O. Kazakevych, Dr. Habil. (History), Associate Professor

National Pedagogical Dragomanov University, Kyiv, Ukraine

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17721/1728-2640.2021.150.4


The article highlights an importance of the language for the survival of the Ukrainian national identity as well as its role in the state-building processes of the 20th century. The author analyzes the state policy towards Ukrainian during the National revolution of 1917-1921 and Soviet period. It is stated, that the linguistic policy of the Ukrainian authorities in 1917-1921 included acceptance of Ukrainian as a state language, its popularization and implementation in document flow, public administration, education, science and publishing. The linguistic policy of the state based itself on the ethnic tolerance and democratic principles. In search for support of the wider circles of the Ukrainian society, the Soviet regime, established in the early 1920ties, had to adopt the policy of “Ukrainization”. During the next decade the sphere of the Ukrainian language use expanded significantly. However, the Ukrainization appeared to be only a short-term solution. In the early 1930ties the Bolshevik ruling elite abandoned the policy of Ukrainization, while the leading Ukrainian administrators and public figures that supported this policy were repressed. At the same time, even the short-term Ukrainization of the 1920ties – early 1930ties was fruitful enough. It had a longue durée that fueled Ukrainian national identity during the periods that followed. In the years of de-Stalinization Ukrainian intellectuals searched for the possible ways to increase the usage of the Ukrainian language. They fulfilled numerous artistic and research projects and backed the rights of the Ukrainian language publicly.

It is important to note that the linguistic policy of the Soviet authorities presumed the support of the Russian language in all spheres of the social life. This policy was implemented through the state institutions, such as schools, universities, scientific centers, mass media, armed forces, health care, and prison system. As a result, Ukrainian was widely treated as a language of the lower status (Ukrainian as a ‘rural language’ in contrast to the Russian as an ‘urban language’) and bilingualism flourished among the population of Ukraine. The population censuses of 1926, 1959 and 1989 clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of this policy. Nevertheless, it never resulted in total Russification of the Ukrainian population. The Ukrainian language maintained its relevance for Ukrainian nation and state building of the 20th century. It continued to contribute in national consolidation and allowed to preserve the Ukrainian political identity, even despite the assimilation policy provided by the central authorities.

Key words: state-building, nation-building, Ukrainian language, identity, linguistic policy, Ukrainization, Russification, political relevance.

Submitted: 10.07.2021

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