Russian-speakers having problems with Ukrainian language more myth than reality, poll reveals

Photo from the pro-Ukrainian unity protest in Donetsk held on 4 March on 2014 by day.kyiv.ua

Photo from the pro-Ukrainian unity protest in Donetsk held on 4 March on 2014 by day.kyiv.ua 

Analysis & Opinion

Russian politicians and pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine love the myth that the Ukrainian language is a big problem for people living in southeastern Ukraine. After the country turned westward following the Euromaidan revolution, Russian President Vladimir Putin considered the protection of Russian speakers an adequate reason for invading Ukraine, leading some Ukrainians to urge to switch to Ukrainian as protection for Russian aggression. Even now, pro-Russian forces continue to exploit this myth, which sometimes spills out to western media. A new report by the Institute of Mass Information suggests that the language question is not as important to the population of southeastern Ukraine as politicians would like their electorate to believe.

A law imperiling the Ukrainian language led people to protest in 2012 at the so-called Language Maidan. Photo: snapshot from video

The question of what status the Ukrainian and Russian languages should have in Ukraine was (and still is) a traditional topic for political manipulations. The idea that there is a real problem in this regard was imposed upon the population.

For example in 2012, the legislation which allowed regions with over 10% of national minorities to have a second official language was introduced. This policy endangered the Ukrainian language, which underwent something called a “linguicide” over the 200+ years Ukraine was governed by empires as a result of which its role in southeast Ukraine is marginalized, having been replaced by Russian, and provoked protests, including the so-called Language Maidan.

Read also: A short guide to the linguicide of the Ukrainian language | Infographics

After the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, a bill was passed to abolish this scandalous language legislation. However, it was not signed and is still in place. According to the data of activists, in the 5 years since the law was adopted, the number of citizens speaking Ukrainian decreased by 1 million.

The culmination of this situation took place in 2014 when the Kremlin used this imposed problem as an argument for justifying its crimes – the creation of fake republics and initiation of the war in Donbas in territories that are predominantly Russian-speaking.

Recent research of the Center for Eastern European and International Studies, ZOiS, reveals that roughly one-half the populiving living in the government-controlled territories of Donbas consider Russian as their native language, and almost 60% of respondents on the territories of the self-proclaimed republics of “DNR” and “LNR” consider Russian as native. Interestingly, there are more people who consider both Ukrainian and Russian as their native languages in the Donbas “republics,” more than in the government-controlled territories.

But do people in southeastern Ukraine have problems with Ukrainian? Do they understand it?

Over 80% feel no discomfort regarding the Ukrainian language

Languages spoken at home in Ukraine's southeast. Image: IMI 2016 report

Languages spoken at home in Ukraine’s southeast. Image: IMI 2016 report

Research by the Institute of Mass Information reveals that over 80% of residents of these parts of Ukraine feel absolutely or rather comfortable when they speak (81%), hear (89%), or read the Ukrainian language (85%). Moreover, about one-fifth of them support taking measures to counter the dominant position of the Russian language in Ukraine.

Overall, for six of the oblasts where two waves of surveys were held, consumption of purely Russian-language media went down by 6% over the last year. In 2016, 61% of the surveyed Internet users most often used the purely Russian-language websites, and now their share constitutes 55%.

Most often, consumers of mass media in the eight surveyed oblasts consume both Russian-language and Ukrainian-language radio stations (64%) and TV channels (74%), and among online media outlets and press, the Russian-language ones are used by the majority of the surveyed (53 and 42% respectively).

As to the regional peculiarities, the largest share of consumers of purely Ukrainian-language TV programs was found in Kherson (16%) and Dnipropetrovsk (15%) oblasts. The lowest share was observed in Donetsk (1%) and Odesa oblasts (4%).

The survey was conducted in January-March of 2017 in eight oblasts of Southeast Ukraine (Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolayiv, Kherson, and Odesa oblasts, the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts under control of the Ukrainian government). The survey covered 15,103 respondents.

Geographic scope of the survey. Image: IMI report, edited by Euromaidan Press

Geographic scope of the survey. Image: IMI report, edited by Euromaidan Press

This information is important because since last year Ukraine started to work more actively on its language policy. In Autumn 2016, legislation was adopted which foresaw that the share of Ukrainian songs on the radio will gradually grow to 35% in 3 years, and the amount of programs in Ukrainian – to 60%.

