On the language policy in Ukraine
‘Russian-Ukrainian bulletin published by the Central European Information Agency suggested to more than 20 experts from Ukraine and Russia, including 5 members of the Kharkiv Group for human rights protection, to answer some questions concerning the language policy in Ukraine. Various aspects of this problem, connected with interrelations of individual, society and state, were discussed by Nikolay Riabchuk, Sergey Naboka, Yaroslav Dashkevich, Viktor Dzereviago, Yuri Andrukhovich, Miroslav Popovich, Oleksandr Vinnikov, Georgiy Pocheptsov, Miroslav Marinovich, Evgeniy Zakharov, Viktor Yakovlev, Nikolay Shulga, Evgeniy Golovakha, Taras Makhrinskiy, Mikhail Beletskiy, Viktor Malakhov, Zinoviy Antoniuk, Aleksandr Rudenko-Desniak, Konstantin Zatulin, Viacheslav Igrunov, Liudmila Alekseeva.
Here we publish the discussed questions and answers given by members and collaborators of the Kharkiv Group for human rights protection. The questions were as follows:
How can you explain the negative reaction of public organizations, which express interests of Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine, to the Decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine on the interpretation of the Article 10 of the Constitution and to the draft of the Decision of the Cabinet of Ministers ‘On additional measures of expanding the sphere of functioning of the Ukrainian language as a state one?
Do you think that the measures stipulated in these documents violate the rights of individuals and national minorities in Ukraine?
On which level and by which means must the problems of functioning of the Russian language in Ukraine be solved?
In which way, as to your opinion, must be determined the problems of state rule in the sphere of the development of the Ukrainian language?
Here are the answers.
Evgeniy Zakharov, Kharkiv
1 – 2. An administrative pressure in the language sphere may be assessed only as negative. The language is closely connected with human essence. Any attempt at the native language is as dangerous as the attempt at the freedom of thought — it strives to change the mans nature. That is why the appearance of legal acts that regulate functioning of a language switches on an alarm signal independently of the contents. This reaction is also typical for Ukrainian-speaking persons when the city council of any East town council takes a decision on introducing the Russian language as an official language on this territory. Equally Russian peakers are troubled when they hear about the above-mentioned legal documents. The real result of such decisions is determined by the real contents of these documents and by the future character of their implementation. It is noteworthy that up to now all the measures intended to widen the sphere of the Ukrainian language, which by some authors represented ‘insolent ukrainization, were actually mere recommendations and if such measures were aggressive, then it was the result of actions of local zealous bureaucrats.
In order to assess the new legal acts in the language sphere, the problem of observing rights of national minorities must be discussed in the more general manner. The cruel policy of rusification and uprooting of Ukrainian national consciousness had resulted in weakening the Ukrainian ethnos. That is why the typical for Western states model ‘national majority vs. national minority is applicable only for West Ukraine. In the East and South of Ukraine Russians cannot psychologically perceive themselves as a national minority: on the contrary, the national minority is Ukrainians, although formally, according to the census of 1989, made the majority. Thus, two sorts of abuses of national rights may occur in Ukraine: in the West the rights of national minorities — Russians, Jews, Poles, etc. may be abused (for example, in the employment policy), while in the other regions of Ukraine the rights of the ethnic majority, that is Ukrainians, may be abused (for example, when they try to give their children the education in the native language). The rights of the national minorities will be reliably protected only in the case, when the national rights of the majority are satisfied. The way out here lies in the harmonization of international interests, in guaranteeing civil and political rights to all citizens of Ukraine without exception. Beside the rights of cultural autonomy for the national groups the development of the Ukrainian culture shall be supported by the state in order to recompense its artificial detainment in the past. Thus, it is not reasonable to introduce Russian as the second state language, since actually it will mean the continuation of the policy of rusification (since the majority of the Russian-speaking population in the East and South of Ukraine are ethnic Ukrainians!). At the same time no coercion in the national policy must be admitted. Teaching in the Ukrainian language independently of the wishes of the pupils shall not be introduced. The qualification of teachers must not depend on the knowledge of Ukrainian and so forth. In general, the state interference into the national sphere should be minimal and limited by protectionist measures aimed at the establishment and development of the Ukrainian language.
