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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

The specifics of national political psychology

What type of leader does Ukraine need, with due account of the Ukrainian character and the current state of affairs?
2 October, 2012 - 00:00
Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day

“Leaders must be tough enough to fight, tender enough to cry, human enough to make mistakes, humble enough to admit them, strong enough to absorb the pain, and resilient enough to bounce back and keep on moving,” US public figure Jesse Jackson used to say.

This quote emphasizes that a political leader must, first of all, be a person of probity and conscience and be able to try to overcome his or her own shortcomings. Otherwise, all the leadership qualities will be reduced to idle talk. Worthy statesmen differ from unworthy ones by, above all, having a feeling of responsibility for their historical mission in society. As practice showed, Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma, and Viktor Yushchenko, were short of this feeling (we will hardly praise the former only for signing the Belavezha Agreement). This, naturally, applies to the fourth president as well.

Independent Ukraine has seen the formation of three basic models of political leadership, each of which reflects not only the characteristics of the abovementioned guardians of the Mace but also the moods of those who live in the western, central, and south-eastern regions of Ukraine.

Model A: a “Soviet-style factory manager” or a financial-industrial group representative. He or she declares national democratic values, follows two vectors in the foreign policy, and knows how to work in a state-run economy in his personal and corporate interests rather than for public benefit.

Model B: a pro-Russian financial-industrial representative. He or she knows how to work in a state-run economy and, still better, how to seize the opportunity and do a good job for themselves and their sponsors.

Model C: a pro-Western national democrat. He or she seems to know how to solve the country’s economic problems but, for some reason, is inactive. As a result, they begin to abuse their office to settle their personal problems and do not forget to help their friends.

What kind of a person must the national leader be?

By all accounts, the optimal model should look as follows: a pro-Ukrainian democrat who leans towards the European Union but, at the same time, finds a common language with the Kremlin. He or she knows how to get the economy going and, what is more, is really doing this. What could improve their image is show of reformatory, not only intellectual, leadership and a lesser display of “heroism” and “revolutionariness.”

Undoubtedly, we do not have now a leader with this set of characteristics. But the point is not in the too high demands to him or her but in that Ukrainian citizens are not in fact even trying to make these demands.

The problem is in the political manifestations of Ukrainian ethico-intuitive introversion. This means that we can feel that something is right but seldom express this in a concrete social activity. We are aware deep inside of what a political leader should be like, but we usually do not care much whether or not national politicians meet the standards we believe are right. Seeing that there are no serious demands from society, politicians in turn downgrade their moral and professional reference points and continue to represent the abovementioned models of leadership.

In an article on the psychology of ethnic communities, Doctor of Sciences (Psychology) Lidia Orban-Lembryk says that almost all researchers single out such typical features of the Ukrainian national character as democratic spirit, love of freedom, and emotionality. “A self-respected introvert, the Ukrainian will protest against any restrictions on personal freedom. At the same time, he is an altruist willing to help, first of all, the one ‘who stands lower.’ In spite of his or her non-aggressiveness, the Ukrainian possesses the spirit of revolt against injustice – he or she believes in the ideals of liberation struggle,” the expert notes.

Democratic spirit and love of freedom are conducive to formation of the basics of a civil society, in which case it is not necessary to search hard for a national savior leader. In a strong civil society, no matter what politician has come to power, they are automatically drawn into a situation that simply forces them to be responsible for their historical mission and nation. Otherwise, they will just have to go. If there were a civil society in Ukraine today, the current authorities would behave quite differently. (It will be noted, for justice’s sake, that such persons and entities as Viktor Yanukovych and the Party of Regions never come to power in states with a developed civil society.)

We do need a Putin or even a Saakashvili of our own. In all probability, fate decreed that our state embark on a different path of sociopolitical development: from bottom to top (from a civil society to the government) rather than from top to bottom (from the leader to the masses). Although many Ukrainians seem to be aware of this, they continue in practice to take an I-couldn’t-care-less approach.

According to the Razumkov Center’s latest data, 37 percent of the polled Ukrainians are prepared to suffer certain material hardships for the sake of personal freedom and civil rights.

Nevertheless, a survey by the Democratic Initiatives foundation shows that only 5 percent of the Ukrainians take part in the activities of civic organizations. People name various reasons why they shun civic organizations – but most frequently cited factor (27 percent) is the feeling of inability to change anything. Among other reasons is lack of interest in this activity (25 percent), lack of time to do unpaid work (20 percent), and mistrust in civic organizations (14 percent). But 22 percent of the polled say they do not know how to do this in reality because nobody has ever suggested this to them.

