A young democracy located in the heart of Europe, Ukraine is today confronted by grave challenges at home and abroad. This research aims to bring new thinking to these challenges, and to widen public awareness of what is at stake in Ukraine following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Maidan protests and the outbreak of war. The project explores the issue of Ukrainian democracy, set against the current backdrop of political instability and European integration.

The analysis focuses on (1) the governance of Ukrainian democracy with annexation and in conditions of war (the role of political actors: parliament, administration and jurisdiction) and (2) democratic defects resulting in social and political cleavages between different social groups in multiethnic cross-border territories that support and produce violent extremism that creates severe obstacles for democratic enactment and future development. In such way, the research pays special attention to three types of barriers to the building of democracy: challenges in the sphere of government, at the level of civil society and in the field of foreign policy.

The research innovates understanding beyond the current literature on the nature of “why democracy fails in Ukraine” by asking “what can be done about it?” and “what is Ukraine’s future”?

This project forms the basis for a research exchange between the University of Sydney, Ukrainian Studies in Australia, WZB Berlin Social Science Research Center, Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University and interested scholars in Europe. Scholars with an interest in the research are invited to join the research group working on Ukrainian social, political and economic transformations and democratisation. Please contact Olga Oleinikova at




Olga Oleinikova, Post-Doctoral Researcher & Co-ordinator of Ukraine Democracy Initiative | University of Sydney