Where is Russian spoken? Official language (dark blue) and unofficial (light blue)
I’ve encountered the idea occasionally that learning Russian is a useless endeavor because it is a “dying language”. Proponents of this thesis allege that since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian has been in decline because no one outside of Russia is forced to learn it anymore.
And then there are the cases of other post-Soviet countries, such as Belarus and Kazakhstan. In both of these countries, Russian remains an official language. (In fact, in Belarus, the majority of the population speaks Russian in their daily lives.) In Ukraine, Russian is not an official language, but it is very, very widely used and understood. Continue reading →
See that little screenshot of a sticky from my Mac dashboard? That’s today’s links, which I have been saving up for your reading pleasure for a number of weeks now. Some are important enough to merit separate posts, which I will be writing in the next week or so; others are simply interesting and I wanted to mention them. So, here goes.
Yesterday, August 24, was the twenty-first anniversary of Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union. Ukraine is one of my absolute favorite countries – I was there for two or three days in 2009 and I have spent three years now wishing I could go back – so I decided to prepare a nice little post as a tribute to this country.
Before it became independent in 1991, Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union and before that, the Russian Empire. For much of its history, it has been ruled over by various people, such as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Even though it was not an independent state for much of modern history, Ukraine has a distinct language and culture.
Despite the fact that the Ukrainian language was often repressed (both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union practiced policies of Russification), it is a rich and vibrant language today. Though it is closely related to Russian and is part of the East Slavic subgroup along with Russian, it has had a heavy Polish influence and is distinct from the Russian language. I have never properly studied it, but I can understand quite a bit of it when it’s spoken. To compare it to Russian, consider the title of this post: З днем незалежності. In Russian, that is С днём независимости. Close, but not exactly the same. Continue reading →
I know some people post Friday link reading list of sorts on their blogs, so I thought I’d join in, at least for this week. I read two outstanding articles this week (and many more that were not so outstanding), so I will share.
Nearly twenty years ago, Zbigniew Brzezinski famously said, “Russia can be either an empire or a democracy, but it cannot be both. . . . Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.” Uninterested in becoming a democracy, today’s Kremlin has not given up the hope of regaining a facsimile of its old empire, with Ukraine at its core. To be sure, the Kremlin today is pragmatic enough to understand that it can’t revive the corpse of the USSR (though Georgians may beg to differ), but it would like to create the Eurasian Union—a new version of “satellites along its periphery.”
Of all the states in Eurasia, Ukraine is the most important test of the Kremlin’s neo-imperialistic longings and of Russia’s readiness (or not) to be a modern state. It is also is a test of the West’s interest in expanding its normative principles eastward, which can best be advanced if Ukraine itself demonstrates a desire for deeper integration based on a democratic path.
I’d highly recommend reading the entire thing.
Second, some advice for college students interested in foreign policy. Harvard professor Stephen M. Walt writes what students of foreign policy ought to study. A fascinating list, no doubt, but four years too late for me! Of the top ten things, I am most lacking in statistics (and economics, to an extent, but I have learned quite a bit of that subject outside of school). I suppose I ought to start learning statistics soon…
Back in the day, I waxed poetic about how I think the Ukrainian national anthem is lovely, especially the rendition in the video above. Unfortunately, the video does not say who the singer is. Due to luck (and my mad research skills), I was able to find out that the talented singer is Oleksandr Ponomarov (Олександр Пономарьов in Ukrainian). He’s very famous in Ukraine, and rightfully so, with a voice like that. Continue reading →
Yesterday I learned to play the national anthem of Ukraine (Государственный Гимн Украины if you speak Russian; Державний Гімн України if you speak Ukrainian) on my violin. I think it’s interesting to listen to different national anthems, and the Ukrainian one is one of my favorites.
There are many recordings out there, but the one I’ve chosen to embed is my absolute favorite.