Almost a year and a half after the adoption of the law «On ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the state language», which, when adopted, was dubbed the law on total Ukrainianization, the time has come for its most stringent norms to come into force.

In particular — the total Ukrainization of the entire service sector.

How the implementation of the language law is progressing — in the material of «Strana».

What have already been Ukrainized

The law on total Ukrainianization was adopted in the last weeks of the cadence of former President Petro Poroshenko, and signed by him a few days before the inauguration of Volodymyr Zelensky.

But despite the fact that the law essentially remained a legacy from the previous government, the new government for almost a year and a half since its adoption did not take a single step to change at least some of its norms.

The language ombudsman monitors the implementation of the law. The institute of the language ombudsman was already created by Zelensky; this year, a former deputy from the Popular Front, Taras Kremin, was appointed to this position.

Advertising has been completely Ukrainianized since January 16, 2020. The only concession concerns the media published in the languages ​​that are the official languages ​​of the European Union. It allows the use of the relevant EU language in advertisements.

It is interesting that exactly before this date — until January 16, 2020 — the Cabinet of Ministers was supposed to prepare a bill on national minorities, which implies regulation of the rights of national minorities to use their native language. Neither during this period, nor until now such a bill has appeared in the Rada.

On May 27, 2020, three articles of the law came into force at once, which relate to the institution of the language ombudsman.

This date was counted from the moment the Cabinet of Ministers appointed the first commissioner for the protection of the state language, which became Tatiana Monakhova. The relevant articles of the law provide for broad rights of the Ombudsman to monitor compliance with the rules for the use of the Ukrainian language.

So, the authorized person has the right to receive copies of documents and any other information that relates to the subject of control from state authorities, local governments, public associations, political parties and other legal entities, to freely visit authorities, and so on.

Since July 16, 2020, according to the provisions of the law, science has been completely Ukrainianized. From that moment on, scientific publications are published in Ukrainian, English and the official languages ​​of the European Union. In case of publication in English or EU languages, the published materials must contain an annotation in Ukrainian. Dissertations, monographs, abstracts from this moment should be made in Ukrainian or English.

Public defense of dissertations is allowed in Ukrainian and English. The same languages ​​are used in public scientific events, except for those related to linguistics in other languages. Also, from that moment on, all technical and project documentation in all business processes, where one of the parties — enterprises and institutions of state and communal ownership — must also be in Ukrainian.

Also, starting from this date, all medical documentation — diagnoses, prescriptions, certificates, appointments, patients’ medical records, etc. — are performed exclusively in Ukrainian.

The transport sector has also become Ukrainianized — all names of airports, ports, stations, stops from July 16, 2020 can be written only according to the rules of the Ukrainian language or duplicated in Latin letters in accordance with the sound in Ukrainian.

One of the most controversial innovations of the law — on the language of education for Russian-language schools — came into force on September 1 this year. All Russian-language schools in Ukraine immediately switched to the Ukrainian language.

This rule did not apply only to those students who went to school before September 1, 2018. In elementary school, they can still continue their studies in Russian. For middle and high school students, a 20% quota for teaching in Russian is acceptable. With a five-day week with 6 lessons daily, 20% of teaching in Russian would mean only 6 lessons per week.

People’s Deputy Maxim Buzhansky proposed to postpone the entry into force of this norm for three years. He submitted to the Rada a bill proposing to Ukrainianize Russian-language schools at the same time as schools teaching in other languages ​​of national minorities, which are the official languages ​​of the EU, that is, from September 1, 2023. The Verkhovna Rada frankly played this project for almost a year. As a result, it was removed from consideration altogether.

“Today your Russian-speaking child is ranked second best in terms of education compared to the children of Ukrainians who speak the languages ​​of the EU countries. Tomorrow — they will make them the second best in all other issues, «- this is how the author of the project, Maxim Buzhansky, commented to the» Strana «unwillingness to eliminate injustice in this matter.

At the moment, the issue of inconsistency with the Basic Law of this language norm is being considered in the Constitutional Court. The last open court sessions were held in July this year. Since then, the court began to consider the law behind closed doors, but never made a decision.


The service sector will be Ukrainianized from January 16

On the way — the entry into force of new norms of the language law.

The toughest of them, which will directly affect the lives of millions of people, should start working on January 16, 2021.

From this day on, the service sector should completely switch over to the Ukrainian language. Note that it was initially believed that this norm will work on November 16, 2020. But due to the fact that the first norms of the law began to operate on July 16, 2019, the date for the entry into force of other provisions of this law is counted from this date.

