Ukrainian identity solidified for 30 years. Putin ignored the science

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, many military analysts feared that the capital of Kyiv would fall within days of an attack, undermining any further resistance. Instead, the war is well into its second month. Ukrainian fighters have reversed some Russian gains, forcing a retreat from Kyiv and an apparent narrowing of Russia’s sights to the country’s eastern provinces, closest to Russia’s border.

What these analysts and Russian President Vladimir Putin himself missed, social scientists say, is research showing that people who live within the borders of Ukraine have identified more and more as Ukrainian — and less as Russian — since Ukraine’s independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991.

That trend intensified after Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and started backing separatists in the Donbas region, political and ethnic studies scholar Volodymyr Kulyk said in a virtual talk organized by Harvard University in February. “Russians came to mean people in Russia,” said Kulyk, of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in Kyiv.

These Ukrainian loyalists are now fighting tooth and nail for their country’s continued, sovereign existence.

“Putin underestimated Ukrainians’ attachment to their country and overestimated [their] connection to Russia,” says political scientist Lowell Barrington of Marquette University in Milwaukee. “One of his biggest mistakes was not reading social science research on Ukraine.”

Historic divide
The common refrain is that Ukraine is a country divided along both linguistic and regional lines, political scientists Olga Onuch of the University of Manchester in England and Henry Hale wrote in 2018 in Post-Soviet Affairs.

While the official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, most people speak both Ukrainian and Russian. People living in western cities, most notably Lviv, primarily speak Ukrainian and those in eastern cities closer to the Russian border primarily speak Russian.

The origins of those divisions are complicated, but can be traced back, in part, to between the late 18th century and early 20th century when western Ukraine was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and eastern Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire. Then, after the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, Ukraine was briefly an independent state known as the Ukrainian People’s Republic before being incorporated into the Soviet Union in the early 1920s.
Putin seems to believe that national identities stay relatively fixed across time, says Hale, of George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Social scientists refer to that idea as primordialism, the belief that individuals have a single nationalistic or ethnic identity that they pass on to subsequent generations. In other words, once a Russian, always a Russian.

That rigid mentality shows up in official documents and censuses conducted in the Soviet Union starting in 1932. That’s when government officials began recording every citizen’s natsionalnist, essentially a conflation of nationality with ethnicity. People in the Soviet Union fell into one of over 180 possible ethnic categories, such as Russian, Chechen, Tatar, Jewish or Ukrainian, political scientists Oksana Mikheieva and Oxana Shevel wrote in 2021 in a chapter of the book From ‘the Ukraine’ to Ukraine.

“Nationality was transformed into a characteristic of a person that was inherited from his parents, rather than chosen consciously,” says Mikheieva, a political scientist at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt and the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv.

While the Kremlin’s goal was to unite people of different nationalities under a single Soviet label, those with a Russian ethnicity remained at the top of the social ladder, write Mikheieva and Shevel, of Tufts University in Medford, Mass . Paradoxically, one’s nationality both provided a sense of belonging and deepened ethnic divides.

Putin, who served in the Soviet-era KGB, may have either directly or indirectly been counting on people to still view their nationality in this way. “He’s stuck in his formative years from the Soviet period,” says Elise Giuliano, a political scientist at Columbia University.

Shifting identity
Today, primordialism has largely fallen out of favor among social scientists, Hale says. Most researchers now see ethnic and nationalistic identities as fluid, evolving and dependent on the political and social environment. Individuals may also consider themselves to have multiple ethnicities.

Some of that shift in thinking comes from the study of Ukraine itself. The country’s relatively recent independence in 1991 means that social scientists can track the Ukrainian people’s evolving sense of identity in real time. And Ukraine also made the unusual move of granting citizenship to nearly everyone living within its territorial borders at the time of independence. When Ukrainian passports became available in 1992, officials likewise stopped the Soviet practice of stamping them with the owner’s natsionalnist. During the 2000s, that category also disappeared from birth certificates.

These practices contrasted with countries such as Latvia and Estonia, which refused automatic citizenship to ethnic Russians in their countries, says Barrington, the Marquette political scientist. Consequently, Ukraine paved the way for the emergence of a civic, or chosen, identity.

In studying post-Soviet Ukraine, researchers wanted to know: Would people living in Ukraine, even those with non-Ukrainian natsionalnists, shed their Soviet identity and become Ukrainian?

