The Russian language is swiftly gaining official status as a “regional” language across eastern and southern regions of Ukraine.
About a dozen regional legislatures in Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine have granted it official status as a “regional” language since President Viktor Yanukovych on Aug. 8 signed controversial language legislation into law.
The legislation was drafted and pushed swiftly, with limited debate, through parliament this summer by Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.
Russian is now sanctioned for broader use by public officials, regional government, in education and business in regions of Ukraine were it was given status as a “regional” language.
According to the new language legislation, regional legislatures in territories where more than 10 percent of the population consider Russian or other minority languages as a native tongue can adopt them as a “regional” language.
Citizens in Ukrainian-speaking western parts of the nation and other opponents, including scholars, have warned that the new language rules will deepen Ukraine’s political and cultural divide, and undermine the official state language, Ukrainian.
Belittled and oppressed in prior centuries, Ukrainian has made a comeback since the country declared independence from the USSR in 1991. It was granted status as Ukraine’s state language by a constitution adopted in 1996.
Ukraine’s political opposition and pro-Ukrainian language advocates fear that the language legislation could boost use of Russian, in turn reversing gains made by Ukrainian since 1991.