Bilingual Ukrainians abandon Russian language in war

Mukachev, Ukraine – Lydia Kalashnikova was shocked by the rocket launch of rockets on the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv six weeks ago in the early hours of the morning and made her decision: since then she has only spoken in Ukrainian.

“No matter how strange it may seem, it was immediate, and all that stress helped me to reject the Russian language – absolutely,” Kalashnikova said.

Like most Ukrainians, Kalashnikov works equally well in both languages. In her daily life, along with her husband and two small children aged 5 and 2, she speaks mostly Russian. He grew up in a Russian-speaking family and it is estimated that 90 percent of his relatives speak Russian.

But when Moscow launched an invasion of Ukraine on February 24, he said he “had no right to use any language other than Ukrainian” and “instantly realized that the Ukrainian language was really my weapon”.

He says he is okay with Ukrainians who continue to speak Russian like his mother. But Kalashnikov says he will only speak Ukrainian.

“I do not want to do anything with the Russian language,” he said.

This is a sentiment shared by a growing number of Ukrainians. For many, the time has come to separate Ukraine linguistically and psychologically from its northern neighbors. Two languages, such as Portuguese and Spanish, are similar, and conversations often take place between one Ukrainian and the other Russian.

But now, debates have erupted on social media about the need to transform the country from Russian, and the number of people announcing that they will switch to speaking only Ukrainian has multiplied.

This trend is beyond language. This is part of a larger rejection of “Rusky Mir” or the “Russian world”: President Vladimir Putin’s shared views on the Russian language and cultural space, which he says are under threat – and the protection he used to justify his invasion.

As for the Ukrainians, it exposes the lies that underlie the Kremlin’s invasion of Moscow, and the people that Putin claims to be saving.

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It is a lie that President Volodymyr Zhelensky, a Russian speaker in southeastern Ukraine, feels strongly.

Zelensky still uses the Russian language to convince Russians of the truth about Putin’s war. In a recent video address, Zhelensky, speaking in Russian and openly agitated, said that the Russian language is now associated with crime, kidnappings, “explosions and murders” in places where “it has always been a part of everyday life”.

Speaking to those in Moscow, he said that Moscow was doing everything carelessly to “ensure that Russianization takes place in Ukraine” and that “our people will stop speaking Russian”.

Because the Russian language is relevant to you. Only with you, ”he said.

This is especially evident in the eastern and southern parts of the country, in areas with deep cultural, economic and family ties to Russia, and where most of the population speaks Russian.

The Kremlin is said to be using a “burned earth” military strategy.

Among the leveled or concave cities, and cities where thousands may have died, are Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city and center of Russian language culture, and 90 percent of the pre – war population is Russian-speaking Mariupol. .

Language is at the center of Ukraine’s efforts to create a unique national identity, far removed from Russia and far from the Soviet past. Before the war, there was a movement to encourage people to stay away from speaking Russian, especially among young people.

The role of the Russian language and culture in the future of Ukraine remains to be seen.

Half of the Ukrainians speak Ukrainian at home and 30 percent speak Russian, while the rest speak the same language or other languages, such as Hungarian. The eastern and southern regions of Ukraine are predominantly Russian-speaking.

But, at the same time, the war has created a more fiery environment. This week, authorities in the western Ukrainian cities of Ternopil, Uzhhorod and Mukachevo removed statues and busts of 19th-century Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.

“After seeing all the atrocities in Russia, there is no longer room for Russian and Soviet monuments in Ternobile,” Mayor Sergei Nadal told his Telegram channel on Saturday, showing a photo of the empty pedestal where Pushkin’s statue was.

Sofia Diak, director of the Center for Urban History, an independent research firm based in Lviv, said: “Over the past month, more and more people have become Ukrainians.

Diak said the country’s language politics would not be further poisoned as a result of the war and that Russian speakers would not be pressured or threatened to abandon their linguistic heritage.

“The Russian language is part of our heritage,” he said. “Russia has no monopoly on the Russian language. It is a matter of respect for personal preference.

The Ukrainians have revolutionized the meaning of “Russian world” and have now turned it into a derogatory term – a catchy phrase for destruction and violence. In Russian and Ukrainian, they spew words of ridicule in conversations or videos in the ruins of their cities or homes.

“You should not feed a culture that wants to destroy,” said Ukrainian musician Oy Fask, originally from Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. “I think we need to cultivate a culture of freedom and a culture of self-expression.”

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Dimitrov Kolsnishenko, a musician, just before the war, he finished a mini album, preparing to promote it.

“Now I understand, it’s inappropriate for me to publish it because it has Russian lyrics in it,” he said. “I do not want to be a part of that Russian world.”

There is also a sense of treachery. Artem Damarkin, a graphic and animation designer from the northeastern city of Sumi, a Ukrainian-speaking converter, said he was shocked by the level of support for the war among Russians he previously respected.

“I have always divided politics and people,” Damarkin said. But when the hostilities began, many of his acquaintances and the public he liked spoke in support of the war or “remained silent without saying anything.”

“I can’t trust them,” he said.

Kalashnikov says the Russian-speaking noise now annoys itself.

“I don’t want to put myself on the level of language even with a criminal state,” he said.

Anastasia Kalochka from Kiev contributed to this report.

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