Ukrainian 101


Before the eighteenth century the precursor to the modern Ukrainian language was a vernacular language used mostly by peasants and petits bourgeois which existed side-by-side with a literary language of foreign origin: Church Slavonic. Church Slavonic evolved from the Old Slavonic language from Bulgaria. Although the spoken Ukrainian language was in no danger of extinction, it was only raised to the level of a language of literature, philosophy and science by being promoted at the expense of a separate "high language", be it Greek, Church Slavonic, Polish, Latin or Russian.

Ivan Kotlyarevsky in 1798 published an epic poem, Eneyida, a burlesque in Ukrainian, based on Virgil's Aeneid. The book turned out to be the first literary work published in the vernacular Ukrainian, becoming an undying classic of Ukrainian literature. The Ukrainian language reflects the history of Ukraine, full of foreign oppression and resistance to that oppression. Ukrainian traces its roots through the mid-fourteenth century as one of the state languages of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, back to the early written evidences of tenth-century Kievan Rus'.


Until the end of the 18th century the written language used in Ukraine was quite different from the spoken one. For this reason, there is no direct data on the origin of the Ukrainian language. One has to rely on indirect methods: analysis of typical mistakes in old manuscripts, comparison of linguistic data with historical, anthropological, archaeological ones, etc. Because of the difficulty of the question, several theories of the origin of Ukrainian language exist. Some early theories have been proven wrong by modern linguistics, while others are still being discussed in the academic community.

The first theory of the origin was proposed by Mikhail Lomonosov in the middle of the 18th century, when modern linguistic methods were not available. Lomonosov assumed the existence of a common language spoken by all East Slavic people in the time of the Kievan Rus', a language he called Русский (Russkiy). (It should be noted that in the Russian language the word Russkiy (Russian) relates both to what pertains to modern Russia and to Rus'; see also Etymology of Rus and derivatives.) According to Lomonosov, the differences that subsequently developed between Great Russian and Ukrainian (then called Little Russian) could be explained by the influence of the Polish language when, after the disintegration of the East Slavic state, the lands of Ukraine fell under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This theory became accepted by the mainstream scholarship within the Russian Empire, largely due to its political convenience. The theory of "Polonization" was supported by the government of Imperial Russia when in 1876 Ukrainian was banned from printing in the territory of the empire (see Ems Ukaz).

The "Polonization" theory was criticized as early as in the first half of the nineteenth century by Mykhaylo Maksymovych. In fact, the most distinctive features of the Ukrainian language are present neither in Russian nor in Polish. Ukrainian and Polish language do share a lot of common or similar words, but so do all Slavic languages, since many words are carried over from the Proto-Slavic language, the common ancestor of the modern ones. A much smaller part of their common vocabulary can be attributed to the later interaction of the two languages. The "Polonization" theory has not been taken seriously by the academic community since the beginning of the 20th century, but still has some circulation among anti-Ukrainian organizations and politicians.

Another point of view developed during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by linguists of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. Similarly to Lomonosov, they assumed the existence of a common language spoken by East Slavs in the past. But unlike Lomonosov's hypothesis, this theory does not view "Polonization" or any other external influence as the main driving force that led to the formation of three different languages: Russian, Ukrainian and Byelorussian from the common Old East Slavic language. The supporters of this theory disagree, however, about the time when the different languages were formed.

Soviet historiography manifested an ideology of three brotherly East Slavic nations. Soviet scholars tend to admit a difference between Ukrainian and Russian only at later time periods (fourteenth through sixteenth centuries). According to this view, Old East Slavic diverged into Byelorusian and Ukrainian to the west (collectively, the Ruthenian language of the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries), and Old Russian to the north-east, after the political boundaries of Kievan Rus’ were redrawn in the fourteenth century. During the time of the incorporation of Ruthenia (Ukraine and Belarus) into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Ukrainian and Byelorusian diverged into identifiably separate languages.

