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Ordinary Nazism. Ukraine to use Russian just for kitchen talks.

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Ordinary Nazism. Ukraine to use Russian just for kitchen talks.


Mikhail Shkhtman

The multi-move combination aiming to eliminate Russian language from all areas of formal and social life is still under way in Ukraine: on September 10 the Chief Scientific Expert Department (CSED) of Verkhovnaya Rada (the Parliament of Ukraine) issued an opinion about feasibility to pass the bill “On support of Ukrainian as the state language”, draft of which was introduced last year, on June 9.

Text on the photo: I want to speak Russian

The ice has broken

I met a teacher I know; she works in one of Kiev schools where Russophone teaching in higher forms has sluggishly lived out its last days. Seeing her sad face, I couldn't help asking if she knew about legislative initiatives to support Ukrainian language and what her judgment was in that respect.

A teacher, a philologist with 29 years of experience, revealed that in early February the Ministry of Education sent schools, universities and colleges an imperative directive signed by the minister; it stated that from September 2018 all educational institutions were allowed to use only Ukrainian language in their teaching/learning process.

They certainly knew that the law then in force would be revoked, and something new would be issued to replace it shutting the door on any possibility for education in Russian. They are probably postponing the bill locked in the old oak chest to be enacted closer to presidential election. To gain support from so called 'political Ukrainians', those who privatized the regime will launch unprecedented witch-hunting, the one we have not experienced in previous years. They have arranged widespread and thorough termination for Russophone education. That’s for sure! They wont give a damn about the Constitution, about rights of national minorities. Parents requests to open Russian classes and students demands wont be of help. Such initiatives were suppressed by administrative means and intimidation in the past, even under Yanukovich. And now they plan to legally ban Russian language once and for all, she stated angrily.

Let me remind you that on February 28, 2018 the Constitutional Court of Ukraine declared the 2012 Law On fundamental principles of state language policy to be unconstitutional and no longer in force. Thus the act of grace was granted to authors of the bill On support of Ukrainian as the state language No.5670-d. 15 months were spent to sort things out. Politicians have increasingly voiced demands to pass it without any further delay; and there is no reason to believe that the bill will not be passed.

Reading the opinion issued in the Rada, it becomes obvious that most comments in respect of the bill relate to procedure matters, such as incorrect wording, inconsistency in terms, inconformity with other statutes and regulations. And there is hardly any word of objection against basic postulates which law-makers trample the rights of majority Ukrainian citizens with, those include both – constitutional rights, as well as rights stipulated by international treaties.

The bill, dubbed as the Law on total Ukrainization, contains 49 pages of directions on how and where the state language (Ukrainian one) shall be used; where and in what way usage of other languages shall be prevented; which new state authorities have to be established to achieve the outlined objectives.

Lacking possibility to look into each and every chapter, article and clause of the text, let us highlight its blatant points only. However, before we start, it will be helpful to recall provisions of the Article 10 of the working Constitution: Free development, use and protection of Russian language and other languages of national minorities of Ukraine is guaranteed in Ukraine. The State shall facilitate learning of languages of international communication…"

Photo: the Constitution of Ukraine

Comparing constitutional wording and spirit of the bill we will find that the latter one stipulates Ukrainian to be the only state language. Key words, the only, are not in the Constitution. Ukrainian was declared the only official language as well novelettists equated these two different statuses awarding both to Ukrainian language only.

And to make sure there wont be any feeble efforts to appeal on expertise of European Law, another democratic innovation comes to life: they plan to qualify all attempts to officially implement multilingualism in Ukraine as intended for violent change or overthrow of the constitutional order, proclaiming such actions as provoking language controversy, ethnic conflicts and hostility. If you wish to talk about multilingualism, make sure it does not contradict the established constitutional procedure. You will be allowed to speak publicly at the state channel only (having in hand Ukrainian translation of your speech and being ready to submit or read it immediately upon request).

