Ukrainian Values: Between the Slavic-Orthodox Legacy and Europe’s Allure

Dr. Plamen Akaliyski

An important question in understanding the war in Ukraine is whether Russian President Putin’s claim that Russians and Ukrainians are “one people” or whether the statement made by European Union Commission President von der Leyen, echoing Ukrainian government’s position, that Ukraine is “one of us” receives more support. In our contribution, we assess the societal values endorsed in Ukraine, and test whether they resemble those of Russia or of Western Europe. After reviewing arguments brought by the ‘Clash of Civilizations’, Modernization, Social Identity and Nation Building theories, we analyze the most recent data from the European Values Study and World Values Survey (2017-2021). Constructing an EU-values index, including gender equality, individual freedom and liberal democracy, among others, we show that while values in Ukraine are closer to Russia than virtually any European Union country, there are clear differences that are especially salient among younger age cohorts. Further, we refute Huntington’s claim that Ukraine is a ‘cleft’ country by showing that regional variation within Ukraine is rather minimal. We conclude with an interpretation of these findings in light of political debates and prominent theoretical approaches to studying values.

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