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|History of Ukraine|
Ukrainization (also spelled Ukrainisation or Ukrainianization) is a policy of increasing the usage and facilitating the development of the Ukrainian language and promoting other elements of Ukrainian culture, in various spheres of public life such as education, publishing, government and religion. The term is also used to describe a process by which non-Ukrainians or Russified Ukrainians come to accept Ukrainian culture and language as their own.
The term is used, most prominently, for the Soviet indigenization policy of the 1920s (korenizatsiya, literally ‘putting down roots’), aimed at strengthening Soviet power in the territory of Soviet Ukraine and southern regions of the Russian SFSR. In various forms the Ukrainization policies were also carried in several different periods of the twentieth-century history of Ukraine, although with somewhat different goals and in different historical contexts.
Ukrainization is often cited as a response and the means to address the consequences of previous assimilationist policies aimed at suppressing or even eradicating the Ukrainian language and culture from most spheres of public life, most frequently a policy of Russification in the times of the Russian Empire (see also Ems Ukaz) and in the USSR, but also Polonization and Rumanization in some Western Ukrainian regions.
Following independence, the government of Ukraine began following a policy of Ukrainization, to increase the use of Ukrainian, while discouraging Russian, which has been gradually phased out from the country's education system, government, and national TV, radio programmes and films.
The Law on Education grants Ukrainian families (parents and their children) a right to choose their native language for schools and studies.
In western historiography, Ukrainization term refers also to a policy and resulting process of forcing ethnic minorities living on Ukrainian territories to abandon their ethnic identity by means of the enforced assimilation of Ukrainian culture and identity. During the aftermath of World War II, in Ukrainian SSR this process had been preceded by expulsion of ethnic minorities and appropriation of their cultural heritage. Ukrainization is also used in the context of these acts.
1917-1923: Times after the Russian Revolution
Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Russian Empire was broken up and the Ukrainians, who developed a renewed sense of national identity, intensified their struggle for an independent Ukrainian state. In the chaos of World War I and revolutionary changes, a nascent Ukrainian state emerged but, initially, the state's very survival was not ensured. As the Central Rada, the governing body, was trying to assert the control over Ukraine amid the foreign powers and internal struggle, only a limited cultural development could take place. However, for the first time in the modern history, Ukraine had a government of its own and the Ukrainian language gained usage in state affairs.
As the Rada was eventually overthrown in a German-backed coup (April 29, 1918), the rule of a Hetmanate led by Pavlo Skoropadsky was established. While the stability of the government was only relative and Skoropadsky himself, as a former officer of the tsarist army, spoke Russian rather than Ukrainian, the Hetmanate managed to start an impressive Ukrainian cultural and education program, printed millions of Ukrainian-language textbooks, and established many Ukrainian schools, two universities, and a Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. The latter established a Committee on Orthography and Terminology, which initiated a scholarly and methodological research program into Ukrainian terminology.
The Hetmanate's rule ended with the German evacuation and was replaced by the Directorate government of Symon Petlura. However, Ukraine submerged into a new wave of chaos facing two invasions at the same time, from the East by the Bolshevik forces and from the West by the Polish troops, as well as being ravaged by armed bands that often were not backed by any political ideology. The nation lacked a cohesive government to conduct language and cultural policies.
1923-1931: Early years of Soviet Ukraine
As Bolshevik rule took hold in Ukraine, the early Soviet government had its 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 political oppositions connected to the pre-revolutionary order than about the national movements inside the former empire. Besides, the reversal of the assimilationist policies of the Russian Empire was to help to improve the image of the Soviet government and boost its popularity among the common people.
Until the early-1930s, Ukrainian culture enjoyed a widespread revival due to Bolshevik policies known as the policy of Korenization ("indigenization"). In these years an impressive Ukrainization program was implemented throughout the republic. In such conditions, the Ukrainian national idea initially continued to develop and even spread to a large territory with traditionally mixed population in the east and south that became part of the Ukrainian Soviet republic.
The All-Ukrainian Sovnarkom's decree "On implementation of the Ukrainization of the educational and cultural institutions" (July 27, 1923) is considered to be the onset of the Ukrainization program. The (August 1) decree that followed shortly "On implementation of the equal rights of the languages and facilitation of the Ukrainian language" mandated the implementation of Ukrainian language to all levels of state institutions. Initially, the program was met with resistance by some Ukrainian Communists, largely because non-Ukrainians prevailed numerically in the party at the time. The resistance was finally overcome in 1925 through changes in the party leadership under the pressure of Ukrainian representatives in the party. In April 1925 the party Central Committee adopted the resolution on Ukrainization proclaiming its aim as "solidifying the union of the peasantry with the working class" and boosting the overall support of the Soviet system among Ukrainians. A joint resolution aimed at "complete Ukrainization of the Soviet apparatus" as well as the party and trade unions was adopted on April 30, 1925. The Ukrainian Commissariat of Education (Narkomis) was charged with overseeing the implementation of the Ukrainization policies. The two figures, therefore, most identified with the policy are Oleksander Shumskyi, the Commissar for Education between 1923 and 1927, and Mykola Skrypnyk, who replaced Shumskyi in 1927.
The rapidly developed Ukrainian-language based education system dramatically raised the literacy of the Ukrainophone rural population. By 1929 over 97% of high school students in the republic were obtaining their education in Ukrainian and illiteracy dropped from 47% (1926) to 8% in 1934.
Simultaneously, the newly literate ethnic Ukrainians migrated to the cities, which became rapidly largely Ukrainianized — in both population and education. Between 1923 and 1933 the Ukrainian proportion of the population of Kharkov, at the time the capital of Soviet Ukraine, increased from 38% to 50%. Similar increases occurred in other cities, from 27.1% to 42.1% in Kiev, from 16% to 48% in Dnipropetrovsk, from 16% to 48% in Odessa, and from 7% to 31% in Luhansk.
Similarly expansive was an increase in Ukrainian language publishing and the overall flourishing of Ukrainian cultural life. As of 1931 out of 88 theatres in Ukraine, 66 were Ukrainian, 12 were Jewish (Yiddish) and 9 were Russian. The number of Ukrainian newspapers, which almost did not exist in 1922, had reached 373 out of 426, while only 3 all-republican large newspapers remained Russian. Of 118 magazines, 89 were Ukrainian. Ukrainization of book-publishing reached 83%.
Most importantly, Ukrainization was thoroughly implemented through the government apparatus, Communist Party of Ukraine membership and, gradually, the party leadership as well, as the recruitment of indigenous cadre was implemented as part of the korenization policies. At the same time, the usage of Ukrainian was continuously encouraged in the workplace and in government affairs. While initially, the party and government apparatus was mostly Russian-speaking, by the end of the 1920s ethnic Ukrainians composed over one half of the membership in the Ukrainian communist party, the number strengthened by accession of Borotbists, a formerly indigenously Ukrainian "independentist" and non-Bolshevik communist party.
|Year||Communist Party members
and candidates to membership
In the all-Ukrainian Ispolkom, central executive committee, as well as in the oblast level governments, the proportion of Ukrainians reached 50.3% by 1934 while in raion ispolkoms the number reached 68.8%. On the city and village levels, the representation of Ukrainians in the local government bodies reached 56.1% and 86.1%, respectively. As for other governmental agencies, the Ukrainization policies increased the Ukrainian representation as follows: officers of all-republican People's Commissariat (ministries) - 70-90%, oblast executive brunches - 50%, raion - 64%, Judiciary - 62%, Militsiya (law enforcement) - 58%.
