The Mother Tongue Day appeal of Ukrainian writers to Ukrainians
Dear fellow Ukrainians and readers!
We live in the country of Ukraine and are witnessing a creeping political war against values that lie at the foundation of Ukrainian identity. As each citizen of our country is going through this ordeal, we call on you to make your voice heard and your civic position known everywhere and every time where and when the constitutional values of the Ukrainian state are threatened.
A passive attitude of Ukrainian citizens today may turn into a humanitarian catastrophe tomorrow.
The country is being torn apart not by language, whether Ukrainian or Russian, but by the provocative, aggressive, and Ukrainophobic policies of the government which is trying to use the age-old “divide and rule” strategy to turn the people’s eyes away from its economic and diplomatic failures.
Provocations have snowballed. The closure of Ukrainian-language schools in eastern Ukraine are hypocritically presented as “optimization of expenses.” Pages have been ripped out of history textbooks that speak about the heroic exploits of our ancestors who laid down their lives to make it possible for us to live in an independent, sovereign, and unitary country today.
The Holodomor – Stalin’s genocide against the Ukrainian people – is our greatest national catastrophe whose consequences are still adversely affecting Ukraine today, but the government calls it – in a cynical, Orwellian manner – merely a result of an incorrectly managed collectivization campaign. The government is removing uncomfortable Ukrainian literary texts from the school curriculum. Instead, the conception of literary education for general schools is being written by unknown authors in favor of Russian literature, while Ukrainian literature is being presented as one that has evolved from it, which is a blatant historical untruth and, moreover, a direct humiliation of the value of Ukrainian literature and its leading authors. Radio has long been deprived of Ukrainian music, while television is overflowing with “second hand” Russian productions. Large bookstore networks in Ukraine belong to Russians who promote Russian books.
As was the case in colonial times, the government is again trying to convince us that Ukrainian artistic production, which is literally inaccessible to most Ukrainians, is simply “uncompetitive.” Two decades after the breakup of the Soviet empire, they are again trying to instil in us the feeling of inferiority – inferiority of all things Ukrainian.
We respect and honor the cultures and literatures of all nationalities living Ukraine which together make up one Ukrainian people. We share the basic Ukrainian constitutional values with Russian, Polish, Crimean Tatar, Jewish, Hungarian, Romanian, and Georgian writers and those of all other nationalities who live and write in Ukraine. We stand in resolute opposition to the spread of xenophobia. We do not divide people into “ours” and “others.” We are healing the country rather than dividing it along any north-south or east-west line.
We do not demand subsidies, presidential scholarships, or special retirement benefits from the government. We are not in despair at the government’s total refusal to promote Ukrainian literature in the world. But we are authors; we bear responsibility for Ukrainian literature; and our professional duty is to come to defense of our readers who want to read in Ukrainian and choose Ukrainian books.
We are proud of world-renowned Ukrainian singers and want to hear Ukrainian music and the Ukrainian language on the radio.
We emphasize that the presence of Ukrainian in the information space cannot be subject to the condition that it bring immediate commercial benefit to the owners of mass media outlets. Ukrainian is the state language and is protected by the Constitution of Ukraine and, under the Constitution, “the State shall ensure comprehensive development and functioning of the Ukrainian language in all spheres of social life throughout the entire territory of Ukraine.”
It is our deep conviction that officials on all levels should both know the state language and use it in public.
We warn representatives of the government and law enforcement agencies against interference with Ukrainian cultural affairs, the introduction of control and censorship, or curtailment of the freedom of speech.
We warn short-sighted politicians against shameful encroachments on the very foundations of our statehood such as amending the Constitution of Ukraine or attempts to rewrite the national anthem.
We defend the right of our children to historical memory – a truthful account, rather than one patterned on Soviet ideological clichés, of the Second World War, Lenin, Stalin, the UPA, the Holodomor, the heroes of Kruty, the national liberation struggle, and the historical events and figures of the totalitarian 20th century.
All of the above are the inviolable rights of our people. No government in the Ukrainian state has the right to deprive us of them.
Writers, translators, and literary critics:
Uliana Hnidets, president of the All-Ukrainian Children’s Literature Research Center
Oleksandra Koval, president of the Publishers Forum in Lviv