From this viewpoint the Decision of the Constitutional Court on the official interpretation of Article 10 of the Constitution seems to be unsatisfactory and harmful. One may agree with the votum separatum of judge Mironenko: the state cannot foist the Ukrainian language as an obligatory tool of communication in functioning the bodies of the state power and organs of the local rule, the introduction of the Ukrainian language as the language of teaching in nursery, secondary, professional and higher schools, both state- and community-owned, is a distortion of Article 10, and it threatens with the appearance of conflicts. At the same time, second items of part 1 and part 2 of the Resolution on the possibility of using Russian and other languages of the national minorities cancels, to a certain degree, the previous decisions on the obligatory use of the Ukrainian language and make all the decision senseless as a whole.
The draft of the Decision of the Cabinet of Ministers actually transfers the Decision of the Constitutional Court to the practical plane. Its realization in the spirit of the former Soviet administration may lead to serious abuses of human rights.
All the text of the Decision is written in the belligerent style; it treats as foes the people who hinder the establishment of the Ukrainian language as a state one: ‘They slowly transfer to teaching in Ukrainian academic subjects in higher schools… systematically violate the language regime in functioning electronic media, especially in privately owned TV and radio organizations, ‘The negative balance in favor of the Russian language production is set on the market of the Ukrainian press and book publishing, where the situation is becoming sharper and sharper, and at last, ‘some political forces insistently propagate the vicious idea of introducing of the two state languages, the attempt to hinder the establishment of Ukrainian as the main and obligatory tool of communication on the entire territory of Ukraine, they underestimate the role of the Ukrainian language as an important factor of consolidation of the society. There is nothing vicious in the idea of the two languages, whereas the idea of ‘increasing the social consolidating role of a language looks, in my opinion, vicious and rooted in the totalitarian idea of the necessity of uniting all by the recipe of those ‘who knows what should be done. A society may consolidate only for the protection of individual freedom. In all other cases the important factor is the variety of information and the free atmosphere of discussion. The unsatisfactory situation in book publishing is caused firstly by the state that does practically nothing to develop publishing ‘the Ukrainian press and books, bankrupting publishers by excessive taxes. All other conditions being equal, the prime cost of a Ukrainian book is 30 - 40 % larger than that of a Russian one. Finally, ‘the establishment of Ukrainian as a main and obligatory tool of communication is nothing but a brutal interference of the state to the life of society. The fact that Ukrainian is a state language means that it is a working language of state bodies, the language of official acts and state documents. It means nothing more. It is undoubtful that the knowledge of Ukrainian must be obligatory for state servants, that its learning must be obligatory in secondary and higher schools. But to make this language the obligatory one in the public sphere is inadmissible. These efforts will result in the opposite effect: instead of the tool of uniting it will become the tool of separation.
The authors of the Decision make a serious mistake, when they rule to organize the network of nursery and secondary schools dependent on the ethnic composition of the population in various regions. Ethnic and language groups in Ukraine are quite different things! There are not few ethnic Russians whose native language is Ukrainian and, on the contrary, there are many ethnic Ukrainians (especially in the East and South of the country) who think and speak Russian. The groups in nursery and elementary schools must be shaped, as to the language, by the wishes of the parents. Reasonable administrators act so, and in Kharkiv, for example, the number of children in the first grades learning in Ukrainian grows steadily, independently of the ethnic composition and administrative zeal. By the way, the prescribed actions of state bodies would abuse the principle of the individual national self-determination, according to which the determination of ones nationality is the private matter of each individual.
To sum up, one may conclude that the new normative acts describe a totalitarian model of solving the language problem. In this fashion, instead of respect to the Ukrainian language, it may result in irritation and other negative reactions, to say nothing about the increase of the political forces which use ‘the coercive ukrainization.
3. The problem of the Russian language in Ukraine is, in my opinion, artificial: the problem does not exist yet, but it may arise, if the Ukrainian language is forcibly pushed in the public sphere in order to oust the Russian language. Correspondingly, we must exclude the artificial restriction of information channels in Russian, administrative measures of restricting the sphere of teaching in Russian against the wish of both students and teachers; the administrative pressure on users of the Russian language is quite inadmissible. The same should be said with respect to the Ukrainian language, whose carriers feel the discrimination in the East and South of the country: every negative pressure on those, who use Ukrainian or agitate for the transfer to Ukrainian, is inadmissible.
