In Ukraine's Language Battleground, Some Soldiers Switching Sides

2018/4/10 23:50:25

Photo: Yehor Huskov during a one-man rally to promote speaking Ukrainian.


By Alan Crosby and Sofia Sereda for RFE/LR, Apr 7, 2018


Language has long been one of the key battlegrounds in the struggle to determine Ukraine's post-Soviet identity. Yehor Huskov has become an unlikely frontline soldier.


The 33-year-old was born in Soviet Russia to a Russian father and Ukrainian mother before moving when he was a small boy to Dnipropetrovsk. Renamed Dnipro in 2016 as part of Ukraine's decommunization drive, the country's third-largest city remains dominated by Russian speakers.


The family's first language was always Russian. But today, Huskov eschews his mother tongue in favor of speaking his mother's tongue, Ukrainian, a move prompted by both historical and recent events.


I realized that communicating in Russian in Ukraine was actually a continuation of the work of communist Russifiers who tried in every way to destroy the Ukrainian language and Ukrainian culture, he told RFERL in an interview.


While language has long been a hot-button issue across the country, it has become an even thornier issue since Russia's 2014 seizure of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and intervention in a conflict in eastern regions of Ukraine where the majority of the population speaks Russian as its first language.


Since then, I basically don't communicate in Russian. Even with Russians, I speak Ukrainian, Huskov added.


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