The Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine and societal resistance, mobilisation, resilience and adaptivity

Стаття співзасновниці Національної платформи стійкості та згуртованості Юлії Тищенко для німецького видання Forum RGOW – Religion & Gesellschaft in Ost und West.

Cascade implications of the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity: self-sufficiency, identity, democracy and European integration

The Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity of 2013-2014, and the events in Kyiv Independence Square are interpreted in different dimensions, periodised and analysed from the perspective of their implications and political, international, societal changes in which they have resulted. Various takes on the events that occurred 10 years ago are absolutely logical in view of the cascade of events that took place after the Revolution, impacting on global democratic trends, security situation, international relations, the policy of European integration, the development of communities and anti-colonial discourse not only in Ukraine, but also in European and international space. The Revolution of Dignity means going beyond the limits, creating a new quality (Marci Shore,!5970961/).

For Ukraine one of the consequences of the Revolution of Dignity is the continuation and implementation of European aspirations of Ukrainian society, returning to European civilizational choice for societal development. A victory of the democratic narrative has taken place on the whole not only in Ukraine, but also within more global trends. 

For Ukraine the Revolution of Dignity and the phenomenon of the Maidan are defined as obtaining and restoring Ukrainian self-sufficiency in foreign and internal policies, in security decisions and societal change. This outcome has been possible not only thanks to political decisions, but also thanks to societal action, synergy, cooperation of different institutes of civil society. The restoration of self-sufficiency is a dimension of an anti-colonial revolution. It is yet to be understood as a narrative in Global South countries. Paradoxically as it may sound, since Ukraine gained its independence it has been subject to various influences from the Russian Federation (hereinafter: RF). Different countries were observing processes taking place in Ukraine, its external aspirations through the lens of international ambitions and interests of the Russian political establishment, especially as the RF would constantly reiterate post-imperial narratives of the discourse of a quasi-restoration of the Russian empire, promoting Russian interests, control over the so-called Russian ‚historical territories‘ and introducing the ideologemes of the so-called ‚Russian world‘. Today, Russian political discourse is practically updating these topics by constantly denying Ukrainian self-sufficiency, refusing to define Ukrainians as Ukrainians, rejecting the very possibility of the existence of Ukrainians as a political nation, and also globally denying Ukrainian political and civil identity as such. Within the framework of Russian political discourse, the narrative is being directed towards the outer world about Ukraine being ‚anti-Russia‘, a national community that was artificially conceived by someone, a community of ‚corrupt Russians‘ who threaten RF’s security. This idea has been promoted by Kremlin’s leaders for years on different international and Russian platforms. The reasons for the so-called Russian ‚special military operation‘ were the so-called ‚demilitarisation‘ and ‚denazification‘ of Ukraine, outright rejection of Ukrainian identity and the right to be Ukrainians. Importantly, the framework of the restoration of Ukraine’s self-sufficiency through peaceful resistance, which faced combined violence and came out as a winner, also makes part of a complex experience of countering colonial and anti-democratic trends of authoritarian regimes. 

For Ukraine and EU countries, one of the visible results of the Revolution of Dignity was a complex European integration progress from signing the Association Agreement to the beginning of the negotiations on Ukraine’s membership in the EU. In particular, in 2023 Ukraine was granted candidate status for accession to the EU. Negotiations were launched on the future potential membership. Had the events in the Maidan not taken place, had there been no resistance to European integration on the part of the pro-Russian regime of Yanukovych, had the reaction of Ukrainian society not followed, surely these results would not have been achieved. Maidan was one of the steps. However, the subsequent progress was made during the process of repelling Russian full-scale aggression, which is continuing, and thanks to reforms and decisions taken in international politics, complex integral parts of the restoration of Ukraine’s self-sufficient, unprecedented support from partners. 

Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, was effectively the continuation of Russian response to Ukrainian, social and political self-sufficiency, to Ukraine’s European aspirations, democratic development, a democratic vector of societal and political transformation.

