The position of the Russian language in Ukraine in the context of the adoption of the draft law "On State Language Policy". The reaction and opinion.
Material posted: Publication date: 21-02-2013
According to the definition of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (1992) "regional or minority languages" - a language that:
  • Are traditionally used in the given territory of the state by inhabitants of this state representing group, numerically smaller, than other population of the state;
  • Differ from an official language (languages) of this state. They do not include neither dialects of a state language (languages) of this State, nor languages of migrants ». [1]

On July, 3rd, 2012 the Parliament of Ukraine has approved the bill «About bases of the state language policy» according to which, Russian can receive the status regional there where it is native, at least, for 10 % of the population, i.e. in 13 of 27 administrative and territorial units of Ukraine.

Accepted Glad the document assumes expansion of sphere of use of Russian and strengthening of positions of languages of national minorities. Bill accepting has caused a wide public resonance, especially in capital and in the west of Ukraine. Deputies from opposition have refused to accept the document and have made the statement for it nelegitimnosti, referring to infringement of procedure of accepting. The bill has caused split inside Are glad, to what resignations of speaker Vladimir Litvina and vice-speaker Nikolay Tomenko testify; the announcement of termless hunger-strike of some deputies from oppositional fraction «Our Ukraine - National self-defence» and collisions of oppositionists with militia.

As a whole, the state language policy should implement warranted by the Constitution of Ukraine (item 10, a part II) «free development, use and protection» Russian which carriers is more than half of population of the country.

Thereupon it is necessary to consider history of a legal picture of position of Russian and other languages of national minorities of Ukraine, reflected in the Law «About languages» USSR and Constitutions of Ukraine. The above-stated documents urged to provide a legal field of use of an Ukrainian, Russian and other languages in territory of Ukraine.

According to the law «About languages in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic» [2], accepted in 1989, Russian functioning along with the Ukrainian language as language of international dialogue (item 4) was actually provided.

According to the Constitution of Ukraine accepted in 1996:

  • As the state the Ukrainian language affirmed, free development, use and protection of Russian, other languages of national minorities of Ukraine »(item 10) was thus warranted«;
  • The state has been obliged to promote «to consolidation and development of the Ukrainian nation, its historical consciousness, traditions and cultures, and also to development of ethnic, cultural, language and religious originality of all radical people and national minorities of Ukraine» (item 11);
  • Privileges or restrictions on various signs, including on language (item 24) were denied;
  • To national minorities the training right in a native language or on native language studying in the state and municipal educational institutions or through national cultural societies "(item 53 [3]) was warranted".

"The language" policy of Ukraine of last years did not observe the above-stated positions of the Constitution, breaking item 22 ch. II which does not suppose narrowing «the maintenance and volume of the existing rights and freedom». It causes fears about infringement of the rights of the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine which repeatedly express state and public figures, and also citizens of Ukraine and the Russian compatriots. Similar reaction is transformed to carrying out of public events, forums, discussions and meetings among which it is necessary to allocate IV scientifically-practical conference conducted in 2006 «Russian and the literature: studying and teaching problems at school and high school» which has been devoted problems of functioning and Russian studying in Ukraine. Within the limits of conference the round table «the Language policy in Ukraine has been conducted: Democratic development models »which participants have expressed« concern in actually anticonstitutional, legally unreasonable replacement of Russian and culture from an education sphere, the official information, state-political, scientific and cultural life »[4].

Russian position probably to estimate, leaning against some results of sociological and scientific researches to Russia, the USA and in Ukraine. In 2008 Gallup's Institute - the American institute of public opinion (American Institute of Public Opinion) has conducted research of the relation of citizens of the CIS to Russian studying. The highest indicators were observed in Belarus, there Russian as dialogue language was chosen by 92 % interrogated. In Ukraine this percent slightly more low - 83 %. And the third place occupies Kazakhstan - 68 %. The lowest indicators in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Data of the American researchers considerably differs from results of researches of those sociological centres on the post-Soviet territory which deny growth of value of Russian in the CIS countries.

