Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Language and Kiev… Ferment in the Ukraine


The Ukrainian opposition protested giving Russian the status of a regional language. Kiev, Lvov, and other cities held street protests. Meanwhile, a parliamentary crisis is brewing in the country… the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada resigned. The “Passion of the Language” found in the Rada spilled onto the streets. The opposition organised demonstrations against the adoption of the law “Fundamentals of State Language Policy”. Opponents of the pro-government initiative of the Party of Regions picketed the “Ukrainian House” in the city centre all night; on the following morning, mobs in Western Ukrainian regional centres supported the protesters. There were no clashes with police.

The Verkhovna Rada passed the act that caused such scandal on Tuesday night; it gave regional minority languages legal status. First Deputy Speaker Adam Martyniuk (KPU) chaired the meeting; he invited the deputies to consider the final reading of the bill. A majority vote secured the document’s passage. However, the fact that the bill wasn’t on the agenda caused the opposition to claim a violation of legal procedures. Several people went on a hunger strike; others refused further participation in the Rada’s work before the end of this session. Then, opposition activists staged a rally in downtown Kiev. The night passed relatively peacefully. However, in the morning, protesters started to clash with police. Official reports stated that the cops fired tear gas, in response to violent actions by protesters. This was only a first reaction. Against a backdrop of appeals to defend the Ukrainian language, one heard other, more strident, slogans, such as, “Shame on the deputies”, and “We were fooled… it’s time to take up arms!”

Bogdan Bezpalko, the deputy director of the Ukrainian Centre at MGU, said, “The opposition minority used this occasion to focus attention on themselves. The present situation is just a convenient excuse for the opposition to state its agenda yet again, to protest against the current Ukrainian government. In my opinion, this is the main reason for the ferment. In fact, the bill adopted by the Rada doesn’t strengthen the position of the Russian language per se. It simply enumerates the Russian language amongst other national minority languages such as Romani or Slovak”.

In turn, the bill’s author, Vadim Kolesnichenko (Party of Regions), expressed satisfaction with the voting in a VOR interview, saying, “Over ten days, we collected a million signatures in support of this bill. That’s the first point. Secondly, we followed the strong recommendations found in the European Charter, which clearly indicated to us that we hadn’t met our obligation to protect linguistic minorities. We have an obligation to bring our policy into line with the European Charter. Thirdly, Ukrainian society needs this bill. This law will provide stability and equality in our country; it makes everyone equal”.

Andrei Suzdaltsev, an instructor at the Russian Higher School of Economics, shares this opinion. He said, “For some in the Ukrainian establishment, questions concerning national identity and the legitimacy of power are very much intertwined. Some are willing to use any means to oppose the spread of the Russian language in Ukraine. It turns out that the political forces are fighting each other using linguistic weapons. Language is a cultural heritage, handed down to us from our ancestors, and if we turn it into a political weapon… then, we’ll kill both languages. Russian should become a legally-recognised official language. This will save the Ukraine. You see, if the Russian language gains legal status, it’ll strengthen the Ukraine”.

In turn, Oleg Lebedev (United Russia), the Deputy Chairman of the RF Gosduma Committee on CIS Affairs and Relations with Compatriots, in a VOR interview, noted the importance of adopting a law on making Russian one of the national minority languages of the Ukraine, saying, “I’m sure that half the population of the Ukraine waited with impatience for the adoption of this law. This law not only speaks about the status of the Russian language; it touches upon the status of all the national minority languages of the Ukraine. This allows everyone to speak their native language, to conduct legal proceedings in their own language. In principle, this embodies the position of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages”.

According to Lebedev, “Other CIS states had about the same situation, and their parliaments made the right choice. For example, if we take Turkmenistan, the government laid down conditions where the Russian language can flourish, allowing Russian language teachers access to the country, creating special conditions for them in Turkmenistan. Of course, we’d like to see a larger spread of the Russian language in the former Soviet Union, in the CIS countries. Today, Rossotrudnichestvo quite successfully works on this situation. I was in Kiev; I met with my counterparts in the Ukrainian Rada, from the Party of Regions. I congratulated them on the successful adoption of this law, in spite of the opposition. I’d very much like to say that Ukrainian President Yanukovich made the right choice in signing the decree; ergo, justice prevailed. Half of the regions of the Ukraine are Russian-speaking regions. If we talk about those people who consider Russian their native language, it’s much more than half of the Ukrainian population”.

