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Most Ukrainians Positive About Veterans, Don’t Consider Death of Military Useless Sacrifice

Sheling Donbass army

According to the results of the interdisciplinary study “Policies and practices of honouring the memory of fallen soldiers in the Russia–Ukraine war in eastern Ukraine,” conducted by the project “What it means to remember” with the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation, 60% of respondents believe that the deaths of Ukrainian service members were not useless because they performed their duty and defended the country.

During the study, a team of researchers decided to repeat a question put to Ukrainians in 2017 as part of a public opinion poll conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) to compare data and identify specific trends. It turned out that in 2017 and 2021, most believed that the deaths of Ukrainian service members are not for nothing. On average, in both surveys, one-fifth of respondents said it was a useless sacrifice. The answers in the surveys differ due to the category of respondents who answered “difficult to say.” In the summer of 2021, there were twice as many (15%) against 7% of those who gave such an answer four years ago. The increase in uncertainty can be explained both by the specifics of the survey (whether the respondents had the opportunity to clearly see such an answer as “difficult to say”) and the duration of the war.

At the same time, there is a positive attitude towards Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) / Joint Forces Operation (JFO) veterans throughout Ukraine.

In the summer of 2021, the research team of the project “What it means to remember” repeated a question asked two years ago in the study “Involving Veterans in Socio-Political Life: Path from Military Victory to Personal Victory.” It seems that the share of those who have a clearly positive attitude towards ATO/JFO veterans has increased from 36% to 50% over two years. At the same time, the neutral ratio remains at the same level of 16-17%. However, the number of those who find it difficult to answer this question has decreased. Indeed, over the seven years of the war in eastern Ukraine, veterans, numbering about 500,000, have become a fairly visible group in society.

In 2019, a total of 62% of respondents expressed a positive attitude (mostly men rather than women), 16% – neutral, and 9% – negative. In 2019, the western region clearly showed a positive attitude towards veterans, and then it decreased from the centre to the south and the east. One third of the inhabitants of the eastern region were neutral. The rural population was more positive about ATO/JFO veterans than the city dwellers.

Both in 2019 and 2021, most noticeable were the regional differences in the opinions of respondents. Residents of the capital and the west have the most positive attitude towards ATO/JFO veterans. As many as 86% of Kyiv residents and 82% of residents of the western region of Ukraine stated an unequivocally positive attitude, showing significantly greater support for such an answer than in Ukraine as a whole (50%). Residents of the east (11%), the south (9%), and the north (8%) showed a negative rather than a positive attitude. However, across Ukraine, very few respondents (less than 2%) expressed unequivocally negative attitudes, and regional differences in responses are not statistically significant. The east (38%) and the south (31%) showed neutral attitudes almost twice as often as Ukraine as a whole.

In total, 75% of respondents support the introduction of the Day of Remembrance of Defenders who died in the struggle for independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the country, which has been celebrated annually since 29 August 2019. Only 7% opposed such a decision, and 15% of respondents were undecided.

How to honour soldiers?

Among the ways to honour the memory in order to rethink the events of the war, the most popular were films, monuments and plaques, ceremonial events (parades, public events, etc.). Respondents were less likely to choose scholarships and other educational initiatives, sports events, and books.

Relatives of war victims are more open to various practices of commemoration. They pay less attention to discussions about the aesthetic appearance and formats of honouring. It is clear that the fact of attention is more important for relatives. In-depth and expert interviews expressed differing views on commemorating the fallen: some support the idea of ​​unifying commemoration practices, while others believe that it could further traumatise relatives. The problematic aspect in the militarisation of public spaces was also mentioned.

The point is that when streets and parks are renamed, memorials are set up in public spaces, thus making it impossible to use these spaces for entertainment purposes. Examples of commemorations such as tree planting, sports and cultural events, etc. were mentioned in the interview.

Ukrainians generally disagree with the view that the families of those killed in the war receive sufficient support from the state and that the state honours the memory of those killed in the war appropriately.

In general, the answers of the respondents differ the most depending on the region of residence and the language of communication. Residents of Kyiv expressed the greatest support for the introduction of the Day of Remembrance of Defenders of Ukraine, scholarships and other educational initiatives as a way to honour the memory; most supported the statement that the families of war victims receive sufficient support from the state and the state honours the memory killed in the war appropriately. Residents of eastern Ukraine, compared to other regions of Ukraine, tend to believe that the deaths of Ukrainian service members are a useless sacrifice that has not changed anything. In addition, 86% of Kyiv residents and 82% of residents of the western region of Ukraine stated an unequivocally positive attitude towards ATO/JFO veterans.

Background

The results of the interdisciplinary study interdisciplinary study “Policies and practices of honouring the memory of fallen soldiers in the Russia–Ukraine war in eastern Ukraine,” on which the research team of the project “What it means to remember” worked for about six months, were presented on 14 October 2021.

Public opinion on the practices of honouring the memory of those killed in the Russia–Ukraine war was defined on the basis of the opinion poll conducted in July 2021. The text of the study consists of three sections – historical and cultural, sociological, and legal. In general, it includes two parts: office and field (empirical). The office part provided for an overview of professional (scientific) domestic and international research; information in the media; statistical information, legal framework, etc. The empirical part of the study was performed using qualitative and quantitative sociological methods. The field work lasted from June to July 2021.

Source: Ukrainian Sociological Portal

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