No Russian! Ukraine bans Russian music and books in public spaces and media

Many of those living in areas of east and south Ukraine have historically felt a strong connection to Russia, often speaking Russian as their first language

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Monday, June 20, 2022, 12:44 PM IST
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On Monday, Reuters reported that Ukraine’s parliament has voted through two laws that will place severe restrictions on Russian books and music as Kyiv seeks to break many remaining cultural ties between the two countries following Moscow’s invasion.

On of laws passed forbids the printing of books by Russian citizens, unless they renounce their Russian passport and take Ukrainian citizenship. The ban will only apply to those who held Russian citizenship after the 1991 collapse of Soviet rule.

It also bans the commercial import of books printed in Russia, Belarus and occupied Ukrainian territory, while also requiring special permission for the import of books in Russian from any other country.

The other law passed prohibits the playing of music by post-1991 Russian citizens on media and on public transport, while also increasing quotas on Ukrainian-language speech and music content in TV and radio broadcasts.

The laws need to be signed by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to take effect, although he has not been heard to voice any opposition to the proposals. Both bills passed with overwhelming support on Sunday, including from lawmakers who had traditionally been viewed as pro-Kremlin by most of Ukraine’s media and civil society.

Many of those living in areas of east and south Ukraine have historically felt a strong connection to Russia, often speaking Russian as their first language.

But Russia's invasion of Ukraine has led many Ukrainians to want to separate themselves from Russian culture.

A statement explaining the bill says Russian music would make the adoption of a Russian identity more attractive, potentially weakening the Ukrainian state.

The "musical product of the aggressor state [could] influence separatist sentiment in the population," according to the statement, which was quoted by lawmaker Yaroslav Zhelezniak on Telegram.

Russian widely spoken in Ukraine

Russian is the most common first language in the Donbas and Crimea regions of Ukraine and the city of Kharkiv, and the predominant language in large cities in the eastern and southern portions of the country.

The usage and status of the language is the subject of political disputes.

Ukrainian is the country's only state language since the adoption of the 1996 Constitution, which prohibits an official bilingual system at state level but also guarantees the free development, use and protection of Russian and other languages of national minorities.

In 2017 a new Law on Education was passed which restricted the use of Russian as a language of instruction. Nevertheless, Russian remains a widely used language in Ukraine in pop culture and in informal and business communication.

'Derussification' of Ukraine

The 2017 law on education provides that Ukrainian language is the language of education at all levels except for one or more subjects that are allowed to be taught in two or more languages, namely English or one of the other official languages of the European Union (i.e. excluding Russian).

The law does state that persons belonging to the indigenous peoples of Ukraine are guaranteed the right to study at public pre-school institutes and primary schools in "the language of instruction of the respective indigenous people, along with the state language of instruction" in separate classes or groups.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has expressed concern with this measure and with the lack of "real consultation" with the representatives of national minorities.

In July 2018, The Mykolaiv Okrug Administrative Court liquidated the status of Russian as a regional language, on the suit (bringing to the norms of the national legislation due to the recognition of the law "On the principles of the state language policy" by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine as unconstitutional) of the First Deputy Prosecutor of the Mykolaiv Oblast.

In October and December 2018, parliaments of the city of Kherson and of Kharkiv Oblast also abolished the status of the Russian language as a regional one.

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