May 20, 2023


'It Will Perish When I'm Gone': Russian Language Usage Plunges In Wartime Ukraine (Aleksander Palikot, 5/20/23, RFE)

Millions of similar stories make up the most rapid shift away from using the Russian language in Ukraine's recent history. The number of Ukrainians who use Ukrainian exclusively or most of the time in their everyday life increased from 49 percent in 2017 to 58 percent in 2022, and the corresponding number for Russian dropped from 26 percent to 15 percent, according to a study conducted in December 2022 by prominent Ukrainian political scientist Volodymyr Kulyk and the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology.

The trend is even stronger in the public sphere, with 68 percent opting for Ukrainian and only 11 percent for Russian at work and during education. The transition is most significant in the south and east of the country, traditionally more Russian-speaking than western and central Ukraine, where switching to Ukrainian became the widespread sign of resistance to the occupiers.

The reality behind these numbers is more complex due to the nature of Ukrainian bilingualism, with almost everyone passively knowing both Ukrainian and Russian and many speaking their mixture, Surzhyk, minority languages such as Crimean-Tatar or Hungarian, and new trends, most notably the five-million-strong population of refugees who are developing new language practices abroad. But while many Ukrainians continue to use both languages in everyday life despite the anger at Russia that the invasion has ignited, the rapid shift from Russian to Ukrainian is apparent everywhere in Ukraine: in the streets, social media, bookstores, and, perhaps most significantly, private spaces.

Posted by at May 20, 2023 12:00 AM