Other scholars see a divergence between the language of Halych-Volhynia and the language of Novgorod-Suzdal by the 1100s, assuming that before the 12th century the two languages were practically indistinguishable. Some European and American linguists concur (see, for example the article[1]in Encyclopædia Britannica). This point of view is, however, at variance with some historical data. In fact, several East Slavic tribes, such as Polans, Drevlyans, Severians, Dulebes (that later likely became Volhynians and Buzhans), White Croats, Tivertsi and Ulichs lived on the territory of today's Ukraine long before the 12th century. It is notable that Ukrainian features were recognizable in the southern dialects of Old East Slavic as far back as the language can be documented.

Some researchers, while admitting the differences between the dialects spoken by East Slavic tribes in the 10th and 11th centuries, still consider them as "regional manifestations of a common language" (see, for instance, the article by Vasyl Nimchuk). In contrast, Ahatanhel Krymsky and Alexei Shakhmatov assumed the existence of the common spoken language of Eastern Slavs only in prehistoric times. According to their point of view, the diversification of the Old East Slavic language took place in the 8th or early 9th century.

The Ukrainian linguist Stepan Smal-Stocky went even further: he denied the existence of a common Old East Slavic language at any time in the past. Similar points of view was shared by Yevhen Tymchenko, Vsevolod Hantsov, Olena Kurylo, Ivan Ohienko and others. According to this theory, the dialects of East Slavic tribes evolved gradually from the common Proto-Slavic language without any intermediate stages during the 6th through 9th centuries. The Ukrainian language was formed by mixing and convergence of tribal dialects, mostly due to an intensive migration of the population within the territory of today's Ukraine in later historical periods. This point of view was also confirmed by phonological studies of Yuri Shevelov. This theory is gaining a growing number of supporters among Ukrainian scientists.

Ancient history

Beyond the polemics between several ideological conceptions, the continuous presence of Slavic settlements in Ukraine, since at least the sixth century, provides an underlying ethno-linguistic factual basis for the origins of the Ukrainian language. The westernmost areas of modern-day Ukraine lay to the south from the postulated homeland of the original Slavs.

Immigration of Slavic tribes to the Western Slavic and Southern Slavic portions of Eastern Europe led to the dissolution of Early Common Slavic into three groups by the seventh century (East Slavic, West Slavic, and South Slavic). During this time period, some East Slavic elements could have already provided a Slavic identity to the Antes civilization (of which nothing but an Iranian name is known).

Kievan Rus' and Halych-Volhynia

During the Khazar period, the territory of Ukraine, settled at that time by Iranian (post-Scythian), Turkic (post-Hunnic, proto-Bulgarian), and Finno-Ugric (proto-Hungarian) tribes, was progressively Slavicized by several waves of migration from the Slavic north. Finally, the Varangian ruler of Novgorod, called Oleg, seized Kiev (Kyiv) and established the political entity of Rus'. Some theorists see an early Ukrainian stage in language development here; others term this era Early East Slavic or Old Ruthenian/Rus'ian. Russian theorists tend to amalgamate Rus' to the modern nation of Russia, and call this linguistic era Old Russian. Some hold that linguistic unity over Rus' was not present, but tribal diversity in language was present.

The era of Rus' is the subject of some linguistic controversy, as the language of much of the literature was purely or heavily Old Slavonic. At the same time, most legal documents throughout Rus' were written in a purely East Slavic language (supposed to be based on the Kiev dialect of that epoch). Scholarly controversies over earlier development aside, literary records from Rus' testify to substantial divergence between Russian and Ruthenian/Rusyn forms of the Ukrainian language as early as the era of Rus'. One vehicle of this divergence (or widening divergence) was the large scale appropriation of the Old Slavonic language in the northern reaches of Rus' and of the Polish language at the territory of modern Ukraine. As evidenced by the contemporary chronicles, the ruling princes of Halych and Kiev called themselves "People of Rus'" (with the exact Cyrillic spelling of the adjective from of Rus' varying among sources), which contrasts sharply with the lack of ethnic self-appellation for the area until the mid-nineteenth century.

