War of Words: New MAPA Module Illuminates Language Practices in Ukraine

2017/11/16 23:22:44

“The proposed change of language legislation was used as a pretext for the Russian annexation of Crimea, and language politics were key in the Kremlin’s attempt to create Novorossiya (New Russia) in Southern Ukraine. Today, the language component of the education law is the most controversial and broadly discussed part of that legislation.”

 


From the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, Nov 15, 2017

 

The “language issue” has deep historical roots in Ukraine, from suppression of Ukrainian during the Russian empire to Soviet policy and beyond. That tumultuous past is explored in depth in The Battle for Ukrainian (as we celebrated during our recent book launch). However, the issue remains topical in contemporary Ukraine, with a fresh urgency imbued by the Revolution of Dignity and ongoing war.

 

“Language is a key issue in today’s politics in Ukraine and the region,” said Serhii Plokhii, HURI MAPA Project Faculty Director. “The proposed change of language legislation was used as a pretext for the Russian annexation of Crimea, and language politics were key in the Kremlin’s attempt to create Novorossiya (New Russia) in Southern Ukraine. Today, the language component of the education law is the most controversial and broadly discussed part of that legislation.”

 

As a component of identity, language has been instrumentalized by politicians and activists, who are well aware of its place at the center of nation- and state-building processes. The annexation of Crimea and conflict in the east have forced Ukrainians to reconsider how Russian-speaking Ukrainians fit into the equation, while Russia’s use of language as a pretext for its aggression in Ukraine has caused some Ukrainians to avoid using Russian or challenge the coexistence of the two languages.

 

With these shifts, the need to reevaluate Ukraine’s language practices and preferences along regional lines intensifies. As MAPA Research Fellow Viktoriya Sereda explained in her work on historical memory and identity in Ukraine, dividing Ukraine into East and West or four-to-five macro-regions (which has been necessary in academic work due to sample constraints) can lead to misunderstandings, stereotypes, and overly simplistic explanations.

 

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http://www.huri.harvard.edu/news/news ... language-mapa-module.html

 

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