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Mommy, kids won’t play with me – can you make them?

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Aug. 14, 2012, 1:49 p.m. | Op-ed — by Yan Pronin

Supporters of the Ukrainian opposition hold up the Ukrainian national flag during a protest in Kyiv on July 30. Ukrainian lawmakers refused to re-consider a controversial language bill that upgrades the status of the Russian language. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
© AP

 During recent language debates in the sea of emotions one thing has been painfully missing: an island of basic critical thinking.

Poetic quotes such as “нації вмирають не від інфаркту спочатку в них відбирають мову” (Nations do not die from a heart stroke – at first they are deprived of their language) while undoubtedly lyrical, are devoid of any testability beyond iambic pentameter. The purpose of this article is to expose the ubiquitous lack of reasoning behind the most popular arguments put forward for not allowing Russian language any legally recognized status.

We often hear: “The name of the country is Ukraine, hence the only legal language must be Ukrainian.” The frequency with which it is said (even by people with higher education) is peculiar in its own right, because a 15 second look at the world map will reveal plenty of independent countries for which this presumed axiom does not hold: from Austria to Australia to Aruba to Argentina to Belgium to Brazil to Belize to Bosnia and this is just an (incomplete) list of countries starting with letters “A” and “B...”

Another platitude deserving attention is: “The state language is Ukrainian, it is what it is – deal with it.” Sucha quaint example of circular logic rests on the notion that a state language is as impervious to changes as the Laws of Thermodynamics. Closer look at even most recent world history will reveal that this process is indeed very possible without altering Earth’s gravity.

What about the opinion that “We have to go back to the times when everybody spoke Ukrainian?” While being a credible position in Imagination Land, it, of course has nothing to do with reality. The veracity with which this myth is reiterated at times passes for sincerity. Millions upon millions of people living in the territory of modern Ukraine have been speaking both languages for centuries.

Some would argue that: “People who support Russian as a second language are against Ukrainian.”

It cannot be farther from truth as there has not been a single credible social study made showing that people who want to give Russian any legal status want it to be the ONLY official language allowed.

Others will say that “People supporting Russian as a second language want reunification with Russia.” Again, no credible evidence has been put forward. As a side note –who, one may wonder, in the Party of Regions would like to pay “a cut” to Moscow? A desire for stronger economic/cultural ties is NOT the same thing as being ruled by another country.

One of the counter arguments on the topic to be heard sounds like: “You cannot make a comparison to multilingual Europe because Ukraine is very different.”

Of course, no country is shown which we CAN actually compare Ukraine to. The irony gets amplified when it comes to conversations about membership in European Union –these unbridgeable differences tend to be conveniently forgotten. This position is probably the more irresponsible one because it suggests that we should not use any historical precedents even as approximate guides, not mentioning being in direct contradiction to human rights aspects of the very Europe, part of which they are striving to be.

A statement that “Ukrainian language will not survive” –is hardly said with a straight face. If actually meant seriously, it is borderline cowardly because people saying it are inherently implying Ukrainian language’s inferiority, and that the only way it can survive is through forcing it upon the unwilling: “Mommy, kids won’t play with me – can you make them?”The fact that Ukrainian language proved its self-sufficiency and vitality during the hardest of times will make one doubt the seriousness of this claim.

The absolute majority of arguments put forward on this topic can be found in the paragraphs above. We can speculate about the source of emotions which make the aforementioned “reasoning” go unchallenged, but I would surmise that Russian nationalists have a lot to do with this anger fueling if not creating thisbitter disdain.

Ukraine, being a young country needs its identity, its heroes, but the fact that Andriy Shevhenko or Yana Klochkova speak Russian, does not make their achievements less Ukrainian. Investing in Ukrainian language and culture is a venture worth undertaking, but it shouldn’t be stained with a shameful practice oflanguage cleansing.

Yan Pronin works for Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas, Nevada.

 

 

 

The Kyiv Post is hosting comments to foster lively debate. Criticism is fine, but stick to the issues. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks will be removed from the site. If you think that a posted comment violates these standards, please flag it and alert us. We will take steps to block violators.
stepankom Aug. 14, 2012, 2:30 p.m.    

