Ukraine: Language as an index of survival of Ukrainian nation
Harold F. Schiffman
haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Sat May 27 15:23:27 UTC 2006
The voluntary spiritual servitude
translated by Natalia Butenko, 25.05.2006, 14:25
Original article in Ukrainian by Martha Onufriv, journalists, Toronto, for
Lesya Ukrainkas statement taken from her open letter addressed to French
poets, served as a title to this article. The statement is as follows:
Disgrace to those free poets who are ringing up in front of strangers with
the chains of the bondage voluntarily put on. The servitude is far more
disgusting if it is voluntary. It is sad that the words about spiritual
servitude written by the poetess over 100 years ago are actual for
Ukrainians hitherto. Behind their actuality is the threat to the state
Ukrainian mechanism and free development of Ukrainian nation. You know
that yesterdays or todays orientation to Moscow issued from the left and
other non-State forces, is dangerous for Ukrainian state.
The roots of Ukrainian spiritual servitude are deep, and determined, in
particular, by the attitude of each Ukrainian or different social groups
to the mother tongue and its derivations spirituality, culture etc. The
people who lost their identity since coming to a certain extent under the
expansive Russianization influence, are especially concerned in. Worse is
to come it means actual parades around regional status of the Russian
language, i.e. open neglecting of the Official Language of Ukraine Law.
It is obvious that the last one is the pre-election speculation no more,
therefore together with further inertia of existing State power it is
considered as a direct threat to the territorial wholeness of Ukraine. So,
why now without special efforts from the side of Moscow directed to, the
Russianization is still going on in Ukraine? In authors opinion, the
reasons of Russianization are as follows:
The new ones
1. Balancing of the new State power between East and West, between Soviet
and national priorities. Absence of concrete official program on how to
return the Ukrainian language to all the spheres of life. In fact, the key
governmental posts are taken up by the people, in particular, the Minister
for Education Stanislav Nikolayenko, who are far from being engaged into
the national interests.
2. Far and wide and unpunished neglecting of the Official Language of
3. Lack of State grants directed to the development of competitive
Ukrainian books, newspapers, and magazines and highly professional
Ukrainian mass media.
The old ones
1. Pliability to the Russianization was as an opportunity of surviving for
many generations of Ukrainians.
2. Lack of nationally conscious intelligence in the Russianized regions of
3. Absence of national education in Ukrainian society in whole and in
families in particular.
4. Lack of popular scientific literature concerning the Russianization
which would be adequately understood by the most of population.
The language as an index of surviving of Ukrainian nation
The invaders of every stripe understood better than todays officials and
national politicians that the elimination of this or that nation begins
not only from the prohibiting of their mother tongue, but even from as
though innocent fitting of the defeated peoples language to the winners
one. Not excepting that deliberate manipulating to the nations code memory
provokes the loss of its active rebuff and makes the nation dependent of,
and even leads to its elimination as an identical ethnos. As for the
former USSR, its a generally acknowledged fact that for many years the GRU
(Russian abbreviation from Main Intelligence Department) was elaborating
special programs directed to the mass hysteria provoking among the
Obviously, the present kind of GRU makes adequate efforts in order to
maintain status quo of the Russian language or Russianized Ukrainian
orthography, and it is considered as a distinctive springboard of Ukraines
return to the colonial status. (Ukrainian linguists should work at vice
versa programs.) The indisputable fact for each nation and especially for
Ukrainians living in post-colonial period, is as follows: just mother
tongue will help to keep not only their national identity, but guarantee
the future for Ukraine as a country.
Some facts from martyrology of the Ukrainian language
All sorts of occupiers who wanted to settle down in Ukraine, eliminated
both the language and intellectual elite who, of course, is the highest
representative of each nation. It is to be remarked that the occupiers
revealed their cruel and merciless attitude especially to the
representatives of writer circles as talismans of national identity.
Austro-Hungarian empire, Rzeczpospolita, and tsarist Russia were not the
exceptions. All of them understood very well that the time or, most
likely, unsettled national question would lead to the disintegration of
Therefore they hurried to put into practice the denationalization of
dependent nations by mean of their language elimination. The present
example you are not to go far for is as follows: the denationalization of
Bielarus nation made them unable to repulse the authoritarian batska
(father in Bielorussian) Lukashenkas regime. Neither Austro-Hungarian
empire nor Rzeczpospolita were, to put it mildly, tolerant in respect of
the Ukrainian language. Overcoming big obstacles, it was achieved the
limited functioning of the Ukrainian language in Poland. However, a
special cruelty in respect of all Ukrainian distinguished tsarist Russia.