Official censuses conducted before and after independence hinted that the percentage of people living in Ukraine and identifying as Ukrainian did increase after 1991. In 1989, about 22 percent of people identified as Russian, but by 2001, only about 17 percent did. Migration out of Ukraine cannot fully account for that change, researchers say.

Since 2001, no national censuses have been held in Ukraine. So scientists have instead had to rely on smaller but often more detailed surveys, many generated in collaboration with the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology. Initially, researchers continued to use Soviet terminology on those surveys. Censuses and surveys shoehorn people into categories, Hale says, but understanding how people’s interpretation of those categories change over time, particularly when the social context changes, is useful (SN: 3/8/20). Researchers thus needed to look into what people meant when they chose a certain answer.

That work started with the “native language” question on surveys, which even in Soviet times was hard for researchers to interpret. Asking people what they considered to be their native language was meant to capture their language of everyday use. But people often selected the language that aligned with their ethnicity.
For instance, about 12 percent of Ukrainians selected Russian as their native language on the 1989 census, Kulyk, the political and ethnic studies scholar at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, said in his talk. But other surveys conducted around that time that did distinguish between native language and language of everyday use revealed that over 50 percent of Ukrainians spoke Russian in everyday life.

That confusion surrounding the native language question carried over to post-Soviet Ukraine. Surveys conducted in the 1990s and 2000s showed that many people selecting Ukrainian as their native language did not necessarily speak the language, Kulyk reported in 2011 in Nations and Nationalism.

In a more recent analysis of three nationwide surveys in Ukraine — conducted in 2012, 2014 and 2017, and each involving roughly 1,700 to 2,000 respondents — Kulyk investigated responses to the question: “What language do you consider your native language?” In 2012, some 60 percent of respondents said Ukrainian and 24 percent said Russian. By 2017, over 68 percent of respondents selected Ukrainian and just under 13 percent selected Russian, he reported in 2018 in Post-Soviet Affairs.

Those numbers say little about actual language use, Hale says. Instead, the native language question is a way to gauge people’s shifting views of national identity. The growing number of Ukrainian “speakers” and the decreasing number of Russian “speakers” suggests that people are selecting the answer that’s in line with their Ukrainian civic identity, he says. “Knowing Russian isn’t any kind of predictor for supporting the Russian state. Instead, what is [becoming] more important is the civic identification with the Ukrainian state.”

Choosing Ukraine
Researchers who study identity have also begun investigating Ukrainians’ responses to the question, “What is your natsionalnist?” which still occasionally appears on official paperwork, Mikheieva says.

Ukrainians filling out those forms can interpret the term as asking about their ethnic background in the Soviet sense, their chosen identity or some combination of both. What social scientists need to understand is how Ukrainians no longer under Soviet rule perceive themselves.

To that end, the three nationwide surveys Kulyk evaluated in his 2018 study all asked people multiple questions about nationality. In one, for instance, participants were told: “… some people consider themselves belonging to several nationalities at the same time. Please look at this card and tell which statement reflects more than the others your opinion about yourself.” People could then select a single nationality or some combination of Russian and Ukrainian nationalities. That work revealed that the percentage of people selecting only Ukrainian went up from 67.8 percent in 2012 to 81.5 percent in 2017.

What’s more, the greatest rise occurred among people living in the historically Russian strongholds of eastern and southern Ukraine. In 2012, some 40 percent of Ukrainians from that region selected “only Ukrainian” compared with almost 65 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, the percentage of eastern and southern Ukrainians identifying as “only Russian” decreased from roughly 17 percent in 2012 to less than 5 percent in 2017.

The actual percentage of Ukrainians allying with Russia might be slightly higher, however, as Kulyk and other researchers have been unable to collect more recent data from the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula and the disputed Donbas region.

More recent research also suggests that the Ukrainian people are gradually shedding their Soviet understanding of identity. For instance, in a 2018 survey of over 2,000 people, some 70 percent of respondents said that their Ukrainian citizenship constituted at least part of their identity, Barrington reported in 2021 in Post-Soviet Affairs. That’s due, in part, to Ukrainian leaders’ concerted efforts to shift away from ethnic nationalism and toward civic nationalism, Barrington wrote. Deprioritizing ethnicity weakens the linguistic and regional divides; civic nationalism, meanwhile, bonds people through “feelings of solidarity, sympathy and obligation.”
Broadly speaking, researchers say, these surveys all show that identification with the Ukrainian state began immediately after the country achieved independence, and accelerated following Russian aggression in the region in 2014.