In general, I think strange the mutual relations of the Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking intelligentsia in Ukraine, who seem not to notice each other. I cannot agree with those who believe that in the historical perspective one language will oust the other. I believe that the languages will mutually enrich each other, as well as the two cultures. But this topic deserves special treatment.
4. The state must support the Ukrainian language. It must develop and realize a program of support and development of the Ukrainian language and the Ukrainian culture in order to liquidate the consequences of the Soviet national policy that led to the artificial weakening of the Ukrainian language (the same is true with respect to the language of the Crimean Tatars). In many branches of science and technology the corresponding terminology in Ukrainian is practically absent, textbooks on many subjects do not exist, there are many ‘white spots in humanities: literature, history and so forth. Special efforts are needed to overcome this lagging behind.
It is reasonable to create gymnasiums and lyceums with the Ukrainian language of teaching and special profound study of separate subjects. Teachers of the corresponding higher schools must work there preparing future students. Books by best Ukrainian writers of the 20th century must be published, Ukrainian language resources in the Internet must be developed, the best world book in the humanities must be translated into Ukrainian. Competitions must be held for finding the gifted youth with the further support of the laureates.
The program of such state support must be discussed publicly to guarantee its non-coercive character. The realization of this problem must be controlled by the society to prevent turning it into privileges for certain organizations and persons.
Oleksandr Vinnikov, Kyiv
(All have the right for self-determination, but they do not wish it)
The discussion on the legal acts concerning the status of the Ukrainian language and the languages of minorities in Ukraine, which were adopted recently is interesting, first of all, by that feature that the discussion is conducted not only on the level of repeating the official point of view. The latter kind is easily recognized, but it is addressed to simple citizens, not to officials. It is possible that the discussion will acquire new facets, if some international legal documents which regulate the status of the minority languages will be taken from drawers and analyzed in some details. The Convention on the rights of individuals belonging to national minorities (signed by Ukraine in Minsk on 21 October 1994) relates to national minorities individuals who permanently reside on the territory of the state, have the citizenship and differ from the main population of the given state by their ethnic origin, language, culture and religious traditions (Article 1 of this Convention). If one follows this logic, then a Ukrainian according to his ethnic origin is a representative of the ‘main population may belong at the same time to several minorities: he may be Russian as to the language, an atheist as to religion (although atheists perhaps make the ‘main population of the post-Soviet state), and in culture and traditions he may be a worshiper of the Japanese antiquity.
All these features are considered to be questions of his individual choice (Article 2), the attitude which has already resulted in canceling any mention of his ethnic origin from official documents. At the same time the Convention points out that respecting the rights of such individuals presupposes that they must fulfil their duties before the state (part 3 Article 3) and that any measures directed at preserving and development of the originality of such minorities must not impinge on the rights of other citizens of the given state (part 2 Article 4), and representatives of minorities must respect the rights and freedoms of other citizens (part 2 Article 12). That is why the state is able to determine whether the ‘positive support will impinge on the rights and freedoms of representatives of the main population which, for example, has no access to books and newspapers in their native language contrary to their ‘individual choice.
The acute reaction of the minority supporters may be caused by their suspicion that public organizations headed by them may have difficult case in the use of public buildings, TV and other mass media (item 2 part 2 Article 5); may be they will have difficulties in getting aid from state and public organizations of other countries (Article 9). The Convention regulates practical measures of preserving the languages of minorities. The Convention lists the measures to make possible contacts with official authorities in the language of a minority, where it is possible and necessary (part 2 Article 7). The Convention treats the measures of learning the state language and the conditions for learning by minorities their own language, as well as getting education of every level in their own language. The Convention also describes the measures of cooperating with other states in the questions of providing educational materials in the language of the minorities (Article 10).
The framework Convention on protection of national minorities (Strasbourg, 18 April 1995) demands not much from state members of the Council of Europe. These are guarantees of equality before the law, as well as some encouragement where it is needed and possible (Article 2). Another demand is to refrain from the policy or practice directed at the assimilation of the minorities against their will (part 2 Article 5). It also recognizes the right of the minorities to exchange information in their native language without the state interference. The top of the care of the language rights of the national minorities is the policy of the state in the regions, where national minorities live in mass, to provide the opportunity for the use of the minority language in the relations with administrative bodies (part 2 Article 10). This norm is accompanied by many reservations about the possibility of the state to meet these requirements.
