Along what axis is the Ukrainian electorate aligned right now?

It seems to be economic policy orientation toward Europe or Russia, and not either language or ethnicity.  Here is a new paper by Timothy Frye:

Language, ethnicity, and policy orientation toward Europe are key cleavages in Ukrainian politics, but there is much debate about their relative importance. To isolate the impact of candidate ethnicity, candidate native language, and candidate policy orientation on a hypothetical vote choice, I conducted a survey experiment of 1000 residents of Ukraine in June 2014 that manipulated three features of a fictional candidate running for parliament: 1) ethnicity as revealed by either a Russian or Ukrainian name 2) native language of Russian or Ukrainian and 3) support for closer economic ties with Russia or with Europe. The results reveal little difference in the average response to these 8 fictitious candidates despite the candidate’s different ethnicities, native language, and economic policy orientations. This seeming homogeneity masks vast differences in the responses of self-reported native speakers of Russian and Ukrainian. Analyzing the responses among Ukrainian and among Russian speakers yields considerable differences in the responses to the different candidates. Perhaps most striking is that among both native speakers of Russian and native speakers of Ukrainian a candidate’s economic policy orientation toward Europe or Russia appears to be a more important determinant of vote choice than a candidate’s language or ethnicity. That policy retains its importance for voters despite the intense politicization of both ethnicity and language and ongoing violence in eastern Ukraine suggests that vote choice in Ukraine has not been reduced to an ethnic or linguistic census.

Hat tip goes to


I'm from Ukraine. There's nothing unexpected in these results. Even among pro-European (= anti-Russian) politicians in Ukraine many, if not most, speak Russian in their everyday life. In Soviet times Russian was the language of educated city dwellers even in Central and parts of Western Ukraine, while Ukrainian was considered second-class and "village" language. Ethnicity of politician is even less important. Before every election somebody tries to launch "black PR" campaign about politician's alleged Jewish roots, but it never works. This year, presidential candidate who is openly Jewish (Vadim Rabinowich) took more votes than both Ukrainian nationalist candidates combined (Tiahnybok + Yarosh)

'It seems to be economic policy orientation toward Europe or Russia'

I'm curious - apart from being oriented towards Europe or Russia, is there any other alternatives in the mix?

In other words, do the Ukrainians feel that a future like Poland's is better than a future like Belarus's? And it isn't as the Ukrainians are living in a vacuum, after all - the workers at various heavy industrial sites are very aware of who buys their output, and many Ukrainians are equally aware of how the EU has worked out for various former parts of Comecon.

Are you suggesting the formerly occupied countries that orient toward the EU (e.g., Czech and Slovak Republics, Estonia, East Germany, etc) made a mistake? Or are you implying that the countries that fled into EU are worse off than Countries (e.g., Ukraine, Byelorussia, Bulgaria, Moldavia, Romania) that oriented to their former occupiers? Or that the non EU countries of Albania, Kosovo, et al are the third way Ukraine should explore?

An average Slovak today is richer than an average Russian. So no, no normal person believes that attaching yourself to a demographic death trap with illusions of grandeur is the way forward. The pro-Russian economic sentiment is remnant of Soviet mentality, they know being Russian means you dont really work, you just receive the rents of oil.

What about historical reminiscences? Moscow caused the great famine - a holocaust by non-industrial means. Repressions of Ukrainian language and culture lasted until the 1980s. Even today they openly treat Ukrainians as a renegade province which needs some 'tough love' (read: tanks).

If I were a Ukrainian, I wouldn't return under Russian yoke even if they promised me gold. Risking another century of serfdom isn't worth it.

For all the flaws that the EU has, it does treat its members as members, not as subjects.

The one thing Ukrainians seem to have in common isn't language or ethnicity but tolerance of corruption among politicians. Yanukovych couldn't even speak Ukrainian (he speaks Russian). And it's not just Yanukovych who is corrupt but opposition politicians as well - Ms. Tymoshenko has collected more than her share of the spoils. Am I trumpeting American exceptionalism? Hardly. In the early days our founders fed off the public trough. Indeed, if the British had given Washington the Ohio territory as he requested, maybe we'd still be a British colony.

Yes but Washington was a British citizen at the time. You can't count him :)

Maybe some kind of federalism would be better than all or nothing politics?

Trying to determine ethnicity by name is foolish. In a country where multiple ethnicities have intermarried for a century, the correlation between the name and ethnicity is low.
Look at the remnants of Austria-Hungary. Many Czechs have German names and many Austrians have Czech names, even though the ethnic groups have stopped mixing 70 years ago and are now so separate that even knowledge of the 'other' language is quite rare.

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