The Real Consequences of Symbolic Politics: Breaking the Soviet Past in Ukraine

54 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2020 Last revised: 20 Apr 2021

See all articles by Arturas Rozenas

Arturas Rozenas

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics

Anastasiia Vlasenko

Florida State University, Department of Political Science

Date Written: February 22, 2021

Abstract

Conflicts over symbolic issues are prominent in public affairs, but do they have wider political consequences, and if so, why? We study the electoral effects of Leninopad (``Lenin's free fall''), a sudden wave of demolitions of Soviet monuments in Ukraine. Difference-in-differences estimates show that the removals of the Soviet symbols mobilized supporters for parties with a relatively sympathetic view of Ukraine's Soviet past. We attribute this backlash effect to a signaling mechanism: the removals indicated the weakening power status of the Soviet legacy parties, which motivated their supporters to turn out in elections. This backlash dissipated once the Soviet symbols ceased being a contentious partisan issue due to the escalating secessionist war. Symbolic politics has real, non-symbolic consequences, but only when it maps onto partisan cleavages.

Keywords: symbolic politics, post-communism, Ukraine, memory

Suggested Citation

Rozenas, Arturas and Vlasenko, Anastasiia, The Real Consequences of Symbolic Politics: Breaking the Soviet Past in Ukraine (February 22, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3633272 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3633272

Arturas Rozenas (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics ( email )

19 West 4
New York, NY 10012
United States

Anastasiia Vlasenko

Florida State University, Department of Political Science ( email )

Tallahasse, FL 32306
United States

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