News / Europe

In Ukraine, Divisions Not Necessarily About Language

In Ukraine, Divisions Not Necessarily About Languagei
X
Al Pessin
June 18, 2014 7:24 PM
From the outside, the crisis in Ukraine appears to be drawn along ethnic and linguistic lines - between Russian-speakers who identify with Russia and Ukrainian-speakers who identify with Ukraine. But during a recent visit, VOA’s Al Pessin found out it’s not so simple.
Al Pessin
From the outside, the crisis in Ukraine appears to be drawn along ethnic and linguistic lines - between Russian-speakers who identify with Russia and Ukrainian-speakers who identify with Ukraine.  But it’s not so simple.
 
The complexity of Ukraine’s political divide is particularly easy to see in the southern city of Odessa.
 
In a building at Kulikova Field, dozens of pro-Russian protesters died in early May after a pitched battle with a pro-western group and an intense fire.  But even here, those mourning the dead declare their loyalty to Ukraine - in Russian.
 
“The people who died here weren’t separatists.  They were standing for Ukraine, a cohesive Ukraine.  But they just wanted federalism,” said Lila, a saleswoman.
 
“People in the east are more absolutist and radical.  Here, we are more tolerant,” said Vladimir, an activist.
 
Across town, supporters of Ukraine’s increasing ties with Europe finished a rally and posed for a photo.

“I’ve had lots of negotiations with people from Kulikova Field.  They are mostly okay.  But radicals manipulate them if they don’t really know what’s going on,” said Yevgeny, an activist leader.
 
The language is really a non-issue, explained Sergey, a seaman.

“They [those perceived to be pro-Russia] just historically [are] speaking [the] Russian language.  But they don’t like to be in Russia," he said. "We like our freedom, and it doesn’t matter which language we speak.”
 
Local journalist Oksana Butuk is not surprised by the lack of hostility among her fellow-Odessans.
 
“Language is not the thing that divides in Ukraine. I, for example, grew up in a Ukrainian-speaking family but I don’t feel any aggression or pressure,” said Oksana.
 
And she said that in Russian.
 
To help explain, regional vice governor Zoya Kazanzhy offered this:
 
“There’s a poem in Russian that says you can’t understand Russia with your brain.  Odessa is not a monolith.  There are lots of small Odessas inside Odessa.”
 
Kazanzhy said supporters and opponents of the pro-western revolution used to get along in Odessa, and she blames provocateurs for stirring up the violence and trying to stoke ethnic tensions that she says never really existed before.
 
The vice governor says her main focus now is on restoring what she calls Odessa’s “easy-going” and multi-lingual lifestyle.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jaycey from: Zaporozhzhye, Ukraine
June 19, 2014 2:15 AM
"The language is really a non-issue, explained Sergey, a seaman."

I think that comment sums it up. Most Ukrainians speak both Ukrainian & Russian – because a person speaks Russian doesn’t mean they have any love for Russia. It’s a feeble Putin excuse to invade to protect the ‘Russian speaking people’. Hitler did something similar.

There are more Russian speaking people outside Russia that in Russia itself – PLEASE DON’T ‘RESCUE’ US MR PUTIN!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs