Ukraine and Wales

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Picture from ‘Voice of Ukraine in Wales’ FB page

Reading Laada Bilaniuk’s book on the language question in Ukraine while holidaying in Wales has led me to musing on the similarities (and contrasts) between the two nations.

Geography

Ukraine is a large country with a large population.  Wales is a small country with a small population.

Location

Ukraine is located to the west of Russia.  If foreigners have any idea about Ukraine, they think it is or ought to be part of Russia.  Wales is located to the west of England.  If foreigners have any idea about Wales, they think it is or ought to be part of England.

History

The Welsh may be considered the successors of the first historically-identifiable inhabitants of Britain who where later displaced by invading Germanic tribes from the east.  (Human beings of course inhabited Britain long before the Indo-European languages came into existence, but who exactly they were in terms of for instance language is hard to say.)  Ukraine may be considered the successor to the original Kievan state (founded to be sure by Germanic invaders) while in Russia the succession was interrupted by Mongol-Tatar invaders from the East.

Wales is essentially an agrarian country but in the 19th century large deposits of coal and iron were discovered which led to the industrialisation of the South-East of the country.  Ukraine is essentially an agrarian country but in the 19th century large deposits of coal and iron were discovered which led to the industrialisation of the South-East of the country.

Language

Since the 19th century, Welsh has traditionally been spoken in the North and West of the country and in the villages, while English has been spoken in the South and East and in the large towns.  Since the 19th century, Ukrainian has traditionally been spoken in the North and West of the country and in the villages, while Russian has been spoken in the South and East and in the large towns.

Prior to the 19th century, Welsh was abandoned by the upper classes in favour of English and so became a language of village-dwellers.  As such, there was no standard form and considerable dialect differences emerged or persisted, making it difficult to form a standard language.

Prior to the 19th century, Ukrainian was abandoned by the upper classes in favour of Polish or Russian and so became a language of village-dwellers.  As such, there was no standard form and considerable dialect differences emerged or persisted, making it difficult to form a standard language.

During the 20th century, socialist leaders in Wales downplayed the importance of Welsh while relying on English as a language of international progress.  During the 20th century, Bolshevik leaders in Russia downplayed the importance of Ukrainian while hoping that Russian would be the language of international progress, or if not that then of revolution in one country.

The position of Welsh in the school system has generally been subservient at best, though in the 21st century it has been made compulsory in  schools in Wales, although in the vast majority of cases instruction is basically in English .  It is now possible to study most arts subjects in a university somewhere in Wales.  The position of Ukrainian in the school system has generally been subservient to Russian, though in the 21st century it has been made compulsory for Ukrainian schools to work exclusively in Ukrainian .  It will probably soon be compulsory for all university education everywhere in Ukraine to be in Ukrainian.

However,  Welsh is the only member of the Celtic language group to remain in significant everyday use, which group has a large number of fascinating typological and morphological features.  As well has synchronic dialectal variation, it is also subject to diachronic/register dissimilation with a literary standard based on William Morgan’s 16th century Bible translation marked (for instance) by use of simple verbs rather than the periphrastic forms favoured by modern colloquial Welsh.  As such, and excepting only Basque, its survival and promotion is the most important task facing language policy  in Europe.  Contrariwise, Ukrainian has been considered as a debased form of Russian or at least as belonging to an East Slavic group and as such closely allied to Russian.  In any case, Russian and Ukrainian can hardly have diverged any time significantly before 1000 CE.

Capital

The Conservative government of the 1950s established the Welsh capital in Cardiff, an industrial city near the border with England, rather than the more obviously traditional candidate of Caernarfon.  The post-Revolution Bolshevik government established the Ukrainian capital in Kharkiv, an industrial city near the border with Russia, rather than in the traditional site of Kiev.

Economy

With iron and coal having lost importance, Wales suffers from a lack of modern industries to supplement its traditional agrarian economy.  With iron and coal losing importance, Ukraine suffers from a lack of modern industries to supplement its traditional agrarian economy.

Sport

On 9 October 2017, the Welsh football team lost 1-0 at home to the Republic of Ireland, thus losing their chance to reach the World Cup finals.  On 9 October 2017, the Ukrainian football team lost 2-0 at home to the Republic of Ireland, thus losing their chance to reach the World Cup finals.

 

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2 Responses to “Ukraine and Wales”

  1. Mark Says:

    Really interesting. Thanks. I mainly came here to thank you for this amazng website which I use often as a source of information, so thank you.

    (btw we used to holiday in North Wales and I would call Caernarfon remote – it’s an amazing place but it’s in the far north west. As a focus for Welsh nationalism and far from London it was never going to be the capital of Wales within the UK).

  2. notesofanidealist Says:

    Thanks for your comment–I’ve changed Caernarfon from ‘central’ to ‘traditional’–after all the last two Princes of Wales were invested there…

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