15 June 2015

Round table «Multilingualism and Ukrainian Identity: From Confrontation to Unity»

Cherkasy, July 8, 2015.
Location: "Dnipro" Hotel (13 Frunze Street, Cherkasy).
Organizers - Ukrainian Fulbright Circle,
Bohdan Khmelnisky National University in Cherkasy


Ukraine is a multilingual country whose citizens speak Ukrainian, Russian, Belorussian, Crimean Tatar, Hungarian, Polish, Moldavian, Romanian and other languages. Multilingualism in Ukraine results from interplay of historical, socio-political, neurophysiologic and psychological factors. Historical migration of ethnic groups creates a societal setting for interaction of languages and cultures. This setting is influenced by politics that defines the social status of linguistic and cultural communities within the state. As a result, the inborn language faculty which must be activated in the brain at the critical/sensitive period (up to the age of 12) responds to the existing linguistic situation: in childhood, the intensity of exposure to a particular linguistic environment shapes the neurologically first language (or languages) that becomes most entrenched in the mind. For adults, the factor which gains importance is psychological: it is their motivation to learn a second language.

Russification of Ukraine under the  Russian Empire and the succeeding soviet power accounts for a considerable number of the native speakers of Russian who belong to various ethnic groups and dwell throughout the country. In the post-soviet period, departure from the Russian language has become a constituent of the struggle for national identity. However, from a scholarly standpoint, the routine and sometimes aggressive ‘fight' against the Russian language is unconstructive, since it does not consider: 1) neurophysiology, or the degree of the Russian language entrenchment in the mind of its native speakers; 2) their psychology, or the inner protest (especially that of elder people) against an aggressive ‘dialogue' about languages - the factor that distracts the potential speakers from Ukrainian instead of attracting them to it; 3) the new socio-political situation, in which a considerable part of the Russian speaking community plays an important role in defending Ukraine's sovereignty and its democratic choice; 4) international interaction in the globalized world, etc.

The specific linguistic situation created in Ukraine by the interplay of socio-political and neuro-psychological factors must be given an objective, non-biased assessment not by radical politicians, but by specialists who are knowledgeable primarily in the fields of neuro-, psycho, and sociolinguistics. This assessment should be reported to the public (so as to reduce linguistic aggression in everyday life), and employed in developing a reasonable strategy for pursuing the language policy in the country. This policy should provide a harmonious balance between Ukrainian as the state language and all other languages of Ukraine. This idea of harmonious balanced coexistence of languages should become a constituent of national identity: a citizen of Ukraine knows and respects Ukrainian and other languages of his/her country, whose sovereignty he/she defends and whose democratic values he/she upholds.


The goal of this Round Table is gathering a team of specialists (linguists, sociologists, political scientists and lawyers) that can provide an objective assessment of the contemporary linguistic situation in Ukraine, and within a prospective research project propose a  strategy for pursuing a balanced language policy which highlights: a) the leading role of the Ukrainian language as a cultural-historical and political symbol of the state; d) an appropriate status of Russian as one of the languages of Ukraine (not as the language of Russia!), and an appropriate status of the languages of ethnic minorities; c) raising efficiency of teaching and learning foreign languages as a necessary prerequisite for Ukraine's successful integration into the world community.

Within the prospective project, activities of the created team will be coordinated with the wider Canadian- European-Ukrainian project «Democratic Reform of the Government in Ukraine, 2015-2017", particularly with its part entitled "Nationalities and Language Policies" (the project is being implemented under the auspices of the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada).


  • Multilingualism: neurophysiologic, psychological, social, and political aspects.
  • The Ukrainian language: motivating Ukrainians to study the Ukrainian language and improve the knowledge of it by means of exposure to its history, contemporary variability, and systemic standards; by means of popularizing Ukrainian literature and culture; by means of providing information about Ukrainian Diasporas abroad.
  • The Russian language as one of the languages of Ukraine: definition of its status, spheres of application, and ways of teaching; popularizing the works by Russian-speaking Ukrainian writers.
  • Languages of national minorities in Ukraine: definition of their status, spheres of application, and ways of teaching; popularizing the works by writers speaking the languages of national minorities.
  • Foreign languages in Ukraine: the ways to enhance their acquisition.


Those who are professionally interested in the above topics are invited to submit the titles of their presentations (up to 10 minutes, the language is Ukrainian or English) till June 30, 2015 to the electronic addresses:

Ukrainian Fulbright Circle

Svitlana Zhabotynska
Dr. of Philology, Professor
Department of English Philology
Bohdan Khmelnisky National University in Cherkasy



Fulbright Program Office in Ukraine

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Kyiv, 01001, Ukraine

Tel: +380 (44) 287 07 77

Fax: +380 (44) 230 20 60