Moscow worried Russian ‘ceasing to be language of majority’ in Ukraine, Shchetkina says

A cartoon on the situation with languages in Ukraine cartoon.


2017/06/12 - 12:55 • Analysis & Opinion, Russia, Ukraine

The Kremlin isn’t pleased that the number of Ukrainians who use Russian is declining, but it if far more concerned with something else: the possibility even likelihood that “Russian too obviously is ceasing to be the language of the majority,” according to Kyiv commentator Kateryna Shchetkina.

That reflects its understanding of the way it can use the language issue against Ukraine not only now when Moscow’s actions have alienated many Ukrainians from all things Russian but in the future after the war is over and Moscow will again be better positioned to use its “soft power.”

Moscow’s position on language and Russians in Ukraine is something many Ukrainians do not fully understand, but to the extent they do, Shchetkina says, Ukrainians will see why changing their alphabet from the Cyrillic to the Latin script could ensure Ukraine will pass “the Lagrange limit” between Russia and Europe and become fully part of the latter.

Speaking at a recent Livadia conference, Russia’s education minister “expressed concern not so much about ‘the threat to the Russian language’ [in Ukraine] as to the sad fate of the Cyrillic alphabet from which one after another the former republics of the USSR have departed,” the Kyiv commentator says.

The minister’s words reflect a longer view than many are accustomed to adopting, she continues. “The problem of the reduction in the popularity of Russian is of course for them unpleasant, but in principle, it can be reversed. To love or not to love Russian culture, to read or not read Tolstoy is a political question.”

At present, Russia in Ukraine is “‘unpopular,’” Shchetkina points out. “But tomorrow, possibly, the situation will change.” And then Moscow will be able to recover its influence in Ukraine through the use of its numerous cultural channels. “Sometime the war will end,” and the larger country will seek to restore its dominance via other means.

Indeed, she says, “the return of Russian to the broad cultural spaces of the post-Soviet countries is completely possible: it is a question of time and a change of the political conjuncture.”

But until that happens, she says, “what is really important now in the language policy of Russia is not to permit ‘the Russian language population’ to be transformed into ‘a Russian diaspora.’ For Russia, at least with regards to Ukraine, a diaspora is a not terribly reliable level of pressure.”

Moscow fully understands this and that is why it spend so much time talking about “‘the Russian-language population’” of Ukraine. It “has never considered this population as a minority, let alone a diaspora.” Instead, the Russian regime does everything it can to blur the limits between Russian speakers and ethnicity.

“By defending ‘the Russian-language population,’” she says, Moscow pursues a variety of “hybrid goals,” not least of which is to suggest that Russia is intervening in Ukraine in support of what it views as “‘an oppressed majority,’” a conception that lends a certain patina of legitimacy to what Moscow is doing.

Consequently, Shchetkina says, “the problem of the Russian language in Ukraine from the point of view of Russia’s ruling clique is not the reduction in its use but that things be arranged so that Russian does not too obviously cease to be the language of the majority.” Thus, Moscow’s concern is about image rather than reality.

That is why Russian officials today are more concerned about maintaining or restoring the Cyrillic alphabet in the post-Soviet states than they are about the number of Russian speakers. The latter may go up or down, but the shift to Latin script marks a final break with a Moscow-centric world.

“From a political point of view, a shift from Cyrillic to the Latin script is an excellent move,” Shchetkina says. “It guarantees a rapid and radical break with Russia’s information space and its culture as a whole.” That is because “’the linguistic commonality’” of Ukrainian with Polish and Czech “is no less than with Russian.”

“But [Ukrainians today] read primarily Russian resources and not Polish ones. A transition to the Latin script would mean that already the next generation, raised on the Latin script would find it easier to read books, news, and social networks easier in Polish or even in English than in Russian.”

According to Shchetkina, “from the point of view of ‘a civilizational project,’ this shift would mark Ukraine’s escape from the orbit of the Russian empire and its move into the embrace of the Pax roman, the civilization formed by Latin.”