It is worth reminding the sad documents of that period: Valuyevs
instruction (1863) forbidding the Ukrainian language, including books
As an example of unquenchable imperial impudence and extreme chauvinism
was the statement of Valuyev, the Minister for Interior Affairs of Russia:
There no independent Malorussian (Malorussia is the neglecting name of
Ukraine; Malorussia means small Russia) language was, is and will be
whenever. Another document of that period is the Yemsk edict (1876). This
addition to the above mentioned Valueyevs instruction was directed to the
total and final elimination of the Ukrainian language, in particular, in
the kingdom of culture. According to that document, the import of
Ukrainian books, translations into Ukrainian, theatrical performances in
Ukrainian etc, were prohibited. The Bolsheviks, as a matter of fact,
representatives of another empire the blood-red one, surpassed their
ancestors: they were applying special sadistic methods in order to
eliminate not only the Ukrainian language, but also Ukrainian intellectual
In order to reveal Ukrainian national elements with the aim of their
further eliminating, the soviet regime provoked so called national
renovation. During so called Ukrainianization which took place in Kharkiv
in 1927, it was appraised the compromise general orthography owing to the
efforts of Ukrainian philologists and linguists representing all the areas
of Ukraine which was tore in pieces by occupiers. The dictionary created
in 1929 on the basis of just mentioned orthography was named as the
dictionary of Holoskevich after its regulator. It is worth remarking that
the Kharkivs orthography didnt appear on the blank space, but it
harmoniously blended with the linguistic stream of Ukraine created for
In particular, The Dictionary of the Ukrainian Language in 4 volumes
(author Hrinchenko), official orthography worded by the philologist
Ohiyenko (Metropolitan Illarion), and The Main Rules of Ukrainian
Orthography prepared by Ukrainian Academy of Sciences etc. However, the
farce of Ukrainianization was very short: the authorities declared the
dictionary of Holoskevich as seditious one, and prohibited it as the
speaker of bourgeois nationalism. Instead of it the new orthography was
created. As eloquent may be considered the fact as follows: the process
over the Society of Deliberation of Ukraine was the first Bolshevik
enactment directed to the elimination of intellectual elite of our
country, and it covered the wide range of Ukrainian philologists.
There were three linguists in that dock, and one of them was Hrihoriy
Holoskevich. His life was as a payment for the dictionary created by him.
You see, how dangerous the professionally regulated Ukrainian language was
for Moscow! Another fact is very expressive too. The last victims of the
same totalitarian system on the eve of so called perestroika
(reconstruction) were the representatives of writing circles: Valeriy
Marchenko, Vasyl Stus, Oleksa Tykhiy, and Yuriy Lytvyn. Doesnt this short
list of enactments and victims of occupier regimes testify about exclusive
value of Ukrainian, i.e. value of its orthography? Why the occupiers
understood and understand better than Ukrainians where our strength and
Political aspect of Russianized orthography
Most of Ukrainian linguists fighting for the orthographical norms of 1927
to be returned, issue from humanitarian positions and avoid, at the same
time, the political aspect of this problem. They establish the fact of
ancient origin of Ukrainian letter and phoneme "?" [g] and dont accent the
readers attention on the interesting conclusion: "?" is the confirmation
of ancient origin and independence not only of the Ukrainian language but
also Ukrainian nation. It is obvious that existence of the letter and
phoneme "?" [g] was in contradiction with the Moscows elder brothers
position and common cradle of three nations (Russian, Ukrainian and
Bielorussian). Therefore, it was to be eliminated. Just this letter
confirmed that Moscoviya was created far more later than Kyiv Rus, and as
a consequence, the conclusion that Ukrainians and Russians are not of
common origin become obvious. By the way, Russians as a nation are a blend
of many Asian nations, and Slav element is 15-20%.