By this time, all enterprises of all forms of ownership that serve consumers must switch to the Ukrainian language.

You can hear more about how Odessans and Kharkiv residents feel about this in a survey conducted by Strana’s special correspondent Antonina Beloglazova.

It will also be necessary to translate online stores, online catalogs and sites related to consumer services into Ukrainian. Information (if desired by the owners of these resources) can be duplicated in other languages. But by default, the page should load in Ukrainian.

Penalties will start working  in a year and a half

Further more. Since May 27, 2020, an article of the law has been launched, which describes the procedure for imposing and collecting fines from business entities for violating the law.

The law prescribes such a mechanism for imposing fines: first, the authorized person or his representative draws up an act on the results of control, announces a warning to the subject and a requirement to eliminate violations within 30 days.

In case of repeated violation, a protocol is already drawn up.

Cases of violation of the law are considered by the commissioner on the basis of the relevant acts on the results of control. And if the ombudsman has established the fact of violation of the law, he issues a decision on a fine. According to the law, for repeated violation of the requirements of the law within a year, the commissioner can fine business entities in the amount of 300 to 400 tax-free minimums (UAH 5100-6800).

The subject can file a complaint against the order to impose a fine, if his complaint is not satisfied, he is obliged to pay the fine within 15 days. You can also challenge the ruling in court.

But at the same time, the fines themselves for violations of the law will begin to be written out later — from July 16, 2022. Until this moment, in fact, there can be no sanctions for those who served buyers in a non-state language.

In general, the law prescribes a fairly extensive grid of fines for non-compliance with the requirements of language legislation.

For example, officials who do not use the Ukrainian language face a fine from 200 to 400 tax-free minimums (3400-6800 hryvnias). That is, if an official switches to any language other than Ukrainian during a meeting in state or local government bodies, the maximum fine will be up to 6800 hryvnias.

In the humanitarian sphere (education, science, culture, sports, etc.) — violation of the language policy can result in a fine of 200 to 300 tax-free minimums (UAH 3400-5100).

If the newspaper is printed without circulation in the state language — a fine of 6800-8500 UAH.

In the service sector, for a violation of language legislation, a warning is first announced and 30 days are given to correct the violation. For one more violation during the year — a fine of 5100-6800 UAH. Repeated administrative violation during the year — a fine of 8500-11 900 UAH.

“Considering that the law provides for the creation of a whole detachment of inspectors, as soon as these fines are earned, they will begin to be handed out left and right. This will not be a virtual topic, but a very real one. Not everyone will agree to work as an executioner, but it is already clear what kind of people will go to such positions, they will be people with extreme right-wing convictions, and they will gladly carry out the plan set before them for total Ukrainization and the pressure of all those who disagree with this checks and blows on their pocket , — political scientist Ruslan Bortnik told «Strana». — Please note that it was Zelensky who became the president under whom the last Russian-language school in Ukraine was closed, and will become the president under whom an ordinary person will be fined for the Russian language for the first time. The language theme is one of Zelensky’s most serious gaps, which has already deprived him of a significant part of the electorate. » 

Ukrainization of theater, cinema and publishing

But not only the service sector will switch to Ukrainian next year.

In 2021, theater and cinema will be Ukrainianized.

From July 16, 2021, all cultural events will have to be held exclusively in the state language. Theatrical performances in other languages must be accompanied by subtitles in Ukrainian (the law does not explain exactly how to do this technically).

Also, from this date, the language of public events (symposia, round tables, etc.) can only be Ukrainian or English.

Films in Ukraine from now on can only be shot in Ukrainian. It is allowed to include individual replicas in other languages ​​with subtitles, no more than 10% of the total. Screening of foreign films in cinemas is allowed, subject to subtitling in Ukrainian. The total number of screenings of such films may not exceed 10% of the total number of screenings of films in the cinema per month.

In addition, from July 16, 2021, the Ukrainian language will become the main language of book printing and publishing. From this moment on, the circulation of books in other languages ​​cannot exceed the circulation in the Ukrainian language. At the points of distribution of book products, at least 50% must be publications in the Ukrainian language.

On the same date, there will be a test for knowledge of the Ukrainian language for everyone who wants to obtain Ukrainian citizenship.

The examination mechanism and criteria for requirements should be devised by the National Commission for Ukrainian Language Standards. Without knowledge of the Ukrainian language, take into Ukrainian citizenship those foreigners who will serve in the Armed Forces and will be awarded state awards, or Ukraine will be interested in them.