So, according to poll of Institute of sociology of National academy of Sciences of Ukraine (IS NANU), conducted in 2006, «against increase of the status of Russian 75 % of inhabitants of the western regions, 64 % of Catholics and 90 % grekokatolikov» [5] act.

However there are also opposite results. Conducted in November, 2006 the Ukrainian company Research and Branding Group opinion surves of the population of Ukraine have shown that there is more than half (52 %) Ukrainian citizens support two state languages in Ukraine - Russian and an Ukrainian [6].

On June, 8-17th, 2012 the Kiev international institute of sociology (KMIS) [7] has conducted vseukrainsky poll in which course it was found out that 74 % interrogated consider that Russian should give the status either state, or regional language. Besides sotsio-cultural sphere "the language" question in Ukraine directly mentions also the educational policy, in particular - access to studying of Russian and the literature at schools. According to poll KMIS of 50 % of the population considers that Russian and the literature are necessary for studying at all schools of the country. 42 more % are convinced that it is necessary to give such possibility only to those pupils who wish it. Only 14 % of respondents have opposed possibilities of reception of school education in Russian. And only 4 % of the interrogated have supported an exception of Russian and the literature of school programs.

Thus, it is possible to say that the policy of radical replacement of Russian is imposed by narrow circle of interested persons, instead of is reflexion of opinion of all Ukrainian society.

According to the Center of social researches of Minobrazovanija of Russia in 2010, «the policy of the majority of the CIS and Baltic countries in relation to Russian leads to that in the first years of independence it could be considered native, then - the second native, further - language of international dialogue, then language of a national minority and, at last - one of studied for choice or even an optional subject».

Together with a statistical selection it is necessary to take into consideration rhetoric of expert community of Ukraine which estimates the situation which has developed now ambiguously. On the one hand, the opinion of opponents of accepting of the bill was stated by speaker Vladimir Litvin who is assured that «the document splits the Ukrainian society» [8].

Disagreement with this position was expressed by the initiator of social movement «the Ukrainian choice» Victor Medvedchuk - in the article in the newspaper «Komsomol truth» in Ukraine he has expressed opinion that in the country there is no "language" problem, after all the majority of citizens is firmly assured of necessity dvujazychija.

On the other hand, Michael Pogrebinsky, the political scientist, the director of the Kiev centre of political researches and conflictology, supports adoption of law, asserting that «it is extremely important law on protection of the rights of a large quantity of Russian-speaking citizens, and also citizens, for which native not Ukrainian (language)» [9].

In turn the Kiev political scientist Vladimir Fesenko considers a situation in other plane, asserting that «adoption of law about language does not become argument in negotiations from the Russian Federation on any questions» [10].

Till the moment of accepting of the bill the International organisation «World congress of Ukrainians», being the largest public organisation of Ukrainians, has addressed to the President of Ukraine «with the request not to sign the bill raising the status of Russian in republic» [11]. Thus, dissociation of the Ukrainian expert community on this point in question is obvious.

Considering a difficult situation with accepting of the given law, on August, 7th, 2012 the President of Ukraine Victor Yanukovych has suggested to take out on autumn session of the Supreme Rada repeated discussion of the law «About principles of the state language policy» [12]. The president has developed amendments which provide creation of working group for development of the target development program of the Ukrainian language, and also the supervisory board, called to watch realisation of the given program.

Amendments to the law «About principles of the state language policy» can become reconciling action for broken up society and additional attempt to build the accurate language policy.

Events round "the language" policy of Ukraine, the rights of the Russian-speaking population cause discussions among representatives not only Ukrainian and Russian, but also the international community.

At a stage of development of the bill the Venetian commission, officially the European commission for democracy through the right [13] at 86th Plenary Session (Venice, on March, 25-26th 2011г.) has approved the bill of principles of a language policy, estimating this work as a step on a way to the decision of a language question in Ukraine. Members of the Venetian commission - Serdzhio Bartole (the Assistant to the Member, Italy), Jan Velaers (the Member, Belgium), Markus Galdija (GDPCHPV, the Expert) - adhere to the balanced position on a problem of a language policy.

