MINELRES: Fwd: Transitions Online: Crimea, Ukraine: Education: Talking Past Each Other
Mon Oct 5 16:34:42 2009
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Crimea, Ukraine: Education: Talking Past Each Other
October 03, 2009
by Kseniya Pasechnik
Transitions Online, 29 September 2009
As Kyiv steps up efforts to promote the use of Ukrainian in schools in
Crimea, local complaints grow.
SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine | A range of possibilities are on offer to the
students of Crimea, Ukraine's only autonomous republic. They can study
in schools where all classes are taught in Ukrainian, or Russian, or
Crimean Tatar. Or they can study in multilingual schools where different
classes are taught in different languages.
Chances are, however, that most will choose Russian-language schools, a
reality that the government in Ukraine is trying to change, largely
through financing Ukrainian-language education programs much more than
those in Russian. That strategy has met with much local resistance.
The continuing dominance of Russian in Crimea, which is located on the
northern coast of the Black Sea, is hardly surprising given that ethnic
Russians make up 59 percent of the local population of just over 2
million, compared with 24 percent ethnic Ukrainians and 12 percent
Crimean Tatars, according to the 2001 census. Data provided by the
Ukrainian Education Ministry indicate that around half of the schools in
Ukraine where classes are taught predominantly in Russian are located in
Crimea, and that nearly all schools in Crimea - 555 of 576 - hold
classes predominantly in Russian (the only exceptions being Ukrainian
literature and history, and, of course, Ukrainian language classes).
"In Crimea only seven schools provide teaching [mainly] in Ukrainian,"
complained Ivan Vakarchuk, the Ukrainian minister of education, at a
recent press conference. "Only 7.3 percent of students receive their
education in the country's official language, compared with 81.3 percent
in the rest of the country. It is the lowest percentage in Ukraine."
According to the ministry, not a single school in the rural areas of the
Crimean peninsula provides instruction primarily in Ukrainian.
The minority Crimean Tatar population does not factor much in the
linguistic debate. A few schools in the Crimean district of
Bakhchisaray, opened with funding from the Turkish government, conduct
lessons only in the Turkish language, as do some Sunday schools, also
with Turkish-language instruction, typically at mosques. But most
Crimean Tatars study at ordinary institutions, in Crimean-Tartar
language classes, if possible. If not, they receive their education in
Russian or Ukrainian.
A CHANGE IN TACTICS
Marina Chernysheva, a teacher at Yalta City School No. 4, contrasted the
government's methods today with those of over a decade ago, under the
presidency of Leonid Kuchma. In 1998, the authorities introduced
measures to improve the study of Ukrainian in schools where other
languages predominated by increasing the number of hours taught in
Ukrainian. Looking back, Chernysheva views this policy as "soft"
Ukrainization, encouraging the use of the language by linking it with a
"The best teachers, computers, textbooks, were sent to those classes.
There were about eight students per class. Certainly, many children,
even those who had previously been instructed in Russian, wanted to
receive their education at those establishments,' she said. "Since the
quality of education in those classes was higher, Ukrainian was becoming
more and more prestigious, as an increasing number of people wanted to
study in Ukrainian-language schools. Separate lyceums and gymnasiums
were created where teaching was conducted solely in Ukrainian."
Chernysheva and many others in Crimea feel the situation changed after
the popular protests of the Orange Revolution at the end of 2004 helped
usher in a more Western-oriented government. Now the talk is more of
"Linguistic pressure increased with the arrival of President Viktor
Yushchenko," said Olga Orel, the mother of a Sevastopol schoolgirl.
"That has caused tension and resistance in pro-Russian Crimea." She said
the local community, including the city council, opposed the Ukrainian
Education Ministry's plans to open a Ukrainian-language gymnasium in
Sevastopol next year.
Some students complain that they must study Ukrainian literature and
Ukrainian history in Ukrainian only. "I want to learn about Russian
history and literature. I don't need to study Ukrainian, and I'll
receive a better university education [in the future] in Moscow," said
Rustam Lebanov, an eighth-grader at a Simferopol city school.
Respondents to a poll conducted in June echoed those views. According to
a survey of Crimean residents by the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center, 85.2
percent want their children to study in Russian-language schools. Only
4.4 percent desire a Ukrainian-language education and 2.8 percent an
education in Crimean Tatar. An overwhelming majority - 85.3 percent -
believe that the Crimean population is exposed to forced Ukrainization.
Others, however, call this supposed "forced Ukrainization" largely a
myth cooked up by politicians. Georgiy Kasianov, director of education
research at the International Renaissance Foundation in Kyiv, accuses
the pro-Russian Party of the Regions as well as the Communist Party of
playing the language card in their battles with political opponents,
whom they mock as nationalists.
"When they speak about forced Ukrainization, they point to some decrees
of the central government that were never implemented in Crimea, since
the Kyiv-based Ministry of Education has no direct jurisdiction over
Crimean education," Kasianov said. "As a rule, directives from Kyiv on
"Ukrainization" were never fulfilled," he added. As an autonomous
republic, Crimea has its own parliament and ministries; only in
extraordinary circumstances can the national government overrule their
Kasianov said the only way to change the situation is to make the
Ukrainian language more attractive. "One example: the Ukrainian
gymnasium that opened in Simferopol is extremely popular. It's funded
directly from Kyiv and it has excellent premises and technical
equipment. Every year there is a long line of parents, including
Russians, who want to enroll their children there.
