Now that Europe, particularly Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's President Francois Hollande, is intervening in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, I wanted to take a look at the attitude of Ukrainians of both Russian and Ukrainian heritage to Russia and the Ukraine has changed over the past few months and in the years leading up to the current conflict.
The Kiev International Institute of Sociology conducted a poll in early December 2014, polling 2011 respondents living in all regions of Ukraine, including Kiev but excluding Crimea and the areas controlled by Ukraine in the Lugansk region.
The first question was two-pronged. Russian respondents were asked about their general attitude towards Ukraine and Ukrainians were asked about their general attitude towards Russia. Here is a graph showing the history of the dynamics of positive attitude toward Ukraine and Russia back to 2008 with the Ukrainian attitude toward Russia shown in blue and the Russian attitude toward Ukraine in red:
As you can see, while the Ukrainian attitude toward Russia is still more positive (at 36.5 percent) than the Russian attitude toward Ukraine, there has been a significant drop since September 2014 when 48 percent of Ukrainians were positive toward Russia and a major drop from the 78 percent level in early 2014. As well, the number of Russians who felt positive about Ukraine fell from 32 percent in September 2014 to only 24 percent in December 2014 and an even greater drop from the 66 percent level in early 2014. It is interesting to note that in all regions of Ukraine, there was a deterioration in the positive attitude toward Russia with the east part of Ukraine seeing a decline from 83.9 percent to 50.9 percent over the three month period.
In the second question, respondents were asked whether they thought that Russia and Ukraine should have closed borders like other nations, have open borders with no customs or visas required or unite and form a single state. Compared to September, there was an increase in the number of Ukrainians who want to close the border with Russia, up 5 percentage points to 50 percent. Here is a table showing what Ukrainian respondents would like to see happen between Russia and Ukraine with the first column showing the month and year of the survey:
Note that, in December 2014, only 3 percent of Ukrainian respondents would like to see Ukraine and Russia unite as a single state, down from 23 percent in 2009. Only 42 percent feel that Ukraine and Russia should have open borders with no customs and visas in place, down significantly from 73 percent in late 2013.
Here is a table showing what Russian respondents would like to see happen between Ukraine and Russia, again, with the first column showing the month and year of the survey:
Compared to the September 2014 poll, 32 percent of Russian respondents thought that the two nations should have closed borders, up from 26 percent in September 2014. The number of Russian respondents that wanted an open border was 53 percent, down from 62 percent in September 2014 but on par with historical data and, most interestingly, the number of Russian respondents that thought that Ukraine and Russia should unite and form a single state was 7 percent, on par with September 2014 but down significantly from the 20 percent seen in 2012.
As we can see, the mixed Russian - Ukrainian heritage in Ukraine poses a unique issue that will not be solved easily by outside intervention. There are centuries of history linking the two nations that cannot be dismissed. In fact, the Kievan Rus, a powerful Slavic state that was shaped in the 9th century is often seen as the predecessor of modern Ukraine and Russia, a state that was dominated by the city of Kiev. Unfortunately, the current situation between Russia and Ukraine is a tinderbox that could start another war.