One prominent example of this north-south divergence in Rus' from around 1200, was the epic, The Tale of Igor's Campaign. Like other examples of Old Russian literature (for example, Byliny, the Russian Primary Chronicle), it survived only in Northern Russia (Upper Volga belt) and was probably written there. It shows dialectal features characteristic of Severian dialect with the exception of two words which were wrongly interpreted by early nineteenth-century German scholars as Polish loan words.

Under Lithuania/Poland, Muscovy/Russia, and Austro-Hungary

After the fall of Halych-Volhynia, Ukrainians mainly fell under the rule of Lithuania, then Poland. Local autonomy of both rule and language was a marked feature of Lithuanian rule. Polish rule, which came mainly later, was accompanied by a more assimilationist policy. The Polish language has had heavy influences on Ukrainian (and on Belarusian). As the Ukrainian language developed further, some borrowings from Tatar and Turkish occurred. Ukrainian culture and language flourished in the sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth century, when Ukraine was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Ukrainian was also the official language of Ukrainian provinces of the Crown of the Polish Kingdom. Among many schools established in that time, the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (Kiev-Mogila Academy), founded by the Orthodox Metropolitan Peter Mogila (Petro Mohyla), was the most important.

In the anarchy of the Khmelnytsky Uprising and following wars, Ukrainian high culture was sent into a long period of steady decline. In the aftermath, the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy was taken over by the Russian Empire. Most of the remaining Ukrainian schools also switched to Polish or Russian, in the territories controlled by these respective countries, which was followed by a new wave of Polonization and Russification of the native nobility. Gradually the official language of Ukrainian provinces under Poland was changed to Polish, while the upper classes in the Russian part of Ukraine used Russian widely.

There was little sense of a Ukrainian nation in the modern sense. East Slavs called themselves Rus’ki ('Russian' pl. adj.) in the east and Rusyny ('Ruthenians' n.) in the west, speaking Rus’ka mova, or simply identified themselves as Orthodox (the latter being particularly important under the rule of Catholic Poland). Ukraine under the Russian Empire was called Malorossiya (Little or Lesser Rus' or Little Russia, where the inhabitants spoke the 'Little Russian or Southern Russian language', a dialect of the Russian literary language.

But during the nineteenth century, a revival of Ukrainian self-identity manifested itself in the literary classes of both Russian-Empire Dnieper Ukraine and Austrian Galicia. The Brotherhood of Sts Cyril and Methodius in Kiev applied an old word for the Cossack motherland, Ukrajina, as a self-appellation for the nation of Ukrainians, and Ukrajins’ka mova for the language. Many writers published works in the Romantic tradition of Europe demonstrating that Ukrainian was not merely a language of the village, but suitable for literary pursuits.

However, in the Russian Empire expressions of Ukrainian culture and especially language were repeatedly persecuted, for fear that a self-aware Ukrainian nation would threaten the unity of the Empire. In 1847 Taras Shevchenko was arrested and exiled, and banned from writing and painting, for political reasons. In 1863, tsarist interior minister Pyotr Valuyev proclaimed "there never has been, is not, and never can be a separate Little Russian language". A following ban on Ukrainian books led up to Alexander II's secret Ems Ukaz, which prohibited publication and importation of most Ukrainian-language books, public performances and lectures, and even the printing of Ukrainian texts accompanying musical scores. A period of leniency after 1905 was followed by another strict ban in 1914, which also affected Russian-occupied Galicia. (Luckyj 1956:24–25)

For much of the nineteenth century the Austrian authorities favoured Polish culture, but the Ukrainians were relatively free to partake in their own cultural pursuits in Galicia and Bukovyna, where Ukrainian was widely used in education and in official documents.[1] The suppression by Russia retarded the literary development of the Ukrainian language in Dnieper Ukraine, but there was a constant exchange with Galicia, and many works were published under Austria and smuggled to the east.

The name Ukrajins’ka mova 'Ukrainian language' became accepted by much of the Ukrainian literary class during the late nineteenth century under Russia and in the early twentieth in Austro-Hungarian Galicia. By the time of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the collapse of Austro-Hungary in 1918, the former 'Ruthenians' or 'Little Russians' were ready to openly develop a body of national literature, to institute a Ukrainian-language educational system, and to form an independent state, named Ukraine (the Ukrainian People's Republic, shortly joined by the West Ukrainian People's Republic).

Ukrainian speakers in the Russian Empire

In the Russian Empire Census of 1897 the following picture emerged, with Ukrainian being the second most spoken language of the Russian Empire. According to the Imperial census's terminology, the Russian language (Russkij) was subdivided into Ukrainian (Malorusskij, 'Little Russian'), what we know as Russian today (Vjelikorusskij, 'Great Russian'), and Belarusian (Bjelorusskij, 'White Russian').

Soviet era

During the seven-decade-long Soviet era, the Ukrainian language held the formal position of the principal local language in the Ukrainian SSR. However, practice was often a different story: Ukrainian always had to compete with Russian, and the attitudes of the Soviet leadership towards the Ukrainian varied from encouragement and tolerance to discouragement and, at times, suppression.

Officially, there was no state language in the Soviet Union. Still it was implicitly understood in the hopes of minority nations that Ukrainian would be used in the Ukrainian SSR, Uzbek would be used in the Uzbek SSR, and so on. However, Russian was used in all parts of the Soviet Union and a special term, "a language of inter-ethnic communication" was coined to denote its status. In reality, Russian was in a privileged position in the USSR and was the state official language in everything but formal name—although formally all languages were held up as equal. Often the Ukrainian language was frowned upon or quietly discouraged, which led to the gradual decline in its usage. Partly due to this suppression, in many parts of Ukraine, notably most urban areas of the east and south, Russian remains more widely spoken than Ukrainian.

Soviet language policy in Ukraine is divided into six policy periods

1. Ukrainianization and tolerance (1921–late-1932)
2. Persecution and russification (1933–1957)
3. Khrushchev thaw (1958–1962)
4. The Shelest period: limited progress (1963–1972)
5. The Shcherbytsky period: gradual suppression (1973–1989)
6. Gorbachev and perestroika (1990–1991)

Ukrainianization and tolerance

Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Russian Empire was broken up. In different parts of the former empire, several nations, including Ukrainians, developed a renewed sense of national identity. In the chaotic post-revolutionary years, Ukraine went through several short-lived independent and quasi-independent states, and the Ukrainian language, for the first time in modern history, gained usage in most government affairs. Initially, this trend continued under the Bolshevik government of the Soviet Union, which in a political struggle with the old regime had their own reasons to encourage the national movements of the former Russian Empire. While trying to ascertain and consolidate its power, the Bolshevik government was by far more concerned about many political oppositions connected to the pre-revolutionary order than about the national movements inside the former empire.

The widening use of Ukrainian further developed in the first years of Bolshevik rule into a policy called Korenization. The government pursued a policy of Ukrainianization (Ukrayinizatsiya, actively promoting the Ukrainian language), both in the government and among party personnel, and an impressive education program which raised the literacy of the Ukrainophone rural areas. This policy was led by Education Commissar Mykola Skrypnyk. Newly-generated academic efforts from the period of independence were co-opted by the Bolshevik government. The party and government apparatus was mostly Russian-speaking but were encouraged to learn the Ukrainian language. Simultaneously, the newly-literate ethnic Ukrainians migrated to the cities, which became rapidly largely Ukrainianized—in both population and in education.

The policy even reached those regions of southern Russian SFSR where the ethnic Ukrainian population was significant, particularly the areas by the Don River and especially Kuban in the North Caucasus. Ukrainian language teachers, just graduated from expanded institutions of higher education in Soviet Ukraine, were dispatched to these regions to staff newly opened Ukrainian schools or to teach Ukrainian as a second language in Russian schools. A string of local Ukrainian-language publications were started and departments of Ukrainian studies were opened in colleges. Overall, these policies were implemented in thirty-five raions {administrative districts) in southern Russia.

