As tradition has it, the end of December is the time to look back and take account of the year gone by. 2022 has turned out to be the most dramatic year in the history of independent Ukraine. Previously, this honorary title belonged to 2014 – but at that time, the war with Russia was only beginning and was considered a local and hybrid war. On Feb. 24, 2022, a full-scale Russian invasion began, and it has already claimed tens of thousands of Ukrainian lives, destroyed a large part of the country, and forced millions of Ukrainians to leave their homes.
Russia’s war against Ukraine became “the event of the year” for Ukraine and the entire world. It was no mere black swan that paid us a visit, but a blood-stained bird. And this bird must be chased away, back to where it came from.
While the war is still far from being over, the key military and political outcome of 2022 has already become obvious – Ukraine has survived!
The year 2022 became the year when the Ukrainian nation was reborn. Ukrainians from all parts of the country, residents of big cities and small villages, Ukrainians with different ethnic backgrounds, Ukrainian and Russian speakers alike – all of them have come together to defend their beloved Motherland. This kind of unity and consolidation of society has not been seen during the 31 years of modern Ukraine’s independence – perhaps not even during the entire existence of the Ukrainian nation. And it has destroyed the Kremlin’s plans to separate Ukrainians based on language, ethnicity, and religion.
The world has finally seen the real Ukraine – the heroic country capable of defending itself against an enemy superior in terms of weapons, military personnel, resources, and economic potential. The myth of Ukraine as a “failed state” has been shut down. Now the international community respects our proud and strong nation, which knows how to defeat a powerful aggressor. Even our enemies have begun to respect us.
It turned out that our state institutions and local administration bodies were not as weak as local and foreign experts had imagined. First and foremost, we are proud of our armed forces. Ukrainians know that they have one of the world’s strongest armies! But besides that, we also had the privilege to witness the heroism and steadfastness of those who work on our railways, power systems, utilities and emergency services, those who restore our energy facilities, houses, roads, and bridges. Sure enough, there are still plenty of problems with our state institutions. Not all of them proved themselves effective during the war, and it resulted in personnel changes in the state administration. Unfortunately, even in times like these, institutional challenges remain – large-scale corruption, bureaucratic dysfunction, problems with the judicial system, etc. And overcoming these challenges is no less important than fighting the external enemy.
2022 was the year when Ukrainian diplomacy showed its true worth. A broad international coalition has been formed to support our country, providing us with the large-scale military, technical and economic assistance. It allows us to withstand the Russian onslaught. The international community has imposed an array of harsh sanctions on Russia (it is safe to say that neither the Russian Federation nor the former USSR has ever faced such massive sanctions). They don’t have an immediate effect and can’t stop this war, but they are gradually weakening the Russian war machine.
In June 2022, Ukraine was granted candidate status for accession to the European Union (EU). A year ago, the question was off the table. The new stage of Ukraine’s European integration became possible thanks to the EU’s respect for the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people. It is also a direct result of Ukraine’s proactive foreign policy. President Volodymyr Zelensky and the government submitted Ukraine’s application for membership in the EU at the end of February 2022, as the enemy was approaching Kyiv. In this case, as in many others, the leadership of Ukraine acted in anticipation, using offensive tactics even in relations with our international partners. The active influence of Ukrainian diplomacy on international public opinion facilitates this process, and the active position of the President plays a special role in this context.
In 2022, the Zelensky phenomenon manifested itself in new ways and to a much greater extent. The world saw a different Volodymyr Zelensky. He has changed both externally and internally and proved himself a true leader, amplifying the energy of Ukrainian resistance. He has made the world and Ukraine respect him (even many of his critics and opponents). It is appropriate that various international publications named him the person of 2022.
During the war, the state and society focused on resisting the common enemy. Matters of domestic politics receded into the background and took a back seat. The infosphere also changed during the war – all those numerous scandalous political talk shows suddenly disappeared into thin air. For sure, political contradictions are still there – they manifest themselves from time to time. However, Ukrainian politicians had enough common sense not to start an internal struggle in the face of the common enemy.
The Russian invasion finally gave Ukraine the impetus to fight the “fifth column” inside the country. The Verkhovna Rada passed a law banning all pro-Russian political forces. The law on collaborators is targeting those who help the Russian occupiers. The situation around the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is also changing drastically – it will no longer be able to exist in its pre-war state and maintain relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.
The pro-Russian political camp as a separate, powerful center of influence is disappearing in Ukraine, which changes the internal structure of Ukrainian politics. Certain active members of the former pro-Russian forces still have their parliamentary mandates since the Constitution of Ukraine does not allow immediate deprivation of their deputy status without court verdicts. But it will no longer be possible to conduct public political activity that supports the aggressor. Pro-Russianism has become toxic in Ukraine. This tendency will remain in Ukrainian politics in the post-war period.
The attitude of Ukrainian citizens toward Russia and Russians has changed drastically because of the current war. According to various surveys, more than 90 percent of Ukrainians are hostile toward Russia. And what other attitude can there be toward a country that started a war against our people?
The key optimistic trend of 2022 is that the Defense Forces of Ukraine have already liberated more than half of the territories captured by the Russian invaders after Feb. 24. And it makes us believe in our victory!