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An Open Letter to Ukraine’s President on the Language Bill

By Bishop Paul Peter Jesep (New York)

Dear Viktor Fedorovych:

As you know, any time I share my thoughts with you it is done as an individual, not as an official representative of any Church.  It’s been a very rocky tenure for you.  The economy teeters on a tight rope.  You were snubbed by many world leaders who boycotted the Euro games.  Yulia Tymoshenko is the gift that keeps on giving, though not the kind you want.  Corruption has been heavily fertilized by members of your Administration.

Now the parliament is in chaos over the passage of the Russian language bill.  You allowed it to happen in the most undemocratic way forcing the Speaker to resign.  You campaigned on bringing stability (with a greasy iron fist) to Ukraine.  Well, Viktor Fedorovych, it appears the authoritarianism you packaged as stability is in serious trouble.  Things have been simmering for quite some time.  But this time you really, really did it.  You blew the lid off the pot with misguided cultural policy that speaks to the heart and soul of Mother Ukraine.

Does dividing the nation come naturally to you or do you work at it?  Truly, Viktor Fedorovych, why do you keep walking into walls like a blind man?  If you keep this up you’ll end up taking a long walk off a short pier.  Considering how heavy your pockets are with perks you’ve availed yourself to at the expense of the Ukrainian people you’ll stay at the bottom.  Unless you plan to orchestrate massive voter fraud it appears that your party will lose control of parliament.  Adding to your problems are poll numbers that clearly indicate you won’t get a second term.

As you know, or at least I believe some of your advisers know, I’ve never been a big fan of yours.  Yet, I’m willing to offer you a sincere piece of advice that will stabilize things, neutralize the political opposition, play a small role in trying to lessen divisions, boost your party’s chances in the upcoming parliamentary elections, and perhaps even elevate your standing in the polls.  Here it is … are you ready?

Don’t sign the Russian language bill into law.

I never understood why you ever allowed its introduction.  Your political base in Eastern Ukraine is secure.  The Russian language is widely spoken there and no one is penalized for doing it.  In addition, Russian seems to be the preferred choice of many business people since it is not colorful, literary, and expressive like Ukrainian.

If you choose not to support the bill you’ll release a great deal of political steam coming from the opposition party.  It would be good for you, your party, and let’s not forget Ukraine as one nation.  Language, in this case Ukrainian, should be used to unite the country as one people. Encouraging the use of Russian in judicial and governmental activities in the East and Crimea will further a social and cultural divide.  Your job as a national leader is to bring people together, not play them off of one another.

In addition, by not encouraging people in the East and Crimea, including yourself, to learn Ukrainian you make it much more difficult to integrate into the European Union.  Remember, Ukraine is firmly planted in Europe.  Russia is Eurasian.

The Russian language will always have an important place Ukraine.  But don’t, Viktor Fedorovych, allow it to further divide your people.  You also need to think long-term.  As it stands now you won’t leave a positive legacy.  Viktor Fedorovych, you keep making these social, cultural, and political messes.  It’s worse than a child coming into the house after playing in mud puddles.  Your latest mess is easy to clean up.  Don’t sign the Russian language bill into law.

Peace and blessings,

Paul Peter Jesep, JD, MPS, MA

Bishop, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church

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Paul Peter Jesep is a New York attorney.  He is also a bishop in the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.  Metropolitan Myfodii appointed him Spokesperson and Government Liaison in the United States.  The views expressed here are personal and in no way reflect those of his Church.  Bishop Jesep may be contacted at VladykaPaulPeter@aol.com.

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