21.05.2000 | L.Kazakevich, Kyiv

Word about the word


I believe that those who are worried with serious difficulties in distributing the Ukrainian language in Ukraine should listen to the attentive and benevolent opponent, in order to learn about the logical criticism of the arguments used by supporters of the distribution of the Ukrainian language.

It is clear that the questions concerning the language of communication, the language of breeding children, the language of scientific and artistic creative activities are rather delicate.

With these preliminary remarks we shall try to analyze L.Yashchenko’s article ‘A word to the Ukrainian’. First of all, the assessment of the real language situation in Ukraine is quite correct. During the last decade the law on the language did not work efficiently. The Ukrainian language is, as before, spoken in villages and in West Ukraine. L.Yashchenko appeals to people to use this language. This is his right and we respect it. But we do not find reasonable such appeals. The emotions around the language problem are strained enough. And active efforts to change the situation can lead to a destabilization of the society. Besides, many arguments by Yashchenko are shaky. Here are some of them:

1.‘There is no nation without a language and no vital state without a nation’. The argument seems to be wrong. From 239 states of the world only 37 operate with the concept of the ‘state language’ and in 32 of them there are more than one state language. So, one state language is a great rarity.

2.‘A language unites people even if they live on different sides of state frontiers, if they are separated by political and religious reasons’. The counterexample to this statement is North and South Korea, the USA, separated from Britain and not going to unite with it, or states of the Latin America, speaking Spanish and Portuguese.

3.‘It is obvious that unification of languages and cultures is degeneration’. With the growth of intensity of information exchange the variability of languages becomes an obstacle. This can be clearly seen on the examples in European history, on disappearance of languages and dialects in France, Germany, Italy and other countries. Whether it is good or bad we do not know. The evolutionary process determining large-scale social phenomena knows better. On the other hand, the English language serves for international communication in the British commonwealth and throughout the world, and it is certainly good.

4.‘Every single Russian word pronounced by them works for the rusification of the nation’. The author of the note, obviously a Ukrainian patriot, sins himself putting Russian quotations into a text.

5.‘We must breed Ukrainian engineers, businessmen, researchers, sportsmen, etc. Without that we shall not have the needed words born under natural conditions, in oral communication. This could be the only condition of generating a live professional language’. It is clear that now we have a live Ukrainian language, but all professional topics are usually discussed in Russian. To change the situation the author suggests to breed specialists who speak Ukrainian. This process is going on now. The town youth is forced to learn Ukrainian, since they cannot get higher education in their native language. As any coercion in the language sphere (and Ukrainians know that from their bitter experience) this action brings enormous damage to the culture of Ukraine, whose development is declared to be the main stimulus of the fighters for the Ukrainian language. To be consecutive, the fighters either shall change the rules of admission to the higher school or to frankly admit that this is a requital action, having nothing in common with culture and spirituality.

It can be easily explained, why the coercion in teaching Ukrainian to the town youth does such a great harm to the culture of Ukraine. Schoolteachers formulate the situation very exactly: a generation is growing that cannot write in the language they speak and cannot speak in the language they write. School studies cannot influence the language of communication either at home, or in the street, or even during breaks between lessons. Pupils perceive the Ukrainian language as a caprice of adults and learn it unwillingly. This attitude to learning certainly extends to other subjects. Just fancy which future professionals we breed.

6.‘Writers and linguists will not help in this process’. This seems to be a wrong argument. Only writers and other artists give the attractive force and expressiveness to a language, whereas the coercive state pressure is harmful and inefficient. The Ukrainian people is gifted and it can generate many talented authors. Then it will be possible to speak about the renaissance of Ukrainian culture and of the spiritual upsurge. Without this the administrative efforts will have the same effect and stench as the propaganda campaigns from our totalitarian past. This kind of propaganda is carried out now by illiterate figures from ‘Prosvita’, which is liked by the author.

7.In conclusion, I would like to remark that denouncing ideological adversaries to the security agencies, even in the form of collective complaints on nurses, teachers and headmasters, is not the first-rate manifestation of spirituality and morality.

I hope that the editorial board of PL will support the idea of exchange rational arguments around the problem of languages in Ukraine. This question seems to me an important element of guaranteeing human rights in Ukraine.

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