Staunton, August 24 – Vladimir Putin’s Crimean Anschluss which was intended among other things to highlight or promote divisions among Ukrainians about the status of their country has had exactly the opposite effect: It has boosted the share of supporters of independent statehood from 83 percent to 90 percent, the highest ever.
In reporting the poll results, Valery Khmelko, president of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, said that external threats have caused those who did not support the independence of the country to do so because of threats and to recognize the value of Ukraine for themselves.
The figures also show is that — entirely unintentionally — Putin has done more than anyone else to promote Ukrainian nation building, just as Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin did more than anyone else to promote Ukrainian state building by adding territories to it in both the east and west.
After Ukraine gained independence in 1991, the share of those supporting its new status fell from 76 percent to 56 percent as a result of a deteriorating in the standard of living and hyper-inflation. But even though the economic situation continued to deteriorate in the mid-1990s, those who wanted to rejoin Russia fell significantly after the 1994 elections.
Following Moscow’s intervention in Chechnya in 1994-1996, the share of Ukrainians supporting Ukrainian statehood rose again, to 71 percent; but during the economic crisis of 1997-1998, it fell to 60 percent. But in 1999-2000, during Putin’s invasion of Chechnya, Ukrainian support for independence returned to 72 percent.
In 2003, Khmelko continued, during the Tuzla Island crisis, backing among Ukrainians for state independence rose to 77 percent, although it fell back to 72 percent after the conflict was resolved. Then in August 2008, when Putin invaded Georgia, Ukrainian support for independence rose from 72 percent to 83 percent, receding to 72 percent after the crisis.
“Year after year,” the Kyiv sociologist says, “support for the sovereignty of Ukraine by Ukrainians has grown [but] the process had stabilized. Now, however, the outburst of civic self-consciousness has occurred in connect with direct attacks by Russia on the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.”