Young Ukrainians are surprisingly optimistic about the future of their country and about their right to express their own opinions and engage in social activism, but many are not yet convinced that traditional forms and institutions of democracy will provide the answer, says a new British Council report and survey.

‘Hopes, Fears and Dreams: The views of Ukraine’s next generation’ found that over half of young people in Kyiv and the west of Ukraine are optimistic about the future of their country, but not so in the east where a small majority think the future will be worse than before 2014.

While there is a strong belief in the value of protest – 80% felt that citizens had the right to express their views through protest and demonstrations - 66% felt that Ukraine did not need a parliament, but rather a ‘strong leader’, a finding which may reflect a widespread desire among the younger generation to see the past two decades’ legacy of entrenched corruption, stifling bureaucracy and inadequate social investment turned around.

The survey of 1,200 16 to 35 year-olds explored attitudes to education, democracy and dictatorship; protest and activism; and culture and studying English -  with the UK coming through strongly as the most favoured foreign education destination, ahead of the US, Germany and Poland.

The desire for accession to the EU continues to be relatively high at 54% of those polled but is not universal.  Support for closer ties is strongest in the west (78%) and in Kyiv (61%). In the east, enthusiasm for joining Europe drops to just one in five. Support for union with Russia runs at 29% in the east (and only 11% nationally), with 40% in the east preferring that Ukraine is non-aligned.

The findings also provide strong evidence that undermine a popular misconception about linguistic and ethnic divides in the country. Only 11% saw bilingualism (Ukrainian and Russian) as a barrier to Ukraine’s development, against 69% who saw it as a positive factor for this. Almost half felt that Ukraine’s ethnic and religious diversity was an advantage for the country as against just 6% who saw this as a problem.

Read the full report here

Ukrainian author Andrei Kurkov commented on the findings of the ‘Hopes, Fears and Dreams: The views of Ukraine’s next generation’ report. You can find his blog here.

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