A new definition is to be introduced: public scorn of Ukrainian language or its disrespect means a wrongful act which is identical to abuse of State symbols of Ukraine. From now on such scorn and disrespect, which are punishable in accordance with the law, may have infinitely broad interpretation and, taking into account political environment, is capable of directing the rage of the nation and attention of enforcing authorities to any kind of actions: from using unparliamentary language to incorrect pronunciation, orthographic mistakes and misprints. And if somebody does not wish to express himself/herself publicly in Ukrainian language, that will be considered as an actual disrespect on compelling legal grounds.

Liability is also stipulated for using Ukrainian language violating its standards, as well as for obstructing or limiting usage of Ukrainian language. So, you relax your guard in the morning, talk to a shop assistant in your native Surzhik (mixture of Russian and Ukrainian languages) and she will hand you over to authorities for limiting usage or violation of standards

Ukrainian shall be everywhere; anything else in the kitchen

Just to give impression of freedom for other languages it was stated that operation of the law would not affect private communication and performance of religious rites. However it is made absolutely clear: the law shall regulate operation and usage of Ukrainian language in all areas of social life, which means generally, everywhere. Except, perhaps, talking softly or talking at your own apartment or holiday home, but make sure your neighbors wont inform authorities that their right to hear nightingale speech only has been limited

I asked the same teacher I know how she understood the suggested wording: scorn of Ukrainian language, disrespect of Ukrainian language, and what using Ukrainian language violating its standards and obstructing or limiting usage of Ukrainian language meant.

They are the definitions clanking chains on freedom to use our mother tongue, the teacher believes. Punishment for using the language violating its standards is a sheer cynicism. Adults have an easier time to adopt and defend themselves from the outrage. But what about children and youth? As a philologist, I can say: most of young generation is not able to learn any language well. It is not due to retardation, but because this is how the system is framed. And they are not the only ones. Adults are ignorant as well. Listen to speeches of public officials Ukrainian classics spin in their graves like a hamster in the wheel just hearing their mova. From now on a non-state language conversation in a trolleybus or during a break in a university can be considered as disrespect to Ukrainian language in social life. And an address on TV channel or an article in Ukrainian language, if the language is not good enough, may result in administrative persecution.

Evidence-free scorns, disrespect, obstructing, violating standards are all the grounds for punitive measures, especially against public servants, for example, teachers. But they can be brought up against students as well. The only question is if anybody informs punitive authorities, and whether such authorities wish to impose legalized punitive measures.

For the record: the bill stipulates to use exclusively Ukrainian language in acts, records management and document turnover of executive government agencies, government agencies of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and local self-government authorities. Everything and anything shall be subject to Ukrainization irrespective of linguistic choice of population in the particular region, area, or settlement. It does not give any reasons to Russians and Russian-speaking population in Donbass or Crimea, or Hungarians in Zakarpattia to love Ukraine. Judging by thinking of its authors, the bill has to be radical, even for Crimea and Donbass. And thats despite the obvious circumstances.

Usage of Russian language in Ukraine

It is contemplated to declare Ukrainian to be the exclusive language for meetings, events and even work-base communication in all governmental and local authorities, state and municipal institutions, at companies and enterprises. If you wish to use another language, you have to arrange translation complying with the state standards.

Nationals will not be able to take any action in a governmental or municipal body in any other language, since all institutions will entertain documents in Ukrainian only.

National minorities? Forget it!

The bill states that the procedure of using languages of national minorities by local executive and self-government bodies while exercising their authorities shall be governed by the Law on national minorities of Ukraine. But during elections, any campaigning shall be conducted in the state language. The population of near-border village, where everybody speaks Hungarian, shall read all the information in Ukrainian when they are to elect the chairman of their village board or a member of Verkhovnaya Rada. Dont even try to mention Russian-speaking towns and settlements! Better be prepared to the fact that campaigning in any languages except Ukrainian, even in the regions where it is not widely spoken, will be regarded as the violation which entails persecution of the candidates, including withdrawal from elections.

