Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Friday, April 22, 2005

When in Ukraine speak Ukrainian -- why is that so controversial?

By Aussiegirl

Get out the hankies -- the BBC went in search of Russians who feel bad that people speak Ukrainian in Ukraine. Imagine how unfair!!! Why, the next thing you know, in France people will expect you to speak French. Or in England people will expect you to speak English.

The Russians seem to have forgotten that they are not the colonial masters in Ukraine any longer. And Ukrainians who have been persuaded to speak Russian in preference to their own language should think about what that implies.

In Ukraine Russians are free to speak and write in their language to their heart's content, unlike the hundreds of years of Russian domination when people were forbidden to speak, read or write in Ukrainian, and were imprisoned and even lost their lives as a result of doing so. Luckily for the Russian speakers, Ukrainians do not behave in this barbaric way.

But you live in a free and independent Ukraine now, which has its own language. Get over it.

My native language was Ukrainian, and I was taught in English, first in Australia, then here in the United States. So what? I learned to speak two languages, which was only to my advantage. So? Learn to speak Ukrainian -- maybe little Oleg will grow up to hold an important job in Ukraine -- and be able to converse in two languages -- that is if he and his mother and others like them stop whining and playing the victim card and get busy studying.

Read the story here:

It is a difficult lesson for Oleg Tikhomirov.

The teenager is being taught Ukrainian. It is the official language and everyone studies it.

But like all the children in his class in Kiev, Oleg's native language is Russian.

His family is part of the 30% of the country who say that Russian is their mother tongue.

"I think the worst thing is to introduce Ukrainian language using force and to take away choice from people," says Oleg's mother, Irina Tikhomirova.

. . . "I think the Ukrainian language is still hugely under threat," Mr Yushchenko said in a newspaper article shortly after being elected.

"The previous administration didn't think there was a problem but if we lose our language we lose our culture."

During Soviet times people were taught to speak Russian. It was only after independence that Ukrainian became the official language here.

. . . "Many people have never learnt to speak Ukrainian and they find life difficult. We want equal rights for Russian-speakers," says Mikhailo Illarionov, from the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine.

Flicking though a pile of black and white photos at his home in Kiev, Yevhen Sverstyuk looks back at more repressive times.

The Ukrainian author picks out pictures of himself and fellow prisoners. In the 1960s Yevhen wrote a book in Ukrainian. He was punished by the Soviet authorities and spent 12 years in a labour camp in Siberia.
"The Ukrainian nation has been fighting for their native language for centuries. People have even died in the struggle to use the Ukrainian language," he says.


At 10:24 AM, Anonymous blackminorcapullets said...

Poor BBC.

Sending hecklers into Conservative Party meetings with hidden microphones to make news and now this.

Stalin did not lament killing 15 million Ukrainian speaking people and replacing them with Russians.

Why should Ukraine lament simply having these Russians now learn the language of the bloody soil they invaded?

At 2:59 PM, Blogger Aussiegirl said...

Don't hold back, BMC, tell us what you really think!!!!

You know, this is the same kind of thing the Russians pulled when the Balkan countries got their independence, they made loud noises and propaganda about being "discriminated" against because the Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians wanted to use their own languages in their own countries. They just can't get used to no longer being in the position of colonial masters. Even the British have gotten over it. And they released all their colonies voluntarily, while the Russians are still trying to hang on to theirs with force.

Thanks for the great comments!!


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