Persecution and russification

Soviet policy towards the Ukrainian language changed abruptly in late 1932 and early 1933, when Stalin had already established his firm control over the party and, therefore, the Soviet state. In December, 1932, the regional party cells received a telegram signed by Molotov and Stalin with an order to immediately reverse the korenization policies. The telegram condemned Ukrainianization as ill-considered and harmful and demanded to "immediately halt Ukrainianization in raions (districts), switch all Ukrainianized newspapers, books and publications into Russian and prepare by autumn of 1933 for the switching of schools and instruction into Russian".

The following years were characterized by massive repression and many hardships for the Ukrainian language and people. Some historians, especially of Ukraine, emphasize that the repression was applied earlier and more fiercely in Ukraine than in other parts of the Soviet Union, and were therefore anti-Ukrainian; others assert that Stalin's goal was the generic crushing of any dissent, rather that targeting the Ukrainians in particular.

The Stalinist era also marked the beginning of the Soviet policy of encouraging Russian as the language of (inter-ethnic) Soviet communication. Although Ukrainian continued to be used (in print, education, radio and later television programs), it lost its primary place in advanced learning and republic-wide media. Ukrainian was considered to be of secondary importance, and an excessive attachment to it was considered a sign of nationalism and so "politically incorrect". At the same time, however, the new Soviet Constitution adopted in 1936 stipulated that teaching in schools should be in native languages.

The major repression started in 1929–30, when a large group of Ukrainian intelligentsia was arrested and most were executed. In Ukrainian history, this group is often referred to as "Executed Renaissance" (Ukrainian: розстріляне відродження). "Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism" was declared to be the primary problem in Ukraine. The terror peaked in 1933, four to five years before the Soviet-wide "Great Purge," which, for Ukraine, was a second blow. The vast majority of leading scholars and cultural leaders of Ukraine were liquidated, as were the "Ukrainianized" and "Ukrainianizing" portions of the Communist party. Soviet Ukraine's autonomy was completely destroyed by the late 1930s. In its place, the glorification of Russia as the first nation to throw off the capitalist yoke had begun, accompanied by the migration of Russian workers into parts of Ukraine which were undergoing industrialization and mandatory instruction of classic Russian language and literature. Ideologists warned of over-glorifying Ukraine's Cossack past, and supported the closing of Ukrainian cultural institutions and literary publications. The systematic assault upon Ukrainian identity in culture and education, combined with effects of an artificial famine (Holodomor) upon the peasantry—the backbone of the nation—dealt Ukrainian language and identity a crippling blow from which it would not completely recover.

This policy succession was repeated in the Soviet occupation of Western Ukraine. In 1939, and again in the late 1940s, a policy of Ukrainianization was implemented. By the early 1950s, Ukrainian was persecuted and a campaign of Russification began.

The Khrushchev thaw

While Russian was a de facto official language of the Soviet Union in all but formal name, all national languages were proclaimed equal. The name and denomination of Soviet banknotes were listed in the languages of all fifteen Soviet republics. On this 1961 one-ruble note, the Ukrainian for "one ruble", один карбованець (odyn karbovanets’), directly follows the Russian один рубль (odin rubl’).
While Russian was a de facto official language of the Soviet Union in all but formal name, all national languages were proclaimed equal. The name and denomination of Soviet banknotes were listed in the languages of all fifteen Soviet republics. On this 1961 one-ruble note, the Ukrainian for "one ruble", один карбованець (odyn karbovanets’), directly follows the Russian один рубль (odin rubl’).

