April 1, 2006
A LANGUAGE WITHOUT A STATE
Modern Ukrainian was a language without a state during almost the whole twentieth century, until 1992. With the exception of the Ukrainian National Republic, which existed from 1917 to 1920, there was no independent state where Ukrainian could have enjoyed the status of the official language. This was one of the main negative factors that affected the situation with the Ukrainian language in the past century. However, the most significant cause of the degradation of Ukrainian was the zero-tolerance policy of the USSR towards its constituent nations, their languages and cultures and, in particular, implementation of this policy in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
These extralinguistic factors not only influenced the development of the Ukrainian language but also brought about intralinguistic changes.
Excepting 1920s, the so-called Ukrainization period, Ukrainian had some periods (1930s (after the holodomor of 1933), 1960s and 1970s), when negative processes were especially intensive. Under negative processes we understand first of all internationalization of Ukrainian and its assimilation to Russian, or Russification. All these processes were carried out under political slogans of struggle against Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism and directly threatened both the language and the nation.
In linguistics political slogans quickly turned to the doctrine of struggle for “purity of Ukrainian”. This struggle was “legalized” by the official documents on language questions and also maintained by “the voice of people”. So a number of official documents and publications concerning Ukrainian and its functioning in the USSR were published. Some of them are: the Resolution of the National Commissar of Education of the USSR and the Resolutions of the Commission of the National Commissar of Education…, Andrij Khvylia Eradicate and Destroy Nationalist Roots in the Sphere of Language, Mykhajlo Orlov Against Nationalist Instructions in Work on the Ukrainian Soviet Encyclopedia etc. 
All the documents and articles from the post-Ukrainization period concerning linguistic questions proclaimed activities of the Ukrainian linguists in 1920s as “sabotage and nationalism” “aimed at separating Ukrainian and Russian” . And not only the persons, but also their works were declared hostile to Ukrainian workers. “Ukrainian spelling” (1928), “Russian-Ukrainian dictionary” (1924, till letter “P”) and all the terminological dictionaries were banned and disappeared for a long time.
In 1933 Andrij Khvylia set out the general principles of the language policy in post-Ukrainization period. According to him the primary goals of this policy were:
to immediately stop editing all dictionaries
to revise dictionaries and all terminology;
to unify Ukrainian technical terminology with Soviet terminology;
weed out all nationalists from among those who work with language professionally;
to revise Ukrainian spelling.
Special brigades have been created to carry out these tasks. First of all, members of these brigades revised the banned terminological dictionaries and replaced “nationalist” terms with “international” ones. But actually instead of the international words (terms) were introduced the Russian words or the Russian variants of foreign words.
Not only the terminological dictionaries but also the “Russian-Ukrainian dictionary” (1924) was revised and approximated to Russian dictionaries. Larysa Masenko justly observes that such “scientific” activity “determined new principles for Ukrainian terminology building for the whole Soviet era” . These principles were far from the Ukrainian language tradition. Thus, after the period of Ukrainization, the processes of Russification were reinstated. All the so-called directive changes in Ukrainian lexicographic sources 1930s were later represented in all the subsequent Ukrainian dictionaries, mainly in: the “Russian-Ukrainian Dictionary” (1937; 1948) .
After the annihilation of Ukrainian scientists and their works, the Soviet government began to form the ideological basis for the state policy of controlling and directing linguistic processes in Ukraine. The direction of development and investigation of the Ukrainian language in the USSR was determined by three main dictums:
Russian has a “wholesome” influence on Ukrainian and there is a need for rapprochement between the two “brotherly languages” and “harmonious” development of Ukrainian-Russian bilingualism.
It is necessary to form a common lexicon of the national languages in the USSR.
It is necessary to widely introduce “internationalisms” into Ukrainian.
All these dictums were subordinated to the unique task of unification of national languages in the USSR on of the basis of Russian.
Such activity in the language question caused appreciable intralinguistic changes on the lexical and grammatical level.
On the lexical level three basic ways of levelling out the lexicon were applied: total word elimination, word replacement or synonym reduction. Thus, three groups of lexical units can be distinguished: 1) words completely eliminated from the dictionaries and as a result from the language itself; 2) replaced words, and 3) reduced synonymic series. Some examples follow.
