JRL NEWSWATCH: “Nationalist Radicalization Trends in Post-Euromaidan Ukraine [Excerpt]” – PONARS Eurasia/Volodymyr Ishchenko

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

Volodymyr Ishchenko is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute.

(PONARS Policy Memo) Ukraine today faces a vicious circle of nationalist radicalization involving mutual reinforcement between far-right groups and the dominant oligarchic pyramids. This has significantly contributed to a post-Euromaidan domestic politics that is not unifying the country but creating divisiveness and damaging Ukrainian relations with its strategically important neighbors. The lack of a clear institutionalized political and ideological boundary between liberal and far-right forces lends legitimacy to the radical nationalist agenda. Moreover, the oligarchic groups exploit radicalizing nationalism not out of any shared ideology but because it threatens their interests less than the liberal reformers. Local deterrents are insufficient to counter the radicalizing trend; Ukraine’s far right vastly surpasses liberal parties and NGOs in terms of mobilization and organizational strength. Western pressure is needed on influential Ukrainian figures and political parties in order to help shift Ukraine away from this self-destructive development. …


Neither Moldova nor Georgia, which had very similar internal and external conflicts, experienced radicalizing dynamics to the same extent as Ukraine. This implies that radicalization has its roots primarily in the structure of both Ukraine’s political regime and civil society. For the post-Euromaidan elites, nationalist radicalization is a tool used to consolidate power, restrain the far right, and split the liberals. At the same time, it provides legitimating cover for the far right to raise the bar of its nationalist demands, which they support with paramilitary resources and mobilization potential (effectively in the absence of a strong liberal opposition). In the short term, nationalist radicalization will be only accelerated by party competition before the presidential and parliamentary elections, in 2019. Over the long run, it will be detrimental for trust between citizens and between Ukraine and neighboring states, as well as for Ukraine’s state capacity and democracy.

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