After the death of Stalin (1953), a general policy of relaxing the language policies of the past was implemented (1958 to 1963). The Khrushchev era which followed saw a policy of relatively lenient concessions to development of the languages on the local and republican level, though its results in Ukraine did not go nearly as far as those of the Soviet policy of Ukrainianization in the 1920s. Journals and encyclopedic publications advanced in the Ukrainian language during the Khrushchev era.

Yet, the 1958 school reform that allowed parents to choose the language of primary instruction for their children, unpopular among the circles of the national intelligentsia in parts of the USSR, meant that non-Russian languages would slowly give way to Russian in light of the pressures of survival and advancement. The gains of the past, already largely reversed by the Stalin era, were offset by the liberal attitude towards the requirement to study the local languages (the requirement to study Russian remained). Parents were usually free to choose the language of study of their children (except in few areas where attending the Ukrainian school might have required a long daily commute) and they often chose Russian, which reinforced the resulting Russification. In this sense, some analysts argue that it was not the "oppression" or "persecution", but rather the lack of protection against the expansion of Russian language that contributed to the relative decline of Ukrainian in 1970s and 1980s. According to this view, it was inevitable that successful careers required a good command of Russian, while knowledge of Ukrainian was not vital, so it was common for Ukrainian parents to send their children to Russian-language schools, even though Ukrainian-language schools were usually available. While in the Russian-language schools within the republic, the Ukrainian was supposed to be learned as a second language at comparable level, the instruction of other subjects was in Russian and, as a results, students upon graduation had a superior command in Russian than in Ukrainian. Additionally, in some areas of the republic, the attitude towards teaching and learning of Ukrainian in schools was relaxed and it was, sometimes, considered a subject of secondary importance and even a waiver from studying it was sometimes given under various, ever expanding, circumstances.

Soviet Union's order in general contributed greatly to the brain drain from the national republics, particular to the two major cities of Russia: Moscow (a Soviet capital) and Leningrad. These cities had the best-stocked stores, top theaters and museums, better financed scientific and educational institutions and better exposure to whatever scarse international exchange of ideas. Thus, moving there was usually advantegeous for the careers not just for politicians (as in free countries), but also for artists, engineers, and scientists alike. All parts of the USSR have lost many of their brightest to this brain drain, Ukraine is not alone in this, of course.

The complete suppression of all expressions of separatism or Ukrainian nationalism also contributed to lessening interest toward Ukrainian. Some people who persistently used Ukrainian on a daily basis were often perceived as though as they were expressing sympathy towards, or even being members of, the political opposition. This, combined with advantages given by the Russian fluency and usage, made Russian a primary language of choice for many Ukrainians, while Ukrainian was more of a hobby. In any event, the mild liberalization in Ukraine and elsewhere was stifled by new suppression of freedoms at the end of the Khrushchev era (1963) when a policy of gradually creeping suppression of Ukrainian was re-instituted.

Later, the Soviet Ukrainian language policy was divided into two eras: first, the Shelest period (early 1960s to early 1970s), which was relatively liberal towards the development of the Ukrainian language. The second era, the policy of Shcherbytsky (early 1970s to early 1990s), was one of gradual suppression of the Ukrainian language.

The Shelest period

The Communist Party leader Petro Shelest pursued a policy of defending Ukraine's interests within the Soviet Union. He proudly promoted the beauty of the Ukrainian language and developed plans to expand the role of Ukrainian in higher education. He was removed, however, after only a brief reign, for being too lenient on Ukrainian nationalism.

The Shcherbytsky period

The new party boss, Shcherbytsky, purged the local party, was fierce in suppressing dissent, and used the Russian language at official functions even at local levels. His policy of Russification was lessened only slightly after 1985.

Gorbachev and perestroika

The management of dissent by the local Ukrainian Communist Party was more fierce and thorough than in other parts of the Soviet Union. As a result, at the start of the Gorbachev reforms, Ukraine under Shcherbytsky was slower to liberalize than Russia itself.

