Language and Identity in Ukraine

Video Transcript

I think much is made of the language issue. And we're not the only ones to make that mistake. You know, we see a map of the division in the languages and we think, "uh!" One half is pro-Russian, one half is Ukrainian. I think the Russians actually made the same mistake in 2014, you know, where they looked at the primary language spoken in Odessa, in Kherson, Zaporozhia, Sumy up there, and Kharkiv. And they said "ah-ha!" Pro-Russian. And what the polling from the time showed was that while people had a definite preference for language, it didn't change their ethnic identity. People would still identify as Russian speaking Ukrainians. And when the war broke out in the east, for instance, Russian was still the primary language spoken in the Ukrainian military and the volunteer battalions, a lot of them, even the even the stridently nationalist ones, spoke Russian. So you had two Russian speaking groups fighting each other and which defied all the previous expectations of, oh, you're gonna have a 50/50 split. It's going to be right down here in the middle because these parts these parts speak Russian, these parts speak Ukrainian. That didn't happen.

A service member discusses language and identity in Ukraine.