Tongue-Lashing

There’s nothing like busting a fresh fake in real time. Yesterday a mysterious post appeared, showing what looked like a street advertisement. Allegedly posted in Kyiv, the ad warns against the “disease” that is the Russian language. Nothing around the edges of the poster gave any clue as to its location.

It seemed from the start to be a phony Kremlin-inspired story, as neither I nor anyone else I know in Kyiv had ever seen the posters. I have on a couple of occasions seen small stickers with anti-Russian language messages posted on lampposts, but that’s it. The coup de grace came when several Ukrainian native speakers pointed out a number of obvious spelling errors in the poster’s text.

Sure enough, like clockwork, the poster resurfaces the next day, tweeted by the infamous Russian UK Embassy account:

This time the background has been blurred, to ensure we can’t have any clue as to where this was taken. There’s no photo of the border so we can see what company owes that particular sign. The outraged photographer only took this one photo. Curious.

Incidentally, it turns out that the poster was actually part of an art competition for “patriotic” posters in 2015. The original poster is somewhat different from the one the Russians have been passing around. It is no doubt extremely controversial, but again this is something made by one man, no doubt largely driven by emotion, participating in a contest. Do I even have to mention that’s a far cry from putting such posters up all over Kyiv, which, incidentally, is a mostly Russian-speaking city?

This, folks, is how the propaganda machine works on a regular basis. This is the bread and butter. Someone creates a fake story, maybe with a photo like this, and then it starts getting redistributed by the usual suspects- Russian government social media accounts and pro-Kremlin media sites.

Just in case you’re wondering- there’s no big controversy with the Russian language in Ukraine. I don’t normally agree with Taras Kuzio, but he has correctly pointed out that there are plenty of Russian language schools in Ukraine while Russia does not have any that I or he knows of. At best I found an article from 2008 which claimed that there were 15 Ukrainian-language schools all throughout Russia at that time, but without any more detail. There have been some laws on language quotas for TV, movies, and radio, but as some Ukrainians told me as far back as 2015, possibly late 2014, the quotas issue is largely an economic protectionist measure. Russia has long toyed around with the idea of limiting the showing of foreign films in its cinemas, and it’s by no means the only other country to engage in such measures.

So in case it’s not yet painfully clear- there is no problem with the Russian language in Ukraine. The language you will most often hear on the streets of Kyiv is Russian. The language I typically use to communicate is Russian. I can understand Ukrainian just fine but if I need to speak and get something done, the fastest, most efficient way for me is to speak Russian or surzhyk and nobody has ever given me any shit for that. I make an effort to speak Ukrainian as much as I can, not because of intimidation but because I want to. Nobody is being persecuted for speaking Russian in Ukraine.

Now maybe those who are so worried about language-based persecution can tell us about the situation with Ukrainian-speakers in the Russian-occupied parts of the Donbas or the Crimea. How are they faring?

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Tongue-Lashing

  1. JP

    “there is no problem with the Russian language in Ukraine”…..errr, yes there is, otherwise it would be a state language, which given the history and widespread use of it in Ukraine, would be normal for any non-russophobic imbecile in a civilised country.

    Every country in the world…Italy,Canada,Ireland,South Africa seem to have no problem with language rights from previous rulers over a country ,of any of their sizeable ethnic minorities…all countries do this except US controlled,US poodle,whining, inferior, idiot countries with lame VOA or State Department journalists and programs in them, I wonder why that is?

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      “errr, yes there is, otherwise it would be a state language”

      So if something is not an official state language, it means there’s some kind of persecution? Well since English isn’t an official language in the United States I guess the US is ruled by Anglophobes. Great logic there.

      “all countries do this except US controlled,US poodle,whining, inferior, idiot countries with lame VOA or State Department journalists and programs in them, I wonder why that is?”

      Oh look, he’s mad. Maybe if you actually knew anything about Ukraine, you’d realize that the Russian speaking portion of it is not an ethnic minority. Most people are bilingual and use both languages interchangeably. It’s not unreasonable for a country to require citizens to speak the titular language. Even the US, which has no official language and which can often furnish documents in various languages doesn’t give a shit if you can’t get a job because you can’t communicate in English.

      I might also point out that things would probably work out a LOT better (from a purely practical point of view) in Ukraine were it ruled by the US in the way you say. The old Cold War US would never tolerate the kind of incompetence the Ukrainian government routinely displays.