On the one hand, the Venetian Commission believes that «protection of Russian and its use as expressions of national consciousness of members of the Ukrainian society which have freely chosen this linguistic identification - the lawful purpose» [14] (items 72) really are. Realisation of the set purpose demands guarantees according to the Constitution and the international obligations of Ukraine - the Charter about Languages and the Frame Convention. Besides, accurate guarantees should be given, along with Russian, to other regional languages and languages of minority (item 73).

On the other hand, by experts of the Commission it is not denied necessities of strengthening of the Ukrainian language owing to that «exclusive protection of Russian does not inspire trust from the legal point of view and can cause unnecessary intensity in the Ukrainian society» (item 74); and «the variant of the exclusive relation to Russian in comparison with other regional languages and languages of minority, in many cases,« on the same level »with the State language, is represented inconsistent and incompatible with principles of the State language policy specified in a preamble and mentioned positions of the Project» (item 70).

In the conclusion the Venetian Commission suggests «to initiate all-round process of renovation and modernisation of various components of the legislation on the Ukrainian language and languages of minority, according to the Constitution and the international obligations of Ukraine» (item 117).

From the point of view of the international legal adjustment of this point in question positions of the European charter of regional languages and languages of minority which has been accepted in Strasbourg on November, 5th, 1992 Russia also are interesting the Charter has joined a charter in 2001 In Ukraine has come into force in 2006 of Position of the Charter urged to provide availability of preschool, initial, average, professional, university and other formation (or its essential part), and also rates for adults and system of improvement of professional skill in corresponding regional languages or languages of minority without damage to teaching of a state language (languages).

According to positions of article 7 of a part of II European charter of the state-participant should perform the policy, legislative and practical activities concerning regional languages and languages of minority, recognising them in quality «spokesmen of cultural riches», respecting their geographical area, promoting use in oral and written speech, in public and private life, developing communications and cultural relations, promoting teaching and studying; and also to promote international exchanges in spheres, with reference to regional languages or languages of minority [15].

The committee of ministers of the Council of Europe supervises observance of positions of a charter by means of regular reports and recommendations. According to item 15 ch. IV Charters, the country ratifying her, is obliged to give Periodic reports on the policy and the accepted measures concerning regional languages or languages of minority. The first report should be given the Secretary general of the Council of Europe in a year after ratification, and the subsequent reports - with three-year intervals. In 2007 from Ukraine the First State report and the First Public Report concerning Charter execution has been submitted. After the first cycle of monitoring the Committee of experts stated «human rights infringements in Ukraine on use of native regional language or language of minority practically in all spheres of public life». [16] Committee of ministers of the Council of Europe also has specified  that «the language landscape of Ukraine is unique from the point of view of the Charter because in language which (Russian) is not state, the considerable part of the population, including people whom (items 16) belong to other national minorities» talks. However, «the  obligations undertaken by Ukraine … do not answer  real position of languages, in which relation it was possible to choose higher obligations» [17], including in relation to Russian (item 155).

According to it, the Committee of experts has formulated Recommendations (CM/RecChL (2010) 6), approved on July, 7th, 2010 Committee of ministers of the Council of Europe and according to which it is recommended to Ukraine:

  1. «To develop the structured policy in an education sphere for regional languages and languages of minority in close cooperation with their carriers, and also to provide to carriers of languages of minority the right to formation reception in a native language, thus to use existing operating time and the best experts in this sphere;
  2. To review effective standards on use of languages of minority, to provide formation in language of minority;
  3. To change existing borders of official use of languages of minority at administrative level, and also at local and regional levels where the quantity of carriers is for this purpose a basis;
  4. To provide, that quotas for translation of television radio- and telecasts, and also the requirement to duplicate and titrovat all films the Ukrainian language, were not an obstacle for translation and duplication by regional languages and languages of minority;
  5. To strengthen support at creation new or work of already existing cultural centres of carriers of languages of minority;
  6. To accept effective methods for protection and support karaimskogo language and language krymchakov which are under the threat of disappearance;
  7. To take into consideration all conclusions and recommendations of Committee of experts about the Charter from Europe Is glad, in particular, those which concern Articles 4, paragraph 2 of the Charter and fixed in 3 Head of the report of Committee »[18].

