World » Former USSR
Author`s name Ольга Савка

Language Problem in Ukraine

The Ukrainian style fashion is already disappearing in Ukraine

About 15 years ago, the Ukrainian speech could hardly be heard in Ukraine, both in the western and in the eastern part of it. Almost all street signs and billboards were written in Russian, the majority of schools were teaching children in Russian. The Russian language was used even in special Ukrainian schools. Almost all institutes and universities were teaching in Russian too.

A lot of changes have taken place since that time. The majority of Kiev residents still speak Russian, but all Kiev schools are teaching children in the Ukrainian language. There are only eight Russian schools in Kiev from the total number of 500. The Russian language is gradually disappearing from Ukrainian streets too. There is a fashion in Ukraine - to be a Ukrainian. The people who called themselves Russians just a short time ago are proud to be Ukrainians now. They grow the Cossack moustache  and make a lot of mistakes trying to speak the Ukrainian language.

Russian language classes in Ukrainian schools have been changed to English classes. Ukrainian children learn just the very basis of Russian, but they study English from the first grade. Apparently, someone does not like that Ukraine has been too much rusified, so that person decided to change Russian classes to English to "englify" Ukraine.

Nevertheless, fashion comes and goes rather quickly. The present Ukrainian style fashion will goo too, and it is not clear what will be left in the country afterwards. According to the law of nature, the pendulum should swing backwards. The present fashion is gradually disappearing already. Moreover, some people show resistance to the policy "of strengthening the position of the state language," especially in eastern and southern regions of Ukraine. Ukrainian musician Viktor Pavlik says, they do not play the Ukrainian music on radio stations in Ukraine's east. The musician says, he tried to sing only in Ukrainian before, but now he "performs in a different way."

The language conflict in Ukraine cannot be described as a fierce dispute about the number of state languages in Ukraine. The followers of the current language policy are certain, there should be the Ukrainian language used in Ukraine. They believe, if someone cannot speak Ukrainian, they should simply learn it. The argument is as follows: if people come to France or Germany, for example, they do not ask why French/German is the state language in this country - they simply learn how to speak the language.

The advocates of the second state language in Ukraine are certain that 50 percent of the Ukrainian population (29.3 percent according to official information) consider Russian as their native language. It would be absolutely natural to observe those people's right to speak their native language. The followers of the second state language in Ukraine do not demand a total substitute - they want the two languages to be used simultaneously.

Each of the two sides is right in their own way - the argumentation makes sense. However, there is a very important question to ask at this point: "Does the state exist for its people, or do people exist for their state?" What comes first - people or the state? The answer to this question is not as obvious as it may seem at first sight. From the point of view of history, the countries of the state predominance often achieved great progress. The Soviet Union of the Stalin era, for example, accomplished a lot in its industrial development. Huge DneproGES hydro-electric station built on the Dniepr river became one of the highest achievements of the Soviet electric power industry. Norilsk and Magnitogorsk mining and smelting enterprises were also built in Stalin's USSR and they are still major enterprises of the Russian industry. However, such grand projects were executed by millions of slaves - Soviet prisoners. Those people were living and working under absolutely inhuman conditions, but it was not important because everyone in Stalin's system was supposed to exist for the successful development of the state.

On the other hand, there is another category of countries - the states of the human predominance. Such countries are usually called democratic. The constitution, the law and the entire legal system of such countries is built for people's needs. The language policy complies with such principles too. For instance, there is only six percent of Swedes in Finland, but there are two state languages there too - the Swedish and the Finnish. Democratic states can develop very successfully too. Bourgeois revolutions in Holland, in England and in many other European countries allowed them to leave a lot of other countries of the world behind.

Ukraine may choose any way of its further development. Everything depends on the answer to the question of priority. Ukraine is not likely to develop as a totalitarian state in the language policy and as a democratic state in all other fields.

Roman Melnikov
Kiev
Ukraine

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