The attempted Ukrainization of the armed forces, Red Army formations serving in Ukraine and abroad, was less successful although moderate progress was attained. The Schools of Red Commanders (Shkola Chervonyh Starshyn) was organized in Kharkov to promote the careers of the Ukrainian national cadre in the army (see picture). The Ukrainian newspaper of the Ukrainian Military District "Chervona Armiya" was published until the mid-1930s. The efforts were made to introduce and expand Ukrainian terminology and communication in the Ukrainian Red Army units. The policies even reached the army units in which Ukrainians served in other Soviet regions. For instance the Soviet Pacific Fleet included a Ukrainian department overseen by Semyon Rudniev.
At the same time, despite the ongoing Soviet-wide anti-religious campaign, the Ukrainian national Orthodox Church was created, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (See History of Christianity in Ukraine). The Bolshevik government initially saw the national churches as a tool in their goal to suppress the Russian Orthodox Church, always viewed with great suspicion by the regime for its being the cornerstone of the defunct Russian Empire and the initially strong opposition it took towards the regime change. Therefore, the government tolerated the new Ukrainian national church for some time and the UAOC gained a wide following among the Ukrainian peasantry.
Ukrainization even reached those regions of southern Russian SFSR, particularly the areas by the Don and Kuban rivers, where mixed population showed strong Ukrainian influences in the local dialect. 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 was started and departments of Ukrainian studies were opened in colleges. Overall, these policies were implemented in thirty-five administrative districts in southern Russia.
Early-1930s to mid-1980s
Starting from the early 1930s, the Ukrainization policies were abruptly and bloodily reversed. "Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism" was declared to be the primary problem in Ukraine. Many Ukrainian newspapers, publications, and schools were switched to Russian. The vast majority of leading scholars and cultural leaders of Ukraine were purged, as were the "Ukrainianized" and "Ukrainianizing" portions of the Communist party.
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). 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.
In the following fifty years the Soviet policies towards the Ukrainian language mostly varied between quiet discouragement and suppression to persecution and cultural purges, with the notable exception for the decade of Shelest's leadership in the Soviet Ukraine (1963–1972).
The mid-1960s were characterized by moderate Ukrainization efforts in governmental affairs as well as the resurgence of the usage of Ukrainian in education, publishing and culture. Eventually, all effects of Ukrainization were undone yet again and Ukraine gradually became russified to a significant degree. These policies softened somewhat only in the mid-to-late 1980s and were completely reversed again in newly independent Ukraine in the 1990s.
Post-1991: independent Ukraine
On 28 October 1989, the Supreme Soviet of Ukrainian SSR changed the Constitution and adopted the "Law of Languages". The Ukrainian language was declared the only official language, while the other languages spoken in Ukraine were guaranteed constitutional protection. The government was obliged to create the conditions required for the development and use of Ukrainian language as well as languages of other ethnic groups, including Russian. Usage of other languages, along with Ukrainian, was allowed in local institutions located in places of residence of the majority of citizens of the corresponding ethnicities. Citizens were guaranteed the right to use their native or any other languages and were entitled to address various institutions and organisations in Ukrainian, in Russian, or in another language of their work, or in a language acceptable to the parties. After the Ukrainian accession of independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union the law, with some minor amendments, remained in force in the independent Ukrainian state.
Adopted in 1996, the new Constitution of Ukraine confirmed the official state status of the Ukrainian language, and guaranteed the free development, use, and protection of Russian and other languages of national minorities of Ukraine.
Language issues are still used by politics to generate controversy. On May 20, 2008, Donetsk city council passed a resolution limiting the expansion of Ukrainian-language education in the city. The following day the city prosecutor declared the decision illegal and the mayor suspended it, and the council reversed itself two days later.
According to March 2010 survey, forced Ukrainization and Russian language suppression are among the least troubling problems for Ukrainian citizens, concerning only 4.8% of population.
