Activist: Ukrainian, Crimean-Tatar Language Learning Being Squeezed In Crimea

By RFE/RL Ukrainian Service’s Crimean desk

The last remaining Ukrainian-language school in Russian-occupied Crimea doesn’t provide instruction in the eastern Slavic language, Eskender Bariyev, head of the Committee to Protect Crimean Tatars’ Rights, told RFE/RL in a radio interview on January 1.

Seven Ukrainian schools functioned on the peninsula before Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an order to send troops on a mission in early 2014 to seize the Ukrainian territory.

On paper, the sole Ukrainian school more than five years after annexation is registered in the southeastern coastal town of Feodosiya, “but according to local residents this isn’t true because the [Ukrainian] language isn’t taught there,” Bariyev said.

According to article 10 of the Russian-imposed “constitution” on the peninsula, there are three official languages in the Crimea: Crimean-Tatar, Ukrainian, and Russian.

About 3.1 percent of 200,700 schoolchildren there were taught in the Crimean-Tatar language in 2018-2019, the peninsula’s education authority reports.

Bariyev noted that the status of 16 Crimean-Tatar language schools have also been altered since annexation.

Seven preserved instruction in Crimean-Tatar, while five have been transformed to instill bi-lingual instruction in Russian, and four have been re-formatted as “general education.”

Only 249, or 0.2 percent, of schoolchildren formally learned Ukrainian in 2018-2019.

Twenty-seven schools offer 126 classes with Crimean-Tatar instruction and five schools provide teaching in Ukrainian in eight classes.

Putin and other high-level Russian officials have justified the seizure of the Crimea as a matter of historical justice.

As recently as December 30, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on the Crimea: “The [Foreign] Ministry’s official position, which has been voiced many times, is that the proclamation of the independence of the Republic of Crimea and its unification with the Russian Federation were a legitimate exercise of the right of the people of Crimea to self-determination following an armed coup in Ukraine with foreign support.”

Moscow maintains that a peaceful, pro-democracy uprising in November 2013-February 2014 that saw former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych abandon office and flee to Russia was a coup.

Proponents of what was called the Euro-Maidan protests in Kyiv say they stood up to an increasingly authoritarian president who ran a corrupt government and was betraying national interests to curry favor with the Kremlin.

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