History of Russian language in Ukraine

History of Russian language in Ukraine

Although the ancestors of a small ethnic group of Russians - Goriuns resided in Putyvl region (what is modern northern Ukraine) in the times of Grand Duchy of Lithuania or perhaps even earlier,F.D. Klimchuk, About ethnoliguistic history of Left Bank of Dnieper (in connection to the ethnogenesis of Goriuns). Published in "Goriuns: history, language, culture" Proceedings of Internatinal scientific conferenc, (Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences, February 13, 2004)] [http://www.kngu.org/KongrUkr/Communit/ObzhRuss.htm Russians in Ukraine] ] the Russian language in Ukraine has primarily come to exist in that country through two channels: the migration of ethnic Russians into Ukraine and through the adoption of the Russian language by Ukrainians.

The first new waves of Russian settlers onto Ukrainian territory came in the late 16th century to the empty lands of Slobozhanschyna, in what is now northeastern Ukraine, that the Russian state gained from the Tatars , although they were outnumbered by Ukrainian peasants escaping harsh exploitative conditions from the west [http://www.encyclopediaofukraine.com/display.asp?AddButton=pagesSLSlobidskaUkraine.htm Display Page ] ] .

More Russian speakers appeared in northern, central and eastern Ukrainian territories during the late 17th century, following the Cossack Rebellion led by Bohdan Khmelnytsky. Following the Pereyaslav Rada the modern northern and eastern parts of Ukraine entered into the Tsardom of Russia. This brought the first significant, but still small, wave of Russian settlers into central Ukraine (primarily several thousand soldiers stationed in garrisons, out of a population of approximately 1.2 million [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=HNIs9O3EmtQC&pg=PA149&lpg=PA149&source=web&ots=0OSTfRtjv6&sig=olB1yhCrXcAP6DYdFMTvLDN_RwA#PPA243,M1] ] non-Russians). Although the number of Russian settlers in Ukraine prior to the eighteenth century was small, the local upper classes within the part of Ukraine acquired by Russia came to use the Russian language widely.

Beginning in the late eighteenth century, large numbers of Russians settled in newly acquired lands in southern Ukraine, a region then known as Novorossiya ("New Russia"). These lands had been largely empty prior to the eighteenth century due to the threat of Crimean Tatar raids, but once the Tatar state was eliminated as a threat, Russian nobles were granted large tracts of fertile land that was worked by newly arrived peasants, most of whom were ethnic Ukrainians but many of whom were Russians [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-30071/Ukraine#404474.hook] .

The nineteenth century saw a dramatic increase in the urban Russian population in Ukraine, as Russian settlers moved into and populated the newly industrialized and growing towns. This phenomenon helped turn Ukraine's most important towns into Russophone environments. By the beginning of the 20th century the Russians were the largest ethnic group in almost all of Ukraine's largest cities, including the following: Kiev (54.2 %), Kharkiv (63.1 %), Odessa (49.09 %), Mykolaiv (66.33 %), Mariupol (63.22 %), Luhansk (68.16 %), Kherson (47.21 %), Melitopol (42.8 %), Dnipropetrovsk (41.78 %), Kirovohrad (34.64 %), Simferopol (45.64 %), Yalta (66.17 %), Kerch (57.8 %), Sevastopol (63.46 %) Дністрянський М.С. Етнополітична географія України. Лівів Літопис, видавництво ЛНУ імені Івана Франка, 2006, page 342 isbn = 966-700760-4] . The Ukrainian migrants who settled in these cities entered a Russian speaking milieu and, for the most part, adopted the Russian language.

The Russian government promoted the spread of the Russian language among the native Ukrainian population by actively suppressing the Ukrainian language. Alarmed by the threat of Ukrainian separatism implied by a growing number of school textbooks teaching the Ukrainian language, the Russian Minister of Internal Affairs Pyotr Valuev in 1863 issued a secret decree that banned the publication of religious texts and educational texts written in the Ukrainian language cite book| author=Miller, Alexei | title="The Ukrainian Question. The Russian Empire and Nationalism in the Nineteenth Century| location= Budapest-New York | publisher= Central European University Press| year = 203 | ISBN 963-9241-60-1 ] . This ban was expanded by Tsar Alexander II who issued the Ems Ukaz in 1876. All Ukrainian language books and song lyrics were banned, as was the importation of such works. Furthermore, Ukrainian-language public performances, plays, and lectures were forbidden.cite book| author=Magoscy, R. | title=A History of Ukraine| location= Toronto | publisher= University of Toronto Press | year = 1996| ] In 1881, the decree was amended to allow the publishing of lyrics and dictionaries, and the performances opf some plays in the Ukrainian language with local officials' approval. Ukrainian-only troupes were, however, forbidden.

While officially, there was no state language in the Soviet Union, Russian was in practice in a privileged position. The Ukrainian language was often frowned upon or quietly discouraged, which led to the gradual decline in its usage. Eventually, Russian remains more widely spoken than Ukrainian in many parts of Ukraine, notably most of the urban areas of the east and south.


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