On June 16, the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation made commentary regarding the administrative influence on Russian language in Ukraine on the official web-site of MFA.
Taking part in the international forum of Russianists in Lugansk, a major event in the humanitarian life of Ukraine, were authoritative philologists and linguists from different countries of the world who are far from being indifferent to the present and future of the Russian language in Ukraine. Many speakers at this representative forum stated with bitterness that Russian in Ukraine is being subjected to all manner of persecution. Thus, the country has over the last 16 years issued more than 70 legal and regulatory acts aimed at its limitation in sociopolitical life.
In particular, it was pointed out that schools are being forcibly converted from Russian to Ukrainian as a medium of instruction, which official statistics bear out: of the 20,600 previously existing secondary schools only 1,345 still conduct instruction in Russian. In Kyiv, for example, only six out of the 3,550 schools remain where Russian speech can still be heard. Much-warranted concern was also expressed over Russian-speaking postsecondary teachers being dismissed everywhere and the ban imposed on the use of aids in the Russian language. Reasonable grievances were voiced that teachers of Russian language and literature receive lower pay than their colleagues – teachers of Ukrainian and foreign languages and so on.
Unfortunately, the above facts are only a fraction of what is actually happening with the “erosion” of Russian in Ukraine, which is an object of rigid and massive administrative pressure. In this regard, one can point to the measures for ousting Russian from television and radio broadcasts, the Ukrainianization of film distribution, conversion of the higher education system to Ukrainian, introduction of obligatory tests for school leavers in Ukrainian, reduction of the import of Russian books, use of Ukrainian only in passenger transport services, the order that dissertations be defended in the state (Ukrainian) language only, the calls to curb the informational “expansion” of foreign media (read Russian-language media and so on). As a result the authorities “have got what they wanted”: population literacy has sharply fallen, people knowing neither Ukrainian nor Russian resort to the so called surzhik, a mix of Ukrainian and Russian. All these awkward actions to de-Russify the cultural/humanitarian space have already placed Ukraine 67th in the world for population literacy.
The stubborn unwillingness of the supporters of speeded Ukrainianization to solve the problem of Russian on the basis of existing legislative and appropriate international acts leads to an alienation of a considerable part of the population from authority and creates a tense atmosphere in society, for nearly 50 percent of the population in Ukraine considers that the Russian language should be given special status. But Kyiv, it seems, does not hear the voice of the people. Prosecutor’s offices even appeal against the decisions of regional councils of southeastern regions to grant to Russian the status of regional language in accordance with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, ratified by Ukraine. As was stressed at the forum, power structures have adopted the Charter for its “external use” only.
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