspiration to be fully realized.

This understanding of the role of the Cossacks (and, accordingly, the Cossack hetmans) is fully consistent with the words of Catherine II: "when there is no hetman in Little Russia, we should try to make the very name of the hetmans to disappear forever."

Only a few decades after the liquidation of the Ukrainian Cossacks as an independent political force in the Russian Empire, they began to gradually "rehabilitate" them, portraying them exclusively as an "anti-Polish" force fighting for the reunification of Ukraine with Russia.

Later, "Western Ukrainians" (primarily Galicians) became another "stigmatized" (from the viewpoint of disloyalty to Russia) group for other Ukrainians. Above-mentioned Nikolai Ulyanov wrote:

"not only by name, but also by blood, by faith, by culture, Galicia and Ukraine are less close to each other than Ukraine and Belarus, than Ukraine and Great Russia... Its language is not at all the same as in the Dnieper region. Even the hastily created "literary language" declared to be all-Ukrainian cannot hide the existence of two languages connected only by spelling." That did not prevent N. Ulyanov from asserting that as early as in the 19th century, "in all Austro-Hungarian possessions inhabited by fragments of the Russian tribe, in Galicia, Bukovina, and Hungarian Rus, national revival was understood as a return to the all-Russian language and all-Russian culture."

That is, the general tendency in presenting the image of "Western Ukrainians" is "they are more corrupted by foreign influence, but sooner or later they will still return to Russia, although their path in this direction will be more difficult and longer than that of other Ukrainians."

Such propaganda influence resulted in the "ideological stigmatization" of the residents of the western regions of Ukraine, which was observed not only in the USSR, but under the influence of stereotypes formed in the USSR — for a long time after Ukraine gained independence.

During a survey conducted by the Razumkov Centre Sociological Service in May 2006, assessing how close the residents of different regions of Ukraine and some neighbouring countries are to them in terms of character, customs, and traditions (the assessment was made on a scale from 0 to 10, where "0" meant that the inhabitants of this region or country have nothing in common with the respondent in terms of character, customs, traditions, and "10" — that the inhabitants of this region or country are utmost similar to the respondent in terms of character, customs, traditions), in general, citizens of Ukraine rated their closeness to the residents of the western regions of the country (Galicia, Bukovyna, Volyn, Transcarpathia) lower than to residents of other regions of Ukraine, and residents of the Southern and Eastern regions — even significantly lower than to the residents of Russia. Say, the Southerners assessed their closeness in terms of character, customs, and traditions to the residents of Galicia at 4.3 points on a scale from 0 to 10, while the closeness to the residents of Russia — at 7.3 points, and the Easterners — respectively, at 4.7 and 7.6 points.

The process of overcoming these stereotypes significantly accelerated after 2014, when Russia's "hybrid war" against Ukraine began, and even more so after the start of the full-scale war.

If we compare the results obtained by the Razumkov Centre Sociological Service in May 2023 with the results of 2006, we can see that in the Eastern, Southern and Central regions the self-assessment of cultural closeness with the western regions of the country increased (for example, the assessment of closeness with Galicia increased in the East from 4, 7 to 6.2 points, in the South — from 4.3 to 6.7 points, in the Centre — from 6.2 to 7.0 points), with a decrease in self-assessment of closeness to Donbas (in the East — from 8.4 to 6 .5 points, in the South — from 7.4 to 6.3 points, in the Centre — from 6.9 to 5.7 points, and Crimea (in the East from 7.4 to 6.6 points, in the South — from 7.9 to 7.1 points, in the Centre — from 6.9 to 6.5 points).

In general, the self-assessment of closeness to the residents of Crimea and Donbas in the country was lower in 2023 than it was in 2006, while the self-assessment of cultural closeness to the residents of the Central regions, Kyiv, Galicia, Volyn, Bukovyna, Transcarpathia, Slobozhanshchyna, compared to 2006, increased.

There is a tendency to a decrease in cultural closeness to the residents of Russia — it dropped from 6.8 points in 2006 to 3.5 points in 2021 and to 1.4 points in 2023 (which is the lowest indicator among all compared countries). Also, compared to 2006, the self-assessment of cultural closeness with residents of Belarus decreased (from 6.0 to 4.6 points in 2021, and to 2.0 points in 2023), while with the residents of countries bordering on Ukraine in the West and Southwest (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova), as well as with Turkey, increased. The indicator of closeness with Poland is the highest (6.1 points, while in 2006 it was 3.7 points).

Self-assessment of cultural closeness to Russia and Belarus, compared to 2006, decreased in all regions of the country without exception, while the self-assessment of cultural closeness to the residents of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and Turkey increased in all regions.

This tendency is manifested not only among ethnic Ukrainians, but also among ethnic Russians living in Ukraine. Say, ethnic Russians' self-assessment of the level of cultural closeness to the residents of Russia dropped from 8.6 points in 2006p to 5.6 points in 2021 and to 3.1 points in 2023 (although it remains higher than among ethnic Ukrainians — 1.3 points).

Having launched a "hybrid" and later a full-scale war against Ukraine, Russia itself significantly damaged its image not only in Ukraine but also in the whole world. According to the same survey, Russia is primarily associated with "aggression" (such association increased from 66% in 2017 to 91% in 2023), "dictatorship" (increased from 60% to 87%), "cruelty" (from 57% to 89%). So, it is not surprising that few people wish to have something in common with such a country.

The article presents the results of a sociological survey conducted by the Razumkov Centre Sociological Service on May 23–31, 2023, as part of the MATRA Program project financed by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ukraine. Assessments and conclusions of the survey authors should not be seen as the official position of the Embassy.

Face-to-face interviews were taken in Vinnytsia, Volyn, Dnipropetrovsk, Zhytomyr, Transcarpathian, Zaporizhia, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kyiv, Kirovohrad, Lviv, Mykolayiv, Odesa, Poltava, Rivne, Sumy, Ternopil, Kharkiv, Kherson, Khmelnytskyi, Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Chernivtsi regions and the city of Kyiv (in Zaporizhia, Mykolayiv, Kharkiv, Kherson regions — only in the territories controlled by the government of Ukraine and free of hostilities).

The sample structure reproduces the demographic structure of the adult population of the territories where the poll was conducted as of the beginning of 2022 (by age, sex, settlement type).

2020 respondents over the age of 18 were polled. The sample theoretical error does not exceed 2.3%. At the same time, additional systematic deviations of the sample may be caused by the consequences of the Russian aggression, in particular, forced evacuation of millions of citizens.



Mykhailo Mischenko

Deputy Director, Sociological Service

Born in 1962 in Kyiv

Education: Taras Shevchenko Kyiv State University, Faculty of Philosophy (1984). Ph. D in Philosophy


1984 – 1990 — Sociology Department at the Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

1990 – 1998 — Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

1998 – 2003 — Ukrainian Institute of Social Research

February – September 2003 — Kyiv International Institute of Sociology

Since October 2003 — Deputy Director, Razumkov Centre Sociological Service

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