It's a pity Mr Pronin didn't check his facts before writing the article. The majority of publications are in Russian, Russian language education is very widely available and there are many regions where the majority of lssons are in Russian and Russian is already protected by the constitution. This speculative and illiterate law has already dented the President and his party's atings because most people suffering from the brutal mismanagement of the economy can see that it is an idiotic distraction. It's fooled Mr Pronin for sure- but it won't fool the voters and in the longer run, sadly that means PR will have to cheat to win elections and allow the oligarchs to hold onto their life of privelege. they must be pleased to know that they have a friend in Las Vegas.

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dave Aug. 14, 2012, 3:41 p.m.    


I don't agree that Russian should be an official language in Ukraine. However, Mr. Pronin makes the very good point that the so-called "Ukrainian language advocates" in the opposition (many of whom are actually themselves Russian speakers) are using the wrong logic in their supposed "defense" of the mother tongue. Their logic is based on a top-down approach; but support for Ukrainian as the national language needs to be built from bottom-up.

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AL BALA Aug. 15, 2012, 10:06 p.m.    

Indeed, the linguistic and even socio-linguistic impacts were great, as the Russians borrowed thousands of words, phrases and other significant linguistic features from the Mongol and the Turkic languages that were united under the Mongol Empire.[18]

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elmer-елмер Aug. 14, 2012, 4:09 p.m.    

Well, let's see what the psychos in Zookraine are up to today.

Oh, look - some moron named Yan Pronoun, from Ceasars Entertainment in Las Vegas, Nevada !!!! no less, has shown up to give everyone a re-hash of all the garbage that Kolesnichenko and his fellow psychos have been shoveling in Zookraine.

Except this time, Zookraine is not "just like Iceland."

This time, Zookraine is "just like Belize and Aruba and Brazil" - or maybe not.

This time, Zookraine is not on the list of the countries from A to B.

And, after all, people in Ukraine have been speaking "both languages" for centuries.

As Yan Pronoun works in the pits of Ceasars Entertainment, obviously intoxicated by the environment over there, he forgot to mention that the Rashan language was imposed as a language of domination by tsarist and sovok empires, with mighty concurrent efforts to eliminate everything Ukrainian.

And so, today, Kolesnichenko and the rest of his fellow pshychos are not "protecting their mother tongue" - they seek to continue the pshychology of domination, and the efforts to eliminate everything Ukrainian - in Ukraine.

"Let's have 50 official languages", Mr. Pronoun appears to say. But for some reason, it just doesn't seem to work out that way, because sovok mafiosi always mask everything with false propaganda.

And, as the Kyiv Post has pointed out, the language bill was used to hide the passage of institutionalized corruption in procurement laws, and other spending laws designed to benefit - the sovok mafiosi.

I wonder if Mr. Pronoun can tell us when Rasha will have Ukrainian as an official language? After all, Rasha is such a дпужньой народ, which for centuries has been trying to kill Ukraine.

The solution to the "official language" problem would have been to do what they do in sane countries, and what Yulia Tymoshenko pointed out when zArazov showed up at her gas contract trial to kak-a away in Rooshan - provide translators for those who claim they can't speak Ukrainian, and provide translated documents for those who claim they can't read Ukrainian.

Tymoshenko requested a translator for zArazov, the Prime Minister of Zookraine, who can't speak Ukrainian, but instead kak-a's away in Rooshan .

But in sovok psycho mafia Zookraine, the pretense of civilization continues, with "official languages" for everyone.

Urdu, Swahili, Portuguese, Welsh, Gaelic, Jamaican patois - come one, come all, says Mr. Pronoun, and Psycho Kolesnichenko. You now have "official languages" in Zookraine.

And, says Mr. Pronoun, Swahili and Welsh are no less Ukrainian than Ukrainian!

After all, Zookraine is just such a "democratic" sovok mafia state.

Just like the countries on the list from A to B - or maybe not.

seig heil
der fuhrer Governor Yanusvoloch
servant of Master Biker Lover Putler and Master Biker "The Surgeion"

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elmer-елмер Aug. 14, 2012, 4:53 p.m.    

"Millions upon millions of people living in the territory of modern Ukraine have been speaking both languages for centuries"

That's like saying 'millions upon millions of Jews were breathing gas in Nazi concentration camps for years"

According to Mr. Pronoun, the evil should continue on the basis that it has occurred in the past.

The one who is lacking in logic and critical thinking in a big way is Mr. Pronoun.

