The independent Ukraine boasts a rather short history. The relations with minorities have never been a feather in the hat of Kiev authorities. The real state of things was largely muted to make it a smouldering problem. The «national revolution» has exacerbated the situation to the boiling point, especially talking about Hungarians and Romanians.
Romanians are the second largest group in Bucovina (historically the region has been Russian, now the northern part of it belongs to Ukraine). 97% Romanians live in Chernovitsy (115 thousand) and Transcarpathia (32 thousand). According to CEMES (Centre for European Migration and Ethnic Studies), the main problems faced by the Romanian community are social development and their low representative proportion in higher education and in professional work. Numerous reports from Romanian-based sources raise concerns for the situation of the Romanian minority in Ukraine and specifically criticize the availability of educational opportunities in the Romanian language. The 2012 law «On the principles of the state language policy» was abolished as a result of the 2014 coup pouring even more fuel on the discontent among Ukrainian Romanians. Kiev refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing when reproached for its neglect of Romanian culture. This attitude makes the situation worse. In June 2014 the Bessarabia Romanians held a convention in Odessa with assistance of Romanian Cultural Institute (Romania). There were many voices raised calling for opening new Romanian cultural centers (there are too few of them and quite often the staff has no command of the language). The head of Odessa regional national-cultural association Bessarabia said that the main problem for the Romanian community in the Odessa region is the availability of schools teaching in Romanian language and their funding.
In Kiev they keep on saying that minorities enjoy better legal protection than in Romania. It’s not true like many other things the Ukrainian propaganda says. Lipovans are Russian old believers who fled Russia in the late 17th early 18thcenturies in order to escape the persecution of their faith. The community holds symposiums devoted to its history and religion. It prints Zori newspaper in Bucharest and Kitej-Grad journal in Iași. Many old believers have Romanian decorations (writers Nikita Danilov and Leonte Ivanov, scholar Mihai Nistor and many others). The Romanian law guarantees the right of all ethnic minorities to have their own organizations, and preserve traditions and language. Their activities are supported by government. In 2003 a special seminar course on old Orthodox faith was held for the children of Russian old believers in the Saint Basil the Great seminary located in Iași.
In Ukraine the number of schools teaching in Romanian language has dwindled from 18 down to 5 during the 23 years of the country’s independence. It was accompanied by the closure of many Russian schools.
It’s no better with the Hungarian minority. Just recently Kiev has changed the borders of single member constituencies in the areas densely populated by Hungarians living in Transcarpathia. Now the Hungarian votes are spread around the constituencies and the minority cannot elect its representatives to Verkhovna Rada (parliament). Hungarian activists referred to the national law №709 – VII «On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine concerning improvement of legislation on the elections» of November 21 and Article 18 (Election Districts) of Chapter III (Territorial Organization of Election of Members of Parliament) of the Law on Election of People’s Deputies which envisioned that the delimitation of single-mandate districts was to take into consideration the compact minority settlement, something Kiev ignores. The Hungarian Transnistria human rights foundation has lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights which calls on the Ukrainian government to comply with its own laws.
No matter all the appeals, the plight of Hungarians governed by the «Ukrainian national state» keeps on becoming worse. In March 2013 Ukrainian radicals in Transnistria attacked Hungarian tourists, some accompanied by children. Then Ukrainian media reported that Pravy Sector (extremist far-right movement) decided to tackle the «Hungarian issue». A memorial at Verecke Pass devoted to Hungarian tribes that crossed the Carpathian Mountains to Danube was desecrated (an inscription appeared saying «Death to Hungarians»!). Hooligans beat up the participants of Beregovo (Transnistria) Hungarian community council. Hungarians were really excited over what happened. Karoy Bala, a Hungarian poet who lives in Transnistria, is well known among national intelligencia. He wrote an article called the Land of Boors devoted to the attitude of Ukrainian government towards his compatriots.
Seals, note-papers and signs in two languages are not enough for the Hungarian minority anymore. These are just cosmetic measures that have nothing to do with preserving national culture in the places populated by Hungarians for thousands of years. Irredentist sentiments are on the rise among almost 200 thousand Hungarians living in Ukraine.