The government of independent Ukraine implemented policies to broaden the use of Ukrainian and mandated a progressively increased role for Ukrainian in the media and commerce. The most significant was the government's concerted effort to implement Ukrainian, as the only official state language in the country, into the state educational system. Despite the Constitution, the Law on Education (grants Ukrainian families (parents and their children) a right to choose their native language for schools and studies) as well as the Law of Languages (a guarantee for the protection of all languages in Ukraine) the education system gradually reshaped from a system that was only partly Ukrainian to the one that is overwhelmingly so. The Russian language is still studied as a required course in all secondary schools, including those with Ukrainian as the primary language of instructions. The number of secondary school students who received their primary education in Ukrainian has grown from 47.9% in 1990-1991. (the last school year before the Ukrainian independence) to 67.4% in 1999 and to 75.1% by 2003-2004 (see table). The Ukrainization has achieved even greater gains in the higher education institutions where as of 1990-1991 only 7% of students were being taught primarily in Ukrainian. By 2003-2004 the percentage of the college and technicum students studying in Ukrainian reached 87.7% and for the students of the University-level institutions this number reached 80.1% (see table).
The extent of educational institutions' Ukrainization varies in the different regions of Ukraine. In the 16 western oblasts (provinces) of Ukraine there are 26 Russian language schools out of 12,907 and in Kiev 6 out of 452 schools use Russian as their primary language of instruction, (according to a 2006 survey, Ukrainian is used at home by 23% of Kievans, as 52% use Russian and 24% switch between both). In the Donets Basin region the percentage of students receiving education in Russian roughly corresponds to the percentage of population who considers Russian as their native language and in Crimea the overwhelming majority of secondary schools students are taught in Russian. The distribution is similar in the institutes of the higher education while the latter are somewhat more Ukrainianized.
|Institutions of lower accreditation
levels (colleges and technicums)
|University level institutions
of the highest accreditation levels
The increase of the share of secondary school students obtaining education in Ukrainian (from 47.9% to 67%) over the first decade of the Ukrainian independence roughly corresponded to the share of native Ukrainian speakers - 67.5%. Schools continue to be transferred to the Ukrainian language up to this day. At the end of the 1990s, about 50% of professional school students, 62% of college students and 67% of university students (cf. 7% in 1991) studied in Ukrainian and in the following five years the number increased even further (see table).
In some cases, the changing of the language of instruction in institutions, led to the charges of assimilation, raised mostly by the Russian-speaking population. Despite this, the transition was gradual and lacked many controversies that surrounded the de-Russification in several of the other former Soviet Republics, its perception within Ukraine remained mixed, especially in the regions where Ukrainian was not traditionally spoken.
Since 2004 the Ukrainian government has enacted restrictions on Russian-language television and radio programmes. Russian-language programmes are required to include a Ukrainian translation or subtitles, and local radio and television stations have the right to broadcast in Russian only if they can prove they have a Russian audience. There was some opposition against this ban. Today the ban is in full effect, but Russian movies are mostly subtitled in cinemas and on Ukrainian television. Non-Russian and non-Ukrainian movies which used to be dubbed in Russian may now only be dubbed, post-synchronized or subtitled in Ukrainian. Ukrainian authorities have defended the ban, stating that it aims to develop a home-grown Ukrainian distribution industry and to give Ukrainian distributors "muscle" in negotiating their own deals to buy foreign films. Russian distributors control around 90% of foreign films screened in Ukraine and tend to supply Russian-language dubbed or subtitled copies that are part of wider packages distributed throughout Russia and the former Soviet territories. Andriy Khalpakhchi, director the Ukrainian Cinema Foundation, claims "Some European sellers at Berlin's film market are reporting that Russian buyers are already threatening not to buy films if they sell directly to Ukraine without using Russian distribution channels." Despite earlier fears that there would be problems due to the introduction of compulsory Ukrainian dubbing of films, the number of visitors to Ukrainian cinemas soared by 40% in Q1 of the year 2009 compared to the same period of the previous year.
