(Monkey Cage/WP) (Co-authored with Mikhail Alexseev) Why have so many Russian citizens seemingly been so cavalier about the dismemberment of Ukraine, a sovereign state that majorities of Russia’s population had long viewed quite favorably?
New survey evidence indicates that this is not so much a product of a surge in Russian nationalism, which has actually remained rather stable since the pre-crisis period. Instead, it has much more to do with a stunningly widespread Russian view that Ukraine as it has existed since 1991 is simply not legitimate as a state within its present borders and with its present government.
The findings come from a nationally representative survey of 1,200 adult respondents conducted during Nov. 5-18, 2014, by Russia’s ROMIR survey agency as part of the University of Oslo’s New Russian Nationalism(NEORUSS) project, led by principal investigators Pål Kolstø and Helge Blakkisrud.
While Ukraine’s borders including Crimea have been internationally recognized ever since 1991, including by Russia itself, Russian citizens tend to voice very different perspectives when they are asked “where should the borders of Ukraine be?” As the figure here illustrates, given a finite set of options, only 16 percent of the population answered in line with international law by affirming Ukraine’s borders as they have existed since 1991 (and also for much of the Soviet period). Another 29 percent were satisfied with Ukraine minus Crimea, but all other respondents thought independent Ukraine should be even smaller, right down to 11 percent averring that “no part of Ukraine can be an independent state.” In all, nearly 84 percent of respondents supported reducing Ukraine’s territory.