Lustration in Post-Soviet Ukraine: a study on unsuccessful transitional justice



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Tartu Ülikool


Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a number of countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) implemented lustration procedures. Ukraine was not among these countries, as it took until 2014 to pass any laws regarding lustration, or any other aspects of how the state would deal with or sanction former KGB agents or informers. Building on existing theoretical models for explaining lustration policies in CEE, this work develops an analytical framework that clearly identifies two sets of factors, namely structural and elite-actor-based factors, and their relative value for explaining the absence or failure of lustration legislation in Ukraine at two critical moments in time: right after the dissolution of the Soviet Union (1991-1993) and after the Orange Revolution (2004-2006). The study thus engages in an intro-case comparison and uses the method of process-tracing to track and explain the development of actor decisions and elites behaviour in the broad context of political events. The main data for the study was collected from documents of the Ukrainian parliament and its media archives. The study concludes that the failure of the Ukrainian political elite to adopt lustration measures akin to other CEE states during the first window of opportunity (the immediate transition period around 1991) can be best explained by structural factors. While some of these still apply later, the post-2004 failure to engage in lustration is best explained by via actor-based explanations. Moreover, the analysis of parliamentary debates and public (media) reports demonstrates that the very term “lustration” underwent considerable semantic changes, increasingly shedding its original meaning to denote all kinds of anti-corruption measures in contemporary Ukraine.