"There is no real state policy directed from Kyiv toward the Crimean
educational sphere," he added. "It is mostly wishful thinking, decrees,
and an endless stream of paper."
In Crimea, locals counter Kyiv's arguments about the lack of Ukrainian
instruction by insisting that educational programs adopted over a decade
ago to foster cooperation among different ethnic groups are working.
Under one such scheme, developed in 1996 by the Crimean Education
Department, new schools with both Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar as
languages of instruction were introduced. And, according to the
department's annual analysis of the ethnic composition of students and
interviews with parents, this program has helped to ameliorate the
situation, in part by creating a situation where multi-language schools
have become increasingly popular.
In the beginning, enrolment at such schools was considerably below
average: only eight requests from parents in city schools and five from
those in rural areas were enough to launch such classes. But as with the
Ukrainian-language schools launched in the late 1990s, the low number of
students per class was very attractive, allowing teachers to focus on
particularly difficult concepts and spend more time on foreign
languages. A report by the Crimean Department of Education and Science
indicates substantial growth in the number of these classes over the
last few years, from 264 in the 2002-2003 school year to 434 in
2004-2005, the last year for which data are available.
"Schools with multiple languages of instruction became a godsend in
small settlements, where there is one school for everyone," said
Alexander Gluzman, a former minister of education in Crimea. As a
result, children from all different nationalities have been able to
study at such establishments.
Officials in Crimea complain that part of the central government's
strategy for spurring the use of Ukrainian is to under-finance
"In the national budget, money for educational literature for Crimea
simply is not considered," said Vladimir Kavrayskiy, a Crimean deputy
education minister. School libraries and classrooms do not contain
visual aids and materials for teaching Russian language and literature,
he said. He also lamented, "Many additional lessons have appeared in
curricula: ethics, informatics, creative arts, "Ukraine and I" elbowing
out Russia-related subjects. Such innovations are good, but where can we
find time for Russian lessons?"
Kavrayskiy also cited the poor quality of teacher training for
instructors of Russian. "Even today, the methods used to train teachers
are outdated," he said. "Teachers, as a rule, are unfamiliar with new
methods or technologies." Local education officers have estimated that
almost half of the teachers of Russian are of retirement age, with fewer
young people entering the poorly paid profession.
At a recent session of the Crimean parliament, Kavrayskiy's boss,
Crimean Education Minister Valery Lavrov, speculated about the fate of
some of Russia's most famous authors. "Since 1991, there has not been a
single school textbook published in Ukraine on Russian literature," he
said. "Urgent measures are needed in this autonomous republic. Gogol,
Tolstoy, Saltykov-Shchedrin. Will our children know these names?"
In response to such complaints, in April the republic's parliament
approved a program to support and promote the use of Russian in Crimea.
Among other measures, the program will include the development of a
special course on Russian literature and the use of independent external
evaluators to assess the quality of Russian-language instruction.
Pro-Russian politicians believe that the Ukrainian authorities
intentionally hinder the daily operations of Russian educational
institutions in Crimea. After the Sevastopol branch of Russia's
Novorossiysk Marine Academy complained of the central Education
Ministry's delaying its accreditation and of frequent visits from
education inspectors throughout much of this decade, Crimean Communist
Party leader Leonid Grach said in a speech, "This is the strongest proof
that collaboration in the educational sphere today is possible only
despite the policy that is conducted by the Ukrainian government."
Grach, who also serves in the national parliament, said, "Ukrainian
public administrators, as a rule, are anti-Russian, particularly on
That kind of rhetoric ends up being transferred from parents to
children, along with linguistic and cultural problems, say some of the
region's educators and alumni - partly because the language issue is
only one source of tension present in the Crimean educational system.
Schools also do not provide a homogenous interpretation of Ukrainian and
Crimean history. "The pro-Russian teachers present history from one
angle, and the pro-Ukrainian teachers from another. The truth lies
somewhere in the middle," said Maksim Leonov, a graduate of a Crimean
school who studied in both Ukrainian-language and Russian-language
In classes covering the history of Crimean cities, such as Sevastopol,
these ideological differences multiply. "Such courses are full of
politics," Leonov said. "For example, in Sevastopol, students are taught
that Crimea should become a part of Russia, since many moments in the
history of the city are connected to Russia. Opinions begin to be formed
at school, so conflicts also begin there." Long under Russian rule,
Crimea was transferred from the Russian to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic
in the 1950s.
While most schools in Ukraine allot more significance to Ukrainian
language, history, and literature, the Russian equivalents are perceived
to be just as important in Crimean establishments.
The principal of one of the Simferopol city schools, who wished to
remain anonymous, said that children learn from their parents whom they
should communicate with, and in which languages. The Russian-Ukrainian
discord spurs conflicts, which then trickle down to the educational
"To avoid it, we simply need to choose a clear political course. When an
end to the national conflict is reached, the issues in schools will also
be resolved," she
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