The Social Challenge of Internal Displacement in Ukraine

This is an excerpt from Migration and the Ukraine Crisis: A Two-Country Perspective – an E-IR Edited Collection. Available now on Amazon (UK, USA, Ca, Ger, Fra), in all good book stores, and via a free PDF download.

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The Phenomenon of IDPs in Ukraine

With Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Russian-backed offensive in Donbas, the forced destabilisation of Ukraine, one of Europe’s largest countries, has had devastating security consequences, both internationally and domestically. According to the UN estimates the potential pool of those who have been affected by the conflict and need humanitarian assistance can be as high as five million individuals, as of October 2015 (USAID, 2016). Having, thus far, a relatively stable migration history, Ukraine has seen an unprecedented exodus of civilians from the conflict-affected territories. Unlike internally displaced persons (IDPs) who can remain unregistered, the estimations on the number of people seeking asylum or other forms of stay abroad are more reliable due to the rather strict cross-border regulations (although, there is no way to verify how many of those left Ukraine as a result of the conflict).

As of August 2015, the number of Ukrainians seeking asylum in neighboring countries was 388,800, other forms of stay ‒ 732,000 (UNHCR, 2015). As Eurostat reports, for the last 12 months (as of the first quarter of 2016) the number of Ukrainians seeking asylum in the European Union reached 19,000 individuals (with a tendency to decrease). It should be noted that most asylum-seekers from Ukraine are refused refugee status because a life-threatening situation is present only in some parts of the country (EUROSTAT, 2016). Most displaced move internally: as of June 2016, 1,783,900 IDPs from Crimea and Donbas have been officially registered (in August 2015 the figure was 1,438,000) (Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, 2016). However, experts estimate that the real number of uprooted within Ukraine, including those who do not apply for registration, is considerably higher.

Accuracy aside, one can estimate that no less than four per cent of Ukraine’s 42.5 million citizens have been internally displaced due to conflict (something the country had never experienced before[1]). If one takes a global look, in 2015 Ukraine found itself among the five countries in the world with the highest number of IDPs associated with conflict and violence (after Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Nigeria) and ranks first in Europe (GRID 2016). As Ukraine has had little experience of dealing with IDPs, experts argue that it should follow the United Nations principles as regards forced displacement and, specifically, the standards developed during conflicts in the former socialist countries such as Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Yugoslavia. Still, each individual case creates a unique cluster of problems and each requires sensible policies that can facilitate better strategies.

Contemporary literature on displacement pays a growing attention to the social dimension of the forced movement, in particular to its conflict-driven patterns. Caused by the ‘inability to return readily and freely’ to their homes (Brettel 2015, 148-153), it complicates the trauma of one’s ‘conflict-induced eviction’ from the habitual environment, a sudden ‘break-up of families, loss of belonging, status and identity’ (Rajput 2013, 4-6), something that profoundly distinguishes IDPs from the local population. The arrival of the displaced people into host communities involves a complex intergroup dynamics, often marked by prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination, and power relations (Bradley 2015, Rajput 2015). Experts argue that under poor socioeconomic conditions as well as deteriorating political and security situation, IDPs can fall victim of the host community’s intolerance (Haider 2014) which might lead to further clashes (Bohnet et al. 2013, Shlapentokh at al. 2016).

An analysis of contemporary conflicts shows that in a state-sponsored war, civilians living in the enemy camp, even if they are not engaged in hostilities, are conceived by the other side as ‘failed citizens’ (Diken & Laustsen 2005), as ‘neither a friend nor a foe’ (Korostelina and Cherkaoui 2012). As previous findings on the contemporary conflicts have shown, when the strategic goal of the targeted violence is to destroy a community’s or territory’s integrity, intergroup conflicts cannot be described as clear instances of ethnical, religious or other differences (Spini et al. 2014). In that respect, Ukraine constitutes a typical, but at the same time a profoundly difficult, case of displacement.

First, not only the public perception of the displacement’s root causes provokes considerable public discontent, but officially, too, the external aggression has not been acknowledged in Ukraine (Batrin 2015). The misleading term ‘civil war in Ukraine’ widely used by the top Russian officials and, occasionally, by the international community (including the UN high representatives, politicians and foreign observers) infiltrates public discourse through the media channels in a harmful way. The term hybrid war, a different way of defining the conflict in Ukraine that parts of the local and international community use, makes it even more complicated to the wide public[2]. From the host society’s perspective, as long as the war remains undeclared but Russian weapons and paramilitary forces are used against Ukraine in the east of the country, the role of the local population in Donbas, be it active or passive, will be perceived as hostile. Although the Ukrainian society in different regions shares ambiguous views of the war, the majority still perceive it as an external aggression with a considerable role of the locals financed and coordinated by the Russian Federation (Ukrainian society 2015, 627-630). With a mass military call-up for the country’s conflict in Donbas, local people’s escape from the conflict zone often provokes moral stigma. In a sense, they are seen as both victims and perpetrators[3].

Second, Ukraine’s IDPs by and large are not a socially, ethnically, religiously or ideologically homogeneous group. They reflect the country’s cultural diversity, represent different social strata and have different political views (from a fundamentally pro-Soviet to radically pro-European). In addition, some of the registered displaced persons have not been resettled: they applied for IDP status to claim their social welfare payments in Ukraine (specifically pensions and childcare subsidies), but have been either unable to rent accommodation or unwilling to abandon their dwellings in the occupied territories. As a result, they move back and forth with no endeavour to integrate into a new community. Before a more rigid system of control over payments was launched, many of the ‘shuttling IDPs’ used their ambivalent status of being-here-and-there to receive double social payments both from the Ukrainian state and from the Donbas self-proclaimed republics[4]. Others have not registered at all (a pattern widespread among the young employed, reluctant to waste time on exhaustive bureaucratic procedures), but were eager to use the opportunity of settling in other parts of Ukraine for good with no will to return, even if the conflict is over.

The phenomenon of ‘hybrid IDPs’ (having an official status but not being displaced or being displaced without gaining an official status) can be viewed as a consequence of the complexity of the Ukraine crisis and is worth analysing in further studies. What is important for us, is the fact that, without questioning the main role of the Russian authorities in unleashing and maintaining the conflict, the Ukrainian central and regional elites (a firm alloy of oligarchs and people in power) have done everything they could to keep the legal contours of the conflict within the safe margins in order to secure their businesses and status (Pietsukh 2016). Not surprisingly therefore, the public perception of the war and its spinoffs, including the displaced population from the east hit by the conflict, remains hybrid too (Samayeva 2016), and we shall see how this is reflected in the survey data.

Although considerably diverse as a group (registered and unregistered, economically active and inactive, pro-Ukrainian, rationally neutral and covertly anti-Ukrainian), IDPs are united in their will to secure their status and gain credibility (Baron and Gatrell 2004, 5). Given the IDPs’ uneven distribution across the regions, with the largest concentration in Kyiv, the surrounding Kyiv area and the neighbouring eastern regions (the peaceful parts of Donbas under Ukraine’s control as well as Kharkov and Dnipropetrovsk regions), internal displacement can be seen as a process of tremendous change for those who have been ‘on the move’ or resettled and an unparalleled challenge for those who remain rooted in the host communities.

New NIMBIES[5]: Are IDPs a Problem to Host Neighborhoods?

In social analyses of migration processes, three perspectives usually capture the primary interest of researchers: people who move, people who stay behind and people who form host communities (Collier 2013, 22-24). This paper seeks to analyse the last group, to which less attention is usually paid. As the uprooted come to new places to become part of the host landscape, the consequences of this inflowing largely depend on how they are related to by the locals. As my conversations with NGO activists demonstrate, the IDPs, scattered across the country, are limited in exercising their rights to political participation[6] and have problems with raising their collective voice at the top-level domains through the available agencies[7]. In addition, having a dependent status (IDPs from Donbas and Crimea are seen by respondents as the least influential agents in the national social pyramid[8]) (Ukrainian society 2015, 620), they remain subordinated to the public (set by the state) and private (formed by host individuals, groups, networks) regulations. Ukrainian public institutions seem to be designed to sustain the basic displacement management: since the active mechanisms to process IDP applications have been elaborated, it is difficult but still possible to get the payable social package[9] from the state. The available resources are enough to prevent mass IDPs’ street begging, yet they are insufficient to stop deprivation among the most vulnerable groups and facilitate a good start for those who are able to become self-sufficient. To survive, move on and, possibly, help those who stayed behind (a common situation of many IDPs who have elderly relatives or other dependants unable to resettle), IDPs need more support from the host community. In order to get access to more resources, they need credibility to be accepted by the locals. In that respect, host communities cannot be underestimated as potentially powerful agents of change in IDPs’ new lives. Are they ready for such a role?

