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Attitude towards the teaching of the Russian language in Ukrainian-language schools: the results of a telephone survey conducted on February 14-22, 2023

The press release was prepared by the Executive Director of KIIS, Anton Hrushetskyi


During February 14-22, 2023, the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) conducted its own all-Ukrainian public opinion survey "Omnibus". Bythemethodofcomputer-assistedtelephoneinterviews(CATI) based on a random sample of mobile phone numbers (with random generation of phone numbers and subsequent statistical weighting), 1,017 respondents living in all regions of Ukraine (except the Autonomous Republic of Crimea) were interviewed. The survey was conducted with adult (aged 18 and older) citizens of Ukraine who, at the time of the survey, lived on the territory of Ukraine (within the boundaries controlled by the authorities of Ukraine until February 24, 2022). The sample did not include residents of territories that were not temporarily controlled by the authorities of Ukraine until February 24, 2022 (AR of Crimea, the city of Sevastopol, certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts), and the survey was not conducted with citizens who left the country after February 24, 2022.

Formally, under normal circumstances, the statistical error of such a sample (with a probability of 0.95 and taking into account the design effect of 1.1) did not exceed 3.4% for indicators close to 50%, 3.0% for indicators close to 25%, 2.1% - for indicators close to 10%, 1.5% - for indicators close to 5%.

Under conditions of war, in addition to the specified formal error, a certain systematic deviation is added. In particular, if back in May, among all the respondents we interviewed, 2.5-4% lived in the territories occupied after February 24 (and this corresponded to the percentage of those who live there, because the generation of telephone numbers was random), now, due to the occupiers turning off the telephone communication, we managed to interview only 1 respondent (out of 1017) who currently lives in the occupied settlements. It is important to note that although the views of the respondents who lived in the occupation were somewhat different, the general tendencies were quite similar. That is, the impossibility of interviewing such respondents does not significantly affect the quality of the results. There are other factors that can affect the quality of results in "wartime" conditions (see Annex 2).

In general, we believe that the obtained results are still highly representative and allow a fairly reliable analysis of public moods of the population.


Should the Russian language be studied in Ukrainian-language schools


One of the topical issues being discussed in Ukraine is what role the Russian language should have. In particular, is it necessary to study the Russian language in schools with the Ukrainian language of instruction, and if so, to what extent. It should be noted that 25-30 years ago, polls on this issue did not even include the option "not to study at all", which indicates the depth of changes in public views that Ukraine has undergone during the lifetime of one generation.

KIIS regularly asked questions about the study of the Russian language in schools, and below on the graph we offer to see what were the thoughts and views of Ukrainians in 1998, 2019 and 2023. As recently as 2019, only 8% of Ukrainians believed that it was not worth studying Russian in schools at all, while now such people – 52%.

And although now 42% support preserving the study of the Russian language to a certain extent, but even here there have been significant internal changes in the direction of reducing the time that should be devoted to the study of the Russian language. Thus, in 1998, 46% believed that the scope of study should be the same as for the Ukrainian language. In 2019, the indicator was 30%, and now it is only 3%. Also, from 32% to 6%, those who believe that the Russian language should be studied to a lesser extent than Ukrainian, but to a greater extent than other foreign languages, have decreased. Now in fact, of the indicated 42%, the vast majority - 33% (or almost 80% of this category of citizens) - would like the Russian language to be given the same or less time than other foreign languages.


Graph 1. In your opinion, to the study of the Russian language in Ukrainian-language schools should be devoted …


* In the 1998 survey, there was no "no need to study it at all" option, but there was an "other" option (0.4%, added to "difficult to say" on the graph). Also, the 1998 survey covered the entire Donbas and Crimea. However, taking this factor into account would not significantly affect meaningful results and understanding of key tendencies.

