First interviews and participant observation within the Right Sector

Another week in Ukraine came to an end. A week ago approximately 30% of Ukrainians voted for a comedian Volodymyr Zelensky. Most of my Ukrainian acquaintances here said to me that they voted for Zelensky. They believe that the elections were conducted transparent and democratic. I have also met some people who think that it is not the right time for Ukraine to play democracy during the ongoing crisis. Therefore, they support the current “conservative” president Petro Poroshenko who will compete with Zelensky for the presidency. The second round of the elections will be held by the end of the April. Meanwhile, Poroshenko and Zelensky will engage in debates to win the minds and hearts of their voters.

This week I became acquainted with the Right Sector’s activities more closely. I met some key individuals within the organization and had an interesting conversation about the motivations of volunteer fighters. I met people who have recently returned from the frontline, but also with those who plan to depart soon. Two interviews were conducted this week. A lot more interviews are planned for the uppcoming weeks. I make use of the snowball sampling technique and I strongly recommend it to everyone who use interviews as the data collection method.  With the help of snowball technique I am constantly introduced to new people thanks to the social network of my research participants. Although I have arranged many meetings for the next week, the saturation point seems to be far away . So, to answer my research question I will need to get multiple insights on the phenomenon of voluntary enrollment in military battalions.

Together with the members of the Right Sector
Confiscated items with Russian or Soviet symbolic

I have also engaged in the activities of the Right Sector and made my first participant observation in the field. The Right Sector plays an active role not only in the conflict zone, but also in somewhat relatively peaceful settings of the everyday life. For instance, I followed with the members of the organization to Bessarabia in South Ukraine, close to the Moldavian and Romanian border. This trip played a preventive role and counteracted the attempt of a certain church to be incorporated into the Moscow Patriarchate. There is an ongoing competition and tension between the Moscow and Kiev Patriarchates. Both compete for the control of the churches located on the Ukrainian territory. According to some members of the Right Sector, churches that belong to Moscow Patriarchate take their orders from Russia and frequently engage in conspiracy to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty. Consequently, this trip was aimed to impede the possible conversion of a particular church to the Moscow Patriarchate. Fortunately, everything went without violence, though similar events in the past usually resulted in unpleasant incidents.

A conversation with the church abbot
Ukrainian police during the manifestation in front of the church
With proponents of Kiev Patriarchate in front of the church

Later on we had a lovely picnic in the forests of Bessarabia where everyone mingled. During this mingle I was introduced to some former volunteer militias whom I plan to meet and interview next week.

With the members of Right Sector during the picnic

Lastly, I would like to mention about the politicized and militarized stand posters that can be encountered in the streets of Odessa. These posters carry agitational character and express ideological aspects of the confrontation between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian exhortations. The frequently encountered slogans remind people about the Russian agression, while other posters inspire for voluntary military enrollment. There are also posters that glorify the actions of the Soviet Union during the World War Two, especially the victory over the so called “Fascist” occupation. Despite these conspiratorial posters, the Ukrainian people live with the hope for a peaceful future.

A poster in Odessa calling for the volunteer enrollment to the army
A poster that reminds people about the Russian aggression
The poster text says: 75th anniversary of the liberation of Odessa from Nazi occupation

It was all for this week and I will be back with more stories next week!

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