Please note that we tell about formation of the nations and not about
migration or mixed matrimonies taking place later. Additionally, the
letter and phoneme "?" [g] which is common to the languages of East and
West Europe, and not Moscoviya, confirmed the belonging of Ukrainian
nation to European society. The conclusion is as follows: Ukrainians
mustnt have special feelings to Russia. All the more, Ukrainians as an
ancient and distinct nation must choose its own independent way. Only few
of Ukrainian linguists tell about the fact that thousands of Ukrainian
words were eliminated from using during Bolshevik regime. It was done not
only to approach the Ukrainian language to the Russian, but to provoke in
Ukrainians the feeling of inferiority.
All the more, it was necessary to educate them as janizaries and
fatherless nation. Obliterating from our memory mother tongue, spiritual
and cultural values, we receive in result the generations of maloroses,
khokhlis (scornful nickname done by Russians to Ukrainians), soviets,
separatists etc. So called national unconsciousness is not only the
worship to a strange culture, in this case to the Russian one, but
neglecting all truly national.
National unconsciousness is not only the pine for slave bondage but also
crazy resistance to everything national which is trying to overcome all
the preceding obstacles. It is said that Ukrainian is the soul of the
nation. Will Ukrainians manage to rise to their feet, go out from their
spiritual servitude using strange (Russian) language or Moscow-like
altered modern language?
Why Ukrainians havent so necessary protecting mechanism? Everything issued
from Moscow works against the nation, therefore, it is to be thrown out to
the dust-heap of history as soon as possible!
The Ukrainian language on both sides of the ocean
It seems to be not worth waiting for positive changes for the better in
the language policy of Ukraine. Even if the circumstances are favourable,
the mass returning to the truly Ukrainian orthography will delay for many
Therefore, it is very important not only to save the other side of the
ocean the language which is not maimed by, but also protect it from the
new Russianization influence.
Additionally, the linguists from diaspora when taking part in the
orthography commissions must uphold the orthography 1927 with more
persistence and more arguments, and not comply to such an apology for
linguists as academic Rusanyvskiy.
The problems are in diaspora too. Last time, in view of opening by
new-comers the broadcasts and magazines, the threat of disappearing of
Moscows touches free Ukrainian language rose up.
The author doesnt want to judge all the new-arrived workers of Ukrainian
informational space of Canada and USA. No doubts, there are personalities
who blended with the dictionary of Holoskevich and make their professional
and patriotic work here. However, there are quite a number of those whom
tomorrows day in diaspora cannot be trusted to.
Something strange happens with those representatives of diaspora who has
lived here since post-war years, born in Canada or USA, and studied the
course of Ukraineology.
It is about Ukrainian mass media. Some of their workers are competing in
fast applying in mass media lexicon the soviet words: futbol instead of
kopaniy myach, sportsmen instead of sportovets, mer (Engl. - mayor)
instead of posadnik, khockey instead of hockey (all the words are done in
A special alarm arouses the transliteration of the foreign origin words
containing letters "h" and "g". Ukrainian mass media still go on monkeying
this transliteration from Russia. It is worth reminding that in contrast
to the Russian language, Ukrainian has all the corresponding sounds: "g"
"?" and "h "?".
Not long ago, it could be happen the international scandal if the ex
vice-president of USA Al Gore knew that he was called by official mass
media of Ukraine as Hore. By the way, the last one sounds in English as a
woman of the most ancient profession (whore).
Such is the modern Ukrainian language. That is the argument
Unfortunately, new authorities did nothing in order to renew the language
of native people of Ukraine, i.e. liquidation of the consequences of
colonial subordination. As if there were not CPSUs directions: It is
necessary to approach as much as possible the Ukrainian language to the
Russian and other languages of the Soviet Union until their complete
When the Kharkivs orthography was prohibited, the red commissars created
new language commission (1933), and among others there were so called
linguist Naum Kaganovich (!) and Khvylya on behalf of Central Committee of
the Bolshevik party.
The document of that period tells of the following: Additionally to the
questions of scientific terminology, the commission examined the
orthography and changed it by eliminating of artificial isolation of the
Ukrainian language from Russian, i.e. simplifying the orthography and
eliminating nationalistic rules of this orthography that made the
Ukrainian language as Polish and Czech bourgeois culture orientated.
