Internet platform for studying Xenophobia, Radicalism and Problems of Intercultural communication.

Treatment of Minorities

Treatment of Minorities January 1, 2017 in Kiev and other cities of the country were held traditional torchlight processions of Ukrainian nationalists, dedicated to the birthday of Stepan Bandera.

Prominent author and publicist Yuri Andrukhovych noted that Ukrainian society is currently “sick with hatred” in an interview, published on May 5. “Language of everyday communication became very brutal.” He said that Ukrainian social networks are full of hate speech, which can be a massive problem after the war.

Degrading terms to describe those who hold different opinions became common in press and politics (vatnik or vata – “wadding”, used to describe pro-Russian Ukrainians; ukrop – “dill”, used to describe pro-West Ukrainians).

In 2014, it was reported that several negative stereotypes towards refugees from Donbass (conflict region in eastern Ukraine) exist in the society. Most common one is the belief that all eastern Ukrainians are separatists and “don’t want to work”. A rumour has been circulating Ukrainian people that Donbass refugees cannot be evicted if they fail to pay rent, which resulted in property ads saying “No Donbass refugees”.

On May 25, 2014, President of All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress received 2.25% of votes in presidential elections, which turned out to be more than Svoboda leader Oleg Tyagnibok and Right Sector leader D. Yarosh received (1.16% and 0.7% respectively). This shows a fairly low level of political anti-Semitism in Ukraine. Interestingly, even extreme right organisations were making “pro-Jewish” actions. On April 10, leaders of Odessa Right Sector painted over anti-Semitic graffiti in the city.

Nevertheless, there have been several anti-Semitic manifestations, particularly from those who considered February 2014 a “Jewish Revolution”.

On May 18, an oppositional rally at a place of tragic events in Odessa displayed an anti-Semitic poster, “Guilty of crimes against humanity: Hitler – Jew; Turchinov – Jew; Yatsenyuk – Jew”. Anti-Semitic graffiti was noted inside the House of Trade Union itself.

In December, anti-Semitic leaflets appeared in Lubny village, targeting the new President, Prime Minister and Parliamentary Speaker. There have been manifestations of hostility towards the LGBT and Russian language.

Supporters of Maidan (political movement for association with Europe) exhibited Russophobia in their actions and statements. On May 13, leader of the Vopli Vodoplyasova rock-band Oleg Skripka called to ban the “alien” Russian language and culture, close all Russian-language TV channels and dismiss all workers who do not speak the state language.

On December 4, Federation of Greek Societies of Ukraine received a letter from the Ukrainian World Union of Professional Teachers, where the latter organisation demanded that Greeks living in Ukraine stop communicating in Russian. “Greeks who are citizens of Ukraine must (in solidarity with the Ukrainian nation) forget the Putinist language and become part of the Ukrainian civil society, communicating only in Greek and the official language – enrich the Ukrainian culture with distinctive Greek customs and historical past,” the letter said.

On June 18, Metropolitan Chernovtsy and Bukovina Onufry said that laws proposed by Europe are unacceptable for Ukraine. He said that Europe is showing Ukraine a way of life “without Christ”.

In recent months, journalism and political language of both sides of the conflict in Ukraine started using various dehumanising terms to describe their enemies – “vata” (wool) or “vatniki” on the Ukrainian side, and “ukrop” (dill) or “ukropi” on the separatists’ side. There is also mockery and humiliation of victims, also used to intimidate the population. A good example of this is distribution of leaflets in Kharkiv, saying “Odessa Fried Chicken. Available at the nearest trade union,” eluding to the deaths of anti-Maidan activists in Odessa.

It should be noted that although in 2015 there were no reliable sociological surveys regarding the level of tolerance and xenophobia in Ukrainian society, but surveys conducted among young people (18-35 years old) allow for certain estimates.

According to the results of the sociological survey of the company GKK “Ukraine”, commissioned by the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine in 2015 among young people, 54% of respondents would not like to live next to the Roma, 45% - next to representatives of non-traditional sexual orientation, 33% - AIDS patients, 19% – Muslims, 12% – Russians, 10% – foreign workers, 9% – Jews, and 7% – immigrants.

There were certain tells of a growing hatred towards internally displaced persons (IDPs). In August 2015, 10% of the local residents in the regions of Ukraine answered that the IDPs are people who complicate their lives (in 2014 only 6% of them). For example, in Kiev, only 1.8% of those surveyed were ready to rent an apartment to IDP families.

On August 13, 2015, the Chuguyev human rights group presented results of a survey of displaced persons in relation to discrimination in the Kharkiv region, conducted during the project “Raising awareness of IDPs in the field of protecting citizens from discrimination, establishing a dialogue between IDPs, employers and local authorities”. This program is implemented by the social organization “Social Action” with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation. In total, the program covered 100 people living in the Kharkov region who applied to the Centre for Support and Consultation for Forced Migrants “Chuguev Station”.

