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Kristen Ghodsee
Says More…

This week in Say More, PS talks with Kristen Ghodsee, Professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and the author of the forthcoming book, Red Valkyries: Feminist Lessons from Five Revolutionary Women.

Project Syndicate: As you and Mitchell A. Orenstein noted last year, widespread disinformation – like that which has prevented Eastern Europeans from getting vaccinated against COVID-19 – is a “legacy of the breakdown of public trust in governmental institutions after communism.” To what extent did this lack of public trust increase Ukraine’s vulnerability to invasion by Russia?

Kristen Ghodsee: Collapsing public trust is a problem throughout Eastern Europe, and it is less a legacy of the communist era than a result of the disappointments of post-communist transition. For instance, a 2009 Pew Research Center poll found that only 30% of Ukrainians supported the shift to democracy, compared to 72% in 1991. Just 36% supported the change to capitalism, compared to 52% in 1991.

In 2019, the Pew Research Center returned to Ukraine to ask whether elected leaders cared what ordinary people thought: only 15% of respondents believed so. Similarly, only 14% of Ukrainians reported that the economic situation in their country was “good.” And Ukrainians had the lowest levels of self-reported life satisfaction of all European countries surveyed, even worse than Russia.

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