The current war, by extension, is almost certainly cementing many Ukrainians’ loyalty to their country, everyone interviewed for this story said. “In some paradoxical twist,” says Shevel. “Putin is basically unifying the Ukrainian nation.”

Identity grows stronger, and internal divisions weaker, when nations are under attack, says Giuliano, the political scientist at Columbia University. During an invasion, “you are going to rally around the flag. You’re going to support the country in which you live.”

Glowing spider fossils may exist thanks to tiny algae’s goo 

The secret ingredient for fossil preservation at a famous French site wouldn’t be found in a Julia Child cookbook. It was a sticky goo made by microalgae, researchers suggest.

An analysis of roughly 22-million-year-old spider fossils from a fossil-rich rock formation in Aix-en-Provence, France, reveals that the arachnids’ bodies were coated with a tarry black substance. That substance, a kind of biopolymer, was probably secreted by tiny algae called diatoms that lived in the lake or lagoon waters at the ancient site, scientists report April 21 in Communications Earth & Environment.

The biopolymer didn’t just coat the spiders’ bodies — it pickled them. By chemically reacting with the spiders’ carbon-rich exoskeletons, the goo helped preserve the bodies from decomposition, allowing them to more easily become fossils, the team hypothesizes.
A clue that this coating might play a role in fossilization came when the researchers, on a whim, placed a spider fossil under a fluorescence microscope. To their surprise, the substance glowed a bright yellow-orange. “It was amazing!” says geologist Alison Olcott of the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

The fluorescent imaging painted a bright, colorful palette onto what was otherwise a fairly faint spider fossil, Olcott says. In the original, she could barely tell the spider apart from the background rock. But under fluorescence, she says, the spider fossil glowed in one color, the background in another and the biopolymer in a third.

That discovery — along with an abrupt halt in early 2020 to any additional fossil-collecting plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic — swiftly shifted the focus of the team’s work. “Had it been normal times, this would have been a side note in a taxonomy study” classifying ancient spiders, Olcott says. Instead, “I really had to explore what I had,” she adds. “It was me and these images.”

The researchers next sought to identify the chemical makeup of the mysterious substance. The orange-yellow glow, the team found, comes from abundant carbon and sulfur in the coating. “That got me thinking about sulfurization,” Olcott says.
Sulfurization is the reaction of organic carbon with sulfur, which forms sturdy chemical bonds with the carbon, making it more resistant to degradation and breakdown — similar to how tire manufacturers harden rubber to make it more durable. The process requires a ready supply of sulfur available for bonding.

In modern times, such a supply comes from the sulfur-rich gooey secretions of diatoms, microalgae found floating in many waters around the world. When these secretions meet carbon-laden marine particles headed for the bottom of the ocean, this sulfurization process helps lock the carbon in place and possibly keep it buried in the seafloor.

Similarly, sulfurization might help to preserve delicate carbon-rich fossils, helping them to withstand the test of millions of years of geologic time, Olcott says. Scientists have often noted diatoms in the fossil-bearing rock formations of Aix-en-Provence, as well as at many similar fossil-rich sites, she adds. “Everyone’s seeing diatoms everywhere. Thinking about that and the chemistry, I was like, ‘Wait a minute. All the pieces are here to make this chemistry happen.’”

The arachnids’ preservation might have gone like this: A dead spider, floating in the water column, became covered in the diatoms’ sticky goo. The goo chemically reacted with the spider’s chitin exoskeleton, more or less pickling it and keeping the exoskeleton largely intact and ready for fossilization.

That scenario “makes sense based on what we know about organic sulfur cycling in modern environments so far,” says Morgan Raven, an organic geochemist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Scientists still have a lot to learn about the conditions that allow materials like chitin to sulfurize, Raven says. “But this study highlights why that matters.”

For example, if sulfurization selectively helps preserve some types of organic matter — such as soft-bodied fossils — that “could be a crucial filter on our fossil record, influencing what we do and don’t know about plant and animal evolution,” she adds.

