Support for independence at record high
The percentage of Ukrainians supporting independence has risen from 83% to a record 90%. Valery Khmelko, president of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology and author of a study of support for Ukraine’s sovereignty over the years since Independence, says that the unprecedented high was brought about by Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.
“This is not the first time that for a part of the population who did not support the country’s independent in conditions when nobody was making them think about possible threats has understood that the country’s independence really means something to them when such threats become real”.
Support for Ukrainian sovereignty was always stable in the west of Ukraine. In Donbas, Khmelko says, you can’t say that people were against it. All public opinion surveys found that there was a majority for, but on condition of maintained friendly relations with Russia. Whether life will now force a ‘change in conditions’ will be seen in the near future.
In the south-east of the country increases in the number of people feeling themselves to be citizens of a sovereign country increased specifically when Russia tried something on which infringed the rights other peoples – Chechnya; Georgia; Tuzla.
The first increase that was clearly not economically motivated was in the second half of 1994. The first two years of independence had seen a fall in support from 76 to 56% because of the significant drop in the standard of living and hyperinflation. Although the economic situation continued to worsen, there was a noticeable decrease in the number of people (especially in the East and South) wanting to join Russia after the 1994 presidential elections.
The number of supporters of independence rose even more after the war in Chechnya began in 1996, and reached 71%. During the financial crisis of 1997-98 it again fell, almost to 60%, but then rose during the second war in Chechnya (1999-2000) to 72%. During the territorial dispute with Russia over Tuzla Island in the Kerch Strait in 2003 it rose from 71 to 77% but then fell back to 72%.
During Russia’s invasion into Georgia in August 2008 support rose to 83%, later falling back to 74%
Support has been increasing with the years, and the process has stabilized. The current surge in support, Khmelko links to Russia’s direct encroachment on Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The situation is, however, exceptional for all kinds of reasons, but most specifically the fact that it is impossible to carry out a reliable public opinion survey at present in the Crimea and in Donbas.
Based on an interview at Dzerkalo Tyzhnya (photo also from there)