In general, the Vikings will be able to continue to be attracted to govern the country. They will also be required to learn the Ukrainian language, but they will have a whole year for that from the moment they receive citizenship.

Civil service certification

And it is precisely from July 16, 2021 that a general certification of knowledge of the Ukrainian language will begin for all candidates for any civil service positions. True, exams will not be held for those candidates who confirm their knowledge of the Ukrainian language with a school certificate of secondary education with grades «5» (according to the old system) or «10», «11» or «12» (according to the new) or a bachelor’s degree or Master’s with a mark «excellent» in the Ukrainian language.

Interestingly, according to the law, for 16 categories of officials, such as deputies of local councils, employees of the NBU (National Bank of Ukraine), privates, sergeants and petty officers of the National Police, other law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies, lawyers, notaries, pedagogical, scientific, pedagogical and scientific workers, medical workers — only a document of secondary education will be sufficient as confirmation.

But new applicants for positions in the civil service will still have to pass an exam in the Ukrainian language. If the candidate does not pass the exam, the next attempt is only after 4 months.


Interestingly, the law does not require the members of the Verkhovna Rada to speak Ukrainian. This norm disappeared from the document just before its adoption, allegedly due to the fact that there is no such requirement in the Constitution. But at the same time, it is possible to speak in the Rada only in Ukrainian. But if a deputy is not going to speak in the Rada, then no one can make him know Ukrainian.

Ukrainization of media

In 2022, the entry into force of many provisions of the law on total Ukrainianization will also continue.

From January 16, 2022, the Ukrainian language will become mandatory for the nationwide print media. It will be possible to publish a newspaper or magazine in Russian only in one case — if the same number of copies is published in Ukrainian.

At the same time, print media that are published in the Crimean Tatar language, languages of other indigenous peoples (there is no such list), English-language and publications in other languages of the European Union are not required to comply with this requirement.

And in another six months — from July 16, 2022 — online media registered in Ukraine will have to completely Ukrainianize. By default, all media sites will have to load pages in Ukrainian, and the function of reading materials in Russian can be made additional by the media, if desired.

The pages of the media in social media, for example, Facebook or Instagram, must also be in Ukrainian. As well as mobile applications of all media.

This rule does not apply to the Crimean Tatar media, English-speaking media and media that are published in the official languages ​​of the European Union.

There is a loophole left in the law for news agencies, which reserve the right to «distribute their products in the state language, as well as in other languages, adhering to generally accepted ethical and moral standards of word use.»

And also from that moment on, computer programs with a user interface installed on goods that are sold in Ukraine should be completely Ukrainianized. Foreign versions of the interface are also allowed, but with the amount of information no more than in Ukrainian.

If the national print media should be Ukrainianized from 2022, then they made a concession for the regional print media — their translation into Ukrainian should take place from July 16, 2024.

As in the case of the nationwide print media, exceptions are made only for media that are published in the Crimean Tatar language, languages ​​of other indigenous peoples (there is no list of such), English-language and publications in other languages ​​of the European Union.

Also, from July 16, 2024, the quota for the Ukrainian language for television and radio organizations will increase. Instead of the current 75%, the quota for the Ukrainian language for the national media should be 90%, and for local media — instead of 60%, the quota is increased to 80%.

The provision on responsibility for humiliation or neglect of the Ukrainian language also comes into force from this date.

At the same time, at the moment in the law itself there is no separate reference to Article 109 of the Criminal Code, which regulates such violations and punishes them up to 10 years in prison.

But for almost a year and a half since its adoption, various changes have been made to the law four times, so it cannot be ruled out that by July 2024 it will be amended just in terms of the application of these provisions. Moreover, by that time, a system of fines for violators of language legislation will be in effect for two years.

And the law will complete its entry into force in full on January 1, 2030. From that moment on, all external independent assessment based on the results of completing secondary education and entrance exams will be held in Ukrainian, except for independent assessment in foreign languages.

All these norms will come into force only if the law on total Ukrainization 9 itself or some of its norms) is not canceled. As the experience of the mono-majority «servants of the people» in the Rada has shown, they are not in the mood to do this. And even when individual «servants» show initiative, the faction itself backs down after the indignation of the nationalists and the «war party».

This means that a solution to the issue of abolishing total Ukrainization is possible, apparently, only in the event of a change of power in the country.

Galina Studennikova, Strana

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