The graph below shows the data in a regional dimension with a comparison of 2019 and 2023. In all regions of Ukraine[1] there is a significant increase in those who believe that the Russian language should not be studied at all. For example, in the West of Ukraine there were only 22% of such in 2019, and now - 64%. At the same time, growth in the South and East is more symptomatic. In the South, only 1% believed in 2019 that the Russian language should not be studied, and now almost half of the population (49%) believe. In the East, none of the respondents to the 2019 survey advocated the exclusion of the Russian language from teaching in schools, and now such – 30%.

 At the same time, the regional specificity is preserved, and still, the further to the East, the more those who seek to preserve the study of the Russian language to a certain extent. However, even in the South and East, among those who currently support the preservation of the study of the Russian language, the absolute majority advocates a volume that will not exceed the volume of learning other foreign languages. To understand the depth of the change, even in 2019, the majority insisted on the same volume as the study of the Ukrainian language.


Graph 2. Studying the Russian language in Ukrainian-language schools in the regional dimension


Graph 3 shows the data depending on which language the respondents chose for the interview - Ukrainian or Russian. Among the respondents who chose the Russian language for the interview, 71% want to preserve the study of the Russian language in schools, but most of them also say that the volume is not greater than the volume of other foreign languages. At the same time, the language of communication at home should not be confused with the language chosen for the interview, since the latter is more of a political act (in this survey, 89% of respondents chose the Ukrainian language for the interview, 11% - Russian).


Graph 3. Studying the Russian language in Ukrainian-language schools depending on the language chosen for the interview


Graph 4 shows the data in terms of age of the respondents. Younger respondents to a greater extent insist on excluding the study of the Russian language from schools.


Graph 4. Learning the Russian language in Ukrainian-language schools depending on age



Since now the issue of the Russian language is often tied to "pro-Russian" sentiments, graph 5 shows the data on how ready respondents are for territorial concessions depending on their views on the study of the Russian language in schools. Although those who support the preservation of the study of the Russian language in schools are somewhat more inclined to make concessions, but even among them the absolute majority opposes any territorial concessions.


Graph 5. Readiness for territorial concessions depending on whether it is worth keeping the study of the Russian language in schools



A. Hrushetskyi, comments on the survey results:


For most of the period after 1991, Ukrainian political actors used the language issue for speculation and mobilization of their electorate. Although in all polls this question played a weak role on a rational level (respondents considered other problems to be much more important), on an emotional level, unfortunately, it continued to remain a powerful motivator, which Ukrainian politicians used shamelessly and recklessly.

However, even before 2014, there was a change in attitude to the language issue in general and to the Ukrainian language in particular, albeit not very quickly. There were fewer and fewer supporters of the "second state" and more and more it was discussed as a "compromise" option of the "second official in certain regions". The year 2014 gave a powerful impetus to the public rethinking of the role of the Ukrainian language, and the large-scale Russian invasion of 2022 actually "killed" the prospects of the Russian language in Ukraine.

If until recently the issue of language could drive a wedge between Ukrainians of different regions, now we can see the unity of the West and the East on this issue as well. Although in the South and East there are even more people who want to preserve the study of the Russian language to a certain extent, but even in these regions, citizens mostly understand that the volume should not be higher than that of English or German (this is in addition to the dramatic increase in the share of those who against studying the Russian language in general). It is also possible that some respondents believe that it is worth preserving the Russian language only for the purpose of better understanding the enemy. In general, the current situation indicates a significant limitation and narrowing of the scope of discussions on this issue for ordinary citizens, and let's hope that Ukrainian politicians have made the right conclusions and will no longer speculate on the issue of language.





Annex 1. Formulation of questions from the questionnaire


In your opinion, to the study of the Russian language in Ukrainian-language schools should be devoted …

(% among all respondents)

100% in a column Region: where lived until February 24, 2022 Ukraine as a whole West[2] Center South East
...the same amount of time as for studying the Ukrainian language 3 3 1 4 4
...less than for learning the Ukrainian language, but more than for foreign languages (English, German and others) 6 3 6 9 10
...the same or less than for learning foreign languages (English, German and others) 33 26 34 33 45 need to study it at all 52 64 55 49 30


Annex 2. Methodological comments on the representativeness of telephone surveys conducted during the war


Even before the full-scale Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, there were a number of factors that negatively affected the representativeness of the polls (for example, the absence of a census for more than 20 years). A full-scale war, of course, greatly affects representativeness and complicates the work of sociologists, but does not make it impossible. Access to reliable data on the state of public moods remains relevant both for Ukrainians themselves and for our foreign partners (who, as the events of recent months have shown, often underestimated and did not understand Ukraine and Ukrainians).