I wonder if Ceasars Entertainment know that they have hired such a total nimrod?

seig heil
der fuhrer Governor Yanusvoloch
servant of Master Biker Lover Putler and Master Biker "The Surgeion"

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AL BALA Aug. 15, 2012, 6:41 p.m.    

Hi elmer,

Did you notice that this article has the same "flavor" that the kremlinoid trolls use when they state, "I am a (clueless} American" ?

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Yura Onyshkiv Aug. 14, 2012, 4:54 p.m.    

Following such a simplistic logic, Russian should have some official status in the U.S. as well.

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Brunislav Aug. 14, 2012, 4:59 p.m.    

There are, actually, a couple of points that Mr Pronin misses in this otherwise well written essay. So I will attempt to do the critical thinking that he asks for here.

One very real reason not to implement the new language law (and this is not mentioned in the above article) is the lack of money for it. It has been mentioned in other places here on the Kyiv Post how much it would actually cost (http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/the-cost-of-the-language-law-309503.html). The only official estimate is around 2 billion dollars. If the government doesn't have the money for other arguably more necessary projects, why should public money be siphoned off for the legalization of Russian?

The list of countries that do not have a distinct language of their own is impressive, though there is some very important information that Mr. Pronin elides here. Many of the countries on the list are former colonies whose native peoples, cultures, and *languages* have been lost due to assimilation, displacement, repression, and, let's be honest, violence.

And this leads me to my next point. Languages are not neutral, natural, or universal. They are anthropogenic. English and Russian, for example, are not analogous to, say, algebra or calculus in mathematics. No matter how much one may want a language to be devoid of cultural , it will not be. Language carries history, emotion, meaning, and many other connotations along with it. Therefore, people will respond to it according to its history, the emotions it evokes, and the meaning it has in their lives (This is bad news for Russian and its tattered history, by the way). The associations with colonial languages are not usually positive to the colonized person. For many Ukrainians against the Russian language bill, Russian carries a lot of negative meaning along with it, and that is why they are responding in the way they are.

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Yan Pronin Aug. 17, 2012, 7:05 a.m.    

Brunislav, thanks for the constructive feedback. I have made no claims as to the timing of the law to which your cost-based argument will be pertinent, but as we all saw it has hardly been an unimportant issue.

I am aware of the fact that many countries do not have their own language, but the axiom : "Ukraine - the only language Ukrainian" does not cover any possible deviations/permutations - hence, it has been the lowest hanging fruit to rebuke. Even if did there are plenty of countries not following this "axiom," which by the way, is similarly structured to the reprehensible nationalistic slogan of the northern neighbor "Russia for Russians."

I agree with your point that languages are not neutral to the cultural environment. However, putting it mildly, there is hardly a consensus about the "negativity" of this legacy. As a separate note - I doubt that looking back at the complex history of both countries though the eyes of a prosecutor will yield constructive results.

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AL BALA Aug. 24, 2012, 7:54 p.m.    

Russian court upheld the elimination of the Ukrainian diaspora

http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2012/08/23/6971358/

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Brunislav Aug. 14, 2012, 5:06 p.m.    

I deleted a word before posting my comment. Here's the revision:
"No matter how much one may want a language to be devoid of cultural ^meaning^, it will not be.

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TheUkrainian Aug. 14, 2012, 5:49 p.m.    

‘’Ukraine needs its identity’’ – this the only statement that deserves respect. The rest is just an attempt of mr. Pronin to entertain the zoo pro-soviet government., the government that speaks fluently both languages, the trouble is that they speak both languages at the same time....They act and look as professional as they sound... – international embarrassment!
This is definitely NOT the ID Ukrainians shall foster! . People in Ukraine are being manipulated and zombied. Any associations with Russia have very negative connotation in all civilized countries. Who wants to be associated with mafia, alcoholism, corruption, rudeness etc. This language bill is a part a modern war against Ukraine which aims in labelling Ukraine with an ugly soviet face to create a gap between our country and the rest of the world to grow a political and economical power over Ukraine and drain its recourses making it a satellite state of the Russia.
The article is worth as much as last year snow without triangulation of facts and insight into the history of Ukraine.
The Russian language in Ukraine is a result of Holodomor - mass execution of Ukrainian people (especially Eastern Ukraine as western part was under soviet occupation after 1940-ies) bringing into the country the lowest class from East, often criminals, people without national self- esteem and roots.
The true Russians does not need the law to speak and preserve their own language especially in Ukraine. Astonishing enough is the fact that Russian speaking people have to learn the language of any other country they live in. Besides children of Russian parents (living in e.g. EU) don’t even often speak Russian as they are not taught by their parents.) So why it is a problem in Ukraine?
Can someone imagine that citizens (de jure) of France, Sweden, Italy or any other country would explode with malice and hatred against French, Swedish, Italian languages (no matter what background they have)??????
Ukraine has to strengthen it national self-esteem whereas Ukrainian language is a corner stone of citizens’ identity.