It should be noted that internal migration (including intra- and inter-regional circular movements) has been traditionally prevalent over external movements both in the Soviet Ukraine and during the period of independence. In the last decade internal migration amounted to 96 per cent of all movements (about 60 per cent of those were intra-regional movements related to seasonal or long-term labour migration from rural areas and small towns to cities where wages have been traditionally higher than the national average) (Pribytkova 2009, 58-59). Before the crisis ‒ as the freedom of movement was constitutionally guaranteed, and as propiska, a rigid scheme of state control over migration, was replaced by a more flexible notification system for registering a place of residence ‒ voluntary movement to a location within the country that promises better jobs, education, environment or housing opportunities was considered to be common (between 20 and 30 per cent of respondents in national surveys report on working outside of their permanent place of residence) (Ukrainian society 2015, 573; Social Impact 2012, 9).

Overall, a person who moved into a given location in order to improve her standards of living was considered ‘one of us’ (national of the same country), usually making the social space more competitive and brining little or no risks of destabilisation to the host community. With the forced movements in place, the issue of registration has been brought to focus again: now it is not only controlled by the state but also watched by the host community in a range of situations related to housing, employment, social care, etc. (Mikheeva, Sereda 2015, 29-33). In the public discourse, a displaced person is usually seen as a representative of a victimised group with a descending social mobility associated with lost status, who demonstrates desperate patterns of behaviour and brings high risk of instability to the host neighbourhood[10]. At the same time, in the society struggling with a multi-faceted crisis, those who demonstrate different, successful, social patterns, might cause distrust and provoke discontent, too[11] (CRIMEA SOS 2015).

The data of the recent survey indicate that mass forced displacement has become an established troublesome spot on the social landscape: respondents see the influx of IDPs and other newcomers as a growing fear (with the highest number of such responses in Kyiv ‒ 27 per cent, and the lowest in non-occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions ‒ three per cent in 2015[12]). Still, facing other pressing issues such as rising prices, unemployment, non-payment of salaries and pensions and external aggression against Ukraine (Ukrainian Society 2015, 564), host populations outside of the capital do not rank IDPs in the top ten fears (see Table 1). 

The unprecedented intensity and mass character of the forced movement in Ukraine explains a high level of personal awareness about the problem among the host population: more than half of respondents in Luhansk and Donetsk regions and more than one fifth in Kyiv have IDPs among people they know, including relatives and friends (see Table 2). However, it does not directly influence the level of personal involvement in supporting the displaced: in 2015 overall less than eight per cent of respondents acknowledged voluntarily helping the IDPs (compare that to 28.3 who helped the Ukrainian army) (Ukrainian society 2015, 640-641). Most claimed that they are either unable to help (from 11.5 per cent in Kyiv to 22.9 in Donetsk and Luhansk) or think that it is the state that should be responsible for such assistance (from 12.8 per cent in the west to 33.7 in Donbas).

The ambivalent response of the host community is also illustrated by the views on state policies towards the disputed territories, those who stayed behind and those who moved. In spring and summer of 2015 nearly a third of respondents found it difficult to decide what Ukraine should do in relation to the parts of Donbas currently out of its control; 38 per cent thought that Ukraine should wait until the economic situation in Donbas further deteriorates and recovers in Ukraine to restore the integrity of the state; 18.9 per cent would have supported a military action to return the lost territories; and 12.4 per cent said that Ukraine should abandon Donbas as a ballast hindering the country’s development (Ukrainian society 2015, 631). Only one third supported the idea of Ukraine’s financial support for the territories outside of its control because citizens of Ukraine live there; 32 per cent were in favour of the self-proclaimed bodies taking care of the own budgets; 19 per cent ‒ in favour of Russia taking care of Donbas. Finally, nearly 18 per cent found it difficult to answer what the state policy towards the IDPs should be, 5.2 per cent were against any state support for the displaced; 34.2 were in favor of the regular social support for the IDPs from the state; 21.9 per cent thought the state should reimburse them their lost property; and 46.2 per cent argued that certain amendments should be made to national laws to enable IDPs’ entrepreneurship and further integration into their new environment[13] (Ukrainian society 2015, 631).

