On the succession of Kievan Rus and common space of Ukraine with Russia: analysis of sociological data



At the end of July 2021, the sociological group “Rating” conducted a survey on the public opinion of Ukraine. In addition to the general mood and rather political and electoral priorities there were proposed two important questions in the spiritual and religious sphere: on the attitude to granting of Tomos for the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” and on the succession of Kievan Rus of the 10-13th centuries. Data on the belief of a significant part of the Ukrainian population that “Russians and Ukrainians are one people/nation belonging to the same historical and spiritual space” were widely discussed (41% of respondents supported this idea, what in the situation of military confrontation between Ukraine and Russia seems to be incredible). We decided that the results of this survey were worth a closer look and came to some important conclusions of our own. 

The data can be found on the page of the mentioned sociological group ‒ http://ratinggroup.ua/research/ukraine/obschestvenno-politicheskie_nastroeniya_naseleniya_23-25_iyulya_2021.html. There is also a presentation of this study with graphs and tables (only in Ukrainian). The survey was conducted by phone on July 23-25. ​​this year. 

The first thing that catches your eye is the rather stable dissatisfaction of the population with the general development of Ukraine. This figure is quite stable except for the periods before and after the election: under President Poroshenko, it reached 70-76%; under President Zelensky, the situation has improved in some way, but is still 65-72%. The data for 2021 show slight fluctuations between regions, but a significant difference between opinions of different age categories. Young people are much more optimistic ‒ 43% of the youngest respondents (18-29 years old) are positive about the current situation, while among respondents aged 40 and older only 18-21% are positive. 

Against this background, it is interesting to consider the attitude to the Tomos on autocephaly and the issue of succession of Kievan Rus. The survey on the Tomos has been conducted for almost three years ‒ since October 2018. It shows a fairly stable mood: 43-50% support the granting of Tomos, 20-24% do not support it. Those who remain are divided into “indifferent” and incertain (for them it was “difficult to answer”). It is significant that over the last year the part of “indifferent” has increased significantly ‒ from 14% to 31%. 

If we move from the general data to regional differences, then we can expectedly see significant differences: the greatest support for the idea of ​​granting Tomos is in the west of Ukraine (59%), and the least ‒ in the East (26%). Regional differences in attitudes towards political parties are also significant and similar, which indirectly indicates the politicization of the issue of autocephaly. 

There is a similar difference in the attitude to the granting of Thomas on a confessional basis. There are clearly two groups: on the one hand, there are Greek Catholics (66%) and faithful of the OCU (64%); on the other hand ‒ all the others, namely atheists (31%), “just believers” (28%) and faithful of the UOC-MP (25%). If we take into account that the vast majority of the UGCC and the OCU communities are located in western Ukraine, and “just believers” significantly predominate in the south-east of Ukraine, and therefore most of them actually belong to the UOC, then confessional and regional differences agree to each other. 

Coming back to the survey data, important differences in the age categories should be noted: support for granting the Tomos is gradually declining as decreases the age of the respondents. If in the age category of 50-59 years the support is 55%, then among the youngest respondents (18-29 years) the support reaches only 37%. On the other hand, with decreasing age, the part of those who do not support the granting of Tomos decreases as well. From this follows the expected result: the largest group among young people (18-29 years) are those who are “indifferent” to this issue, which is 50% of respondents in this age group. 

I suppose the connection between the issue of Tomos and another important question of the poll ‒ “Which of the two modern states is the successor of Kievan Rus?” is disputable. But in any way it is worth looking closely at the data. During the surveys of 2008-2021, there was a clear upward trend in the number of those who answered “rather Ukraine” (an increase from 54% to 75%). Although the option “none of them” was chosen by not many respondents, among them there is also an obvious increase ‒ from 3% in 2008 to 9% in 2021. Accordingly, the other two groups decreased significantly ‒ those who are uncertain (“it is difficult to say” ‒ from 25% in 2008 to 8% in 2021), and those who prefer Russia (from 18% in 2008 to 8% in 2021). 

Interestingly, in answering the question about the succession/legacy, the differences between the age categories were insignificant: 77% of the youngest respondents (18-29 years old) and 71% of the oldest ones (60+ years old) answered “rather Ukraine”. 

At the same time, regional differences turned out to be quite significant ‒ from 88% in the west to 54% in the east. Interestingly, in all age groups, the number of those who gave other answers is divided relatively proportionally into three groups ‒ those who believe that “neither of the two countries is the successor”, those who prefer Russia, and those who find it “difficult to answer” (on the principle of exclusion, it is rather those who are inclined to the option that “both”). In the youngest age category (18-29 years) it is 10%, 7% and 6%, respectively, and in the oldest one – 7%, 12% and 10%, respectively. 

The last key issue ‒ and it was the one that has got the most publicity ‒ was the attitude to Vladimir Putin’s recently voiced thesis that “Russians and Ukrainians are one people belonging to the same historical and spiritual space”. 41% of respondents answered “yes”, 55% answered “no”. 

It is expected that the answers differed significantly by region. In particular, 65% in the east and 22% in the west consider “yes”, with 36% in the center of Ukraine. Significant confessional differences are also expected: this idea is supported by 2/3 of the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, but also by almost 1/3 of the faithful of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. This idea finds the least support among the faithful of the UGCC ‒ only 10%. 

The most interesting thing is that the difference in attitude to this idea is relatively small among different age groups ‒ from 39% to 44%. But the most striking thing is that the largest part of support for the idea of ​​“unity of Russians and Ukrainians” (44%) is in the youngest part of the society, among young people aged 18 to 29 years. 

What conclusions can be drawn from this survey? In three issues ‒ on the attitude to the granting of the Tomos on autocephaly, on the legacy of Kievan Rus and on the unity of Russians and Ukrainians ‒ one trend is similar, namely regional and confessional differences. 

Of the three, only the issue of legacy/succession has been asked for a longer time ‒ since 2008. Probably, it was perceived by the respondents in a somewhat abstract way and therefore received a total of 75% support in 2021 (“rather Ukraine”). At the same time, this issue of legacy/succession from Kievan Rus is perceived as quite pro-Ukrainian throughout Ukraine ‒ even in the east, “rather Ukraine” is answered by more than half of the respondents (54%). 

The issue of Tomos received significantly less support: in Ukraine as a whole, its granting is positively assessed by only 45%. In the east of the country, the part of critics of the Tomos outweighed the part of those who perceive it positively (28% vs. 26%), while in the West the majority perceived it positively (59% vs. 15%). 

The issue of “one nation” with the Russians divides Ukraine even more. In the west of the country a significant part is inclined to answer “no” (75% vs. 22%), while in the east the situation is almost contrary (65% “yes” vs. 30%  “no”). 

Western UkraineWestern UkraineEastern UkraineEastern Ukraine
Attitude to granting the Tomos on autocephaly “support” ‒
“do not support” ‒ 15% “support” –
“do not support” – 28% 
Successor of the Kyiv Rus is … “rather Ukraine” ‒ 88% “rather Russia” ‒
“rather Ukraine” ‒ 54% “rather Russia” ‒ 16% 
“Russians and 
Ukrainians are one nation” 
“yes” ‒
“no” ‒
“yes” ‒
“no” ‒

The last important remark concerns young people: they are more optimistic about the situation in Ukraine as a whole, more inclined than older people, to perceive themselves as “one nation” with the Russians, and quite often express indifference to the issue of Tomos.