Will social protest be able to unite Ukraine after the Maidan protests?

Results of protests and repressions monitoring conducted by the Centre for Society Research (http://www.cedos.org.ua/uk/releases/33)

 

On April 29th at a press conference in the UNIAN information agency, sociologists from the Centre for Society Research, supported by the International Renaissance Foundation, presented the results of protests, repressions and concessions monitoring in Ukraine in 2013.

 

The main results of the research are the following:

 

  • At least 4822 protests occurred in 2013. This number is 33% higher than the number of protests in 2012 (3636) and is more than twice as large compared to the number of protests in 2010 and 2011 (2305 and 2277 respectively). The increase in the number of protests is caused not only by Euromaidan (although during the month of December alone, more than 1000 protests were documented). Even before the beginning of Maidan, during the period from January 1st to November 20th, 2013, 3419 protests occurred, which demonstrated the tendency towards an increase in protest activity.
  • The protests of 2013 were unprecedentedly massive. At least 249 protests occurred with more than one thousand participants, which is 2.5 times higher than in 2012 and more than 1.5 times higher than in 2010 during Tax Code Maidan. Among them, at least 29 protests in 2013 had tens of thousands participants and five rallies had hundreds of thousands.  The phenomenon of mass protests was not exclusive to Kyiv. At least 16 protests with more than ten thousand people took place outside of Kyiv – in Simferopol, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Luhansk, Lviv, Odesa, Rivne, Ternopil, Zaporizhia.
  • The absolute number of protests in 2013 increased in all regions of Ukraine, and in relative measurements – in the Central region saw the largest increase (by 47% comparing to 2012). A smaller number of protests compared to 2012 occurred in Lviv and Kharkiv oblasts. A relatively larger part of the protests traditionally took place in the Western region. Thirty-three percent of all protests in Ukraine took place in Western oblasts after the beginning of Maidan, from November, 21st till December 31st, 2013. However, considering unequal populations in different regions, the Western region is not the most remonstrative in Ukraine. The largest number of protests per 1 million of de facto population in 2013 was documented in Kyiv (282), and the second largest – in the Southern region (167), reflecting intensive protest campaigns in Odesa (in particular by small entrepreneurs) and in Mykolaiv oblasts (Vardiivka rape case). The number of protests in the Western regions is only the third largest – 106. And the smallest number of protests per 1 million of de facto population was documented in the Eastern region – 63.
  • As expected, because of Maidan beginning in 2013, there was a rapid growth of protests combining demands of political and ideological natures as well as civic rights demands. The number of ideological protests grew by almost 50% (up to 1740, 36% of all protests), the number of political protests – by 40% (up to 1727, 36% of all protests), the number of protests of civil rights protection – by 170% (up to 1644, 34% of all protests). However, the most frequent demands in Ukraine for four consecutive years were demands of a socioeconomic nature (at least 2062 protests in 2013). Their absolute number increased by 33% and the relative portion among all protests remained invariably high – 43%. In Central, Eastern and Southern regions socioeconomic protests prevailed, and in the Western region, their number was equal to the number of ideological protests, and in Kyiv and the Crimea they were the second most frequent (however, in 2011-2012 in Kyiv, the Crimea and the West, socioeconomic protests prevailed as well). Specific problems that brought people to the streets for socioeconomic protests most frequently in 2013 were illegal development projects, public utilities, environment, unpaid wages, small business rights.
  • In 2013 socioeconomic protests were more frequently combined with demands of a different nature, particularly political (in 13% of socioeconomic protests compared to 9% in 2012). Also, political parties or individual politicians took part in them slightly more frequently (in 23% of protests compared to 19% in 2012). However, the absolute majority of socioeconomic protests (52%) kept taking place with the participation of exclusively informal non-political initiatives and were ignored both by political parties and non-governmental organizations. It’s important to note that after the beginning of Maidan and during the period from November, 21st till December, 31st, 2013, the relative proportion of all socioeconomic protests among all the protests in Ukraine decreased to 10%, which depicts a weakness of the articulation of socioeconomic demands on Maidan.
  • One of the most important types of socioeconomic protests are workers’ protests, which occurred in record-breaking numbers in 2013. There were 389 protests documented in defense of labor rights (including 40 strikes), which included 8% of all protests during the previous year. The increase of the number of protests in defense of labor happened because of the increase of local actions of workers’ collectives against local problems. Similarly to previous years, the most urgent issues for wage workers in Ukraine remain the issues of unpaid wages (45% of workers’ protests), working conditions (30%), and closing enterprises (19%). These data demonstrate the lack of improvement of the economic conditions of wage workers and the probable decline of their conditions in the future. In 2013, the indifference of virtually all organized street protest actors to labor problems remained unaltered. Only trade unions demonstrated solid activity in workers’ protests (22% of protests) as well as left-wing organizations (17% of protests), and at the same time, in 56% of cases, wage workers had to fight for their rights on their own.
  • 2013 will likely be the last year of mostly peaceful protests in the near future.  During the previous year peaceful conventional forms of protest (gatherings, picketing, demonstrations, etc.) were still most common, comprising 75% of all protests. The relative portion of nonviolent but confrontational protests (for example, strikes, streets blocking) remained the same – 18%. The number of violent protests decreased both in absolute and relative parameters (from 10% in 2012 to 7% in 2013). Similarly, the number of events with participation of “groups of uknowns” (“titushkas/thugs”) was not as high as was expected during the last year. They were much more active in the dirty election campaigns during the latest parliamentary elections in 2012. The portion of protests with their participation went down from 10% in 2012 to 4% in 2013. However, the actions of protesters and the government during the Maidan, and, especially during Antimaidan, may radically change the protest repertoire in Ukraine by raising the bar of accepted violence.
  • The results of last year’s monitoring also indicate that the participation of far right Ukrainian nationalists (21% of all protests) dominates the participation of Russian nationalists (2%) tenfold. Until recently Russian nationalists were a very marginal and local phenomenon and probably would have remained as such without external support and inspiration in the form of the Crimea annexation. The Ukrainian far right nationalists (the all-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda”, for example) have actively and incomparably more successfully interfered with protests movements with the connivance of liberal opposition.

