Talking about the language card was important. The Deputy Chairman of the Servant of the People faction Oleksandr Kornienko asked to include in the parliament’s agenda a bill No. 2362 on teaching in the Ukrainian language in educational institutions. It was earlier rejected by the Verkhovna Rada Committee. This bill belongs to the pen of the Servant of the People Maksym Buzhansky, and it was registered on October 31, 2019.
It took almost nine months for Kornienko to decide to ask his colleagues about the brainchild of his party member. The delay is understandable - in the fall of 2019, this issue was irrelevant. The current rush is clear, however.
Bogdan Petrenko, deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute for the Study of Extremism, explains this rush as follows: "Seeing how the conditional pro-Russian electorate escapes from him, Zelensky makes desperate attempts to preserve at least its remnants and prevent the taking of votes by other political forces. For now, there are risks that" Servant of the people" may not even overcome the 5 percent barrier in the southeast."
Leverage for preserving some of the voters for the president’s team is the promotion of language law. So at least experts say.
What it was and what it has become
However, Petrenko observes, “the Buzhansky bill does not abolish Ukrainization per se, it postpones the introduction of new standards in the educational process. And a certain basis can be brought under it.”
The base for the bill really exists. The main scientific and expert department of the Verkhovna Rada gave the document a mostly positive assessment, which cannot be said about the resolution of the relevant committee.
What is the Buzhansky bill about? In general, not so much about language as about education. Or rather, about the first and second. In accordance with the current standards, students from grades 5-11 of Russian-language schools should have switched to teaching in Ukrainian from September 1, 2020, in the amount of at least 80% of the total study time. As for schools of other national minorities, they can do this starting from September 1, 2023.
Therefore, the first thing that Buzhansky proposes is to unify the transition date. In this regard, the scientific and expert department notes the following: “Ukraine has ratified several international human rights treaties that prohibit discrimination on the basis of language (...). Thus, the establishment of a single transitional period for students of all indigenous peoples and national minorities of Ukraine will respond the provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine regarding the proclamation of Ukraine as a state of law (Article 1), ensuring the compliance of laws with the Basic Law of Ukraine (Article 8), guaranteeing the equality of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens of Ukraine (Article 24). "
The second innovation from Buzhansky, as you might guess, concerns the volume of hours of teaching in Ukrainian. We are no longer talking about 80% of the time. The Ukrainian language is allowed in schools but in a reduced form. As for the specific number of lessons, this question is given to decide on the local diasporas.
"The list of subjects (integrated courses) taught in the state language and in the language of the national minority is determined by the educational program of the institution in accordance with the requirements of state standards and taking into account the peculiarities of the language environment," this is the corresponding article of the law "On ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the state one," after making amendments by Buzhansky.
He also edited the following article. After the words "educational programs of institutions of general secondary education may include the teaching of one or more subjects (integrated courses) along with the official language in English ..." Buzhansky suggests adding "... or other languages of national minorities (indigenous peoples) of Ukraine."
It is clear that under "in the languages of national minorities" the MP means primarily only one language - Russian.
But Poturaev is against
Despite the fact that the Verkhovna Rada's scientific and expert department approved the Buzhansky bill and included it in the paradigm of both the Constitution (which guarantees equal rights to citizens) and a number of international acts ratified by our state, the profile committee of the Verkhovna Rada remained adamant.
The committee recognized bill No. 2362 as unacceptable and recommended that parliament reject it. The corresponding resolution was endorsed by the chairman of the committee on humanitarian and information policy and the unwritten leader of the patriotic part of the Servant of the People Mykyta Poturaev. Moreover, he relies on a number of both logistic and financial arguments.
In particular, regarding the different periods of transition to studying in Ukrainian (for Russian-speaking - from 2020, and for the rest - from 2023), the committee concluded that such differences were caused by differences in the lives of various language communities. Literally this is stated as follows:
"The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine does not support the bill and notes that the establishment of transitional periods of different durations for various national minorities for a gradual increase in the number of subjects taught in the state language is related to the characteristics of each national minority.
These features, in particular, determine the appropriate educational opportunities of applicants (the language environment in which the minority lives, the language group to which the corresponding language belongs, and the like) that require different resources (providing textbooks, teacher training) and time for implementation a new approach to the organization of the educational process."
But besides the Ministry of Education, which position Poturaev refers to, the Ministry of Finance also rejects the Buzhansky bill. "Funds for the publication of textbooks in Russian as part of the implementation of the bill are not provided by the State Budget of Ukraine for 2020 and the Budget Declaration for 2021-2023," the agency reminds.
In a word, whatever one may say, Buzhansky’s document is worthless. So says a colleague of its author Poturaev. As for the expert environment, it adheres to the idea that games around the language are not in vain. And in fact, they have nothing to do with protecting the language - neither Ukrainian nor Russian.
