“I have no desire to become a soldier in this war of words,” Ukraine’s best-known novelist Andrei Kurkov wrote in 2012. He was reacting to the furor over a law instituted by former president Viktor Yanukovych that elevated Russian to the status of a regional language in Ukraine.
Kurkov writes mainly in Russian but was a supporter of the Maidan protests of 2013 that overthrow Yanukovych and turned Ukraine towards Europe. His was a plea to keep language politics out of the conflict between Moscow and Kyiv.
Unfortunately that plea is unheard and Ukraine’s language wars are restarting. A bill requiring 75 percent of national television broadcasts to be in Ukrainian has just been passed by the Rada. It follows a very unpopular move by President Poroshenko to ban Russian-language social media websites, such as Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki.
Next up for discussion is draft legislation that seeks to ensure “the functioning and use of Ukrainian as a state language in all spheres of public life in the whole territory of Ukraine.”
Read more: Carnegie Europe