National narrative: three visions of Ukraine

The search results suggest that after 10 years of war with Russia, the public discourse in Ukraine has converged around three main narratives, while the pro-Russian narrative is mainly present in foreign discourse.

These narratives reflect different views and identities arising from complex historical, cultural and political contexts in Ukraine.


  1. Narrative of fighting for Ukrainian culture.
    The division of Ukrainians into “true patriots” and those who remain loyal to Russian culture and language creates the main internal contradiction.
  2. Civil unity narrative.
    Formed from the previous “awareness” narrative, where some groups show support for European values and support the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
  3. Multicultural narrative.
    Incorporates diverse approaches to cultural diversity, including the right to speak Russian. It became more pro-Ukrainian oriented after the war but differs from the civil unity narrative.
  4. Pro-Russian narrative.
    Completely excluded from public discourse, yet its views may penetrate the information space through opinion leaders living in occupied territories or abroad and through Russian propaganda.



In each interview, we aimed to deepen our understanding of contemporary Ukraine by asking questions about achievements and challenges, personal identity, changes after the war, and the country’s future. This helped us gain a better insight into the perspectives and values of Ukrainian citizens.

The recruitment strategy for our study was aimed at engaging a diverse range of experts who influence public discourse. We invited leaders of civil society organizations, artists, educators, officials, military personnel, journalists, and other representatives. To form our sample, we utilized purposive sampling with elements of “snowball sampling,” recommendations from previous respondents, and quotas based on age, gender, field of activity, and region.

We focused on the impact of the war on society, the stages of the conflict and the future of Ukraine, added a new category “Identity” to explore ways to determine belonging to the nation.

Sharing narratives, we identified three versions that, although they have common sub-narratives, are presented in different framing, which helped us better understand the diversity of views on war and national identity within Ukrainian society.

The coded arrays were statistically processed, and discourse analysis was conducted to fully describe the impact of various versions of the national narrative on the contemporary discourse of war in social media. However, during the processing of data from social networks, we couldn’t attribute the authors to specific narratives but only identified the most prevalent sub-narratives.

For the analysis of social media, we processed a vast amount of posts, focusing on categories of binary oppositions, mythical narratives, and normative orders. The coding was based on a partially processed dataset of posts obtained within the CAT-UA project dedicated to the analysis of wartime communication. In total, during the full-scale aggression in 2022-2023, the organization processed 280,000 posts. This approach allowed us to identify and analyze diverse opinions and views on social media, aiding in understanding the contemporary discourse of war and its impact on the national narrative.


Narrative of fighting for Ukrainian culture.

  • The narrative “Struggle for Ukrainian Culture” presents Ukrainian and Russian cultures in opposition within Ukraine, emphasizing the role of bearers of Russian culture as a source of problems, but also as victims of imperial politics. It focuses on a distorted and victimized perspective, where tragedies in history appear more significant than achievements.
  • The carriers of the “Struggle” narrative pay less attention to the period of independence, focusing predominantly on the 20th century.
  • They do not advocate for a mono-ethnic society but support a monocultural approach, where representatives of any ethnicity can become Ukrainians through cultural and linguistic assimilation. Additionally, they propose greater prevalence of the English language compared to Russian.
  • Carriers of this narrative show little interest in pseudo-patriotism but emphasize calls for subordinating individual interests to the interests of the nation, expressing grievances about internal discord.

Civil unity narrative.

In this narrative, there is the least reference to the proverb about the “three hetmans” and complaints about discord. The focus is on the external enemy – Russia – and attributes all societal problems to this factor.

  • The war has contributed to the unity of the nation, overshadowing internal contradictions. Currently, military traitors and indifferent citizens who do not feel the spirit of the times are condemned.
  • The West is considered incapable of resisting Russia, but at the same time, those who dream of a “separate path” for Ukraine are criticized. Russian language and culture are not seen as significant issues if citizens defend the state, but emphasis is placed on the importance of promoting the Ukrainian language.
  • The mythical part of the narrative reflects the history of successful resistance against Russian aggression, starting from the period of Independence, and emphasizes the significance of the 20th century in gaining experience in the struggle for freedom.

Multicultural narrative.

The “Multicultural” narrative is opposite to the “Struggle” narrative, eliciting accusations between their carriers.

