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7 JEMIE 1 (2008)

handle is hein.journals/jemie2008 and id is 1 raw text is: Majority-Minority Relations in the Ukraine

Oleh Protsyk
Majority minority relations in Ukraine, as in any other country, are a complex phenomenon.
What differentiates the Ukrainian case from many old polities and from some recently
established ones is that the identities of both majority and minority groups probably have
been settled to a much lesser degree than is usually the case in Europe. The process of
defining what it means to be a majority or a minority group in Ukraine goes along with all
the other identity-related processes that a newly independent country has to face. The fact
that the identity of both majority and minority is still 'in the making' has numerous
implications for how the Ukrainian state positions itself with regard to various international
standards and mechanisms of minority protection and how international bodies-both
intergovernmental and nongovermnental-approach the issue of Ukraine's adherence to
these standards and mechanisms.
This article begins with a short discussion on efforts to define 'majority' and the effect that these
efforts have on the position of a group that hesitantly came to occupy the status of the country's largest
minority group, namely, ethnic Russians. It then structures the subsequent presentation by identifying
and analysing the most salient issues related to the general aspects of relations between Ukraine's
majority and minority groups. The article also examines the extent to which these issues have been
addressed, or have the potential to be addressed, through the framework of the international regime for
minority governance that is currently under construction at the European level.
As recent studies on EU accession conditionality have shown, there is substantial variation in how
conditionality on minority matters was applied to individual candidate states in the last wave of EU
enlargement and in how these candidate states approached the question of their obligations towards
their national minorities.' This experience, as well as the lack of short-term prospects for Ukraine to
acquire the status of an accession candidate, suggests that the country's engagement in various aspects
of an international regime of minority governance will proceed on principles of voluntary cooperation
rather than strict conditionality.
Substantive issue areas discussed in this paper have, over the years of Ukraine's independence,
acquired a high degree of salience in public discourse. They were highlighted further during the
course, and in the aftermath, of the dramatic November-December 2004 events, commonly referred to
as the 'Orange Revolution'. A substantial increase in the degree of political pluralism and civic
1 G.J. Kelley, Ethnic Politics in Europe: The Power of Norms and Incentives (Princeton University Press,
Princeton, 2004); G. Sasse, Minority Rights and EU Enlargement: Normative Overstretch or Effective
Conditionality?, in: G.N. Toggenburg (ed.), Minority Protection and the Enlarged European Union: The Way
Forward, (Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative, Open Society Institute, Budapest, 2004), 59-

JEMIE 7 (2008) 1 © 2008 by European Centre for Minority Issues

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