How well does it look in the concrete case of the treatment of the Russian language?
I willingly acknowledge that the Ukrainian state does not use ‘all the opportunities for preserving and developing the Russian language in Ukraine. Yet, it does not mean that the Russian language is discriminated.
First, ‘the real needs in this support are satisfied much worse with respect to other languages, spoken in Ukraine, including Ukrainian. To any ethnic group, such as Tatars, Gagauses and Ukrainians, no state in the world may help in preserving and developing their languages.
Secondly, human rights in the negative meaning (that is in the defense from state interference) are protected most for the Russian minority. there are no laws which are directed at restraining or some other discrimination of using the Russian language in Ukraine, if one does not count fuzzy declarations on the intentions to expand the use of the Ukrainian language.
Thirdly, any demands of the ‘positive support of a minority language, under Ukrainian conditions, is the least founded with respect to Russian. According to the UNO data, the Russian language is the second in the world (after English) which is spoken by other ethnic groups. Russian is one of six official languages of the UNO, it is the only official language of Russia and has a lot of the ‘positive support.
This demand is especially unattractive since the expenses will be put not on loud-mouthed defenders of the Russian language, but on the Ukrainian tax payers.
The supporters of Russian also suggest a legal compromise: just to declare that the Russian language is the second state or official language. They base this suggestion by ‘historically formed conditions. There was the coerced assimilation of the Ukrainian minority in the USSR. This idea is rather far from human rights and form the obligation of each not to impinge on the rights of others, as it is declared in Article 68 of the Constitution of Ukraine, as well as in many other international documents. The practice of having many official languages is not so idyllic even in Switzerland or Belgium, which are referred to so many times. The public use of one of the official languages on the other language territory is often understood as a tactless action. One can use the native language without any constraints only in ones head.
For example, one of the two literary languages in Norway is a dialect of Danish, and this is not a cultural catastrophe. A catastrophe is rather the fact that only 20% f Norwegians can write in their native language. In a ‘bilingual Ireland the result, because of the natural reasons, is about the same. We speak about autonomous countries that develop as democratic during a century. One may expect that similar results will be obtained after introducing the official two languages in one-two generations. Yet, our human rights protectors often support the idea of Slavic unity. Let us look at the peoples, which ethnically and mentally are close to us. I mean our Slavic neighbors. The official bilinguism did not prevent the division of Czechoslovakia. Carriers of very close Serbian and Croatian demonstrated a lot of respect to each other and to speakers of minority languages. In Belarus th ere are two official languages too, but the usage of one of the official languages is often assessed like a demonstration of a political opposition with all consequences following. The conditions permitting to use the native language for non-Slavic minorities — Albanian in Macedonia or Turkish in Bulgaria — leave much to be desired. In any case, a certain Slavic unity may be observed in the intention to set an hierarchy in some respects, including the language sphere. But it does not concern any cultural pluralism and the equal respect to the rights of all people. Let us not deceive ourselves: Slavic ethoses, especially in the countries where the Christian Orthodoxy prevails, is a minority in their legal traditions and culture in the relatively democratic Great Europe, and the question, when and where the voluntary assimilation will occur is still open.
Here we pass to the fourth dimension, that is to the so-called human rights of the third generation. The latter, to be exact, has group rights, which a separate individual cannot realize. Among them the most important right is the right for self-determination. In our case this is the problem of establishing a political status and free cultural (mainly lingual) development. Such problems are too large for separate human rights protectors. People grown on paternalistic cultural traditions must realize that they must unite. But what must they unite for? In my opinion, the keyword in the Decision of the Constitutional Court is the term ‘state forming applied to the Ukrainian nation. When the army of the Piedmont king occupied Rome, count Cavour said: ‘Well, we have created Italy. Now it is time to create Italians. The problem seems to be that the judges of the Constitutional Court believe the Ukrainian nation to exist as a group of individuals, who identify themselves as a state forming stable element.
