Archive for August, 2015

Ukrainian and Russian: Two Separate Languages and Peoples

Nations are dying not from a heart attack. First their language is taken away.
Lina Kostenko
Ukrainian poetess

There are people who say that Ukrainian is a dialect of Russian, or that the two languages are very similar. When traveling in Poland or Slovakia, Ukrainian speakers have no problem understanding the locals and they in turn tend to understand spoken Ukrainian. On the other hand, in Russia if you speak Ukrainian, you will not be understood. So the question is: are the two languages really similar?

Ukrainian is the national language of Ukraine. It belongs to the Eastern Slavic languages, and is therefore part of the Indo-European group of languages. It includes 46 million speakers, which makes it the second (after Russian) most widely spoken Slavic language.

Kostyantyn Tyshchenko, a professor of linguistics at Kyiv Taras Shevchenko National University, made a list of 82 specific features of Ukrainian grammar and phonetics. According to this list, Ukrainian has more features in common with Belarussian (29), Czech and Slovak (23), Polish (22), Croatian and Bulgarian (21) and Slovenian (20), than it has with Russian (11).

Genealogy of the Ukrainian People

The Ukrainian people as a nation appeared at the time of Kyivan Rus, the major Slavic state on the grounds of modern Ukraine, in the 9th-13th centuries. However, the consolidation of the Ukrainian nation as well as the establishment of the Ukrainian language was blocked due to the fact that after the Mongol attack in the 13th century, Kyivan Rus was partitioned and its land was annexed by the Duchy of Lithuania and Poland.

Many historic documents prove that the Ukrainian language, and Ukrainian state, appeared earlier than the Russian ones. Russian comes from the Old Slavonic language, which was introduced by Kyivan colonizers to Muscovites, who were essentially Finno-Ugric. Their language then mixed with Mongolian, reflecting Muscovy’s centuries-long Mongol occupation, and hence has very few similarities with other Eastern Slavic languages.

The phenomenon of “a Russian-speaking Ukrainian”

During the 400 years of occupation of Ukrainian lands by the Russian Empire, and then the Soviet Union, the use of Ukrainian was banned 134 times by the Russian government. It also banned the Ukrainian church, printing of Ukrainian books, traditional songs, Ukrainian-language schools, theaters and libraries. It confiscated religious books and declared Ukrainian cultural activities to be harmful.

In the 20th century, Ukrainians striving for their own identity and independent state were executed, deported to Siberia, tortured and jailed. The most massive murder of Ukrainians took place during the 1932-33 Great Famine genocide (known as the Holodomor in Ukrainian), during which millions of deaths were recorded.

After the Holodomor, the government moved Russians – and therefore Russian speakers – into the depopulated Eastern Ukrainian areas. The Russian government was not satisfied with repressing and banning Ukrainian language and culture. It implemented the policy of russifying the Ukrainian language, in order to make it similar to Russian. It is why even today there are many people in Ukraine who consider Russian to be their native language.

By Viktoria Vovkanets

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Ihor Sikorsky, Father of Modern Helicopters

“The helicopter approaches closer than any other vehicle to fulfillment of mankind’s ancient dreams of the flying horse and the magic carpet.”

Ihor Sikorsky

From the private collection of the Sikorsky family

Ihor Sikorsky, Ukrainian-born American aviation pioneer and father of the modern helicopter, was born in Kyiv in 1889. His mother was a doctor and his father a psychology professor at Kyiv University. In 1933 Ihor wrote to Vasyl Halych, a Ukrainian-born American historian, “My family who comes from a village in Kyiv region, my grandfather and great grandfather were priests. All of my family members were Ukrainians.”

Homeschooled by his mother until age 9, he acquired a love for science through the flying machines in Leonardo da Vinci’s journals and Jules Verne’s books. By age 12, the budding engineer had already built a rubber band powered helicopter.

While studying at the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, he designed two helicopters, among the first such designs in the world, as well as a series of biplanes. On December 29, 1911 he established the world speed record (111 km/hr) for a loaded plane (three passengers), the C-6. From 1912 to 1917 he worked as chief designer at a Russian-Baltic aviation company, where he designed and built the first airplanes with multiple engines. In 1918 he emigrated to France, and in 1919 to the United States, where he founded a number of aviation companies and headed several design teams, which constructed various airplanes and hydroplanes. In 1939 he perfected the design of the first successful helicopter in the world. His Sikorsky Helicopter Co developed military and civilian helicopters, and was considered the world leader in its field. In 1941, the company got its first contract from the U.S. Army Air Corps for an observation helicopter that became known for life-saving missions in military and civil emergencies.

Sikorsky’s active professional life overlapped virtually the entire span of practical flight by man, from the Wright brothers’ inventions to space exploration. Few in aviation can claim such a personal contribution with such a wide range of innovative ideas. He complained that, of all his past predictions, those that he lived to regret were on the “too conservative” side.

Sikorsky retired as an engineering manager for his company in 1957 but remained active as a consultant until his death. Sikorsky received many honorary doctorates in science and engineering, honorary fellowships in leading scientific and technical societies in the United States and Europe, and the highest medals and awards in aviation.

Ihor Sikorsky died at his home in Easton, Connecticut, on October 26, 1972. Some of his last words were about Ukraine and his Ukrainian heritage. On his deathbed he proclaimed, “I am coming back to my native holy Kyiv where my distinguished ancestors are resting in peace. I am coming back to rejoin with them in spirit.”

The company he founded continues today as the largest helicopter maker in the world.

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