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Are Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine oppressed and persecuted because of the Russian language: the results of a telephone survey conducted on May 26-June 5, 2023

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


From May 26 to June 5, 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), 984 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 in May 2022, 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 connection, not a single respondent who currently lives in occupied settlements was included in the sample (along with this, out of a total of 984 respondents, 32 respondents lived in a settlement that is currently occupied until February 24, 2022). It is important to note that although the views of the respondents who lived in the occupation were somewhat different, the general trends 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.



"Oppression and persecution" of Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine


Although the Russian authorities are constantly changing their vision of their goals in the war against Ukraine, the emphasis on the imaginary "protection of the Russian-speaking population" remains unchanged. A reliable argument for verifying these accusations is to ask the citizens of Ukraine themselves whether they see systematic oppression and persecution because of the Russian language.

In May 2022, KMIS asked whether, according to respondents, Russian-speaking citizens are subjected to systematic oppression and persecution (it should be noted that both before 2014 and until 2022, numerous surveys indicated that the language issue is not a significant problem for Ukrainians). Now, in May 2023, we have repeated this question.

Graph 1 shows the respondents' answers. As can be seen, although the indicator has slightly decreased over the year, it's still the same the absolute majority of Ukrainians - 84% - continue to adhere to the view that there are no problems with the use of the Russian language in Ukraine and that Russian-speaking citizens are not oppressed and persecuted (in May 2022, the indicator was 93%). Only 8% believe that Russian-speaking citizens are subjected to systematic oppression and persecution (in May 2022, the indicator was 5%).



Graph 1. And with which of these statements regarding the language issue in Ukraine do you agree to a greater extent?



In the graph below, the data is shown in a regional dimension with a comparison with May 2022. In all regions of Ukraine, the absolute majority of the population, as in 2022, believes that there is no oppression and persecution of the Russian-speaking population. In particular, among the residents of the East[1], 85% think so, and among the residents of the South - 81%.


Graph2. Language issue in the regional dimension



Finally, on graph 3, the data are shown in terms of the language of communication at home. Among those who communicate mainly or only in Russian at home, 81% believe that there is no oppression or persecution (and only 13% believe that such oppression takes place).

There were only 32 respondents (out of 984) in the sample who continue to identify themselves by nationality as Russian. This amount is not enough for statistically reliable calculations. However, it is indicative that among them only 6 see oppression due to the Russian language, and 25, on the contrary, believe that there are no problems due to the Russian language.


Graph3. Language issue depending on the main language of communication at home



A. Hrushetskyi, comments on the survey results:


"Systematic oppression and persecution of Russian-speaking citizens" is an obvious lie for ordinary Ukrainians, because it contradicts their everyday experience of the peaceful coexistence of different languages in Ukraine (with a respectful attitude towards the Ukrainian language as a symbol of Ukrainian statehood). There were not and are not objective serious language problems in Ukraine, and "oppression and persecution" is the product of Russian propagandists with the aim of splitting Ukrainian society (although we also see some Ukrainian subjects who continue to speculate on this issue).

Currently, the absolute majority of Ukrainians, regardless of their region of origin, language of communication, or nationality, believe that there are no problems with using the Russian language. At the same time, there is a noticeable trend that now, after all, there are slightly fewer people who are sure of this. However, such a decrease is quite expected, since since May 2022 the language issue has become the subject of discussions (although in many cases it is more correct to speak not about reasoned discussions, but about speculations on human emotions, where "exaggeration of measure" often took place). The revitalization of discussions about the use of the "language of the aggressor" is caused precisely by Russia's aggression, which does not protect, but contributes to the deterioration of the attitude towards the Russian language. In addition, by February 2022, among the Russian-speaking population, support for pro-Russian parties was higher and support for European integration was lower. Now this difference has radically decreased and is becoming more and more insignificant. But a certain part of the population has not yet realized this and has a negative attitude towards Russian speakers (according to our research in February 2023, 7% of the population would not want Russian-speaking citizens to live in Ukraine). We should also note that discussions in social networks are always more radical and create the impression of significant problems, when there are no such problems among the population as a whole. The process of developing a consensus view on language policy is still ongoing and a certain variability of views may persist. However, in any case, we see clear contours of consensus, where one of the basic elements is the understanding that Russian-speaking citizens are not a backward category of citizens and this category definitely does not need the protection of an aggressive Russia.





Annex 1. Formulation of questions from the questionnaire


And with which of these statements regarding the language issue in Ukraine do you agree to a greater extent? RANDOMIZATION OF READING

 (% among all respondents)

100% in a column Region: where lived until February 24, 2022 Ukraine as a whole West[2] Center South East
In Ukraine, Russian-speaking citizens are subjected to systematic oppression and persecution because of their language 8 8 6 12 6
In Ukraine, there are no problems with the use of the Russian language, and Russian-speaking citizens are not oppressed and persecuted 84 82 88 81 85




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 May, 2023, the UN estimates the number of Ukrainian refugees at almost 8.3 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, 16% 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 2022, 2.5-4% of respondents lived in these territories, now the sample does not include a single respondent who currently lives in an occupied settlement (together with this, out of a total of 984 respondents, 32 respondents lived in a settlement that is currently occupied until February 24, 2022; now these respondents live in one of the settlements on the territory controlled by the Government of Ukraine). According to our estimates, the territories that were occupied by Russia as of the beginning of September 2022 (occupied after February 24, 2022) accounted for about 9% of the total 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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