Several Russian TV channels have not been allowed to broadcast in Ukraine since November 1, 2008, according to Ukraine's National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting mainly because of the advertising aired by the channels. The Ukrainian distributors of television channels were ordered[by whom?] to bring the broadcasts in line with Ukrainian laws. Channel One and Ren TV have since been granted temporary permission to broadcast, while a separate version of RTR Planeta was started specially for Ukrainian TV viewers in October 2009.
On May 13, 2010, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed that in Ukraine "the discriminatory, politically-motivated, ideology-tinged and anti-Russian decisions that were being made when Yuschenko was President have been lifted".
In two presidential elections, in 1994 and 2004, the role of languages in Ukraine was an important election issue. In 1994 the main opposition candidate, Leonid Kuchma, in an attempt to widen his political appeal, expressed his support for the idea of Russian becoming the second state language, as well as promising to improve his knowledge of the Ukrainian language. In addition to the stagnating economy, the language issue likely contributed to Kuchma's victory in the election; but while his knowledge of Ukrainian noticeably improved, Kuchma did not follow through on his pledge to make Russian a state language during the 10 years of his presidency.
In 2004 an election promise by Viktor Yanukovych (leader of the Party of Regions) to adopt Russian as the second official language might also have increased the turnout of his base, but it was rebutted during the campaign by his opponent (Viktor Yushchenko), who pointed out that Yanukovych could have already taken steps towards this change while he was a Prime Minister of Ukraine if this had really been his priority. During his campaign Yushchenko emphasized that his being painted as a proponent of the closure of Russian schools frequently made by his opponents is entirely baseless and stated his view that the issue of school language, as well as the churches, should be left to local communities. Nevertheless, during Yuchshenko's presidency the transfer of educational institutions from Russian to Ukrainian continued.
In the 2006 parliamentary election the status of the Russian language in Ukraine was brought up again by the opposition parties. The leading opposition party, Party of Regions, promised to introduce two official languages, Russian and Ukrainian, on the national and regional levels. On the national level such changes require modifying Article 10 of the Constitution of Ukraine, which the party hopes to achieve. Before the election in Kharkiv, and following the election in the other south-eastern regions such as Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, and the Crimea, the newly elected local councils, won by the Party of Regions (and minor supporting parties), declared Russian as a regional language, citing the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, ratified by Ukraine in 2003. The central government has questioned such actions of local councils, claiming they overstepped their authority. In Dnipropetrovsk, the court has found the order of the city council on introducing Russian as a regional language unlawful, but the legal battle on the local status of the Russian language remains to be resolved.
In the wake of the 2006 Parliamentary crisis in Ukraine that fractured the governing coalition and returned Yanukovych to the Prime Ministership, the "Universal of National Unity" signed by President Yushchenko as well as the leaders of several of the most influential political parties declared that Ukrainian would remain the official state language in Ukraine. However, within a week after signing the Universal, Yanukovych, then approved as Prime Minister of Ukraine, stated at a press conference in Sochi (Russia) that the implementation of Russian as a second state language remains the goal of his party even though he does not see it achieved in the immediate future because such a change, which would require amending the Constitution, would not collect the required majority (⅔) in the Parliament of Ukraine given the current political situation.
During the electoral campaign for the 2010 Ukrainian presidential election Yanukovych at first stated that if he would be elected President he then will do everything in order to make Russian the second state language in Ukraine, but in an interview with Kommersant later during the campaign he stated that the status of Russian in Ukraine "is too politicized" and said that if elected President in 2010 he would "have a real opportunity to adopt a law on languages, which implements the requirements of the European Charter of regional languages". He implied this law would need 226 votes in the Ukrainian parliament (50% of the votes instead of the 75% of the votes needed to change the constitution of Ukraine). After his early 2010 election as President Yanukovych stated (on March 9, 2010) "Ukraine will continue to promote the Ukrainian language as its only state language".
