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Ukraine/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.4 Cultural diversity and inclusion policies

Ukraine is a multinational state, with a long established tradition of peaceful multiethnic coexistence. According to data of the State Committee of Nationalities and Religions (now, the special department of the Ministry of Culture, see chapter 3.1), representatives of more than 134 nationalities are residing in Ukraine, according to 2013 data. Unfortunately, in February 2014, after violent confrontation at the central square in Kyiv (Maidan Nezalezhnosti – Independence Square) the tension between two main groups of the Ukrainian population (Ukrainians and Russians) worsened as a result of political declarations from both sides' political camps. It worsened even more after the annex of Crimea and military conflict in the eastern regions of Ukraine supported by Russia.

In June 2014, the population of Ukraine, according to the State Committee of Statistics, was 42.8 million persons. Cultural minorities constitute about 9.54 million or 22.2% of the population. The main minority groups in Ukraine are: Russians, Byelorussians, Moldavians, Crimean Tartars, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Romanians, Poles, Jews, Armenians, Tartars, Roma and others.

The existing legislation defines all Ukrainian citizens ("Ukrainian people") as belonging to two major categories: either the ethnic Ukrainian majority ("Ukrainian nation") or one of the "national minorities", without distinguishing indigenous nations (for example, Crimean Tatars), autochthonous groups or "classical" national minorities (Russians, Jews, Romanians, Hungarians, Roma, Greeks etc.), and Diaspora groups, or ethnic minorities that have arrived in the Ukraine following recent migration processes. However, the draft Law on Concept of the Public Ethno-National Policy of Ukraine (September 2010) contains definitions of "indigenous people", "national minority", "national identity" and others, which may be assumed as the basis of future diversity policy.

There are several sub-ethnic groups in Ukraine, which, historically, are closely linked with the Ukrainian nation. Due to specific geographical and regional conditions, however, and, mainly, due to influences of various states and empires under whose jurisdiction they had developed over considerable periods of time, they now have different traditions, customs, dialects, etc. These include Hutsuls, Boyky, Lemky - from the Carpathian region, Polischuky - from the Polissia region, and Carpathian Ruthenians. The latter, on behalf of their leaders and some representatives of the Ruthenians diaspora in the USA, Canada, Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic, try to obtain recognition of Ruthenians as a separate nation or, at least, a national (autochthonous) minority.

Shortly after independence in August 1991, the Verkhovna Rada of the Ukraine condemned the offences of the Soviet regime towards national minorities and declared the recognition of international norms of law in this sphere in a document entitled Appeal to Ukrainian Citizens of All Nationalities.

In November 1991, the Parliament of the Ukraine adopted the Declaration of Rights of Nationalities in the Ukraine, which provided rights to minorities to pursue their respective language and culture. In the same year, national minorities also took part in a referendum on the independence of the Ukrainian state.

The Constitution of the Ukraine declares in Article 11 that "the state provides support for the development of ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious originality of all indigenous nations and national minorities of the Ukraine".

Rights of national minorities are also represented in:

  • Fundamentals of the Legislation on Culture (1992);
  • Law on Publishing (1997);
  • Law on Television and Radio Broadcasting (1993);
  • Law on State Support to Mass Media and Social Protection of Journalists (1997);
  • Law on Local Self-Governance in Ukraine (1997);
  • Law on Citizens Appeal (1996 / 2005); and
  • Law on Associations of Citizens (1992 / 2006).

In June 2014, the Cabinet of Ministers appointed by Order (#164) an Ombudsman on Ethno-National Policy. This office is empowered to analyse the situation in the sphere and submit proposals for its improvement. The Ombudsman can involve experts and institutions for realising necessary tasks. The first Ombudsman on nationality issues is Mr. Hennadiy Druzenko.

In 2013, the government approved the draft Law on the Concept of the State Ethno-National Policy of Ukraine submitted by Mustafa Dzhemilev, well-known Crimean-Tartar politician from Crimea. The bill, which should be approved now by the Parliament, outlines, among others, the following problems and challenges:

  • the lack of a comprehensive and clear policy for support of Ukrainian language and culture in different regions of the country;
  • high-speed assimilation of different nationalities into the Russian language and culture patterns;
  • different interests and needs of various ethnic groups in different regions;
  • increase in cross-border and internal migration in Ukraine;
  • existence under threat of disappearing nations, like Karaites, Krymchaks;
  • insufficient involvement of aboriginal nations and national minorities, 9 apart from Russians) in decision-making;
  • the lack of professional grounding for civil servants in issues related to ethno-national policy.

The draft law defines, as one of the basic principles in realising efficient ethno-national policy, the preservation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine considering regional differences in the decentralisation process.

In 2010, 1 458 associations or organisations of national minorities operated in the Ukraine (compared to 1 158 in 2007). They take part in umbrella organisations such as the Council of National Societies of Ukraine, the Association of National Cultural Unions of Ukraine, and the Congress of National Communities of Ukraine. 45 of these organisations have national status.

