The Ukrainian Civil Volunteer Movement during Wartime (2014–2022)

The chapter by Csilla Fedinec was published in the open access volume by CEU Press titled Ukraine's Patronal Democracy and the Russian Invasion (The Russia-Ukraine War, Volume One) edited by Bálint Madlovics and Bálint Magyar


The Russia–Ukraine War has been going on since February 2014, starting after Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity (i.e., Euromaidan) in the winter of 2013–2014. The latter event also marks the birth of a new civil volunteer movement in Ukraine. In the chapter four phases of the development of this movement will be discussed. After a brief description of the “state domination” phase (1992–2013) and the definitions of civil activism in the Ukrainian legal context, the second phase of “political activation” follows with the Revolution (2014). The third phase starts in February–March 2014, with the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, and also involves the subsequent war in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine, collectively named Donbas (other terms used by the Ukrainian government, foreign institutions, and media publicity include, from April 2014, the “Anti-Terrorist Operation – ATO zone”, and from February 2018, the “Joint Forces Operation – JFO zone”). This period already marks the entry into total defense, with the state “catching up” and to a large degree substituted by the activities of the civil volunteer movement. While the birth of the movement during Euromaidan meant social mobilization after the previous large degree of immobility, this phase of total defense involved elements of both mobilization and co-optation by the state and oligarchic actors. The final phase started on February, 24, 2022 with the full-scale Russian invasion. In this period, we can see an active volunteer movement alongside formal state mobilization, with the state and society co-operating in their heroic effort to counter Russian aggression.