When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Hardest Soft Power: How Moscow Forces The Russian Language On Occupied Ukraine

Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine goes well beyond the battlefield. Russia is trying to destroy Ukrainian identity by imposing the Russian language in occupied areas, as a prime weapon in Moscow's policy of "Russification."

Image of a woman teaching a language to children in a classroom.

March 21, 2022: Volunteer Tereza Svandova helps a teacher in the class school for Ukrainian refugee children to learn Czech language in Brno, Czech Republic,

Vaclav Salek/ZUMA
Taras Kremin


KYIV — In all spheres of public life, where the enemy's boots have trodden, we will have to fight back against Kremlin myths, while dealing with the tragic consequences and the physical ruins of the attacks that have caused irreparable damage to the people of Ukraine.

In Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk, a new generation of forcibly Russianized Ukrainian youth has emerged over the past nine years. At the same time, cities and villages that were under temporary occupation suffered similar catastrophic losses.

For these and other reasons, which have damaged national interests, it is crucial to pay increased attention to the spheres of education, culture, and media in the de-occupied territories.

Experts point out that this process could be tragic for Ukraine, as the Kremlin has been doing everything it can to break the mental ties between the occupied territories and Kyiv since the first days of the occupation.

It all started with linguistic discrimination, bans, threats, and then the actual genocide of the Ukrainian people. A linguistic ban is one of the most significant humanitarian risks associated with Russian aggression.

Moscow has tried to strengthen its position culturally and demographically with the deportation and re-education of Ukrainian children, filtration camps for educators, and the relocation of Russians to the occupied territories for further assimilation.

Destruction of identity

The goal of these alleged war crimes appears to be the destruction of Ukrainian identity in the territories occupied by Russia. As a result of these abuses, Kyiv will need more than just battlefield success to regain control.

In Crimea, after the 2014 occupation, the Kremlin relocated many Russians, while the most active Ukrainian citizens were imprisoned or forced to leave the peninsula. As for the indigenous Crimean Tatar population, they have faced restrictions on the use of their language, and their political institutions have been banned. In schools, children have all along been taught a version of history distorted by the Kremlin, aimed at leveling any national identity.

Therefore, it is already clear that reintegrating Ukrainian youth from the de-occupied territories into the Ukrainian educational system will require significant effort. This includes creating an extensive network of Ukrainian language courses, replenishing library collections with quality Ukrainian textbooks, and developing creative Ukrainian-language media content.

Image of a kid holding a text book.

February 15, 2023: Ukrainian refugee children learning Czech language in Primary School in Litomerice, Czech Republic.

Ondrej Hajek/ZUMA

Opposite direction

Last month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed two essential laws prohibiting the use of Russian place names and requiring a compulsory language exam to obtain Ukrainian citizenship.

The process of de-Russification is happening at a frantic pace.

Since Russia's full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, many more citizens have begun to use Ukrainian in everyday communication. Before the full-scale war, most respondents to this study ("Degree of Society in Time of War") said they used to speak Russian on a daily basis (56%), while only 43% used Ukrainian. The picture is now the opposite: most respondents (61%) speak Ukrainian in everyday life. Young people (18-24 years old) and the older age group (55-60) are the most active in resorting to Ukrainian daily.

Indeed, in the territories controlled by Kyiv, the process of de-Russification is happening at a frantic pace. However, in the temporarily occupied territories, everything is moving in the opposite direction.

*Taras Kremin is Ukraine's Commissioner for the protection of the state language and a member of parliament.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Will Winter Crack The Western Alliance In Ukraine?

Kyiv's troops are facing bitter cold and snow on the frontline, but the coming season also poses longer term political questions for Ukraine's allies. It may be now or never.

Ukraine soldier in winer firing a large canon with snow falling

Ukraine soldier firing a large cannon in winter.

Pierre Haski


PARIS — Weather is a weapon of war. And one place where that’s undoubtedly true right now is Ukraine. A record cold wave has gripped the country in recent days, with violent winds in the south that have cut off electricity of areas under both Russian and Ukrainian control. It's a nightmare for troops on the frontline, and survival itself is at stake, with supplies and movement cut off.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

This is the reality of winter warfare in this part of Europe, and important in both tactical and strategic terms. What Ukraine fears most in these circumstances are Russian missile or drone attacks on energy infrastructures, designed to plunge civilian populations into cold and darkness.

The Ukrainian General Staff took advantage of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's visit to Kyiv to ask the West to provide as many air defense systems as possible to protect these vital infrastructures. According to Kyiv, 90% of Russian missile launches are intercepted; but Ukraine claims that Moscow has received new weapon deliveries from North Korea and Iran, and has large amounts of stocks to strike Ukraine in the coming weeks.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest