A new law to make everyone in Ukraine to speak UkrainianUkraine’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.


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Great decision! Ukrainian should be the official language in our country. But such changes to legislation had to be established much earlier – in 1991, immediately after the crash of USSR. Nothing bad will happen to Russians living in Ukraine if they will finally learn Ukrainian and pass the exam 🙂

Yes, great decision which ofcourse will not divide the russian speaking and ukrainian speaking citizens even more. Genious decisision. Instead of trying to unite the country again and include both the russian and ukrainian citizens, they now make a hostile move towards the russian minority. Including Ukrainian language more is a good choice, but banning the russian language or culture…..for me that is extreme version of nationalism and that is not how we do it in europe and this is not democracy. Problem for Ukraine is the parlament and they are not connected to the people. All countries have minorities… Read more »
Dear Tom. Do not tell about the things you are really far from understanding of their specifics. Nobody bans Russian, Polish, Armenian, Lithuanian, Arabic, Chinese etc. in Ukraine. Never was like this. Russians has the same rights with other minorities here in Ukraine, but they cannot pretend on some special status (higher than others). Soviet past is not the reason to stick to Russian forever. Russian already lost their uniting role. Look on other former soviet republics (especially Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia). The sense of improvement of legislation in language sphere is the self-identification (very late, but still necessary!) of ukrainian… Read more »
I guess having a good debate is difficult online, so that is why i usually steer away from it. I will do the same here after my last few words. When parlament start making bills to ban and fined russian ( refer to article), then i think we are loosing the point here. I know the parlament want to change name of streets in Kiev ( streets with russian name and change them to names which refer to people with extreme nationalizm). I know russian songs are banned at schools ( yes, this happens and do not say that there… Read more »
Tom, I totally agree with you. The biggest problem is the current government that’s currently in power in Kiev. The legitimately elected president of Ukraine in my opinion is still Viktor Yanukovitch. He was the democratically, legitimately legally elected president until he was ousted from his seat in 2014 by the “coup d’état” by the Maidans and the Oligarch in 2014. He was replaced by Arsenyi Yatseinyuk, then they illegitimately elected Pétrole Poroshenko, which they call “the chocolate man” because he owns a big chocolate company, to be the president of Ukraine. When Crimeans saw this, they called for a… Read more »
You shouldn’t compare Ukraine with European countries! It has completely another history. It is necessary to pay attention to the fact that there’s a great amount of Russian people live in Ukraine and goverment have to respect their rights and choice (if we say today that Ukraine is an European country). Do you really believe “Establishing the native language as legally official is the way of strenthening the self-identification, the same as in all European (and not only) countries…” What do you want to say about Switzerland then? Do you know how many official languages there? In spite of that,… Read more »
I’m from the US and we have no official language. When we became a country it was debated if English or German would be the common spoken language. Now many languages are spoken here and in Florida where I live over 200 languages are spoken here. I’ve been to the Philippines and many languages are spoken there depinding on where you live. But they have one language they can use in their country that nearly all of them speak called Tagalog. So it’s a good idea to make Ukrainian the official language of governmental activities and teach it in schools.… Read more »
I think a national language is very important to that nation’s identity. Here in the US, Spanish is all too common and almost a 2nd national language with telephone and ATM menus requiring you to choose English. This divides a nation and fosters the growth of other cultures within its borders. Assimilation allows a country to move forward as one people with a definitive cultural identity. This is the great strength of US. It is a large nation with a singular identity that the EU cannot compete with. And why would Russians born and living in Ukraine want to be… Read more »

As for me, it’s a controversial bill to be accepted. On one hand, it’s a good chance for many people to revise knowledge of Ukrainian or learn it, as it contains their history, traditions, cultural life. But on the other hand, it seems to be silly to force people to use only one language in multicultural country. And by the way, it is a people to decide what language they want to speak and what- don’t.

Robert Brouillette

What about those of us from outside of the Ukraine. Trying to find language schools in Ukrainian is almost impossible.
I agree 100% with the law. So I ask all of you in the Ukraine to help me learn the language. I barely speak Russian as it is.