Demonstration against the Russification of Ukraine, Kyiv, November 9, 2016
The DNR (“Donetsk People’s Republic”) authorities have organized mass courses on “Russian language and literature” in occupied Donetsk. The teachers of Ukrainian who have remained in the occupied territory are attending these courses, which are taught by teachers of Russian. Students and teachers report that local schools have stopped practically all teaching of Ukrainian. Therefore, the teachers of Ukrainian have no choice except to retrain for teaching Russian. Why is the Donetsk occupying administration destroying the Ukrainian language in education?
In 2017 the so-called government of the DNR has ordered that the teachers of Ukrainian language and literature who have remained in the occupied territory must undergo training in teaching Russian language and literature. If they refuse, they will be forced to look for another job. According to Victoria (name changed for her safety), a teacher of Ukrainian from Donetsk, the teachers who want to continue to work in schools have no other choice than to attend these courses.
“In the former Institute of Postgraduate Teacher Education (the name has been changed to Republican Institute or something similar — Ed.) the former teachers of Ukrainian are undergoing retraining. They receive diplomas with the DNR stamp and then have to right to teach Russian. The teaching of Russian in the seventh grade lasts 6 hours, and Ukrainian 30 minutes. This is why teachers are taking these courses to avoid losing their job,” she explains.
According to Victoria, conflicts of an ideological nature take place during these so-called courses.
“They clash with the teachers from the departments of Russian language and literature on ideological grounds. After all, (the Russian language teachers) say that Ukraine does not exist as a state, that Ukrainian literature and folklore are something inferior,” Victoria reports.
According to the declaration by the so-called DNR “Ministry of Education,” the first group of 120 people have already started the preliminary training. Two additional similar groups are planned. Earlier, Larysa Poliakova, the so-called “minister of education,” stated that the Ukrainian language has been removed from exams in the occupied territory.
It is interesting that the DNR group has declared that there are two “official languages” in the territory under its control : Russian and Ukrainian. The reality, however, is that the Ukrainian language has been ousted from all spheres of life.
Russia is continuing its imperial practices on language
Yevhen Dykyi, a researcher from the International Democracy Institute, believes that what is happening is a continuation of the Russian imperial policy that has prevailed for centuries.
“This is a continuation of the experience dating still from the Valuev Ukaz (secret 1863 decree forbidding most publications in the Ukrainian language — Ed.) and the Ems Ukaz (secret 1876 decree from Tsar Alexander II banning the use of Ukrainian language in print and on the stage and the import of Ukrainian publications — Ed.),” he said. “Let’s not forget the Stalinist Russification and the wave of Russification carried out by Comrade Shcherbytskyi (leader of the Communist Party of Ukraine from 1972 to 1989 — Ed.). Let’s begin with the assumption that the DNR-LNR government does not exist. This must be clearly understood. Everything that happens in this territory is done under the direct orders or with the approval of the Kremlin. We are actually discussing Russian policy in the occupied territories. Before the New Year, one of the spokesmen for the Kremlin, who expresses ideas that the Russian leadership hesitates to state openly, talked about plans to divide Ukraine into Ukraine and Novorossiya. In Novorossiya the use of Ukrainian is to be banned completely, ” he said.
According to Dykyi, Ukrainian, as the language self-identification, allows Ukraine to stand out as a separate state and Ukrainians as a separate nation.
“The far-reaching consequences that Russia wants to achieve are obvious. But let us understand clearly that as long as the Ukrainian language exists, there is a chance that we will exist as a nation in all other respects. If the name Ukraine remains but with the Russian language, then we are simply ‘slightly different Russians.’ The existence of Ukrainians as a separate nation does not fit the imperial Russian model,” he concludes.
However, Dykyi believes that Donbas will be liberated before the consequences of this Russian policy become critical.
Ivan Lozovyi, the founder of the Committee for the Protection of the Ukrainian Language, thinks that these developments demonstrate the importance of the language issue.
“You can see what the enemy is doing. They are eliminating the Ukrainian language from those places where it hardly exists. For what purpose? To solidify their positions there. From the Russian perspective, this is absolutely logical. In this case, Ukraine must learn from the occupational administration. Using different methods, it is still necessary to carry out the Ukrainization of Ukraine itself,” he concludes.