Protests a year after Maidan: less social issues, more violence

Results of monitoring of protests, repressions and concessions by the Center for Social and Labor Research in August-October 2014

On November 25th at a press conference in the ‘Ukrinform’ information agency the Center for Social and Labor Research, presented the results of the systematic monitoring of protests, repressions and concessions on the changes in protest activity a year after the beginning of Maidan. The project has been lasting over 5 years now and supported by the International Renaissance Foundation and the National Endowment for Democracy.

Summary: A year after Maidan in August – October 2014 the number of protests was 2-3 times higher than in the year 2013 before Maidan. Number of protests increased in all regions except in Crimea. Most unexpected increase was seen in the Eastern region (not including the Donbass). The level of violence and confrontation during protests in the last three months is breaking all historical records (even without taking into account the fighting actions in the Anti-Terrorist Operation area), concentrating in the Eastern and Southern regions. In August and September the largest share of protests raised ideological issues, however, in October the protests were largely political – which was not typical for the protest activity in Ukraine before Maidan. At the same time, however, the absolute number of socio-economic protests did not decrease from the time before Maidan instead it is gradually increasing. Political parties, NGOs, trade unions are not able to join the high wave of protest activity. Herewith, the pro-government centrist as well as leading opposition parties drastically reduced their participation in the protests. The most notable political forces in the protests were the far right, while the ‘Right Sector’ was significantly more active than the ‘Svoboda’ party. 

 

MAIN TRENDS, A YEAR AFTER MAIDAN

Number of protests

A year after Maidan the number of protest events still stays 2-3 times higher than it was before Maidan. If in 2013 before Maidan (before November 20th inclusive) they were reported to be on average a little more than 300 protests per month. In August, September and October 2014, 740 protests per month were reported (2229 protests in total in three months). These and further figures do not include the combat actions in Donbass.

The size of protests

A year after Maidan there are a lot of protest events happening, but usually they gather a few people just as it was before Maidan. For most protests in August and October (58%) the approximate number of participants was not reported and most likely, the number was small (a large share of them were violent protests that were carried out by small groups.) Among the protests, for which the number of participants was reported, only 23% of them had over 100 people (in 2013 before the beginning of Maidan – 25%).

Regions

Comparing to the pre-Maidan period the absolute number of protests increased in all regions. Only in Crimea the number of protests was almost the same (in average it was 11 protests a month) as that it was in 2013 before Maidan. In the Eastern region the number of protests increased the most (Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia oblasts, not including Donbass). In this region, only during August-October more protests were reported (366) than during 11 months of 2013 before Maidan (341).

Among cities where the highest number of protests was reported, Kyiv stays on the first place (247 protests in August-October). However, unlike during the Maidan period when the Western cities dominated among the top ten most active cities (Lviv was on the second place after Kyiv). Among the largest protest cities there are a lot of centers of the Eastern and Southern regions: Odesa (171), Kharkiv (116), Mykolaiv (91), and on the fifth place, Lviv (76).

Violence

A year after Maidan the level of violence during protests (without taking into account the combat actions in Donbass) was higher than any previous times since the start of our monitoring. In August-October, 21% of protests were violent (comparing with 8% in 2013 before Maidan and 13% during Maidan), 36% of protests were not violent, but still confrontational (comparing with 19% and 23% respectively). Violent protests were mostly related to the issues of federalization/separation (121) and against the government (110), but the violence was also often used during the electoral actions (120) in anti-Communist protests (71) and protests against the Party of Regions (32). The highest percentage of violence during protests was reported in Donbass (50%), the Eastern region (31%), Southern region (25%); the least percentage – in the Western region (7%).

