[lg policy] Comparison of the situation with the right to study in one ’s native language in Ukraine and Russia

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jul 28 16:28:31 UTC 2009

Russian in Ukraine vs. Ukrainian in Russia

Comparison of the situation with the right to study in one’s native
language in Ukraine and Russia


  By Oksana MYKOLIUK, The Day

OSCE experts have recently conducted a comparative study on how the
educational rights of Russians in Ukraine and ethnic Ukrainians in
Russia are ensured. Ukraine has recently made public some preliminary
information on the country’s situation, while Russia is just going to
do so. However Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science has already
published unofficial information on the number of Ukrainian-language
kindergartens, schools, vocational schools, and higher education
institutions in the Russian Federation. The data contains numerous
zeros in contrast to thousands and hundreds of educational
establishments in Ukraine. This information has not been denied by
Russia as yet.

Instead the representative of Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Andrey Nestorenko spoke about the “discrimination actions” of the
Ukrainian authorities with regard to the Russian language and
Russian-speaking population. He said he expected to receive an
“objective assessment” from OSCE High Commissar on National Minorities
Knut Volleb k. The issue boils down to the political regime in the
country, according to Pavlo POLIANSKY, Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of
Education and Science. It determines the government’s attitude toward
the national minorities residing in the country and may (or may not)
prompt the government to foster enforcement of their rights. Europe,
the US, and even Cuba have Ukrainian-language educational
establishments where, incidentally, not only ethnic Ukrainians but
also local children study. Below is an interview with Poliansky, where
he speaks in more detail about the monitoring.

Mr. Poliansky, what is the purpose of the research carried out by OSCE
jointly with the Ministry of Education of Ukraine?

“Actually, it is the very prerogative and duty of OSCE High
Commissioner on National Minorities to study how the national
minorities’ right is fulfilled in European countries and recommend the
governments to take this or that measure in this sphere. Knut Volleb k
made the decision to conduct bilateral monitoring and see to what
extent the right of the ethnic Ukrainians to receive education in
their native language is ensured on the territory of the Russian
Federation and what efforts Ukraine makes to ensure the constitutional
rights of the Ukrainian citizens representing the national minorities
to receive education in their native language.

“The Ministry provided exhaustive information to the OSCE High
Commissar on the way the educational rights of Ukraine’s Russian
minority are ensured and drew his attention, for example, to the fact
that in some regions Ukrainians, rather than minorities, are now
facing difficulties in giving education to their children in the state
language. For example, last school year, out of 562 functioning
schools in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea 15 offered instruction in
the Crimean-Tatar language and seven—in Ukrainian. In the rest of the
schools the language of teaching was Russian. The proportion of the
autonomy’s pupils who studied in Ukrainian made 7.3 percent, while
those who studied in Russian made 89.4 percent. Is there any need for
extra arguments for this evident fact?

“In the framework of the monitoring, the HCNM’s office conducted
meetings with both countries’ officials and representatives of civic
organizations and attended Russian-language schools in Ukraine. As far
as I understand the mission has not succeed in visiting any
Ukrainian-language school in Russia, because there is simply none.

“The monitoring was conducted first in Russia, in March 9–14, and
embraced Bashkortostan, Voronezh oblast, and Moscow. On May 21–25
Ukraine was inspected: the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, Lviv,
and Donetsk oblasts, and the city of Kyiv. According to the
procedures, the OSCE representatives informed each country taking part
in the monitoring about the part of the monitoring research that
referred particularly to it: the HCNM familiarized the Ukrainian
statesmen with the preliminary results of the monitoring held in
Ukraine, and the Russian side—of that in the Russian Federation,

What are the main results of the research?

