Select language:

How Russian language in Ukraine was curtailed

 /  / Russkiy Mir Foundation / Publications / How Russian language in Ukraine was curtailed

How Russian language in Ukraine was curtailed


Editor’s office of the Russkiy Mir Portal

Photo credit:

On April 25, 2019, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine passed the Bill No. 5670-d “On ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian as the state language” in its second reading. The document introduces mandatory teaching in Ukrainian in kindergartens, schools and universities; it also requires governmental officials, health care and education professionals, as well as service workers to speak the state language only. According to the document, the share of Ukrainian language on national channels should be at least 90%.

Below you can find our report on sequential abridging of Russian language within cultural and linguistic realm after the power shift in February 2014.


On February 23, 2014, immediately after the coup d'état in the country, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine voted to repeal the law On the basics of state language policy, which had been in effect since August 10, 2012. The document had provided Russian and national minority languages ​​the status of regional ones in areas where they were native to at least 10% of the population.

The repeal of the law caused protests in the east of Ukraine where Russian-speaking population prevails. As a result, the acting President Alexander Turchinov refused to endorse the Radas resolution. Since 2016, the law On the basis of the state language policy was under review by the Constitutional Court (the CC) of Ukraine. On February 28, 2018, the Constitutional Court declared it to be inconsistent with the constitution. After the courts verdict, the language issue in Ukraine has actually been regulated only by article 10 of the Constitution, according to which the state language is Ukrainian; Russian and other national minority languages ​​are guaranteed free development, use and protection.

Since 2016, several bills on language have been submitted to the Verkhovna Rada, but none of them received the necessary support of the MPs. In January 2017, the bill 5670 On the state language was registered in the parliament. It proposed to repeal the current law on language policy, to introduce exclusive use of the state language in education, state institutions and courts, in cinemas, advertising and on television, and also to compel all media to introduce a version in Ukrainian. It was suggested to punish the violators with fines. The service of language inspectors was supposed to supervise implementation of provisions of the law (this clause of the bill drew the fire of the public).

Upon the document finalization, on June 9, 2017, the draft law No. 5670-d On ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian as the state language was registered in the Verkhovna Rada. The document declares that the only official state language in the country is Ukrainian. Any attempts to introduce multilingualism in Ukraine are considered to be an attempt of dismantlement of the Ukrainian statehood.

According to the bill, all representatives of government bodies, deputies, judges, doctors, and teachers should speak Ukrainian. Persons wishing to obtain Ukrainian citizenship are required to pass the state language exam. All cultural events should be conducted in Ukrainian; and in the case of using a foreign language, they should be accompanied by subtitles. Print media that are published in Russian and other languages ​​will be required to print additional issues in Ukrainian.

The official authorized to protect the state language (appointed by the government) and his/her representatives shall exercise control over execution of the law and write out fines. The law shall not be applicable to religious ceremonies and private communication.


On September 5, 2017, the Parliament of Ukraine adopted a new version of the Law on Education (the document was signed by President Petro Poroshenko on September 25, 2017; it came into force on September 28, 2017). The document stipulates sequential prohibition to use Russian language and languages ​​of other ethnic groups of Ukraine in the educational system. Teaching in schools and in higher education institutions should be conducted in Ukrainian only. In the 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 academic years, classes where subjects may be taught in Russian and other languages ​​will be maintained only in elementary school. From September 2020, there will be absolutely no schools that teach in any language except Ukrainian.

The Law on Education sparked a backlash in Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries, whose representatives belong to numerous diasporas in Ukraine. Budapest stated that Hungary would block all Kievs international initiatives until an agreement on language issues was reached between the Ukrainian authorities and the Hungarians of Transcarpathia.

On September 27, 2017, the State Duma of the Russian Federation adopted the Statement against violation of the fundamental right of indigenous peoples and national minorities of Ukraine to study in their native languages. Russian MPs pointed out that the new document did not comply with principles and norms of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as other international treaties, and that it was an ethnocide act" of the Russian people in Ukraine.


On June 16, 2016, the Ukrainian parliament adopted amendments to the law On television and radio broadcasting (the law On amendments to some Laws of Ukraine (as to share of Ukrainian music broadcast by TV and radio broadcasting organizations; it came into force on November 8, 2016). In compliance with the law, TV and radio broadcasting companies have to broadcast at least 35% of songs in Ukrainian within 24 hours, as well as at least 35% of the total number of songs broadcasted between 7:00 and 14:00, and between 15:00 and 22:00. If a radio station broadcasts at least 60% of songs in EU languages, the quota for Ukrainian songs shall be at least 25%. Television and radio companies shall also provide that at least 60% of analytical and entertainment programs are daily broadcasted in the state language.

