Ukraine’s lawmakers proposed a new bill to make everyone in the country to speak the local dialect. They believe it will help to protect the status of Ukrainian as the language of citizenship, unite the country’s residents and achieve harmony in the society.
The opponents say the bill is too harsh and may cause just the opposite effects.
The actual purpose of the new legislation is to minimize the use of Russian, which is still spoken widely in public by stars and politicians alike. The older generation habitually switches to Russian in casual conversations with family and friends. TV presenters and celebrities feel free to speak Russian on local channels at any time. For example, a reporter may ask a question in one language and get a response in another. Although youngsters who went to school after 1999 often struggle to speak and write in Russian, preferring to converse in Ukrainian.
The new law to force residents of Ukraine speak Ukrainian
The new law stipulates that every citizen is obliged to be able to speak Ukrainian as the only official state language. The government in its turn guarantees to set up the system of pre-school, school, and tertiary education to learn it.
According to the amendments, all educational establishments will have to provide tuition in Ukrainian. However, languages of national minorities remain permitted in kindergartens and schools in parallel with the national tongue. But universities and colleges are not allowed to do it.
Tertiary educational institutions may provide courses in English or other official languages of the European Union (which obviously do not include Russian). However, only if the same institute also offers to learn this particular language with Ukrainian being the base for explaining intricacies of the foreign dialect.
Knowledge of the national tongue for citizens
Requirements for gaining Ukrainian citizenship will also become stricter. Previously it was enough for applicants to speak Ukrainian at a conversational level. In future, they will have to pass an exam and receive a special certificate, Kp.ua reports.
All scientific manuscripts will have to be published in the state language or in one of the official languages of the EU. Thus Russian, as well as Chinese and Yiddish, will basically become banned.
In general, all spheres of life will be influenced by the new bill, including social media, radio, TV, and the cultural sphere.
Speak Ukrainian or go to jail
In addition, the authors of the bill propose to create a new supervisory body to monitor its observance.
Those companies who violate the rules will have to pay a fine:
- 3400-6800 hryvnia (USD $125-250) for government-financed organizations
- 3400-5100 hryvnia ($125-187) for educational institutions, science, and cultural bodies
- 6800-8500 hryvnia ($250-310) for media companies
Not only violators could be fined as a company. Persons responsible for the giant sin may be also put behind bars for up to 3 years.
The obvious direction of the proposed bill towards outlawing Russian, which is still widely spoken in the country by a large portion of citizens, angered some residents. Besides, a part of the population is deeply unhappy with the recent changes after 2014 Maidan Revolution and drifts towards the opinion that Ukraine will be better of going back to being friends with Russia rather than trying to gain acceptance to EU. At the same time, the majority of locals still see their country as a part of Europe. As such, the language quandary is not just about words and sounds.
Tatiana Yablonsky, a human rights activist, says that “raising a language issue in the current situation will only exacerbate the split in the society.”
Alexander Burmagin, a media lawyer, notes that it will be difficult to observe the law in the beginning. But in the course of time, the situation will be normalized. “People get used to everything,” he adds.