A reference to the NIMBY (‘Not in My Back Yard’) concept seems applicable here as long as the Ukrainian society finds itself in the trap of ambiguous loyalties. Traditionally, people tolerate newcomers of the same culture and ethnicity (Panina 2005, Pribytkova 2006). Nowadays, when, in light of its ambitions to join the European Union, Ukraine has to adhere to the European standards of tolerance, this attitude is also widely supported by the mainstream. Yet, during the conflict and hardship, the society has not avoided radicalisation and often loose neutrality, particularly when the stakes are high. Independence, reforms and growth do not necessarily require one shared national language, ethnicity and undisputed attitudes to the country’s historical past (Hrytsak 2016, Milakovsky 2016), but common values and shared goals seem indispensable to move ahead. Whatever side of the ideological divide one is on, all levels of interaction ‒ private (communicating with family, friends, neighbours), professional (co-working) and civil (co-existing as citizens) inevitably entail the issues of trust and mutual responsibility. Sometimes, working together and living nearby IDPs in one’s own neighbourhood now might be a more challenging task than advocating for the vague, as yet, imaginary plan of Donbas’ reintegration into Ukraine after the war[14].

Alienation vs Cooperation

Although a recent study by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) shows that after the two years of conflict more than 80 per cent of respondents declared to be positive or neutral towards IDPs (UNHCR, 2016), placing the research focus on the displaced itself indicates a high public concern over the issue. Media and NGOs’ reports indicate a growing anxiety over social marginalisation of this group in Ukraine and make it emblematic as a potential threat to the established community’s tolerance in relation to the displaced from the east, particularly, as the conflict in Donbas escalates (CRIMEA SOS 2015). The lack of appropriate approaches leads to the situation which is described by experts in terms of causes and consequences: being triggered by conflicts, they can ‘directly or indirectly be involved in the conflict diffusion process’ (Bohnet et al. 2013). We will see if playing on these fears resonates with the data.

In this study, using a modification of the Emory Bogardus Social Distance scale which measures secure interpretations of the varying degrees and grades of feeling that exist in a range of social situations (Bogardus 1925, 299), further work has been carried out on adjusting and updating questionnaire tools to compare ‘levels of acceptance’ defined by the host population in relation to different migration-based groups in the three general domains of social relations: private, professional, and civil[15]. It is suggested that ‘the practice of allowing or permitting’ others, which is possible only if one in a position to allow or disallow, reflects toleration (Raphael 1988, 139) and helps to understand how far one group of people think to differ from another group ‘in their intentions, powers and values’ (Rummel 1975).

The core of primary data on which this paper is based was obtained from the representative national survey of Ukrainian society (N = 1802 aged 18 and above) conducted by the Institute of Sociology (Kyiv, Ukraine). The fieldwork was conducted in July 2015 in all regions of the country (excluding the annexed Crimea and occupied parts of Donbas). The randomly selected respondents were asked to complete self-administered questionnaires, which, among other thematic sections covering a broad range of topics related to socio-economic and political issues, included an ad-hoc set of questions on attitudes towards IDPs.

Private Level: Neighbours versus Friends

Forced migration is usually a rapid movement that puts at risk personal ties and networks. Once the established connections are left behind, one has to engage with other people. For most IDPs the initial level of being introduced to the host environment is often connected with a purely formal (vertical, rigid, based on collectivity, and fixed by agreements such as the available IDPs-related legislation) process of applying to state institutions for necessary documents to confirm their displaced status (required in order to receive basic social benefits). In rare cases, state agencies are able to provide adequate assistance in finding jobs and making housing arrangements. Nevertheless, the majority of IDPs use the informal (horizontal, less rigid, either based on personality or narrow groups, not based on contracts) social networks to get fundamental needs met. It is the host population that is in a position to decide if a newcomer can be accepted as a member of the informal local network, and if one’s engagement is successful. As the economist Paul Collier acutely notes, ‘in a modern economy well-being is greatly enhanced by mutual regard’ that is ‘something stronger than mutual respect (fulfilled by keeping a respectful distance from others’ in the “Don’t dis me” society)’; mutual respect is ‘akin to sympathy or being fellow-feeling’ (Collier 2013, 61). Sympathy is also connected to loyalty and solidarity with those fellow members who are less fortunate (Collier 2013, 62).