Is it so? Let us suppose that the answer is positive. Then we can identify us with such a nation, beside the trivial fact that we reside on the Ukrainian soil. Do we have a king we are proud of? No, and we are not proud of the elected chieftains. Do we respect our Constitution as a modern version of the Holy Scriptures? Do we have a traditional religion or a unique church like in England and Scandinavian countries? No, and we have an infinitesimal state budget for reconstructing similar features. Any state regime in its right mind would not try to unite our compatriots on the mentioned shaky ground.
May be, we have the common origin. Yes, Ukraine is basically a mono-ethnic Slavic state (about 98% of the population are Slavs), but Slavs make not anthropological, but a lingual group. As German romanticists used to say, the first frontier of a nation is sea, and the second is language. The secondary character of the polemics on the rights of the Russian-speaking minority in the countries of the ‘near abroad (i. e. in the countries without Russian military basis) is seen from a larger-scale discussions on the autonomy of Russians as a political nation (namely as a political nation, not as the Russian ethos). The pragmatic elite from the very beginning stepped aside from the movement supporting the principle ‘Russia for Russians, since the elite understands the absolute absence of prospects of this movement under the conditions of poly-ethnic and poly-confessional Russia. But the language is quite another pair of shoes. Perhaps, with some difficulties everyone can master the Russian language. Ideologists left Zhirinovskiy to defend the first frontier (we remind that he appealed soldiers to wash their boots in the Indian Ocean), and the real Decision-taker concentrated on the second frontier. They take concrete measures for preserving the Russian language as the main attribute of the ‘state-forming nation. They ascribe to this nation representatives of any ethos and residents of any place (Brighton Beach is a fully Russian-speaking territory), who mastered Russian on the level of a secondary school. The fact that these people could not master other languages is disregarded.
And, as it often happens in the heat of a discussion, a substitution of notions occurs, which makes the discussion senseless. For example, they confuse a national and lingual minority. The national minority is identified with their compatriots, who have legal ties with the state that must protect their rights and freedoms. This view, if the political cards fall in the needed way, will be able to turn the ‘near abroad into the nearest one; the zone of influence may turn into an ordinary province.
Yet, if the Russian elite solves traditional problems by using traditional methods, then the Ukrainian elite, with its traditional conservatism, just drifts in the same riverbed. The choice of the Ukrainian language as the main attribute of the Ukrainian nation under the existing conditions seems to be the only acceptable way out for the majority of the ruling elite.
Certainly, in any policy (including the language one), there exists an element of probability. In the large-scale perspective the most probable scenario will be realized. But this does not mean that the individual choice, that is the individual self-determination, is inessential. We must determine our future individually, otherwise the result will be usual, that is nil.
Viktor Dzereviago, Kharkiv
I want to point out that my opinion on the language situation in Ukraine is based on my personal observations made in the cities of the center and east of the country, that is it is not exhausting. Yet, it is from these regions the declarations continue to come on the ‘coercive ukrainization. I want to present an alternative point of view.
Leaders of the organizations that imagine themselves protectors of the Russian-speaking population are well-known in Ukraine. They often appear in the regional press and on commercial TV and radio channels that are mainly Russian. They actively do not want the renaissance of the Ukrainian language and culture, their reason being either the fear of being punished for what the empire did with our culture and its carriers, or the fear that it will hinder the reanimation of the empire. They believe that the best defense is an attack and they make declarations that the Russian language and culture are trampled whereas the Ukrainian culture is coercively instilled. These declarations are obviously untrue, so the majority of my compatriots (including the Russian-speaking) believe them to be fanatics. It is confirmed by the election failure of the protectors and political parties which support them, such as ‘Soyuz or ‘The party of Slavic unity. These parties got 1 - 2 votes from about 2000 at each election station in Kharkiv. And that happened in one of the most rusificated cities of Ukraine!
The authority of such organizations is very low, and their complaints that the poor citizens of Ukraine ‘are forced not only to speak, but to think in Ukrainian is rancid nonsense, as well as another popular complaint that ‘if our children read Pushkin, then they will have to do it in Ukrainian translations.
