Mentality of the Ukrainian People
And how is it in Ukraine?
The so-called features of Ukrainian mentality such as “unity of the nation”, “sovereignty”, “uniatism” and so on that are widely popularized today are a part of the ideological process, but not of the ethnic mentality of Ukrainians. Mentality is not just an important, but the most important factor affecting the motivation of people. So far, in most cases, the dominant role is played by “Soviet” factors, the “Code of the builder of communism”, the rewritten doctrines of Orthodoxy, etc. The mentality of the nation is also influenced by the fact that the Ukrainian state seeks not so much to exist as to prove to the whole world that it exists. Life in a state spending too much money on “tinting the facade” is not very cozy. It is much similar to life in the Potemkin village, such a kind of “Potemkin capitalism.” However, the Ukrainian nation of the Soviet and post-Soviet model is two completely different ethnic groups, although these are mostly the same people.
What are the main prerequisites, the foundation for the formation of the Ukrainian ethnos?
- Unlike the nomadic neighbors, including the ancient Hungarians and Bulgarians, the Ukrainian ethnos crystallized and still exists in its own ethno-community and around it. This constancy of the geographic area led to an almost perfect adaptation of the Ukrainians to the landscape, which could not but find reflection in his mental attitudes. The Dnipro and the Desna, the Carpathians and the Steppe, Khortytsya and the Great Meadow – for the Ukrainian these are not just the toponyms that designate the natural objects, but something more: aesthetically pleasing spacing, his encirclement, his world, his House (with a capital letter), and often – poetic images and elements of mythology.
Perception of static forms of the forest-steppe Ukrainian relief, distant horizons, filled with soft, flat waves of fertile lands generates dreaminess, sensuality, passivity, carelessness and at the same time – propensity for liberty and anarchy.
- The superiority of “the heart over the mind”. In his book “Ruined Ukrainian soul” M. Shlemkevich writes: “Specific feature of the Ukrainian philosophical and philosophical mentality is its commitment to inner emotionally-sensual world of man which is governed not by cold rational calculation of the “head”, but the burning invocation of the “heart”.
- For Ukrainian peasant, the attitude towards the land was close to its deification. Agricultural life in conjunction with proximity to nature resulted not only in lyric or provincial sentimentality, but also in self-esteem, self-reliance, in some measure – in individualism. Acute, even painful sense of justice, hatred of infringement, pushing the Ukrainians towards a pervasive search for justice is comes from the sense of self-worth and importance.
- The already mentioned long-term entry of Ukrainian lands into the composition of various state formations (the Lithuanian Principality, the Rzeczpospolita, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman and Russian empires) and the equally long struggle for independence that gave rise to such mentalities had an impact on the formation of specific features of the Ukrainian mentality qualities that seem to contradict each other. Thus, “on the one hand, the quintessence of the Ukrainian spirit is a Cossack – an independent individualist who is free-will.” These individual principles, their individualistic ideas have their positive and negative sides in the character of the people… On the other hand, centuries of serfdom could not but leave their imprint. It gave rise to “the feeling of the community, a sense of mutual assistance, support, etc.” among Ukrainian peasants.
On the one hand – adventurous Cossack (knight) lifestyle, on the other – the style of secret existence, generated by the need to hide their inner world from enemies. If the first one is the source of activity, then the other leads to the life philosophy of “it has nothing to do with me.”
- Beginning from the East Slavic Council (Viche) and the Cossack Rada, the Ukrainian people always tended to more democratic and republican forms of government, unlike other European countries with their ideas of “caesarepapism.” But the abovementioned individualism, acting as the reverse side of democracy, was one of the main reasons for the absence of its own statehood for a long time.
In 1920s, in his work “Psychic features of Ukrainians and the cause of our unhappiness” G. Vashchenko wrote; “Aristocratism of the spirit logically leads to individualism, individualism leads to selfishness, and being ambitious is its form.” Political ambitions, hypertrophied individualism in politics led to the fact that the struggle for power has conflicting and sometimes tragic character. It does not stop with the victory of one of the political entities: opposition forces are always oppose it.
The essence of Ukrainian mentality is best characterized by the term “isolated farming”.
The state of “isolated farming” is the natural condition of the Ukrainian nation.
Most politicians, incl. the president, are a product of Ukrainian farming, its embodiment, in fact – its classic pattern. He does not have to pretend, declare his being one of the people. The Ukrainian farmer sees himself as if in a mirror. And at least 60% of Ukrainians, even those living in cities, still have a mindset of “isolated farmers”. In Kiev this percentage is also significant; in the last half century due to the inflow from the outback the city has become twice bigger.
