Olga Onuch


I was born to active and engaged parents during Martial Law and on the heels of nationwide protests, so perhaps, it is easy to understand my fascination with dissent and democracy in Eastern Europe and beyond. Undoubtedly, my own first-hand experience – of being an immigrant, belonging to a historically repressed minority ethnic group, and being the grandchild of a forcibly displaced person and political prisoner – has influenced my interest in certain social science puzzles. And perhaps, it is no wonder that the extraordinary things that ‘ordinary’ citizens do in times of crisis (and how their lived experience of crisis shapes their political beliefs and policy preferences) are a common thread to my research.


Prof. Olga Onuch (DPhil Oxon, 2011) is Professor (Chair) in Comparative and Ukrainian Politics at the University of Manchester (making Onuch the first-ever holder of a Full Professorship in ‘Ukrainian Politics’ in the English-speaking world).

Onuch joined UoM in 2014, after holding research posts at the University of Toronto (2010-2011), the University of Oxford (2011-2014), and Harvard University (2013-2014). Since 2014, in addition to her post at UoM, Prof. Onuch was: an Associate Member (Politics) of Nuffield College at the University of Oxford (2014-2021), a Fellow at the Davis Center at the University of Harvard (2017), a Visiting Professor at Universidad Di Tella (2019-2020), and a Senior Research Associate at CERES, Munk School at the University of Toronto (2021).


A scholar of comparative politics of eastern Europe and Latin America, Onuch’s work looks at the motivations driving citizens to vote, protest, and/or migrate , the factors related to their media consumption, as well as how ethnic and civic identity is formed and how it comes to drive policy preferences. Onuch’s research has demonstrated that civic identity and duty (or its absence) is central in shaping political behavior in democratizing contexts. Onuch’s comparative study of engagement and democratic civic duty has made her a leading expert in Ukrainian and Argentine politics specifically, but also in inter-regional comparative analysis.

Onuch’s research regularly appears in leading media outlets (The Washington Post, The Times, The Guardian, BloombergTV, ABC, CTV, CBC, BBC TV World, Channel 4, ITV, Al Jazeera, AFP, among others). Onuch’s research on Ukraine has resulted in her consulting policymakers in Canada, Ukraine, the UK, and the US. Her research received praise and awards placing her on the map as one of the foremost experts on Ukraine.

Onuch is the author of two books, as well as, numerous scholarly articles, book chapters, and policy briefs. Her first monograph, Mapping Mass Mobilization analyzed processes shaping mass protest in Argentina and Ukraine. Her second monograph, The Zelensky Effect (OUP/Hurst 2023/2022, co-authored with Henry Hale) has received extensive praise in New York Review of BooksTLS  Foreign Affairs, Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times, The Diplomatic Courier, The Times Radio Podcast, The Telegraph, Ukraine Lately Podcast, The Democracy Paradox, Ukraiinska Pravda, Forbes Ukraine, Elle Ukraine and more. Based on 8 years of research Onuch and Hale analyze the rise of democratic duty and state attachment in Ukraine – showing that Presdient Zelensky is as much a product of the Ukrainian civic nation that he comes to embody as he is a proudfly capable leader who helps rally a key consitency in Ukraine. Thus, The Zelensky Effect is as much about how the Ukrainian nation made Zelensky the man he is today as it is about his personally capacity to rally key consituencies and unite them. He is simply one of 44 million just like him.

Onuch has led several major projects as Principle Investigator. Onuch is currently a British Academy Principle Investigator of the IBIF Project “Identity and Boarders in Flux: The Case of Ukraine” (2019-2024).

As overall lead and ESRC Principle Investigator of MOBILISE “Determinants of ‘Mobilisation’ at Home and Abroad: Analysing the Micro- Foundations of Out-Migration & Mass Protest”. A multi-year project (2019-2023) funded through the Open Research Area (ORA) Scheme with direct support from the ESRC in the UK, the DFG in Germany, the ANR in France, and the NWO in the Netherlands (€2,002,039 total).

As part of her work on MOBILISE, in 2022, Onuch joined a team of colleagues at the Kyiv School of Economics, Duke, UNC, and the University of Maryland on the #DataForUkraine project providing data on civilian resistance (CR), human rights abuses (HRA), internally displaced people (IDP) and humanitarian support/needs (HS) during the ongoing Russian invasion of and war against Ukraine.

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” And I will remind you of her words today …there is no need to think meagerly … When one has a nation, she is already a person’ …

—Volodymyr Zelensky, reciting Ukrainian dissident poetess Lina Kostenko, on 20 March 2022