Discussing on the ‘linguistic rights of people, they always forget that Ukrainian-speaking citizens also live in this region, and their right to communicate with the authorities in a language convenient for them is not less than the similar right of the Russian-speaking population. This right of the Ukrainian speakers, according to my observations, is abused by state authorities of all levels, as well as administrations of the state-owned enterprises. In Kharkiv courts a judge may demand the witness to speak Russian, since the secretary does not know Ukrainian, or they suggest the witness ‘to hire a private interpreter. The documents of the Constitutional Court must put an end to the arbitrary actions of civil officers. The documents issued by the Constitutional Court insist on the demand stipulated in the Constitution and in Ukrainian laws to civil officers (and only to them!) to know and apply the Ukrainian language. The Russian language, as well as the languages of other national minorities, are not prohibited. The draft of the resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers introduces the measures which will enable everybody (including civil officers) to perfect their knowledge of the state language. It is true that some statements of the draft may be treated as containing elements of coercion, but they are not more coercive than, say, the measures introduced by the road militia in order to decrease the number of road accidents. Yes, drivers are coerced to learn traffic rules and apply them on the roads. The draft contains some doubtful statements like ‘derusification of sport and tourism or ‘concordance of the network of nursery, elementary and secondary schools with the ethnic composition of the population in a region. But this is only a draft which serves for correcting lame places.
I do not see any problems of the Russian language to function among private individuals or their unions. The Russian language mainly sounds in the streets of most cities of Ukraine, including Kyiv. It is used in establishments and stores. I often observed that passersby, who were speaking Ukrainian among themselves, passed to Russian when they have to address a stranger or if a stranger addressed them in Russian. According to our press, about 95% of printed matter in Ukraine is in Russian, published in Russia or in Ukraine. This is explained principally by the tax policy that makes publishing in Ukrainian economically unprofitable. Non-state-owned electronic mass media also demonstratively use Russian, the similar situation is observed in the Ukrainian show-business. Concerts of Russian stars are free of tax, so Russian stars seem to pass more time in Ukraine than in Russia. Certainly, they perform in Russian. Our own stars are ousted by high taxes from Ukrainian to Russian scenes. Higher education is predominantly in Russian. Sometimes the administration of the higher schools orders to pass to Ukrainian, but then a teacher addresses his audience, and the class unanimously or almost unanimously votes for teaching in Russian. The higher school again and again produces a generation of specialists who do not know the Ukrainian terminology. It is possible to be born in Ukraine, to get the education, to make a successful professional career without reading a single line in Ukrainian. The fact, that a private individual has this right and can realize it, is a feature of the civilized attitude of our state to the Russian language. Nonetheless, active protectors of the Russian language and culture are not satisfied. They believe that they have the right not to hear Ukrainian around them, as it was possible in the Soviet times. Otherwise, how can one explain their crazy reaction in all the cases, when the state or public organizations make timid attempts to assist the Ukrainian language, whose situation is objectively more difficult than that of Russian. Subjective problems are the most difficult to decide, to overcome them one needs to make substantial efforts. The Ukrainian society with the traditional Ukrainian kindness waits, when at last the professional protectors of the Russian language will begin to treat Ukrainian as tolerantly as most of their compatriots.
I believe that the operating laws of Ukraine concerning the language sphere are mainly based on the common sense and sufficiently just. The laws, without impinging on the rights of other peoples in Ukraine, permit the Ukrainian language to take its lawful place of the ‘genetic code of the nation. But this is possible only if the laws are observed. Unfortunately, nowadays they are abused and completely ignored by the significant part of civil servants.
At the same time, the erroneous tax policy puts the languages in Ukraine to unequal and unjust states: the prosperous Russian language has economic advantages, while the Ukrainian language, just standing up from the knees, is robbed.
I expect from the state that it will, at last, force its bureaucrats to obey the laws in the language sphere; the state must also correct the economic treatment of the languages in Ukraine.
Summing up, I assess the Decision of the Constitutional Court and the draft of the Cabinet of Ministers to be necessary and sufficient for today measures of the state administration in the sphere of the development of the Ukrainian language.
Roman Romanov, Sevastopol
1. First of all, I want to point out that various organizations which express the interests of Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine, almost always express its negative reaction to any initiatives and decisions which tend to change the status quo in the state of languages, and the status quo fixes the domination of the Russian language.
