How The War Changed Ukrainians

Foreground: a man and woman in military combat gear kneeling and talking to a child in a blue coat and pink boots. Background: Military personnel carrier bearing a Ukrainian flag alongside of which are six soldiers standing in a row, carrying weapons and wearing military combat gear.

By Slava Tsukerman

(Note: This article was originally written in Russian then translated using Google Translate.)

On February 21, 2023, Ukrainian sociological organization “Rating Group”, one of the largest non-governmental and independent research institutions in Ukraine, published the document untitled “HOW THE WAR CHANGED ME AND MY COUNTRY. SUMMARY OF THE YEAR”.

The document shows the result of the survey conducted recently by the organization. The study aimed to show how the views, assessments and lives of Ukrainians have changed in various areas during the year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

People’s memories of February 24, 2022, when Russian army invaded Ukraine, speak of shock, confusion, uncertainty, unpreparedness. Despite this, now, a year after the invasion, the confidence of victory is 95%, compared to 56% as recently as January 2022. That is in spite of the fact that the majority (63%) believes that victory requires at least six months, or even more time.

The main emotion that respondents feel when thinking about Ukraine is pride. As a result of the invasion and the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people, this indicator has more than doubled in the year – from 34% to 75%.

Changes have also taken place in national self-identification: the absolute majority of respondents identify themselves as citizens of Ukraine (compared to 2021, the indicator increased from 76% to 94%). 50% of Ukrainians identify themselves as Europeans (double growth).

22% of Ukrainians switched to more frequent use of the Ukrainian language during the year of the war. (According to the survey conducted in 2004 by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, Russian was used at home by 43-46% of the population of Ukraine. That is, as much or even slightly more than the Ukrainian language).

Assessing the financial situation at the end of 2022, two-thirds of the respondents record a worsening of their financial situation, a third – no changes. At the same time, almost 40% (against 14% at the end of 2021) experienced an increase in confidence in the future.

The priorities for the recovery of the country are seen as the restoration of enterprises and jobs and the reconstruction of damages, because most Ukrainians want to work, not to receive social assistance.

Ukraine is going through a difficult period of its development, rethinking its role in history. In general, the war contributed to increasing the trust of citizens in state institutions. Trust in the Armed Forces of Ukraine increased from 65% to 97%, trust in the President – from 36% to 90%.

And the majority (65%) want Zelenskyi to be re-elected for the next term.

There has been an increase in trust in mass media, but the main feature of wartime is the sharp change in the channels of communication and obtaining information by citizens. And if trust in national and local media has increased, the frequency of consumption of their news content has, on the contrary, decreased. Instead, there is a significant growth in groups and channels in messengers (from 11% to 41%), as well as in YouTube (from 21% to 29%). Social networks retained their influence (35%).

One of the direct consequences of the Russian invasion was the growth of Euro-Atlantic sentiments among Ukrainians, which showed record figures in the entire history of the country. Today, 87% support Ukraine joining the European Union, 86% – NATO.

If in 2021 the majority of citizens were inclined towards a negative image of the state, now more than half speak of a distinctly or moderately positive image.

There are noticeable changes in the psychological state of the Ukrainians. During the year, the feeling of selfish love decreased, but the love for others increased. The tendency of affiliation (the desire to be with others) increased, the individual now is inferior to the collective.

Ukrainians are almost as prone to self-limitations as they were six months ago – more than half (58%) believe that it is necessary to significantly limit oneself in entertainment and shopping, and 37% are inclined to think that one should try to live a full life.

The attitude towards people who have left the country is ambiguous: women with children are tolerated the most. At the same time, the attitude towards men of military age is the most negative.

The level of tolerance in society increased during the war: the positive-neutral attitude towards the LGBT community increased from 53% to 64%, and towards the people who do not want to have children (childfree), it increased from 57% to 67%.

During the year of the war, faith in God decreased somewhat: the percentage of those who do not doubt His existence changed from 60% to 55%.

The war led to the loss of work for at least a third of the working population. A particularly difficult situation is for displaced persons and residents of war zones: half of them lost their jobs. Even of those who were able to continue working during the war, half still suffered a reduction in wages.

The most difficult situation with work was in the first months of the war, later people began to return to work. Also, after a sharp drop in those willing to start their own business at the beginning of the war, their number is gradually recovering.

The main strategy for action in the event of a reduction in income remains the search for an additional source (decreased from 62% to 54%): many started looking for a second job during the war or started working more. However, not everyone has the ability to control their income (60%), it is especially difficult for the elderly.

The majority of citizens suffered direct or indirect consequences of the invasion, only 14% suffered no losses. Residents of the eastern regions suffered the most losses, more than half of them left their homes.

Despite positive changes in society, optimism and absolute faith in victory, the war continues to inflict irreparable damages on Ukrainians and taking away the most valuable. Over the past six months, the number of those who lost relatives has almost doubled (from 9% to 17%), as has the number of those whose loved ones were injured (from 8% to 13%).

Updated: March 5, 2023 — 7:43 pm