On March 9, 2017, while awarding the Taras Shevchenko National Prize at the ceremony, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko proposed to increase the state language quota for programs on television. He claimed that the share of Ukrainian language in the national television was unacceptably low. Poroshenko noted that he had previously appealed to the television industry to self-organize itself in this issue, however, he had not been heard. On May 23 of the same year, the bill On amendments to some laws of Ukraine regarding the language of audiovisual (electronic) media was adopted by the Verkhovna Rada (it came into force on October 13, 2017).

The document, in particular, amended the Law On television and radio broadcasting, according to which the share of Ukrainian broadcasting on national and regional television and radio shall be at least 75% per week, and the same share on local television and radio shall be at least 60% (from 7:00 to 18:00, and from 18:00 to 22:00). The share of news programs in Ukrainian language has been increased to 75%. If the a/m quotas are not complied with, the law stipulates a penalty in the amount of 5% of the total license fee of the respective television and radio company. All TV and radio companies that broadcast in national minority languages ​​shall ensure that at least 30% of their broadcasting is in Ukrainian. National TV channels have to broadcast films and programs produced abroad only in the state language. The exception can be made for programs and films produced before August 1, 1991, which have to be provided with Ukrainian subtitles.


New publications

According to surveys, when choosing a place of study, more than half of foreign students are guided by the world rankings of the best universities. This year, 25 Russian universities entered the QS World University Rankings 2019-2020, and most of them improved their positions. Lomonosov Moscow State University became the most successful, having risen by six points at once. However, MSU rector Viktor Sadovnichy is sure that Russian education is undervalued.
If you look at Europe from the standpoint of Russian cultural heritage, you can find a lot of interesting things in virtually every country. So why isnt such material used in lessons of Russian? Initiators of the Living Languages/Living Heritage Project invented an unusual mixture of history and language lessons. Igor Zhukovsky, head of the Russia-Aquitaine Association (Bordeaux, France) tells us what has become of it.
In the days of the latest anniversary of Saint Petersburg, the Russian émigré community respectfully remembers another significant yet unfairly forgotten Russian name. It is the name of Pyotr Alexeyevitch Dementyev, who was born on May 1, 1849 in Saint Petersburg on the Neva River and founded another St. Petersburg (or St. Pete, as it is called shortly) on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida.
Special Assignment Pilots, a book by Anna Belorusova, a Russian writer, will be the basis for the exhibition in the British town of Bournemouth on the shore of the English Channel. The book tells about the Soviet air force of eagles and the Soviet-British cooperation during the World War II.
130 years ago Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky, a legendary Russian aircraft designer, philosopher and visionary, was born. It was he who designed the very systems that are currently used, for example, in advanced helicopters of the presidents of the United States and Russia. Indeed, the legacy of the famous aircraft designer who created the world's first bomber, a four-engine aircraft and a single-rotor helicopter is our national pride.
TheArtigianato e PalazzoFestival (Artisan crafts and Palace) was held in Florence over the weekend. The anniversary 25th edition has been devoted to charity fundraising for time-critical restoration and preservation of the great cultural and artistic legacy of Russian community that resided in Florence in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Tatiana Kazzi, a Russian artist, works on a project to combine paintings of Australian Aborigines with Gzhel and Khokhloma. A native of Kaliningrad has lived on the green continent for almost a quarter of a century; and she is one of a few foreign women who were granted the right to study art of the indigenous people of Australia by their descendants. Tatiana Kazzi plans to ornament Russian Matryoshka dolls with kangaroos, snakes, birds and other symbols of Australian aborigines. The artist told the Russkiy Mir that active work of the Russian community in recent years has facilitated popularity and awareness of Russian art in Australia.
Robinson Crusoe is 300 years old. A novel by Daniel Defoe, an English writer, about a traveler who spent 28 years on a desert island was published in April 1719. The novel became the classics of world literature, which cannot be said about its sequel published in August 1719. There Defoe sends his central character to Russia ruled by young Peter the Great. According to the story, Robinson spent more than two years in Russia. He lived in Tobolsk and Arkhangelsk, and then he went back to his home land.