Accessibility links

Breaking News

Hard-Won Unity: Polls Show Russian Invasion Is Transforming Ukrainian Self-Identity

Ukrainian soldiers take part in National Flag Day celebrations in Kyiv on August 23.

Ahead of Ukraine's Independence Day on August 24 and six months after Russia launched its large-scale invasion of the country, opinion polls indicate growing unity on key issues among Ukrainians and a widespread unwillingness to make any territorial concessions to Moscow.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

RFE/RL's Live Briefing gives you all of the latest developments on Russia's full-scale invasion, Kyiv's counteroffensive, Western military aid, global reaction, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL's coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here.

“Ukrainians are united like never before, but it’s a hard-won unity” Anton Hrushetskiy, deputy director of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS), told RFE/RL.

According to a poll conducted by KIIS in July, a historic 85 percent of Ukrainians identify themselves above all as citizens of Ukraine, as opposed to residents of their region, representatives of an ethnic minority, or some other identifier.

This so-called indicator of civil identity, regarded as a crucial mark of cohesion in a historically diverse and divided Ukrainian society, was 64.4 percent only half a year ago.

“The ideas that there is no such thing as the Ukrainian nation, and that the Ukrainian state is a failed state were crucial to Russian propaganda,” Hrushetskiy said. “Nothing could have had such a unifying effect as the war waged by Putin and his cynical justification of it.”

Research shows similar spikes can be observed in views on other crucial matters.

As many as 96 percent of Ukrainians support their country joining the European Union, and 91 percent now favor joining NATO. Some 92 percent profess a “bad” attitude toward Russia, while only 2 percent declare a “good” one.

Hrushetskiy believes these changes will prove enduring because unity around them has been developing gradually since Ukraine gained independence from Soviet rule in 1991. A significant increase in support for the pro-European and transatlantic geopolitical orientation of the country -- and a corresponding decline of positive sentiment toward Russia – were notable features of the 2004-05 Orange Revolution and the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, he noted.

Six months after Moscow's failed assault on Kyiv, the Ukrainian armed forces and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy enjoy the record-high confidence of society.

Polls show that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has the trust of well over three-quarters of the population.
Polls show that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has the trust of well over three-quarters of the population.

According to a poll conducted by KIIS and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), as many as 97 percent of Ukrainians trust or completely trust the former, and 85 percent trust or completely trust the latter.

Hrushetskiy notes that Ukrainian society is experiencing a well-known, rally-around-the-flag effect. Research on political preferences shows that a distinct majority of Ukrainians prefers a strong state and does not see timely democratic elections as a priority after the suspension of martial law, he says.

Majority Against Concessions

According to KIIS research, as many as 84 percent of Ukrainians reject any territorial concessions to Russia, and this indicator increased between May and July when two separate surveys were conducted.

Even among residents of the south (the Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhya, Mykolayiv, Odesa, and Kherson regions), 77 percent oppose concessions. Among residents of the east (Kharkiv and the Kyiv-controlled parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions) -- 82 percent do not accept concessions.

Moreover, the data indicates that as many as 61 percent of Ukrainians support opposing Russian aggression until all of Ukraine -- including the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea that Moscow illegally annexed in 2014 -- is under Kyiv’s control. Some 12.2 percent were willing to accept Moscow’s continued occupation of Crimea, while 8.6 percent argued for the restoration of all territory captured by Russia since February 24. Just under 15 percent were willing to accept an immediate cease-fire along the current lines of conflict with both sides pledging to enter long-term peace talks.

However, Hrushetskiy stresses that one’s war experiences make a difference. The greater feeling of insecurity one has for oneself and one’s family, the more likely one is to accept an immediate cease-fire and the implied territorial concessions.

About 75 percent of those who feel the most personally secure urge fighting on until all of Ukraine is retaken. Some 46 percent of those who feel the least secure support this notion.

Almost 30 percent of those who say they feel “very insecure” and more than 10 percent of those who feel “insecure” said they favor an immediate cease-fire.

Six months into the large-scale war with Russia, 40 percent of Ukrainians believe the situation in Ukraine is "improving." Some 29 percent believe "in some ways, it is improving, and in some ways, it is getting worse," while 22 percent believe that things are getting worse.

  • 16x9 Image

    Aleksander Palikot

    Aleksander Palikot is a Ukraine-based journalist covering politics, history, and culture. His work has appeared in Krytyka Polityczna, New Eastern Europe, Jüdische Allgemeine, and beyond.