Language Politics in Ukraine

24 Apr 2014

New PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo -- Recent events have reinvigorated the debate about the official and unofficial use in Ukraine of the Russian language, which has long been a part of Ukrainian society. Local political parties and external actors have used Russian and Ukrainian language cards during electoral campaigns, connecting language use to identity and politics to sway public opinion. After the collapse of Victor Yanukovych’s regime, Ukraine’s new parliament repealed a controversial 2012 language law that gave Russian (and some other languages) official status in regions where they are dominant. The repeal was vetoed by Ukraine’s acting president and never came into force, but it nonetheless provoked unrest in the south and east, specifically in Sevastopol, Kharkiv, and Odessa. It also enabled Russia to accuse Ukraine of suppressing the political rights of ethnic Russians and gave Moscow a pretext for its military intervention in Crimea. [...]

Visit the memo page or download the PDF