Obviously, there are and will be many arguments against such a move – including historical ones. But there is an overwhelming political one in favor: “we either will take radical measure [like this] or we will remain forever in ‘a united cultural space’ secured by ‘linguistic commonality.’”

Indeed, the Kyiv commentator says, “the alphabet can play here a key role, significantly more than the presence and number of ‘the Russian-language population.’” Ukrainian and Russian are too similar if they use the same alphabet to ensure that Ukrainian and thus Ukraine will have an independent future.

But if Ukraine shifts to Latin, that future will be ensured, not only because Ukraine will look westward rather than eastward but also because the Russians who remain in Ukraine will become a real diaspora rather than “‘the oppressed majority’” Moscow imagines them to be – and that will make better relations between Ukrainians and Russians there possible as well.


Edited by: A. N.

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  • Andrew Chmile

    Russian trolls & ***MOLES*** are against Ukraine having the same LANGUAGE LAWS as the Baltic Nations, —- Make Ukraine — UKRAINIAN !!!

    • David Malkin

      Serious question, do you even speak Ukrainian?
      I met many 2nd and 3rd generation Ukrainians in North America that don’t speak Ukrainian at all, or know only few words…

      Instead of arguing over Ukrainian or Russian language, Ukrainians should improve their of knowledge of English. Stop dubbing American movies and tv shows to Ukrainian, and instead just use English audio and Ukrainian subtitles!

      • Andrew Chmile

        Do you speak Ukrainian? — OR **RUSSIAN** ?

        Can you figure out Y TF I ask it you “clever” scumbag? 😉

        Hmm … now let’s see….

        “Instead of arguing over Ukrainian or Russian language,”

        FK WHAT **YOU** “THINK” !!!

        ” Ukrainians should
        improve their of knowledge of English.”

        See above! — AGAIN! — Continuing on …

        Additionally, THEY (Ugrics & related) HAVE AN **INNATE** LACK OF ABILITY FOR INDO-EUROPEAN LANGUAGES …. being Asiatic and all …. Ever hear the sh*ts pronounce “cup” for “cop” OR “cop’ for “cup”? :))))

        Scum can’t distinguish the “ou” —- too much sh*t & communism in their ears!!!
        Along with that ASIATIC LANGUAGE ….. too continue…

        “Stop dubbing American movies and
        tv shows to Ukrainian, and instead just use English audio and Ukrainian

        Got better ideas! :)
        Harder to learn “Anglish” from that LOW sh*t!
        (see above to refresh the “hint” with the “ou”)


        Simpler! Better! Much easier to learn English from Ukrainian!


        Ruski is merely an ARTIFICIAL bastardized “mutt mix” of Church Slavonic & various mongoloidol lingual dribblings from the nomadic Siberian savages.

        Read (A LOT) more before you open your uneducated, ignorant Ruski MOUTH in civilized company! — CRETIN!

      • Oknemfrod

        I don’t see how your “serious” question is relevant to the topic. The article is not about Ukrainians in North America but about Ukrainian in Ukraine. As far as the latter is concerned, displacing Russian in favor of Ukrainian in all bailiwicks of life and raising the next generations to use Ukrainian in their daily communication is an existential issue. Adding English as a second language instead of Russian – as the Poles and Czechs have successfully done – will certainly help.

        The main thrust of the article, i.e. the latinization of the script, is a more contentious issue within the Ukrainian-speaking community itself for obvious reasons, some of which are mentioned in the article if you cared to read the original source. I’d say, though, that the hurdles on its definitely selectable path are of cultural and habitual nature – and not of technical, as some argue, for Ukrainian can be easily represented by the Latin alphabet, just like Polish and Czech are and Belarusian (the closest linguistic relative of Ukrainian) once was, too.

        p.s. All ensuing generations of immigrants in North America get increasingly more distant from the mother tongue of their predecessors – Ukrainians are not an exception. In fact, in the Ukrainian diaspora, especially in the locales where it is rather numerous, the tradition of keeping the original language alive and being spoken by default seems to be stronger than among other ethnic groups.

