Separation from the Russian language is the basis of the Ukrainian national identity itself. When the territories of Western Ukraine were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the authorities set one of the main tasks of their national policy in Galicia to eradicate Russia's cultural influence. This could be achieved, among other things, by means of any belittling and discrimination of the Russian language. Not without the support of the Austro-Hungarian authorities, by the beginning of the twentieth century, a rather influential Ukrainian nationalist movement emerged, which in every way asserted the differences between Ukrainians from Russians, the Ukrainian language from Russian.
The policy of the Soviet government to support the national languages of the peoples of the Soviet Union made a huge contribution to the development of the Ukrainian language. The Ukrainian language received official status in the Ukrainian SSR, they began to teach it in educational institutions, to maintain documentation there. However, by the end of the 1980s, when the internal political situation worsened in the Soviet Union, nationalist forces intensified in Ukraine, which, of course, put the language issue on the agenda. When in the 1991 year, Ukraine became a sovereign state, the Ukrainian language, respectively, received the status of the state language. But immediately the question was raised about the status of the Russian language in Ukraine. Moreover, Crimea remained the Russian-speaking regions, almost all the southern and eastern regions of the country, and a significant part of the population of Central Ukraine, as well as the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine, spoke in Russian. But, despite the fact that more than half of the inhabitants of Ukraine in everyday communication use the Russian language, and the Ukrainian language is far from perfect, the position of the Ukrainian leadership throughout the 25 years of independence of the country remained unchanged - the presidents changed, the political courses of the country were transformed the possibility of recognizing Russian as the state language, along with Ukrainian, remained unchanged.
When a sociological survey was conducted in 2003 in Ukraine on whether or not to provide Russian with the status of a second state language of the country, 70% of Russian-speaking Russian residents of Ukraine, 56% of Russian-speaking Ukrainians of Ukraine and 18% of Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians favored this status. Thus, the majority of Ukrainians were then inclined to the need to give Russian the status of a second state language. However, neither Leonid Kuchma, nor Viktor Yushchenko, nor Viktor Yanukovych made this step. The interests of the Russian-speaking population, constituting not less than half of the inhabitants of Ukraine, were subordinated to the political ambitions of the nationalist forces, supported and financed by the West.
When Viktor Yushchenko ran for President of Ukraine in 2004, rumors spread in the country that if he won, he would sign the decree “On the protection of citizens' rights to use the Russian language and languages of other nationalities of Ukraine”. The decree provided for the obligation of Ukrainian officials to communicate with the citizens of the country in their native language, which presupposed free knowledge of the Russian language, since Russian is the native language for half of the country's population, not only for ethnic Russians, but also for Ukrainians and representatives of other peoples of the country . But when Yushchenko was elected president, he, of course, did not sign any such decree and, moreover, told reporters that he had never heard of him. It is obvious that the information on the signing of the decree was launched to ensure the votes of the Russian-speaking population of the country and representatives of national minorities.
Meanwhile, the Russian language, according to Ukrainian legislation, as early as 1989 year, when he was Ukrainian SSR as part of the Soviet Union, was proclaimed the language of interethnic communication. This provision acted after the independence of Ukraine, but in fact was not respected. Already in 1992, the massive displacement of the Russian language from all spheres of public life began, first of all from official business, then from education and the media.
As early as 1999, the European Charter for Regional Languages was ratified by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, but the Law on the ratification of the Charter entered into force only from 1 in January of 2006. Its meaning was reduced to the recognition of the Russian language as regional and its equalization with other regional languages of the country, which include Bulgarian, Hungarian, Gagauz, Romanian, German and a number of other languages. Is there a need to explain the real differences between the role and place of the Russian language in the life of Ukrainian society, from, say, the German or Romanian languages? After all, even the same Ukrainian Romanians or Germans use the Russian language as the language of interethnic communication. This, incidentally, is evidenced by the fact that the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine has always been distinguished by a high level of the spread of the Russian language, unlike other Western Ukrainian regions.
The first post-Soviet decade of Ukraine’s de-Russification, although gradually gaining momentum, was not sharp and swift. The situation changed after President Yushchenko came to power. Numerous decrees were issued restricting the use of the Russian language in Ukraine. The institute of education underwent a major blow. Understanding perfectly well that it is in schools, secondary and higher professional educational institutions that the upbringing of the younger generations takes place, the Ukrainian leadership has set as its goal to oust the Russian language from the educational space and “Ukrainize” the younger generations of citizens of the country, including Russians by birth. It should be recalled here that at the end of the 1980s, the “backbone” of the Ukrainian nationalists was made up of Ukrainian-speaking humanities scholars - teachers and teachers of the Ukrainian language and literature, historians of Ukraine. First, the approval of the Ukrainian language was a profession for them, and then turned into a political ideology. Although an incomparably greater amount of fiction, journalistic, scientific literature was published in Russian, extensive scientific research is being conducted, the Ukrainian leadership was at the least concerned about the real increase in the level of knowledge of Ukrainian youth. The task was set simple - to educate fanatical supporters of Ukrainian independence, rather than competent specialists. It was for this that funds were allocated both from the state budget of the country and from numerous foreign funds operating under the auspices of the United States, Poland and a number of other states.