In 2014, in the context of anti-colonial narratives, the RF was trying to reestablish control over ‚uncontrolled colonies‘. Unlawful occupation of Crimea and aggression in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces followed. The scope of challenges in terms of violations of the international security system was much more tremendous than the response to them on the part of Ukraine’s democratic partners. Sectoral and territorial sanctions (preventing western companies from operating in the territory of temporarily occupied Crimea) imposed by the West following the occupation of Crimea have proved disproportionate to the overall consequences and threats regarding the destruction of the system of international law and international security by the RF. By and large, insufficiently strong reaction to Russia’s actions in Crimea regarding Ukraine enabled the subsequent course of events and Russian aggression towards Ukraine in February 2022.The Revolution of Dignity became a catalyst for the establishment of Ukrainian civil and political identity, for diminishing the influence of Russia on societal strata of Soviet and Russian tradition in a broader sense. Ukrainian society could be quite traditionally interpreted as divided by internal disagreements, linguistic and cultural differences. At the same time, the Revolution of Dignity launched the processes of the establishment of civil identity on the grounds of common European democratic values, the fact of belonging to the Ukrainian democratic and cultural tradition. According to surveys, compared to 2005, the number of Ukrainians thinking of themselves as Europeans has risen from 36 to 51 percent. The number of those who do not think of themselves as such has shrunk from 58 to 43 percent. The major change occurred after 2021, when 41 percent of respondents thought of themselves as Europeans, with 49 percent not sharing their sentiment. 81 percent of Ukrainian citizens saw themselves as part of the Ukrainian cultural tradition in 2023. In other words, the number of citizens who identify themselves with the Ukrainian cultural tradition has significantly increased compared to, for example, 56 percent of respondents back in 2006. According to the estimates of Ukrainian sociologists, the increasing number of those who see themselves as part of the Ukrainian cultural tradition has been registered in all regions of Ukraine, predominantly in eastern and southern parts of the country. In South Ukraine the percentage has grown from 50 to 80 percent, in East Ukraine the result is 76 percent (from 46). Such an increase was possible thanks to predominantly Russian-speaking citizens (those who mainly speak Russian at home) beginning to see themselves as members of the Ukrainian cultural tradition. Among them the number of such people has risen more than twice (from 29 to 64 percent), while among Ukrainian-speaking citizens this increase is less clear-cut (from 80 to 85,5 percent).

The Revolution of Dignity through the lens of resilience: consequences, practices, resistance 

The events in the Maidan in 2014 were a continuation of a long string of Ukrainian revolutions and Ukrainian peaceful protests. Back in 1990 the Ukrainian student Revolution on Granite took place that hastened the process of obtaining Ukrainian independence in 1991. The Orange Revolution in 2004 was of a democratic nature. It was based on European values. However, it failed to go beyond boundaries of oligarchy or to prepare the conditions for a consolidated democratic development of society through internal and external factors, promoting the clear implementation of reforms. Society and its institutions were being formed and transformed, and therefore, were approaching self-sufficiency. It is not coincidental that the Revolution of Dignity is also the revolution of Ukrainian civil society. It is worth mentioning that the events in Kyiv Maidan in 2013-2014 demonstrated Ukrainian manifestations of public initiatives. They became real illustrations and cases of resistance, self-mobilisation, innovations in communications and models of public societal interaction and networking. It would also stand to reason to take a look at the Revolution of Dignity through the aspect of the establishment of societal resilience, which is a Ukrainian context of this process since one may say today that it has also become the manifestation of Ukrainian social resilience, social cohesion, trust and interaction. In particular, we have seen Ukrainian special features of societal mobilisation, the establishment of active horizontal connections, trust, cooperation, resistance, adaptivity and tools for communities to function. 

In this context the Revolution of Dignity of 2013-2014 effectively showed the dimensions of social resilience. These were the dimensions that came to the fore later on after Russian aggression in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine in 2014, as well as during societal mobilisation of Ukrainians at the beginning of Russian full-fledged invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The consequences of the Revolution of Dignity are worth taking a look at through the lens of societal resilience in response of societal groups and communities to the crisis, in particular, in the formats of synergetic societal action. This is largely a sort of a Ukrainian social innovation in societal interaction, development of social connections, cooperation and social action based on trust and interaction. It can be said that the Ukrainian societal and social formula of resilience is based on resistance, adaptivity and self-renewal. In this process the fundamental role is played by public institutions.

A corresponding cooperation at public level came into play during the Revolution of Dignity, becoming fundamental and relevant during the response to the beginning of Russian aggression in 2014 and Russian full-scale invasion in February 2022. In 2014 active and prompt mobilisation of communities took place along with the establishment of volunteer networks in 2014. These instruments and mechanisms of interaction, resistance and self-organisation of citizens became an element of the general architecture of the resilience of the country and society, an element of the ecosystem of societal resilience that manifested itself during subsequent crises and societal challenges. Corresponding interaction and involvement of organisations of civil society in the processes of institutional changes and reforms regarding European integration have become one of Ukrainian trends in social innovations and society’s influence. On the whole, according to conclusions drawn by analysts, Ukraine’s resilience has been enhanced by institutional reforms launched in 2014, which has strengthened the role of citizens in governance and helped build trust in local authorities.