        • Ihor Dawydiak

          Very well stated. As you mentioned, “Adding English as a second language instead of Russian – as the Poles and Czechs have successfully done – will certainly help”. In fact, I would suggest that the Ukrainian Cyrillic script does not have to be changed into a Latin script as long as the youth are educated to become fluent in the English language. As such, the generational shift where more and more Ukrainians became bilingual in Ukrainian and English would not compromise certain aspects of the Ukrainian culture but would still open many avenues especially in the fields of international business, commerce, aeronautics, science and medicine, etc. by being able to converse in English. As for the Russian language in Ukraine, it would gradually become redundant in general except for those who wished or needed to maintain ties for cultural of business reasons. Therefore, should this become the new reality then then Ukraine’s full integration with the European Family of Nation would be a “fait accompli” and Russia’s hegemony over Ukraine would be thrown into the trash bin of history.

          • Oknemfrod

            Very well stated ;).

            I’m rather ambivalent on converting Ukrainian to the Latin script for the mere reason that so much classical Ukrainian literature has been written using Cyrillic and it’s kind of ingrained. Objectively thinking, though, I’d ideate that from a certain angle, it could be a positive development. In fact, I see no problem in using both, as the Serbs and Croats do for their two very close languages, seemingly encountering few problems, if any, in doing so. In time, it would be obvious in the natural course of development which one would win, and so be it. But whatever is good for eliminating Russian from usage on the Ukrainian soil, ought to go. Мрію про день, коли в Україні не чутиму собачого “язика”.

          • Ihor Dawydiak

            A very good analogy. It should also be added that the Cyrillic script predated the Russian language and as such the Russians do not own it nor did they develop it. The same can be said for the Latin script as no current national language can claim ownership. However, as you mentioned, there is both a historical and traditional connection between the Ukrainian language and its rich tradition and the use of the Cyrillic script which has nothing to do with the Russian language. Therefore, those who might associate the dropping of the Cyrillic script from the Ukrainian language in favor of the Latin script so as to create an artificial independence from the Russian language are making a superficial argument at best. However, what would enhance Ukrainian cultural and linguistic independence from Russian influences would be the introduction of English as a second language. That would be the ultimate and most deserving slap in the face that Great Russian chauvinists need to fully understand that their egotistically based discrimination against the Ukrainian language was the root cause of the demise of their archaic language in Ukraine.

          • Oknemfrod

            A funny thing is that the Russians are convinced they “own” Cyrillic (as they are confident about many other things that aren’t so). They get extremely testy when a country on which they have imposed it drop it in favor of Latin. Twas’ hilarious to watch their freakish reaction when Kazakhstan did it recently.

          • slavko

            By maintaining the Cyrillic – українська азбука, Ukraine also maintains continuity with her Christian history which goes back to the days of Old Church Slavonic. Some 40 letters and some that aren’t even being used anymore. Studies also have shown that when people can read and speak two or more different alphabets then the brain becomes even more developed. Latin letters are being used by countries more so which simplifies the process in language learning. However, the ability to read and understand even more symbols and to see the correlation adds greater depth in understanding and increases brain function especially when there is a fluidity from one alphabet to the other.

          • Oknemfrod

            True. I personally communicate with friends of mine in the Ukrainian North American diaspora using my own system of Ukrainian-Latin transliteration as fluently and freely as I use Cyrillic, with no diminution in mutual understanding at all. Here’s the text above written in L-U transliteration used in this manner:

            Tak. Ja osobysto spilkujus’ z druzjamy z pivnichno-amerykans’koji dijaspory, korystujuchys’ vlasnoju systemoju ukrajins’ko-latyns’koji transliteraciji tak samo biglo ta vil’no, jak ja korystujus’ kyrylyceju, bez shchonajmenshogo zbavku u vzajemnomu porozuminni.

