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Anna-Lena Laurén: Speak Ukrainian or pay a fine

Ukraine is a country full of contradictions. It also applies to språkförhållandena.

On an everyday level of functioning bilingualism very smoothly. The majority of ukrainians speak or understand both Ukrainian and Russian. In the tv and radiodebatter, just like in everyday conversations, we often speak simply the language can be the best.

At the political level, the question is, however, stigmatized to the extreme. On Thursday, parliament approved a new law with the aim to ”guarantee” the Ukrainian language as the only official language.

not only does It mean that the Ukrainian language is the only language that may be used in official documents. The requirement also applies to service - and the cultural sector. For example, a master of ceremonies at a concert, not to mention the Russian. If the person is Ukrainian, an interpreter must be on stage. All the papers published in a language other than Ukrainian must have a Ukrainian version, which should be at least as comprehensive. The Tv and radio stations must broadcast at least 90 per cent of Ukrainian. Ukrainian media have two years to implement the law.

those who do not follow the law will pay fines. The media is punished with a fine up to 2,600 crowns. Violations of the law within culture, advertising and education have a maximum term of imprisonment of at the equivalent of 1500 sek.

”other languages”, but it is clear that the language referred to is Russian. It is the mother tongue for approximately thirty percent of Ukraine's population. I write ”approximately” because it is very difficult to define mother tongue in a country where the word not has the same meaning as with us. For us, it means the individual's strongest language, for many ukrainians the language one of the principal reasons to speak.

The Ukrainian sociologist Mikhail Misjtjenko at the Institut Razumkov has made regular surveys on the subject of language. The year 2016, said 39 percent of his respondents that they speak Russian at home. The following year, the proportion had been reduced to 34 per cent. At the same time more and more that they speak Ukrainian at home – from 55 per cent by 2016 to 62 percent in 2017.

in other words: the Proportion of people using Ukrainian increased. At the same time, russia's an integral part of Ukrainian society. This applies above all to show business – it is no coincidence that Ukraine's new president, the actor Volodymyr Zelenskyj, use of their mother tongue Russian, both in their shows and in the stormpopulära tv series, the servants of the People. His presidential campaign, he has however brought in the Ukrainian language.

Now enter Zelenskyj on his website that he does not believe in a law based on the prohibition. The face of Russian aggression (the war in the Donbass), he wants to work for laws that ”consolidates the society, rather than sharing it”.

”the Ukrainian language is the country's only official language. This is no place for compromises. But our language shall we lift up through positive example, not by fines and prohibitions which only exacerbates bureaucracy,” writes Zelenskyj.

one of the last outgoing president Petro Porosjenko has time to write in, has been debated for two years and added over two thousand corrections. According to Zelenskyj, the law has become a hostage to political rhetoric. He promises that he will ”analyze the law and whether it respects the constitution and Ukrainian citizens ' interests” when he has become president at the beginning of June.

the Law enacts also that it is prohibited ”public insult of the Ukrainian language”. What this means is unclear. The section bears great similarities with the law, which was enacted in 2015 that it is forbidden to insult the Ukrainian partisanrörelsen UPA.

the only official language is Ukrainian, is not new. It has been since the country became independent. In 2012 while Viktor Yanukovych was the president was approved, however, a new law on language that opened the possibility of giving minority languages – in practice, the Russian and the Hungarian – regional status. This law was voted down by parliament after Majdanrevolutionen the following year, which was one of the igniting sparks for the war in eastern Ukraine. The then president Oleksandr Turtjinov refused to sign the new bill, and since then the situation has when it comes to language legislation in Ukraine remains unclear.

the Ukrainian language has been opposed for the greater part of the country's history. It took place while Ukraine was part of Russian empire, and continued during the soviet era. The Ukrainian language was taught while in the schools, but in public was the repressed. Power, science and the public language was Russian.

in other words There is a background to the Ukraine to protect and strengthen the country's language. The question is how to do it best.

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