Ukrainians under 30 unified in their support for Ukraine and the West unlike older generations.

Editor’s Note

The long-troubling east-west divide in Ukraine is starting to fade as a generation of people has grown up which differs significantly from other demographic groups in terms of their views, way of life, and political preferences. Unlike the older generation, people under 30, born already in independent Ukraine, almost unanimously support EU and NATO integration in all regions, feel no regret for the fall of the USSR, are the happiest among all groups, and the most optimistic about their personal life and the future of Ukraine.

“In sociological pools over the past few years, ideological and regional differences have become less significant, giving way to the age factor,” a study by the Sociological group Rating states.

It is largely due to this young generation that the number of those who feel proud to be Ukrainian citizens has been continuously growing since 2001, as another study by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives foundation reveals.

Euromaidan press has selected and translated some of the most important data from these lengthy sociological studies dedicated to the 30th anniversary of Ukrainian independence. They reveal how and to what degree Ukrainian society has changed.

Preferences for Ukraine’s foreign policy direction

“Which foreign policy direction would you prefer for Ukraine?” All regions. Data and graph by the study of Sociological group Rating, translated by Euromaidanpress.

Regarding Ukraine’s foreign policy, there is a tendency to consolidate around the pro-European idea among the youngest (16-24), even in south-eastern Ukraine where this trend stands in contrast to the views of half the older respondents. Overall, if there was a referendum requiring a clear decision, 64% of Ukrainians would vote for EU integration, with 54% in favor of NATO integration. Significantly, a sustainable alternative to EU integration is not offered by the pro-Russian vector, but a demand for equal distance from both the EU and Russia (supported by 35%).

Data and graph by the study of Sociological group Rating, translated by Euromaidanpress.

The difference indicated by the independent Ukraine generation is stronger demand for westward integration and diminishing support for integration with Russia. The most important shift has been seen in south-eastern Ukraine, where 16-24 year-olds from Donbas are closer in their views to Central Ukraine, Kyiv and even Western Ukraine than to their grandparents.

“Which foreign policy direction would you prefer for Ukraine?” By age groups, all Ukraine. Data and graph by the study of Sociological group Rating, translated by Euromaidanpress.

Support for EU and NATO integration varies from 29% to 84% by region but age structure indicates an upcoming change towards unified support throughout Ukraine.

Data and graph by the study of Sociological group Rating, translated by Euromaidanpress.

Proud to be Ukrainian

The other important tendency is the high and still growing number of those who are proud of their Ukrainian citizenship (72%). In general, over the last 19 years there has been a steady upward trend in the number of those who are proud of being Ukrainian citizens, largely due to the generation of Ukrainians born since independence.

The share of those who are proud to be Ukrainian citizens, Ukrainian average, 2002-2021. Data and graph from the study by Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives foundation, translated by Euromaidanpress.

Younger Ukrainians are happier and more optimistic about themselves and Ukraine, but the regional divide is still present, with those in the west and center of Ukraine feeling better about themselves.

A no less important factor in the development of the country is optimism of its citizens, according to the theory in sociology formulated by William Thomas. It suggests that interpretation of facts defines our actions and often makes interpretations a reality.

Significantly, the Generation of Independence is the most satisfied with their lives (6.9-7.4 points out of 10 by subjective evaluation).

How satisfied are you with your life on a scale from 0 to 10, by age groups, Ukrainian average. Data and graph by the study of Sociological group Rating.

In terms of self-evaluation and evaluation of Ukraine, now and in 10 years time, significant regional differences remain, along with age differences. While residents of Kyiv consider themselves the happiest in Ukraine now, people from the Lviv region are the most optimistic about themselves personally and Ukraine in general. But residents of Donbas who live close to the war zone are not only the least happy and evaluate Ukraine poorly, but are also the least optimistic.

Data and graph by the study of Sociological group Rating, translated by Euromaidanpress.

Diminishing nostalgia for the USSR

Another strong tendency is a diminishing sense of nostalgia for the USSR — a highly important trend in the face of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s ambitions to roll back “the greatest tragedy of the 20th century” as he defined it. The share of people who consider it good that the USSR fell apart has risen from 36% in 2010 to 61% in 2021, with a fall from 46% to 32% in people who feel nostalgic towards the USSR.

“Do you regret that the USSR fell apart?” Ukrainian average from 2010 to 2021. Data and graph from the study by Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives foundation, translated by Euromaidanpress.

The other promising tendency is growing support for a democratic form of governance.

The support for democracy as the best political system has been constantly growing among Ukrainians. Data and graph from the study by Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives foundation, translated by Euromaidanpress.Notably, the younger generation evaluates the current level of democracy in Ukraine much more favourably than the older generation.

The evaluation of Ukrainian democracy by age groups. The younger generation evaluates the state of democracy in Ukraine more favourably than older generations. Data and graph from the study by Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives foundation, translated by Euromaidanpress.

At the same time, western and central Ukrainians also evaluate the state of democracy and freedom of speech better than eastern Ukrainians. In the West and the Center, the level of democracy is estimated at 6 points out of 10, in the South at 5.1 points, and in the East at only 4.8 points.

While higher satisfaction with Ukrainian democracy among young people correlates well with their optimism, the east-west divide can partially be explained by objective distinctions due to higher owner control of big enterprises in eastern Ukrainian cities.

There is a paradoxical situation with the high demand in society for a “strong hand” and an authoritative leader. On the one hand, we can assume that the majority of Ukrainians want to see a strong politician as the head of state who will be able to restore order in the country. On the other hand, the interviewed citizens are categorically against potential violations of the law by such a leader, as well as strongly preferring democracy over authoritarianism.

Achievements and failures as Ukrainian citizens define them

Summarizing 30 years of Independence, respondents name the following areas where successful transformations have taken place:

  • equality of men and women
  • freedom of speech
  • formation of the Ukrainian nation
  • equality for national minorities
  • democracy
  • civil society
  • defense in the country.

At the same time, respondents say that Ukraine has been the least successful in

  • the fight against corruption
  • the formation of a fair judiciary
  • the fight against crime
  • the establishment of social justice.

Art and culture that best represents Ukraine and the politician who contributed the most to the empowerment of Ukraine’s statehood and sovereignty

Sociologists also asked open questions to identify what Ukrainians consider the piece of art representing Ukraine the best as well as who they consider as the politician who contributed the most to the empowerment of Ukraine’s statehood and sovereignty.

Regarding cultural output, 9.5% of respondents named Taras Shevchenko’s collection of poetry Kobzar , another 5.7% the National Anthem of Ukraine, and 4.4% folk songs in general as best representing Ukraine.

Of the country’s politicians, 10.2% named fifth Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, 10% second Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma and another 8.5% Viacheslav Chornovil, the leader of Narodnyi Rukh Ukrayiny (People’s Movement of Ukraine) as contributing most to Ukrainian independence. Current president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and third president Viktor Yushchenko follow in the list.

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