Public Opinion of Ukrainians on the Marking of the End of World War II in Europe

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13 травня 2024
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The shift towards the European traditions of commemorating the end of World War II has formally begun after the Revolution of Dignity. On 8 May 2014, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine supported the initiative of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance to introduce the red poppy as a new symbol of remembrance and to launch the commemorations on 8 May. In 2015, as part of the decommunisation process, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine passed a law, and President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree "On the events in 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of the Victory over Nazism in Europe and the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II". This introduced the simultaneous commemoration of the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation on 8 May and the Day of Victory over Nazism on 9 May.

This initiative fostered an ongoing public debate about the role of Ukrainians during the World War II, historical memory and historical consciousness as important factors in the nation building. In fact, it has become an important tool for distancing Ukrainians from Russian myths about the war and the cult of "victory" that the Russian regime has intensively cultivated for decades, promoting its own twisted interpretation of those events.

However, this innovation was not immediately widely supported in Ukrainian society. Soviet traditions and modern Russian media narratives have long divided society into supporters and opponents of reinterpreting the events and consequences of the World War II. According to a monitoring study by the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine conducted in June-July 2015, only one third (34.3%) of citizens supported the simultaneous celebration of the memorable dates of 8 and 9 May. While a quarter of respondents (24.7%) believed that Victory Day should be celebrated only on 9 May. In addition, 13.3% of respondents believed that these events should be marked on the same day - 9 May. In contrast, the share of those who favoured commemorating the events of the end of World War II only on 8 May did not exceed 10% of respondents.

Do you support the initiative to mark 8 May as the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation alongside the celebration of Victory Day on 9 May? (%)

 

2015

I support the marking of 9 May and 8 May alongside

34,3

I believe that it is necessary to keep only the Victory Day celebrations on 9 May

24,7

I believe that only the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation on 8 May should be marked

6,5

I believe that these events should be marked on the same day on 9 May

13,3

I believe that these events should be marked on the same day on 8 May

3,3

Hard to tell

5,6

I don't care

12,3

Source: monitoring study conducted by the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, in 2015

A survey conducted by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation in cooperation with the Razumkov Centre sociological service in April 2021 indicates a gradual acceptance of the idea of marking both dates. There has been a slight increase in public support for the simultaneous commemoration of the 8 and 9 May (up to 41%). However, a considerable share (30.9%) continued to insist on celebrating only the Day of Victory over Nazism on 9 May. Notably, support for marking only the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation on 8 May has remained unchanged for six years.

In your opinion, what dates and events should Ukraine celebrate in May: (%)

 

2021 р.

Both the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation on 8 May and the Day of Victory over Nazism on 9 May

41,0

Only the Day of Victory over Nazism on 9 May

30,9

Only the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation on 8 May

9,4

I don't care

9,5

Hard to tell

9,2

Source: poll by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation and the Razumkov Centre sociological service in 2021.

This ambiguity in the perception of these two dates was due to the fact that there was a "competition" between the worldwide concept of the "World War II" and the concept of the "Great Patriotic War", common to the postsoviet societies.

In 2015, only one-fifth of Ukrainians were positive about the idea of denying the 1941-1945 war as the Great Patriotic War for Ukraine, while 62.1% of respondents were negative about it.

How do you feel about the following: Rejection of the concept that the war of 1941-1945 was the Great Patriotic War for Ukraine

 

2015

Very positive

10,9

Somewhat positive

9,0

Somewhat negative

22,1

Very negative

40,0

Hard to tell

18,0

Source: monitoring study conducted by the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, in 2015

However, in the aforementioned 2021 poll by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation and the Razumkov Centre sociological service, the concept of the Great Patriotic War as a victory of the Soviet people alone received much less support (37.3%). Still, the definition of Victory Day as the victory of the Anti-Hitler Coalition in World War II was supported even less (by a quarter of respondents).

Choose the statement that best reflects your personal opinion and views:

 

2021

Victory Day is first and foremost a marking of the victory of the Anti-Hitler Coalition in World War II

24,9

Victory Day is first and foremost a marking of the victory of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War

37,3

None of the options proposed

25,2

Hard to tell

12,7

Source: poll by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation and the Razumkov Centre sociological service in 2021.

Notable is the trend on the percieved content of 9 May revealed by the Rating sociological group. Unfortunately, this methodology did not include a choice between the two dates. However, a dramatic change in attitudes caused by the Russo-Ukrainian war is observed. In particular, while before 2014, the perception of 9 May as Victory Day dominated, in 2018, a third of Ukrainians perceived this date as the Day of commemoration of the World War II victims. And after the full-scale Russian invasion, the vast majority of Ukrainians began to view 9 May as the Day of commemoration of the World War II victims.

In your opinion, should 9 May be marked more as Victory Day or more as the Day of commemoration of the World War II victims?

 

April 2012

April 2014

April 2018

April 2022

Victory Day

74

73

58

15

Day of commemoration of the World War II victims

18

24

34

80

Hard to tell

8

3

8

5

Source: Rating Group

However, if we compare Victory Day to other holidays in terms of importance for Ukrainians, according to KIIS polls, back in 2010 Victory Day was one of the most important/favorite holidays, being only behind Christmas, New Year's Day and Easter in terms of popularity (58%). However, over time, this historic date began to be outranked by many religious and secular holidays. And with the outbreak of the full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war, only one in ten respondents noted the importance of this date. Instead, the current dramatic events have led to an increase in the number of those who value the Defender of Ukraine Day and Independence Day.

Which of the following national holidays in Ukraine are the most important or favourite for you? Please indicate no more than 5 holidays (%)

Holidays

2010

2013

2016

2017

2018

2020

2021

2023

2024

New Year's Eve

81

81

74

76

79

74

55

52

47

Christmas Day

79

79

79

80

81

79

63

69

70

International Women's Day

49

49

37

49

45

40

34

25

21

Labour Day

12

10

7

12

9

11

12

5

4

Easter

84

83

81

80

82

77

72

70

68

Victory Day

58

40

35

37

31

33

30

13

11

Trinity Day

29

36

34

29

35

31

17

22

17

Constitution Day of Ukraine

6

4

5

5

5

7

14

29

28

Independence Day of Ukraine

17

12

20

17

16

19

37

63

64

Defender of Ukraine Day

10

11

13

29

54

58

Source: Kyiv International Institute for Sociology
 

Thus, Victory Day, which was celebrated on 9 May, is no longer a sacred day for Ukrainians, given that this date is very actively celebrated in Russia with a militaristic aggressive attitude. Due to Russian aggression, many Ukrainians have consciously distanced themselves from this date, increasingly supporting the tradition of commemorating soldiers who fell in World War II on the pan-European day of 8 May. In addition, the modern war of liberation is more relevant to the nation, so the percieved importance of the events of World War II naturally fades.

So, in 2023, Ukraine officially switched to a single date – 8 May – as the Day of Remembrance and Victory over Nazism in World War II.

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