“These are only preliminary results and they are laid out in the
HCNM’s recommendations to each particular country. During the meeting
in the Ministry of Education and Science Volleb k was assured that the
Ukrainian state will continue to pursue its generally acknowledged
tolerant policy concerning the education rights of its citizens of all
nations and nationalities. And I am speaking not only about the
pre-school and secondary education, but higher education as well,
specifically in Russian. So, at the moment, in educational
establishments that have the 1st or 2nd accreditation levels over
59,000 students receive education in Russian, while there are 395,000
such students in universities. I want to emphasize that the
information concerning Ukraine is absolutely accurate.

“How do we know about the situation in the Russian Federation? We
receive information from our colleagues in Ukraine’s Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, our embassy, and also via our liaisons with Ukrainian
civic organizations on the RF’s territory—there are over 50 of them in
47 regions. Our information concerning the ensuring of the rights for
education has not been denied as yet.

“I will give you some figures for comparison: the Russian-language
kindergartens in Ukraine number 983 (with over 164,000 children),
whereas there are no similar Ukrainian-language establishments in
Russia. Russian-language secondary schools in Ukraine number 1,199,
whereas the RF has none of such in Ukrainian language. Besides, 35
vocational schools in Ukraine teach in Russian, while Russia has none
that teaches in Ukrainian. There are only zeros, with 4.4 million
Ukrainians living in the Russian Federation, which makes three percent
of the whole Russian population.

“Last year 1.5 million textbooks in Russian were published for the
eighth-grade pupils at the expense of Ukrainian tax payers. In
general, budgetary expenditures of all levels for maintaining the
Russian-language educational establishments in Ukraine were over 3,195
million hryvnias. How much did Russia spend to maintain the
Ukrainian-language schools? As many as some 200 (!) children are
studying Ukrainian as a school subject there, whereas 1,292,000
students learn Russian as a school subject in Ukraine. I will only add
that the pressrun of textbooks in national minority languages is
considerably smaller than that of Ukrainian textbooks, and
respectively, they cost several times higher. But we are carrying out
this kind of policy because we are complying with the Constitution of
Ukraine, fulfilling the rights of Ukrainian citizens to equal access
to high-quality education regardless of their nationality. And we will
continue to do so.

“We cannot see any symmetry on the Russian side. A person belonging to
a national minority can obtain a free general secondary education in
his/her native language in Ukraine. Many European, and not only
European, countries are fulfilling the Hague Convention under which
parents have the right to educate their children in kindergartens in
their native language (in Ukraine, this is done in 983 establishments)
and have them taught in their native language in primary school.

“Ukraine has long ago topped these standards. So, last school year
20,045 comprehensive schools, enrolling 4,438,383 pupils, functioned
in our country last year. They included 16,909 Ukrainian-language
establishments (3,271,703 pupils), 1,199 establishments where the
teaching is in Russian (403,719 pupils), 89—in Romanian (18,239
pupils), 66—in Hungarian (11,644 pupils), 15—in Crimean-Tatar (2,919),
six—in Moldavian (1,903 pupils), and five—in Polish (1,180 pupils).

“Besides, in 1,725 comprehensive schools the subjects were taught in
two or more languages.

“In 2008–09, in Ukraine the total of 3,608,725 pupils received
education in Ukrainian, 779,423—in Russian, 21,671—in Romanian, etc. “

Did Russia have Ukrainian-language schools and kindergartens before?

“It did have some. By mid-1930s such schools used to function in
Moscow, Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Kursk, Belgorod, Rostov,
Voronezh oblasts, the Kuban, the Far East, and Siberia. In 1932–33
they were closed. In Ukraine Russians are exercising their
constitutional right to send their children to Russian-language
schools. Instead there is barely any favorable political climate of
this kind for Ukrainians in Russia. They cannot invent anything better
than to say that people ‘don’t want’. Don’t want or do not dare?”

Does Ukraine’s Ministry of Education cooperate with its Russian
counterpart in terms of opening school? Can the ministry influence the
situation somehow?