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DrFairie Aug. 14, 2012, 6:37 p.m.    

Oh the hypocrisy. Will the author be just as excited about the nationalization of the Mexican language, or is the non existence of such a language enough to convince him of the power of cultural invasion.

I've heard there are large regions in Florida where you cannot get a job if you don't speak Spanish. What if that region covered most of your country and you didn't have a job. Would you then feel threatened. What if you lived in such a city.

Instead of focusing on some far away place like Ukraine, perhaps you should be instead focusing on making Spanish an official language of the United States, allowing politicians to make speeches that you can't understand. Would you feel disenfranchised and alienated in your own country.

Of course you would. In fact there is a rising tension in America surrounding this exact issue. Cultural invasion is real. Trying to pretend that it doesn't exist far away from you doesn't mean that it doesn't exist right in your own front yard.

Spanish is not the official language of all those central and south american countries, it is the conquered language, just like christianity is the conquered religion of those same countries.

Conquering requires violence and death. If you advocate the ends then you advocate the means. Just be prepared to live by your own rules. If you for the destruction of culture, then don't expect any sympathy concerning the oncoming annihilation of white american culture by your neighbors from the south.

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elmer-елмер Aug. 14, 2012, 7:52 p.m.    

I've "heard" lots of things, also.

Anyone can "hear" lots of things - not all of them are true.

There is a big difference between private companies hiring people, and the government's relations with its people.

In order to become a US citizen, one must know English, and US history and the US constitution.

None of that deprives people from speaking whatever language they want.

Furthermore, the US government accommodates its citizens and residents, when and where indicated, by providing translations of its rules into other languages.

That does not make any other language "official."

It is simply an accommodation.

People in Central and South American countries speak native languages other than Spanish.

Just ask any aid workers.

In Zookraine, it was official policy by Russian imperialists to destroy Ukrainian culture and language. There are edicts to prove it, and a Holodomor to prove it.

Sadly, psychos like Vadim Kolesnichenko and Governor Yanusvoloch want to prolong that policy of destroying Ukrainian language and culture.

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carl Aug. 14, 2012, 7:45 p.m.    

It is shame politics is involved. Ukrainians and Russians have rich heritage and much shared history. Yes there is much that is bad yet many found love with the other,married and raised families. Do not become divided against one another, Ukraine can join the ranks of Finland,Poland .

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Corinna Caudill Aug. 14, 2012, 8 p.m.    

Right. I suppose that everyone should listen to this author and ignore the vast amount of evidence to the contrary that is provided by the academic fields of anthropology, political science and others which would support the notion that to marginalize one people's language is to attempt to undermine or marginalize their culture.

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stepankom Aug. 15, 2012, 3:09 p.m.    

It's really strange reading this article. I feel as if I were in some alternative universe but the reality is that, sadly, Pronin has blinded himself to the facts and misrepresents the situation as a rational debate and legislative development. For the record

1) The vote in Parliament was illegal as only 219 votes of the 226 required to even consider the law in the parliamentary session voted in support.
2) Therefore no vote should have been held and, when it was, only 174 people whose votes were counted were actually physically present in Parliament as required by the constitution.

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AL BALA Aug. 15, 2012, 4:17 p.m.    

3. 2 million school books purchased for the younger classes , 1.9 million in Russian

!!

Dmitry Tabachnik vidraportuvav: problems with textbooks in Russian can not be.

Tabachnik informed that almost all schools will begin its work promptly and fully ready for the start of the academic process.

http://tsn.ua/ukrayina/z-2-mln-pidruchnikiv-zakuplenih-dlya-molodshih-klasiv-1-9-mln-rosiyskomovni.html

PS

Gee ?

More school School books in Russian than in Ukrainian in Ukraine !

Russification of Ukraine back in full force, Just like in Muscovy {AKA-Russian Empire / AKA - USSR} ! ! ! !

