Yuri Shevchuk Critiques New Ukrainian Orthography Project on Radio Liberty Ukraine

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Yuri Shevchuk (Lecturer, Department of Slavic Languages) published a detailed analysis and critique of the new project on Ukrainian orthography (spelling rules) prepared for public discussion by the Education and Science Ministry of Ukraine. You can read his analysis in Ukrainian on Radio Liberty. 

In the author's words: "The current Ukrainian orthography, with few exceptions, is a vestige of the assimilationist Soviet language policies aimed at bringing the Ukrainian language closer to Russian by marginalizing and even banning the phonetic, morphological, lexical and other features that made Ukrainian original and vibrant. As Columbia Professor Yurii V. Shevelov (1908-2002), a towering authority in Ukrainian language, literature and culture studies, insightfully noted, Russian imperialism, in its drive at assimilating the colonized, devised a strategy that never occurred to the British, French or Spanish colonizers. In addition to various forms of outside pressure to oust the minority languages from public sphere, in the Ukrainian case, Moscow interfered with the Ukrainian language structure itself, in order to undermine it from within, make it a pale and unattractive simulacrum of Russian. This was reflected in the Soviet Ukrainian Orthography imposed in 1933, after a majority of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences members was executed as "enemies of the people" and the rest terrorized into submission. Those rules have remained largely intact until today. Several attempts at cleansing the Ukrainian spelling rules from the Soviet colonial legacy undertaken since the collapse of the Soviet Union have failed. The current project on Ukrainian orthography is a half-hearted and inconsistent effort to align Ukrainian spelling with the inner logic and disrupted tradition of Ukrainian language use."