Conflicts & War

Ukrainian language becomes weapon of resistance against Russian invasion

(Update: adds detail)

By Lourdes Velasco

Kyiv, May 11 (EFE).- Speaking Ukrainian has become a weapon of resistance against the Russian invasion, prompting many Russian speakers in Ukraine to stop using their mother tongue in public areas.

Ukrainian is the only official language in Ukraine, but 30% of the population speaks Russian as their mother tongue, especially in southern and eastern regions of the country.

“I am Ukrainian even though I speak Russian, but now I have switched to Ukrainian to protect our culture. Putin tries to destroy it,” Alina Bora, from Mariupol, tells Efe.

Alina, who lives in Kyiv, continues to speak Russian with her parents and friends from her hometown but not with new people she meets or in any public space such as social media.

“I would say that 99% of my entourage speaks Russian at home. We know Ukrainian because we learn it at school,” she says, adding that she has been improving her Ukrainian speaking skills.

Victoria, 37, is a civil servant and speaks Ukrainian at work after a law was passed in 2019 that required the use of Ukrainian in administration, public services and education.

Victoria’s parents, who live in Kyiv, are making an effort to speak Ukrainian at home as she wants to educate her children in Ukrainian, even though it is not her mother tongue.

Lioba, 27, is also from Kyiv and speaks Ukrainian at home. “When I was a child at school, everyone spoke Russian and I was embarrassed to use Ukrainian,” she tells Efe.

“It was considered to be a language that only the people of the town spoke. It was understood as something pejorative, and that is why I always used Russian outside the house,” she explains, adding that now she takes pride in speaking Ukrainian.

Russian is hardly heard in western Ukraine, a region that remained outside of Russia’s sphere of influence until World War II in stark contrast to the country’s east, which Moscow is now looking to occupy.

Only 5% of the population speak Russian around Lviv, the cultural capital of western Ukraine.

Many of its residents believe the entirety of Ukraine would resemble the western region had the Soviet Union not exerted its power over the country.

“In 1930, 90% of the residents of Kharkiv were Ukrainian and spoke Ukrainian,” Klimenty Sheptytsky, the director of the museum of folk architecture and life in Lviv tells Efe.

“But after the repression and the wars, the majority of the country was repopulated by Russians. The goal of the Soviets was to destroy Ukrainian culture.”EFE


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