Akunin : In the square, the course towards Ukrainization and the replacement of the Russian language with the language continues . The Komsomolskaya Pravda correspondent found out the conditions in which Russian-speaking residents of Ukraine have to live.
“WE ARE AGAINST RUSSIA, BUT OUR LANGUAGE IS RUSSIAN”
At first, I decided to check how friendly the people of Kiev are and how they generally relate to Russian speech against the background of talk about the upcoming war with Russia.
– Is it far to Khreshchatyk? I asked every second passerby.
Some immediately answered in Russian, others in Ukrainian, but I played the fool that I did not understand, and they willingly explained to me in Russian. Surprisingly, even the participants of the pro-NATO rally on the Maidan agreed to communicate with me in Russian. “Well, I think I wasn’t, I confess to them that I’m from Russia, I’ll look at the reaction.”
– Could not be recognized. Your Moscow accent can be heard even when you are silent, – my journalist colleague laughs.
Some participants of the anti-Russian rally did not much like the fact that I wormed my way into their ranks. But many of them even spoke Russian among themselves.
– We are Ukrainians. Yes, we are against Russia, but our language is Russian, we have Russian-speaking families, – several participants of the rally explained to me.
Here is such a paradox.
Klitschko LOST TO THE RED ARMY
Ukrainian speech in Kiev now sounds much more often than Russian. A few years ago this was not the case. Ukrainization is clearly bearing fruit. All billboards and shop signs are in Ukrainian. The names of the streets, as well as metro stations, are duplicated in English, not in Russian. I am surprised to read the name “Krasnoarmeyskaya” on one of the streets (translated from Ukrainian).
Wow! After all, streets in Kiev have long been renamed, whose names are associated with the Soviet past. It turns out that on some houses they can’t change the signs in any way. And so the street was renamed Bolshaya Vasylkivska. So far, in the battle with the Red Army, the mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, is clearly losing.
– Against the background of talk about the war, many began to switch to Ukrainian speech. I have friends who have been Russian-speaking for 40-50 years, and now they suddenly decided to speak Ukrainian. But it’s better not to argue on this topic, you can quarrel completely, ”says my Kiev acquaintance Svyatoslav.
Taxi, hotels and restaurants also speak Ukrainian. There is no Russian menu in restaurants. Again, only Ukrainian and English versions. As if there are no millions of Russian-speaking citizens in Ukraine. They are simply ignored. For whom concessions are made, it is for tourists. Because tourists are money.
The more expensive the restaurant and hotel, the more willingly they speak Russian there. Seeing that I am Russian-speaking, in many restaurants the waiters themselves switched to Russian with me. Although by law the client must ask them about it. If you yourself speak Russian with a visitor, you will be fined. But in the democratic cafe “Puzata Khata” (an analogue of our “Mu-mu”) they switched to Russian with me with difficulty. I had to ask for it several times. Fear of controllers.
“THE DO NOT WANT TO READ ON MOVE”
Since the beginning of this year, a law has come into force in Ukraine, according to which all Russian-language print publications must have a Ukrainian version that comes out in the same circulation.
Finding a newsstand in Kiev is like completing a quest. There are practically none. I drove around the city center for an hour until I finally came across the Press stall. The main publications on the counter are “non-rotten”. These are crossword puzzles from the Mother-in-law pancakes series, mother-in-law pie crossword puzzles, magazines with recipes.
Next – glossy magazines. And finally, newspapers. Most of them are in Ukrainian. But there are also two versions, such as the weekly Gordon Boulevard. In both languages, the newspaper is one to one – the same texts and photos, only the languages are different. You can play the game “find 2 differences”.
– How’s the trade? Dropped in demand? – I’m interested in the kiosk.
He looks suspiciously from under his glasses.
– I do not give such information. We are not recommended. You never know for what purpose you are asking this, – the partisan uncle grumbles in response.
Apparently I’m not the only one asking.
I leave unsalted.
The saleswoman in the kiosk on Khreshchatyk turned out to be more sociable. I buy dozens of newspapers from her.
– How did your sales not fall? I ask carefully.
– Very fell! We are suffering losses, – she seemed to be waiting for someone to talk to her about this topic. – People don’t want to read Russian-language newspapers in Ukrainian. And the magazines don’t want either. Previously, young people bought them well, but now they don’t take them. Yes, I myself, although I am Ukrainian, do not like to read Ukrainian – it is difficult.
WITH MOTHER’S MILK
I look at the bookstore. The shelves are lined with all sorts of literature in Ukrainian. According to the law, it should be many times more than in Russian. In addition, there are books that are forbidden to sell. First of all, those in which the Red Army and St. George’s Ribbon are popularized.
– Where are the books in Russian? I ask the seller.
– There’s that distant rack.
Indeed, in the farthest corner of the store for Russian literature, only one rack is allotted. The shelves are half empty. Some classics – Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Kharms and detectives. Not a single history book.
– Why are there so few books in Russian? I return to the seller.
– So everything was dismantled, but there was no new delivery yet.
Where is the children’s literature?
We don’t have it in Russian.
This is how Ukrainization comes literally with mother’s milk.
The demand for Russian-language literature is huge, so many people buy it either in the markets or on the Internet.