Although Ukrainian still remained the native language for the majority in the nation on the eve of Ukrainian independence, a significant share of ethnic Ukrainians were Russified. The Russian language was the dominant vehicle, not just of government function, but of the media, commerce, and modernity itself. This was substantially less the case for western Ukraine, which escaped the artificial famine, Great Purge, and most of Stalinism. And this region became the piedmont of a hearty, if only partial renaissance of the Ukrainian language during independence

Independence in the modern era

Modern signs in the Kiev Metro are in Ukrainian. The evolution in their language followed the changes in the language policies in post-war Ukraine. Originally, all signs and voice announcements in the metro were in Ukrainian, but their language was changed to Russian in the early 1980s, at the height of Shcherbytsky's gradual Russification. In the perestroika liberalization of the late 1980s, the signs were changed to bilingual. This was accompanied by bilingual voice announcements in the trains. In the early 1990s, both signs and voice announcements were changed again from bilingual to Ukrainian-only during the Ukrainianization campaign that followed Ukraine's independence.

Modern signs in the Kiev Metro are in Ukrainian. The evolution in their language followed the changes in the language policies in post-war Ukraine. Originally, all signs and voice announcements in the metro were in Ukrainian, but their language was changed to Russian in the early 1980s, at the height of Shcherbytsky's gradual Russification. In the perestroika liberalization of the late 1980s, the signs were changed to bilingual. This was accompanied by bilingual voice announcements in the trains. In the early 1990s, both signs and voice announcements were changed again from bilingual to Ukrainian-only during the Ukrainianization campaign that followed Ukraine's independence.

Since 1991, independent Ukraine has made Ukrainian the only official state language and implemented government policies to broaden the use of Ukrainian. The educational system in Ukraine has been transformed over the first decade of independence from a system that is partly Ukrainian to one that is overwhelmingly so. The government has also mandated a progressively increased role for Ukrainian in the media and commerce. In some cases, the abrupt changing of the language of instruction in institutions of secondary and higher education, led to the charges of Ukrainianization, raised mostly by the Russian-speaking population. However, the transition lacked most of the controversies that surrounded the de-russification in several of the other former Soviet Republics.

With time, most residents, including ethnic Russians, people of mixed origin, and Russian-speaking Ukrainians started to self-identify as Ukrainian nationals, even though remaining largely Russophone. The state became truly bilingual as most of its population had already been. The Russian language still dominates the print media in most of Ukraine and private radio and TV broadcasting in the eastern, southern, and to a lesser degree central regions. The state-controlled broadcast media became exclusively Ukrainian but that had little influence on the audience because of their programs' low ratings. There are few obstacles to the usage of Russian in commerce and it is de facto still occasionally used in the government affairs.

In the 2001 census, 67.5% of the country population named Ukrainian as their native language (a 2.8% increase from 1989), while 29.6% named Russian (a 3.2% decrease). It should be noted, though, that for many Ukrainians (of various ethnic descent), the term native language may not necessarily associate with the language they use more frequently. The overwhelming majority of ethnic Ukrainians consider the Ukrainian language native, including those who often speak Russian and Surzhyk (a blend of Russian vocabulary with Ukrainian grammar and pronunciation). For example, according to the official 2001 census data [2] approximately 75% of Kiev's population responded "Ukrainian" to the native language (ridna mova) census question, and roughly 25% responded "Russian". On the other hand, when the question "What language do you use in everyday life?" was asked in the sociological survey, the Kievans' answers were distributed as follows [3]: "mostly Russian": 52%, "both Russian and Ukrainian in equal measure": 32%, "mostly Ukrainian": 14%, "exclusively Ukrainian": 4.3%. Ethnic minorities, such as Romanians, Tatars and Jews usually use Russian as their lingua franca. But there are tendencies within minority groups to prefer Ukrainian in many situations. The Jewish writer Aleksandr Abramovic Bejderman from the mainly Russian speaking city of Odessa is now writing most of his dramas in Ukrainian language. Emotional relationship towards Ukrainian is partly changing in Southern and Eastern areas, too.

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