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Dmytro Tkachenko, expert at “Donbas factory of thought,“ states that these studies show that people, who live on both sides of the boundary line, "are still a single socio-cultural community," which is united by a strong regional identity, by the need to be protected by a "strong state" and "strong leader," and by the importance of cultural and economic ties with Russia. However, the researchers fix the significant differences between the inhabitants of the controlled and uncontrolled territories of Donetsk region.
The survey in the so-called "DPR" demonstrated forming of a cluster of people that identify themselves as “DPR citizens.” Currently, there are 18% of such people. The researchers emphasize that this community is heterogeneous. After returning of the territories back to Ukraine, this identity would not disappear, but it would even become stronger.
In some three or five years, Ukraine might "lose" all those people who live on the uncontrolled territories, the experts underline. In addition, opinions of Donetsk region residents on the current political situation in Ukraine are opposite. The residents of Kyiv-controlled areas of Donetsk region most often (45%) describe the situation in the country as a "political crisis." 33% of people believe that this is "a struggle of the other states for influence in Ukraine."
Instead, the so-called "DRP" residents often describe events in Ukraine as a "civil war" (44%) and "a struggle of the Ukrainian oligarchs for the spheres of influence." Relatively few people (24% from Kyiv-controlled areas of Donetsk region and 14% from the uncontrolled areas) speak of a "war with Russia." 48% of the “DPR” population support economic and political union with Russia, 30% are against of any economic and political units, and only 9% are for joining the EU. The most common response among Kyiv-controlled areas residents is Ukraine’s non-alignment (38%); 22% support integration with Russia and 23% are for European integration.
Evaluating the emotional well-being of people living on both sides of the boundary line, sociologists point out that anxiety and fatigue prevail. However, residents of the so-called "DPR" tend to feel more unity and hope.
What exactly is Donbas missing? Ukrainian symbolism. It is essential for an individual to belong to an integrated cultural space; it preserves him from feeling loneliness, alienation, and atomism. Supposedly, checkpoints with the national flags are not able to awaken some consistent patriotic feelings. But perhaps there are other national and cultural symbols that would give birth to the positive association with Ukraine and integrate the patriotic experiences nationwide.
These symbols might be various: national values, personalities, places, events, institutions, achievements, images, features, which much of Donbas population would take as something common. These things might be associated with the pride for their native country and their people.
According to "Rating" sociological group, most residents of Donbas are proud of their place of birth and the territory, in which they live, as well as the diligence of the local people. Tendency to be proud of the birthplace is common for the whole Ukraine. But for Russians, unlike Donbas and whole Ukraine, the first point of pride for the country is its historic past.
The list of symbols might vary from Kyivan Rus and Ukrainian SSR to Vasyl Stus (famous dissident poet from Donbas). But the main question is how these characters should be used in the national discourse, public events, and media materials. Donbas residents should read, hear, and see something that would give a feeling of being Ukrainian, and the aggressive pro-Russian sentiments would steadily disappear.