09.12.2000 | I. Nikonova, KharkovA

Lviv lesson


A Ukrainian composer Igor Bilosir has been killed in a drunken brawl in a Lviv cafй by an ethnic Russian. The reason of the quarrel was the difference in languages which the fighters spoke. The details are still not clear, and the investigation of the crime is still continuing.

I believe that mass-media, when commenting upon the murder of Igor Bilozir, and the public actions that followed the murder. somewhat shifted the focus from the reasons to less substantial details. It is a significant event that occurred in Lviv.It is a symbolic event. I do not mean the crowds that vandalized the cafй. I do not mean the behavior of those who came to the funeral of Igor Bilozir that demonstrated anti-Russian slogans. They all were consequences, cruel, uncivilized, but quite predictable. The core of the event is that for the first time in Ukraine one citizen of Ukraine killed another citizen because he could not accept the natural right of the citizen to use that language which suited him most in a public place.

It is not important whether the victim was the people’s artist of Ukraine or, say, a fitter. After all, it is not so essential whether someone was killed or remained alive in the brawl. It is not so important who started the brawl — that will be determined by the court. What is essential for all of us is the fact that nowadays in Ukraine one may be beaten for the word pronounced in one’s native language. It is unimportant for which language one will be beaten, although it is especially strange when one is beaten for the Ukrainian language in Ukraine. This event demands us, the public, to develop and to assess a strategy that will do such events impossible.

Is it accidental that a Ukrainian-speaking composer was killed in a Lviv cafй by a Russian-speaking officer? I believe that it is not accidental. There are lots of such organizations as the ‘Soyuz’ party, ‘Evrazia’, ‘Russkaya obshchina’ and many others that wave the slogans about ‘trampling’ the Russian language in Ukraine, that fight against the modest attempts to lead the Ukrainian language and culture from the post-imperial decline, regarding, perhaps, such attempts as destroying their hopes for the ‘single and inseparable’ Russia.

A cafй is also a place of propagating the Russian popular culture. As a rule, the owners of such establishments tune their radio to some local FM radio station, most of which, contrary to thew law, do not include to their programs Ukrainian songs, thus feeding their customers with samples of the Russian pop-music of the lowest kind. This fact of serving coffee under such accompaniment certainly offends many customers.

We, Ukrainians, are guilty that they began to kill us for our native tongue. With great readiness we switch to the ‘comprehensive to all’ Russian when we appear in public.

Nonetheless, it seems to me that the most guilty party of the Lviv event is the authorities, both local (in all regions of Ukraine without exception) and the central power too. Their guilt is not that they could not stop the destruction of the cafй, and not in their inability to catch the carriers of anti-Russian slogans (in which the authorities are blamed now by pro-Russian forces). Their guilt is that they, using economic obstacles, put the Ukrainian language and culture under the conditions harsher than for the Russian. They continue to do it, paying no attention to the appeal of the Ukrainian intelligentsia. The power is guilty because during a decade they did not manage to force their own bureaucrats and captains of industry to respect our too liberal laws in the language and cultural sphere.

I want to believe that the Ukrainian society will draw the proper conclusions from the Lviv lesson, that our national elite will wake up and make the state to control the national policy, that the authorities will stop to hush-hush the negative events, that the press will distinctly and honestly inform us on the arising problems. Only then we shall manage to build a civil society, and the welfare then will appear itself.

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