In September 2017, Ukrainian government has approved the Law on Education, a legislative act that had to start a long-awaited secondary school reform. In the post-Soviet Ukraine, the Soviet legacy of accessible education was slowly decaying. And in 2017 there was a huge need for the reform.
However, the major emotional aspect of the legislative act is connected with the Article 7 of the law. It stipulates that only primary education (first 4 years of study) can be done in the languages of ethnic groups living in Ukraine. Afterwards, all education is to be done in Ukrainian. Additionally, the ‘indigenous peoples of Ukraine’ (Crimean Tatars, Karaites, and Gagauz) can have the study of their languages. Also, the EU member states’ languages can be studied. In other words, the Russian language – the language of Russophone Ukrainians and Russian ethnic minorities – will be excluded from secondary schooling.
The emotional responses to this undisputed in the parliament decision vary from ire and exasperation to jubilation and chortle. Western neighbors (Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania that have large minority populations residing in Ukraine) has harshly criticized the law, and so did the minorities themselves. Russia has also condemned it. But the most interesting reactions were in Ukrainian society itself.
Three and a half years ago, a legislative act of the same kind ginned up the secessionist movement in Ukraine. This time, the majority of those who cared about Ukraine’s unity back in 2014 have been supporting the law: it is widely been recognized as a gesture of historical justice. After talking to several intellectuals, former liberals and Eurooptimists, I found that they agree that the law is directed against Russophone 40% of populations. But their support for this decision is based on the hope that the prohibition on Russian schooling promotes Europeanization in Ukraine. But I also heard the words of pleasure of revenge: all identifying themselves with Russian language and culture are secret/latent supporters to secessionists.
Being ethnic Russian and Russophone Ukrainian citizen, I revealed to my collocutors, with whom we cooperated on Maidan, that I find this legislative act as to a victory of neostalinist logic in Ukraine. Invention of “peoples’ enemy” in the face of the Russophone collective enemy (who actually do not dream in Ukrainian, as the Zbruch ideologist demand) is now being shaped in legislation of 2017. Villainization of Russophones, a secret internal omnipresent enemy, provokes in me – and people like me – a wide range of feelings that create a new phenomenon (at least for me): some civic fatigue.
What I can register now, I feel an unwillingness to participate in what Aristotle called “communication on the common good”, i.e. politics (Politics, 1252a). Since I understand it, I make a counter-emotional effort to resist the fatigue and call for the justice and tolerance in Ukraine. I try to launch discussion with those who tries to prohibit recreation of my culture in my country. But I feel seduced by the escapist temptation to leave the sphere of injustice – in geographic or internal emigration type of act. And I don’t know, what option will win in the battlefield of my Gemuet.