According to Oleksander Ponomaryv (a famous scholar of authority, Ph.D.),
the orthography of 1933 is considered as such where all the Ukrainian was
eliminated from. By the way, this orthography with not essential changes
is used in Ukraine hitherto, and is called as the modern Ukrainian
It is worth paying attention that Kyivs orthography was creating and
applying during golodomor (famine torment) of 1932-33, mass deportations,
repressions, and annihilation of Ukrainian intelligence.
You see what methods were applied by Bolsheviks for eliminating of the
soul of Ukrainian nation. The list of regions where the Russian language
goes on reigning, serves as a testimony of this. They are: Kyiv, Poltava,
Kharkiv, Donetsk, Odesa etc.
It is worth remarking that the outrage upon the Ukrainian language took
place till the nineties of the last century. Some changes in the language
policy were outlined in the eve of proclaiming of the Independence of
In 1990 at the Institute of Linguistics of Ukraine the orthography
commission was created, but it was condemned to failure by Kravchuk and K
because a famous Russifier Rusanyvskiy was appointed as its Head..
Despite of this, the progressive linguists insisted on the returning to
the Kharkivs orthography (with small changes). With this aim, there were
organized the International Congress of linguists specializing on the
Ukrainian language (1991) and the National Orthography Commission at the
Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine (1994).
In the last one the famous Ukrainian linguists from many countries of the
world took part, among them Andriy Hornyatkevych (Canada), Yuriy
It was created another working group headed by Vasyl Nymchuk, Director of
the Institute of the Ukrainian Language, and the members: Oleksander
Ponomaryv, Nina Totska, Ivan Vykhovanets, Hrihoriy Pivtorak etc.
The authorities furiously resisted to the Kharkivs orthography. The
Academic Rusanyvskiy being far from appraising the linguistic rules
offered, called the work of the group as sabotage in the lingual front.
By the nineties of the last century there in the linguistic environment
was the one only Ukrainian island, i.e. Taras Shevchenkos Ukrainian
Society Prosvyta (Education). Just this society edited the brochure where
the new orthography was issued.
In preface to this brochure it was said the following: The official
language of Ukraine must have its own orthography and not repeat the
orthographical misunderstandings of the former centre of empire.
If the adepts of Kyivs orthography were aware of exact reasons of
Russianization, and not only of tragic periods of annihilation of the
Ukrainian language, then most of them would return to the Kharkivs
orthography, that clean lingual spring, free from Moscows filth.
Separative lingual parade and its overcoming
Todays situation is painful for all who in defiance of persecutions and
malicious attacks from the Soviet regime defended Ukrainian positions, who
was uncompromised in the struggle against anti-popular regimes of Kravchuk
and Kuchma, who pined their hopes on the orange team.
Its a pity, but through the debates about moral and Trypillias pots Viktor
Yushchenko missed another threat for Ukraine, i.e. breakdown according to
the lingual indications.
As a result, we could see in the future the independent navigation of
Russian-speaking regions and their approaching to the banks of Russia.
This trouble is to be avoided immediately, and the actions are to be
decisive. It is possible to fulfill it through the consolidation of all
national and patriotic forces with the most active young people
The main thing is to make the authorities waking up from the lethargic
prosperity, and elaborate the effective mechanism for functioning and
protection of the Ukrainian language as official one.
Additionally, Serhiy Holovatiy is to be removed from the lingual questions
resolving, as he came to the point of uttering an absurdity he is
initiating the language referendum.
It is nonsense, as both of the languages (Ukrainian and Russian) were not
developing in the same conditions. Quiet the contrary, the Ukrainian
language was cruelly persecuted and eliminated by all occupier regimes.
And why we hear nothing in respect from the side of national and patriotic
deputies we voted not long ago for? And Ukrainian journalists must tell
their decisive word too.
At the end, the author would like to complete the list of outstanding
Ukrainian linguists who did their best the beautiful Ukrainian language to
be saved and could go on developing. They are as follows: Smotritskiy,
Zizaniya, Berenda, Pavlovskiy, Zhitetskiy, Mykhalchuk, Krimskiy,
Ogonovskiy, Smal-Stotskiy, Potebnya, Nikovskiy, Synyavskiy, Rudnitskiy
etc. This list is predestinated just for the vice Prime Minister on
humanitarian questions Kyrylenko and the Minister for Education
More information about the Lgpolicy-list