[lg policy] Ukraine: Teachers punish kids for reciting Russian poetry

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jul 4 20:52:29 UTC 2009

Teachers punish kids for reciting Russian poetry
February, 2009, 19:52

The 'language policy of the independent Ukraine' may have gone too
far, as two kids have been banned from a school contest for reciting
poems in Russian.  In Ukraine's capital city of Kiev, the senior
pupils organisation in school No.22 were holding a contest, in time for
St.Valentine's Day, for which the participants were to prepare a song,
a dance and a short performance. A girl and a boy - Lilya Mikhailova
and Sasha Pushka - prepared to perform an extract from 'Yevgeny
Onegin' by famous Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin, but their
presentation was stopped as the jury asked first the boy to translate
the extract into the Ukrainian language - right on the spot. Sasha
tried to do so, but was soon stopped, and the jury asked the girl to
perform her part, which, of course, was also in Russian.

After the contest was over, the two that were reciting in 'the wrong
language' were told they were disqualified because they performed in
Russian, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, and two more groups of
contestants were banned from the competition for the same reason. The
Russian Foreign Ministry has already reacted to an incident that has
recently taken place in one of the schools in Ukraine's capital Kiev,
calling it 'tragic and comic'. It also puts to question what would
happen if those same contestants dared to perform an extract from
Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' in English - would they be also banned for
reciting it in 'the wrong language'?

The Ministry wonders why the contest organisers were so much concerned
about preserving the national identity that they went as far as
banning children from reciting Russian poetry, instead of drawing
attention to the fact that the whole contest was part of a celebration
of St. Valentine's Day - a holiday that has nothing to do with the
country's culture or history altogether?

Language policy - or language police?

Nikolay Zakrevsky, Editor-In-Chief of the "Kievskiye Vedomosti"
newspaper has called the latest incident 'a bitter fruit of the
independent Ukraine's language policy'. According to him, the desire
of the authorities to 'ukrainify' all the spheres in the country and
to force out the Russian language from social, political and cultural
life in Ukraine has brought rather sad results. The number of schools
in Ukraine where teaching is performed in Russian was dramatically
reduced. In Kiev, there are only 2 schools of this kind left out of

More than 80 % of schools in the country on the whole switched to
Ukrainian after the break-up of the Soviet Union. As a result, the
Russian-speaking people have almost no chance to educate their
children in Russian. Indeed, those who grew up in Soviet times find it
difficult to fill in forms in government offices or compete for jobs.

With Viktor Yushchenko coming to power the Ukrainian authorities
started 'a fight' on the Russian language in the country. The cinemas
are allowed to show movies only translated into Ukrainian, and there
are plans to ban teaching university students in Russian.

Around half of the country of 48 million speaks Russian. The share of
Russian population in the country is estimated as no less than 22 per

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