– Akunin’s new book is coming out, I can buy it the next day here in Kiev. They will be smuggled. You can also buy almost everything online. E-books are not a problem, we read even on banned sites. I go through a VPN (VPN is a way to connect to the Internet that allows you to bypass restrictions. It “changes” your location and instead of, for example, Kiev or Beijing, shows that you are in Moscow or the Comoros.
This way you can even access blocked ones in any country sites.To install a VPN, you just need to download a special program on your smartphone or computer. – Ed.) and buy, – says my Kiev friend.
– All this is humiliating. Why can’t we buy books in Russian in a bookstore? Why should children study in Ukrainian in Russian schools? As a result, parents are forced to hire Russian tutors, – one of my Kiev acquaintances is indignant.
– I think that the Ukrainian language should be taught, there should be preferences for Ukrainian-language literature, but other languages should not be limited. This is the question of our future. It is no coincidence that many transferred their children to English schools after they banned education in Russian. The Ukrainian language is needed as long as you live in Ukraine.
Active youth aspires to Europe, USA, Japan. There are no prospects for it in Ukraine, – my journalist colleague notes.
“PRINTING A NEWSPAPER IN RUSSIAN IS A TOTAL LOSS”
The Komsomolskaya Pravda correspondent spoke with one of the chief editors of the former Russian-language publications . To make the conversation more frank, we decided not to name him.
– Since January, your publication has been published only in Ukrainian. Why didn’t you leave the Russian version?
– This is an economic decision. Output in two languages is unprofitable.
– How much are the costs rising?
– Multiply the cost of production by two. In fact, you need to do two different editions. And few people can afford it. Raising the price is also not an option. Now the average cost of magazines in Ukraine is 30-40 hryvnias (90-120 rubles), and newspapers 10-15 hryvnias (30-45 rubles). This is so much, and no one will buy twice as much. Ukraine does not have its own paper and printing ink, everything is bought abroad, including in Belarus. It is expensive. It is no coincidence that Ukrainian publications are published on such poor paper – the cheapest.
– Is it possible to say that the Russian-language press in Ukraine is dead?
– There are options for publications in Russian, but they are expensive. It is possible to issue a circulation in Russian and Ukrainian in equal parts. Subscription in Russian is not prohibited. For example, some retail publications are published in Ukrainian, and by subscription – in Russian. But the chief editors of such publications admit that this is an experiment. If by the summer they see that they are burning out, they will simply abandon the Russian-language version.
Even Playboy switched to Ukrainian. Almost all the gloss has gone. We would like to continue publishing in Russian in order to preserve the tradition, to preserve our readership, but this is not a business model, the publication will incur heavy losses, which cannot be covered only through sales and advertising. We need money from patrons who want to spend money on the Russian-language version for the sake of a brand or nostalgia.
But this is not always good for the publication. I know the case when the owner bought the newspaper because his mother loved it. Mom died, he became uninteresting, and he simply closed the newspaper, did not even sell it.
– I came to the newsstand today and they offered me only one fresh newspaper. And the one in Ukrainian…
– The situation with newspapers in Ukraine is even sadder than with magazines. Not a single daily newspaper remained on the market, except for the government’s Uryadovy Kurier. There are newspapers that come out three times a week and weeklies. But even those are barely floundering. High-quality information and analytical publications are dying.
– What is the reason for this?
– With the state of the economy, with the pandemic. The advertising market is collapsing, against the backdrop of talk of war, the dollar is jumping – the cost of production is growing. Plus, there are problems with the sale of newspapers – there are very few kiosks, private traders have begun to trade less due to covid, supermarkets are not allowed on their shelves. And then you still have to tell your readers that you are switching to Ukrainian. The print press is simply finished off. Power has sacrificed it to politics.
– How did your readers react to the transition from Russian to Ukrainian?
– We all hoped to the last that the deadlines for the transition of the press to Ukrainian would be postponed. Therefore, all print media announced a subscription, but no one specified that they would be published in Ukrainian from the New Year. As a result, people subscribed to the Russian-language edition, but get the Ukrainian one. How readers will behave further is not yet known. But a lot of people call us, people are dissatisfied.
We were discharged for years, and with the transition to Ukrainian, it became clear that our reader would think well: maybe someone will stay, but someone will leave. There are optimists who predict that with the transition to Ukrainian, the number of subscribers will grow, as well as the number of Ukrainian-speaking people in the country. I do not think so. If a person is used to reading Russian, he will not read Ukrainian.
– Going to the polls, Zelensky declared himself as a Russian-speaking politician, far from language disputes. And in the end, he continues the line of Poroshenko?
– Yes. In the summer there were attempts to delay the entry into force of this law. But the deputies, including the Zelensky Servant of the People faction, opposed it. There are a lot of people in Zelensky’s team who like Poroshenko’s language initiatives. And Zelensky himself openly flirts with the nationalists, trying to win them over and not realizing that he is losing others in the process. But this is typical of all Ukrainian politicians.
– Why is the government of any kind promoting the unpopular idea of Ukrainization?
– She is not popular with part of the population, and the other part, on the contrary, supports her. A generation has already grown up that graduated from Ukrainian schools, that did not learn Russian. Here it is with both hands for Ukrainization.