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Eastender In Wales • 2 years ago

This is not solely a Ukrainian thing.
I give you Welsh
I wrote this in 2017 https://sopralalunawithpeng...

Askold Melnyczuk • 2 years ago

I never suggested it was. It's true for so many indigenous languages besieged by empires.

Eastender In Wales • 1 year ago

Apologies for the delay. Not saying you did say it was solely a Ukrainian thing. Just that this was not new

Chris Miller • 2 years ago

I am 100% Ukrainian. I spoke Ukrainian as my first language growing up. Interesting article. I am not a linguistics authority. I do take issue with this "Ukrainian language, which is about as close to Russian as Spanish is to Italian."

When I was younger and more conversant in Ukrainian. I could understand a lot of Russian, Polish and other Slavic languages. Enough to get by quite well.

I also took 3 years in Spanish. And rarely can I understand any Italian.

I did take Latin. That only helps watching Jeopardy 😁

Just saying.

bet you can understand some portuguese

Elina • 2 years ago

I am fluent in italian (I’m bulgarian, not a native italian speaker) and understand about 70 to 80% Spanish. I guess the other way round doesn’t work same way.
Unfortunately as bulgarian I also understand russian a bit more than Ukrainian. It might just be me, but ukranian to me sounds more similar to polish of which I’d understand probably 10 to 20 percent.

Askold Melnyczuk • 2 years ago

All Slavic languages have some cognates, as do all Romance language, I suppose....

Jeroen Hellingman • 2 years ago

Mutual intelligibility is not a symmetric thing. Sometimes, the nature of the differences makes it harder for one way or the other (for example, between Dutch and Afrikaans, which are really close languages); more often, it is a mix of power dynamics and exposure. I guess Ukrainian and Russian relate to each other as Dutch and German: The Dutch tend to learn German far often than the other way round because it is the bigger country. Of course, historically, Germany hasn't been as dominant over us as Russia over the Ukraine.

We also used to have a dialect continuum, which meant that much of Northern Germany spoke a language (Plattdeutsch or Low German) closer to Dutch than to the current High German standard language. Although the indications originally where geographical (Low standing for plains, High for mountains), is more low-status, and is fading away, making the linguistic change at the border far more abrupt than it historically was.

Askold Melnyczuk • 2 years ago


Askold Melnyczuk • 2 years ago

Ah well, when I was trying to speak with Brodsky--he in Russian, I in Ukrainian, we opted for the middle ground of English. And I've never been able to read more than a few words of say Mandelstam in Russian before getting lost. Moreover the sound of Russian is a lot more guttural. And whenever I am in Italy I'm constantly slipping into my fading Spanish. So doubtless it's different for different folks.

niveb • 2 years ago

Timothy Snyder is not a reputable source on matters concerning either Russia or the Soviet Union.
The fact is that the Soviet Union was the first government to introduce Ukrainian to the school system. The Ukrainian language was actually favoured as was Ukraine, which is why it included both Crimea and New Russia, both languages in which Russian gas been the language for centuries.
The action of the post coup government in banning the Russian language (a mirror image reversion to Tsarist practice) was one of the events which precipitated the East's refusal to recognise the coup and the subsequent occupation of cities such as Odessa and Mariupol. The truth is that Soviet policy towards the "nationalities' was actually rather liberal, which is why VVPutin criticised the communists for many of the tensions within Ukraine.
The problem is not whether Ukraine is a nation but what its boundaries, geographical and human are. In determining them language is a useful tool, what is inexcusable is the attempt to impose a language on people using another. That is what the Tsars did and what Kiev is trying to do in the face of resistance.

Jeroen Hellingman • 2 years ago

The language-policy in Ukraine post-independence wasn't always the most enlightened, I won't deny that, and that made it an easy thing to exploit for the Russians government. My impression of Soviet treatment of minority (that is non-Russian) languages was one of tokenism. Nice to promote the "multi-cultural" nature of Soviet society, fine for at home and at the local level, but it could never be more than allowing some folkloristic expressions, and to move up, Russian was required. Utterly paternalistic and very similar to the practice you can see today in China in the way it deals with minorities as Tibetans or Uyghurs (or Mongolians, Hmong, Yi, etc...).

Putin has an utterly twisted view of history; I think there is no end in refuting the misconceptions and flat out lies he uses to justify his attempt to take by force a large swat of fertile land, and restore a colonial empire.

