10 Years in Jail for Bilingualism; How the Members of Parliament Changed the Total Ukrainisation Law

I still remember how we have been told that the language issue is not important. That was in 2012, when Yanukovych was in power and Kivalov and Kolesnichenko tried to give languages rights on the regional level. And lookey here, Poroshenko brings up the language question! Translated from Strana.ua (some elements of the original have been adapted).

On Thursday, 28 February, the Ukrainian Parliament debated the scandalous law project “On ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian language as a language of the state.”

Basically, the fact that the parliament bothers with debating the law now may have a more practical motivation, to deflect society’s attention from the scandal regarding the embezzlement in Ukroboronprom.

What innovations do the members of parliament propose?

  1. It is suggested, the Ukrainian language be made obligatory in pre-school, school, and after-school, and in colleges and universities. And while, in primary schools and kindergartens education in the languages of national minorities will be allowed (through the formation of separate groups or classes), this is not envisaged for universities. Education in universities will need to be conducted in Ukrainian only. One or several subjects could be taught in one of the languages of the EU, the Russian language is, of course, not on the list. (note: Russian is the most used language in Ukraine according to Google and Gallup). The indigenous nations of Ukraine (there is an absence of an extensive list of these nations in the law but the Crimean Tatars are named separately) (note: a 2014 law defines indigenous nations of Ukraine as Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars, Karaim, Krymchaks, and Azov Greeks) are guaranteed education in their native languages. Meanwhile, they want to postpone the transfer of external independent evaluations in the Ukrainian language to 2025. We should also mention, the education regulations in this law have been criticised by [Ukraine’s] neighbours for a long time. A law on education, which was adopted in 2017, and which contains literally the same point about the language of education as the law in question, became the cause of a protracted conflict with Hungary.
  2. All mass cultural events, according to the members of parliament must take place in Ukrainian. Theatre shows in other languages must be accompanied by Ukrainian language subtitles (it is not explained how this should be achieved technically).
    Public execution of/or public showing of a theatre show in a language other than Ukrainian, in a state or communal theatre, must be accompanied by translation into Ukrainian with the help of subtitles, sound translation or by other methods.

    Also, the language of public events such as (workshops, round tables etc.) can be either Ukrainian or English.

  3. You will only be able to make films in Ukraine in the Ukrainian language, inclusion of separate segments in other languages is allowed but must be accompanied by subtitles.
  4. The Ukrainian language will be obligatory for all media. Programmes in other languages must have a Ukrainian dubbing. Television and radio companies must provide a synchronous interpretation into the Ukrainian language in case one of the participants speaks in a different language.
    By the way, the principal change in the law project, from time of the first reading, concerns the quotas reserved for the Ukrainian language on nation-wide television and radio broadcasts. Now a quota of 90% of Ukrainian language on nation-wide broadcasts is being proposed. Before the first reading, the quota was 75%  (and this quota is active now). Regional media are allowed 20% of daily broadcast in another language (earlier, 40% was proposed). Once again, the Crimean Tatars are being pampered, televisions broadcasting in Crimean Tatar are obliged to broadcast 40% of their content in Ukrainian.The innovations that directly hit the internet media. The members of parliament suggest to obligate every electronic media to maintain a website in Ukrainian which, to the user, should launch by default. And simultaneously the media can have an optional mirror website in another language if they so decide. The media will have 18 months to translate their websites into Ukrainian.

    Internet representations  (including those websites, web pages at social media) of organs of the government, organs of the municipal government, companies, organisations of state and communal forms of ownership, the media, registered in Ukraine, and also subjects of industry that sells its products and services in Ukraine, and are registered in Ukraine, should be executed in the state language. Alongside the version of internet representations (including websites and web pages at social media), which are executed in the state language, there can be version in other languages. The version of the internet representation executed in the state language should not have less content or other information, than the version in another language, and should load by default to users in Ukraine.

