Ukraine's Dnepropetrovsk makes Russian regional language

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu May 25 17:23:44 UTC 2006

Ukraine's Dnepropetrovsk makes Russian regional language
24.05.2006, 23.19

DONETSK, May 24 (Itar-Tass) -- Ukraine's Dnepropetrovsk with a population
of over one million has given Russian the status of a regional language.
Seventy-seven deputies of the City Council voted for the new status of the
Russian language, which is native for the majority of people in
Dneptropetrovsk. The lawmakers represented the opposition Party of
Regions, the Communist Party, the Not So! bloc, and the Peoples Opposition

Twenty deputies voted against. Those were members of the Yulia Timoshenko
Bloc and the pro-presidential Our Ukraine party, whose activists picketed
the City Council in the morning in an attempt to prevent it from debating
the issue. Dnepropetrovsk Mayor Ivan Kulichenko also opposed the new
status of the Russian language. The decision on the regional status of the
Russian language cannot be implemented in the city because there is no
relevant legal framework in Ukraine, he warned. Earlier, the Ukrainian
government and prosecutors cancelled similar decisions in Kharkov,
Sevastopol, Lugansk, and Donetsk.

The head of the Duma Committee on CIS Affairs and Relations with
Compatriots, Andrei Kokoshin, told Itar-Tass, There is a general tendency
in Ukraine to force the Russian language out of the information, legal and
cultural space. He believes that the Ukrainian Justice Ministrys decision
that denounced as unlawful the introduction of regional status for the
Russian language in the Kharkov, Sevastopol, Lugansk, and Donetsk regions
confirms this trend. This is an obvious violation of the rights of
Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine who live compactly in certain areas,
Kokoshin said.

He said Duma deputies had repeatedly called the attention of their
Ukrainian colleagues to the need to ensure the rights of the
Russian-speaking population in accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine
and international obligations. In his view, this problem goes beyond
bilateral relations because the Russian language and Russian culture are a
generally recognised part of world culture. This problem affects tens of
millions of people, prospects for Ukraine as a democratic state, and the
future of genuinely friendly and equal relations between Russia and
Ukraine, Kokoshin said.

Ukraine's Party of Regions said it would raise the problem of language
policy at the first session of the Supreme Rada. The Party of Regions
received the biggest number of seats -- 186 of the total 450 seats -- in
the March 26 parliamentary election. One of its leaders, Yevgeny Kushnarev
promised to press for a comprehensive approach to this issue. This policy
will equally apply to all other languages spoken in Ukraine by ethnic
groups that make up compact communities in one or another territory,
Kushnarev said.

Let the politicians drop illusions that the language problem can vanish
overnight with the aid of presidential decrees or government resolutions,
he said. Russian is the mother tongue or the instrument of everyday
communications for the majority of people living in the industrially
advanced eastern Luganks and Donetsk regions of, the southeast
Dnepropetrovsk and Zaporozhye regions, and in the autonomous Republic of
the Crimea. It is also very broadly used in Ukraine's second largest city
of Kharkov and in the major port city of Odessa and the adjacent area. A
large number of people in the capital Kiev are Russian-speaking, too. The
population in the traditionalist agrarian central, northwest and western
parts of the country, which offered strong support to the orange
revolution at the end of 2004, is predominantly Ukrainian-speaking.

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