It should be noted, however, that this reaction does not take the form of an active protest. It is clear to me, a resident of Sevastopol, which is, perhaps, the most sensitive region of Ukraine to any changes of the language regime. I think that the Decision of the Constitutional Court would be unnoticed, if this topic did not get great attention by Russian mass media that traditionally exert a great impact on the political events in Ukraine. The TV feature by Natalia Kondratiuk, where children tell how they are made to learn Pushkins verses in Ukrainian, certainly may not leave calm any Russian TV viewer.
If mass media did not pay attention to the adopted documents, the interest to them would hardly exceed the level of intellectual discussions and scientific conferences. There are several reasons of this passivity. I would single out the following.
First of all, a noticeable change has appeared in the attitude of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine to the state. In the first years of the Ukrainian autonomy a great part of the population in South and East of Ukraine, and especially in the Crimea, in general did not identify themselves as Ukrainians. They observed with some enmity how the state authorities marked their passports with the stamp of Ukraine, and then the exchange of passports. Now, in my opinion, it is possible to affirm that they got accustomed to their Ukrainian citizenship as to a sad coincidence of circumstances. This certainly does not exclude that many people have a negative attitude to Ukraine, her state, her language and her state symbols.
Now the question of the status of the Crimea and Sevastopol stopped to be discussed by Russia and Ukraine, and this, in fact, obliterated the Russian movement in the Crimea as an active political force. Most such organizations, that presumably protect the interests of the Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine, in fact fight for joining Russia. Their main goal is to make Moscow their capital and to make Russian their language.
Another factor which caused the slack reaction of the Russian-speaking population to the last decisions of the Ukrainian state concerning the languages — this is a very difficult economic state of the majority of the Ukrainian population. Under normal conditions the mentioned decisions could lead to a burst of public activity, but in Ukraine people are busy with survival. Such questions as cuts off of electricity, growth of the cost of communal services, more expensive tickets in the public transport, growth of food prices and the like occupy the mind of a man in the street to a greater extent.
Yet, the Decisions of the Constitutional Court and the draft of the Decision of the Cabinet of Ministers contain a lot of legal constructions and interpretations, which are very doubtful from the viewpoint of the observance of individual rights. One may expect a new attack on the position of the Russian language in Ukraine.
2. If one studies attentively the documents in question, one can conclude that individual rights are violated.
It is possible to assert that lately one may observe in Ukraine the wish of the powers to interfere in the language situation. This processes are directly connected with the appointment of Ivan Drach and Nikolay Zhulinskiy on the key positions in this sphere. They regard and will regard the broadening of the sphere of the use of the Ukrainian language as their main goal as state officers. ‘I shall do all what I can to make the information sphere as Ukrainian as it is possible, declared Ivan Drach (‘Kyiv Post, 23 March). Ukrainian national-democrats (who are represented in the government by the above-named people) are convinced that the Russian information expansion is the greatest danger for Ukraine and her independence.
I know some cases when Russian citizens of Ukraine complained that in the new passports their Russian names are distorted. For example, instead of ‘Sablin the authorities wrote ‘Shablin (‘sablia in Russian and ‘shablia in Ukrainian is ‘sabre. — Translators note). The internal passport contains information both in Russian and in Ukrainian, but in the foreign passport two languages are used — English and Ukrainian, and the names are transliterated from Ukrainian. As a result, many Russians do not identify themselves with their new names. I think that Ukrainian authorities should guarantee the free choice of names (which, by the way, is stipulated by Item 5 Article 10 of the European Charter on regional and minority languages). This sphere seems to be such that the state should not impose its will.
I think that the regulation of the usage of Ukrainian ‘in other spheres of public life set in the Decision of the Constitutional Court contradicts the European Charter. A state has no right to set forms and language of communication of citizens outside the limits of activity of its bodies. Article 10 of the Charter prescribes the states duty ‘to provide the population with administrative documents and blanks of general use in the regional languages, or in the minority languages, or in a bilingual version. Actually, we observe a clear tendency of remaking blanks and documents only into Ukrainian. On the other hand, I believe that the demand to examine civil servants in Ukrainian is quite correct.
Instead of facilitating the tax press from book publishing in Ukraine the draft of the Decision of the Cabinet of Ministers suggests to use new ‘taxes on the printed matter that comes to Ukraine from abroad.
