Law of Ukraine

“On Principles of the State Language Policy”

Date of entry into force:
August 10, 2012

Article 1 of the Law provides definitions of the terms used in it. For example, the official language is the language established by the legislation as mandatory for use in the bodies of state administration and management, state-owned institutions, organizations and enterprises, state educational, scientific and cultural institutions, in the spheres of communication and informational technologies, etc.

The objective of the state language policy in Ukraine is to regulate social relations in the sphere of all-round development and use of the Ukrainian language as the official language, as well as regional languages, minority languages and other languages used by the population in the course of state, economic, political and social life, interpersonal and international communication; to protect the constitutional rights of the citizens in this sphere; to nurture respectful attitude towards the national dignity, language and culture of an individual; and to foster the unity of the Ukrainian society (Article 2 of the Law).

According to Article 3 of the Law, every individual is free to choose a language that they consider to be their native, to choose the language of communication, to identify themselves as bilingual or multilingual, and to change their language preferences. Every individual, regardless of their ethnicity, national and cultural self-identification, place of residence or religious beliefs, has the right to freely use any language in their social and private life, and to study and support any language.

The state language policy of Ukraine is based on recognizing and ensuring all-round development of the Ukrainian language as the official language; guaranteeing free development of regional languages, minority languages and other languages; as well as each individual’s right of language self-identification and language preferences (Article 5 of the Law). While implementing the state language policy, Ukraine shall observe the following goals and principles:
  • recognizing all languages traditionally used in the state or any part of it as national heritage; zero tolerance for privileged or discriminative treatment on grounds of language;
  • ensuring all-round development and functioning of Ukrainian as the official language, in all spheres of social life and throughout the entire territory of the state, while providing a possibility for parallel use of regional or minority languages, in those areas and in those cases when it is justified;
  • facilitating the spoken and written use of regional or minority languages in education and mass media, and providing a possibility for their use in the work of the bodies of state power and local self-government, judicial, economic and social activity, in the scope of cultural events, and in other spheres of social life, within the areas where such languages are used and with regard to the state of each language;
  • supporting and developing cultural relations between different language groups;
  • providing conditions for learning Ukrainian as the official language, as well as regional languages, minority and other languages, and for teaching in these languages, with regard to the state of each language at appropriate education levels in state and municipal educational institutions;
  • facilitating research in the sphere of language policy;
  • developing international exchange in the issues covered by the Law regarding languages used in two or more states;
  • respecting the diffusion areas of regional or minority languages in order to ensure that the existing or new administrative territorial structure does not impair their development;
  • applying the principle of plurilingualism, under which each member of the society has a fluent grasp of several languages, as opposed to the situation where separate language groups only have the grasp of their own languages.

The official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian. As the official language, Ukrainian is mandatory for use throughout the entire territory of Ukraine by the bodies of legislative, executive and judicial power as they exercise their authority, in international agreements, and in the educational process, according to the scope and procedure determined by the Law. The state facilitates the use of the official language in the mass media, science, culture and other spheres of social life (Article 6 of the Law).

Article 7 of the Law envisages that the principles of language policy are applied to all regional or minority languages used within the territory of Ukraine. Under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the regional and minority languages of Ukraine, to which the measures aimed at the use of regional or minority languages determined by this Law shall be applied are as follows: Russian, Belorussian, Bulgarian, Gaugaz, Yiddish, Crimean Tatar, Moldavian, German, Modern Greek, Polish, Romani, Romanian, Slovakian, Hungarian, Rusyn, Karaim, and Krymchak. Measures aimed at the use of regional or minority languages envisaged by the Law shall be applied to each of the above language provided that the number of the regional language carriers living in the area where the language is spread is 10 or more percent of the population of that area. The right to raise the issue of applying the measures aimed at the use of regional or minority languages is also held by the residents of the area where the language is spread. In case the signatures of more than 10 percent of people living in that specific area are collected, the local council shall make an appropriate decision within 30 days after receiving the signature sheets. The headcount of the regional language group within a certain area is determined based on the data of the Ukrainian National Language Composition Census in terms of administrative territorial units (the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, regions, districts, cities, townships, villages). The regional or minority language(s) that satisfy the above conditions shall be used in the appropriate area of Ukraine in the work of state power bodies, power bodies of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and bodies of local self-government, used and taught in state and municipal institutions, and used in other spheres of social life according to the scope and procedure determined by the Law.

