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MAY 8 AND 9. SOCIOLOGIST PANIOTTO TELLED HOW CHANGES UKRAINIAN'S ATTITUDE TOWARDS THESE TWO DATES, AND EXPLAINED WHY - INTERVIEW NV
Volodymyr Paniotto, Director General of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (Photo:DR)
Volodymyr Paniotto, Director General of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, explains the difference between the attitude of Ukrainians and Russians to the Victory Day, and reflects on how the war is changing the views of compatriots.
On May 8 and 9, Ukraine will mark the anniversary of the Second World War, the memory of which will be significantly transformed under the influence of the modern Russian-Ukrainian war. Meanwhile, Ukrainian society is debating which awards should be given, and one of the bills submitted to the Verkhovna Rada proposes to make May 9 Europe Day, depriving it of the status of Victory Day and the day off.
Volodymyr Paniotto, Director General of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, is one of those who has been researching over the past decades how Ukrainians' attitudes toward Soviet-style public holidays are changing. In a conversation with NV, the sociologist reflects on what is the Day of Victory over Nazism for modern Ukrainians, and how Russians treat it, and what is the reason for differences.
— When did the attitude to the celebrations of May 9 start to change in Ukraine? And when there was a noticeable difference in attitude to this date from the Russians?
— May 9 is one of the main holidays in Russia, and the difference in attitude to this holiday in Ukraine is great. In addition, in recent years, Russia has changed its attitude to the leader of the USSR during World War II, Joseph Stalin. For the last ten years, we have been watching the dictator and the murderer gradually become a positive figure in Russia and now has a 59% positive attitude. In addition, in response to questions about the most outstanding personality of all times and peoples, he is not the first year in Russia first place.
The Victory Day helps the Russian government to form a high level of patriotism among Russian society, and also legitimizes a certain aggression. The slogan "We can repeat!" appeared in relation to the May victory and existed even before Russia started the war in Ukraine as one of the signs of readiness for war with the West. It also helped shape a phenomenon known as chauvinism or the nation's greatness complex. Well, naturally, all other post-Soviet peoples - participants in the war were expelled from the victory, especially Ukrainians, we remember the relevant words of Putin.
As for Ukraine, in the first years of Independence there was not much difference in celebration, although Ukrainians have never had such a claim to greatness and an emphasis on victory. We started measuring the attitude of Ukrainians to this holiday at least in 2011, and in 2021 we watched the dynamics of ten years. For 2011, for 50% of Ukrainians, it was one of the main and most important holidays of the year. Each year, these figures gradually decreased. In 2013, there were already 40% of those who thought so, in 2016 - 35%, in 2017 - about the same. Then there were figures of 31-33%, and in the last, before the war, poll, people who considered May 9 an important holiday, there were already 18%.
— In Europe, May 8 has long been the day of remembrance for the victims of World War II. In essence, it is a holiday of sorrow, devoid of glorification. How many Ukrainians have been celebrating this day lately?
— However, it started with politicians, the media and activists in 2014. In April 2021, we conducted a survey with the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, which found that about 40% of Ukrainians supported the celebration of both dates - Remembrance and Reconciliation Day and Victory Day, and it seems that this was all the years before the highest indicator. Ukrainians were willing to compromise, 31% of Ukrainians in 2021 believed that only Victory Day should be celebrated on May 9, 9% believed that only Remembrance and Reconciliation Day should be celebrated, and 10% were indifferent to this holidays.
— We are currently experiencing a new large-scale war that will significantly affect society, now the war is not about the past, but about the present. How it transforms historical memory, a pantheon of heroes for Ukrainians?
— At the moment, any reasoning about this seems pointless to me, because it is not clear how we will get out of this war. It also depends on how many of those people who left will actually return, on how long the war will last. There has been research that shows that the trauma of war, even at the genetic level, is passed on to future generations.
— Today, a bill is proposed to mark May 8 as the Day of Remembrance and Victory over Nazism in World War II, and May 9 as Europe Day. Do you think that this initiative can get the support of Ukrainians?
— I believe that no one needs action, because when such a decision is made now, no one checks how people will react to it, and why irritate those for whom May 9 is a real holiday, maybe their parents told them something. What this changes for modern war, I do not know.
— But it is Russia that is turning the date of May 9 into an instrument of war, beginning in the occupied territories preparations for the "Victory Parade" with St. George's ribbons and the restoration of all the props of the Soviet celebration.
— But they make everything an instrument of war, from Easter, from Christmas, they pray for their army, why shouldn't we celebrate because of it? I think there will still be dissatisfaction in Ukrainian society if the bill becomes law. Of course, this discontent will not lead to protests, because no such protests during the war are possible, but if such people in society somewhere around 20%, then I think it is inappropriate in any case. The main thing is unclear why it is needed now.
— The values of society are changing slowly, whether the war is accelerating this process now?
— Yes, war is just such a period in the development of society, when these changes occur fairly quickly. There are also very negative processes, such as anomie, or a period when the previous value systems cease to work, and the newest ones have not yet become established, and the person finds himself in a certain value vacuum. Now it is definitely not about Ukraine, which is mobilized. But after the war, as after 1991, it is possible that it is then that the level of suicides and other negative factors increases, so I hope that we will still be in a situation where these changes in values will be quite rapid and noticeable. We are already seeing how quickly geopolitical orientations have changed - since 2014, and we will see this especially after this war.
Until 2014, Ukraine could not make its geopolitical choice, there were constant fluctuations. Then there was a third of society focused on Europe, a third was focused on Russia, a third fluctuated between these two poles. This was especially noticeable in the last year of Yanukovych's rule. Only after 2014 was the final course for Europe. The same is happening now with NATO, when public support for the idea of joining NATO has grown significantly. Interestingly, Russia sees its own war as a reaction to Ukraine's desire to join NATO, while by 2014 only 16% of Ukrainians wanted to join NATO, and 90% of Ukrainians even in the west of the country were positive about Russians.
Only after the occupation of Ukrainian territories in 2014, the number of those who wanted to join NATO tripled. And Putin did not attack because Ukraine wanted to join NATO, as he likes to say. Ukraine wanted to join NATO precisely because Putin attacked. So there have been drastic changes of direction about NATO. Values of other kinds have also changed quite significantly, such as support for the volunteer movement, the open market, and freedom of speech. This war will require some change for each of us, because it has affected everyone, about 40% of families in Ukraine are now divided by the war, the people of the whole country suffer from it, so this is definitely a large-scale process of change.
— Now Ukraine is once again discussing the renaming of streets, metro stations, and the demolition of monuments that society considers symbols of Russia's colonial policy in Ukraine. How do you assess this discussion and the ability of Ukrainian society to quickly reach a consensus on this issue?
— This process, in my opinion, was done not very well thoughtfully, it had to be started in 1991 and done consistently, not by campaigns, and to check and shape public opinion. We conducted research on renaming Kropyvnytskyi, there were several options for renaming it, the population chose another option, but it did not help - still chose Kropyvnytskyi. We conducted research a year later, and even a year later people were dissatisfied with the renaming and did not calm down. Then, in the same Kropyvnytskyi, the government received less support than expected.
The process of renaming should be as widely discussed as possible, with the goal of why we are doing it here and now, because often people do renaming reactively, either to show patriotism or to defend themselves. After what the Russians have done here, I really want very quick actions to protect and "cleanse" myself, and I want to kill Russians there with my bare hands. But such an emotion is not a good guide when it comes to renaming.
I do not think that Russia in its current state will last long, it will definitely fall apart and change, but it will not disappear completely, we have to coexist with them. The crimes of the Russians were committed not thanks to Pushkin, Tolstoy or Chekhov, but contrary to them. I would say that these classics are part of world humanistic culture, and they are not our enemies, but allies, the fifth column in the rear of Russia.
May 8, 2022