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Friday, January 11, 2008

Chauvinists still bullying Ukrainian-language rights advocates

Some uni-linguists referred to in an earlier post are not happy about the renaissance of the Ukrainian language in Ukraine. And according to this article on the Ukrainian human rights website Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (which was attacked by hackers last month), those uni-linguists are trying to turn back the hands of time...

You have to marvel at the zeal of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Less than a month after their last response to events in Ukraine falsely accused a man of ... inciting ethnic and racial enmity ... one might admittedly have hoped for a little more attention to detail. ...

The judgment by Ukraine’s Constitutional Court which has so disturbed the Ministry ... made it compulsory for all films being released on the Ukrainian market (including those in Russian) to have subtitles or dubbing in the State language (i.e. Ukrainian). The Russian Ministry believes this to be “yet another confirmation of the lack of will by the Ukrainian authorities to fully and conscientiously implement their international commitments. ...

Well now. What civilized country would demand another sovereign country justify the official status of its native language? Certainly, any country that would use such blatant intimidation tactics and falsely accuse its neighbour could hardly be called civilized.

So here we have Russian language chauvinists claiming that their rights are supposedly being violated. How disingenous. They know very well there is no threat to the Russian language in Ukraine ... just to its previous dominance. But of course it would be bad optics to fight for the latter, wouldn't it?

A journey by public transport in Kyiv for example, Ukraine’s capital city, will assuage all concerns about the threatened position of the Russian language. It is much more disturbing how seldom one hears Ukrainian being spoken. ... The considerable number of people using the Russian language in their daily life makes it difficult not to treat claims that Russian speakers are discriminated against with scepticism.

Indeed. And as usual, the "little" guys have had to take things into their own hands.

...In late 2006, film distributors refused to fulfil quotas for dubbing in Ukrainian rather than Russian, claiming that it was not financially viable for them. After the Cabinet of Ministers failed to take any measures to ensure that the laws were adhered to, a civic initiative arose. Within months a very large number of people had pledged to boycott any films dubbed in Russian rather than Ukrainian.

That show of solidarity in support of the Ukrainian language no doubt angers (and threatens) Russophile uni-linguiusts.

Yet why allowing the Ukrainian language in Ukraine would be anathema to anyone is incomprehensible to me. After all, no one outside Ukraine's borders is forcing Ukrainian down anyone's throat. (Well ok, a few of my non-Ukrainian in-laws might contradict me on that, but that's another story!)

But really, this ongoing attack on the Ukrainian language reflects a centuries-old streak of enduring mean-spiritedness. It would be so refreshing to see it finally stop. Not that I'm holding my breath, tho. (Sigh.)

You can read the whole article on the shameful shenanigans of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.


Anonymous said...

Empires die hard, and the Russians just can't accept the loss of Ukraine. All these pompous statements about "persecution" of Russian-speakers [ha,sure...] in the "near abroad" just deflects from the problems within Russia. And what about their treatment of minorities within their own still-empire? And the Russian part of Asia, Siberia, Central Asia -- invaded during tsarist times -- those nations never had a chance. Some have lost their culture and language long ago. I'm sure the Russians know that Ukrainians are not Russian, but they don't want to accept it. Whenever I go to Ukraine, hearing the Russian language spoken bothers me, because I know most of those people are Ukrainian, but have grown up with Russian, and with being indoctrinated with the sense that Russian is "more prestigious," has more status, and all that. If they just thought about how lovely Ukrainian is. And even if it were not lovely, it would still be the native "ridna" language, the one to respect -- and -- in today's times, revive.

Dan Carkner said...

Ah, is it at all comparable to English speakers in Quebec? I'm interested in issues like this (of minority languages) but I wouldn't want wade into this situation that I know nothing about.

Pawlina said...

Yes, Ukrainian is indeed a beautiful language. So rich and expressive.

In fact, it's been said that Ukrainian is the world's second most beautiful language, after Italian. I couldn't find a definitive article saying so anywhere, but I recall a language instructor at Ukrainian camp saying that. As well, I came across a reference to it here.

Pawlina said...

Dan, living out here in Lotusland and not being French myself, I'm somewhat hesitant to comment on the language issue in Quebec.

But I would think a closer parallel there would be the native, i.e., aboriginal languages rather than French or English.

Although the heavy-handed approach of the Bloc/Parti Quebecois towards the English language certainly resembles (albeit in a very small way) that used by imperial and soviet Russia toward Ukrainian, as well as by pre-communist Poland in western Ukraine and during the era of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

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