war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

A word to the Ukrainian

L.Yashchenko, Kyiv
Here we publish an article and a response to the article concerning the painful problem of what language should be used in Ukraine. The both articles are a little abridged, mainly in the most emotional places or to avoid repetitions.
We live in a very responsible period of our history: now the lot of our state, nation and language is being decided. This is really so for there is no nation without a language and no vital state without a nation.

We will not concern here questions of economy and culture, but we will focus on our personal contribution to the language question.

We know that towns in Ukraine, especially in East and South regions are rusificated. It happened because of the three-century suppression by the Russian Empire (ruled by czars and bolsheviks). During this time the language of the ruling nation was implanted forcefully, including such extreme methods as physical extermination of the Ukrainian intelligentsia. The bulwark of the Ukrainian language was village which passed the spiritual inheritance of their forefathers from generation to generation.

Nowadays the majority of the population, especially younger people, lives in towns, mass media, scientific and technological progress comes to the village again mainly in the Russian language (this does not concern West Ukraine, which lived under different historical conditions: there rusification is negligible).

When the Ukrainian people got its own state, it got an opportunity to make the Ukrainian language the state one, as it is proclaimed in Article 10 of the Constitution. Yet, it is difficult to notice any changes. After a short national activation in late 80s — early 90s there occurred a certain retreat, in particular, in education, mass media and publishing. Such phenomena depend, to a great expense, on the state administration, but much depend on ourselves. Ask yourself: which language do you use every day? Many would answer: and what is the difference? There is a difference, and I shall try to explain it. If a language were only a tool of communication, then it would be optimal to create one language, of the type of Esperanto, and forget national languages. Nonetheless, all the peoples, both great and little, guard their language as a sanctuary. They do it because the language is inalienable part of the national culture, the expression of the spirit of the nation, which cannot be expressed in any other language. A language unites people even if they live on different sides of state frontiers, if they are separated by political and religious reasons. Defending our national originality and culture, we, in the same time enrich the culture of the world. The world culture may be compared to a multicolor carpet, on which every people left its unrepeatable pattern. And now fancy that some time later this carpet will become uniformly gray. That would be terrible! It is obvious that unification of languages and cultures is degeneration.

The majority of our citizens, especially of younger generation, do not think over such questions following the motto: I act as all act. Their patriotic feelings are awoken maybe on the days of international football matches with the participation of Ukrainian teams. They have nothing against the existence of the independent Ukraine and Ukrainian language, but they have got accustomed to communicate in Russian and do not make any efforts to switch to their native language. They do not comprehend that every single Russian word pronounced by them works for the rusification of the nation.

When they say that the Ukrainian language is the language of village, this is true. It was in the village where our language lived and is living, fully expressing its precious features. The state of things is different in towns. The process of generation of Ukrainian words and expressions for city realia, in professional languages of engineers, scientists, sportsmen, etc., has lagged behind because of the historical conditions. Sometimes the Ukrainian terms look artificial, which could be expected since they are artificially constructed in armchairs. 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: writers and linguists will not help in this process. Thus we see that our language has a great potential for development.

In order to improve the situation we must overcome the psychological barrier, which stands in front of us when we try to use the Ukrainian language in the Russian-language environment. That will require efforts of will, since to understand a language passively is one thing, and to use it actively is quite another. We shall have to go against the current, we shall lack the needed words during the conversation, we shall have to control ourselves and sometimes translate in our mind separate words and expressions from Russian. But later the process will become automatic, and we shall be able to communicate in Ukrainian without special efforts.

At first your speech will be clumsy, like the speech of most MPs now, but then the language will improve.

Certainly, we must turn to official resolutions. They are needed for the control of how they are executed. It is good when the director of a plant or a foreman in your place of work sets an example and speaks Ukrainian. Then subordinates will sooner start to speak this language. However, most representatives of administration are from the former nomenclature and party functionaries, and there are few Ukrainian patriots in this layer of the population. When they forget the law on the state language, you should tactfully remind them about it.

Certainly, the future of the nation and language depends on breeding of children, and this is the most painful problem. If in the kindergarten, at school and in the street the Russian language is domineering, then even the family cannot help. So the question is set as follows: if you want to have Ukraine, then do your best for the Ukrainian language to reign in the kindergarten and school. Do not restrict your troubles about your child by feeding and dressing it. Maybe in future the material living standard would become high, but then it would be impossible to recover spiritual losses. So you must demand the punctual execution of the law on the language from nurses, teachers, headmasters and headmistresses, you must organize collective protests to district and region departments of education, if the law is violated.

If you study in higher school, do not be ashamed to demand your lawful right to be taught in the state language. Do not retreat before the difficulties related to the absence of text-books, imperfect special terminology and, maybe, insufficient mastering of the Ukrainian language by teachers. Remember that if we loose the battle for our native language in the field of education, then our cause will be lost.

So let us sum up: with the goal of preservation and development of the Ukrainian state, nation and language we must build a reliable shield against the total rusification in Ukraine which is the mortal danger. We must execute the law on the state language on all levels, we must support the Ukrainian mass media, we must participate in public organizations, especially in ‘Prosvita’. We must learn from Israeli, who revived their ancient language, Hebrew, and made it a state one! That could be possible thanks to the efforts of the whole people.

Ukrainian! Stand up from your knees and demonstrate the force of your spirit! Recall of which tribe you are, do not trample your Cossack glory! Otherwise shame will fall upon you and your offsprings forever!

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