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State of the World's Minorities 2006 - Ukraine

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 22 December 2005
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2006 - Ukraine, 22 December 2005, available at: [accessed 28 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

While the 2004 presidential campaign in the Ukraine had a strong impact on the ethnic sphere of Ukrainian society, the present Ukrainian government has yet to approve any relevant comprehensive legislative documents to improve the current legislative framework on minorities. Unlike the 1990s, which witnessed a proliferation of legislation on minorities, 2004 and 2005 did not meet the expectations of many Ukrainian citizens, who hoped for drastic positive changes in the sphere of ethnic policy. Of 16 projects registered at the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations, only three dealt with ethno-political issues. One of these projects, on the renewal of the rights of persons deported on ethnic grounds, had been considered by the Ukrainian parliament and approved at the second reading but was vetoed by the former president.

Another law on the concept of minority rights policy is still under consideration, but the absence of a comprehensive minority rights law creates contradictions in Ukrainian legislation and difficulties in the exercise of human rights. While there is a political will to establish a comprehensive legislative framework on minorities, there is a lack of consensus among the main authorities over the key terms and concepts to be included. There is also a disagreement on what type of nation the Ukraine should be, poly-ethnic, multicultural or both. The new president of the Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko has expressed a desire to overhaul the Ukrainian legislation on minorities in order to bring it up to European standards, including the existing law on national minorities adopted in 1992 which does not contain any provisions on the Crimean Tatars. This affected those Crimean Tatars who returned to their homeland after 1991 and found that they were denied citizenship rights, access to education, employment and housing.

The situation of the Crimean Tatars within Crimea, however, has improved somewhat. In May 2005, the leader of the Tatars, Mustafa Dzhemilev, and the Crimean Prime Minister Anatoliy Matviyenko signed a power-sharing agreement that ended four months of administrative deadlock over the peninsula. This agreement deals with the two main issues: the land that the Crimean Tatars consider to have been confiscated during the Stalin regime, and the protection of their cultural and linguistic identity. According to the power-sharing agreement, the Crimean Tatars will participate in government and be entitled to a television channel and media broadcasting in their own language. At the same time, Mustafa Dzhemilev urged President Yushchenko to help restore the original names of Crimean Tatar cities and villages, and to submit to the Ukrainian parliament the law on restoring the rights of those deported on ethnic grounds as well as a law on the status of the Crimean Tatar People. He also suggested that the Ukrainian parliament pass an amendment to the law on the elections to the parliament of the Crimean Autonomous Republic that would guarantee Crimean Tatar representation. President Yushchenko cautioned the Crimean Tatars that this would require making amendments to the 1991 Declaration on the Sovereignty of the Crimean Tatar People. Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar minorities still suffer discrimination by the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea and have called for the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar languages to be given a status equal to Russian.

The Ukrainian Constitution provides for the free development, use and protection of the Russian language and other minority languages, but the increased use of Ukrainian in schools and in the media is cause for concern as it renders the children of Russians disadvantaged when taking academic entrance examinations, since all applicants are required to take a Ukrainian language test. According to 2003 official statistics on languages used in schools, Ukrainian was the language of instruction in 16,532 schools, Russian in 2,215, Romanian in 97, Hungarian in 68, Moldovan in 9, Crimean-Tatar in 10 and Polish in 3. Ethnic Romanians have called for university-level instruction in Romanian or the establishment of a Romanian technical college. The Rusyns (Ruthenians) remain unrecognized as an official ethnic group even though they are recognized in neighbouring countries. Representatives of the Rusyn community have called for Rusyn-language schools and a Rusyn-language department at Uzhhorod University. Roma continue to face considerable societal discrimination, and opinion polls have shown that, among all ethnic groups, the level of intolerance is highest toward Roma. In particular, violence and abuse by police is of major concern with regard to Roma.

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