At the same time, in order to maintain objectivity, it is necessary to understand what limitations the war imposes on the conduct of sociological surveys. First of all, we pay attention to large-scale population movements. As of December, the UN estimates the number of Ukrainian refugees at almost 7.9 million. Obviously, due to various reasons, it is difficult to consider these data unequivocally accurate, but in general, the quite significant scale of departure from the country is understandable. There is no exact data on how many of them are adult citizens, but, most likely, it is about half. Among about 30 million adult citizens (estimated at the time of the full-scale invasion), it can be roughly estimated that about 15-20% have left the country, and it is impossible to reliably survey these citizens using telephone interviews. Even more citizens have become internally displaced persons, but they have a much smaller impact on the quality of telephone surveys, since almost all of these citizens have mobile phones and are reachable to participate in the survey (in fact, 12% of the respondents of this survey are IDPs).

Another important problem is the accessibility for the survey of the population of the territories that were occupied after February 24, 2022, due to the conduct of intensive military operations or due to interruptions in telephone communication. Now there is practically no connection. In May, 2.5-4% of respondents lived in these territories, now in the sample of residents of these territories - only 1 respondent out of 1017 surveyed. According to our estimates, the territory occupied by Russia as of the beginning of September (occupied after February 24, 2022) accounted for about 9% of the entire adult population. Taking into account the mass exodus of the population from these territories (most likely, we are talking about at least half of the population), as well as the fact that significant territories of Kharkiv and Kherson regions were liberated from this period, we estimate that no more than 3-5% of the total adult population of Ukraine were unavailable due to communication problems.

In our opinion, a more significant impact on representativeness can be either a generally lower willingness of citizens with "pro-Russian" attitudes to participate in surveys, or the insincerity of those who did take part in the survey (taking into account the obvious facts and prevailing opinions in the media regarding the Russian invasion , some citizens will not want to say what they really think "in public"). If to talk about the general willingness of respondents to participate in the survey, then in recent surveys we see either the same indicators or somewhat lower (although it should be borne in mind that the lower willingness to participate of "pro-Russian" citizens can be compensated by the higher willingness to participate of "pro-Ukrainian"-minded citizens).

We conducted a methodical experiment in May, which shows that the citizens who are currently participating in the surveys in terms of demographic characteristics and meaningful attitudes are close to those who participated in the surveys until February 24, 2022. Preliminarily, we see some shift in the direction of "pro-Ukrainian"-minded citizens, which is reflected in up to 4-6% deviations for individual questions (in the direction of more frequent selection of answers that correspond to the "pro-Ukrainian" interpretation of events). In our opinion, in the current conditions, this is a rather optimistic indicator.

However, this experiment does not give an answer as to how sincere the respondents are now in their answers. To assess the sincerity of responses to sensitive questions, in July we conducted another experiment using the "imagined acquaintance" method. The results showed that the respondents generally answered the survey questions honestly. That is, we have reason to say that during the interview, the respondents really answer our questions sincerely.


[1] The region is determined by where the respondent lived until February 24, i.e. IDPs who, for example, lived in the Donetsk oblast until February 24, but now live in another oblast, are considered residents of the East for the analysis.

[2] The composition of the macroregions is as follows: Western macroregion – Volyn, Rivne, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil, Zakarpattia, Khmelnytskyi, Chernivtsi oblasts; Central macroregion – Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Chernihiv, Poltava, Kirovohrad, Cherkasy, Kyiv oblasts, Kyiv city, Southern macroregion – Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Odesa oblasts, Eastern macroregion – Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv oblasts.

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