Stepashin in Ukraine: Ethnic and Language Issues


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Date: Sun, 25 Jul 1999 10:44:30 +0300 (EET DST)
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Subject: Stepashin in Ukraine: Ethnic and Language Issues

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Original sender: Felix Corley <fcorley@mail.ndirect.co.uk>

Stepashin in Ukraine: Ethnic and Language Issues


Jamestown Foundation Monitor
20 July 1999
 
STEPASHIN IN UKRAINE: ETHNIC AND LANGUAGE ISSUES. Russian Prime
Minister Sergei Stepashin's July 15-18 visit to Ukraine occasioned an
across-the-board review of Ukrainian-Russian relations ahead of
Ukraine's presidential election. Stepashin floated two trial balloons
from the outset. In the meeting with Kuchma, he called for changes to
Ukraine's legislation, to make Ukrainian-Russian double citizenship
possible and to confer official status on the Russian language in
Ukraine, along with Ukrainian. Kuchma turned down both proposals.
During the course of Stepashin's visit, Kuchma told a gathering of
journalists from Ukraine's regions that "there must be one state
language in Ukraine - Ukrainian. An ever-larger number of [Russian]
people in Ukraine accept of their own accord the need to learn
Ukrainian. There are no fewer Ukrainians in Russia than there are
Russians in Ukraine, yet there are no Ukrainian schools and newspapers
in Russia [though there are Russian ones in Ukraine]." Kuchma added
that Crimea has only four elementary schools and one medium-school
with complete Ukrainian-language instruction. At the same time Kuchma
reaffirmed his "categorical opposition to coercive methods of
introducing the Ukrainian language into official use" in the Crimea
and other russified regions - a position held across Ukraine's
political spectrum. But Kuchma also underscored that he "never
promised to anyone that he would introduce a second official language
in Ukraine" (DINAU, UNIAN, Itar-Tass, Russian Television, July 15-16,
19).
 
On the eve of Stepashin's visit, Russian Foreign Ministry officials
speaking under the cover of anonymity had called for urging Kuchma to
support the elevation of Russian to the status of an official language
in Ukraine as a condition to Moscow's support for Kuchma's reelection.
The officials recalled Kuchma's 1994 election campaign message which
had seemed to promise such a course, but which Kuchma subsequently
repudiated (DINAU, UNIAN, Russian Television, July 16).

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