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Values shift in Ukraine: any evidence yet?

Around a year ago, I made an argument predicting the value shift in Ukraine. I was and am absolutely aware that it is dangerous to give any kind of predictions in social sciences, especially when it comes to Ukraine. Nevertheless, I emphasized the value shift that I observed during and after (if it is over yet) the Revolution of Dignity and expected those values to diffuse all over Ukraine. In fact, I did a comparative research on values of Euromaidan protesters, Ukrainians and citizens of the EU. Results of the study show that values of Euromaidan coincide more with European values, especially those of developed Western and Scandinavian countries, than Ukrainian ones.

No doubt, Ukrainian revolution arose around some core ideas such as freedom, human rights, and fairness; however, these ideas spread far away with the flow of time, as the number of protesters rose dramatically over the period, including in areas outside the physical Maidan in the center of Kyiv. Moreover, the Euromaidan as a movement ended, but people still share its ideas and reproduce its values. One such example is a newly established phenomenon of a patriotic consumption which is a legacy of Maidan, which is supported not only by the Euromaidan activists, but throughout Ukraine.

There is a profound number of theories on innovation and diffusion, but the common idea is that there are innovators and leaders who are among the first to share ideas and values, but later these ideas are spreading outside the primary social group by various channels to the “late majority”. Thus, I believe that as a result of spreading the Maidan values and ideas, the whole Ukrainian society has been experiencing some sort of a value shift. One year has passed, so it is a right time to draw first conclusions. I will refer to a number of relevant public polls and my personal observations in Kyiv, where I have recently returned after living on the border between the Netherlands and Belgium. I structure my analysis across three dimensions: (1) multiculturalism and open-mindedness; (2) Freedom and civic activism; (3) post-materialism. Although I have to underline that the three are heavily intertwined and not easily distinguished.

In the recent days, I have attended a number of events both in Verkhovna Rada and in Ministries. This includes the presentation of the Economic Strategy of Ukraine by Minister of Economy Aivaras Abromavičius and his team where the focus was on economic freedom. However, not a single word was said about the paradigm and values shift. What I have to stress though, and it is critical, I perceive societal dimension, namely values and paradigm (as a way of thinking and acting) as a basis for economy and politics. Thus, neither positive economic changes nor political reform would happen without changing the societal paradigm (or so-called Soviet mentality) in the first place.

Multiculturalism and open-mindedness

It has been always hard to measure the level of openness of society, while a number of social scientists struggled facing the methodological challenges. More challenging this task become in the conditions of the lack of reliable sources and data, and, at the same time, turbulent reality with rapid social changes that Ukraine is facing. Nevertheless, I will try to provide some data and a few key observations that may either partly prove or provide evidence of some of the social trends that I mentioned earlier in the article.

First, a number of people who tolerate people of another race constitute 98% according to British Council, who polled Ukrainian youth under 35 all over Ukraine. At the same time, a total majority of nearly 80% allow lesbians and gays to be in the inner circles, while around two-thirds of Ukrainians would allow gay marriage according to online poll done by ICTV.  Moreover, 8 times more respondents called religious pluralism as a value and advantage but not a burden. That is something that worth attention, as Ukraine was known for its xenophobia, discrimination, and racism. However, recent poll shows that Ukrainians (especially young generation) become more focused on other cultures, more tolerant and open-minded. This altogether leads to the openness for new, openness for changes and adaptability.  

New Police Patrol Credit: Yulia Babych

In addition to that, what is shocking after some period abroad, the number of people with tattoos has dramatically rose. I see the tattoo as a unique sign that units cultural openness, freedom of choice and expression as well as the responsibility for the decision to have one. Definitely, the tattoo is trending. Unfortunately, I do not have reliable data but every single time when I am going down to the underground, I see plenty of people with tattoos. Even the members of new patrol police have some, which shows a considerable level of openness.  This takes us to the next value that arose strongly during the Revolution and in recent days – freedom.