Language in Ukraine

Nadin Brzezinski
3 min readMay 18, 2022

Language is at the forefront of this conflict, however not in Ukraine, as far as I can tell. In Ukraine, there are primary Russian speakers and primary Ukrainian speakers. There is a preponderance of each in different regions of the country.

In general, Ukraine dominates in the West of the country, while Russia is dominant in the east. Of note, it’s also still dominant among the intelligentsia, in media, and in government services. That Russia destroyed a Russian-speaking city In Mariopul, to liberate it, of course, is crazy under we want to liberate your logic.

That Russia is trying to destroy the Russian-speaking east of the country is only turning many residents against them, though not against those speaking Russian. It is to the point that Russia is now pushing Russification inside Russia.

Here is where things become a tad messier, and they have long roots. They go beyond the Soviet period, but the early Soviet period is a good start. Ukraine has a rich history, with a rich language and culture. Americans may even be familiar with some of it. Fiddler on the Roof is set in Ukraine, not Russia, for example.

Ukraine was a troublesome colony, with national ambitions. During the early years of the Revolution, and civil war, she was independent. It was a moment, a taste, of what this could feel like. The early years of asserted Russian control saw an experiment in Ukrainization. This saw the writing of the first Ukrainian dictionary and grammar, as well as a revival of the language in the arts.

The Soviet constitution saw all republics as equal…on paper. So you could even argue this was genuine for about five seconds. However, by 1933 the policy changed. Why? For the same reasons, Russia gave for the present war. Ukraine is not a nation, Ukrainian is not a language, and Russians are not treated as equals. Never mind that even now Russian speakers are part of the Ukrainian polity.

Surveys by social scientists have revealed that patterns of language are similar to what historically they have been. The Russian language tends to dominate the East, while the West tends to be more Ukrainian. However, this is what Russia misses. Ukrainian identity is not language-based. This is a civic identification with Ukraine as a nation, independent of language. According to Barrington Lowell language is not what captures identity.

Nadiia Bureiko and Teodor Lucian Moga have also tracked this emerging national identity…

Nadin Brzezinski

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game. You can find me at CounterSocial, Mastodon and rarely FB