The decentralisation reform has also become important, encouraging Ukrainian resilience in responding to a crisis. It is clear that this reform could not have been implemented without parameters dictated by the Revolution of Dignity, which became a catalyst for reforms and implied changes in the managerial sphere and in the support of decentralisation and subsidiarity processes. These changes could have occurred in an authoritarian and centralised society. One of integral parts of Ukrainian resistance has become the implications of this reform. Self-organisation and interaction took place. This display of societal resilience can become the object of appraisal regarding the establishment of components of a general system of national resilience, when state and municipal institutions and the system of management become vulnerable, losing the potential of quick adaptation to responding to large-scale perturbations and crises. In these conditions the potential for social self-organisation, interaction between communities and organisations of civil society becomes important. This system of social public infrastructure practically undertakes the task of stabilising the situation, solving social, humanitarian and security issues. The Revolution of Dignity has bred one of the phenomena of Ukrainian volunteering at different levels. For instance, the branched system of helping the army took root somewhere in May-June 2014. This movement was being launched by separate volunteers who united in groups.

In these conditions, an important lesson of social resilience is the support and development of capabilities of the institutes of civil society for resistance, effective leadership, trust, development of non-hierarchical connections and professional competences.One of the ramifications of the Revolution of Dignity in terms of public resilience amid Russia’s full-fledged invasion is different models of societal response that were established and tested by Ukrainian civil society back in 2014. In particular, societal mobilisation, resistance, multi-functionality, intersectoral cooperation, volunteering, even social innovations in meeting security challenges and humanitarian needs, responding to horrible consequences of Russia’s full-scale invasion. The main organising feature of societal interaction are horizontal connections and not hierarchical or centralised management

management oriented on a clear vertical of decision-making and incapable of responding to cascade, security, social and humanitarian challenges and changes. A flexible and developed system of social interaction, developed and competent organisations of civil society have demonstrated the ability to qualitative response and functional adaptivity in completing various tasks of overcoming consequences of grave crisis situations. In the wake of Russian full-scale invasion of 2022, the mobilisation and resistance of civil society that could quickly adjust to new enormous challenges of war during the Revolution of Dignity and that involved more various groups, have become especially relevant. According to social surveys, in June 2023, 85 percent of respondents said that people in the community of their city/village were helping one another (only 15 percent said the opposite). 68 percent of respondents said that their community was prepared for emergencies. 27 percent said the reverse. The latter group of respondents reside mainly in villages, they are mainly middle-aged women.

According to surveys conducted by Ukrainian public organisations, in 2023, 77 percent of public organisations were helping the Armed Forces of Ukraine, at the same time willing to return to their main area of activities

Public organisations in Ukraine state that their activities aimed at offering aid to victims of the war and displaced persons in 2022 and at the beginning of 2023 rose from 17,5 percent (before Russia’s full-scale invasion) to 43,2 percent. Among newly created public organisations and charitable funds in 2022 and at the beginning of 2023, 65,1 percent were focused on helping the army, with 61,8 percent providing help for victims of the war. 42,1 percent of these organisations explained their choice by the relevance of this area of activities. 29,7 percent believe that there is an acute need for such organizations. 19,4 percent have chosen this area of activities because it is connected with the process of helping the state to overcome consequences of the war.

Such activities are taking place against a backdrop of recovery and intersectoral interaction (the government, self-governance, the business sector, public organisations), however, the instruments for such interaction are not always seamless amid a crisis. Despite societal fatigue and challenges faced in the wartime of 2023, as well as while repelling the Russian invasion, on the whole Ukrainians donated 720 million USD via monobank in 2023, while in 2022 the sum stood at 220 million USD.

During the shelling of civilian energy infrastructure in the winter of 2022-2023, Ukrainians, the government and various humanitarian volunteering initiatives combined brought as many power generators in Ukraine as a total capacity of one block of a nuclear power plant.

Certainly, the bulk of the generators were provided within the framework of the aid delivered to Ukraine during continued winter blackouts in the country. However, amid the energy crises to the fore came interaction and identification of needs. The number of examples of volunteering that at times evolved into quite organized institutional initiatives is large. Social self-organisation and instruments of interaction, in fact, bridged the gaps of the governmental disfunctionality at different levels, establishing adaptivity of the social system for some time. Nevertheless, they surely could not fully replace the functionality and resources of the state which for some time was trying to handle cascade challenges and risks of a humanitarian crisis and security.

Instead of conclusions.  Thanks to massive participation on the activities at the local level since the beginning of the Russian invasion, millions of Ukrainians have now obtained the experience in tackling crises, teamwork, fundraising, intersectoral cooperation and partnership. This experience will prove invaluable during post-war recovery. These very citizens will demand a greater influence for themselves in politics, in addition to voting at elections, both at national and regional levels. They will also expect a dynamic governance and real accountability. As of the beginning of 2023, 94% percent of respondents thought that is was important or very important that Ukraine become an operating democracy, compared to 71% in 2021.

Therefore, the Revolution of Dignity has led to more complex consequences for identity, security and the European integration progress on a global scale. It has laid the foundations of and demonstrated the phenomenon of Ukrainian societal resilience in response to aggression, which requires further attention within the framework of the model of establishing a system of national resilience in general. 

Back to top