While Moscow is thinking about what to do with the republics of the Donetsk and Lugansk, there’s no strength to wait there.
The Ukrainian language in the Donetsk People’s Republic may deprive the state status. The proposal to consolidate the status of the only state language in the Constitution for Russian, as the Donetsk News Agency reports with reference to the press service of the People’s Council of the republic, was made by the head of the DPR Denis Pushilin.
Now there are two official languages in the republic: Russian and Ukrainian. However, as noted in parliament, “the application of Ukrainian as a state has still not found practical implementation.”
Pushilin proposes to amend article 10 of the DPR Constitution by removing the mention of the Ukrainian language from it, thereby making Russian the only state language. The People’s Council explained the need for such an initiative with the “intensive integration process” of the DPR with Russia.
In addition, Pushilin proposes to amend the law “On Education”. If the proposed changes are accepted, the Ukrainian language will be studied on an optional basis. At the same time, the People’s Council emphasized that all these measures “do not diminish the importance” of the Ukrainian language and “do not violate the rights of DPR citizens to use the Ukrainian language as a language of private communication.”
The proposed changes suggest that the study of the state language will remain compulsory, and Ukrainian and other languages will be taught taking into account the wishes of the parents and the possibilities of the educational organization, “the parliamentary press service said in a statement.
Should the DPR become like Ukraine, which is systematically “cleansing” the Russian language? After all, the republic is immediately accused of discrimination? Or take a closer look at the experience of the same Transnistrian Moldavian Republic, where three state languages function equally: Russian, Moldavian and Ukrainian.
– Pushilin’s proposal is a demonstrative measure that has several goals and carries several signals from the Ukrainian authorities and the international community, – said Larisa Shesler, chairman of the Union of Political Emigrants and Political Prisoners of Ukraine.
– Firstly, it is a mirroring of Ukrainian laws that removed the Russian language from the public sphere, and mirroring is still very soft and incomplete. Secondly, this is a signal of the impossibility of reintegrating the Donbass according to the Kiev plan, which implies complete surrender. The “Russianness” of Donbass is being established in spite of the notorious Russophobia, which has become the official ideology of Kiev.
Thirdly, this is a message to “Western partners” that the discrimination of Russians has become one of the reasons for the aggression of Ukraine, and this aggression has caused an inevitable rebuff.
– Is there a Ukrainian language in Donbass? Was Ukrainization successful in the region?
– If Ukrainization had not been so provocative, if it had not been accompanied by offensive rhetoric, it is quite possible that the Ukrainian language in the Donbass would have been preserved as evidence of the democracy and tolerance of Donetsk society, just as Moldavian remains official in Transnistria. Of course, in the Donbass, Ukrainization was particularly painful, given the complete absence of population groups using this language in everyday life, I have never heard Ukrainian speech either in Mariupol, Donetsk or Gorlovka.
And this is the difference from Transnistria, where the Moldavian language is native to about a third of the population.
Occasionally in the Donbass you can meet a person from the village who speaks Russian with Ukrainian inclusions, but even surzhik (one of the dialects) in Donbass is very different from surzhik in the Nikolaev region. It is almost just a rural form of the Russian language with elements of the southern dialect.
– Will this measure be implemented? Where it leads?
– Actually, implementing this measure does not present any problem. Well, imagine, for example, how would the Yiddish exclusion from the list of compulsory school subjects affect the population of Birobidzhan if it had ever been on this list? No effect. Everyone in the region speaks, and will speak Russian.
Those who need this language, such as Ukrainian in Donetsk, can go to local authorities with proposals to organize this study. Russian is the native language in Donbass, it is understood and used by one hundred percent of the population, and introducing it into official circulation will only make life easier for millions of Donetsk people who have been tearing through Ukrainian texts for decades in legal offices and in medical annotations.
– This proposal, like the law on the state border, appeared on the eve of the meeting of the “Norman Four”. Coincidence?
– Of course, and this measure is completely no coincidence announced on the eve of N4. I also think that this is a signal to Zelensky that we should not try to talk with Donbass in the language of threats and ultimatums. Donbass has its own political positions, and the firmer they are announced now, the greater the chances of maintaining some form of dialogue with Kiev.
– And what will Russia say to this?