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stepankom Aug. 15, 2012, 8:58 p.m.    

I agree with Al Bala and with Corinna above- one final point is that the article begins with a piece of misinformation- Russian is guaranteed protection and free development under the Constitution along with other languages
Держава забезпечує всебічний розвиток і функціонування української мови в усіх сферах суспільного життя на всій території України.

В Україні гарантується вільний розвиток, використання і захист російської, інших мов національних меншин України.

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AL BALA Aug. 15, 2012, 10:14 p.m.    

Russian-speaking Ukraine

Vadim Kolesnichenkov, The Chairman of Council [1]

Major activities

Ensuring the continued domination of the Russian language and culture in Ukraine on the grounds that this must remain inviolable and inalienable;

Securing Russian language to receive status of the state language

Promoting the concept of shared imperial Russian history as the ideological basis of continued domination of Russians in Ukraine;

Working for a division of Ukraine into linguistically defined regions under the guise of federalism and alleging Russian speakers, a census category, is a social group;

Providing support to local self-governance structure development that renders favorable conditions for local Russian and Russian-speaking groups;

Monitoring the continued domination of Russian in the public communications sphere and all media; Fighting against attempts to reduce this influence in any manner or form;

Countering propaganda and promotion of Ukrainian fascism and Nazism in Ukraine, as well as actions aimed at the rehabilitation, the exaltation, the social legitimization of individuals and organizations that participated in World War II on the side of Germany and its allies; excluding the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal resolutions to be revised or/and discredited;

Ensuring the crimes of Stalinism and the Communist regime remain as little researched and discussed as possible and ignoring neo-imperialist Russian fascism in Ukraine;

Providing necessary support for pro-Russian education, involving citizen in publishing and distributing materials, documents, leaflets, posters, newsletters, organizing conferences, making TV/radio programs promulgating pro-Russian opinions and views.

Strengthening the representation of Russian /pro-Russian groups in government.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian-speaking_Ukraine

Gee ?

In other countries he would be arrested for treason !

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AL BALA Aug. 16, 2012, 12:05 a.m.    

Russian-speaking Ukraine

Vadim Kolesnichenkov, The Chairman of Council [1]

Major activities

Ensuring the continued domination of the Russian language and culture in Ukraine on the grounds that this must remain inviolable and inalienable;

Securing Russian language to receive status of the state language

Promoting the concept of shared imperial Russian history as the ideological basis of continued domination of Russians in Ukraine;

Working for a division of Ukraine into linguistically defined regions under the guise of federalism and alleging Russian speakers, a census category, is a social group;

Providing support to local self-governance structure development that renders favorable conditions for local Russian and Russian-speaking groups;

Monitoring the continued domination of Russian in the public communications sphere and all media; Fighting against attempts to reduce this influence in any manner or form;

Countering propaganda and promotion of Ukrainian fascism and Nazism in Ukraine, as well as actions aimed at the rehabilitation, the exaltation, the social legitimization of individuals and organizations that participated in World War II on the side of Germany and its allies; excluding the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal resolutions to be revised or/and discredited;

Ensuring the crimes of Stalinism and the Communist regime remain as little researched and discussed as possible and ignoring neo-imperialist Russian fascism in Ukraine;

Providing necessary support for pro-Russian education, involving citizen in publishing and distributing materials, documents, leaflets, posters, newsletters, organizing conferences, making TV/radio programs promulgating pro-Russian opinions and views.

Strengthening the representation of Russian /pro-Russian groups in government.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian-speaking_Ukraine

Gee ?

In other countries he would be arrested for treason !

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AL BALA Aug. 17, 2012, 2:39 a.m.    

In the language Square in Kharkiv attacked youths with knives

Moons also cut with knives, slashed and stole campaign materials and things.

http://tsn.ua/politika/na-movniy-maydan-u-harkovi-napali-molodiki-z-nozhami.html

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AL BALA Aug. 19, 2012, 9:56 p.m.    

City Council Ishmael Odessa region at an extraordinary session of consolidated Russian regional status, but refused to consider the initiative of the Bulgarian diaspora to grant the same status of the Bulgarian language.

Recall recently deputy chairman of the Party of Regions Mikhail Chechetov made ​​controversial statement, which indicated that the language law applies only Russian .

http://tsn.ua/politika/v-izmayili-bolgaram-vidmovili-v-regionalniy-movi.html

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