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  • Writer's pictureNataliya Gumenyuk

War Makes the State

What the War in Ukraine Has Revealed About Effective Governance



Ukrainian Presidential Press Service / Handout / Reuters / Foreign Affairs illustration


In July 2021, seven months before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a group of researchers completed a major study of how Ukrainians viewed key events in their country’s recent history. The report, to which I contributed, yielded some striking findings. The first was that the population was not deeply divided over the country’s Soviet legacy or the 2014 Maidan revolution. Ukrainians of widely different backgrounds and regions, it turned out, shared a deep reservoir of common values and experiences on which they shaped their understanding of history. The second was that the country’s political institutions were generally held in low esteem. People across the board seemed to have a general lack of trust for the country’s leaders, no matter what party they came from, and they blamed many of Ukraine’s problems on its ruling class.


In the year since the war began, it has become a common refrain among Western commentators that the conflict has served to unite, almost for the first time, a previously fragmented society. But as the 2021 study makes clear, that assumption is flawed. Drawing on their shared experiences of hardship and resilience over many years, Ukrainians from all parts of the country have not been surprised that the conflict has brought them closer together. What has been unexpected is how this immense struggle has transformed the state itself.


Read the full story in Foreign Policy here.

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