Meanwhile, the Rada has already registered a bill to abolish the new law. At the same time, the text of the new law’s missing on the Rada’s website. The parliamentary opposition declared that the law was passed on Tuesday with a large number of violations, so it’s going to boycott the work of this session, which is supposed to end on 6 July. The new law establishes that the only state-wide official language in the Ukraine is Ukrainian. However, in areas where more than 10 percent of the population has a different native language, it gives such languages a regional legal status. Then, all official documents such as legislation or election ballots would receive automatic translation into the national minority languages. For example, if a person requests it, one’s internal passport would be in both languages.

Under the law, the national minority languages in the Ukraine include:

They all have a chance under the law to receive regional legal status. However, the speeches of the Ukrainian opposition often only refer to the Russian language.

Ukrainian political analyst Rostislav Ishchenko said, “When Viktor Yanukovich ran for president, the question of raising Russian to the status of a legal language occupied a key place. Now, the opposition is trying to play the same card with the opposite effect. Their hysterical opposition has two foundations. Firstly, they have a completely irrational belief that anything that suggests even a formal step toward raising the status of the Russian language is a profound threat to Ukrainian statehood. Secondly, they have the completely rational understanding that the Party of Regions can mobilise its electorate with such an action. Accordingly, the opposition went into hysterics, trying to mobilise their base”.

In turn, Mikhail Pogrebinsky, a political scientist and director of the Centre for Political and Conflict Studies in Kiev, said that the reaction of the opposition related to the unprecedented nature of the law. He observed, “It’s unprecedented in the sense that during the years of Ukrainian independence there’s been a gradual process by some to oust the Russian language. All of this hysteria is due solely to the fact that the law strengthens the position of the Russian language, that is, it stops this repressive process. Over the past twenty years, the reality has been that people representing the interests of the Western Ukraine, of Ukrainian-speakers, determined all social and language policy. Then, finally, it came to the fact that the ruling party decided to fulfil its promises to the electorate. Maybe, they didn’t count on such a reaction. As evidenced by polls, 75 percent of the population doesn’t mind and even supports the idea of raising the status of Russian to that of a legal language. The parliamentary opposition triggered these clashes, which are preparations for the coming parliamentary election. Right now, we can’t avoid difficulties and a serious political crisis. The opposition is very vehement in its views. This law in no way violates the constitution, or the European Charter, which we’ve ratified. Therefore, it’s attempting to pressure Yanukovich not to sign the bill”.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary crisis is brewing in the Ukraine. Vladimir Litvin, the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, in whose absence the deputies adopted the law on language, decided to submit his resignation, and his deputy, Nikolai Tomenko, made a similar statement. In this regard, President Yanukovich invited the leaders of the Rada factions to discuss the situation. However, that didn’t happen. The opposition demanded a meeting open to the public, broadcast on TV, without the participation of the Party of Regions and Communists.

4 July 2012

Roman Pesotsky

Natalia Kovalenko

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s Note:

Here in the West, we’re bombarded by propaganda and dezinformatsiya from Galician Uniates. Don’t be fooled… the loudness is due to the fact that Galician Uniates are disproportionately represented in the USA and Canada (especially the latter). For historical reasons, Galicians outnumber Great Russians here, so one gets a skewed impression.

Don’t take it out on individual Uniates or “Ukrainian Orthodox”… they’re not responsible for their hierarchy or clergy. In most cases, they were born into their groups, so it’s not something that they “chose”. To be certain, the Uniate hierarchy has sold out to the Vatican and to Langley… the clergy, less so, but still to a large extent… only a few of the laity are Vatican or Langley stooges. Be careful… many people are only repeating what they’ve been told and are innocently giving it out. There are some egregious sorts to watch out for on the internet, though. If you have an Orthodox website, and you see someone with the username “Josephus Flavius” in the comboxes, spam them immediately, and do NOT argue with them. They’re a fanatic Uniate and all that arguing with him will do is frustrate you to no end and waste your God-given time. It’ll be a pointless exercise in futility… so if you see “Josephus Flavius” in your “comments”, spam him and smile. God will bless you for that (neither you nor I have the “mandate” to “argue the Faith”, in any case). Indeed, I’ll go so far as to say that you should spam all Uniates on principle… don’t run the risk of getting hot n’ bothered over things that aren’t your responsibility. Spam ‘em and sleep well at night.

ALWAYS keep in mind that individual Uniates are NOT responsible for their leadership, which is beholden to and subservient to the Vatican in its entirety. Be good to them, don’t attack them, but make it clear that you won’t discuss religion, it’s a “closed topic”… that’s what’ll keep things sweet. Hell of a world we live in, don’t we?



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