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National Identity and Public Support for Political and Economic Reform in Ukraine


This article investigates the impact conceptions of national identity have on mass support for political and economic reform in Ukraine. After laying out the theoretical linkage between national identity and models of political and economic development, it uses a 2001 mass public opinion survey to assess the influence of two competing versions of national identity—Eastern Slavic and Ethnic Ukrainian—on reformist attitudes in Ukraine. Bivariate and multivariate statistical analysis demonstrate that an Ethnic Ukrainian national identity is associated with pro-democratic and pro-market orientations, while the Eastern Slavic national identity is associated with antidemocratic and antimarket orientations. Furthermore, the apparent effect of national identity is stronger than that of other factors that scholars have typically argued promote backing for democracy and capitalism in the postcommunist region, including education, age, urban residence, and economic well-being.

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1. Almond Gabriel and Verba Sidney, The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations (Princeton, 1963).

2. Ethnic groups, in addition to states, may claim to be nations. Here I discuss national identity only as it relates to nation-states.

3. Freedom House, Nations in Transit 2003: Democratization in East Central Europe and Eurasia (Lanham, Md., 2003), (last consulted 27 October 2004).

4. O'Driscoll Gerald P. Jr., Feulner Edwin J., O'Grady Mary Anastasia, Eiras Ana I., and Schaefer Brett D., 2003 Index of Economic Freedom (Washington, D.C., 2003), 14.

5. Fleron Frederic J. Jr. and Ahl Richard, “Does the Public Matter for Democratization in Russia? What We Have Learned from ‘Third Wave’ Transitions and Public Opinion Surveys,” in Eckstein Harry, Fleron Frederic J., Hoffmann Erik P., and Reisinger William M., eds., Can Democracy Take Root in Post-Soviet Russia? Explorations in State-Society Relations (Lanham, Md., 1998), 305.

6. Mason David S., “Attitudes Toward the Market and Political Participation in the Postcommunist States,” Slavic Review 54, no. 2 (1995): 385406.

7. Zimmerman William, “Markets, Democracy and Russian Foreign Policy,” Post-Soviet Affairs 10, no. 2 (1994): 103-26.

8. Kullberg Judith and Zimmerman William, “Liberal Elites, Socialist Masses, and Problems of Russian Democracy,” World Politics 51, no. 3 (1999): 323-58.

9. Reisinger William, Miller Arthur H., Hesli Vicki L., and Maher Kristen Hill, “Political Values in Russia, Ukraine and Lithuania: Sources and Implications for Democracy,” British Journal of Political Science 24, no. 2 (1994): 183223.

10. Miller Arthur H., Reisinger William M., and Hesli Vicki L., “Understanding Political Change in Post-Soviet Societies: A Further Commentary on Finifter and Mickiewicz,” American Political Science Review 90, no. 1 (1996): 153-66.

11. Fleron Frederic J. Jr., “Post-Soviet Political Culture in Russia: An Assessment of Recent Empirical Investigations,” Europe-Asia Studies 48, no. 2 (1996): 247.

12. Duch Raymond M., “Economic Chaos and the Fragility of Democratic Transition in Former Communist Regimes,” Journal of Politics 57, no. 1 (1995): 121-58.

13. Gibson James L., “A Mile Wide But an Inch Deep(?): The Structure of Democratic Commitments in the Former USSR,” American Journal of Political Science 40, no. 2 (1996): 409.

14. Mcintosh Mary E., Iver Martha Abele Mac, Abele Daniel G., and Smeltz Dina, “Publics Meet Market Democracy in Central and East Europe, 1991-1993,” Slavic Review 53, no. 2 (1994):501rz58.

15. Kullberg and Zimmerman, “Liberal Elites, Socialist Masses,” 350.

16. Reisinger et al., “Political Values,” 215.

17. Miller, Reisinger, and Hesli, “Understanding Political Change,” 159.

18. Freedman Milton, Capitalism and Freedom (Chicago, 1963); Hayek Friedrich A., The Road to Serfdom (Chicago, 1944).

19. Wood Ellen Meiksins, Democracy Against Capitalism: Renewing Historical Materialism (Cambridge, 1995).

20. Kuzio Taras, “Transition in Post-Communist States: Triple or Quadruple?Politics 21, no. 3 (2001): 172.

21. Eke Steven M. and Kuzio Taras, “Sultanism in Eastern Europe: The Socio-Political Roots of Authoritarian Populism in Belarus,” Europe-Asia Studies 52, no. 3 (2000): 508.

22. Wilson Andrew, Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation (New Haven, 2000), 190.

23. Wilson Andrew, “The Ukrainian Left: In Transition to Social Democracy or Still in Thrall to the USSR?Europe-Asia Studies 49, no. 7 (1997): 12931316.

24. See Kuzio Taras, “Radical Nationalist Parties and Movements in Contemporary Ukraine Before and After Independence: The Right and its Politics, 1989-1994,” Nationalities Papers 25, no. 2 (1997): 211-42; and Solchanyk Roman, “The Radical Right in Ukraine,” in Ramet Sabrina P., ed., The Radical Right in Central and Eastern Europe since 1989 (University Park, 1999), 279-96.

