Street-Fighting Words in the Ukraine

by Translation Guy on July 11, 2012

Violence over a new language law in the Ukraine spread from Parliament to the streets last week, as rioters led by opposition leaders clashed with Kiev police over passage of a bill that would make Russian official in Eastern Ukraine. The bill would allow the use of Russian in courts, schools and other government institutions in the Russian-speaking regions. The languages are generally mutually intelligible and often mixed in conversation.

The bill was passed minutes after a surprise proposal by the ruling party, the “Party of Regions,” allowing opponents little time for debate. Opponents of the bill call it an election ploy, pushed through the legislature in order to win back Russia-speaking voters ahead of parliamentary elections in October.

“Members of Ukraine’s pro-Western opposition say that such a law would effectively smother the Ukrainian language by removing any incentive for millions of Russian-speaking Ukrainians to learn it. They also say it would bring Ukraine back into the Russian orbit and torpedo its efforts to forge closer ties with the European Union, reports the AP.

“This bill would push the Ukrainian language out of use,” said one of the protestors, Yuri Chernyak to Pavel Polityuk of Reuters. “It might be too late but we must do something and not stay indifferent.”

“There are millions of us and they cannot pretend that nothing has happened,” said Vitali Klitschko, the world heavyweight boxing champion who has founded his own opposition party – Udar (Strike). Klitscheko injured his hand in the protest.

Many Ukrainians see regional status for Russian as a threat to Ukrainian sovereignty and its 20 years of independence since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, who had asked for amendments to the bill, has offered his resignation over the way the bill was forced through the legislature. Yolodymyr’s signature is required for passage of the law.

This is a follow-up on my earlier post about parliamentary fighting words. Sad to see that legislative fisticuffs have now spread to the streets.



  1. Marta says:

    Actually it’s just politics, I think. People who speak Russian and people who speak Ukrainian deal with each other without any negative feelings and understand each other well. No language of two is “oppressed” but I think officials should speak Ukrainian as it’s a state language. This fueling of conflict is just for earning points before the elections, to create disturbance in the society. That’s it.
    People are fine and languages are fine, politicians are f**ed.

    • Ken says:

      Doesn’t matter which pie, as they always got a finger in it.

  2. Marta says:

    And yes – current Ukrainian president was in jail two times for robbery, can you imagine that such person can become a PRESIDENT OF A COUNTRY??! Really?

  3. Why aren’t those police officers wearing gas masks?

    • Ken says:

      Maybe next time.

  4. H says:

    I doubt this fellow offering up his resignation, resigning will help anything, in fact its probably detrimental as he’ll be replaced by some Kremlin friendly puppet as usual with most open spots in the Ukranian government.

  5. I thought this bill would only effect certain regions of the country that are already predominently Russian speaking anyways? What’s the fuss?

  6. Pedrag Milic says:

    This bill only adds Russian as another official language, not replaces Ukranian, in a country that is widely Russian speaking anyways. I can’t see this ultra nationalistic sentiment gaining too wide a hold.

  7. So the heavyweight champion of the world is running for office?

    • Ken says:

      And fighting on the street.

  8. Jeannine says:

    That might be one of the craziest phots I’ve ever seen, police being tear gassed, classic.

    • Ken says:

      Agreed. Pulitzer level.

  9. I can’t see how this is the best interest of Ukraine or Russia, if it torpedoes ties with the EU, wouldn’t Russia benefit from a thriving Ukranian economy as they essentially control the country anyways.

  10. If this is such a huge issue, wouldn’t a non-violent form of action probably carry more weight, especially internationally, rather than allow the Moscow influence government to brand them as radicals.

  11. Great photo.

  12. Pavla Klima says:

    So Klitschko injured his hand? I’d hate to see the guy who got hit, that man is a beast.

  13. Annette says:

    I imagine this is a Putin brainchild, he wants to see the ressuraction of a Russian empire by creating puppet governments of all the Russian stellite states.

    • Ken says:

      Look to the price of Russian natural gas for more clues on that.

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