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Russian language to be abolished in Ukraine

09.11.2004
 

If you come to live in Poland or France, you will not demand the official status for the Russian language

The language issue in Ukraine has been a thorn in the side for many years already. Hundreds of hours of television and radio debate, dozens of books and thousands of articles have been devoted to this question. Presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich believes that the Russian and Ukrainian languages must enjoy equal rights and opportunities: “I am firmly against the forceful Ukrainization of the country, no matter what kind of noble disguise might be used for it,” Yanukovich said.

Both Russian and Ukrainian officials have scanty arguments to back up their positions regarding the language problem in Ukraine. They might take different forms on television and radio, but the essence remains the same. As a rule, the two feuding parties stick to their own viewpoints, without taking even a step towards a compromise.

One may hear the following assertions in the language dispute: “If you come to live in Poland or France, for example, you will not demand the official status for the Russian language. You will learn Polish or French instead. Why don't you want speak Ukrainian in Ukraine?” This is a typical saying to exemplify the essence of the language problem: many Russians were born in raised in Ukraine, Russian was always their mother tongue. In addition, they do not plan to go to live in Poland or France.

Those, who believe that the Russian language should be a state language in Ukraine, are often accused of their unwillingness to learn the native Ukrainian language. A native language, however, cannot be either learned or forgotten – it stays with a person throughout his or her life. According to one of the theories, humans start “learning” their native language at early stages of the embyronic growth. Words and linguistic forms of another language will always be described as acquired knowledge.

Some people believe that the Ukrainian language will slowly die in the event the country legalizes two state languages. They say that Russian is supposedly stronger than Ukrainian and people will feel more comfortable as they communicate in the Russian language. However, the Ukrainian language still remains strong, rich and developed in the country despite the longstanding domination of the Russian language.

There is an opposite point of view too: the development of the Ukrainian language in Russia is being hindered. If there are only several Ukrainian schools in Russia for millions of Ukrainians living there, why developing the Russian-language education in Ukraine? They emphasize the Ukrainians in Russia, not the sparse Ukrainian-speaking population. Even if Ukrainians' rights are violated in Russia, why do Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens have to be responsible for the politics of the Russian administration, as they do not have a right to educate children in their own native language?

A lot of Russian-speaking people living in Ukraine do not have any objections against the policy to support the Ukrainian language. On the other hand, the state status of the Russian language during the Soviet era did not raise any concerns with anyone either. To crown it all, fascists did not forbid speaking Russian during WWII.

Roman Melnikov

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