25. Solchanyk, “Radical Right in Ukraine,” 286.

26. Riabchuk Mykola, “Dvoistist'chi dvoznachnist? Ukraina iak politychna (de)konstruktsiia,” Suchasnist’ 11 (2002): 54.

27. Dowley Kathleen M. and Silver Brian D., “Social Capital, Ethnicity, and Support for Democracy in Post-Communist States,“ Europe-Asia Studies 54, no. 4 (2002): 516-17.

28. Khmelko Valeri and Wilson Andrew, “Regionalism and Ethnic and Linguistic Cleavages in Ukraine,” in Kuzio Taras, ed., Contemporary Ukraine: Dynamics of Post-Soviet Transformation (Armonk, N.Y., 1998), 67, 69.

29. Miller Arthur H., Klobucar Thomas F., and Reisinger William M., “Establishing Representation: Mass and Elite Political Attitudes in Ukraine,” in Wolchik Sharon L. and Zviglyanich Volodymyr, eds., Ukraine: The Search for a National Identity (Lanham, Md., 2000), 227, 225.

30. Miller William L., White Stephen, and Heywood Paul, Values and Political Change in Postcommunist Europe (New York, 1998), 279-80. Western Ukrainians, Ukrainianspeakers, and ethnic Ukrainians are, however, about as supportive or slightly more supportive of elections and parties than their counterparts.

31. Smith Anthony, National Identity (Reno, 1991), 73.

32. Nodia Ghia, “Comments on Nationalism and Democracy,” in Diamond Larry and Planner Marc F., eds., Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Democracy (Baltimore, 1994), 322.

33. Rustow Dankwart A., “Transitions to Democracy: Toward a Dynamic Model,” Comparative Politics 2, no. 3 (1970): 350.

34. Canovan Margaret, Nationhood and Political Theory (Cheltenham, Eng., 1996).

35. See, for example, Pigenko Vladimir and Novae Cristina, “Economic Reforms and Ethnic Nationalism in the Context of Transition to Democracy: The Case of Four Eastern European Nations,” Democratization 9, no. 4 (2002): 159-72.

36. It is important not to confuse ethnic national identity at the level of a nation-state on the one hand with edinic identity at the level of an ethnic group that may or may not claim to be a nation on the other. The discussion here pertains to the former. An individual's or group's ethnic identity may influence their preferences with respect to their country's ethnic national identity, but the conceptual distinction is vital.

37. Shulman Stephen, “Sources of Civic and Ethnic Nationalism in Ukraine,“ Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics 18, no. 4 (2002): 130.

38. Shulman Stephen, “The Contours of Civic and Ethnic National Identification in Ukraine,” Europe-Asia Studies 56, no. 1 (2004): 3556.

39. Note that the qualitative studies discussed earlier on the relationship between “Ukrainian nationalism” and reform are actually referring to one version of such Ukrainian national identity—the Ethnic Ukrainian one.

40. The survey consisted of 1,500 face-to-face interviews of respondents in ten oblasts of Ukraine plus the Republic of Crimea and the city of Kiev. The ten oblasts were Donets'k, Dnipropetrovs'k, Kharkiv, Kiev, L'viv, Odesa, Poltava, Rivne, Zakarpattya and Vynnytsya. Respondents were chosen using a three-stage regionally stratified address sample. A weighting variable adjusting the sample to state-wide demographic characteristics was applied to all analysis. Details available upon request.

41. Respondents needed to answer at least three of the four questions to be included in the index.

42. Unless otherwise noted, all the data in this article exclude the small portion of respondents who could not or did not answer the survey questions.

43. Again, respondents were included in the index only if they answered at least three of the four questions.

44. The terminology for the cell names of the two-by-two table follows that used by Kullberg and Zimmerman, “Liberal Elites, Socialist Masses,” 333.

45. The survey also permitted respondents to indicate other ethnicities or languages. The extremely few respondents that did were excluded from the analysis of ethnicity and language in Table 4 and from the regression analysis below.

46. The western region consists of Rivne, L'viv, and Zakarpattya oblasts; the central region of Kiev, Vynnytsya, and Poltava oblasts; and the south-eastern region of Donets'k, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovs'k and Odesa oblasts.

47. Many analysts use a standard of .70 to justify the combination of separate measures into a new one. Thus an alpha of .68 is deemed here sufficiently close to this standard to warrant the creation of a composite measure of national identity from the seven survey questions.

48. The average z-score was calculated only for those respondents for whom data was available for at least five of the seven questions.

49. The scaled index thus permits identification of not only those individuals with strong Ethnic Ukrainian or Eastern Slavic national identity preferences but also those who favor a mixed version of ethnic national identity or are ambivalent towards it.

50. In the regression equations in Tables 7 and 8, collinearity diagnostics indicate that multicollinearity is not a problem for any of the models. The variance inflation factors for all independent variables, for example, are all well under 4 in each model.

51. The standardized coefficients for the dummy variables for region and sex cannot be compared to those of the other independent variables, however.

52. Shulman, “Civic and Ethnic National Identification in Ukraine.“

53. Thinking that the ability to speak Ukrainian is unimportant for national membership is also consistent with a civic national identity. But since the purpose of the index is to distinguish between support for two alternative types of ethnic national identity, low scores on this variable are interpreted as support for an Eastern Slavic national identity.

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Slavic Review
  • ISSN: 0037-6779
  • EISSN: 2325-7784
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