Perceptions of Historical Victimization in Ukraine

with Kristin M. Bakke, Gerrard Toal and John O’Loughlin

Kiev, Ukraine 2019

Abstract: How do present beliefs shape people’s perceptions of their own past? Specifically, to what extent do people’s perceptions of historical violence reflect their beliefs of today? There is a growing body of work examining how violence in the past shape a range of present-day outcomes. Yet it is plausible, even likely, that people’s memories of the past are shaped by their present-day attitudes. People may arrive at self-serving conclusions about the past based on their present beliefs or identity. They may downplay or emphasize certain events as central to their history, violence in particular, because of present-day social stigma. Rather than taking memories of historical events, in particular historical violence, as an explanatory variable, we study it as an outcome. Ukraine is a frontline country, torn between Russia and Europe, providing fertile testing ground for exploring how individuals downplay or emphasize the historical suffering of their community in line with their geopolitical orientations of the day. We do so based on data from an original public opinion survey conducted in autumn 2019, including a survey experiment.

Manuscript draft.

Preliminary findings