Do you want it in Russian? Double it!

Another provision states: Printed media in Ukraine shall be published in the state language.

Do you want it in any other languages, not only in Ukrainian? Do you want two or more versions? You are most welcome! But one version has to be in the state language. Furthermore heads up! versions in all languages shall have same title, they have to be uniform in content, scope and printing technique; the issues shall have uniform numbering and be published on the same date. Do you understand? That is a must irrespective of number of versions, size of circulation, capacities of publisher and printing house And printed media in other languages may be distributed by subscription subject to possibility to subscribe for the same media in Ukrainian.

I inquired one publisher I know: what does he think about consequences of that for Russian-language media?

It would be naive to assume, he replied, that the state will co-finance Russian-language media just to keep support-of-national-minorities façade. Duplicates in Ukrainian will become disabling burden. You will have to maintain two editorial offices, many expenses will double. Very few publishers will be able to handle such commercial load.

It looks like television and radio channels shall not expect any better fate. Similar articles or rather sentences have been ordained for book-publishing industry, online media, services sector and trade, transportation and medicine, advertising, as well as other industries. What is more, aside from state and municipal entities, activities of private companies and entrepreneurs will be affected as well. And dont forget about e-commerce sites. If you sell something online, your site shall operate in Ukrainian in the default mode. Site version in any other language shall not be more extensive or diverse than Ukrainian one.

How will it be attained?

Law makers have planed establishment of special services, such as National Commission on the State Language Standards and Terminology Center for Ukrainian Language.

Center of Ukrainian Language will administer Ukrainian language test and issue a state certificate the only document certifying level of proficiency in Ukrainian language. Does it mean that a school leaving certificate or a university diploma (taking in account education in Ukrainian in all instances) is not sufficient to confirm the level of proficiency?

It is intended to grant unprecedented capabilities to the Ukrainian language protection commissioner and his/her Service of Language Inspectors for conducting language inspections.

They will be granted the following authorities: to request and acquire documents or their copies and other data, including classified ones, from executive government agencies and local self-government bodies, state, municipal enterprises, institutions and organizations, other economic entities of public or municipal form of ownership, as well as non-governmental associations, parties, legal entities under private law; to visit without restriction executive government agencies and local self-government bodies, state, municipal enterprises, institutions and organizations (attention, please!) irrespective of their form of ownership, attend their meetings. Which means they are to be granted virtually unrestricted access to documents and data, as well as internal routine of any legal entity. And a commissioner (inspector) is entitled to decide whether to conduct a language inspection based on complain of any person (a whistler) or to do it spontaneously (something like: Why dont I go and read menu in that very restaurant?).

All that's missing is to declare anonymous letter to be the conclusive evidence.

Well, violations cannot be rooted out without the sword of justice. This is why transitional provisions stipulate amendments for the Administrative Violations Code (AVC) and the Criminal Code.

The list of sanctions for violation of the law has been prepared to be included into the AVC; and it includes amounts of fines: equivalent of $6,300 - $12,600 for the first violation; equivalent of $12,600 $22,000 for further ones. It is quite harsh justice, isnt? There is also a proposal to grant the commissioner authority to examine cases of administrative offences at his/her sole discretion. Doesnt it look like establishment of corrupt positions based on the principle: Its all up to me: youll be pardoned or executed?

To sum up

The draft bill contradicts European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, ratified by Verkhovnaya Rada, and other international instruments, as well as the Constitution.

Everything is quite open: the legislative instrument is intended to eliminate Russian language. There is easing of some requirements for 23 official EU languages, especially for English, which, in opinion of CSED experts, in some cases shall be treated equal to the state one.

And there is no point to count on any serious discussions between members of parliament and administrative officials. Lots of points in the bill will do a favor for pre-election PR; some points will probably be polished off. However they will leave the main Russo-phobic core unchanged, in spite of any arguments supporting common sense and respect of civil rights. Thats the way of ordinary Nazism.

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