These are mainly old Ukrainian words for which Russian has no equivalents or those equivalents have an absolutely different form.
Reduced synonymic series:
вібло, вал, валець, валок, кряж
гойдання, похит, хитання
гостриця, остриця, рогівниця
окільний, зокільний, околишній
середній, внутрішній, середовий, нутряний, осередній, середковий
Reduction of synonyms concerns mainly the domain of terminology.
There were two types of standard explanation for word (synonym) elimination or replacement:
“regional”, “dialectal”, “provincial”, “folksy”;
“fictitious”, “fictitious archaism”;
“incorrect foreign word”, “superfluous foreign word”;
“the nationalist tendency”;
“an artificial difference between Ukrainian and Russian”;
“not prevalent among workers and peasants”;
“distortion of the Ukrainian language”;
“fantasy of translators and writers”.
But even at that time, difficult and aggressive as it was, there existed two different aspects of the functioning of the Ukrainian language: 1) official and 2) unofficial or informal.
At the official level part of scientists and writers adhered to the state language policy aimed at eliminating distinctions between Ukrainian and Russian. But at the unofficial level progressive scientists and writers tried to ignore these directives and kept the “banned” words such as:
багатство [bahatstvo], багацько [bahac’ko], добродій [dobrodiy], білявка [biliavka], білявочка [bliavochka], віднога [vidnoha], набуток [nabutok], навдивовижу [navdyvovyzhu], озлидніння [ozlydninnia], поділ [podil], холодник [kholodnyk], цебро [cebro], часопис [chasopys] and some other (often with labels ‘colloquial’, ‘obsolete’, ‘dialect’ etc.) exist even in the Dictionary of the Ukrainian Language in 11 vols. .
Mykhajlo Stelmakh used such words as второпати [vtoropaty], небавом [nebavom], громада [hromada] : “Сам бачив! – Ну i що з того? – ніяк не можу второпати, куди тягне Гива мотузочок”; “До вечора моє чоло морщилось над цією книгою, наче дядьківський постіл, та щось второпати ніяк не вдавалося”; “Старий, спираючись на патерицю, сів на призьбі. А з хати небавом пробилися музика i спів про тi василечки, що сходять на горi, про той барвiнок, що послався пiд горою”; ”– Що, може, маєш виступати перед громадою? – раптом веселiє мати”;
Valery Shevchuk used such words as достеменне [dostemenne], навдивовижу [navdyvovyzhu], понурий [ponury], багатство [bahatstvo], обрус [obrus] : “– Найбільша таємниця отут, у моїй руці, – сказала вона, простягаючи стиснуту у жмені збираницю. – Голос трави, який я хочу, щоб ти достеменне почув”; “Старий позирав на них з-за окулярів, відриваючись на мить од писання: двір, наповнений білими тілами, зелена, аж соком прискала, трава, навдивовижу знайома й рідна жінка і сухий прискіт падучого молока – все це відбивалось у його окулярах…”; Володимир засміявся. Було йому навдивовижу затишно”; “Ранок був сірий, понурий, небо було затягнуте густими хмарами”; “– Бо важко про це говорити, душе моя! – сказав він зимно. – Я розбійник страшний. І гроші мої, й багатство з того-таки розбою зібрані”; “Розкладала полумиски й горщики, ринку й таріль, і тільки-но торкався посуд простеленого обруса, як у ньому з’являлася їжа, та ще й неабияка: борщ м’ясний, наваристий і присмачена салом каша […]. Іван аж білий став, дивлячись на те багатство…”; “Бу-деш! – видихла весело громада дівчат і парубків, і дівчина погасила довговіїми повіками очі”.
Some words have been preserved due to the fact that they appear in some of the old Ukrainian proper nouns: Поділ [Podil] (part of Kyiv City), Поділля [Podillia] (a region of Ukraine), Кам’янець-Подільський [Kamianec’-Podil’s’ky] (a town in Ukraine).
