The Day of Ukrainian Writing and Language is a state holiday marked in Ukraine on November 9. The holiday was established in 1997 by the president’s decree in support of the “initiative of public organizations and taking into account the importance of Ukrainian language in consolidation of Ukrainian society.”
Nestor the Chronicler
According to Orthodox calendar, it is the day of honoring Nestor the Chronicler, a hagiographer and founder of Old East Slavic historiography, the first historian of Kyivan Rus, philosopher, scientist and a monk of Kyiv Pechersk monastery. It is believed, that it is he who started using written Ukrainian language.
The most significant work of Nestor the Chronicler is "Primary Chronicle, or The Tale of Bygone Years,"which is compiled in Kyiv at the beginning of 12th century. It is the first written mention of Kyivan Rus, in which the history of the state is shown on a wide background of world events. Nestor presented history from the annals of the end of the 11th century until 1113. All the chroniclers after him only copied the extracts from Nestor’s works. "The Tale of Bygone Years" has always been and remains the most prominent memorial of Slavic culture. Therefore, the Nestor the Chronicler can rightly be considered the father of both national history and literature.
For centuries, the Ukrainian people have been made to think of the alleged "secondary" nature of the Ukrainian language, hiding a huge array of Ukrainian writing, history and culture, which dates back many centuries. According to the linguists, the language of Ukrainian nation began to form in the 6 - 9 centuries. At different times, the literary language of Ukrainians combined elements of the Old Russian written language (10 -13 centuries), the Ukrainian-Belarusian (14 -15 centuries), Slavic-Ukrainian, Old Ukrainian, Church Slavonic (14 - 16 century.) The new Ukrainian language is believed to have been intensively forming in 18 - 19 centuries. The founders of modern Ukrainian literary language are Ivan Kotlyarevsky (Aeneid), and Taras Shevchenko. With the development of written language, Ukrainian people became a great nation capable of solving issues of any complexity.
In 1989, Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic gave Ukrainian language the status of official state language.
Ukrainian language suppression
In total, Ukrainian language survived over 134 bans and restrictions, starting from Tsar time (17th century) and until now. Here are just some of them:
1720 – Peter I's decree banning the printing press in the Ukrainian language and seizure of church books;
1753 – Catherine II decree banning the teaching in Ukrainian;
1768 – Synod of Russian Orthodox Church decree on confiscation of Ukrainian primers;
1775 р. – Russian army destroyed Zaporozhian Sich and closed Ukrainian schools at the offices of the Cossack regiment;
In 1830s–1840s – Russification of Ukraine gets intense. Even the name “Ukraine” is not used at the time. The Left-bank Ukraine is called Little Russia, the Right-bank Ukraine - Southwestern Krai, and Southern - New Russia;
1863 – Decree suspending the publication of many religious and educational texts in Ukrainian, or as the Russians called it, Little Russian: “a separate Little Russian language has never existed, does not exist and cannot exist.” The other is a quote attributed to Tsar Nicholas II: “There is no Ukrainian language, just illiterate peasants speaking Little Russian.”
1895 – Ban of Ukrainian children literature;
1914 – Ban of Ukrainian press;
1938 р. – Compulsory study of Russian language is introduced in all of Ukraine. It happened with the simultaneous mass closure of national schools and the prestige of Ukrainian language decreased;
1926-1939 – deportation of Ukrainian public figures on accusations in nationalism;
1960s – arrests, annihilation of young generation of Ukrainian Intelligentsia.
And even now it is still facing restrictions. In 2014, Ukrainian language was banned in both occupied Crimea and the so-called "Luhansk People's Republic."
The claim that Ukrainian isn’t a language has been one of the drumbeats of the Russian-Ukrainian relationship for centuries. As Yiddish linguist Max Weinreich famously quoted, “A language is a dialect with an army and a navy.” But according to linguists outside of Russia, Ukrainian and Russian are two distinct, if closely related, languages. The attacks on the status of Ukrainian, in that light, offer a window onto a side of the conflict that can be hard for outsiders to grasp: the persistent ways that Russia has taken advantage of a long and complicated cultural relationship to enforce its claim to power.
How is the Day of Ukrainian Writing and Language marked?
Back in the days, Ukrainians sent their children to school on this day. On the way back from school, parents went to church and put a candle at the icon of the Chronicler Nestor, believing that it would help the child to learn. After all, “One, who learns when young, will not experience hunger when old."
Traditionally, on the Day of Ukrainian Writing and Language, people lay flowers at the monument to Nestor the Chronicler. On this day, Ukrainians can also award best popularizers of Ukrainian, encourage publishers who print literature in Ukrainian, conduct regional thematic competitions, etc.
Ukrainian Language International Competition of Petro Yatsyk starts on this day. The competition is held with the support of Education Ministry of Ukraine and League of Ukrainian philanthropists. Annual number of contestants is over 5 million from 20 countries.
This unique linguistic marathon was initiated by a great Ukrainian philanthropist and public figure Petro Yatsyk. He lived in Canada, but always remembered his native land.
After Ukraine gained independence, he often visited the country. The language situation in Ukraine concerned him a lot, because he was convinced that there is no state without the language. This way, the idea of a Ukrainian language contest for Ukrainian youth was born. The competition is gaining popularity year after year, because its main goalis to uphold the prestige of Ukrainian language.
On the Day of Ukrainian Writing and Language, a radio dictation of national unity is traditionally taking place. This initiative was launched in 2000. Every year, anyone can write a radio dictation, and not so much to find out how well they know Ukrainian, but to show unity with all who love and respect the Ukrainian word. Ukrainians from different parts of the world write the annual radio dictation. According to the tradition, Ukrainian linguist Oleksandr Avramenko reads the text.
"Nations do not die of a heart attack. First, they are taken away their language. We must be aware that the language problem is actual to us at the beginning of the 21st century, and if we do not act on it, then we will have a very sad perspective,” Ukrainian poet and writer Lina Kostenko notes.
National language and literature are considered an indenible treasure of the centuries, a treasure passed from generation to generation that unites the past and the future. Language is a living organism, it develops according to its own laws, and therefore it is necessary to keep this immortal treasure pure, listening to the advice of the famous Ukrainian poet Maksym Rylsky: