Is Catalonia Using Schools as Political Weapon? Professor Smirnova Comments

Friday, November 03, 2017
Photo of Anastasia Smirnova

THE ATLANTIC -- One of the first bills passed by the newly formed Ukrainian parliament after popular demonstrations ousted the pro-Russian president from Kiev in 2014 was to retract the Russian language’s official status — a dangerous move that “mixed political processes with ethnic, linguistic identity,” according to the San Francisco State University linguist Anastasia Smirnova, who’s from Ukraine and co-authored the study on language as a tool for solidarity and division. (The vast majority of the population in Eastern Ukraine identifies Russian as their language of choice.)

“What started as a pro-democracy movement in Ukraine could end up as an ethnic conflict,” she said. “While there seems to be a psychological predisposition on the part of various social groups to focus on language when defining their group identities, political movements easily take advantage of such psychological predispositions and exacerbate them in directions that are not necessarily aligned with natural language divides.”