The mentality of the domestic “isolated farmer” is described in classical Ukrainian literature. Let’s briefly outline its characteristics:
- The farmer considers himself sufficiently “smart”, and if not very smart, then truly “wise.” The mind and wisdom of the farmer are manifested in his cunning and ability to dodge risks in time, avoiding real (and imaginary) danger and unnecessary work.
- Farmer always gets his own way: he fiercely hates the representative of power, scolds him in front of his relatives, takes his anger at his wife and mother-in-law, admires his own boldness and radical convictions; however, when he meets his object of hatred (official) he slinks, greeting and wishing him good health. He (the farmer) does not want to participate in solving social problems, and lives by the principle: “it has nothing to do with me”.
- Isolated farmer most often keeps away from people of courage and initiative, seeing in them a hidden danger to their well-being. That’s why he keeps away from them. He does not understand initiative and courageous people. His conclusions are as follows: “If I’m afraid, why is he not afraid?” “If I do not dare, why does he do?” “Maybe he was told and allowed to be brave, and if not allowed and not told, then will not the punishment follow?” As a result, he concludes: “It is better to be wise and careful than brave and beaten.”
So, let’s try to systematize the main differences between the “Ukrainian character” and the Russian one
«Broad Russian soul», generous to a fault
|Collectivism||Individualism, “it has nothing to do with me” philosophy|
|Hospitality, gullibility||Mistrust, suspicion of new/unknown|
|Emotional devotion to the leader||Love to liberty and independence, subordination for the sake of profit|
|Industriousness in the team||“Economy”, diligence (for oneself)|
|Conformism||Self-reliance in judgments|
|Greatpowerness, high self-conceit, level of aspiration||Postcolonial Peripheral Syndrome, provinciality, “younger brother” complex|
|“Do not stand out,” “be like everyone else,” do not “break away from the collective”||Personal initiative|
|Impulsivity, disorganization, spontaneity||Patience, humility|
|Leaning towards totalitarianism, authoritarian power, “firm hand”||Leaning towards more democratic, republican form of government|
|Socially active||Social fatalism|
|Intolerance||Tolerance towards other nations, communities|
|Greater propensity to aggression, crime, violence||
One should also take into account the unevenness of the distribution of the above-described factors through the territory of Ukraine, for it is by no means heterogeneous either according to chronological or regional characteristics. One doesn’t have to be an expert to understand that in the West and in the Eastern or Southern regions of the country the results will differ greatly. In different regions people have different attitude to their historical past, cultural heritage, language, religion, development prospects, etc.
Another characteristic feature of the Ukrainian ethnos is distrust and suspicion. It is thanks to this quality that advertising campaigns fail because the basic idea of these campaigns is the value of the opinion of authoritative person, most often a television star. For a Ukrainian, the most likely authority is a successful neighbor, not a stage diva.
Summarizing what has been said let us once again note the main features of the Ukrainian mentality.
First is the spiritual connection of Ukrainians and their habitat. “Attachment to certain territories or localities within their borders…” E. Smith writes, “is of a mythical and subjective nature. For ethnic identification, attachment and association are more important than life on this land or its possession.”
Second comes the supremacy of individualism over collectivism, which is noted by almost all researchers of this phenomenon. As A. Kulchitsky wrote, “our personalism was much more than in Western Europe directed towards introvert deepening, into the inner world of personal experience”.
Third feature is the primacy of emotionality over rationality, feelings over intellect, “hearts” over the “head”; this is “cardiocentrism”, especially in philosophy, modern Ukrainian historians of philosophy talk about a lot.
Fourthly, a certain social fatalism, that is, a belief in the automaticity of the historical process, which results in constant escape into small groups, into the family, abstention from participation in resolving serious social and political problems.
Fifth feature is the duality of the inner world which combines the adventurous-Cossack (active) psychological type and the type of “secret existence” (passive).
Six comes the “general leveling” and loyalty of Ukrainians, which results from specifics of family relations, the traditions of political self-regulation and religious life.
So, let’s consider all the pros and cons. On the one hand, we have common roots with the West European civilization, and up to the XVII century the country developed in a pan-European context, which was reflected in the mental consonance of the Ukrainian and European philosophical principles. On the other hand, over the past 350 years the mentality of Ukrainians as well as the mentality of the Europeans experienced fundamental changes related to different ways of historical development. We no longer represent a single mental community with them, but many Ukrainians still have a very high level of identification with the events of the recent Soviet past.
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