          • slavko

            I understand you, yet this is the one area that it appears we disagree Oknemfrod. Now if I had the power… then I would insist that Ukrainian Cyrillic remain. I email in English with my Ukrainian friends since we all live in North America and keyboard is Anglo. When we talk we go back and forth with a mix of both languages depending on which word carries the best image. When speaking with older Ukrainians or the parents then it’s ALL Ukrainian with no borrowing of English words. And write notes to my parents or elder family ONLY in Ukrainian script. Surely we should not expect that older generations convert to Anglo/Latin alphabet in order to be understood.

            The problem with converting Ukrainian Cyrillic into Latin letters is that some letters and their combinations can be interpreted in more than one way. For example the “j” can be “dzshay” or “y” therefore the script is NOT pure for it lends itself to too many interpretations (just like the Koran) :) Now that only complicates things. Ukrainian script is such that there’s only one way to pronounce it. And so it is as clear as the blue sky after a big storm. There’s beauty in clarity.

            I can read and understand what you wrote in the last paragraph but it took effort and I can write it faster in Ukrainian script.

            My next point is that why should Ukrainians give such “high honor” to the English/Latin alphabet and forsake their own? Why should Ukrainians cutoff a part of their history? I am totally against the Anglicizing of the Ukrainian script as it just won’t be Ukrainian then but instead some bastardization and only for whom? Ukraine’s Cyrillic script is a part of their historical identity. It is unique from Bulgarian and Russian. And it should continue evolving in it’s own course. Besides that after knowing how the English Empire (much like the Russian) screwed things up all over the planet there’s no reason that Ukrainians should continue and aid their imperialism.

            The other point I will make is that for Ukraine in its present situation there are many more important issues to consider and deal with. Converting the whole country towards an Anglicized form of script would be tedious and extremely expensive. Ukraine simply should spend her money more wisely towards a broader betterment for the population rather than re-doing a script that really will only confuse things at a time that greater cohesion should be paramount. Ukraine as a nation needs to come closer together and doesn’t need things introduced that will only create needless differences.

            Sorry but I’m a hard a$$ and a purist when it comes to certain things. Forgive my lengthy monologue here. I sometimes do get carried away.

          • Oknemfrod

            All this is nice and well. Note, however, that I haven’t said “drop the Cyrillic script”. I only say that there’s a degree of merit from a number of viewpoints in using the Latin one. Moreover, there’s nothing wrong in allowing both to coexist and see which one will get prevalent as a result of the free competition over time. As I’ve already said, the Serbs and the Croats have no problem reading each other’s scripts, and in fact when the two were one country both scripts coexisted rather peacefully.

            One extra advantage of the Latin script I haven’t mentioned is that it could expose more foreigners to Ukrainian and, if transliteration is reasonably done, to giving them an idea how Ukrainian sounds. E.g., the street sign for the Maidan is currently labeled “Майдан Незалежності” alongside with “Independence Square”. The Cyrillic line tells an Englishman or German or Spaniard nothing of how it sounds, yet adding something like “Maidahn Nezalezhnosti” perhaps would.

          • slavko

            Ha ha ha… good one!! I will give you that and will not argue against that. :)

          • Andrew Chmile

            “One extra advantage of the Latin script I haven’t mentioned is that it
            could expose more foreigners to Ukrainian and, if transliteration is
            reasonably done, to giving them an idea how Ukrainian sounds. E.g., the
            street sign for the Maidan is currently labeled “Майдан Незалежності”
            alongside with “Independence Square”. The Cyrillic line tells an
            Englishman or German or Spaniard nothing of how it sounds, yet adding
            something like “Maidahn Nezalezhnosti” perhaps would.”

            AHA !!!

            Now go & tell this to the Persians, Hindus, Arabs etc…. !!!
            Talk about “reaching for sh*t!” 😉

        • Andrew Chmile

          Seems you’ve FORCED him (or I have?) to delete his comment.

