On the protection of the national minority rights in Ukraine
04 March 2014 23:53

The modern Ukraine іs a multinational country, with representatives of more than 130 nationalities living in its territory

On the protection of the national minority rights in Ukraine


I. Ensuring the national minorities rights in Ukraine


The modern Ukraine іs a multinational country, with representatives of more than 130 nationalities living in its territory. It is internationally recognized that the real achievement of Ukraine`s national minorities policy over 22 years of its independence is an interethnic peace and stability in its territory.


The main task of Ukraine`s interethnic policy, which is based on the provisions of its Constitution and a number of legislative acts, is to provide equal opportunities for all its citizens, regardless of their ethnic and social origin, religion affiliation, sex, economic status, place of residence, language and other characteristics etc.


Democratic and historical changes that are taking place in Ukraine these days will not affect the state policy of our country in the field of protection of rights of national minorities.


Maintenance of the atmosphere of inter-ethnic tolerance, elimination of root causes of inter-ethnic tensions, as well as prevention of potential conflicts on ethnic grounds are among the top priority tasks of the new leadership of Ukraine as a democratic state based on the rule of law. 


At the current stage of its evolution, the Ukrainian State will continue ensuring the protection of basic rights and freedoms of its national minorities by means of guaranteeing further development of their cultural, linguistic and religious ethnic identity.   


Ukraine will continue to meet in full its international obligations in the field of protection of national minorities, including those that fall under the basic documents of the Council of Europe - European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. On a number of occasions, Council of Europe Member States and experts have clearly recognized Ukraine’s progress in implementing these documents.


II. On ensuring the rights of the Russian minority in Ukraine


         As of March 2014, there are 8,3 mln. Ukrainain citizens belonging to the Russian minority in Ukraine (17,3% of the total population).

For reference: according to Census of 2001, the population of Ukraine is 8 334.1 thousand Russians (17.3% of the total population). They are the second largest ethnic group after the Ukrainian one. The representatives of this nationality settled on the territory of Ukraine in the dispersive way. The largest number of Russians in Ukraine lives in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia oblasts and Crimea. The language of their nationality is considered native by 95,9% Russians, the Ukrainian one – by 3.9%.


         Their cultural, educational, civic, information and linguistic rights are fully met and secured by the Ukrainian legislation.

This statement can be supported by numerous examples.


Public associations

Russian minority NGOs conduct large scale cultural and educational activities in Ukraine. In general, more than 160 Russian public associations of national minorities are registered in the country.

To name just a few: The Ukrainian Association of Russian culture “Rus”, the Ukrainian National Cultural and Educational Society “Russkoye Sobranie”, the National Organization “Russian Community of Ukraine” and the All-Ukrainian Union of NGOs associations of compatriots “Russian Community” act at the national level.

Russian minority NGOs conduct a public-building cultural and educational activity, organizing numerous conferences, festivals, competitions, workshops, and round tables. The Russian diaspora regions make great efforts to promote the Russian language and culture, strengthening Ukrainian -Russian relations in all spheres of life.


Educational needs

According to the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, almost 700 thousand pupils attended educational courses held at 1256 secondary schools with the Russian language of instruction in the 2012/2013 academic year. As the subject the Russian language was studied by nearly 1 mln. 200 thousand students.

All conditions for studying Russian in secondary, vocational and higher educational institutions, cultural centers, Saturday and Sunday schools are created in all regions and in the capital of Ukraine.

Training secondary schools teachers with the Russian language of instruction is carried out by 12 higher educational establishments of I-II accreditation level and by 34 higher educational institutions of III-IV accreditation levels all over the territory of Ukraine. These are classic and pedagogical universities. Training specialists is carried out by teachers of specialized academic departments of Russian, Slavic languages, etc. Professional formation is carried out in all the Regional Institutes of Postgraduate Pedagogical Education.

Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University, along with other institutions annually conducts nationwide conference “The Russian language and literature. Problems of their teaching and learning”. In 2012, Shevchenko Kyiv University Russian Language Department issued two collections of scientific works: “The Russian language, literature and culture in school and institution of higher education” and “Rusystyka” (“Russian Studies”).

Teachers of the Russian language and literature make full use of special journals that are published in Ukrainian and Russian (“World Literature in secondary schools in Ukraine”), or in Russian only (“The Russian literature in schools of Ukraine”, “Russian Education”). Moreover, in each Ukrainian region, Institutes of Postgraduate Education issue pedagogical magazines or newspapers which also cover the Russian language and literature-related subjects.

Since 1990s till now, there is a broad Ukraine – Russia bilateral legal basis in this field, namely: 

-         Agreement between the Government of Ukraine and the Russian Federation on Cooperation in Culture, Science and Education;

-         Agreement between the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and the Russian Federation on Mutual Recognition and Equivalence of Documents on Education and Academic Titles;

-         Agreement between the Ministry of Education of Ukraine and the Ministry of General and Professional Education of the Russian Federation on Cooperation in the field of Education etc.

According to the existing agreements, teachers of the Russian language and literature from Ukraine have an opportunity to improve their skills at courses held in Moscow, Voronezh, Rostov-on-Don, and St. Petersburg sponsored by the Russian Centre of International Scientific and Cultural Cooperation of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs



With the support of the Council of Ministers of Crimea, state and local authorities, a variety of cultural and educational activities aimed at reviving the cultural, linguistic and ethnic identity and educational representatives of the Russian minority are held.

