UKRAINIANS SUPPORT BOTH UKRAINIAN AND RUSSIAN LANGUAGES
UKRAINE DENIES SHIPPING ARMS TO TALIBAN. Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yuriy Yermylko has rejected claims by the Afghan ambassadors to the UN and Russia that the Ukrainian mafia is shipping aircraft, tanks, and machine guns to the Taliban militia through Pakistan, Ukrainian Television reported on 11 August. He stressed that the sources of information in both statements have not been identified. Yermylko added that the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry is trying to obtain official information about the statements through its embassy in Moscow and mission at the UN in New York. JM
PUSTOVOYTENKO PRESSES FOR TAX COLLECTION. Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko, who is also chief of Ukraine's Civilian Defense, has ordered some 1,000 Ukrainian managers to take part in civil defense field exercises scheduled to begin on 12 August, Ukrainian Television reported. The decision follows his threat to force tax debtors to pay up by sending them to a camp near Kyiv to exercise in "manuring gardens" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 1998). According to the television station, Pustovoytenko has so far been able to extract only 80 million hryvni ($38 million) in payments to the pension fund and 108 million hryvni for the central budget. He had originally aimed to collect $1 billion hryvni. JM
UKRAINIANS SUPPORT BOTH UKRAINIAN AND RUSSIAN LANGUAGES
Most Ukrainians would like to keep Ukrainian as the sole language for government use, but an even larger percentage would like to give the Russian language some official status, according to a recent Ukrainian Surveys & Market Research/Kyiv Post poll.
The survey also confirmed Ukraine's east-west linguistic divide: respondents from the west are more likely to favor the Ukrainian language, while respondents from the east and south are more likely to support Russian.
But the poll brought some surprises. Most notably, the results show that the younger the person, the more likely he or she is to favor the Russian language.
Comparisons with the Soviet era are impossible, as comparable surveys were not taken. But the results suggest that the current policy of conducting all public education in the Ukrainian language has so far failed to halt a long-term trend toward linguistic Russification in Ukraine.
The primary language in western provinces and in some rural areas, Ukrainian was confirmed in the 1996 constitution as the sole "state language." This means that all government documents, public education, and commercial contracts must be in the Ukrainian language, although such regulations are less likely to be enforced in Russian-speaking regions.
Of the 1,000 people polled throughout Ukraine, more than 70 percent said they favor giving Russian some kind of official status, but almost 60 percent were against making Russian a state language.
The results are not a mandate for radical change. Slightly more than 30 percent favored keeping Ukrainian as the sole state language and at the same time giving Russian legal status in the commercial sphere only. The status quo was favored by 24.2 percent. But 36 percent favored making Russian a second state language. Only 4.6 percent said they would like to see Russian become the sole state language, while 4.1 percent approved of "completely banning the Russian language from Ukraine."
In the east and south, resistance to current policy is strong: solid majorities there favored putting Russian on an equal legal footing with Ukrainian, while about a quarter of respondents preferred merely recognizing Russian in the commercial sphere. And the south was also the most proRussian: more people there favored making Russian the sole state language (8 percent) than favored the status quo (6.2 percent).
Likewise, anti-Russian sentiment was strong in the west. Less than a third (29 percent) in that area favored recognizing Russian in any way, while more than half (54.7 percent) favored the status quo and 16.1 percent favored banning Russian.
The capital Kyiv differed from the north as a whole. In both the city and the region, nearly half of the respondents were in favor of recognizing Russian in the commercial sphere. In the region, 25 percent favored the status quo and 22.6 percent favored making Russian a state language, while in Kyiv 37.1 percent favored the status quo and only 12.7 percent favored making Russian a state language.
Ukraine's handling of ethnic and language issues has been a relative success. Observers have long predicted growing ethnic tension between Ukrainian nationalists in the west and ethnic Russians in the east and Crimea. Ukrainians appear to be fairly comfortable with not one, but two functional national languages.
The survey confirmed that despite its relegation to nonofficial status since the declaration of Ukrainian independence in 1991, Russian remains the primary spoken language in Ukraine. The number of respondents who said they spoke Russian at home outnumbered those who said they spoke Ukrainian at home by a ratio of 3:2.
Nationwide, almost half of respondents (45.6 percent) said they speak Russian at home, 29.8 percent said they speak Ukrainian, and 23.5 percent said they speak both languages. The high number of bilingual households may be partly explained by the use of mixed Ukrainian-Russian dialects.
Younger people are considerably more likely to speak Russian. In the 30-39, 40-49, and 50-and-over age groups, 41 percent said they speak Russian at home, while 53 percent of people in their twenties and 57 percent of people aged 15 to 19 said they spoke Russian.
People in their thirties were most likely to speak Ukrainian, with 36 percent saying they speak it at home. That figure fell to 29 percent among people aged 50 and over and to 24 percent among people aged 15 to 19.
Younger people are also more likely to support making Russian an official language: 46.4 percent of teenagers favored such a move, 41.4 percent of those in their twenties, 40.1 percent of people in their thirties, 40.2 percent of people in their forties, and just 37.3 percent of people aged 50 and over.
The authors are Kyiv-based RFE/RL correspondents.