The second state report on work on accomplishment of positions of the Charter has not been given from the authorities of Ukraine in 2011 However Vseukrainsky public organisations «Remedial social movement« Russian-speaking Ukraine "and" Human rights organisation "Overall aim", together with representatives 36 national minorities of Ukraine and language groups, have prepared the Second periodic public report on execution in Ukraine of positions of the European charter of regional languages or languages of minority with 2007 for 2011 In the report the analysis of the reasons and consequences of origin of problems and conflicts in language sphere is resulted. By authors of the report it is especially underlined that «the Ukrainian state for 4 years, the past from giving of the First state periodic Report on execution of positions of the Charter and almost 1,5 years - from reception of recommendations from Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, and has not considered system remarks and the recommendations stated in the Report of Committee of experts of the European charter of regional languages or languages of minority and Recommendations of Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from July, 7th, 2010». Also it is noticed that by Ukraine «has been selected identical - minimum - level of protection for all thirteen languages which have been recognised by regional, without quantity of their carriers that has actually led even to narrowing of the rights of Russian-speaking citizens» [19].

Thus, it is possible to say that has not been given Recommendations of Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe of proper attention from the Ukrainian authorities, and it has not been undertaken decisive steps on improvement of an intense situation round languages of minority.

The language policy in Ukraine it becomes traditional a theme for gamble and causes wide discussions in a society on the eve of elections. A raising of a "language" question, and accordingly, "language" pressure in a society as the party member of regions of Ukraine Sergey Kivalov was expressed, directly are connected with elections in the Supreme Rada which are planned for October, 2012 In this connection, there is a necessity of an establishment of meaningful dialogue on this point in question and continuations of practice of the events directed on maintenance of Russian in the CIS countries. It is meant it both financial, and legal, both political, and public assistance, and also support from mass-media and nongovernmental organisations.

It is necessary to add also that Russian problem also costs in other countries of the post-Soviet territory. Russian is considered language of minority not only in Ukraine, but also in territory of Armenia, Poland and Romania - the states which have signed the European charter of regional languages and languages of minority. It is connected, first of all, by that Russian studying is not entered in the concept of development of these independent states which aspire to integration into the European space and for which the knowledge of English language becomes more priority, than knowledge of Russian.

In such situation the Russian ruling circles have set for themselves a task of development and Russian advancement abroad (first of all on the post-Soviet territory) which has received the reflexion in the Federal target program "Russian". The program on 2011 - is aimed 2015 at Russian support as «bases of development of integration processes in the states-participants of the Commonwealth of Independent States; satisfaction of language and cultural requirements of the compatriots living abroad» [20].

At federal level in sphere of development of the international relations and humanitarian cooperation of Russia with foreign states the Federal agency on affairs of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the compatriots living abroad, and on the international humanitarian cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) also is engaged.

Thus, the Russian vision of a problem consists in understanding of necessity «to make efforts for Russian preserving in the Post-Soviet countries as dialogue tool». A platform for realisation of the given position is the Euroasian space which registration became especially a vital topic of the agenda of Russia and the states CIS last decade. Concrete steps testify to it on expansion of the status of Russian and strengthening of its positions on the post-Soviet territory. So, for example, within the limits of the Euroasian economic community (EvrAzES) Russian is a working language agrees item 17 of the Agreement on organisation of the Euroasian economic community from the October, 10th, 2000 signed by Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Russia and Tajikistan. (In Kazakhstan (Constitution RK, item 7, item 2), Kirghizia (Constitution KR, item 10, item 2) and Tajikistan (the Constitution of Tajikistan, item 2) Russian is an official language. In Belarus - state, along with Belarus according to Constitution RB, item 17; by results of the Referendum on May, 14th, 1995) [21]

Russian is official not only at level of some states as separate subjects of the international relations, but also and at level of the international organisations, such as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Organization For Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations Organization (OOH), the United Nations Organization concerning formation, sciences and cultures (UNESCO), the Euroasian economic community (EvrAzES), the Shanghai organisation of cooperation (SHOS), the Organization of the Agreement on collective safety (ODKB), the Organization for democracy and economic development - Guam (Guam), etc.

