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Department of Political Science

War and Democracy in Ukraine

Friday 15 September 2023

Panel 5

Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich

Focus Ukraine

Morning Seminar


Yuliya Bidenko
Karazin Kharkiv National U., Ukraine



This panel explores the intricate relationship between democracy and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Focusing on the period during the war, it examines the challenges and opportunities that emerged for the Ukrainian democratic system.

The conflict in Ukraine, which began in 2014, has profoundly impacted the country's democratic institutions, civic identity and the uprise of civil society. The lecture starts by providing this brief historical context, highlighting Ukraine's aspirations for democracy following Euromaidan and decentralization reforms launched in 2015-2022. It then delves into the complex dynamics that unfolded during the war, analyzing both civic activism and cohesion, and the various challenges faced by Ukrainian democracy (such as human rights violations, civil end election rights restrictions, and issues of media freedom and governmental transparency).

However, amidst these challenges, the lecture also highlights the opportunities that emerged for democracy in Ukraine during the war. It explores the resilience of the Ukrainian people and their commitment to democratic values and EU-integration. It discusses how civil society organizations played a crucial role in advocating for democratic reforms, fostering social cohesion, and providing humanitarian assistance in conflict-affected areas.

Furthermore, the lecture analyzes the role of international actors and the impact of external support on Ukraine's democracy. It examines the efforts of the international community to promote democratic values, provide financial aid, and the EU commitments to support Ukrainian urgent and post-war reconstruction. Lastly, the panel concludes by reflecting on the future prospects for democracy in Ukraine. It discusses the lessons learned from the conflict and the measures needed to strengthen democratic institutions and processes. It emphasizes the importance of inclusive governance, the rule of law, and the protection of human rights in ensuring a resilient democratic system.

Through this comprehensive exploration of democracy in Ukraine during the war, the lecture aims to provide a nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by the country, shifts in its political culture and landscape, and shed light on the path toward democratic consolidation in a post-conflict setting.

Recommended readings:

Afternoon Roundtable 

Yuliya Bidenko
Karazin Kharkiv National U., Ukraine

Alina Nychyk 
ETH Zurich

Iuliia Lashchuk
European University Institute

Marina Keda
European University Institute

Daniele Caramani
University of Zurich