chapter  2
Immediate causes of the 2014 crisis
Pages 5

Ukraine had a population, according to its 2001 census, of approximately 48 million people (down to 45 million in 2014, according to the World Bank [2016]). Of these, some 78 percent were ethnic Ukrainians, 17 percent were ethnic Russians and 6 percent were descendants of other nationalities, including Belorussians, Tatars, Romanians, Lithuanians, Poles and others. Ethnic Russians were distributed unevenly. They were concentrated in the eastern and southern regions where they comprised 58% of Crimea, 39 percent of Luhansk, 38 percent of Donetsk, 26 percent of Kharkov, 25 percent of Zaporozhe and 21 percent of Odessa. In the cities of these regions, the proportion of ethnic Russians was higher (Sakwa 2015: 10-11). The numbers of Russian speakers was much larger than the identifiable group of ethnic Russians (Sakwa 2015: 59). In terms of language use, 68 percent stated that Ukrainian was their native language, while 30 percent said it was Russian and 3 percent named other languages. Russian speakers were concentrated in the southeast, accounting for as many 91 percent in Sebastopol, 77 percent in Crimea, 75 percent in the Donetsk region and 69 percent in the Luhansk region. Even Kiev was a preponderantly Russian-speaking city. Surveys suggested that these figures underestimated the proportion of Russian-speakers. Citing from Petro, Sakwa referenced the finding of a 2012 study that over 60 percent of newspapers, 83 percent of journals, 87 percent of books and 72 percent of television programs in Ukraine were in Russian, a trend reinforced by the Internet (Sakwa 2015: 59). While there has long been evidence of a sense among Ukrainians of belonging to a Ukrainian community, even in the Donbass, there have also been and continue to be many and intense historic and cultural links with Russia, such links being perceived as predominantly favorable in Eastern Ukraine but often as unfavorable in the West. Practically every recent election has confirmed that Ukraine is essentially split between those areas in which there is an absolute majority of the Russian-speaking population and those areas in which there is an absolute majority of the Ukrainian-speaking population. The Russian element does not have an influential political party of its own, however, but has been represented through surrogates such as the Communist Party and the Party of Regions (Pogrebinskiy 2015).