[lg policy] Thousands demonstrate in Ukraine against Russian language moves

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 18 13:48:04 UTC 2010



Thousands demonstrate in Ukraine against Russian language moves
Posted on : 2010-03-17 | Author : dpa
News Category : Europe

Kiev - More than five thousand people in the west Ukrainian city of
Lviv on Wednesday demonstrated against the recent appointment of an
official calling for wider use of the Russian language. Marchers
gathering at Lviv central square accused Dmitro Tabachnyk, named last
week as Ukraine's new Minister of Education, of planning a government
campaign to undermine use of Ukrainian, and of placing the Russia's
interests over those of his own country. Tabachnyk, a historian
entering politics in the early 1990s, has been one of Ukraine's most
outspoken critics of past government support to the Ukrainian
language, and has called for the Russian language to receive equal
status under the law.

Government language policy is a politically-sensitive issue in
Ukraine, with roughly 40 per cent of the population speaking Russian
as a first language, and 60 per cent speaking Ukrainian. The Lviv
marchers carried banners reading, in part, "Down with Tabachnik, down
with traitors!" "We oppose Russification!" and "Knowledge is not
tobacco, Tabachnyk is no minister!" Smaller protests took place took
place on Sunday in the cities Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv.  Calls for
Tabachnyk's removal have gained traction in some regional governments,
with the provincial legislatures of Lviv and Ternopil on Wednesday
approving resolutions he should be sacked.

Tabachnyk in comments to the Interfax news agency said that, though he
considered public demonstrations "a normal event in democratic civil
society," calls for his removal from office less than a week after his
appointment, was "a witch hunt." He called on opponents not to assume
he would push for dramatic changes in current Ukrainian language law,
his personal opinions notwithstanding. "One should not confuse my
political views, moreover those expressed during an election campaign,
with my actions as an official," Tabachnyk said. Viktor Yanukovych,
Ukraine's newly-inaugurated President, during election campaigning
promised his administration would move to reverse laws giving
Ukrainian language priority in most official communications.

Yanukovych's Thursday appointment of Tabachnyk to the Education
Ministry was widely seen as a first move in a programme to give
Russian equal status with Ukrainian.
Ukrainian currently is by law the only language permitted for use in
courts, higher education, and by government officials in the former
Soviet republic. The rules, coming into effect after Ukraine's 2004
pro-democracy Orange Revolution, are a substantial irritant to many of
Ukraine's ethnic Russians. Russian is heavily-favoured in Ukrainian
business and media. Almost all Ukrainians speak and understand both
languages, but some experience difficulty in using one or the other
correctly in written form.


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