Monday, August 17, 2009

Ukraine studies Russian, but not the reverse

The above article was written by Paul Goble and posted on his “Windows on Eurasia” Website. It is entitled “Ukraine Has Nearly 3,000 Russian-Language Schools, but Russia Doesn’t Have Even a Single Ukrainian-Language One.” I’ll quote from it and make some comments below:

“ . . . Despite Moscow’s frequent charges and complaints, Kyiv pays for the operation of nearly 3,000 Russian-language schools as well as other Russian-language institutions in Ukraine . . . .”

“Russian attitudes this absence [of Ukrainian Language schools] reflects, is an important reason for antipathy toward Moscow among Russia’s neighbors and hence Russia’s increasing isolation in the former Soviet space (”

“. . . In Ukraine, there are 1199 general education schools with Russian as the language of instruction, with 779,500 pupils. In Russia, there are no Ukrainian-language schools and hence no pupils in them. At the same time, there are another 1755 schools in Ukraine in which Russian is a language of instruction alongside Ukrainian; in Russia, there is not one such school. . . .”

“Another measure of the difference concerns the number of people studying one of these languages in the two countries: In Ukraine, 1.3 million children are studying Russian; but in Russia, only 205 are studying Ukrainian. According to Parkhomenko, that number is so low that it must involve students at a school attached to the Ukrainian embassy.

“And yet a third of the comparative figures he offers shows that Ukraine currently publishes 1.5 million Russian-language textbooks and 125,000 Russian-Ukrainian dictionaries each year, whereas the Russian Federation government is not paying for the publication of a single copy of a Ukrainian-language book for students in that country.

. . . Obviously, as Russian callers to Parkhomenko’s program insisted and as he admitted, the international status of Russian is very different than that of Ukrainian, and hence many Ukrainian parents may prefer to have their children study Russian rather than their native language. But the imbalance in the number of schools does not reflect just that. Instead, it is the product of Russian attitudes . . . which have helped over the last decade to “destroy the interrelationship of Russia with the countries around it.” Russia, he says, ‘remains alone, entirely alone ... and not because of conspiracies or because someone is pursuing anti-Russian interests.’ . . .”


There was a time in America when foreign languages were not studied much. We embraced “Isolationism.” The prejudice of the American “man in the street” was that he wanted nothing to do with other nations. In the foreign service it was often difficult to find diplomats to send foreign nations who knew their language. In Robert D. Kaplan’s The Arabists, the Romance of an American Elite, much is made of the need for those in the American diplomatic serve to know the language of that nations they are sent to.

The Cold War changed the American attitude quite a lot. If we wanted them to be our allies in the war “against Communism,” then we had better learn their languages. Consequently, our government financed “area studies” in various universities which involved studies of languages and histories of the nations the world. As far as I know these Area Studies continue to be financed. Our isolationism is a thing of the past. Today we are intermeshed with most of the nations of the world.

So it was a shock to read Parkhomenko’s comments about Russia’s seeming disdain for studying the Ukrainian language. And do not Parkhomenko’s comments fly in the face of the Radzikhovsky comments we discussed yesterday in ? Not necessarily.

Radzikhovsky argues that the Ukraine is the one essential nation for Russia. He uses the metaphor of the Russian lover desperately in love with the beloved Ukraine. Were the “cold” Americans in Russia’s position, they would feel a need to learn Ukrainian. But the passionate Russian may need the Ukrainian to come into the home, learn the language of her mother-in-law and be content. So the articles are not necessarily contradictory.

But if the test of “love” is that Ukraine learn Russian and that Russian not learn Ukrainian, surely the Russian lover invites rejection if he expects his modern “liberated” lover to behave in the old ways.

1 comment:

Michael Kuznetsov said...


I would like to emphasize one simple fact that the recently emerged separate country in question – the Ukraine – has had no historical proper name of its own.
The matter is that in all of the Slavic languages the word "ukraine" means one and the same thing – "a borderland" or "a rimland".

This meaning is absolutely obvious and pellucid for all of the Slavic peoples in Eastern, Western and Southern Europe indiscriminately, all of them having had the same common ancient word-stem "krai" in their vocabularies with the following meaning: "border", "rim", "part", "a part of the land", etc.
Since the prefix "u" means "at" (like the French preposition "chez"), so the world "ukraine" means nothing else but "a part of the land at the border," or in short: "a borderland."

Which is why the correct English form of the country’s name must be THE Ukraine, with the definite article, because there exist a great many of various "ukraines" or "borderlands" in the world, yet it is only one of them that has become a separate state, and which has assumed the name Borderland or the Ukraine as its official name.

At the present time, the Ukraine is being a mini-empire, consisting of seven parts: 1. Malorossia (Little Russia), 2. Novorossia (New Russia), 3. the Crimea, 4. Slobozhanshchina (Sloboda), 5. Volhynia-Podolia, 6. Galicia, and 7. Ruthenia (Red Russia). Of which only numbers 5 and 6 are inhabited by the native speakers of the so-called Ukrainian language, the latter being a cross between Polish and Russian.

I have lived for 25 years -- a significant part of my lifetime -- in what is now a separate state called the Ukraine. Not only have I lived there, but also I did extensively travel across the Ukraine. I have been to the following cities and towns there in the Ukraine: Odessa, Ilyichevsk, Nikolayev, Kherson, Ochakov, Zaporozhye, Dniepropetrovsk, Simferopol, Sevastopol, Yalta, Kerch, Donetsk, Makeyevka, Mariupol, and many other smaller places.
Everywhere only the Russian language is being spoken, both in the street, or at home, or at any public or governmental office. For all of the 25 years I have heard the so-called Ukrainian dialect spoken in the street only once – it occurred when I visited Lvov.

This GALLOP website will show you that about 83 percent of the Ukrainian citizens regard the Russian language as their true Mother Tongue:

Except for the rabid russophobic Galicians from Lvov, we are one nation, temporarily devided.

That is that, whether you like it or not.