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Minority Linguistic Issues in Western and Eastern Europe: An overview of two cases. Breton in France and Russian in Ukraine. Jose C. Ibarra . France: brief background. France is notorious for the prestige with which it holds its language and culture.

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Minority linguistic issues in western and eastern europe an overview of two cases l.jpg

Minority Linguistic Issues in Western and Eastern Europe: An overview of two cases.

Breton in France and Russian in Ukraine.

Jose C. Ibarra

France brief background l.jpg
France: brief background overview of two cases.

  • France is notorious for the prestige with which it holds its language and culture.

  • A telling statement made by French culture Minister Jacques Toubon in 1993 states that: “Francophonie can and must be an alternative to the cultural and linguistic uniformity that threatens the world” (Anthony p. 3).

  • This same conservative Culture Minister made the Toubon Law of 1994 mandating all official publications, public announcements, and advertisements to be given in French.

Brittany overview l.jpg
Brittany: Overview overview of two cases.

  • Brittany occupies the northwestern region of France and is roughly about the same size of Taiwan or about 70% larger than Massachusetts.

  • The population of Brittany is estimated at 4,200,000.

  • The main language of the towns is French, however both Breton and Gallo are spoken in the region as well.



Challenges facing breton speakers l.jpg
Challenges facing Breton speakers overview of two cases.

  • According to Patrick Malrieu, the President of the cultural Council of Brittany: Breton is losing 20,000 speakers a year and can wait no longer.

  • France has yet to ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages due to its unwillingness to modify its constitution.

  • The 2002 Financial Legislation Act published by the French Constitutional Council asserts that the constitution allows no other language besides French to be used in instruction.

Breton challenges cont d l.jpg
Breton Challenges cont’d overview of two cases.

  • Privately funded Diwan (“seed”) schools, where classes are taught in Breton through the immersion method, have been very helpful in reviving Breton.

  • However plans to incorporate these schools into the state education system have been blocked by the French Constitutional council.

The breton struggle l.jpg
The Breton Struggle overview of two cases.

  • The Breton struggle is typical of that in many countries outside the Soviet sphere: A minority group trying to maintain its language amongst a society dominated by a national language and that pursues a monolingual education system.

Ukraine and the soviet era l.jpg
Ukraine and the Soviet Era overview of two cases.

  • Ukraine experienced a gradual suppression of Ukrainian and an ensuing Russification during the Soviet era, especially in the 1970s and 1980s.

  • Parents were given the opportunity to choose the language of instruction for their children

  • Most chose Russian due to its importance in job opportunities whereas Ukrainian was not as vital.


The legacy of russification l.jpg
The legacy of Russification overview of two cases.

  • Today in Ukraine 20% of its population is ethnically Russian and more than 60% of its 51 million inhabitants speak Russian.

  • Between 1995 and 1997 the number of Russian language journals increased from 101 to 118 and the number of newspapers from 721 to 746.

  • The current President of Ukraine is a native speaker of Russian and actually spoke very little Ukrainian when he was elected.

Russian minority struggles l.jpg
Russian Minority struggles overview of two cases.

  • Following the demise of the Soviet Union, there has been an emphasis on De-Russification.

  • An extreme example is the recent outlawing of Russian pop music from public buses in Ukraine last year.

  • Ukrainian has become the official language of instruction. Currently the number of schools instructing in Russian does not surpass 10% of the total number of schools.

  • In 2001 out of a total 21,258 general schools in Ukraine, 2,215 were teaching in Russian.

Legislation in ukraine l.jpg
Legislation in Ukraine overview of two cases.

  • Ukraine made strides in guaranteeing rights to minority groups following the Soviet breakup.

  • The 1991 Declaration on National Minorities guaranteed every ethnic and nationality group the right to use the native language in “every field of social life.”

  • It also passed a Language Law which allows for the use of other languages parallel to Ukrainian under the conditions of having citizenship, being a local majority in population, and having a high density of speakers.

Russian minority struggles11 l.jpg
Russian Minority Struggles overview of two cases.

  • Despite these legislative advances, there is still ethnic strife due to the emphasis on Ukrainization and Derussification.

  • For example, Segments of the Russian-speaking population have viewed the decreasing use of Russian in schools and the outlawing of Russian music as being unfair.

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Comparing East to West overview of two cases.

  • Like many Eastern European countries, Ukraine is still dealing with the lasting effects of the Soviet era.

  • In trying to promote its long-suppressed national language and culture, it is passing policies viewed unfair by the Russian-speaking population.

  • France, like most other Western European nations, isn’t having to deal with the after-effects of the Soviet era and is dealing more with the more typical majority vs. minority issue.

  • In France a minority population is seeking to gain rights and not be completely assimilated into the French culture, whereas in the Ukraine the large Russian-speaking group is trying defend its rights and not have them consumed by the surge of Ukrainian nationalism.

Bibliography l.jpg
bibliography overview of two cases.

  • “Ukrainians Take Control.” The Register-Guard. December 28, 2004: p. A10. NCLive. 

  • “Ukraine: Language Issues.” U.S. English Foundation, Inc. < http://www.us-english.org/foundation/research/olp/viewResearch.asp?CID=23&TID=3>. 03 November 2005.

  • “Ukraine: Minority Groups.” U.S. English Foundation, Inc. < http://www.us-english.org/foundation/research/olp/viewResearch.asp?CID=23&TID=4>. 03 November 2005.

  • “Ukraine: Language in Everyday Life.” U.S. English Foundation, Inc. <http://www.us-english.org/foundation/research/olp/viewResearch.asp?CID=23&TID=6>. 03 November 2005.

  • “Ukraine: International Treaties.” U.S. English Foundation, Inc. < http://www.us-english.org/foundation/research/olp/viewResearch.asp?CID=23&TID=7>. 03 November 2005.

  • “France: Language Issues.” U.S. English Foundation, Inc. < http://www.us-english.org/foundation/research/olp/viewResearch.asp?CID=59&TID=3>. 18 October 2005. 

  • 1. Anthony, Ted. “Fears of Cultural Imperialism Spread along with English.” Associated Press. 2002. <http://wire.ap.org/APpackages/english/imperialism.html>.

  • 2. “A World Empire by other Means.” The Economist. 20 December 2001. <www.economist.com>