On September 11th at a press conference in the UNIAN information agency, sociologists from the Center for Social and Labor Research presented the results of monitoring of protests, repressions and concessions that took place in Ukraine during August 2014. The monitoring is supported by the International ‘Renaissance’ Foundation and the National Endowment for Democracy.
Summary: August 2014 differed with very high protest activity in Ukraine, which mainly had the nature of patriotic mobilization. This mobilization is quite safe for the government because it overshadows the specific demands of Maidan (lustration, fighting corruption and protecting civil liberties), as well as socio-economic problems exacerbated by government policies. This does not mean that social issues and specific political reforms cannot be put on the agenda in the near future by another wave of mass protest, but this is unlikely to happen until patriotic mobilization falls and attention switches from the external enemy to internal Ukrainian problems. At the same time, an extremely high level of radical protests was reported, and the level of repression exceeded the 2013 level during the reign of Yanukovych before Maidan started (even leaving aside the military actions in Donbass, so called ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ or ATO).
Number and size of the protests
In the 6 months since Yanukovych was overthrown, protest activity has decreased but still is at a very high level. In August – traditionally the month of vacations – at least 690 protest events were reported (excluding military fighting in Donbass). In comparison, in August 2012 and 2013, fewer than half as many protest events were reported (271 and 297), and in August 2010 and 2011, three to four times fewer protest events were reported (154 and 195). A month before Maidan, in October 2013, only 423 protest events were reported.
The number of protest events in August exceeds the monthly average number of the ‘pre-Maidan’ period of 2013 (from January 1 till November 20) by 1.5-3 times in all regions of Ukraine, except for the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, as well as in the annexed Crimea. The number of protest events increased the most (by more than three times) in three eastern provinces – Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhya provinces. However, even in Donbass and Crimea practically the same number of protests was reported in August compared to an average monthly number before the start of Maidan in 2013 – at least 30 and 12 events respectively. The highest number of protests among Ukrainian cities in August, as usual, was reported in Kyiv (85 events), however, following Kyiv, the most protests were in Odessa (51) followed by Kharkiv (35).
In addition, the size of protests in August was only slightly less than the average of the ‘pre-Maidan’ period of 2013. Twenty percent of protests with a reported number of participants gathered more than 100 protesters while the same figure for 2013 before Maidan had started was 24%.
However, protest issues in August were very untypical for Ukrainian protest activity. Despite the expectations that the worsening of the socioeconomic situation would cause mass protests and social riots, only 22% of protest events in August raised any socioeconomic issues. In comparison, in 2013 before the start of Maidan, socioeconomic issues were raised in the absolute majority (56%) of protests. Even the absolute number of socioeconomic protests in August (155) was significantly lower than the average number for ‘pre-Maidan’ period (180). In particular, the issue of public utilities (including increasing of tariffs) was raised at only 22 protests in August. At the same time, people demanded a solution to the social issues of armed forces and their lack of supply at almost the same number of protests (20).
The most popular protest issues in August were ideological issues (54%): actions “for united Ukraine”, against Russia and its intervention caused a considerable splash of patriotic mobilization. It is worth noting that ideological protests prevailed in all regions except for Kyiv, where political struggle was more actively waged. Political issues were raised at 35% of protests while the most popular issue of lustration was raised in only 69 of them (primarily in Kiev and Odessa), or in 10% of all protests in August. Civil rights issues were not raised more frequently than in the last year, i.e. in 25% of protests.
In general, the issues, which could be called ‘the demands of Maidan’ (lustration (69 protest events), corruption (62) and civil rights protection (31) among the most popular) were raised much less often than patriotic topics.
At the same time, only 46 anti-mobilization protests were reported, mainly in the Western and in the Central regions, as well as in Kyiv. Even fewer protests with clearly antiwar demands (i.e. for the ceasefire and to start negotiations) were reported (only 14 events) which took place mainly in the Eastern and Southern regions.
In Donbass settlements controlled by Ukrainian authority, patriotic demonstrations prevailed, like in other regions, but mostly small groups of people (not more than 200 people) participated in them. Only in Mariupol did the number of pro-Ukrainian protests exceeded 1,000 people in those days when the city was in danger of assault in the end of August. In settlements controlled by separatists only three small protest events against ‘people’s republics’ were reported, in particular in Alchevsk, Makiivka and Luhansk. In the latter case, for example, on August 8, city residents came to the occupied local administration with demands for a cease fire on the streets and to renew the water and electricity supply in the city. Similarly, only a few peaceful meetings in support of separatists were reported like, for example, an Orthodox Christian march on August 3 in support for Donetsk People’s Republic.
In Crimea, only solitary protest events against Russian authorities and criticizing the annexation were reported, and, typically, in the form not of collective but as individual actions, for example, single-person pickets or hanging Ukrainian flags on August 23 (the Day of Ukrainian Flag). Other protests in Crimea demonstrated loyalty to Russian authorities or were protests against local socioeconomic issues.
Violence and repressions
Even excluding military fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the share of confrontational and violent actions during protests was also unusually high and exceeded similar numbers even for Maidan’s period. In particular, 15% of all August protests were violent, while 40% were peaceful but confrontational. The most popular forms of protest of such kind were directed not against humans, but against symbols – attacks on the Soviet monuments or patriotic graffiti. However, even excluding such symbolic radicalism, the level of confrontation and violence was still very high – 14% saw violence and 26% had confrontational actions – and it exceeded the level of radicalism even during Maidan (13% and 23% respectively). The highest number of non-symbolic violent actions were reported in the Southern region (in particular, arson attempts and other attacks against PrivatBank and military registration and enlistment offices), and during the Maidan tent camp dispersal on the Independence square in Kyiv.
Compared to Maidan, the level of repressions in August has decreased, but it was still bigger than it had been during Yanukovych’s rule and before Maidan. There were 18 negative reactions per 100 protests in November 2013, but in August 2014 there were 22 repressions per 100 protests. The biggest number was reported in the Southern and Eastern regions (excluding Donbass). It was directed against supporters of Antimaidan and ‘people’s republics’. In addition, in Crimea an unusually high number of repressions against other forms of socio-political activity (25 events) was reported. Repressions were directed primarily against the Crimean Tatars’ movement, pro-Ukrainian activists and Ukrainian oligarchs’ property.
You can find the data and graphs in the ‘Results of protests, repressions and concessions monitoring of August 2014’ report’
Protests, repressions and concessions monitoring has been conducted since October 2009. It is a unique project for the systematic collection of information about all (regardless of the issue or size) protests as well as negative and positive reactions to the protests taking place in real time all over Ukraine based on the monitoring of more than 190 national, oblast and activist web-media..
The goal of the present project, conducted by the Center for Social and Labor Research in a partnership with the Center for Society Research and supported by the International Renaissance Foundation and National Endowment for Democracy, is the objective study of protest activity and social movements in Ukraine and providing this information to the general public aiming to defend the right of peaceful assembly and to draw attention to grassroots socioeconomic protest initiatives.
Center for Social and Labor Research was found in 2014 as an independent non-profit center for analysis of socioeconomic problems, collective protests, labor relations and conflicts.
Contact person: Volodymyr Ishchenko (097-396-4499)