The data obtained in 2015 show that the degrees of closest possible acceptance of the displaced people are different across the two groups: the IDPs from Crimea are generally a little more welcome than those from Donbas (although in most cases the difference remains fairly within the margin of sampling error, it is still stable on all levels, from private to civil). The data present interesting observations across regions: the difference in attitudes of the respondents from the east and the respondents from the non-occupied Donbas is much bigger than if we take east-west or east-Kyiv perspectives[16]. It is revealed that on the private level accepting IDPs as ‘neighbours’ would be the most comfortable option for a majority of the respondents in all regions. The figure indicates that private level acceptance for the displaced drops when it requires ‘fellow-feelings’ (family members, friends) ‒ see Figure 1. This tendency is also confirmed by the qualitative data collected by other researchers: the IDPs, in particular those from Donbas, are often perceived by the locals in the majority of Ukraine’s host regions as bearers of different (non-fellow) values, that is why they usually prefer ‘not to speak up in public’ as it might reveal their ‘otherness’ (Mikheeva, Sereda 2015, 26-27).  

Figure 1: Views on accepting IDPs on the private level by percentage across regions

* Donbas here and onwards in the tables includes only territories under Ukraine’s control.

Professional level: co-workers versus ‘employer-employee’ 

There is statistical evidence that the flow of newcomers might have different economic effects on host communities. One of the possible scenarios in low-income countries like Ukraine is that the wages of lower skill workers drop, the pressure on housing increases and the number of dependants per person of working age rises (Collier 2013, 111-117, 123). Indeed, the recent International Organisation for Migration’s report confirms such trends and points out that the influx of IDPs into regional communities has been a strain on local budgets and local social infrastructure (IOM 2016). However, the focused study of IDPs proves that only 11 per cent of them are people of retirement age and people with special needs, while 35 per cent are children. The remaining majority are people of working age. At the same time, the IOM survey series on IDPs integration reveals that only slightly more than a half of those employed before displacement managed to find a job at a new place (IOM 2016).

The figure below demonstrates the models of ‘office hierarchy’ the respondents representing the host community would assign to IDPs: most would choose co-workers rather than ‘employer-employee’ type of relationships. The levels of acceptance are almost identical for the displaced from Donbas and Crimea and follow similar models in all regions, except for a slightly higher acceptance in favour of IDPs in a supervisory role in Donbas and, surprisingly, in the west (considering a particularly low level of real employment rate among IDPs in the western region in 2014-2015 – see Migration during crisis, 2015. The latter might reflect some encouraging tolerance for IDPs to enter the local labour market)[17]. However, a generally modest acceptance of the IDPs as potential employees in all regions not only reflects many problems related to the widespread prejudices about the displaced as unreliable workers (ready to quit any time, particularly if hot conflict in their location is over), heavy-industry-oriented type of labour force (which is partly true) etc., but also indicates that the national labour market is in trouble (a growing gap between the number of people looking for a job and the number of vacancies, low wages, unstable career of local workers in unstable economy). 

Figure 2: Views on accepting IDPs on the professional level by percentage across region

Civil Level: Semi-citizens with a Limited Access to the Top? 

The economic and humanitarian consequences of displacement usually draw the biggest attention of experts who study IDPs. However, as successful institutions and inclusive practices are crucial for economic and social well-being, the political/civic concerns should not be ignored. Displacement should be seen not only as a burden to the local budgets, but also as a factor that generates pressure for better governance and reforms (Collier 2013, 180). Different domains of citizenship refer to the rights of an individual to participate in civil, political, socio-economic and cultural spaces (Hébert, Sears 2001). Our study focused on the two key domains: political – involving the right to vote and to possess political power, and economic – implying the access to benefits.