          Which, despite his supposed “shrewdness” — was PLAINLY STUPID!

          Which allowed us both to have some fun with him!

          As THOUGH — * I * — would answer a question by ANY monhol ….
          he didn’t like it when I pointed out an error in his English …. while in the MIDST of his injunctions for Ukes to learn English (& by implication to NOT at all learn Ukie :))))

          They are such **STUPIT** fks!!! — Esp. when they are being “most monhol clever” !!! — WoW!!!

          How can anyone STAND them???!!

          • Oknemfrod

            Well, at least deleting a comment after realizing that it’s pointless is better than doubling down by adding another “proof” that 2+2=5 (the default putinoid modus operandi on this and other online fora).

          • Andrew Chmile

            he was FAR too humiliated ….. but yeah, you’re right!

            Usually they INDEED DO “double down” in that most obstinate RUSKI display of EXTREME —- “Ruski ENDURANCE/STUPIDITU” — that makes you wanna kill them for being so stupid!

          • Andrew Chmile

            Here’s a good one from Julia (Yulia) Davis — this REALLY p*ssed her off I see :)

            “When someone doesn’t give a damn whether their lie is even remotely believable.
            Putin is vile and utterly shameless.


          • Oknemfrod

            Yup, but I’ll say this. I understand her well-justified emotion invoked by someone telling a blatant lie when everybody knows it’s a lie and he knows that everybody knows it. Yet reacting to Putler in this manner is based on the presumption that he acts shamefully with the realization that what he’s doing is a shame. And here’s where people like Julia get it wrong. They think he understands the notions of “shame” and “conscience” just like they do merely because he looks like a human being (albeit an extremely ugly and repugnant one). But the truth is, this creature is as completely void of those things as an amoeba, and expecting of him to not lie because it’s shameful or not kill because it runs counter to the sanctity of human life is the same as expecting from a croc not to eat.

          • Andrew Chmile

            Not sure IF my above was at all visible, i.e. …. the Julia Davis quote of & about Putin WITH the image:
            “”When someone doesn’t give a damn whether their lie is even remotely believable. Putin is vile and utterly shameless ”

            — it was a quote of Putin’s via TASS — on TWITTER.
            Which was NOT visible on my “end”?? — yours??

            — I’ll try it here in this, different, format — as a jpeg.
            I thought it worth a chuckle … Yulia did not it appears… Kyiv people have little humor in this regard it appears…


          • Oknemfrod

            I did see it – followed your link. Thanks.

          • Andrew Chmile

            Na! :)

            Interesting …. too bad Trump is a Traitor …. & the Germans are greedy & stupid with Nordstream II. (The Rothschilds of Anglo-Royal Dutch Shell want it so…. that’s it! )


            Gazprom to receive funding for Nord Stream 2 pipeline

            Five European energy groups will provide loans to contentious project


          • Andrew Chmile

            “FOLLOW THE MONEY!” — Deep Throat

            Sec of State TILLERSON is a LIAR & A TRAITOR!

          • Andrew Chmile
          • Oknemfrod

            Yeah. Imbeciles. They have icons with Stalin on them, too. But it is Bandera who is their devil incarnate. Go figure.

          • Andrew Chmile


            Moscow worried Russian ‘ceasing to be language of majority’ in Ukraine, Shchetkina says

            But …

            Ya’ know Paulie …. it seems to me, from WTF I hear & C on youTube ….
            that Ruski language is THE language of & for homosexuality in
            Ukraine…. just as it was (& still is) for communism, so it is
            for homosexuality in Ukraine.

            But it makes sense when I think about it ….

          • Andrew Chmile

            “But it is Bandera who is their devil incarnate. Go figure.”

