Published: May 19, 2014

A new research grant from the National Science Foundation for Attitudes and beliefs in Russian-supported 'de facto' states and Eastern Ukraine in the wake of the Crimean annexation was awarded to John O'Loughlin. Funding from May 2014 to April 2015 of $156,633. The project is designed to scientifically study public opinion in contested areas of the former Soviet Union to address important theoretical questions in international relations and comparative politics, and to inform US policymakers on matters crucial to US security interests.

Recent events in Ukraine -- violent protests in Kyiv, the collapse of the Yanukovych government, installation of an interim pro-Western regime, and the rapid annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia-- have altered Europe's political map and profoundly challenged the geopolitical settlement agreed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Speculation abounds that the strongly Russophone regions of eastern Ukraine (specifically, the large oblasts of Donetsk and Kharkiv) and nearby post-Soviet separatist "de facto" states (Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria) are potential future targets for Russian expansionism. To term all these places "pro-Russian" is an over-simplification. Russia's annexation of Crimea may have created what the Kremlin hopes are "new realities" on the ground but it is not clear how the new geopolitical context and its uncertainties are viewed by both residents in these de facto states and in regions of Ukraine traditionally held to be "pro-Russian". Documenting and analyzing these evolving attitudes in conflict regions is the project's research goal.