Disputes on the language issue continue. The law on languages adopted last year did not meet understanding among the opposition, the intellectuals and ordinary people. For this, in October 2012, President Viktor Yanukovych formed a working group and charged it with developing a new version of the law. But the results did not satisfy the author of the original law Vadym Kolesnikov, who declared that the developed amendments nullify the very law. The document, however, has not been considered by the parliament yet. Meantime, in February the President declared in an interview that the language legislation requires improvement. 

Meanwhile, MP of "Freedom" (Svoboda) union Iryna Farion jointly with Volodymyr Yavoryvski, Maria Matios, Volodymyr Bondarenko and Andriy Ilyenko have worked out their own version of the law. According to the document, "any other language being used in Ukraine apart from Ukrainian as the state language must be considered a foreign language." The draft bill also stipulates that state officials, as well the President, MPs, judges, lawyers and notaries must pass an exam in the Ukrainian language. Moreover, applicants for Ukrainian citizenship also must take a language test. The document provides for creation of a National commission on state language and a service of language inspectors, as well as introduction of the language ombudsman position to observe the law. The authors of the draft bill also propose to impose fines for noncompliance with the law norms. For violation of the Ukrainian language usage at cultural or sport events, for example, the document provides for a 5100-6800 hryvnias of fine.

Do Ukrainians really need such strict norms of language policy? To answer the question ForUm addressed MPs, sociologists, philosophers and political scientists.

Iryna Bekeshkina, director of "Democratic initiatives" fund:

- This draft bill is opposite to the law on languages by Kolesnichenko and Kivalov. Firstly, it will not be adopted because the opposition does not have a majority in the parliament. This initiative is aimed at voters from Galychyna. Secondly, even if the draft bill is adopted (which is hardly possibly), it will face the same fate as the previous law - it will not be observed. Even on the parliament, the legislative branch of power, MPs speak Russian and nobody can do anything about it. The language issue must be solved delicately and evolutionally, I'd say.

Moreover, both Russian and Ukrainian speaking citizens did not bother much about this issue until the politicians turned it into a problem. I repeatedly held trainings for journalists in Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk, and all my classes were in Ukrainian, but it did not cause any discomfort for people. I don't think that the language issue is a problem.

Being a philologist, Iryna Farion, as any other specialist, believes that her subject is the most important in the world. May be for this reason she joined the dispute. On the other hand, the language issue is important for some politicians, especially on the eve of elections and when they do not have other to offer. For this, to earn people's trust they bring on such discussions.

Andriy Parubiy, MP (Batkivchshyna), chairman of the parliamentary subcommittee on legal provision of Ukraine's integration into the international scientific and educational standards:

- The current law on languages must be cancelled, as it was adopted with violations and some of its norms contradict the Constitution.

One of the principle innovations of the new draft bill on languages is a norm on obligatory test in Ukrainian for state officials. There is nothing wrong with such norm. In fact, such norm is obligatory for every state in the world.

By the way, in the parliament of preceding convocation I submitted similar draft bill, but it failed to collect necessary number of votes. That's why, today I welcome this initiative, because I believe it is important for state officials to speak state language.

Vadym Kolesnichenko, MP (Party of Regions):

- There is no need to consider this draft bill from legal point of view. I believe we should directly call a psychiatrist to establish whether this person (author of the draft bill - ed.) is a danger for society or can be treated outpatiently. When there is no understanding of Ukraine's structure, it is easy to find enemies of the country, who do not speak the state language.

When the current law on languages was submitted for consideration, the recommendations of the Venice Commission and scientific institutions were ignored. For this I submitted the draft bill again to make some correction.

And now tell me, has this law split Ukraine? Has it caused budget losses? No. In my opinion, people do not even notice that the law exists and nobody goes out in the streets with hayforks. It means that the problem is not the law itself, but certain people, who try to use it for splitting the society.

Volodymyr Fecenko, political expert, head of "Penta" political research center:

- In my opinion, this draft bill is another extreme. While Kivalov-Kolesnichenko law expands the sphere of application status of national minority languages, the given draft bill gives reasons to speak about artificial and forceful Ukrainization.

Moreover, this draft bill plays into the hands of those political forces, which draw on Russian speaking population. It is a good ground for them to speak about offence of nationalists. On the other hand, this draft bill strengthens the positions of the Kivalov-Kolesnichenko law, as it has not chances to be adopted. Firstly, the opposition does not have enough votes. Secondly, equaling the Russian language with a foreign one may be taken by many Ukrainian citizens as an insult.

On one hand, this draft bill is aimed at those voters who believe the Ukrainian language is being suppressed. On the other hand, the same draft bill works in favor of those political forces, which intend to play the nationalist card.

The only thing I do not understand is what UDAR party is doing in the middle of it.

Viktor Nebozhenko, political scientist, director of the sociological service "Ukrainian barometer":

- This draft bill is not a desire to help the country to master the culture, but a fight for power. Iryna Farion does not try to make a difference for Ukrainian culture, but plays off Ukrainian speaking citizens against Russian speaking, and she understands this. This initiative is pure politics.

Moreover, "Freedom" (Svoboda) union has offered Crimea as a place to hold a referendum not occasionally. It will embitter conflict between the central and local authorities. Farion is working for destabilization. Such people were very popular in 90ies, but almost disappeared by 1995. Farion inures to benefit of someone, and I think she will have followers soon.

Mustafa Jemilyov, MP (Our Ukraine faction), head of Crimean-Tatar Majlis:

- I cannot comment on this draft bill because I have not heard about it. However, Ukrainian must be the only state language, while Russia should be on a par with such languages as Crimean-Tatar or Gagauz, for example.   

Myroslav Popovych, Ph.D., director of the Philosophy Institute of Ukraine's Academy of Sciences:

- This draft bill is such nonsense, that it is not worth being discussed. I don't think Iryna Farion expects her draft bill to be adopted. Most probably, it is a way to tease the public. However, such attempts only hurt the Ukrainization process. Indeed, it is a problem when the nation does not speak its national language. But such measures, as the given draft bill, may repel those Ukrainians, who just started to learn the language, let alone those citizens who speak and will continue speaking Russian, learn at mother's knees. This issue must be taken seriously. Unrealistic ad absurd discussions will do no good.     


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