Also in May 2017, Ukrainian Parliament introduced legislation for TV according to which 75% of programs and films in national and regional channels should be in Ukrainian, for local channels the share is 60%, for the newscasts the share is also 75%.

The fact that there are more people who feel comfortable with Ukrainian than those who consider it their native language in these regions suggests that the problem of the Ukrainian language in Donbas has been imposed. This issue was exploited by politicians for so long that now it’s hard to separate the core of the problem from its political innuendo. And as long as certain political forces will use it as a political argument, it will remain a problem.

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  • Ihor Dawydiak

    Although it was never his intention, Putin the Pederast has done more damage to the Russian language and culture in Ukraine than all of his Russian and pro Russian predecessors since the mid 17th century combined. Why? He let the genie (Ukrainian linguistic, cultural, political and patriotic awareness) out of the bottle and try as he might, he will never (or his successors) be able to seal it up again. It should also be noted that although the temporary seizures of Eastern Donbas and Crimea may be viewed as setbacks, the process of Ukrainization as well as Ukraine’s gradual full integration with the European Family of Nations is inevitable. As for Russia’s infamous midget, he and his most avid followers have preordained themselves to the trash heap of history.

    • Andrew Chmile

      Ukrainization is NOT your LYING fookin’ Ruski MOLE business you disgusting faqqot!

      • Quartermaster

        If there’s a mole here, it’s you.

        • Andrew Chmile

          Ah!
          A Ruski POS!
          What a surprise! 😉

        • Andrew Chmile

          So YOU are pretending to be “concerned” for the Ukrainian language in Ukraine now? :)))

  • zorbatheturk

    Many countries run on multiple language models: Switzerland, Finland, India, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Canada, and more. Language does not need to be made into a political issue.

    • Andrew Chmile

      It does in Ukraine with Russo-mongolians around!

      • zorbatheturk

        RuSzsians are linguistic imperialists.

    • Andrew Chmile

      Look at all the MOLES & SUCKERS pushing for Russian here!
      AND THE RUSKI ARE INVADING THE COUNTRY!!!

      YOU ALL FK’ED UP!

    • Andrew Chmile

      “Many countries run on multiple language models”

      BUT RUSSIA DOES NOT!!!

      & THE RUSSIAN *FEDERATION* HAS 118 (or more) DIFFERENT NATIONALITIES!!!

      MOST NATIONS — MAINTAIN ONE **OFFICIAL** LANGUAGE — for governmental. educational, etc… purposes.

      Like the BALTIC NATIONS DO!

      The MOST successful, ex-Soviet group BTW …. not like Ukraine!

    • Andrew Chmile

      “Many countries run on multiple language models: Switzerland, Finland,
      India, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Canada, and more. Language
      does not need to be made into a political issue.”

      So tell that to the scumbag Russo-mongolians!

      “GENOCIDE OF RUSSIAN SPEAKERS!!!!
      A-A-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-E-E-E-E-eeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!”

      :))))))))

  • Andrew Chmile

    This article STUPIDLY & most DELIBERATELY ignores the Russification issues in Ukraine.

    One of which is the number & volume of Ruski language books & periodicals in Ukraine by percentage.

    The LYING so-called “!0%” as per above in the article? — WHO DOE THE COUNTING?

    3% becomes 10 & more %.

    SCHOOLS BECOME RUSSIAN AS THE LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION!

    The Baltic Nations performed the right actions to reverse successfully the Russification.of their nations.

    Cheesy BS “it’s all good” sloppy articles like the above, along with the LYING of Ruski **MOLES** & intellectually stunted Ukrainians does NOT change the reality of the increasing Russification of Ukraine.

  • veth

    Speaking Ukrainian in DPR ans LPR is banned!

    • Andrew Chmile

      The “Ruski language defenders” AND RUSKI **MOLES** seem to prefer ignoring that. — SCUMBAGS!!!

  • David Malkin

    I disagree with the author of this article. The language bill that granted the Russian language legal status in several regions and Crimea is not scandalous at all. It is a basic human right to speak your native language. Southeastern Ukrainians have always used Russian as their first language, and attempts to force the Ukrainian language on them will only alienate them from the Ukrainian language.