The Servant of the People party is neither patriotic nor ideological. They do not care if this bill is adopted. But they play on the language issue so that MPs in the east can demonstrate their commitment to the Russian-speaking electorate. Like, we tried and failed. But you will support us anyway, and next time we will approve it. All this is necessary for politicians like Buzhansky to earn points, although this coin has another side, namely, the loss of a patriotic electorate, "says Bogdan Petrenko.
Everyone to the rallies
But the patriots, meanwhile, are not sleeping and are already convening the protest masses to gather under parliament to express collective indignation.
“URGENT! REPOST AND MOBILIZATION!” Writes Vyatrovych, MP from the European Solidarity. On July 16 — everyone goes to Verkhovna Rada! Only with the help of Servants of the People faction, the Chairman of the Verkhovna Razumkov instructed to schedule the anti-Ukrainian bill of Buzhansky, whose goal is the total Russification of Ukrainian education. This project, which amends the laws on language and education, is the greatest threat to the Ukrainian language and Ukrainian education since the time of Yanukovych."
“If it is accepted, the transition of students in grades 5-11 of Russian-language schools to the Ukrainian language of instruction will be canceled from September 1, 2020,” Vyatrovych continues. “Moreover, in any schools (including schools with the Ukrainian language of instruction), several subjects will be allowed to be taught in Russian. This is the path to the total Russification of education. We do not have the right to allow this (...). Special cynicism is the consideration of this Moscow whim on July 16 - the day of the 30th anniversary of the Declaration on State Sovereignty of Ukraine."
It is difficult to say that some kind of special symbolism was laid in to consider Buzhansky’s document on July 16, but many liked the observation of Vyatrovych and began their victorious march along the Ukrainian Facebook segment. And Vyatrovych’s colleague in the faction Andriy Parubiy joined the calls to come to the Rada.
The "cynical" servants of the people "want to do this on the 30th anniversary of the declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine - in fact, destroy both our law on language and our law on education! I am convinced that on this day all Ukrainian patriotic forces must join forces - and in parliament and on city streets - and to give a tough rebuff to attempts to destroy the language law - to prevent the adoption of the scandalous bill of Buzhansky. Together we are strong! Language matters!" wrote Parubiy.
But first, it’s necessary that the language issue really appears on the agenda. So far, such a probability is "balancing on the brink," says Yevgen Bulavka.
Meanwhile, political analyst Kyrylo Sazonov is convinced that the entire presidential force does not receive profit from a Russian-speaking or Russian-oriented voter. The matter is the needs of a particular person. In this case, Maxym Buzhansky.
"This bill was made, most likely, for the sake of his own PR. Therefore, both Buzhansky and Kornienko understand that it will not go through the Rada. The president’s position on this issue is unambiguous. Buzhansky is simply preparing for the local elections. Rumors are circulating that he is going to challenge Filatov and compete for the post of mayor of the Dnipro. And Filatov with his "party of mayors" is quite noticeably annoying President’s Office. So Buzhansky, with the maximum support of the administrative resource, will PR his name, but without legislative consequences," Sazonov said.
But when asked why Olexander Kornienko is making efforts to promote a doomed bill, Bogdan Petrenko already answers us. “Kornienko plays up first of all to his own party, but he still leads it. But he is a formal leader, and Zelensky can take him off whenever he wants. And heads will fly if the party does not show the desired result in the elections. Therefore, someone and Kornienko is interested in the Servant of the People showing at the local elections no worse results than at the parliamentary elections, although this is practically impossible."
Another politician who can get bonuses from Buzhansky’s language initiative is the above-mentioned Poturaev. As once again emphasizes Sazonov, “he is one of the leaders of the Servant of the People patriotic wing,” which has a rather tough stance on the negotiations in Minsk and on the status of the Donbas. Naturally, his committee gives a negative conclusion, especially since the position is already agreed with the president, and more than once. But, on the other hand, nothing will prevent this document from being put on the agenda: the MPs will consider, reject and the issue will be closed. Otherwise, Buzhansky will not calm down and will rush with his bill in the future."
Although Buzhansky’s initiative will once again show all the contradictions that exist within the Servant of the People, “the language issue will not lead to tectonic shifts within the faction, but we knew that the faction is not monolithic,” says Yevgen Bulavka.
As for Poturaev himself, having adopted the protection of the Ukrainian language, he will later be able to build his political career not only within his own faction. “Everything will depend on Zelensky’s rating here. If it goes down, the transfer of MPs from the Servant to other factions will become quite possible. At the same time, someone will go to the Opposition Platform – For Life, and someone to the European Solidarity. But now, apart from hype, there is nothing behind the language issue, so this is unlikely to make Poturaev flee somewhere," said Bulavka.
However, the escape of MPs of Zelensky from a watercraft, which is slowly but purposefully drowning, is already a separate topic for discussion.