Ukrainian scientists regularly conducting sociological surveys note that the Ukrainian society still remains extremely polarized after the Euromaidan. There is also a huge gap in how the country's situation is perceived both between residents of different regions and between representatives of different generations. And it stems from the aggravation of socio-economic problems in the country.
In and of itself, the protest activity in the "post-Maidan" period decreased slightly, but this decline had a wave-like character, with protests conspicuously intensifying in certain periods of time. Today, experts qualify most of them (40-45 percent) as socio-economic. The number of political ones dropped in 2015-2018, accounting for about 30 percent. Among the new pivotal points were tariffs, unresolved socio-economic challenges, corruption, and lack of security.
Over the four years after the so-called Revolution Of Dignity, Ukraine has experienced three bursts of protest activity:
– Tax Maidan 2 (2015). Those were protests of entrepreneurs against the abolition of simplified taxation upon the IMF demand. They continued throughout 2015, but failed to attain success;
– the so-called "Maidan 3.0", e. g. protests that took place in June 2015 seeking the resignation of Cabinet head Yatsenyuk, National Bank of Ukraine head Gontareva, General Staff head Muzhenko, as well as the abolition of amendments to the Constitution and to the martial law, the adoption of a law on presidential impeachment, pension and salary indexation, and the abolition of new utility rates.
According to a number of Ukrainian analysts, the protesters were backed by some of the Ukrainian oligarchs who failed to find a common language with the new government (Firtash, Kolomoisky), and a number of foreign policy-makers. The protests were promptly and to little fanfare suppressed by means of ordinary dispersal;
– "Miho's Maidan". These protest actions took place in 2017 and were attended by several political forces (Anatoliy Hrytsenko's Civil Position, Self Reliance, Freedom, National Corps) united under the name "New Political Reform." The key point was the engagement of Mikheil Saakashvili's Movement of New Forces. A number of Ukrainian oligarchs and some Western policy-makers acted as concerned parties.
The protesters demanded the following: electoral system change, establishing an anti-corruption court and limiting parliamentary privileges. After a while the list was supplemented by demands of Petro Poroshenko's impeachment. To some extent, the protests had an effect on the adoption of a legislation to establish an anti-corruption court. The acts stopped after Saakashvili's deportation in February 2018.
As the Ukrainian analysts note, the participants of Maidan 3.0 and Mikho's Maidan predominantly fought not for their own interests and frequently did not even realize whose interests they actually advanced. Almost all of these protests led to a deterioration of the country's situation in one way or another.
Sociological surveys demonstrate that in recent months the situation has started heating up again. Thus, according to the data of July 2018, the political temperature in the Ukrainian society is rising, with all the age groups ready to raise a banner. Moreover, a quarter of respondents (25 percent) assess the situation in the country as critical, and 21 percent express readiness to personally take part in mass protests.
Nearly half of them are prepared for new Maidans, and one in five people has declared intention to take up arms. The highest level of readiness as regards participating in protest actions is observed in Kiev and western areas, the lowest is recorded in the southern and eastern parts of the country. Since the Revolution of Dignity, today people demonstrate the highest rates of potential belligerence and radicalism.
According to Olga Balakireva, the Board Chairman of the Oleksandr Yaremenko Ukrainian Institute for Social Research, survey findings reveal that people can't stand all this any longer, because two revolutions have not entailed any real changes in the system of power which continues to exploit the country's potential.
Analysis of survey findings' dynamics showed another interesting trend, pointing to the fact that the number of euro-optimists is becoming progressively smaller brick by brick.
The opinion of Olga Balakireva is shared by Deputy Director of the NASU Institute of Sociology Yevhen Golovakha, who said in one of the interviews that "In Ukraine, the level of protest sentiment has never been this high in the country's entire history." According to him, even just before the Maidan, the extent of Ukrainians' will to protest was lesser. Moreover, the highest protest sentiment is normally observed in the western areas of Ukraine and in Kiev.
Population estimates of the state of economy and their personal well-being fell sharply in comparison with the times under Yanukovych, while anxiety, concern and tension increased dramatically. "The trust in all the branches of government and law enforcement agencies is sinking to nearly zero... This is a dangerous syndrome," Golovakha said.
At the end of the day, the question is being frequently raised in Ukraine about the possibility of a new Maidan, which will reset the unpopular government of Petro Poroshenko that has messed up in the face of the West. At the same time, it is assumed by default that this will be protests that will lead to attaining the goals of the protesters.
This very process is being observed in Ukraine. An immediate cause of the surge in protest activity was a corruption scandal in the military-industrial complex, and its "initiators", e.g. nationalists. On March 16, the National Corps party conducted a protest act in Kiev. The nationalists brought about ten thousand people to the streets of Kiev, while demonstrating "iron self-control and discipline", in contrast to one-time confrontation cases. They created no precedents of clashing with the police. Activists demanded to punish participants of the disclosed illegal schemes. Protesters threw toy pigs at policemen outside the Verkhovna Rada and the presidential administration's building.
Nationalists refer to the current President of the country Petro Poroshenko as one of the main culprits of corruption crimes. Thus, before the March 16 action, leader of National Corps Andrey Biletsky declared that the President of Ukraine is an amazing person. A man who can do anything. The one who can amend the laws of Ukraine overnight to appoint his friend Attorney General, the one who can sign the Minsk agreements that violate the Constitution of Ukraine, the one who can place his closest friends to all the lucrative jobs in the country, the one who can bribe voters at the expense of not even looted funds but of the state budget, the one who can easily make his son a veteran, even though he never touched the ATO zone with a barge pole, as well as tens of thousands of cops and prosecutors...
The only thing that this amazing man is unable to do is to put his Svinarchuk business partners behind bars. According to him, the reason lies in mutual responsibility of "Poroshenko's mafia". After the action ended, Biletsky said that the nationalists will be able to bring twenty thousand people next Saturday. Poroshenko himself, instead of staying in Kiev and thus demonstrating no fear of the nationalists, actually "fled" to Poltava. And before his arrival there, Poltava witnessed the detention of members of the National Corps and the Ukrainian Legion, and the operation was a rough one. Journalists believe that this will only provoke radicals even more on the eve of the announced protest act on March 23.
Many Ukrainian and foreign analysts conclude that a long-lasting period of instability is beginning in Ukraine – the presidential election will be followed by the parliamentary campaign, government formation, and elections to the local councils. The country will burn with fever.
Anything can occur as Ukraine is so weak and the gap between what is said and done by most politicians is so great for the time being. Some of the main candidates, if they lose, will not be able to accept it, which will probably give rise to attempts of another Maidan because there is reason to believe that the country is suffering an electoral theft.