The law on the principles of the state language policy in Ukraine, which expands the sphere of use of the Russian language and languages of other national minorities, entered into force after its official publication on Friday.
The law was published in the Ukrainian parliament’s official publication – Holos Ukrainy newspaper on Friday.
The law, authored by parliamentarians Vadym Kolesnichenko and Serhiy Kivalov from the Party of Regions, was adopted by parliament on July 3, triggering protests in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities.
Verkhovna Rada Chairman Volodymyr Lytvyn refused to sign the law and submitted a letter of resignation. However, the Verkhovna Rada twice held votes of confidence in the speaker, and did not accept his resignation.
On July 31, Lytvyn signed the law on the principles of state language policy and sent it to the president for signature.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych signed the language policy bill into law on August 8 and ordered the cabinet to form a working group in charge of drawing up proposals to improve laws regulating the use of languages in the country. The group should include public figures, as well as prominent educational, scientific and cultural experts specializing in language issues.
After the language bill was signed into law, the Batkivschyna United Opposition promised to annul the “anti-Ukrainian” act on languages and bring the president and parliament speaker to justice.
Under the law, Ukrainian is the official language. The official language is used all over the territory of Ukraine by the agencies representing the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of power, in international agreements, in the education process, within limits and according to the procedures stipulated in the law. Under the document, the government will also assist to use of the official language in the media, science, culture, and other spheres of public life.
The law also provides that regional or minority languages include Russian, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Armenian, Gagauz, Yiddish, Crimean Tatar, Moldovan, German, Greek, Polish, Romani, Romanian, Slovak, Hungarian, Rusyn, Karaim and Krymchak.
According to the document, if the number of native speakers of one of these languages is 10% or more of the population of the territory on which the language is used, then measures aimed at use of regional and minority languages will apply.
In separate cases local councils will decide whether a national minority language can be used if the number of speakers of this language is not less than 10% on the relevant territory.
Under the document, sittings of the Verkhovna Rada and its commissions and committees will be held in Ukrainian, although MPs may deliver speeches in other languages. The apparatus of the parliament will provide translators in such cases.
In addition, the documents of the supreme government agencies are adopted in the official language and are officially published in Ukrainian, Russian and other regional languages. The documents of local government agencies are adopted and published in the official language, but within the territories in which regional languages are used they are adopted in the official language and minority languages.
Therefore, the law foresees that the official language is the primary language of work, record keeping and documentation in state and local government agencies, but within the territories in which regional languages are used, regional languages could be used in the work, record keeping and documentation of local government agencies.
In addition, the law states that officials and employees are obliged to know the official language, speak it with visitors, but within areas in which regional languages are used officials can use them and speak in them with visitors.
The law also stipulates that the names of state and local government agencies, public associations, enterprises, institutions and organizations, inscriptions on their seals, stamps, as well as official forms and tables, are performed in the state language, however, within the territories in which regional languages are used, upon the decision of the local council, all these names and inscriptions could be performed in the state and regional languages.
In addition, the law states that documents on the election of the president, MPs, deputies of local councils, as well as for the holding of Ukrainian and local referendums, are issued in the official language. However, within the territories in which regional languages are widespread, such documents are also issued in regional languages. The same applies to the language in which the ballots are printed – in the national and regional languages.
Under the law, passports or documents that replace them, as well as data about the owners of these passports, are included in these passports in the official language, but on the request of citizens such records in passports can be made in one of the regional languages.
The law proposes extending the effect of this provision to other official documents certifying the identity of citizens, namely the acts of civil registration, education documents, work records, military IDs or other official documents.
It also establishes that proceedings in civil, economic, administrative and criminal cases are conducted in the official language, while within the territories in which regional languages are used, upon agreement of the parties, court sittings could be conducted using regional languages.