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The Latin and Cyrillic Alphabets in Ukrainian National Discourse and in the Language Policy of Empires Alexei Miller and Oksana Ostapchuk Language is one of the most important elements in the symbolism of ethnicity. The transformation of ethnic consciousness into national consciousness is accompanied by a rethinking and ideologization of the relation between language and ethnos.1 The struggle for the consolidation2 and emancipation of the Ukrainian language offers particularly rich material for research in this field. In the nineteenth century, we see two “stages” on which intensive arguments and political battles developed concerning that question—Galicia , which was subject to the Habsburgs, and the combined Dnipro Ukraine, Little Russia and Sloboda Ukraine, which were subject to the Romanovs. These arguments and battles went on among elites that identified themselves as Ruthenian, Little Russian, and/or Ukrainian, belonged to various confessions, and sprang from a variety of social groups. But those battles also involved “external,” “non-national” actors who held dominant or ruling status in relation to local associations on the peripheries of empires, that is, traditional Polish noble elites and imperial authorities, as well as ecclesiastical centers, most notably the Vatican. An adequate examination of these subjects cannot therefore be confined to the limits of a narrowly defined national narrative concentrating mainly on “national” actors. It should particularly be stressed that developments on these two stages on both sides of the imperial border were closely related. In other words, we are dealing with the very pronounced specifics of a contested borderland, entailing the variety of identity projects and loyalty strategies characteristic of such situations and shaped by the interaction— involving both conflict and cooperation—of local and imperial actors. In any period and any situation, whether in Galicia or in “Russian” Ukraine, the number of those actors was greater than two, and, at least Ukrajna IV:Ideologies minta 10/17/08 4:08 PM Page 169 from the mid-nineteenth century, actors from both empires were usually involved.3 The alphabet and, above all, the question of choosing between Latin and Cyrillic scripts was one of the important elements of that battle, along with questions of orthography, the choice of sources for borrowings , and the status of the language and its use (or prohibition) in a variety of spheres.4 The alphabet (and sometimes the script, as in the case of Cyrillic and hrazhdanka in Galicia) constitutes a highly ambiguous symbol imbued with significant ethnocultural and ethnoreligious content . It has often played and continues to play a key role in identity formation , especially in ethnocultural borderlands. In the history of the Ukrainian literary language, the problem of the alphabet has never been considered purely and simply a technical matter of convenience and adequacy.5 (A recent example is the broad public discussion in conjunction with plans for the reform of Ukrainian orthography in the years 2000–2002.) The subject of this article, then, is the struggle over the alphabet waged between various actors in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The borderland situation of the Ukrainian lands at the junction of two civilizational and cultural/linguistic areas—Slavia Latina and Slavia Orthodoxa—determined the fundamentally “open” character of Ukrainian culture as a whole, which took shape in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries because of overlapping linguistic boundaries and sociocultural divisions. One of the manifestations of that openness was the coexistence—and competition—of a variety of religious and cultural discourses, languages and alphabets in the same cultural space.6 On the one hand, the boundaries of the cultural and communicative competence of languages in the old Ukrainian bookish tradition were mobile: often one comes across fragments in one and the same text written in various languages (aside from texts in which the choice of language itself had functional and stylistic significance, as in theatrical interludes and polemical literature). On the other hand, in sixteenth-century publications there is a fairly close connection between language and graphic code. The most important function of the alphabet in that period was to serve as a boundary marker: a change of language necessarily presupposed a change of alphabet and, naturally, a change in level and type of discourse. In the Uniate tradition, the interpenetration of graphic systems became possible in the seventeenth century: not infrequently , the Latin alphabet was used to record not only “Ruthenian” texts but also Old Church Slavonic ones.7 Like multilingualism in gen170 Alexei Miller and Oksana Ostapchuk Ukrajna IV:Ideologies minta 10/17/08 4:08 PM Page...


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