    Information agencies retain the right “to distribute their product Ukrainian, and other languages but must tend to commonly held ethic and moral norms of word-usage.”
    What concerns the transfer period allocated to print media, it is set to 2-2.5 years. After this period all Ukrainian papers, except those published in English, or other EU languages, or Crimean Tatar.
    In practice, this would mean the end of Russian language press in Ukraine. Already, the newspapers are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and if they are additionally supposed to maintain a print in Ukrainian, it will kill them. The Ukrainian publishers have raised this issue several times but the members of parliament did not hear them.
    And finally the cherry on the top – the pages of the media on social media (without listing the social media) also have to be in Ukrainian. This also concerns mobile applications.

  5. Ukrainian language is also used as the main language of book printing. The print in other languages cannot be larger than prints in Ukrainian.
  6. In the service sector, (shops, restaurants, beauty salons, hairdressers, car washes etc.) the staff must use the Ukrainian language.
    Using Ukrainian is made obligatory in the medical sphere. In contrast with the first reading, the demand for medical staff to undergo language examination was rejected, now they can prove their language skills by a high school certificate. In any case, the law says medical services need to be provided in the Ukrainian language.
  7. According to law, the members of parliament, will make state employees undergo language certification. A National Committee for Language Standards of Ukrainian will determine the appropriate level of proficiency people should achieve to occupy given positions. For instance, the candidates for president will have to provide a certificate of proficiency issued by this organisation. The regulation also concerns government employees, diplomats, judges, lawyers, notaries, workers of education and medical institutions, and staff of state and communal companies. The language commission is being created in order to watch over the fulfilment of the language policy. That is, it will watch and thwart the usage of Russian and other languages of national minorities where the law ordains the usage of Ukrainian.
    In other words, for the second reading, the members of parliament decided to resurrect the scandalous institution of “language inspectors” which was dropped after it raised an outrage at the time of the first reading.
    Curiously, to get Ukrainian citizenship, one ought to have a knowledge of Ukrainian. However, in the case of “outstanding service to the Ukrainian state” the candidates can receive citizenship even if they don’t know Ukrainian. Although, in this case they ought to learn Ukrainian within a year. The blind, the dumb, the mute and candidates for citizenship, who simply cannot pass the examination in a specialised centre for Ukrainian language, are exempt from the demand to know Ukrainian.
    The obligatory examinations will come into effect 2 years after the law comes into effect.
  8. In the sphere of electronic commerce, it will be obligatory to mark products in Ukrainian. Breaking this rule would carry a penalty of temporary suspension of commercial activity. The shop websites also ought to be in the Ukrainian language.
  9. In personal and geographical names, the original sound needs to be maintained. Also, the citizens will have the right to have their name and surname transcribed in accordance with national traditions. However, geographical and toponymic names are not to be translated and should be “presented with the help of a given alphabet in the accordance with how they sound in Ukrainian.” In practice this demand means that after the law is enacted, you will have to write “Кыйив” in Russian, instead of “Киев”, or “Украйына” instead of  “Украина”. (it should be noted that professional Ukrainians already managed to convince the Anglo’s to write “Kyiv” instead of “Kiev”) The river Dnieper will now be written in Russian as “Днипро” instead of “Днепр”.

    The names of Ukraine’s geographical objects and toponymic objects will not be translated into other languages, and will be presented in official documents and in the media, in cartographic, reference, encyclopaedic, and scholarly publications, with the help of a respective alphabet according to the sound they have in Ukrainian.
  10. Failure to comply with the language legislature will result in fines, which will be issued by special institutions for the defence of linguistic rights. For instance, officials, who don’t use Ukrainian will be fined 3400-6800,- HRN. That is, if an official switches to another language other than Ukrainian at work, he will receive a maximum fine of 6800,- HRN. Failure to comply with he law in the humanitarian sphere (education, science, culture, sport) will carry a fine of 3400-5100 HRN. Should a newspaper lack a print in Ukrainian, it will be fined 6800-8500,- HRN. In the service sector, failure to comply with the language law would earn a warning and 30 days to remedy the situation, in the case of another offence within a year a fine of 5100-6800,- HRN, repeated offence within a year will carry a fine of 8500-11, 900,- HRN.Attempts to institute bilingualism or multilingualism in Ukraine (or to give official status to another language, on state or regional basis). are likened to attempts at overthrowing the constitutional order. It carries a penalty of 10 years in jail.

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