Scientists from the international research platform ResWell, in coordination with experts from Tel Aviv University, have analysed how people in different parts of the world experience the war in Ukraine. The team of experts collected data on individual, community and national resilience directly from people living in Ukraine, Poland, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Estonia and Israel.
Of all the nations, Czechs have the strongest sense of well-being while experiencing the lowest levels of hope. The Czech part of the research was coordinated by Alice Koubová of the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences, who is also leading a research group at the SYRI National Institute focused on social resilience.
The results of the research study, conducted since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, were presented by Professor Shaul Kimhi of Tel Aviv University at the international event Facets of Resilience. This conference, held by the Czech Academy of Sciences in cooperation with the SYRI National Institute, took place on 21-23 November at the Museum of Applied Arts in Prague.
The research study on resilience in relation to the war in Ukraine monitored levels of positive indicators of stress management (well-being, sense of hope, inner supports and moral principles), negative indicators of stress management (anxiety, symptoms of depression, feelings of threat, perception of specific threats), levels of support for the current government, and attitudes towards Ukrainian refugees.
Support for the government is twice as high in Ukraine as in Czechia
Data for the Czech sub-survey was collected and analysed by the STEM/MARK agency through a representative sample of more than 1,000 respondents.
“Results from the Czech Republic show interesting specific characteristics,” says Alice Koubová. “For example, Czechs achieve the highest level of well-being of all the nations surveyed in the study, as well as the highest level of feeling of safety when at home. They say that they live well in their country and have no intention of leaving it. However, of all the nations, Czechs feel the lowest level of morale in terms of the attitude of society to crisis solution, and they feel the strongest sense of hopelessness.”
As the main threats, Czech citizens perceive financial damage to the country as a result of the war in Ukraine (67%) and the subsequent waves of refugees (44%). By a significant degree people in the Czech Republic express the lowest support for Ukrainian refugees of all the nations that participated in the survey. Only a fifth of people living in Czechia are willing to help incoming refugees personally. 36% of people identify with the refugees and their suffering.
Whose war is it?
According to Alice Koubová, a possible interpretation of this conclusion is that people in Czechia do not believe that the war in Ukraine is also their war (as is the case with Georgia, for instance) and that investment in the resolution of the conflict in favour of the attacked nation could protect the future of the Czech Republic. This assumption may give rise to the feeling that the burden that Czech people bear by helping Ukraine will not be returned in any way and will only bring harm.
In addition, the study observed a perception within Czech society that if it is already helping Ukraine purely on the principle of solidarity, the burden is not distributed among various groups fairly. Economically vulnerable groups in the Czech population express a lower level of support for the current government and its decisions in relation to support of Ukraine.
Citizens of Ukraine and Estonia express the highest level of trust in their government of all the nations in the survey. The Ukrainian respondents showed the highest level of individual, community and national (societal) resistance despite the fact that, for understandable reasons, they perceive the highest level of general threat as well as specific threats. Czechs do not have community resources of resilience and, along with Georgian respondents, express the lowest level of support for their government. They also have a relatively strong sense of danger.
Culture of fear: What it comes from and where it is going
“The combination of experiencing a high level of well-being with a lack of identification with the problem and a feeling of non-specific threat, all this creates fertile ground for the development of a culture of fear,” explains Alice Koubová, who has been interested in the topic of societal resilience against crises for a long time.
According to Koubová, the climate of fear can be politically misused to increase the feeling of threat from non-existent or non-specific dangers. “In relation to the general public, the presence of these emotions can be misused to incite a fear of omnipresent danger, against which people should defend themselves by taking decisive steps, which either take the form of escaping to basic social groups or surrendering their will to a strong leader,” Alice Koubová explains. In both cases, she says, the driving force behind such behaviour is distrust of the outside world and reluctance to find specific, common, albeit imperfect solutions.
“This attitude can very easily be misused for political purposes by those who manipulate the emotions of others, scare them with non-existent dangers and distract them from specific dangers that can be solved,” warns the scientist. The culture of fear is then the least resilient setting for a society facing a crisis.
“On the other hand, the Czechs clearly articulate a concern that their lives will suffer significant economic damage,” adds Koubová. “Protection against living below or close to the poverty line could therefore counter the deepening of a culture of fear.”