    In fact, all the Ukrainian parliament members that voted to repeal the 2012 language law should be responsible for the loss of Crimea and Donbass territories. By doing so, they played right into the hands of Russian propaganda, as they were able to claim that the rights of Russian Speaking Ukrainians were violated.

    In my opinion the only way that Ukraine will ever get Crimea and Donbass back is if it will become a officially bilingual country.

    Just from watching Shuster Live, you can tell that many of the most patriotic Ukrainians are the one who speak Russian. Many Ukrainian politicians are speaking Ukrainian in front of the camera, but in all their private matters they Speak Russian. I think that’s why this war over language is pointless.

    • Brent

      A very interesting contradiction in your comments
      >it is a basic human right to speak your NATIVE language
      >Southeastern Ukrainians have always used Russian as their FIRST language

      Do you understand the difference between “Native” and “First”?

      Ukrainians have had the Russian language forced on them by various Russian overlords for centuries going back to the times of Catherine the Great and through the communist rule of Muscovy. Ukrainians were not given the choice the choice then that you yourself admit is their basic human right. Yet now when the government of Ukraine promotes the use of the Ukrainian language, AND HAS NEVER BANNED RUSSIAN as Putin tried to claim, you seem to be claiming Ukraine is at fault.

      The only “war” over languages was commenced by Putin who vowed to come and “protect Russian speakers” then proceeded to kill over 10,000 of them. The promotion of the Ukrainian language is not a “war”. It is up to Ukrainians to decide and so far Putin has done more to alienate them than to come and “protect them” and they are also choosing their Ukrainian traditions AND language more and more.

      • Ihor Dawydiak

        Very well stated, Brent.

      • David Malkin

        I don’t think it is bad to promote Ukrainian language.

        What bothers me is the fact that most of the so called Ukrainian politicians are fake. They ‘promote’ the Ukrainian language, constantly speak it in public. However, in private they speak Russian.

        Also, many Ukrainian nationalists equate speaking Russian in Ukraine as being unpatriotic. Russia does not have ‘exclusive’ rights on the Russian language. The Russian language started in Ukraine and it is part of the Ukrainian culture.

        Also, lets say in the future Crimea and Donbass will return back to Ukraine, which will shift the pro Russian language demographics. Same thing could happen as before, a party like Party of Regions can get elected and make Russian as a second official language in Ukraine.

        • Andrew Chmile

          Didn’t you say you can speak whatever language you wanna? :)

          So in UKRAINIAN SCHOOLS & IN GOVERNMENT — SPEAK UKRAINIAN!

          Ruski speak “ANGLISH” in NYC …. badly but ….. :)

        • gmab

          Russian did not start in Ukraine and it is not part of Ukrainian culture. How can that be when Ukrainian is quite a few centuries older than Russian? Russian language is mixed with alot of mongolian words that are foreign to us. 75% + of children in Ukraine didn’t learn Russian until they were forced to in school. The Ukrainian diaspora is proof that Russian was never part of their culture.

          • David Malkin

            In the last 100 years, when did the majority of the people in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk or Odessa speak Ukrainian as their first language?

            Many from Ukrainian diaspora immigrated from west Ukraine, so of course they did not have Russian as part of their culture. However, many who immigrated from Ukraine since the collapse of Soviet Union, immigrated from South East Ukraine and most speak Russian.

            ‘gmab’, people like you are very short sighted, and although they think that they have good intentions, in fact they don’t work for the long term interest of Ukraine. During the cold war, Americans and British had radio shows that were transmitted in Soviet Union to tell the people the truth about their regime. All recent attempts to remove the Russian language from Ukrainian news and political shows don’t help. Shows like Shuster Live, which many people in Crimea, Donbass Russia were able to watch on the internet and hear the other side were very important defense tool against the information war from Russia. Even in countries like Latvia and Estonia, the government funds local TV in Russian language to fight the disinformation war. By stopping communicating in Russian language to Crimea and Donbass, Ukraine is only alienating the local populations.