By Yevhen STRATIIEVSKY, Donetsk-based political scientist and journalist



Refik KURTSEITOV, Candidate of Sciences (Sociology); Associate Professor, History Department, Crimean Engineering and Pedagogical University:

“Above all, the new leader of Ukraine should be an integrator, i.e. a unifier, of the entire country. To be able to do this, he or she should have a really European education and extensive knowledge in all branches of science, which would reflect a European, not Asian, type of thinking and actions. Of course, Ukraine should do away with gerontocracy – it should be a relatively young person, not more than 50 years old, tolerant and attractive for all people in Ukraine.

“He or she should be a patriot of Ukraine rather than a member of some ‘fifth column’ – be it Russian, Rumanian or Jewish. Instead of satisfying their personal needs, they should serve the interests of the entire nation, not of their ‘beloved friends.’ As a highly educated person, he or she should absorb all the components of worldwide human culture and know the needs and aspirations of the individual of any ethnicity, religion, profession and trade.

“As this kind of personality is not yet in sight on the Ukrainian political skyline, it should be a new-generation Ukrainian. This political generation is so far in its infancy.”


Ostap DROZDOV, author and host of the political program “In the Clear,” ZiK TV channel, Lviv:

“Let me paraphrase a well-known saying: nobody has ever been born to please the Ukrainians. I am inclined to believe that we are a leaderless nation, i.e., a nation in which the subordination and self-organization core has almost fully atrophied. Therefore, any political leader will always be treated as authoritarian rather than authoritative. So I am strongly convinced that modern-day Ukrainians will never have a generally-accepted national leader from Sian to Don. For Ukrainian mentality boils down to just one thing – Huliaipole [headquarters of the Civil War-time anarchist leader Nestor Makhno. – Ed.]. In modern parlance this means irresponsibility multiplied by a pinch of absolute anarchism. Huliaipole is an anti-state. It is ontological disobedience to the cut-and-dry rules of common life. This emphasizes an inherent, very much biased, interpretation of regulations and one’s place in a system. Present-day Ukrainians are Huliaiople people – they are too lazy to build a world not only for themselves but also for their grandchildren. ‘I wish I’d have it here and now’ is a deadlock slogan. Being free of responsibility is a telling feature of today’s Ukrainians. And a generally-accepted leader is a foreign body in, or even a danger for, a body like this.

“However, this laxity and aspiration to love oneself in Ukraine (not Ukraine in oneself) may produce an unexpected chance to build an entropic state – in other words, a nominal state stripped of the functions of coercion, directives, total penetration, and elementary respect. Oddly enough, a stateless nature of the Ukrainians is a chance because disrespect for the state, which has not and will never become the guarantor of equal opportunities, is going to beget a new type of public behavior. I will just call it grassroots life – when people themselves address all their problems and do not need any governmental bodies for this purpose. Something of the kind seems to be discernible right now: one is for himself only. All we have to do is bring private interests into line with public ones. I therefore think that Ukraine’s future belongs to local leaders from the so-called lower tier. I am convinced that a weak and leaderless state is much better and more productive than the classical structure of a strong state which you hate and are ashamed of.

“There is another question, too: what can Ukrainian leaders be like in principle? I will answer bluntly: it can be either a capitalist or a Bolshevik. Ours is an idiotically multipolar society. The number of posh foreign-made cars equals that of impoverished people. The ‘many rich ones + many poor ones’ formula has bred a weird Ukrainian hybrid which I call capitalist Bolshevism. Let us be frank: each of us is almost half capitalist and half Bolshevik at the same time. The capitalist principle shows itself in a quite natural desire of wealth and profit and the Bolshevik one in virulent hatred for those who have outdone us and managed to get rich. The capitalist principle whispers: achieve success and make money! And the Bolshevik principle stirs up black envy towards the well-to-do and, hence, prompts us to vote for all kinds of thugs who have not built even a dog kennel in all their lifetime: they earn two thousand [hryvnias] a month but display a millions-worth love for Ukraine.”

Interviewed by Tetiana KOZYRIEVA, The Day, Lviv; Mykola SEMENA, The Day, Simferopol