20:52 08.05.2023

Opinion poll: Bakhmut, Azovstal, sunken cruiser Moskva are symbols of emerging national memory of war with Russia

7 min read
Opinion poll: Bakhmut, Azovstal, sunken cruiser Moskva are symbols of emerging national memory of war with Russia

An important factor in the formation of the newest national memory was the recognition of the exceptional role of all the Defense Forces of Ukraine, volunteers and the awareness of citizens of their own role as a single people, sociologists note.

This conclusion was reached by the authors of the sociological survey entitled "Symbols, events and personalities that form the national memory of the war with Russia", conducted by the sociological service of the Razumkov Center together with the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, the results of which are published on the official website of the Foundation.

In particular, 78% share the opinion that the greatest role in repelling the Russian offensive was played by the Ukrainian Defense Forces - the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the National Guard, Territorial Defense Forces and volunteer formations. The second common answer is the statement that the main contribution in the first months of the war was made by the entire Ukrainian people. With an indicator of 62% in the country, it is the highest in the South - 77%. It is the lowest again in the Eastern macroregion of the country.

The third common opinion is the recognition of the role of volunteers and the most patriotic citizens of the country - this opinion is shared by more than 46% of respondents, with the highest results in Central Ukraine.

According to sociologists, against this background, the central and regional authorities should realize and accept their secondary role in ensuring the successful defense of the country in the first months of the war.

Although the President of Ukraine has an extremely high level of legitimacy and recognition of his role in the defense of Ukraine, only 24% of respondents consider the role of the central government (the president and the government) to be the main one in the first months of the war, with a relatively even distribution of this opinion across all regions of the country.

Answering the open question "Which politicians or public figures played an important role in the defense of the country?", 65% of respondents mentioned President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, 47% - Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeriy Zaluzhny.

The following positions were taken by a significant margin by other heads of Ukrainian military departments and generals, as well as civilian authorities. Among the public figures and volunteers, Ukrainians especially noted volunteer Serhiy Prytula.

As noted, it is already possible to observe how some events, for example, long battles and operations, like the defense of Bakhmut or Azovstal, leave a mark in the collective memory of Ukrainians.

According to social research, more than a third of Ukrainians called the defense of Kyiv and Kyiv region, the rapid occupation of the South of the country (Kherson region and Azov region) outstanding events. More than a quarter of Ukrainians consider it important to destroy the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation, the missile cruiser Moskva, on April 14, 2022.

The significance of this event has been repeatedly emphasized in the media, in particular because over the past 40 years it was the world's first case of the sinking of a flagship. Even more symbolism to this event was given, firstly, by the consonance of the name of the cruiser with the capital of the aggressor state, and secondly, by the fact that Ukraine had a much less powerful surface fleet than the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation, while Russia used the fleet to create the illusion of "imperial greatness".

Many other tragic and heroic pages of the war are imprinted in the memory of Ukrainians: the occupation of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, the protests of Kherson residents against the occupiers, the supply of Western weapons, massive missile strikes and the like. As the survey results show, there are no one or two events that Ukrainians remember the most.

Such operations as the defense of Bakhmut and Azovstal are already being reproduced in the cultural product, becoming spaces of places of memory that can serve as a potential for asserting the identity of Ukrainians in the future (in particular, as a mobilization factor), sociologists believe.

As for regional differences, the expected trend is widespread that residents of certain regions tend to attach more weight in their memories of the war to the events that took place in their regions themselves. For example, the defense of Kyiv hit about 50% of the Center's respondents, while in the East this figure does not exceed 17%. The rapid occupation of the South was most remembered by residents of the Southern macroregion, while the AFU counteroffensive in Kharkiv region became a landmark event for residents of the East.

In 2022, the resonant events were the visits of foreign leaders and their support for Ukraine. According to the survey results, it was the weapons abroad (13.5%) and the support of allies (11.8%) and partners that inspired Ukrainians with the most hope and optimism.

According to Ukrainians, among foreign politicians or public figures, the most important role in supporting Ukraine was played by U.S. President Joe Biden (58%), Polish President Andrzej Duda (50%), former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson (49%). Significantly fewer people mentioned French President Emmanuel Macron (10%) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (9%).

In the course of active hostilities and the development of a new information reality by Ukrainians, military experts and analysts have become important. According to the survey results, the circle of the most professional and objective persons covering the events of the war included both representatives of the Ukrainian authorities (Volodymyr Zelenskyy - 56%, Mykhailo Podoliak - 34%, Oleksiy Danilov - 21%, etc.) and independent experts, journalists and bloggers (Oleh Zhdanov - 23%, Yuriy Butusov - 17%, Vitaliy Portnikov - 13%, Serhiy Sternenko - 11%, etc.).

Ukrainians' assessment of the activities of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine through the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is also interesting. As of March 2023, more than 50% in each region considered the activities of this structure a factor contributing to the Russian invasion, while up to 18%, depending on the region, did not agree with this.

As before, about 92% of Ukrainians believe in Ukraine's victory in the war against Russia. At the same time, there are no significant regional differences - residents of all regions of Ukraine in the absolute majority believe that Ukraine will win over the aggressor. Speaking of war crimes, most of all in the memory of Ukrainians are imprinted the executions and tortures of residents of Bucha by the occupiers, which surfaced after the de-occupation of Kyiv region and became chronologically the first evidence of the inhumane treatment of Ukrainians by the occupiers.

Ukrainians are also united in their attitude to the leader of the Russian Federation - 94% of respondents believe that Putin is a modern Hitler.

The survey was conducted from March 23 to March 30, 2023 by face-to-face interview in all regions of Ukraine, with the exception of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and in Zaporizhia, Mykolaiv, Kharkiv, Kherson regions, the survey was conducted in those territories controlled by the Government of Ukraine and where the fighting isn’t ongoing.

Some 2,017 respondents aged 18 and over were surveyed. The theoretical sampling error does not exceed 2.3%. The structure of the sample population reproduces the demographic structure of the adult population of the territories in which the survey was conducted, as of the beginning of 2022 (by age, gender, type of settlement).