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Ukraine agonizes over Russian culture, language in its social fabric : NPR | #socialmedia | #hacking | #aihp


Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, ordered the removal of a Soviet monument in April, after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. The monument was erected in 1982 as a symbol of unification and friendship between Ukraine and Russia under the Soviet government. Officials have also ordered some streets linked to Russia to be renamed.

Sergei Chuzavkov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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Sergei Chuzavkov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, ordered the removal of a Soviet monument in April, after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. The monument was erected in 1982 as a symbol of unification and friendship between Ukraine and Russia under the Soviet government. Officials have also ordered some streets linked to Russia to be renamed.

Sergei Chuzavkov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

LVIV and ODESA, Ukraine — In prewar Ukraine, Svitlana Panova spoke her native Russian without giving it much thought. But now, she has lost her home to Russia twice — fleeing Crimea after Russia’s 2014 annexation of it and then fleeing eastern Ukraine after Russia’s invasion this year — and the Russian language no longer feels quite right.

“It’s hard for me to switch to Ukrainian, but I will learn it for sure,” says Panova, one of millions of Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s war, as she makes her way through the train station in the western city of Lviv.

On the streets and on social media, at family gatherings and at work, in interviews and in political journals, people across Ukraine are having a tense conversation over the place of Russian language and culture in Ukraine’s social fabric. Can they even have a place now? Is this inescapable part of the country’s history inherently toxic?

The war shattered the acceptance of Russian identity as a natural part of Ukrainian society

About a third of Ukrainians have named Russian as their mother tongue — in the last census, in 2001, and in more recent surveys — and the majority of Ukrainians say they speak it. Conversations often combine both languages, and some people even speak a Spanglish-type mashup called Surzhyk. Russian and Ukrainian are closely related but not enough for speakers to fully understand each other. Ukraine was Russified for centuries, under the Russian Empire and then under the Soviet Union, when Russian was the lingua franca mandated in schools.

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