The post-Euromaidan Ukraine remains a country hobbled by ill political practices which are often mistakenly explained as post-Soviet legacies. Corruption, the lack of transparency, low competitiveness and a high degree of nepotism in the national decision-making at all levels are rigorously preserved by the Ukrainian crisis-driven elite (often raised after the Soviet period), as strongholds of their power positions. Whether the current crisis in Crimea and Donbas is the local citizens’ fault, or the central and local elite proved unable or unwilling to protect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, remain the big questions for further discussions and, hopefully, impartial investigations. Whatever the answer is, the issues of inclusive citizenship, both for the displaced and the host communities, are crucial for Ukraine’s future development.

The figure below shows what the host community views as acceptable empowerment of IDPs in terms of their participation in public bodies (including participation in local and central authorities). In all regions, the lower the level of power, the higher the acceptance ‒ see Figure 3.1. Although the displaced as potential people in charge of local bodies would be seen more favourably in Donbas than in the rest of the regions, the subjective demand for IDPs’ participation in local and central authorities is low everywhere. It should be mentioned that people from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions dominated the most influential spheres of the national economy and public administration for more than a decade before the crisis and often triggered disappointment, anger and fatigue in the local debates (Leshchenko 2015; Forostyna 2015; Kudelia and Kuzio 2015). Lots of the Yanukovich clan’s remnants still hold power positions. Thus, the references to IDPs’ urgent needs occasionally made in public by the high-rank representatives of the troublesome regions are not enough to encourage inclusive citizenship of the displaced. The data illustrate a strikingly low level of acceptance of IDPs as fully-fledged citizens with voting rights in all regions. The challenge is underestimated: unable to vote (as Ukraine’s electoral regulations link the exercise of electoral rights to the place of residence), IDPs are denied a voice in the key decisions that directly affect the country’s life and, indirectly, influence scenarios for their future.

Yet, in public’s view, restrictions on voting rights are compensated by some limited allowances in the economic sphere: 12 per cent in Kyiv and 15 per cent in the west would accept tax exemptions for IDPs from Donbas (although the figure is modest, it is almost twice as high as that for labour migrants, regardless of their unprecedented role in the national economy[18]) ‒ see Figure 3.2. The data meaningfully speak of the different approach towards the IDPs as potential holders of power positions across the regions: with the lower per cent of allowing answers in the east, known since the conflict for its strong pro-Ukrainian attitudes[19], and the highest in the Ukraine-controlled Donbas. For all regions, IDPs are more likely to be accepted in positions which allow little space for possibly discomforting narratives, views, and decisions. Allowing someone as a co-participant in the political process requires trust which is rather impossible ‘without a clear understanding of the political motivations involved’, therefore exchange of views ‘are crucial for establishing durable solutions’ (Lischer 2007, 144). 

Figure 3.1: Views on accepting IDPs on the political level by percentage across regions 

Figure 3.2: Views on accepting IDPs on the civil and economic levels by percentage across regions

Speaking of the factors that influence the level of tolerance, data show that age does not have a significant impact on one’s acceptance of IDPs, contrary to education, which appears to be an important factor (the higher the level of education, the higher the level of tolerance). The regional factor is the most significant of all the socio-demographic categories (on the private level, the highest tolerance towards the IDPs from Donbas is observed in the Ukraine-held border territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and towards the IDPs from Crimea ‒ in Donetsk, Luhansk and the south).  Moreover, respondents from small cities and villages are more welcoming towards the IDPs on all levels (presumably, that owes to the less competitive environment in small urban and rural areas). Type of employment has some influence on the acceptance on the professional level (small entrepreneurs are likely to accept IDPs as employees, and workers of state-owned enterprises are willing see IDPs as co-workers). Importantly, the effect of language on the acceptance of IDPs is low across all regions.

Conclusion: Reframing the Challenge of Internal Displacement

We have seen that the problem of internal displacement in Ukraine cannot be explained in pure numbers (due to under-registration) and should not be understood in terms of a simplistic model of positive-negative attitudes towards the IDPs in host communities (owing to the complicated political context beyond the forced movement in Ukraine). As the conflict is not over, it remains unclear how far it will go and whether the eventual return of the majority of the displaced is even possible. In any of the feasible scenarios, keeping the IDPs on the margins of society will not serve the host communities’ interests.

