Capturing Ethnicity: The Case Of Ukraine

Olga Onuch, Henry E Hale

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Building on past survey-based studies of ethnic identity, we employ the case
of Ukraine to demonstrate the importance of taking seriously the
multidimensionality of ethnicity, even in a country that is regarded as
deeply divided. Drawing on relational theory, we identify four dimensions of ethnicity that are each important in distinctive ways in Ukraine: individual language preference, language embeddedness, ethnolinguistic identity, and nationality. Using original survey data collected in May 2014, we show that the choice of one over the other can be highly consequential for the conclusions one draws about ethnicity’s role in shaping attitudes (e.g., to NATO membership), actions (e.g., participation in the Euromaidan protests), and the anticipation of outgroups’ behavior (e.g., expectations of a Russian invasion). Moreover, we call attention to the importance of including the right control variables for precisely interpreting any posited effects of ethnicity, making specific recommendations for future survey research on ethnic identity in Ukraine.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)84-106
Number of pages22
JournalPost-Soviet Affairs
Issue number2-3
Early online date12 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • ethnicity
  • indentity
  • language
  • Ukraine
  • public opinion
  • political behavior


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