“Both in Ukraine and in Russia, schools are opened and supported
primarily by the local authorities and, respectively, it depends on
the standpoint of the authorities. The ministry can conduct monitoring
and assist. I think when this monitoring will be discussed in the EU
structures, Russians will publicize their position and their vision of
the future of this question. Although we are not standing aside from
this problem, we cannot interfere in another country’s affairs.”

As far as I know, in the Czech Republic, Austria, Georgia, and even
Cuba the state supports the community, and Ukrainian educational
establishments are functioning there.

“Many Ukrainians live abroad, and there is the widespread practice
that not all of these schools are under Ukrainian jurisdiction. These
are schools established by Ukrainian communities with more or less
support of the foreign governments. For example, there is a Ukrainian
gymnasium in Riga, which is funded by the Latvian state, while we
provide it with textbooks and carry out teacher exchanges. A similar
gymnasium named after Mykhailo Hrushevsky exists in Tbilisi: this is a
Georgian educational establishment, where children study many subjects
in Ukrainian. One should not think that exclusively ethnic Ukrainians
study there: nearly half of them are local children.

“In Canada and the US there is a wide network of classes where
subjects are taught in Ukrainian. It is interesting to children,
because Europe and the world have become multicultural, exchanges are
taking place, which is nothing but beneficial for children. I can
assure that at least in two Canadian provinces, Alberta and
Saskatchewan, one can know only Ukrainian, and live absolutely happily
with it. The reason is the good political climate in those countries
and good attitude of their society to Ukraine and Ukrainians.
Therefore, parents who take their children to educational institutions
to study in Ukrainian are not afraid that they will have any problems
because of that.”

What can you tell about the assimilation tendencies among Ukrainians,
specifically those residing in Russia.

“This may be viewed from the viewpoint of globalism. One can use the
word ‘assimilation’ or ‘integration.’ If Ukrainians (and not only
Ukrainians) live in America, Europe, or Canada for many years,
preserving their language, traditions, and religion, while remaining
at the same time good citizens of their states, we are speaking about
integration. But if Ukrainians are afraid of positioning themselves as
Ukrainians, communicating among themselves in their native language,
and do no dare demand Ukrainian-language schools for their children,
these are, I think, the results of assimilation.

“Environment tends to influence people, and I guess that the Ukrainian
environment also influences people of other nationalities who reside
here. Where is the boundary between assimilation and integration? If a
state provides the national minority an opportunity to have its own
educational establishments, publish books, and work in mass media, the
representatives of each peculiar nation have all the possibilities not
to yield to assimilation.”

One wishes there would be more Ukrainian kindergartens and schools in
the Crimea and eastern and southern Ukraine. What is being done to
this end?

“First and foremost, there is a need for explanatory work with the
parents. We take care to facilitate the community’s desire to exercise
their right and have children educated in their native language. For
example, there is a Ukrainian-language gymnasium in Simferopol. This
is a very popular educational establishment, which is one of the best
on the peninsula. Naturally, parents who see its wonderful conditions
for education and good teachers send their children there.

“It has always been this way. People do something when there is a need
for it. In particular, there is a need to have a good command of the
state language.

“Communicating with young people, I have come to the conclusion that
now the young generation is showing an example to adults, because the
political blabbing about the alleged ‘infringement’ of the Russian
minority’s rights in Ukraine comes from adults, not youth.

“Young people do not take this to heart: in their environment there
are no discussions on who uses what languages; the educated young
people know the state language and respect their native one, if it is
not Ukrainian. All those speculations are voices from the past. Young
Ukrainians, no matter what blood is running through their veins, think
in terms of 21st-century century categories. And this gives me the
greatest hope.”

N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of the list as to the veracity of a message's contents.
Members who disagree with a message are encouraged to post a rebuttal.
(H. Schiffman, Moderator)

For more information about the lgpolicy-list, go to

This message came to you by way of the lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu
To manage your subscription unsubscribe, or arrange digest format: https://groups.sas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/lgpolicy-list

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list