Respondents cited the following examples of discrimination, infringement of the rights of persons hostile to them, due to the fact that they were internally displaced:

  • 24% - felt hostile attitude of local residents when moving to another locality;
  • 12% - pointed to cases of groundless refusal or wilful delay in the process of processing documents by employees of the territorial divisions of the State Migration Service of Ukraine in the Kharkov region;
  • 20% - noted cases of denial of employment, and 11% - noted a prejudiced attitude towards themselves from the employer and colleagues at work;
  • 35% - indicated refusals to rent housing, and 26% - believe that the owner overestimated the cost of renting housing;
  • 10% - denied banking institutions financial services (credit processing, opening of accounts, etc.);
  • 33% - focus on the obstacles in the formulation of pensions and other social benefits;

It is interesting that only 9% appealed to authorities with complaints about violations of their rights.

On October 16, official from the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights, Sergei Ponomarev, specifically noted the presence of discrimination against IDPs in Ukraine: “There is both direct discrimination (denial of employment, housing, etc.) and indirect (the requirement to register IDPs for social payments, permanent registration in the passport for participation in local elections, etc.). IDPs are not a homogeneous group, and therefore some of their categories (people with disabilities, representatives of national minorities, etc.) face multiple types of discrimination. However, there are very few reports directly related to the discrimination of IDPs, in particular what the Ombudsman or courts receive. The reason for this is a low level of awareness of citizens about the current anti-discrimination legislation, the inability to “see” discrimination, difficulties proving these facts. Discrimination is easier to prevent than to work with its consequences. Therefore, when adopting regulations, anti-discrimination expertise should be carried out.”

One of the causes of the armed conflict in southeastern Ukraine in 2014 was the violation of the rights of Russians living in the region. It should be noted that ethnic Russians have lived in Ukraine for centuries and therefore do not consider themselves a minority. It is also necessary to take into account the difference in the understanding that there are Russians - residents of the Russian Federation proper, and Russians as a people living both on the territory of the Russian Federation and in Ukraine.

The attitude of residents of Ukraine and Russia to each other is well illustrated by the annual joint research of the Kiev International Institute of Sociology and the Russian Levada Center. In general, the dynamics of the data for 2018-2020 demonstrates a gradual deterioration of such sentiments. So, if in 2018 48% of Ukrainians had a positive attitude towards Russia and 32% had a negative attitude, then already in 2019 the figures are 54% and 35%, and in 2020, 42% of Ukrainians have both positive and negative attitudes towards Russia. At the same time, at the end of three years the number of those who find it difficult to choose has decreased from 19% to 16%. In other words, we register a significant division of Ukrainian society and the formation of stable groups in terms of attitude towards Russia.

As for the desired image of the future relations between the countries, 49% of Ukrainians spoke in favor of Ukraine and Russia being independent but friendly countries, with an open border, without visas and customs. 41% would like Ukraine and Russia to have the same relations as other states, with closed borders, visa regimes and customs restrictions. Only 3% of respondents wished then that Ukraine and Russia were one country.

Such dynamics is most likely explained by weariness of Ukrainians from aggressive military propaganda of the authorities, freezing of the conflict in Donbas and concentration of Ukrainian residents on internal problems. The victory of Volodimir Zelensky and his party "Servant of the People" in the presidential and parliamentary elections also played its role, as they declared a generally peaceful intentions and desire to negotiate with Russia.

The attitude of Ukrainians toward members of ethnic minorities inhabiting the country is clearly illustrated by a study by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, the results of which were published in September 2019. In particular, the researchers used the methodology of the American sociologist Emory Bogardus to study social distance, that is, the level of relationship that a person considers acceptable for himself in relation to a representative of a certain nationality: a score of 1 means that the person is ready to be accepted as a family member, 7 - the person should not be allowed into the country.

The research showed that Ukrainians have the best attitude towards Ukrainians and Russians (2.18 and 2.67), as well as Belarusians (3.18) and Russians (3.56). The attitude towards Poles (3,99), Jews (4,07) and Crimean Tatars (4,11) is a bit worse, i.e. representatives of these peoples are accepted no more than as colleagues. Ukrainians have the worst attitude towards Africans and Roma - social distance to them is estimated at 5.20 and 5.41, i.e. they are accepted only as citizens of Ukraine. At the same time a similar research was not conducted in 2020.

In general, Ukrainians demonstrate a certain distance with respect to representatives of other ethnic groups and prefer to have close relations with compatriots and ethnically close Russians and Belarusians. At the same time, the study demonstrated a gradual improvement in the attitudes of Ukrainians towards representatives of these peoples. In relation to the most negatively perceived peoples, Africans and Roma, Ukrainians en masse in 2019 showed limited tolerance, not advocating the prohibition of borders for these people and agreeing with their right to live in Ukraine.

We can assume that this stance, as well as the change in Ukrainians' attitudes toward members of national minorities, is related to the harsh nationalist propaganda conducted under President Petro Poroshenko, which was somewhat limited under President Volodymyr Zelensky. To be sure, the war of 2022 has made adjustments to this issue, but research on this issue has yet to be done.

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