MINELRES: BBC: Ukraine drive to keep Russian off buses
Fri Jun 25 16:52:02 2004
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Ukraine drive to keep Russian off buses
By Helen Fawkes
Weaving his bus through the busy streets of Lviv in Western Ukraine,
Andriy likes to listen to Russian pop music.
But his music choice could soon see him banned from the roads.
Bus drivers like Andriy face having their licences taken away for
playing music by Russian bands while they work.
Music is not allowed on public transport in Lviv, but the drivers of
some buses and mini-buses, known as "marshrutki", are flouting the law
by playing popular Russian pop songs.
Local politicians have now drafted a language law which would take away
the licences of these drivers.
Vasyl Shelook, from Lviv City Council, says they want to "de-Russify"
"Lviv is the most Ukrainian city in the country and if we don't preserve
our Ukrainian language we will lose our identity so we must force people
somehow to speak our native language," he said.
Not everyone is happy with the clampdown. Bus drivers are angry at the
"The plans are stupid. They can't tell us what we can listen to," said
Andriy. "Everyone really likes music by Russian groups anyway."
When you catch a bus, it's something you expect to hear, says passenger
Eugenia Mozhova, 23.
"I'm not bothered by it at all. I consider myself to be Ukrainian, I was
born and brought up in Lviv but I'm not offended by Russian music," she
Following independence from the Soviet Union, when only Russian was
spoken, the issue of language in Ukraine has become a sensitive subject.
It's been a struggle to re-establish Ukrainian.
While Ukrainian is the official language, Russian is widely used in the
east of the country.
It's estimated that Russian is the first language of one in five people
In April, an attempt to ban Russian language national television and
radio programmes failed after pressure from broadcasters in Ukraine and
politicians in Moscow.
In Lviv, it may not only be buses that are affected by the ban on
The new language law, which if approved would come into force next year,
could be extended to cover bars and restaurants in the city.
Politicians are considering whether places of entertainment should also
be stopped from playing Russian pop songs outside their premises.
Lviv City Council says it determined to protect Ukraine's heritage.
"Our Ukrainian culture is under threat," said Mr Shelook. "Russian is
everywhere in Ukraine, it's on TV, on the internet. We want to keep it
out of public life."