Although the surveys’ data indicate that only roughly one-fifth of the respondents have negative views of IDPs from Donbas and Crimea and would not accept them in any of the positions on private, professional and civil levels, the remaining vast positive spectrum should not be misinterpreted as unconditionally welcoming attitudes. It stands as an open question whether neutral or positive perception of the IDPs, manifested during the survey, can provide a firm ground for a friendly interaction in real life (equally, negative views, if not contextualised, might or might not lead to real hostilities). Still, attitudes might predetermine the reality. As social practice proves, intolerance in relation to newcomers is spontaneous (Mukomel 2014), particularly if they remain badly integrated (Mikheeva, Sereda 2015). Even if the IDPs are of the same ethnic origin as the host community, as in the case of Ukraine, possible ‘strained relations, frustration and indifference’ (OSCE 2016) towards them call upon a discussion on their status and future role in the host environment.

The issue of mutual respect between the host and the uprooted groups involves not only trust and sympathy but also equal distribution of civil rights and duties. As the data demonstrate, after the two years of conflict the IDPs are still perceived by large part of the host community as semi-fellows and semi-citizens limited in their access to society’s life. Reframing such attitudes is indispensable to avoid camp-type recognition of the IDPs. If not accepted as equals, they will not be able to contribute to the competitiveness and facilitate positive changes. The host community and the displaced need to understand each other in the new post-Euromaidan reality. The lack of possibilities for future inclusive development in one state seems to be the biggest challenge for both.


[1] As a Soviet Republic, Ukraine experienced a mass displacement in 1986, when the Chornobyl nuclear accident resulted in the displacement of the affected population (including 116,000 inhabitants from 188 settlements). See Meynatyan S. (2014) Nuclear disasters and displacement Forced Migration Review, No.45, February 2014. Available at:

[2] The rather new concept was formed at the end of the Cold War with reference to multi-faceted conflicts consisting of conventional war tactics through both paramilitary and military detachments, cyberwar activities and widely used mass communication channels. See: Hybrid war and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Science Daily, 3 October 2016. Available at:

[3] The database created by the National Museum of War and History of Ukraine shows war casualties across the regions. As of 1 March 2016, 2860 Ukrainian soldiers died in Donbas, with four regions recording the highest numbers of deaths (Dnipro ‒ 359, Lviv ‒ 180, Zhytomyr ‒ 177 and Volyn ‒ 150). Although Ukrainian soldiers from Donbas have also taken part in the anti-terrorist operation (Donetsk has lost 79 and Luhansk 48 lives), it is commonly understood that the majority of young men from the occupied territories avoid mass conscription.

[4] Formally, one is not eligible to any social payments from the Ukrainian state if they reside in the occupied territories. However, as my informal talks with the Donbas informants prove, a considerable number of people paid bribes to get their social payments from Ukraine without leaving their place of residence in the occupied area.

[5] Acronym for ‘Not in My Back Yard’ which is used to label an attitude of individuals who oppose a given project in their neighborhood but not somewhere else (see: Aeschbacher 2006). It is used in literature about facility siting. See: It also refers to the attitudes of host community who might advocate in favour of a given idea, but oppose implementing it in a way that would affect their lives or require any contribution on their part.

[6] In particular, limitations refer to voting rights as Ukraine’s electoral regulations link it to the place of residence.

[7] In the first year of the conflict, the cooperation between NGOs helping IDPs and the Ukrainian state was rather formal and often lacked common sense. Ukrainian authorities ‘require a lot but are not ready to offer help’ (at the beginning of the conflict, they did not keep record of IDPs and referred to NGOs to get the data; then they used these statistics at their websites with no references to the NGOs). ‘The President should admit that they have difficulties with defining the ATO zone and controlling the surrounding area. It is rather clear that they are unable to solve lots of problems any time soon, and more cooperation with other agents is needed’, one activist said. ‘The responsible ministries do not even admit the existing problems. It seems as if we lived in parallel worlds, so it is very hard to cooperate with them when they are not straightforward. The main weakness of state authorities is that they do not speak out’. My interview with Aleksandra Dvoretskaya, a human right activist of the VOSTOK-SOS, (one of the most active NGOs advocating for IDPs’ rights), 14 November 2014. Although the situation has been slowly changing, many of the drawbacks are still in place.