Askold Melnyczuk • 2 years ago

What nonsense. The President of Ukrainian PEN writes in Russian. Can you imagine the reverse in Russia? As to the enthusiastic support for Ukraine in the Soviet Era, tell that to Vasyl Stus, Mykola Rudenko, Ivan Dziuba....

Askold Melnyczuk • 2 years ago

The President of Ukrainian PEN, Andrey Kurkov, writes in Russian. Can you imagine that in Russia?

niveb • 2 years ago

The Ukrainian president of PEN almost certainly writes in Russian better than he does in Ukrainian. You must be aware that Russian has been the principal literary language of most Ukrainians for centuries and that, despite Soviet campaigns to promote Ukrainian in the cultural and educational spheres Russian has always been the lingua franca in Ukraine. I gather that the reason that the fascist nationalists chose the name Azov for the militia was that they did not know enough Ukrainian to give it its proper Ukrainian name.
It is sad to see a literary web site offering such hospitality to narrow nationalist propaganda. A literature that cannot recognise the context of the immortal Gogol is disfiguring itself.

Olena • 2 years ago

In fact, ukrainization under Soviet’s lasted less then 10 years, at the beginning of Soviet Ukraine, just after 1931 the reversed policy (Russification) has began and lasted up to the end of Soviets. There were different measures in place, such as partial closing of Ukrainian schools and opening Russian schools, motivating teacher to teach in Russian with a higher salary (+15%).

Regarding your note on Russian language in post revolution time (after 2014), this seems like Russian propaganda. I’m Russian speaking person and was living in Kyiv, never had a problems with using Russian language, neither any member of my family, in fact they continue to speak it and don’t have any problems.
Nobody in Ukraine is restricting rights of Russian speaking people. Yes, finally we started to popularize Ukrainian: ukrainian movies and translations of good foreign books appeared on our market, which was great. In addition the Ukrainian literature was continuing to develop. And the only one new thing appeared during these 8 years was that if you were working in service sector (shop, hospital, drugstore etc) you were supposed to speak Ukrainian (if the person in front of you were speaking Ukrainian, and if this person asked you to). For me it doesn’t seem a strict measure against Russian language.
In addition I would like to mention that Odesa and Mariupol were not occupied. Hopefully Odesa is Ukraine, Mariupol too, but the city is completely destroyed (more then 80%) by Russians, Russian speaking Ukrainians were
simply killed, raped and kidnapped by Russian speaking Russians and their home city destroyed, just because they didn’t want a Russian world in their homes. The same was happening with Kharkiv.
In conclusion, I just wanted to mention an example how Russian propaganda works. When I was at school at the end of 90th , my Russian language classes at school finished when I was 12. There were no problem for anyone that it happened, I spoke fluently both languages and nobody complained. Now it seems the government started to reduce hours of Russian in schools (or maybe not, I couldn’t find some good proofs of this), and my mother who liked to watch pro Russian politics, started all of a sudden complain that the government was forbidding Russian language at schools, I reminded her that there were no problems for her 20 years ago when I stopped having Russian language at school, it didn’t make me to forget Russian, and I was fluent in both, in addition we discussed with her that nobody forbid her to speak Russian, she speaks Russian as she is Russian in fact, like this I was able to comfort her that there are no problem, it is just people on tv, YouTube channels, other medias creating it and trying to convince people that there is anti Russian language policy, and yet people were continuing to speak Russian without any problems. It was not anti Russian policy, it is a policy to resurrect, to develop and make Ukrainian language evolve. Of course I am speaking about the past, now I see that the mood of people is changing, they simply want to stop speaking Russian language, and they start to speak Ukrainian now, even my Russian Russian speaking mother who has been living in Ukraine more then 36 years.

Traf • 2 years ago

just out if curiosity, if not Snyder, who would be a reputable source for that?

kathleen weaver • 2 years ago

Thanks for noting that Snyder not a reputable source. Regrettably this article is heavily weighted with propagandistic tonality.

Askold Melnyczuk • 2 years ago

Ah, yes, Putin's behavior is a gesture of brotherly love. Somehow I missed that.

RC • 1 year ago

Are you denying the Obama administration didn't create the mess we are watching unfold, you need to do more than just research a "war" on language.

