Friday, February 09, 2007

Ukraine's linguistic battle continues to divide

Ukraine continues to be divided over the issue of language.

An issue that is in the forefront of Ukrainian ultra-nationalist's political agenda. An issue that if left alone would resolve itself. There are far more important issues that confront Ukraine and linguistics is the least of them all.

Yes Ukrainian should be taught in Schools and no one objects to it being the official language, but does it need to be the only language that is used or allowed?

Victor Yuschenko, only this week, called upon the Government to impose the requirement that Cinemas in Ukrainian must be dubbed in Ukrainian.

There is nothing worst then listening to a poor voice over dubbing of Ukrainian over a Russian speaking movie. In fact it is arguable that all voice over movies should be banned and replaced with subtitles if only for the viewers enjoyment. Freedom from bad quality voice overs.

Technology is such that consumers can be offered a choice of language. The market and consumers should be able to decide what movies and in what language they want to watch.

Government should not be regulating of interfering in the creative arts. Any decision related which languages is used should be that of the director/producer or distributor not the state. In a free society consumers should have the right to choose. The Government should encourage not dictate.

Language itself is a living entity. It changes over time with exposure to new culture, technology and common use.

English today is not the English that was first published in the King James version of the Bible or used by Shakespeare. Even in Ukraine there is a blend of Ukrainian/Russian that is commonly in use. The purest from of Ukrainian spoken today is in the Poltava Region. Lviv is a blend of Polish and Western Ukraine has a Hutzal/ Hungarian flavour. Modern day English words are also being adopted as technology and the English language begins to permeate through the country. History shows that the French, Swedish and Germans have all contributed their bit in the development of modern Ukrainian.

The former Austrian/Hungarian empire has a policy where each region could use their common local language and they did not try and impose a state language. That changed of course with the rule of the Czars and the former Soviet Union. Russian was imposed on the Ukraine, and we do not support that policy either. But the fact remains that there is a significant proportion of the Ukrainian in population that want to continue to speak their mother tongue, being Russian, and go about their day to day official business using a language that they understand. Many Ukrainian/Russian Speakers can of course understand Ukrainian but some can not. I can not understand Scottish at time if the accent is strong.

The sooner Ukraine can put this issue to rest, the sooner they adopt multiple languages (as exists in Ireland, Switzerland and Canada) the sooner Ukraine can begin to consider other issues more important, the sooner they can unite as one nation. Ukraine's greatest strength is its diversity and history of various cultures.


Extract from Ukraine's constitution.

Article 10

The state language of Ukraine is the Ukrainian language. (Editors note: It does not mention Sole Langauge as incorrectly referred to in the Kyiv Post article below)

The State ensures the comprehensive development and functioning of the Ukrainian language in all spheres of social life throughout the entire territory of Ukraine.

In Ukraine, the free development, use and protection of Russian, and other languages of national minorities of Ukraine, is guaranteed.

The State promotes the learning of languages of international communication.

The use of languages in Ukraine is guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine and is determined by law.

Article 11

The State promotes the consolidation and development of the Ukrainian nation, of its historical consciousness, traditions and culture, and also the development of the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity of all indigenous peoples and national minorities of Ukraine.

Article 24

Citizens have equal constitutional rights and freedoms and are equal before the law.

There shall be no privileges or restrictions based on race, colour of skin, political, religious and other beliefs, sex, ethnic and social origin, property status, place of residence, linguistic or other characteristics.

Article 92

The following are determined exclusively by the laws of Ukraine:..

4) the procedure for the use of languages;

Local court restores special status for Russian language in Ukrainian eastern city

Source: Kyiv Post Feb 07 2007, 14:48

KYIV (AP) - A local appeals court has restored a special status for the Russian language in an eastern city in Ukraine, officials said Wednesday.

The city council in Kharkiv voted in March to make Russian a regional language, allowing it to be used together with Ukrainian in state and public institutions as well as at universities and cultural institutions.

Local prosecutors filed a lawsuit against the decision and won the case in court. But the city council challenged the decision at the local appeals court.

The Constitution adopted by Ukraine following the 1991 Soviet collapse declared Ukrainian as the sole state language, but many Ukrainians, particularly in the east and on the southern Crimean Peninsula, consider Russian to be their native tongue.

Six regional governments and nine city councils in the east and south last year granted Russian special status – decisions that were heavily criticized by President Viktor Yushchenko.

The Party of the Regions, whose leader, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, enjoys strong support in the east and south, campaigned in elections last year on a promise to make Russian a second state language.