Protest issues

At first glance, during last three months the protest issues were very different from the typical issues of the pre-Maidan period. Since the start of systematic protests monitoring (from October, 2009) and till the beginning of Maidan, the socio-economic issues were the most frequently raised during the protests; particularly in 2013 (before November 20th), they took people out to the streets in more than half of the cases (56%). However, during August-September, 2014, most protests raised ideological issues (actions “For United Ukraine” or, alternatively, for federalization or separation, protests against Russian intervention), but in October, more than a half of protests (59%) were political protests (due to the election actions, and also due to the anti-government protests and campaigns for the ‘lustration’), while the share of ideological protests dropped to 27%.

Such an unusual change of issues is most likely to be temporary. Although, the relative share of socio-economic protests in August-October was low (25%), their absolute number was not less than the average for 2013 till the beginning of Maidan, and kept increasing from 162 protests in August to 211 protests in October. Among the most frequent socio-economic issues raised during the protests in August and September were illegal development in the urban space, provision and other social problems of the army, public utilities, small business rights and land conflicts. The social policy of the government, the consequences of devaluation of Ukrainian hryvnia, the increase of prices while the wages are frozen will likely provoke even more social actions, which may be prevented only by the escalation of military conflict and a new wave of patriotic mobilization.

Political and civil protesters

The organized “civil society” could not join a large number of protests that took place in the last three months. In only 18% of protests in AugustOctober participation of political parties or individual politicians was reported (comparing to 35% of preMaidan period of 2013 as well as during Maidan). In only 12% of protests in August-October participation of NGOs was reported (comparing to 22% of pre-Maidan period of 2013 and 14% during Maidan). In only 1% of protests participation of trade unions was reported (comparing to 4% and 2% accordingly). The absolute number of protests involving political parties and NGOs even increased slightly, but perhaps they cannot extend their protest activity and interact with more protest initiatives.

Previously, ‘Svoboda’ was the most active party in the protests, now it is replaced by ‘Right Sector’ becoming the most visible political party in the protests in August-October 2014 (157 events – 7% of all protests over the period). ‘Svoboda’, however, remained at the second place for protest activity among parties (92 protests, 4%).

At the same time, the participation of centrist parties in the protests such as Yulia Tymoshenko’s ‘Batkivshchyna’ (25) and Vitalii Klitchko’s ‘UDAR’ (16) drastically decreased. Among the new parties, there is a noticeable participation of ‘Volya’ (post-Maidan social liberal party) (19), ‘Democratic Alliance’ (a young Christian Democratic party) (15) and ‘5.10’ (libertarians) (12). Also, the Communist Party of Ukraine drastically reduced its protest activity (14), while the Party of Regions and ‘Opposition Bloc’ were almost invisible in the protests (5).

As a result, Ukrainian ultranationalists (primarily ‘Right Sector’ and ‘Svoboda’) were reported to participate in 59% of all protests involving parties or individual politicians in August-October. Overall, the participation of Ukrainian far right was reported in 275 protests in August-October, which is 12% of the total number of protests over the period, but this is significantly higher than their activity in 2013 before Maidan. Besides combat actions in Donbass the participation of the Russian nationalist far right was reported in 44 events (2%).

You can find the data and graphs on protests in August-October as well as the methodology and classification of events in theHow did the protests change after a year since Maidan? on our webpage.

REFERENCE:

Protests, repressions and concessions monitoring has been conducted since October 2009. It is a unique project for the systematic data collection about all (regardless of the issue or size) protests as well as negative and positive reactions to the protests taking place in real time all over Ukraine based on the monitoring of more than 190 national, oblast and activist web-media.

The goal of the present project, conducted by the Center for Social and Labor Research in a partnership with the Center for Society Research and supported by the International Renaissance Foundation and National Endowment for Democracy, is the objective study of protest activity and social movements in Ukraine and providing this information to the general public aiming to defend the right of peaceful assembly and to draw attention to grassroots socioeconomic protest initiatives.

Center for Social and Labor Research was founded in 2013 as an independent non-profit center for analysis of socioeconomic problems, collective protests, labor relations and conflicts.

Contact person: Volodymyr Ishchenko (+38097-396-4499)

info@cslr.org.ua

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