[8] As the data from 2015 demonstrate, oligarchs are considered the most influential group in the Ukrainian society (by 44.6 per cent of the respondents). They are followed by workers (34.6 per cent), businessmen (33.3), leaders of political parties (27.2), peasants and military men (25.4-25.2). Migrants, including Ukrainian diaspora (9.2), Ukrainian labour migrants (7.5) and foreigners of non-Ukrainian origin (6.4) are among the bottom five groups in terms of influence (together with pensioners – 5.7 and IDPs – 3.4).

[9] Ukraine’s IDPs monthly allowance is 441 UAH (nearly 18 USD based on July 2016 exchange rate) for those able to work and 882 UAH (nearly 36 USD) for disabled. The minimum wage in Ukraine is defined as follows: 1450 UAH (59 USD) for those able to work and 1130 UAH (46 USD) for disabled. Regardless of the official income data, the costs of living in Ukraine remain high. See:

[10] Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s Interior Minister, argued in September 2016 that the inflow of IDPs to Kyiv (800,000 according to the Ministry’s estimations) has been one of the key factors which contributed to the rise in crime (together with three other factors, such as the current economic crisis, continuing war in the East and painful police reform).  See: The IDPs are often depicted in the media as passive recipients of assistance and a cause of price increases, unemployment and lack of social protection services. As CRIMEA SOS’s report stated in 2015, criminal news is usually reported with a focus on the place of residence of suspects or victims. See: Relationships between host communities and IDPs in Ukraine. Overcoming the negative effects of stigma (2015), CRIMEA SOS, UNHRC, Embassy of Canada in Ukraine. Available at:—————————————–eng.pdf

[11] For example, in big Ukrainian cities luxury cars with Donetsk and Luhansk plates are usually referred to by the locals as a typical example of aggressive and rude driving behavior. As the CRIMEA SOS’s report suggested, ‘the deterioration of the political situation, aggravation of the economic crisis along with reduction/non-allocation of additional resources for IDPs, escalation of armed conflict, increase of IDP population, and degradation of living standards due to the ongoing armed conflict’ might have reinforced the negative stereotypes about IDPs.

[12] The distribution of answers changes over time with a tendency to become more balanced; in 2016 in Donbas 13.3 per cent of respondents thought that people fear the influx of newcomers, in Kyiv ‒ 21.4.

[13] That was a multiple-option question in the questionnaire.

[14] See Vice-Minister for Occupied Territories’ comment on Ukraine’s plan to Reintegrate Donbas (24 July 2016). Available at: What if Donbas is ours tomorrow? Novoje vremia, 9 February 2016. Available at:

[15] For more details on the research methodology, see: Ivashchenko-Stadnik K. (2016) Too close or too far: contemporary challenges and opportunities of the ‘Near Diasporas’ from a country of origin perspective (warning on migrants-stayers nexus), Wien, ERSTE Foundation Working Paper Series (forthcoming).

[16] As other recent data confirm, east-Kyiv-west form a new line of the national identity in Ukraine.

[17] Such subjective reinforcement, together with the effective local policies, seems to have produced some results. Recent reports of 2016 argue that IDPs resettled in the west, although not very numerous as compared to the east, are increasingly proactive in seeking employment (the number of those who have applied to the employment service is significantly higher than in the east of Ukraine, as of June 2016) (Smal 2016).

[18] According to the National Bank of Ukraine in 2014 the remittances sent from abroad made up 6.5 billion USD which constituted nearly five per cent of Ukraine’s GDP.

[19] See Zhurzhenko T. (2015). Ukraine’s Eastern Borderlands: The end of ambiguity? / What does Ukraine think? (edited by Andrew Wilson). European Council of Foreign Relations, 46. Available at: (Accessed 10 October 2016). As Zhurzhenko points out, ‘the Ukrainian east reflects a new pro-Ukrainian consensus among local elites, business, and civil society, one that has emerged in response to the serious threat of internal destabilisation and Russian invasion’.


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