Politics Economy Energy War Reforms Anticorruption Society

Yevhen Holovakha: “Corruption should be exposed. This will improve the image of Ukraine in Europe”

Yevhen Holovakha: “Corruption should be exposed. This will improve the image of Ukraine in Europe” © Эльдар Сарахман/УП
Still, the fight must be carried through to the end

When there is doubt about something, it is worth consulting with a sage. It’s been done that way for a long time. It would always help. Ukrainian psychologist, sociologist, director of the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine Yevhen Holovakha is deservedly called a sage. Relying on his scientific and life experience, he will not advise bad. So, we decided to ask him a few questions that concern so many people.

On corruption

Let us recall the recent scandal about the purchase of eggs for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the price of which turned out to be twice as high as in the markets. The Minister of Defense had to prove that this was not corruption, but a technical error.

Reznikov managed to remain in office, but the situation left a bad taste in our mouths. So, maybe they shouldn’t have upset the minister’s applecart during the hostilities, but rather wait “until after the war”? This was the beginning of our conversation with Yevhen Holovakha.

“Yevhen Ivanovych, the Ukrainian media is faced with a dilemma: either tell the truth about large-scale corruption in Ukraine and achieve real victories over it or turn down the volume so as not to scare off allies and partners and indirectly cause a decrease in arms supplies and financial support. Maybe it’s really better to start seriously dealing with corruption after the victory?”

“Personally, I have been thinking about this issue for a long time, especially when we saw materials about corrupt schemes for the food supply for the army. Each of the options has the right to exist, either our society needs to be cleansed of corruption, no matter what, or we shall postpone this business to the post-war time so that support for Ukraine does not decrease. I think that if we expose cases of corruption, support will not fall. On the contrary, our partners will understand that Ukraine not only wants to win the war, but also strives to finally become a civilized European country. Therefore, this will not reduce support, but, on the contrary, will show that Ukraine really meets all the criteria of an EU candidate country. Corruption must be exposed. This will improve the image of Ukraine in Europe. If, of course, we will carry it through to the end. This is my opinion.”

For those who went through the hell of war, everything possible must be done

“Do you agree with the opinion that the longer the war lasts, the more society will succumb to apathy, and the more serious rehabilitation will be needed for those who returned from the front and realized that they fought for the wrong thing? Will the results of the victory satisfy the Ukrainians, or maybe they will direct the development of the country according to some unexpected scenario? Which one?”

“For the soldiers who returned from the front not to experience disappointment and not to become a tool for those who feel like using them for anti-Ukrainian activities, a clear program should already be developed for the inclusion of front-line soldiers in a peaceful society; to rid them of bureaucratic procedures and clearly define the privileges they may count on. For those who have gone through the hell of war, are injured, everything possible must be done. For the rest – what the state has the strength to do. This is fair and will testify to the level of civilization of our country. If the veterans become disillusioned with Ukraine, it will be terrible. After all, they have been protecting her. And the response of the country to what they have done for her must be clear, consistent and encompassing all levels: from the legislature to the ordinary official, so as not to really create a big problem.”

Ukrainian is the state language

“Ukrainian society is now set against everything Russian – literature, culture, language. And this, on the one hand, is completely natural as the war is not over. On the other hand, about half of the soldiers in the trenches at the front are now Russian speaking. Should this somehow affect the language policy of the country? In general, how can we properly deal with everything Russian: now, at a time of acute pain and war, and then, after the Victory?”

“I don’t think there is any problem here at all. Ukrainian is the state language. In accordance with all norms of global legislation, all citizens must know the state language. And Russian is the language of the largest national minority in Ukraine. That is, in accordance with the Constitution, it must be protected.

The existing national legislation and the legislation of the European Union, where we are striving, is quite enough for this. Yes, there are emotions as the Russian language is clearly associated with the aggressor country. But we must be guided by reason and legislation. Now there is no need to push a problem that has a serious emotional basis beyond the law and common sense. This is especially relevant for those who belong to the authorities, to the intellectual elite of the country.”

Less cynicism, fatalism, and confusion; more optimism and bottom-up initiative

“On an emotional wave, Ukraine is capable of miracles, of incredible heroism and solidarity. But the war has been going on for more than a year, the emotion is leaving. It must be replaced by a system. No matter how hard we try, we are unable to fix it. Neither in logistics, nor in government, and often in command and control. Why so, in your opinion?”

“Due to the lack of independent state experience. All our state machines were formed vertically, as secondary in relation to the center. Both under the tsarist regime and under the Soviet regime, they were always waiting for instructions.

Effective states have accumulated experience for a long time. For the United Kingdom, it took centuries to create a more or less effective order. There were civil wars, and freemen periods, and chaos.

Ukrainians, on the other hand, have good experience in fast destroying something bad. But there is no experience of building an effective state. However, I believe that during the recent 30 years we have managed to fix things not so badly. Something is already being done.”

“Can we win if we lack experience so much? If we do not become a little ‘German’?”

“We must try. Ukrainians operate by trial and error. At first, they chose power from party members, now from business. But they, too, did not come from an airless space, but from the same institutional system. With the same diseases and mistakes. But everything does not look as sad as, say, 10–20 years ago.