      But clearly you’ve internalized the same logic of the Russian imperialist mindset, whereby a nation which doesn’t want to live in a neocolonial relationship with Russia must inevitably the puppet of the US, the only other sovereign country in the world (though the Russians are still allowed to meddle in ITS internal affairs for some unknown reason).

      Reply
      1. JP

        “Oh look, he’s mad. Maybe if you actually knew anything about Ukraine, you’d realize that the Russian speaking portion of it is not an ethnic minority. Most people are bilingual and use both languages interchangeably.”

        My comment was , “language rights from PREVIOUS RULERS over a country ,of any of their sizeable ethnic minorities”…thus the lamentable “maybe if you actually knew anything about Ukraine” has no basis…particularly as I am certain I know far more about Ukraine then you do or any westerner talking about Ukraine…and I was clearly implying as to ethnic minority language issues from different countries.

        Most Ukrainians are not bilingual, That is a comment of projection typical of western ignoramuses. The younger generation mostly can speak both – no surprise as they have been made to learn it following Independence( tho Crimean younger generation never bought into this ) , but it’s not the case for the much older generation in many areas. Go around even to Lvov and you will still find the odd person who struggles to speak in Ukrainian. . Many Ukrainians still display great discomfort in speaking Ukrainian..and reading and writing in it…or clearly prefer speaking one language over the other. There is still a clear rural and city difference in many regions of Ukraine in competence of speaking it. It’s in no way comparable to the interchangeability in Canada between French and English.
        Ukrainian internet….DOMINATED by Russian language, business…russian, most read newspapers in Ukraine….mainly Russian language, most popular political television show in Ukraine is in Russian, most popular drama…Russian, most popular comedians speaking in…Russian.Ukrainians swearing mostly in…Russian. Ukrainian academia communicating mostly in….Russian. You see a pattern here?

        Go around Ireland, a succesful country. Most people there aren’t fluent in Irish…..they dont have american sponsored lobby dimwits pressurizing them to learn Irish.or reduce the status of the English language.

        “So if something is not an official state language, it means there’s some kind of persecution? Well since English isn’t an official language in the United States I guess the US is ruled by Anglophobes. Great logic there.”

        I’m not even going to dignify that with a response. All I will say is ,apart from the absurdity of the comparison, the US had a vote for which language to use. At any stage of Ukraine’s creation in the 90’s they could have had a referendum on whether to make Russian a state language, as it would be in similar circumstances in any civilised country. With certainty it would have been made a state language…but the Ukrainian elite under close instructions from the US never allowed such a logical action to occur…I wonder why?

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        “particularly as I am certain I know far more about Ukraine then you do or any westerner talking about Ukraine”

        Oh really? Do tell us what that knowledge is based on, because your claims here are at odds with not only my own experience, but also statistical linguistic research and the experience of many others who have lived here far longer than I (and longer than I have lived in Russia as well).

        ” Many Ukrainians still display great discomfort in speaking Ukrainian..and reading and writing in it…”

        Do you have any evidence to back this assertion up?

        “Go around Ireland, a succesful country. Most people there aren’t fluent in Irish”

        You might want to do some more research about the legal status of Irish: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Status_of_the_Irish_language#Law_and_public_policy

        “they dont have american sponsored lobby dimwits pressurizing them to learn Irish.or reduce the status of the English language.”

        Who are these American-sponsored lobbyists “pressuring” Ukrainians to learn Ukrainian. Give me their names and explain how they are pressuring people.

        During the brief period in 2014 when the Rada repealed that law protecting Russian language, the Council of Europe strongly criticized the decision and it was of course reversed.

        “With certainty it would have been made a state language…but the Ukrainian elite under close instructions from the US never allowed such a logical action to occur”

        Okay please tell me who in the US is pressuring them to speak Ukrainian, why and how. Show your work.

        Also, forcing everybody to use Ukrainian all the time, even by your own argument, would cause huge disunity and internal scandal in the country. Wouldn’t that make things difficult for the US trying to maintain a stable, unified puppet state as you seem to imply?

        Maybe you think you’re actually convincing someone here that you have significant knowledge of Ukraine, but I’m afraid to say it’s painfully obvious that you don’t. If you want to go on making an ass of yourself I’ll give you the opportunity for a limited amount of time.

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