Op­press­ing Rus­sians could back­fire

The Week (US) - - 14 News - Oleg Tkachuk


Ukraine should think twice be­fore tak­ing rights away from its Rus­sian mi­nor­ity, said Oleg Tkachuk. The par­lia­ment is con­sid­er­ing a bill that will man­date the use of the Ukrainian lan­guage, and not Rus­sian, in all pub­lic places. Never mind that nearly 1 in 6 peo­ple in Ukraine speak Rus­sian as a first lan­guage. When the bill be­comes law, which is likely, all news broad­casts will have to be in Ukrainian, and any pub­lic events, in­clud­ing cul­tural and sport­ing events in ma­jor­ity-Rus­sian towns in the east, will be re­quired to have Ukrainian-speak­ing an­nounc­ers. All gov­ern­ment busi­ness, even at the lo­cal level, must be con­ducted in Ukrainian—

in­clud­ing in schools and hos­pi­tals—and all sig­nage must be in Ukrainian. Po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist An­drei Yer­mo­layev says such a dra­co­nian re­stric­tion of mi­nor­ity-lan­guage rights amounts to a “dic­ta­to­rial de­ci­sion” that will ef­fec­tively “si­lence many jour­nal­ists, politi­cians, and po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tists.” Na­tion­al­ists who are pro­mot­ing pas­sage of this law may yet re­gret it. Such an overt op­pres­sion of the Rus­sian mi­nor­ity could be seen in Moscow as provocative. Surely Ukraine doesn’t want more Rus­sian na­tion­al­ist up­ris­ings, like the ones in Crimea and the eastern Don­bass re­gion, which re­sulted in Rus­sian oc­cu­pa­tion? Poke the bear and it will bite.

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