Russia is a completely decomposed country. For all her incredible potential, it is completely incapacitated. And this is playing into our hands. I hope it doesn’t bombard us with all her cannon meat. This is its main resource.”

“In the first months of the war, it seemed that this fire would burn out all the filth inside us. Over time, not only the authorities, but also a significant part of society showed that although for most people, war is grief and misery, but there are such people, who manage to flourish in the war too. Purchases at inflated prices; games with Russian assets that were inconsistently sanctioned; trade in humanitarian aid... What can change us, even if such circumstances do not force us to abandon the usual ways of ‘survival’?”

“We are already changing. Under the influence of tragic events, we become better. We have got less of what we ourselves abhorred. Research shows this. There is less cynicism. Much less fatalism and indulgence towards grassroots bribery. Previously, 77% of the respondents took a cynical position in relation to their neighbors, and now there are 54%. These are significant changes that have taken place over the past year. People saw selflessness in others, began to trust more. There is even less confusion, i.e., this anomic demoralization. There is more optimism, more bottom-up initiative. All this will contribute to the control mechanisms.

However, it would be very naïve to expect that under the influence of the war we will change in a magical way. In fact, the war, as a rule, does not change people for the better. All studies before this war showed that after the war people would become hardened, lose their semitones; hatred and hostility would increase. This too must be considered. This factor will be very serious and powerful. Hostility and aggression will increase. The same resentment, which caused Russia’s invasion, namely the feeling of impotent anger from the loss, as they believe, of the territories “honestly earned” by the empire.

According to our data, people have become better. But this is only the first, far from the last year of challenges. The resource of vitality will very slowly (this is shown by studies) but decrease. It’s still sufficient. For example, the Rating group has a captivating study encompassing indices of hardiness, mental and physical stability. Previously, people rated themselves 4 on a 5-point scale. A year later – two tenths of a point lower, between ‘mediocre’ and ‘good’. We face serious challenges – material and psychological ones, and loss of loved people. How the average person will change psychologically, I cannot predict exactly. I can only say that people expect to withstand this situation. And I believe them because they demonstrated this last year.

And then everything will depend on how strong the support from the outside will be, how reasonable the policy will be and how strong the army will be.”

Unity and integration vs internal confrontations

“You mentioned hostility in the post-war period. It’s becoming evident now.”

“Certainly. In any warring country, the level of hostility and aggressiveness is growing. And a feeling of hatred. It is mainly focused on the enemy, but it also exists inside, between different categories of people: those who are at the front and those who are in the rear; people who left and people who stayed; those who was lucky to keep their home, business, and those who lost it; those who have lost their loved ones and who luckily haven’t. There are immeasurably many horizons of confrontations ahead. But there are factors that dampen it. The main one is hatred of the enemy. This is a dominant feeling that relieves tension in relationships within. As soon as this feeling passes and the war ends, of course, we will have big problems with sorting things out at all levels. Especially if everything ends not with a victory understandable to everyone, but with some kind of uncertain situation, such as Russia’s friends are trying to get from us.

In the event of victory, internal resentment will be secondary to the feeling that we have defended the freedom, independence, and territorial integrity of the country with pride. Now, of all the feelings, the most common is the feeling of pride in one’s country. 90% experience it. And hope. Although for many, it is still mostly sadness and fear.”

“What can be done with internal hostility so that it does not blow us up from the inside?”

“It depends on the leaders of public opinion, the media, the intellectual elite. They should call people to unity and integration; to ensure that we do not persecute each other due to the fact that we are in different circumstances. The main thing is that we all participate in the defense of the country. Everyone as they can, to the extent that they are capable of. People are now following the news. And it can affect them. I do not guarantee that this will be the decisive factor. Such, of course, will be the victory. But if there is a long and stubborn war, then it becomes important how we will interpret the developments and comment on all this. This will become increasingly important if the war remains in the condition, it has been in during the recent months.

A factor that depends on the state is, as I said, programs for those who returned from the front, especially those who were injured or disabled. Now the procedure for confirming injuries, disability is very ill-conceived, painful. It can cause irritation, anger, which in turn can lead to serious consequences.”

Citizens treat their country better when there is a real threat of losing it

“Will Ukraine find its way? What should it be? And in general, have there been periods in the history of Ukraine that can be called harmonious?”

“The history of Ukraine as an independent state is very short. Literally a few years before joining the USSR and our 30 years. We do not have much historical experience of our own statehood. But we have built it anyway! And our research shows that the citizens of Ukraine treat their country better when there is a real threat of losing it. I think Ukraine has a positive development prospect. Firstly, we withstood such a terrible invasion, and we understand that Russia will not be able to liquidate Ukrainian statehood for we have preserved it thanks to our resistance. Secondly, we have the support of the entire civilized world, which understands that the survival of Ukraine is a criterion for the survival of civilization. Ukraine has a good prospect in this sense.

In addition, the views of Ukrainians have also changed significantly. Ukraine was an ambivalent country, that is, with a dual vision of its place in the world. She could not decide where to go – to Europe, back to the USSR, or to choose some kind of her own, third path. Now there is no doubt. Our way is the one to Europe.”


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