Whereas the words in the general vocabulary have been more or less preserved, either in fiction or in dictionaries with “protective” labels, all the terminology was internationalized. And as a consequence of this internationalization it was deprived of its distinctive Ukrainian features.
|Світляна Андрушків, Ольга Кузьмович, Василь Лопух, Василь Махно, Роман Андрушків, Орися Демська-Кульчицька, Орест Попович|
During the time when it was not an official language of an independent state, Ukrainian witnessed, due to violent intralinguistic changes, a narrowing of its functions in Ukraine and experienced pressure from Russian that went a long way in supplanting it on the Ukrainian territory. Furthermore, the subsequent Soviet language policy of promoting the domination of Russian and imposing restraints on the devel
opment of Ukrainian caused diglossia has arisen. Russian language was acknowledged to be more prestigious and promising. And in the contemporary independent Ukraine we see the consequences of the “language activity” during the twentieth century. Language still remains a burning political issue and has been actively exploited in all election campaigns since 1992. Today it is not just a complex political question, but also a question of Ukraine’s choice of a civilization model. The answer to this old question was figuratively formulated by George Luckyj in his work “Between Gogol’ and Shevchenko” : “This is not a study of Gogol’ and Shevchenko or of their works. It is an attempt to see their relationship within the context of a special cultural dilemma. This dilemma, which is at the centre of our inquiry, dominated the intellectual life of the Ukraine in the first half of the nineteenth century; it has not been satisfactorily resolved to this day. The horns of this dilemma were: Russia or the Ukraine? Was it inevitable that the political absorption of the Ukraine by Russia, completed in the eighteenth century, should be followed by her cultural dissolution “in the Russian sea”? Gogol’s answer to this question was a clear yes. His own biography and works demonstrate that such a transition, although difficult, was indeed possible. On the other hand, Shevchenko’s answer was an equally emphatic no. Contrary to many forecasts, he succeeded in establishing modern Ukrainian literature and in infusing it with a distinct intellectual content.
Such a formulation of this cultural divergence is ours, not Gogol’s or Shevchenko’s. Although they were not unaware of the conflict, they were not as conscious of it as were their successors or as we are today. Actually, Gogol’s concept of Russian ascendancy over the Ukraine prevailed up to the 1830’s and not until the 1840’s was Shevchenko’s counter-position made clear. Although he was a contemporary of Shevchenko, Gogol’ represented an earlier attitude adopted by the Ukrainian intelligentsia. Thus one can speak of a development from Gogol’ to Shevchenko. After Shevchenko, the Gogol’ian concept suffered eclipse, though it never completely disappeared.”
Thus statehood is one of the opportunities, or even more, a condition for making our own choice of evolution and for protection of both the language and the nation.
The Ukrainian Language in the Twentieth Century: A History of Linguicide. Ed. L. Masenko, V.Kubajchuk, O.Demskyj-Kulchytskyj. 2005. Kyiv.
A. Khvylia Vykorinyty, znyshchyty nacionalistychne korinnia na movnomu grunti. 1933. In: Bilshovyk Ukrainy No 7-8. – Kyiv. – P. 42-43.
L. Masenko. Movna polityka v URSR : istorija linvocydu. 2005. In: The Ukrainian Language in the Twentieth Century: A History of Linguicide. – Kyiv. – P. 9.
Rosiysko-Ukrainsky Slovnyk. Upor. I.Kirichenko, S.Vasylevsky, Ie.Rudnicky. 1937. Kyiv: Vydavnyctvo AN URSR,; Russko-Ukrainsky Slovar. Glav. Red. M.Ia.Kalinovich. Chleny redkol.: L.A.Bulakhovsky, M.F.Rylsky. – Moskva, Izdatelsvo inostrannykh i nacionalnykh slovarey, 1948.
Slovnyk Ukrainskoi Movy v 11 tomakh. 1971 – 1981. Kyiv: Naukova dumka,
M. Stelmakh. Husy – lebedi letiat’. 1978. Кyiv: Dnipro,
V. Shevchyk. Dim na hori. 1967 – 1980. Kyiv.
G. S. N. Luckyj. Between Gogol’ and Shevchenko. 1971. München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag.