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Ukrainians Dissatisfied With Democracy

In the heady early 1990s, when all things seemed possible in Ukraine, Sestrychka Vika, a popular and provocative songstress, had a line in one of her songs touching on the efforts to increase the use of the Ukrainian language in Ukraine.

It concerned sausage. Nobody cares how you spell it, she crooned, as long as we have it. Now it seems that the sausage principle applies to democracy. Democracy or autocracy, no matter, as long as we live well.

Seventy percent of Ukrainians are dissatisfied with the way democracy is practiced in their country, according to a poll carried out at the end of 2008 by Democratic Initiatives and the Ukrainian Sociology Service, two highly respected Ukrainian polling firms.

The study also found that 38 percent of respondents considered democracy the best political system for Ukraine, down from 45 percent in 2007. At the same time, the number of people who believe that "under certain conditions an authoritarian regime might be better than a democratic one" rose from 21 percent in 2007 to 24 percent in 2008.

Democratic Initiatives Director Iryna Bekeshkina told RFE/RL that people associate the instability in the country with democracy and, as such, are disappointed and disenchanted with self-proclaimed "democratic" leaders.

Ukraine is in the middle of an economic crisis and most people do not see their elected officials as doing anything to improve the state of the country's economy.

But I wouldn't rush to the conclusion that Ukrainians are ready for a version of Vladimir Putin's managed democracy. Asking to choose between personal liberty and social equality, Ukrainians were divided. One-third was ready to sacrifice civil liberties for personal well-being; one-third was willing to suffer privations in order to safeguard personal liberties; and another one-third could not decide.

-- Irene Chalupa

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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