This process of diatom-assisted sulfurization may have been at work in other fossil-rich sites during the Cenozoic Era, Olcott says. That span of time began 66 million years ago, after an asteroid ended the Age of Dinosaurs, and continues to the present day. Before that era, diatoms were not widespread. That didn’t happen until silica-bearing grasses sprouted around the world during the Cenozoic, offering a ready source of silica for the tiny creatures to build their delicate bodies (SN: 5/1/19).

It’s unknown if other biopolymer-producing algae might have helped fossilize soft-bodied creatures from even earlier, such as during the flourishing of Cambrian Period life-forms beginning around 541 million years ago, Olcott says (SN: 4/24/19). “But it would be really interesting to expand this further out.”

NFL tickets 2022: Breaking down the hottest games & cheapest prices on sale for football season

The NFL schedule release isn't the most interesting event on the league's offseason calendar, but it still serves an important purpose for fans. It helps them to plan which NFL games they might like to attend during the season.

Once the schedule is announced, the NFL's most eager fans tend to circle the matchups they most want to see in the upcoming season. The 2022 campaign will be no different, and there are plenty of marquee matchups on this year's game slate.

Cowboys vs. Buccaneers; Chiefs vs. Bills; Seahawks vs. Broncos; there are plenty of high-end matchups at which NFL fans will want to be. But just how expensive will those top-tier games get? The prices can get a little bit out of control, even for bargain hunters.

Which of this year's 256 games are the most expensive, and which are the cheapest? The Sporting News breaks down the NFL's hottest (and coldest) tickets using the price from TicketSmarter.com.

MORE: Buy 2022 NFL season tickets with TicketSmarter

Most expensive NFL tickets for 2022 season
There are currently 17 games during the NFL season that have an average ticket price of $800 or higher. The most expensive of the bunch is the Packers vs. Giants game, which is commanding an average price of $2,136 per ticket. That contest is set to be played in London at the Tottenham Hotspur's stadium.

The Seahawks vs. Buccaneers game is also set to have an average price of greater than $1,000 per ticket. That contest is the first in NFL history to be played in Germany, so Munich residents will relish a chance to play in the game.

Another notably expensive game is Russell Wilson's return to Seattle, which will be the most expensive game played on American soil this year. The Broncos are participants in two of the games that feature average ticket prices over $1,000 while the Buccaneers lead the pack with four appearances in such games.

Below is a look at the most expensive games of the 2022 NFL season. This includes the high and low prices to get into the stadium thanks to TicketSmarter.
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Cheapest NFL tickets for 2022 season
If you're looking for a cheap way to get to an NFL game this season, you're in luck. There are about a dozen and a half games at which it shouldn't be too hard to land favorably priced tickets.

There are 19 games in the NFL where the average ticket price is less than $220, and 10 of them have a price tag of $200 or lower. Unsurprisingly, many of the teams that are coming off down seasons or are projected to have rough 2022 campaigns are on the list.

The Lions, Panthers, Falcons, Jaguars and Texans are frequently on the list of teams with the lowest average price. The Jaguars and Texans both have tickets available at as low as $32, and the Colts have discounted their game against the Jaguars to a minimum price of $32.
The cheapest overall game right now is set to take place on Oct. 2 when the Seahawks travel to Detroit to take on the Lions. The average ticket price for that contest is $158 while the highest-priced ticket for the game is just $804. Only two other games on the schedule — Panthers at Ravens and Dolphins at Lions — have maximum ticket prices in the $800 range.

Below is a look at the least expensive games of the 2022 NFL season. This includes the high and low prices to get into the stadium thanks to TicketSmarter.
MORE: LeSean McCoy rips Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, explains why he isn't a head coach

How much do NFL tickets cost by team?
Unsurprisingly, the Buccaneers ($757.26) have the highest average ticket price for any NFL team in 2022. That makes sense given that Tom Brady is in what could be his last NFL season, so fans are willing to pay a premium to see him play once again.

Beyond the Bucs, only three other teams have tickets that cost an average of more than $600. They are the Cowboys ($690), the Raiders ($674) and the Patriots ($643).

The Lions have the NFL's cheapest ticket, as their games cost, on average, about $224. The Jaguars ($258), Jets ($265), Cardinals ($276) and Browns ($282) are the league's other four teams that have an average ticket cost of under $300.

Below is a full look at the list of average ticket prices, via TicketSmarter. Please note that this average includes events at all venues, including away games.