This background of the growing social discontent should be taken into consideration while analyzing the outflow of an unprecedented spike in street confrontations during Maidan and further confrontation in Southeastern oblasts of Ukraine. Maidan partially channeled discontent with the socioeconomic situation by those who were against Yanukovych’s government, while Antimaidan is obviously channeling the discontent of those who don’t expect any improvement in socioeconomic conditions from the actions of the new government. Considering bad economic forecasts for Ukraine, we should not expect a decrease in this wave of protest. Now the main question is whether there will be a political force or social movement which would be able to articulate and foreground socioeconomic demands shared in both the West and the East and unite Ukrainians in the struggle for social justice.

 

You can find complete results of the research in the “Protests, victories and repressions: monitoring results of 2013” report on the Centre for Society Research website: http://www.cedos.org.ua/uk/protests/protests-repressions-and-concessions-in-ukraine-2013.

 

REFERENCES:

 

Protests, repressions and concessions monitoring has been conducted by the Centre for Society Research 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 Centre 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.

 

Centre for Society Research was founded in 2009 as an independent non-profit centre for studying social problems and collective protests in Ukraine. The Centre for Society Research unites critically-oriented social researchers: professional sociologists, political experts, economists, culture experts, historians and lawyers. The mission of the Centre is to create methodologically grounded, critical and reflexive knowledge for activists of social movements, journalists, experts, politicians, researchers and the general public. The Centre actively supports an egalitarian and just society, opposes the policies of privatization and commercialization of social sphere and public goods, and condemns any kind of discrimination including discrimination by gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, age. Specific areas of the Centre’s work are analysis of education policies, monitoring of protest and repressive activities, analysis of city-planning policies and study of migration processes.

 

Contact person: Volodymyr Ishchenko (+38097-396-4499)

 

info@cedos.org.ua

http://cedos.org.ua

 

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