According to the laws on civil and administrative procedure enacted in Ukraine in 2005, all legal and court proceedings in Ukraine are to be conducted in Ukrainian. This does not restrict, however, the usage of other languages, as the law guarantees interpretation services for any language desired by a citizen, defendant or witness. Nonetheless, on September 6, 2005, the Russian Foreign Ministry criticised the measure, issuing a statement that the change infringes on the rights of Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens. In response, the First Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Ohryzko, expressed his astonishment at the Russian Foreign Ministry's commentary. In his statement, he cited provisions of Russian law stating that the Russian language is used Russia-wide by every body of state authority and local self-government, as well as by public organisations. Ohryzko asserted that this matter is solely Ukraine's own affair.
- Ukrainian nationalism
- Russians in Ukraine
- Russian language in Ukraine
- Reversal of Ukrainization policies in Soviet Ukraine
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- "Shelest came to power on the wave of post-war "Ukrainization" of the party and state apparatus of the Ukrainian SSR and the rise of the role of Ukrainian party elite on the Soviet leadership. [...] On the background of the general policies of Russification and Sovietization significant were his declarations aimed at the protection of the Ukrainian language in school education, the printed press, magazines and books. He defended several representatives of Ukrainian culture from the accusations of Ukrainian nationalism."
Encyclopedia of Ukrainian studies) cited above
- See highlights in English
- According to the Article 10 of the Constitution: "The state language of Ukraine is the Ukrainian language. The State ensures the comprehensive development and functioning of the Ukrainian language in all spheres of social life throughout the entire territory of Ukraine. In Ukraine, the free development, use and protection of Russian, and other languages of national minorities of Ukraine, is guaranteed."
- “Donetsk City Council Cancels Resolution Restricting Use Of Ukrainian Language In Educational Establishments”, Ukrainian News Agency, May 26, 2008.
- The data were prepared by the International Institute of Humanitarian and Political Studies (Russia) based on the statistical data published by the Ministry of Science and Education of Ukraine, 2001-2004.
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- See Ivanyshyn, cited above
- "the number of Ukrainian secondary schools has increased to 15,900, or 75% of their total number. In all, about 4.5 million students (67.4% of the total) are taught in Ukrainian, in Russian – 2.1 million (31.7%)..."
"Annual Report of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights “On the situation with observance and protection of human rights and freedoms in Ukraine” for the period from April 14, 1998 till December 31, 1999"
- In Central and Western Ukraine there are practically no Russian schools left. In 16 oblasts out of 13,000 schools, 26 are Russian (0.2%). In Kiev there are almost no Russian schools left: 6 out of 452. The situation in higher education is even worse. In 19 oblasts there is not a single institution with the instruction in Russian. In Ukrainian schools, Russian literature is included in the international literature course and children have to learn Gogol in the Ukrainian translation. Only in Donbass and the Crimea is the full-fledged Russian education preserved."
Volodymyr Malynkovych (January 2006). "Ukrainian perspective". Politicheskiy Klass.
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- Population composition by the native language according to the Ukrainian Census (2001).
- "Annual Report of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights “On the situation with observance and protection of human rights and freedoms in Ukraine” for the period from April 14, 1998 till December 31, 1999"
- "There has been no consistent policy of Ukrainianization. [...] [I]t is sometimes difficult to admit that the issue is actually about the assimilation of the Russian-speaking population, which has to be logical and unforced, but so far has been forcible."
Myroslav Popovych, the director of the Hryhoriy Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, cited through "Inconsistent language policy creates problems in Ukraine", Eurasia Daily Monitor by The Jamestown Foundation, May 24, 2006
- "[...] the main mistake of the government has been imposing Ukrainian in those regions where it is traditionally barely spoken, instead of financing Ukrainian culture in the traditionally Ukrainian-speaking areas, such as Lviv."
Mykola Knyazhytsky, media expert and former Chairman of the Ukrainian State TV and Radio Broadcasting, cited through Eurasia Daily Monitor, ibid
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