– I think, to put it mildly, this measure was not a surprise for Moscow. Negotiations will be very difficult, naturally both Macron and Merkel will try to force Russia to give up the Donbass, and the position of LDNR regarding borders and language will be an additional argument in this discussion. For example, one of the clauses of the agreements may be the return of Ukrainian as a second official, rather than preserving Russian as such. And it is not Kiev as a handout that will promise not to temporarily ban the use of Russian, but will seek to ensure that Ukrainian is studied in school.
Nevertheless, I am not optimistic about the outcome of the upcoming talks. You cannot agree on anything with this government, because there is no such agreement that they will not violate at any moment.
– The Ukrainian language is artificial, – says Eduard Popov, director of the Center for Public and Information Cooperation “Europe”.
– I came up with the formula: Ukrainian – Slavic Esperanto. There were various dialects spoken by the peasant population of Ukraine. One of them, Poltavian, was canonized and formed the basis of the so-called literary Ukrainian language.
As for discrimination, in which the DPR-LPR can be blamed … In Ukraine, the Russian language is banned. Spoken by at least two-thirds of the population of Ukraine. Why is no one accusing the Ukrainian authorities of discrimination? Why, finally, the Russian Foreign Ministry does not raise the topic of the Russian language in Ukraine? More precisely, why raises so sluggishly?
– How many people speak Ukrainian in the Donbass?
– I will tell you a big secret: no one speaks Ukrainian in Donbass. Even in villages, and Donbass is 90 percent urban, they speak some surzhik mixture. With the same success, you can declare (or remove) the state in the republics of Donbass for French or German.
– In the Transnistria, for example, for almost 30 years, three languages: Russian, Ukrainian and Moldavian. This does not bother anyone, although almost all the same, they speak only Russian. This somehow helped to legitimize and strengthen the republic. Should I learn from experience?
– The situation in Transnistria is very different from the Donbass one. There are approximately three equal ethnic groups in the PMR. Plus, the republic needed to show continuity with the Soviet model of national politics. Therefore, the Transnistrian example does not look like an analogy. In Ukraine, there is a war against the Russian world. The first legislative act of the new revolutionary government is the abolition of the current law on language. True, then this act was canceled for political reasons. But the essence of the Ukrainian cultural and linguistic policy has not changed.
– Some believe that this initiative, together with the recently adopted law on the state border, is a signal to Zelensky in anticipation of the meeting of the Quartet. Do you agree with that?
– Without a doubt it is. Sporadically emerging initiatives to abolish the state status of the Ukrainian language, the recent military parade in the DPR – a gentle reminder to Zelensky about the possible response of the Donbass. The head of the DPR Pushilin acts as a typical official. This is not Alexander Zakharchenko, surrounded by people who could give rise to sometimes very controversial and even strange, but still strategic ideas (like the sensational project of Little Russia, which almost immediately ordered a long life).
– And how will Moscow react to such an initiative?
– I think in Moscow, Donetsk’s initiative will be evaluated in approximately this way: “We (Moscow) have nothing to do with it! You (Ukrainian authorities) are to blame! “We need to sit down at the negotiating table with Donetsk and Lugansk on the whole block of issues.” By and large it is. The law on language, if it is changed in the DPR, will only be in the hands of Kiev. In the West they do not see wild violations of the cultural and linguistic rights of non-Ukrainian people in Ukraine. But they will blame the “violation” in the Donbass. Such is the hypocritical policy of the friends of Ukraine.
My opinion on this initiative: this is a palliative. Depriving the so-called Ukrainian language of state status will not give anything to Donbass. But it will give Kiev a reason to accuse Donetsk and Moscow of discrimination and violation (of course!) of the Minsk agreements. If decision-makers in Donetsk were smarter and more creative, they could give birth to a much more dangerous topic of pressure for Kiev.
But in Donetsk, Pushilin leads. The creative potential of him and his entourage is completely absent. The republic began to bronze already in the late Zakharchenko. Now the DPR is a complete analogue of Ukraine, only without the Nazis. It’s a pity, because Ukraine gives a lot of reasons and opportunities to launch an effective information war against it. But there is no one to lead it: there is a complete triumph of bureaucracy. Strange as it may seem, Ukraine is less prone to this erosion. Therefore, it beats not only the republics of Donbass, but also Russia.