Moscow upset by new talk in Kyiv about Latinization of Ukrainian

Paul A Goble

Edited by: A. N.

The Institute of Linguistics of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences has opened a new discussion about the possibility of shifting from the Cyrillic to the Latin script for Ukrainian, an idea various Ukrainian nationalists have promoted in the past but that is abhorrent to Moscow and many Russians.

The Ukrainian Institute has used as the occasion for this new discussion the 130th anniversary of the birth of Serhii Pylypenko who promoted Latinization not just of Ukrainian but of Russian as well in the 1920s ( and

Moscow worried Russian ‘ceasing to be language of majority’ in Ukraine, Shchetkina says

Russian officials are angry; but one Russian writer, Anna Shershnyeva points out that Pylypenko is a more complicated figure than the Ukrainians may recognize and that, if one knows something about him, he may not be the person Kyiv should want to hang its hat on.

Pylypenko, she writes, was a convinced communist and viewed “a single (Latin) alphabet as a means of uniting various peoples who in the future could build communism. Indeed, he treated differences in alphabets as a manifestation of nationalism and an obstacle on the path to ‘participation in international cultures.”

Would shift to Latin script liberate Ukrainian or destroy it?

Although he joined the Bolshevik party in 1919, Pylypenko became the leader of linguistics in Ukraine during the 1920s. “Possibly” for that reason, he was expelled from the party in 1933, arrested and shot, a history Shershnyeva says Ukrainians considering his ideas should remember. But the Russian critic may have missed the point. Instead of undercutting the Ukrainian drive toward Latinization, referring to Pylypenko reinforces that effort, reminding Ukrainians just how much a challenge Moscow views Latinization and thus elevating its political importance in the minds of many Ukrainians who have not focused on this issue up to now.

(c) EuromaidanPress


  1. If switching to the Latin will get the Kremlin whining like crazy, it must be a good idea. Cyrillic is very difficult to understand and Latinization of the Ukrainian language will make it easier for foreigners.

  2. This has been proposed off and on for some years, although it will be sad to change in a way, the change will signal a path even further toward the civilised West, but better still a big ‘Fuck you’ to the katsup empire.

  3. When Euromaidan still allowed comments, I posted my approval of such a move. If Ukraine wants to get out of the Russian space permanently, then switching to a variation of the Latin alphabet is needed.

  4. I partially agree with my fellow commentators above.
    The other part of me wants Ukraine to keep the current alphabet system in place. Otherwise, I’ve learned it for nothing.😒
    Jokes aside, this measure would cost the country umpteen millions and cause a lot of work and trouble. Can Ukraine afford it and is it willing to go through this tremendous effort? What good would it do? Angering mafia land is always a good thing, but like this?

    • Everyone points out great arguments here, I love it.
      My 2 cents is it would have a net gain because it had a good effect in Poland and Czechia. It makes language more unified and modern, helps with overall communication which is good for business and social life and can also help the poor and the children when using a single keyboard which has become a part of life now. Then add tourism, military cooperation and pissing off the Moskali and forcing the KGB to learn two systems…sign me up.

    • This is something to be discussed but Ukraine has far more important things to focus on first.

  5. It’s a bad idea in my view. Ukraine already used the cyrillic alphabet long before Russia even existed. It is part of Ukraine’s cultural heritage. Also other than Czechia and Poland, ukrainians are predominantly orthodox. Not to mention teaching 44 million people to use a different alphabet and spelling. I think shifting nationwide from russian to ukrainian is way enough to underline Ukraine’s independence. Also the costs and confusion of shifting to latin will be huge. Better teach people (US) English in schools and have english translations on traffic signs and wherever needed.

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