The Ukrainian Alphabet

Since the collapse of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s regime last month, the question of minority rights within the country has become a matter of international concern. Russia based its military intervention in Crimea (and its threatened intervention in eastern Ukraine) on a supposed need to protect Russians and Russian speakers. In turn, the European Union has called for the “full protection of persons belonging to national minorities.” Both sides have conflated language and ethnicity. In Ukraine, however, the two are separate. Rather than Ukrainian against Russian, battles over language and representation there pit Ukrainian against Ukrainian. Kiev’s new government -- and the West -- must recognize that truth if they are to begin rebuilding the country.

In the 2001 census, the last conducted in Ukraine, 17 percent of the population declared itself to be ethnic Russian (or Russian by “nationality,” in the eastern European phrasing). Of the Russian population, 83 percent

This article is part of our premium archives.

To continue reading and get full access to our entire archive, you must subscribe.