There is hardly any doubt that the parade of implementations of the “language legislation” will continue, just as one of its champions from the K&K duo [MPs Kivalov and Kolesnichenko. – Ed.] has promised. Following the Odesa city council, which granted Russian the status of regional language at a special session, the same agenda will convoke special sessions of the Donetsk city council and the Supreme Council of the Crimea. This “language parade” was announced by the beaming and shining Vadym Kolesnichenko live on Channel 5. Sadly, but as Channel 5 was broadcasting the odious prattling MP, it failed to represent an alternative opinion of Odesites. No matter whether it was due to unfortunate neglect, a lack of air time, or because Channel 5 relied on the audience’s good commons sense and the knowledge of who is who in politics, the fact remains. This looks even worse than a lack of a civil standpoint; it suggests elementary neglect of professional standards.
The ardor and youthful enthusiasm, with which Odesa’s legislators immediately got down to performing their statesmanlike duties, are remarkable. It is also remarkable that Odesa was the first to jump at the implementation of the new law. The legendary city with a rich history, a diverse cultural and ethnic landscape is now being slowly, but steadily transformed into a cesspool of shabby imperial ideas and the Black Hundred chauvinism. Meanwhile, the city’s true face remains largely unknown to Odesites themselves and Ukrainian society at large. Professional guides will tell you about the city, founded by Catherine II, but you will not hear a single word about the city, which was fervently discussing the idea of independent Ukraine at the time when the more Ukrainianized cities could not boast of such brave men. If they tell you about Babel, the story will inevitably go over the local flavor of neighborhoods like Moldavanka and the criminal underworld. But you will never hear about Babel’s end: the arrest, interrogations, tortures, and finally, execution – as was the custom back then, sanctioned with Stalin’s signature.
They do not know this Odesa, or they do not want to know it. And prime minister Mykola Azarov’s words about the “modernization” of the city sound at least pathetical against this background. In fact, they sound absurd. “The Ukrainian government intends to start reconstruction and modernization of Odesa and Odesa oblast, and invest big money in this process [by the way, where does this big money come from, and why for Odesa, in the first place? – Author],” told Azarov the journalists at a press conference in Odesa on Tuesday, as reported by Interfax. The process of reconstruction and modernization will be part of getting Odesa ready for the European basketball championship in 2015.
Airports, roads, and urban water supply systems are all important. Yet paving roads anew does not mean modernizing the country. It is nothing but window-dressing. Modernization cannot be based on 19th-century principles, which are actually actively implanted in this seaside city. Or else this is no modernization. It is rather an opposite process, only tinseled with infrastructure reconstruction. This is exactly what is happening in Russia today. The renewal of the empire is conducted on the same principles, the colossus is put back onto the same feet of clay, only the dress is new. Whatever modernization there is, is only confined to the methods of this renewal.
Despite all that, there are at least two things which should stop apocalyptical sentiment and the feeling of doom from engulfing Ukrainians.
Firstly, it seems as if in the eastern and southern regions have already sprung (and got stronger) the healthy forces, prepared to offer moral and ethical resistance to degradation. Secondly, the attempts at renewing the empire already indicate its future doom.
What else can attempts at deceiving history bring forth? It is only a question of time and price, in particular, the price for Ukraine.
“ODESA IS NO LONGER A TOLERANT CITY”
Volodymyr KUDLACH, employee, Maksym Gorky National Academic Library, Odesa:
“The decision of the special session of the city council came as no surprise, because the politicians who now represent government in Odesa have never hidden their true intention of making Russian a dominant language in the city. Not only does the standpoint of Odesa’s legislators make me indignant, vexes me and is a cause for resentment. It is also an evidence of Odesa being no longer a tolerant city. Demagogy, hypocrisy, speculations, rigging statistics, violation of the Constitution – these are the methods of Kolesnikov, Kivalov, Kostusiev and their like. Using the European Charter [for Regional and Minority Languages. – Ed.] as a cover, they humiliate our country and Ukrainians, whom they strive to marginalize.
“We will pay a dear price for these pre-election campaigning, since it breaks interethnic peace and opens the door to haters of all Ukrainian. The other day I witness an episode which is quite illustrative. An older gentleman came to the library and asked for a book about a Ukrainian Soviet artist with Odesite background. He was offered a detailed Dictionary of Ukrainian Artists. ‘Again, everything is in this Ukrainian language!’ burst out the man, irritated. ‘Why, have you got any problems with Ukrainian?’ I inquired. ‘I am sick and tired of it!’ The art amateur almost seethed with hate. Unfortunately, this is far from being a single instance.
“Another question suggests itself: what is the financial implication of the new legislation, if all notices now have to be made in three languages, Ukrainian, Russian, and English? Passing such ‘laws’ is the evidence of failure of those politicians, who for two decades had been telling us stories about ‘133 nationalities of Odesa’ and the need of ‘gradual Ukrainization.’
“What shall we do now? Never give up and develop ‘parallel society’ and civil institutions. Personally I have neither respect for such ‘legislation,’ nor any desire to comply with it, since the motives that prompted it are unconvincing, and divide Ukraine’s society.”
“SUCH PRESSURE MUST AWAKEN UKRAINIANS”
Ivan MELNYK, editor, Chornomorski novyny (The Black Sea News), Odesa:
“Thanks to our administration, we are nationwide leaders in terms of Russification. I think this is just cheap self-advertising, since some people simply have nothing to boast, no concrete, tangible results. The village roads are broken and no one is doing anything about them; this year’s harvest is worse due to bad weather (last year the weather was favorable, so they made such a PR campaign as if they had been harvesting the crops with their own hands). There is nothing to boast of in economy: there is virtually no industry as such left in Odesa. Nothing is being done for the development of Odesa’s recreational potential. Hence, ‘the Russian language has become regional here, and tomorrow we will make it official.’ This is what they are going to use as bait in the election campaign.
“How much are our people likely to buy it? On the one hand, there is a certain pressure. In particular, parents are secretly forced to ask for Russian as the language of teaching at schools. The implementation of ‘language legislation’ at this level has in fact only one aim: marginalization of Ukrainian and preponderance of Russian.
“So far, it is hard to make any forecasts, but I have serious doubts that the rights of Bulgarian, Moldovan, and Gagauz, which are quite widespread in the south, will also be pedaled with the same ardor. Of course, Odesa is a Ukrainian city, but we do not take this legislation as a disaster. On the contrary, I think that such pressure must somehow awaken us, Ukrainians, and lead us to protect the Ukrainian language, speak it, and promote it. We have a Ukrainian Club of Odesa, an NGO which has gathered the most active Ukrainians. Being tolerant people, we would always switch to Russian when addressed to in Russian. But now my Ukrainian-speaking acquaintances make a point of speaking only Ukrainian, to show that we are Ukrainian.
“I think that the Ukrainian community, represented by nationwide organizations (maybe, even parties) must propose legislation aimed at the promotion of Ukrainian as an official language. Because now we are facing a situation when the official language has no support whatsoever. I am convinced that Ukrainian will be spoken. And here a lot depends on us, the citizens of Ukraine.”