Public degradation or disrespect towards the official language or regional or minority languages, intentional distortion of such languages in official documents and texts that results in their impaired or limited usability, violation of human rights, and incitement of language-based hatred shall entail liability established by Article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. Every individual has the right to protect their language rights and freedoms from violation and illegal infringement by any means not prohibited by law (Article 8 of the Law).

Chapter II of the Law is dedicated to the language of the bodies of state power and local self-government, judicial bodies, and economic and social authorities.

Sessions of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, as well its committees and commissions, are held in the official language. The speaker can use a different language. The executive staff of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine shall provide for translation of the speaker’s report into the official language, if necessary (Article 9 of the Law).

According to Article 10 of the Law, the acts of the supreme bodies of state power are passed in the official language and officially published in the official language, Russian, and other regional or minority languages.

Article 11 of the Law envisages that the main working, clerical and document language of the bodies of state power and local self-government is the official language. Within an area where a regional language is spread, this regional language can be used in the work, clerical work and documents of the local bodies of state power and local self-government. This regional language can be used in the correspondence of these bodies with the state power bodies of a higher level. The state guarantees that visitors to bodies of state power bodies and local self-government will be provided services in the official language, and in areas where a regional language is spread, also in the appropriate regional language. The need to provide for this guarantee must be considered in the hiring process. Civil servants and officials must have a grasp of the official language and speak it to the visitors, and in areas where a regional language is spread, to know and speak the regional language. Individuals who use a regional language are ensured the right to make spoken or written addresses in the respective regional language and receive responses in it.

Documents related to the elections of the President of Ukraine, people’s deputies of Ukraine, deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, deputies and officials of local self-government, as well as documents related to national and local referendums are drawn up in the official language. Within an area where a regional language is spread, documents related to the elections of the deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, deputies and officials of local self-government, and documents related to local referendums, are also drawn up in the respective regional language, by decision of the local council. Voting bulletins are printed in the official language. Within an area where a regional language is spread, voting bulletins for elections of the deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, deputies and officials of local self-government, can also be printed in the respective regional language, by decision of the territorial election commission (Article 12 of the Law).

According to Article 13 of the Law, a passport or an equivalent document of a citizen of Ukraine, and the information about its holder, are drawn up in the official language and additionally, by choice of the holder, in one of the regional or minority languages of Ukraine. The effect of this provision also applies to other official identity documents or identity information of a citizen of Ukraine, as well as identification documents of a foreigner or a stateless person, by written request of the document holder. A document confirming education received in an educational institution teaching in a regional language shall be drawn up in two languages – the official language and the respective regional language, by request of the document holder.

Article 14 of the Law envisages that judicial proceedings in civil, economic, administrative and criminal cases in Ukraine are held in the official language. Within an area where a regional language is spread, the courts can hold proceedings in the respective regional language, by consent of the parties. A professional judge must have a grasp of the official language. Within a territory where a regional language is spread, the state guarantees the possibility to hold court proceedings in the respective regional language. The need to provide for this guarantee must be considered in the hiring process.

The working and document language in the issues of pretrial investigation, inquiry and prosecutor’s supervision in Ukraine is the official language. Regional or minority languages of Ukraine, or other languages, can be used alongside the official language during pretrial investigation, inquiry and prosecutor’s supervision. Every individual has the right to be immediately notified of the motives behind their arrest or detainment, and of the nature and reasons of accusations presented against them, in a language they understand, and the right to defend themselves in such language; if necessary, an interpreter shall be provided free of charge (Article 15 of the Law).

Article 17 of the Law establishes that an attorney shall provide legal aid to natural persons and legal entities in the official language, or another language that the customer considers acceptable.

According to Article 18 of the Law, the main language used in the economic and social activity of state-owned enterprises, institutions and organizations is the official language; Russian and other regional or minority languages shall also be used freely. The official language, regional or minority languages, as well as other languages, shall be used freely in the economic and social activity of associations of citizens, private enterprises, institutions and organizations, private entrepreneurs, and natural persons. The internal regulations of enterprises, institutions and organizations of any form of ownership shall not include any provisions that forbid or limit the employees from communicating in the official language, the Russian language, or other regional or minority languages. Enterprises can also use other languages in their work.

Articles 20-23 of the Law determine the language of education, science, informational technologies and culture. Article 22 of the Law envisages that the main languages of informational technologies in Ukraine are Ukrainian, Russian and English. Computer systems and software used by the bodies of state power and local self-government, state-owned enterprises, institutions and organizations must allow for processing texts in the Ukrainian, Russian and English languages. Other languages can also be used freely in state computer systems and software.

The use of language in the sphere of information and communication is regulated by Articles 24-26 of the Law. The state guarantees freedom of direct reception of radio and television broadcasts from adjacent countries that are aired in the official language, regional or minority languages of Ukraine, or languages similar to them; the state does not obstruct rebroadcasting of radio and television broadcasts aired in such languages, and guarantees the right of printed media to express views and freely disseminate information in such languages. Exercising these freedoms may be subject to limitations established by law (Article 24 of the Law).

According to Article 27 of the Law, place-names (geographic names) – names of administrative territorial units, train stations, streets, squares, etc. – are created and presented in the official language. Within an area where a regional or minority language is spread, the equivalent of the place-name in the respective regional language(s) is indicated next to the place-name presented in the official language. If necessary, a Romanization (transliteration) of the place-name presented in the official language is indicated. Ukrainian place-names are presented in the regional or minority language(s) according to the traditions of the presentation language. In other languages, they are presented as a transcription from the official language. Place-names from outside of Ukraine are presented in the official language, as a transcription from the original language. Maps intended for use in Ukraine are drawn up and published in Ukrainian.

The language of the names of citizens is determined by Article 28 of the Law. According to part 3, Article 28 of the Law, each citizen of Ukraine has the right to use their first and last name (and patronymic) in their native language, according to the traditions of that language, as well as the right to have them officially recognized. As part of exercising this right, the first and last name (and patronymic) entered in the passport of a citizen of Ukraine, foreign passport of a citizen of Ukraine and other official documents are presented as a transcription from the Ukrainian, Russian or other language chosen by the citizen.

The language of regulations, clerical work, command and other official communication in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations created under the legislation of Ukraine is the official language (Article 29 of the Law).

Article 30 of the Law envisages that the state, according to the international norms and interstate agreements, facilitates the development of the Ukrainian language and culture abroad and the satisfaction of the needs of expatriate Ukrainians for the national culture; provides all-round assistance to schools, scientific institutions, national cultural associations of Ukrainians, and individuals of Ukrainian origin residing abroad in learning the Ukrainian language and carrying out research in Ukrainian studies, by their wish and according to the norms of the international law; and facilitates education of individuals of Ukrainian origin in educational institutions of Ukraine.

The Law envisages that the Law of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic “On Languages in the Ukrainian SSR” of October 28, 1989 shall become ineffective.

The Law also introduces appropriate amendments to the Civil Procedural Code of Ukraine, the Economic Procedural Code of Ukraine, the Code of Administrative Proceedings of Ukraine, the Criminal Procedural Code of Ukraine; the Laws of Ukraine “On Education”, “On Preschool Education”, “On Secondary Education”, “On Non-Formal Education”, “On Higher Education”, “On Notariate”, “On Legal Profession”, “On Local State Administrations”, “On Service in Bodies of Local Self-Government”, “On National Minorities in Ukraine”, “On Local Self-Government in Ukraine”, “On Elections of the President of Ukraine”, “On Election of People’s Deputies of Ukraine”, “On Elections of Deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Local Councils, and Village, Township and City Heads”, “On National and Local Referendums”, “On Civil Status Registration Bodies”,  “On Culture”, “On Cinematography”, “On Information”, “On Television and Radio Broadcasting”, “On Information Agencies”, “On the Procedure for Presenting the Work of the Bodies of State Power and Local Self-Government in Ukraine by the Mass Media”, “On Postal Service”, “On Telecommunications”, “On Advertising”, “On Medicines”, “On Geographic Names”; the Parliamentary Rules of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (Law of Ukraine N 1861-VI of February 10, 2010); and the Resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine “On Adoption of the Provisions on the Passport of a Citizen of Ukraine, on the Birth Certificate, and on the Foreign Passport of a Citizen of Ukraine”.
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