By Paul Goble
Language change in the regional and local media in Ukraine is proceeding in a single direction, the State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting Reports. More than 200 publications are shifting either from Russian to Ukrainian entirely or issuing Ukrainian-language editions in addition to the Russian ones.
The committee reports that as of June 1, 209 publications (196 local and 13 state) had shifted either into Ukrainian entirely or into two editions, one of which was Ukrainian. “Not one” moved in the direction of issuing only a Russian-language edition, the Kyiv agency continued (qha.com.ua/ru/obschestvo/v-ukraine-stalo-bolshe-ukrainoyazichnih-smi/193038/).
While this number is a relatively small proportion of all publications at that level, it is important for three reasons. First, it means that Kyiv’s declarations about language change are being carried out rather than ignored as some have assumed. Ukraine is becoming a Ukrainian language country.
Second, it represents a return at least for a transitional period to the Soviet practice of putting out such publications not in a single language but in both the predominant local language and Russian, a pattern that when the editions are identical otherwise, will promote Ukrainian language knowledge among non-ethnic Ukrainian citizens.
And third, it suggests that those publications which have tried to remain Russian-only are not in a position to compete with those that are either bilingual or Ukrainian-language, a measure of popular attitudes about language even more than the result of any directive from the central government.