Michael DK • 1 year ago

The problem is simply that assuming language is a good indicator of nationality is OUTDATED and wrong. There are many countries where people belonging to other countries are a majority or significant minority in certain regions. Those people, over time, integrate into the host nation, where their language becomes only spoken in the home, among friends, and in the end, often, nowhere anymore.

If that wouldn't be the case, Russia itself has NO RIGHT TO EXIST. Zero. Look at all the people it has forcefully assimilated. Look at all the former tribes, clans, nations, republics and states it has absorbed, forced Russian as the main language spoken (although allowing original languages in token form to give some sense of empty identity and self-governance). Russia has a tens and tens of Donetsk Republics and Crimeas within it's borders, although often far more diluted to the point of obliteration of the original people who lived there. Forceful migrations within the Russian empire were a smart way to remove potentially problematic concentrations of certain peoples and disperse them to the point of being harmless.

Ukraine did not follow this Russian model of dispersion and forced assimilation - instead it followed a more neutral model, resembling that of european states. It allowed people to live and speak as they wished, but having one official language - Ukranian. For the purpose of defending it's national integrity, I think it was wise to not make Russian the other. Russification was a process actively being put forward by Russia in Ukraine through TV, news, the handing out citizen scheme and more covert methods. The language became the Trojan Horse of Russia to destabilise regions.

Let us look at the many similar regions in Europe and ask ourselves: What would have happened if we applied Russian logic to those regions? Kalinigrad surely would have never been able to be Russian (huge amount of German speakers in the beginning). Elsace? Sudetenland? Moldova? The list is endless. The world would fragment into a million pieces, wars would breakout everywhere. What Russia claims (and does) right now is absolute insanity that goes against it's own internal policies and it's own long history in supressing other non-Russian people within it's state borders.

davegrille • 2 years ago

The thousand years of war in the Ukraine created languages and cultures, but there should have been a better way .

Interesting take. However, it is important to recall that 'indigenous cultures' are not the opposite of 'empires'. Politico-morally according to the current Occidental model, the point may be quite defensible. Anthropologically, however, the relationship between cultures is far more nuanced and less reducible to ethical judgments.

Herminaru • 2 years ago

I do believe that stronger nation/language very often suppress smaller nation/languages. In Ukrainian case is still visible by calling Rusyn language 'гові́рка' or other derogatory form. However when it's about Slavic languages I see that there is a pattern. Poland have superior attitude toward Kashubian, Silesian and Masurian. Czechia have this toward Moravian. Bulgaria toward Moldavian. And list is still going on.

J Giambrone • 2 years ago

This is nothing but war propaganda.

Ukraine's democracy was overthrown by fascist militias in Feb. 2014 who OUTLAWED THE RUSSIAN LANGUAGE INSIDE UKRAINE, WHICH IS SPOKEN BY 40% OF UKRAINIANS AND PROVOKED THE WAR. The Ukrainian fascists are genocidal against Russian speakers. Your propaganda is nonsense.


Mykola Grechukh • 1 year ago

I am a russian speaker, born in Kramatorsk, and you're a liar.

My town was under russian nazi occupation april-jule 2014. It is currently under shelling and bombing by russian nazi invaders. Russian rockets each day try to kill me and my relatives.

And yet we able to speak Russian, just has less desire to.

Never any Azov or somelike attacked me for my Russian speech, never threatened with conc.camps or something. I meat, until Russian Nazi invasion, they actually had brought a lot of attitude.

btw worth to know Azov members at least halfway Russian-soeaking from Kharkiv and Donetsk regions.

KLM • 2 years ago

We can forgive a writer for crediting the creation of a country (!) wholly to a national poet. Unfortunately it diminishes the complex cultural and sociopolitical processes taking place in Ukrainian society, such as it was in those times, nascent under the yoke of empires. And furthermore, this "not determined by language" is a contentious matter; ask Quebec, ask the Welsch, ask the First Nations anywhere.

Xavier • 2 years ago

Nikolai Gogol didn't write in Ukrainian. It is true that in his early short stories from the collection "Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka" he used some Ukrainian words ('украинизмы'). However, Gogol added a short dictionary of all such words to the Preface, because they could be unfamiliar to the Petersburg readers, for whom he wrote. In Russian, of course. Accordingly, Vladimir Nabokov didn't call the Ukrainian language a dialect – he just said that Gogol used the dialectal words and expressions borrowed from Ukrainian.