It should be noted that in areas in Ukraine where a significant number of Russians live, such programs of the Russian language and culture are realized;

- Program “The development of the Russian language and culture in Donetsk region”;

- “The program of development of the Russian language and culture at the regional level in Sevastopol for 2012-2016”;

- Program “Maintaining and Developing the Russian language in the city of Odesa on the period of 2011-2015”;

- Program of Development and Use of the Russian Language in the Kharkiv region;

Russian language schoolchildren competitions, experts competitions scientific and research conferences, weeks of the Russian language and culture are delivered and financed annually in order to implement the above mentioned programs.

At present, cultural and art needs of the Russian minority in Ukraine are satisfied thank to activities of a big number of different style theatres, including  90 theatres and theatrical studios, 3 children Muppet theatres that perform in Russian. There are also 25 Ukrainian theatres in which shows are performed both in Russian and Ukrainian. 

More than 100 cultural amateur collective companies of the Russian minority in Ukraine are active in Ukraine. They participate in various cultural and artistic events conducted by the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine in different regions of the country.

Besides, the Ukrainian Russians have a window of opportunities to make full use of services of all libraries all over the country, which funds have almost 60 mln. books in Russian.

For example, since 2010 the RussianCenter sponsored by the Russian World Fund has been operational in Donetsk universal scientific library named after N.Krupskaya. Russian Cultural Center is functional in Lviv (the ownership of the premise was passed to the Center free of charge).

The Kherson regional NGORussianCulturalCenter carries out its activities under the aegis of the regional Youth and StudentsPalace. Kherson City NGO Russian National Community “Rusych” functions on the basis of Kherson Regional Academy of Continued Education.

Since August 2012, RussianCenter is fully operational in the city of Sevastopol. The Russian Culture Center is functional at Kharkiv People Ukrainian Academy Humanitarian University. At Rivne specialized secondary school #15, where children are taught many foreign languages, there is Russian cultural and educational center, with Russian language courses. 

Information needs

As of 2013, to meet information needs of Russian minority representatives in Ukraine registered  were and fully functional are nearly 2350 printed mass media just in Russian, almost 3 600 mass media issuing mixed languages editions  (in Russian and in other languages), and almost 3850 mass media that issue editions in Russian and other languages in parallel. In total, almost 40% of all printed mass media in Ukraine are Russian language ones.

Depending on the region of Ukraine, Russian language TV programs use from 10% to 90 % of total volume of TV broadcasting.  


IІІ. Abolition of the 3 July 2012 Law of UkraineOn the Foundations of State Language Policy


The Law “On the Foundations of State Language Policy(the so-called Language Policy Law) of 3 July 2012 has not been actually implemented because of its numerous deficiencies and markedly populist nature. It should be noted that the draft Law was advanced in 2012 by reprpesentatives of the Party of Regions and largerly plolitically motivated under the allegedly pretext to protect the Russian language in Ukraine.

According to the Ukrainain National Commission on public ethics, the abolished Language Policy Law had the provisions that contradicted at least five articles of the Ukrainian Constitution (# 6, 8, 10, 156 і 157). The Law was adopted in the Ukrainian Parliament in violation to the Constitution and the existing rules of procedure of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

Besides, in view of dubious content of the Law being in favour of certain (Russian) language, the document was fraught with endangering civil peace and stability in Ukraine. Instigating the separatistic mood, the Law brought a threat to country`s national secuirty and violated the linguistic rights of Ukrainains, while ousting the use of Ukrainian language from public life in many Ukrainian regions.   

Moreover, the implementation of the Law would be hardly possible given huge budgetary expenses needed to that end.  According to the calculations of the Ukrainain Ministry of Finance experts presented in June 2012 in the Verkhovna Rada, the budget funds needed for implementation of the Law would have ranged from 12 to 17 bln. Hryvnas (1,1 – 1,6 bln Euros).  

Taking into account all the above mentioned estimations, the international community bitterly criticised the Law and deplored the fact of its adoption. For example, the Law received a negative reaction from the Venice Commission, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, European High Commissioner on Enlargement and European Neighbourghood Policy, Freedom House Executive Director.

Bearing in mind such realities, on 23 February 2014, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted Law # 1190 on abolition of 2012 Language Plolicy Law. 

We do not share the concern expressed by some states in connection with alleged violations of their national minorities rights in Ukraine caused by the abolition of the 2012 Language Plolicy Law.

It is our conviction that such a decision taken by the Verkhovna Rada in no way will impede the use of native languages spoken by the national minorities in Ukraine. Their right to use their native languages is guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine, the 2003 Law of Ukraine on the Ratification of the Council of Europe European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and other legal instruments.   

Given incorrect estimations which are being made both in Ukraine and from abroad regarding Verkhovna Rada decision to abolish the 2012 Language Plolicy Law, Acting President of Ukraine and Head of the Parliament, Mr. Turchynov, did not sign the 23 February 2014 Law # 1190 on Abolition of 2012 Language Plolicy Law. Thus, for the time being, the 2012 Law is still de-facto valid in Ukraine.

At the same time, on 27 February 2014, Mr. Turchynov instructed a respective Parliamentary Committee to elaborate as an urgent matter a new draft law on language policy in Ukraine. The new draft law is meant to meet the interests of all ethnic groups and national minorities in Ukraine.

The same instruction was given by Ukraine`s Prime Minister Yatsenyuk to the Ministry of Culture and other Ministers concerned at the Governement meeting on 1 March 2014.  




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