The Congress of National Communities of Ukraine (CNCU) is a non-profit non-governmental organisation established in 2001. There are 17 national communities participating at the CNCU programmes of: Monitoring of Law Violations Against National Minorities, Publishing Projects, Law Experts' Group, National Mass Media Journalists, Education at the National Communities in Ukraine, Children's Camp "Sources of Tolerance", Monitoring of Election Campaigns in the Context of the Inter-ethnic Relations, Researching of Ethnic Processes of Ukrainian Society, and Restitution Problems for the Communities. These and other CNCU programmes are aimed at uniting efforts of the national communities in Ukraine in integrating into Ukrainian society and its transformation into a democratic and civil society, active advocacy for tolerance values, equality, mutual respect of customs and values of each member the polyethnic Ukrainian people.

The Annual Children's Summer School "Sources of Tolerance" was created in 2002 for 180 young representatives of the 17 national communities of Ukraine (Poles, Jews, Lithuanians, Hungarians, Germans, Romanians, Moldovans, Volga Tatars, Armenians, Ukrainians, Crimeans, Tatars, Russians, Greeks, Byelorussians, Bulgarians, Azerbaijanians). The school's mission is to promote the values of civil society, to overcome prejudice and xenophobia, to develop an active life attitude, to form national self-awareness, and to create a peer-leaders network.

From 13 to 16 December 2014 in Kyiv the first international training in creating videos "Memory walk" was conducted. Young and active German and Ukrainian participants researched historical memory and tried to search for answers to important questions. Well known Kyiv memorials, associated with human rights violations and discrimination, were used in the project.

The region of Transcarpathia is home to 60 000 persons of Roma ethnicity, who constitute about 75% of all Roma living in the Ukraine. Many Ukrainians associate this area with "tsyhany" - gypsies. Cities of Uzhgorod and Muhachevo have the largest number of Roma living in urban areas in Transcarpathia. They have been settled here for hundreds of years. The district "Radvanka", where the office of Romani Cherkhenj is located, is the biggest Roma settlement in the city of Uzhgorod with 2 500 Roma and 2 000 non-Roma living there. Romani Cherkhenj was founded to organise cultural and sports activities for Roma youth in Uzhrogord and the surrounding region. It is related to larger Roma organisations in the city, especially Romani Yag, one of the largest cultural and human rights organisations for Roma in the region. Romani Yag was one of the first organisations to have foreign volunteers come and work with it. Romani Cherkhenj and Romani Yag are partners in the Roma-Gadje Dialogue through Service Initiatives (

By 2013, the religious network in Ukraine consisted of 55 religions.

The breakdown by religions shows the predominance of Christianity (including Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches) in Ukraine, which embraces 94% of all religions. The Ukrainian Orthodox church consists of 12 895 organisations constituting 34.8% of religious institutions in Ukraine.

Muslim organisations constitute 3.3% of the whole number of religious centres, more than one third of non-Christian institutions. 309 Judaist organisations constitute 17.1% of the national minorities' religious network or 0.8% of religious organisations. Among others, are the Lutheran church (42 centres), Armenian church (28 communities), as well as separate ethno-confessional communities of Czechs, Swedes, Karaites, Koreans, and Goths.

The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organisations established in 1996, today plays a pivotal role in the inter-confessional dialogues uniting above 95% of the religious network. It consists of representatives of Christian, Judaic and Islamic churches and organisations.

The Ministry of Culture resumed in 2014 the work on the draft Law on the Concept of State-Confessional Relations in Ukraine taking into account the new reality and new challenges. 

Recent Example:

Inter-ethnic teenager summer school "Sources of Tolerance"

The idea was to develop a programme for intercultural tolerance education for teenagers, rooted in the tradition of solidarity of ethnic dissident movement in the USSR in 1970-1980. Former dissident, Josef Zissels, acts now as the executive vice-president of the Congress of National Minorities of Ukraine. In 2002, Mr. Zissels invited the best tutors from ethnic minorities of Ukraine and the concept of the school was developed.

The main principle of the school is personal contact, attempting to live through a day in the eyes of another. Personal acquaintance, personalisation, helps to destroy biased opinions, lower the level of indifference, aggressiveness and fear of another.

From 13 to 16 December 2014 in Kyiv the first international training on creating videos "Memory walk" was conducted. Young and active German and Ukrainian participants research historical memory and tried to search for answers to important questions. Well known Kyiv memorials, associated with human rights violations and discrimination, were used in the project.

During the 4-day training "Memory walk", 9 German and 7 Ukrainian participants explored the theme of historical memory and its role in the future of society, trying to evaluate the impact of such historical events as Holodomor, Babi Yar and Maidan. Participants were separated into three groups, shooting videos and interviewing passers-by near the monument to Anatoly Kuznetsov (a boy reading the order of the Nazis on the wall), a monument to the victims of the Holodomor of 1932-1933 and on the street of "Heroes of the Heaven hundred" (Maidan events).

Source: Website of Congress of ethnic Communities of Ukraine

Chapter published: 05-06-2015

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