The attitude of the power to the civil society and to relations in the non-state sector is convincingly shown by the inclusion of the society ‘Prosvita to the organizations responsible for the execution of the Decision of the Cabinet of Ministers. ‘Prosvita has a status of the public organization. Although it is partially financed by the state, the societys activity must be free, voluntary and be outside the sphere of the direct state administration.
The text of the draft contains inadmissible, in my opinion, characteristics. For example, the idea of the two state languages is called ‘vicious. The Ukrainian language is called ‘the main and obligatory tool of communication on the entire territory of Ukraine. So, the coercive character of the suggested measures is not concealed.
The draft of the Decision of the Cabinet of Ministers is written in the typical Soviet spirit. I do not understand in which manner the government intends to realize, as it is stated in item 11, the derusification in the sphere of tourism. The authors of the document use an inadmissible, in my opinion, approach of the protection of the ‘national cultural informative space. It should be said that this point of view is rather common among the authorities. Another draft has been already introduced into the Supreme Rada. This draft suggests measures on the protection of the ‘informative sovereignty and security of Ukraine, brutally violating the freedom of information guaranteed by Article 34 of the Constitution.
3. I am sure that nowadays, not counting rare exceptions, the Ukrainian-language informative products are unable to compete with Russian-language ones.
This fact is a result of many causes, and they lie in different planes: the set of potential customers is less for Ukrainian language products, the financial resources are poorer and so on. Here the results of the long rusification are revealed. This means that special measures for supporting the Ukrainian language are needed, but these measures can be of different character. One way is to turn the process and exchange rusification by coercive ukrainization. Yet, this approach does not answer the priorities that are determined by the Constitution: freedom, democracy, observance of human rights. What could be used by Soviet rulers may not be used in the modern Ukraine. The support of the Ukrainian language is needed, but it must assume such forms which do not violate personal rights of citizens.
I cannot agree with the viewpoint that the struggle with the consequences of the absence of independence of Ukraine may justify the violation of individual rights as to using languages. All the people have human dignity and equal rights, so if we speak on the impingement on the so-called ‘homo sovietcus‘ — that community which was artificially bred on 1/6 part of the mainland during many years — we must observe their rights and freedoms as well.
I think that the well-known ‘expert Servey Karaganov, who said that ousting Russian will obligatorily result in the cultural delay and isolation of Ukraine, is utterly wrong. One can demonstrate examples of highly intellectual informative products in Ukrainian. Living in Sevastopol, I always enjoy reading the Lviv magazine ‘Ї, the Kyivan magazines ‘Дух і літера, ‘Політіка і культура. The information products from Russia, which are consumed in Ukraine, mostly belong to ‘mass culture. In this respect there is a great difference between the Ukrainian language weeklies which are not intended for the mass consumer. That is why all Ukraine listens to primitive Russian songs, reads endless Russian detectives and cries over novels for women.
4. Ukrainian citizens must determine themselves in which language they will communicate, and the duty of the state includes creating conditions for this. In this case I mean not only the minority languages, but the state language. Several years ago I voluntarily translated documents of our public organization into Ukrainian. We observed that state servants in Sevastopol were unable to work with the Ukrainian documents. The preamble to the European Charter on regional and minority languages stipulates that ‘protection and development of regional or minority languages must not hamper the official languages and the necessity to learn them.
The efficiency of the state administration lies not in the practice of forcing people to obey the rules invented by some bureaucrat. Good administration must create a system of stimuli to make citizens, who realize their own rights and interests, follow the state policy. That is why the use of the Ukrainian language must be profitable and prestigious.
I would suggest to create in traditional Russian-language regions several schools, where the students could get the education of the top level.
It is important to develop Ukrainian Internet resources. The delay here will certainly throw back the information sphere in Ukraine and will constrain the use of Ukrainian. the state must make the Internet as accessible as possible.
It is necessary to break the prejudice that the Ukrainian language is unpromising dialect used by badly educated rustics. This can be done by the civil society supported by the state. Recollect successful musical festivals like ‘Chervona Ruta. The Russian-speaking youth of the Crimea, Donbass and Kharkiv competed in the knowledge of Ukrainian, and that was done by their free will, without any pressure from the state.