            You weren’t kidding I see! :)

            Interviews with Igor Strelkov

            Igor Strelkov’s First Interview After the Breakout from Slavyansk, July 5, 2014

            Posted by Gleb Bazov ⋅ July 5, 2014 ⋅ 4 Comments

            Filed Under Armed Resistance, Artillery, Artyomovsk, Bandera, Banderovtsy, Bandits, Battle, Breakout, Breakthrough, Central Military Council, Civil War, Commander, Crimea, Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, Donetsk, Donetsk People’s Republic, DPR, Ethnic Cleansing, Fascism, Fascists, Field Commander, Garrison, Genocide, Igor Strelkov, Kiev, Kramatorsk, Krasniy Perekopsk, LPR, Lugansk People’s Republic, Marauders, Massacre, Military, Military Commandant, Minister of Defence, Monsters, Mortar, Murderers, National Guard, NazGuard, Nazi, Nazis, Nazism, Nikolayevka, Perekop, Polizei, Poroshenko, Resistance, Slavyansk, Ukraine, Ukrainian Armed Forces, Ukrainian National Guard, United Ukraine, War, War Crimes

            Igor Strelkov: “Genuine fascists are advancing against us, fascists in the very same sense that our predecessors understood this word. Monsters. Murderers. Bandits. Marauders. Pure “Polizei”—Banderovtsy, just as they once were.”

            Holy Sh*t! — I’m getting scared now!!! WTF!!!! ???
            Hmm … above sh*t from:

            No Limit to Our Anger (c) V. M. Molotov


            {{Another brilliant article from above!!! BEHOLD!!!}}

            FILED UNDER: Bandera, Great Patriotic War, Nazis, Nazism, Nazism in Ukraine, Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, Stepan Bandera

            “Could someone put on a mask of Shukhevych and the UPA uniform and start to kill the Poles?”

            {{{ EASILY! —- THEY WERE @SSHOLES!!! –like “laker48” — SO FK ‘EM!!!
            to continue….}}}

            “An ultimatum was issued to the Poles to leave the region within 48
            hours, which, of course, was not implemented. And then the massacre
            began. That was a simple Galician way to solve the territorial disputes.”

            {{{ Sounds OK to me …. No Uke invited them to starve Ukes & steal land & sh*t that I know of … & lying polak “laker48” doesn’t count… and this article continues! — AND IT STARTS TO MAKE UKES LOOK BAD !!! :) }}}

            You were right…. They are REALLY —- bat shit crazy — about Bandera & Ukes etc…

            They not only contaminate Wiki & etc sh*t …. they are even WORSE than the polaks & even crazier! — Ah sweah!!! — [email protected]!

            “They” even have a “Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies” — Seriously! :))
            They must be dropping a LOT of “acid” or something!

            The polaks do their lying & BS out of volunteer insanity! — Ruski PAY for this sh*t!

            & Ukes wind up between both @ssholes whose land/territory has HEMNO but a LOT of EXTREMELY STUPID PEOPLE!

          • Andrew Chmile

            Overwhelmingly Ruski …. they got smarter this time & had a few Ukie flags out…. I never seen them carry any before now … Came from all over Ukieland for this … This will make the EU “feel better” :)

            — at least the “controlling or more influential parties” to be more accurate. :)

            So they had their BS “display” …

          • Andrew Chmile

            Seems the Drag Queens, being “the stars of the show” — had to be taken to the event by an armored car…. Good thing they all speak Russian it appears…

      • Andrew Chmile

        YOU ROTE:

        “…Ukrainian at all, or know only few words…”

        Stupid fuk!
        Learna da ANGLISH — YOURSELF!!!

        — BEFORE you tell Ukrainians they should
        learn English …. (while suggesting IN EFFECT they should essentially ignore THEIR OWN LANGUAGE) —
        — while being **RUSSIFIED** with that intellectually RETARDING
        & most UNPLEASANT (i.e. ugly!) ALIEN & ASIATIC language… known as Russian.

        Russians are also prone to sexual deviancy besides their USUAL DISHONESTY & STUPIDITY!


  • zorbatheturk

    RuSzsian linguistic hegemony will not stand.