          • gmab

            I consider your “first” language being what you spoke at home before being russified in school. Last 100 years the vast majority spoke Ukrainian as their ethnic (first) language. In fact, Donetsk & Luhansk were solely Ukrainian. It was not until Stalin killed off the vast majority of Ukrainians in Eastern Ukraine during the Holodomor that Russians were relocated by Stalin in the late 30s, early 40s to occupy the vacant territory in Urkaine’s East. A large number of Ukrainians from all regions (not the west which was under Polish rule) before WW1 settled abroad as well as the 2nd wave after WW1. Orthodox churches built in early 1900s is proof of that. WW2 saw more of the western Ukrainians (predominantly Ukrainian Catholic) settle elsewhere to do as their fellow Central & Eastern Ukrainians did before them, to escape living under Russian rule. Ukr Catholics churces being built in late 50s & early 60s. Nowhere in Ukraine have they banned the Russian language as you say, unlike in the terrorists’ republics where Ukrainian is banned 100%. Increasing exposure to Ukrainian programming is not eliminating ruski language. It does not make sense to be educated in the native tongue and not have access to it via news & entertainment. Having a minority language serve as the prominent language does not serve Ukraine’s short or long term aspirations. BTW, the language issue was never the issue for the war & occupation otherwise Putler would have invaded Khazakstan, Tajikistan & others by now. It, as has been unravelled over the past 3 yrs, is merely a cover/excuse for Putler’s paranoia about NATO and of course, his imperialistic ambitions regarding the former empire & soviet occupied terrorities.

          • Dale Davies

            Well said and true. Many of the descendants of Ukrainians that fled to N. America do not speak or understand a word of Ukrainian. The stories of how bad the situation in Ukraine was has left a bad taste in their soul. Many have absolutely no intetest in visiting and touring their “mother country” due to this. Unfortunately they have the opinion Ukraine is bad. This is false! The bad was thrust on Ukraine and Ukrainians then the same as Tzar Pootin of Mordor is working at now. His propaganda machine is working overtime to destroy Ukrainian credibility. Ukrainian people are excellent! It is Fuhrer Shorty the Shirtless and his regime of mafia thugs who need to be seen as they are.
            It is also just a matter of time before the Buffoon Tycoon is impeached over his Pootlerstan connections he is trying desperately to bury. Gen Flynn Flamm’s affiliations with Pootlerstan will be another hand grenade up his rectum as information comes out. Both are due to have the manure hit them!

          • http://www.hawthornehotel.com/ NotFabio

            “75% + of children in Ukraine didn’t learn Russian until they were forced to in school.”
            You’ve got it all backwards. Eastern “Ukraine” was not part of Ukraine until 1922, when Lenin decided to create an artificial “Ukrainian Republic” within USSR. People there never spoke Ukrainian in the first place, until their children were forced to in school. Ukrainian is 60% Polish (Google it) which was in wide use in Western Ukraine. Until the 20th century, people in the East not only did not speak such a language, they didn’t even know what the term “Ukrainian” meant.

          • gmab

            LOL

          • Andrew Chmile

            Russo-mongolian TROLL!!!

            You don’t know anything! :)))

        • Dale Davies

          Brent is correct in stating that Russian language has been forced on Ukrainians for centuries. Forced relocations and Holodomir brought Russian citizens in to replace Ukrainian farmers.
          Regarding politicians; on the street most people are fluent in both languages and sometimes use both in one sentence.
          Ukrainian was a language at a time when Muscovy was just a bathroom and dinner break along the Muscovy River.

          • David Malkin

            Many Russian citizens were relocated to Ukraine, and they did not have much choice in that. It is the same situation as in Latvia and Estonia where over 25% of the population are Russians.

            Consequently, many Ukrainians are in fact ethnic Russians or half Russian half Ukrainian. People who live in Crimea and South East Ukraine, prefer to use the Russian language.

            If Ukraine wants to be part of the European union it should also accept the fact that it will be required to respect minority language rights and accept lots of immigrants from the middle east.