  • The narrative emphasizes the problems of the “nationalist” position, which hinder the return of refugees and effective defense against the enemy. However, there is no condemnation of “indifferent citizens,” as reflected by the absence of reflections on this topic among the carriers of the narrative.
  • The Ukrainian revolution of the early 20th century and the contemporary period of independence are perceived as times of unity and state-building, although many problems are seen in the suppression of democracy. Cossacks are also considered symbols of democracy and multiculturalism, evoking shared “golden times.”
  • Ukrainian identity is defined as belonging to a historical community that includes pluralism of views.
  • Carriers of this narrative consider the possibility of future coexistence with Russia, perceiving the movement towards the European Union as a missionary goal that brings historical and new experiences to Ukraine.

As for the pro-Russian narrative, we see that it has completely disappeared from the public discourse of Ukraine: even if people with pro-Russian views live in the government-controlled territory, they do not express them publicly. But these views reach the information space of Ukraine because they are expressed by opinion leaders living in the occupied territories or abroad, and they are almost always tools of Russian propaganda. Both the pro-Soviet and the dual-identity narratives merge in the posts of such opinion leaders, because Russian propaganda exploits and combines these two myths.


  • Convergence of narratives. There is a movement towards the convergence of different versions of the national narrative, emphasizing a single unified version.
  • Growing Patriotism: Patriotism is increasing across all narratives, even those open to potential reconciliation with Russia in the future.
  • Civil unity as a common motto. The “Civil Unity” narrative is prominent, emphasizing the need to mitigate divisions while defending the homeland. This motto resonates across various other narratives.
  • Polarized narratives with a unifying element. Ukraine has two polarized narratives, “Fight for Ukrainian Culture” and “Multicultural,” but the “Civic Unity” narrative serves as a potential unifying platform.
  • Narratives rooted in different Myths. Three narratives operate based on distinct myths: victimization, state formation, and multiculturalism, shaping how current events are perceived.
  • Ukrainian language and culture as social norms. Ukrainian language and culture are now widely accepted, while Russian language and culture are viewed as results of colonization.
  • Experience with the West is clarified. Ukraine sees itself as part of Western civilization, despite discussions on advantages over the West.
  • Shift in Ukrainian identity perception. Ukrainians now define their identity by unique traits rather than opposition to Russians.
  • Changing perception of East-West divide. Instead of blaming regions for patriotism or nationalism, discussions focus on difficulties faced in expressing patriotism in certain areas.
  • Absence of articulated Russian narratives. Pro-Russian sentiments are less articulated, partly due to citizen “epiphany” post-Russian aggression and fear of expressing such views.
  • Similar social-demographic characteristics of narratives speakers. Despite diverse demographics, all narrative groups have representatives from various socio-demographic backgrounds.
  • Reluctance to discuss territorial loss. Respondents avoid discussing potential territorial loss but express confidence in the state’s preservation.
  • Modernized mythical elements. Recent historical events gain importance, overshadowing older eras, except when countering Russian claims.
  • Active use of narratives by information agents. Various agents of influence actively use narratives for information campaigns, shaping public discourse.
  • Radicalization of discourse on Social Media. Social media platforms tend to radicalize discourse, emphasizing emotional content over unity.


  1. Russia is recognized as the main enemy, and the defense of the Motherland as the main duty.
  2. Movement towards joining the EU and NATO is recognized as a priority in all three narratives, although it is communicated somewhat differently.
  3. Military traitors are recognized as the main internal enemy.
  4. All internal problems are presented as a consequence of imperial policies. Although the list of these problems varies.
  5. The promotion of the Ukrainian language and culture is presented in all narratives, as a desirable goal, at least through “soft Ukrainization”.
  6. In all narratives, there is a noticeable reliance primarily on the experience of the period of Independence as the least separable.
  7. The eternal enmity of Russia is recognized by all. However, according to the “Multicultural” narrative, this enmity can finally be overcome after our victory.
  8. East and West of Ukraine are recognized as different, but at the same time equally patriotic (except for temporarily occupied territories).
  9. Preservation and tolerance of all cultures, except the Russian, is also a common point of view. There are different opinions about the attitude towards the Russian culture.
  10. Proactive civic position and freedom are the features of Ukrainian identity that are recognized by all narratives.

About the NGO CAT-UA.

The organization’s goal is to promote transparent and modern principles and formats of communication in Ukraine, as well as internationally, regarding Ukraine. The organization conducts research to combat manipulation, deceptive influence, and information special operations.

For contact:

Artem Zakharchenko,
Coordinator of the CAT-UA volunteer group;