Ukrainian History and Culture as a Setting for the Development of Business

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ABSTRACT

This addresses the culture of Ukraine as a context for the development of business. I summarize Ukrainian culture as described by the West, and Ukrainian culture that can be inferred from the behavior of Ukrainians. I also relate Ukrainian culture to Ukraine's geography, demographics, history, and politics. Like all countries, Ukrainian culture is affected by these factors; however the effects for Ukraine may be stronger than for most countries because Ukrainian history and politics include so many dramatic events and experiences. I address Ukrainian culture specifically, rather than as part of the Soviet Union or Community of Independent States.

INTRODUCTION

Ukraine, a former member of the Soviet Union (1), operated under a communist political and economic system until 1991. During the communist years, Ukraine was considered an example of successful industrial development. With the exception of Russia, Ukraine's economic contribution was significantly greater than that of any other republic in the former Soviet Union. For example,

* Economic output was approximately four times that of the next most productive Soviet republic (Ukraine, 2008);

* Agricultural output accounted for more than one quarter of agricultural output in the entire Soviet Union--supplying agricultural products to itself and other members of the Soviet Union (Ukraine, 2008);

* The heavy manufacturing sector played a vital role in producing equipment and raw materials for itself and other members of the Soviet Union (Ukraine, 2008).

Since declaring its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has been moving toward a market economy. However, the move to a market economy has been slower and less successful than the transition for some other countries formerly under Soviet control (2) (for example, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary).

Relatively little is known about the operation of business in Ukraine. The amount of information on Ukraine that is published in international business journals is extremely limited. This limitation reflects the fact that Ukraine was one of the most isolated countries in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). This history of isolation made Ukraine less likely to be studied by researchers from other countries and less able to adopt changes initiated from outside the former USSR. The lack of information on Ukraine is especially striking because international business journals frequently have published information on Russia, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary.

Information on Ukrainian culture also is limited. Most of the information available on Ukrainian culture is based on two sources: (1) studies of a combination of countries such as the Soviet Union or the Community of Independent States (CIS) (3) or (2) observations of behavior of Ukrainians and/or surrounding countries. Assumptions inherent in both types of information can be challenged. Studying Ukraine in combination with other countries does not consider the possibility that Ukraine may be different from other countries. Assuming that Ukrainian behavior (especially before 1991) is indicative of their culture also may lead to misleading conclusions. Much of Ukrainians' behavior (especially in the twentieth century) was the result of decisions forced on the Ukrainian people, not the result of choices they made.

The aforementioned conditions led to the decision to investigate Ukrainian culture as a setting for business. The analysis will begin by summarizing Ukrainian geography, demographics, history, and politics. Like all countries, Ukrainian culture is affected by these factors. The effects for Ukraine may be stronger than for most countries since Ukrainian history and politics include so many dramatic events and experiences.

UKRAINIAN GEOGRAPHY AND DEMOGRAPHICS

Ukraine's land area (603,700 square kilometers) (Ukraine, 2008) is extremely large when compared with other European countries (4) and other former republics of the Soviet Union (World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2007). …