A reconstruction of the political orientations of Ukrainians on the basis of survey data from the last two decades reveals a picture that is far from being comforting and promising. Pro-democratic orientations constitute a minor part of the political cultural pattern in the population. The majority of the population avoids active political participation and remains paternalistically oriented, what may facilitate the persistence of an authoritarian political regime. On the other hand, a new social movement represented by recently emerged numerous volunteer organizations and initiatives points to a substantial positive change in people’s political orientations.
Whereas participation in the mass protests is a spontaneous reaction (as opposed to action), engagement in volunteer organizations has more to do with planned and enduring social activity. For a sustainable development of the pro-democratic orientations, it is essential to foster a long-term engagement of citizens in civil society organizations.
The donor assistance to Ukraine, which aims to foster the development of the third sector, could be partly readdressed. It might turn out that it is more effective to give money to those who are ready to volunteer than to professionals who are pursuing an alternative career in the third sector. The focus of financial and institutional aid should be less on overall and professional promotion of democratization but more on smaller projects that contribute to improvement of life quality. Although these projects tackle smaller issues, their beneficial outcomes would be perceptible by people, thereby improving the image of associational activities in general. In the medium and long run, it could turn out to be a more effective way of promoting democratization.
More on political orientations and civil society in Ukraine:
1. Third Sector in Ukraine: Civic Engagement Before and After the “Euromaidan”
2. Political Culture in Ukraine