It is especially necessary to note importance of the Euroasian economic community (EvrAzES) which, on a number with Uniform economic space, is step on a way to creation of the Euroasian Union for which «Russian should become a reliable cementing basis». [22]

Work activization on the given direction is confirmed with the Statement of the State Duma of Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation «About strengthening of work with compatriots abroad and about expansion of humanitarian influence of Russia on the threshold of creation of the Euroasian economic union» from June, 19th, 2012 In the Statement that fact is established that «preserving or fastening of legal status of Russian in a number of the states of residing of our compatriots has great value and consequently should become one of base principles of process of integration on the Euroasian space». The State Duma urges «to undertake all possible efforts directed on qualitative growth of the Russian cultural presence outside of the Russian Federation, in particular by expansion of a network of the Russian centres of a science and culture and improvement of their material resources».

Thus, it is possible to draw a conclusion that functioning of Russian and position of compatriots on the post-Soviet territory causes anxiety of Russia. Now work on expansion of humanitarian influence of Russia passes in more active phase. However, it is obvious that from the Russian side it is necessary to raise attention both expert community, and the public for the purpose of strengthening of positions of Russian and a legal status of compatriots as a whole on the Euroasian space.


[1] European charters of regional languages and languages of minority. Article 1. A part 1. 1992

[2] «About movi in Ukra§nsk_j RSR», 10/28/1989 № 8312-XI <>

[3] Constitution of Ukraine. <к/96-вр> 6/28/1996 № 254к/96-ВР.

[4] Resolution of a round table «the Language policy in Ukraine: democratic development models» (Kiev, on September, 28th, 2006) <>

[5] Shulga N.A.Russkij jazyk in ordinary, informative, educational and political space of Ukraine//Russian world of Ukraine. The collection of scientific articles. Kiev: the Rainbow, 2006. С.84.

[6] Majority of Ukrainians speak Russian. Details: on materials Interfax-Ukraine. 12/4/2006 <>

[7] Performing research activity since 1992, KMIS is one of the leading Ukrainian companies; conducts scientific researches in social, political and economic, etc. areas of life of Ukraine. Spheres of action - financial support of scientific researches of chair of sociology of National university «Kievo-mogiljanskaja academy» (NaUKMA), «Open bank of the sociological data», magazine «Sociology: the theory, methods, marketing».

[8] Law on languages It is glad has accepted with infringements, the speaker considers. 7/6/2012. RIA Novosti news agency, Victor Avdeenko. <>

[9] Law on language: necessity or elective technology? RIANovosti Ukraine. Analytics and interview. 7/4/2012, <>

[10] Expert: Russian - not argument at Putin's negotiations with Yanukovych. Rosbalt, 7/11/2012, <>

[11] World congress of Ukrainians has called vetirovat the law on Russian. 7/6/2012. <>

[12] Yanukovych wants peregolosovat. Interfax. 8/7/2012. <>

[13] Venetian commissions, officially the European commission for democracy through the right (The Venice Commission, The European Commission for Democracy through Law) - consultative body on a constitutional law, created in 1990 at the Council of Europe.

[14] Conclusion of the Venetian commission about the law of Ukraine on languages. Strasbourg, 3/30/2011. The conclusion № 605 / 2010. <>

[15] European charter of regional languages or languages of minority. The Council of Europe. < (March%202010) /Charter%20and%20explanatory%20report.pdf>

[16] Destiny of Russian in Ukraine: what to wait from Yanukovych's command. 12/15/2011 However. <>

[17] monitorings First a cycle. The report of committee of experts on accomplishment of a charter by Ukraine. Strasbourg, on July, 7th, 2010 Informal transfer is prepared VOO UNDER «Russian-speaking Ukraine» according to item 5 of the Report of Committee of experts about accomplishment in Ukraine EHRJAJAM <>

Tags: Russia , culture , Ukraina