But if in the west of Ukraine, the Ukrainian language is still really the language of ubiquitous communication, then in the south-east of Ukraine we use the Russian language most. It is spoken in most families, it really is a means of communication of citizens, regardless of their nationality. However, in the middle of the 2000-s, the question was raised about the need for a significant reduction in schools with Russian language instruction. And it was about the south-eastern regions of Ukraine - the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk regions. By the second half of the 2000-s, the number of Russian-language schools, even in the east and south of the country, declined many times. The training of subject teachers and primary school teachers for Russian schools in the pedagogical universities of Ukraine ceased to be carried out, the possibility of receiving higher and secondary professional education in Russian, and the protection of academic degrees in Russian was eliminated. Despite the fact that representatives of the Russian population of Ukraine have repeatedly tried to draw the attention of the world community to real violations of the rights of Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine, nobody listened to their arguments. It is worth noting that at that time Russia took a rather strange position, preferring not to quarrel with Kiev at the cost of abandoning the real protection of the rights and interests of Russian and Russian-speaking people living in Ukraine.
The question of language in Ukraine has become a purely political one. To recognize the Russian language as the second state language, in the opinion of Ukrainian nationalists, means in effect to abandon the Ukrainian language. Indeed, in the absence of legislatively ensured the dominance of the Ukrainian language over Russian, the majority of the Ukrainian population would be transferred to the Russian language even in official documentation. After all, the Russian language is still the language of interethnic communication, which is understood in all the republics of the former Soviet Union. Do not compare and the amount of literature published in Russian and Ukrainian languages. Naturally, the political influence of Russia would also increase, and cultural ties between the two countries would be strengthened. But Ukrainian nationalists did not need this, especially since such strengthening of the position of the Russian language is not included in the plans of the United States and the European Union. European and American human rights defenders like to speculate about the violation of the rights of national minorities to use their languages in “undesirable” countries, for example in the same Russia, but immediately fall silent when it comes to discrimination of the Russian and Russian-speaking population in the post-Soviet space, especially in the Baltic States, Moldova or in Ukraine.
The position of the Russian language in Ukraine has deteriorated further after Euromaidan and the coming to power of nationalist forces. Nevertheless, as shown by the results of sociological research, even now the number of Ukrainian citizens who are in favor of giving the Russian language the status of the second state language of the country remains very significant. Thus, the Kiev International Institute of Sociology in 2015 published the data of its research, according to which 33% of the polled citizens of Ukraine spoke in favor of giving the Russian language the status of the state language. Although 48%, according to this study, would have voted against a possible referendum, and 33%, that is, a third of the country's population, is a lot. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that in the language issue the principle of majority of votes is not always objective - after all, ethnic minorities are in fact minorities that have a smaller number than the titular nationality.
The Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in 2006 conducted a study aimed at finding out the true native language of the inhabitants of the country. The question was asked in which language it is easier to fill in the questionnaire. Filling out the questionnaire in Russian turned out to be easier for 99% of respondents in the Luhansk region, 96,8% in the Donetsk region, 95,6% in the Crimea (in the 2006 Crimea, we recall, was also part of Ukraine), 87,4% in the Kharkiv region, 84,6% - in the Odessa region, 79,7% - in the Dnipropetrovsk region. These figures are impressive, although the study, we recall, was conducted ten years ago. But, despite such a high indicator of the population with a native Russian language, the Ukrainian authorities were not going to meet Russian-speaking citizens and recognize the state status of the Russian language.
The language issue was one of the main reasons for the mass protests in the Donbass in the spring of 2014, which then turned into one of the most tragic pages in stories of the former Soviet Union - the bloody armed conflict of the Kiev regime and the people's republics of New Russia. For Ukrainian nationalists and pro-Western liberals who formed a spike reinforced by American and European financial influences, the reluctance to make concessions in the language issue turned out to be stronger than the desire to preserve the political unity of the country and even preserve peace and tranquility. The militia of New Russia fought, including for the right of the inhabitants of the region to speak their native Russian language. The residents of the Crimea, who chose to reunite with Russia, have decided for themselves the language question for themselves. In April, 2014 adopted the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea as part of the Russian Federation, according to which the state languages of the republic were proclaimed Russian, Ukrainian, and the Crimean Tatar language - the three most common languages of the region.
Unlike Ukraine, Russia has taken into account the interests of the multinational population of the Crimea, among which there are speakers not only of the Russian language, but also of the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar languages. These languages have become the state in the republic. Thus, twenty-three years of language discrimination against the Russian-speaking population of Crimea was put to an end, but Russia did not take away the status of the state language from the Ukrainian language, and also protected the rights of the Crimean Tatars living on the peninsula. Their language also received the status of the state.
In modern Ukraine, the language issue remains extremely acute and, if the policy of official Kiev does not change, it will often cause serious contradictions and conflicts in this country. And it is not only about the Russian language and Russian-speaking regions. In the same Transcarpathian region there are compact areas of residence of the Hungarian population, where the native language of the majority of residents is Hungarian (Magyar) language. The policy of language discrimination, pushed by the Kiev authorities, causes rejection of the national minorities of Ukraine. For example, the official Budapest more than once stood up to defend the rights of Transcarpathian Hungarians. In fact, the solution of the language problem is one of the main ways to normalize the political situation in Ukraine, another thing is that the current Kiev leadership and its overseas and European patrons do not need it.