          • Dale Davies

            I think the question of language rights has been decided, at least for now. Media will be majority Ukrainian language. In personal life people can and have been using what they are comfortable with. Local media can publish in language of choice.
            As to the point of EU membership: my personal recommendation is to hold position at Association Agreement which a few countries are at. This puts some requirements on Ukraine especially in the areas of corruption and fair and open business practices. I believe they still can control immigration as they desire. As demonstrated in Europe these last couple of years, many countries are starting to kick back against forced quotas from Brussels. Brexit is the first indication of Brussels refusal to discuss the matter and more countries will start to have exit referundums if Brussels digs their heels in. It would be in Ukraine’s interest to make changes in laws in the direction of and to comply with membership standards without persueing membership. Take a wait and see position to find out where the chips will fall as the situation stands now. No sense persueing membership until you find out if and how nad the buffalo chips hit the fan. It appears at this time both sides of Brexit are digging in and the chit is being flung. That includes the exit and remain supporters as well as the Brussels crowd. Don’t stand too close or the spray will get you!

          • gmab

            Ukraine does respect minority language rights. Just like European countries, former soviet countries or not, their ethnic language is the prominent language for business, education & government business. Once Ukraine is well-established and confident they will legalize English as their 2nd language as their long term goal. Ukraine took almost 2 million refugees from their East & Tatars from Crimea. I doubt they would be forced to accept more immigrants into a devastated war torn country for quite some time to come.

          • http://www.hawthornehotel.com/ NotFabio

            @ gmab
            “Ukraine took almost 2 million refugees from their East & Tatars from Crimea.” – can I have the source for these numbers???
            Last time I checked, 4 million Ukrainians have moved to Russia, and 1.5 million to Poland. No one runs from Crimea.

          • gmab

            LOL-Do you read only RT?

          • http://www.hawthornehotel.com/ NotFabio
        • Andrew Chmile

          “The Russian language started in Ukraine and it is part of the Ukrainian culture.”

          NOPE!!!
          You are a STUPID Russo-mongolian!

          The *UKRAINIAN* language started in Ukraine! — NOT Russian…

          Ruski are a B@STARD mix of Finno-Ugric mongoloidols …. speaking mongolic languages & the *ARTIFICIAL* “Church Slovanic”.

          You are very ignorant & uneducated & brainwashed.
          “STUPID” in short!

          A Russian ANIMAL!

      • gmab

        Excellent response. My elderly Aunt told me recently after I asked what her opinion was on the language issue. She said, “her language & culture are a part of who I am & always have been. Imagine being spit on, refused service in shops & clinics when I spoke my choice of Ukrainian language in my own country only a few years ago. I feel whole now, not a “dirty, stupid Ukr” like I was called to my face in Kyiv. I respect all languages but I am happy to openly speak mine now on the street with pride.” She still lives in Lviv where it isn’t a Cardinal sin to speak Ukrainian, Polish or Russian in public.

    • Andrew Chmile

      WHAT some LYING RUSSO-MONGOLIAN like you has for an “opinion”

      “David Malkin”
      https://disqus.com/by/disqus_A1EQ46i6J3/

      with a posting “history” of this ONE & ONLY post claims.
      is of no interest! :)

      Ruski TROLL …… SCUM !!!

    • Andrew Chmile

      “It is a basic human right to speak your native language.”

      So Y TF don’t you tell that to the filthy Russians? :)

      Thet are the ones BANNING Ukrainian (& BEATING YOU!!) in Ukraine in their BS Ruski communist “republics” — RIGHT? :)

    • Andrew Chmile

      So go speak Ruski in NYC & see how far you get? :)))

      Speak Ruski in SCHOOLS & see how far you get? :))

      Don’t like it? — THEN GO BACK TO FILTHY RUSSIA!!!

      The MORE Russian in a country — the MORE SH*T in a country!

      Baltic Nations are doing well with NO RUSKI in schools or government….

      Ruski is BAD!!! Stupid!! Evil!!! Dirty!! SH*T !!!

      http://euromaidanpress.com/2017/02/22/russias-war-against-the-ukrainian-language/#

  • Andrew Chmile

    The Ruski SCUMBAGS are the FIRST to SCREAM HYSTERICALLY about:

    “GENOCIDE OF RUSSIAN SPEAKERS!!!!
    A-A-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-E-E-E-E-eeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!”

    The Baltic Nation LANGUAGE LAWS WAY is the ONLY WAY to reverse Russification & the BEATINGS of people for speaking Ukrainian in Ukraine by the Russo-mongolian ANIMALS & SAVAGES.

    Look at all the MOLES & SUCKERS pushing for Russian here!
    AND THE RUSKI ARE INVADING THE COUNTRY!!!

  • Andrew Chmile