On December 13, 2022, the Ukrainian legislature, the Verkhovna Rada, adopted Law No. 2827-IX on National Minorities (Communities) of Ukraine.
The adoption of this law had been one of the requirements for Ukraine to start negotiations on the country’s accession to the European Union (EU). The speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Ruslan Stefanchuk, said that this law “complies with all the EU directives and provides for the replacement of the term ‘national minority’ with the term ‘national community,’ which encompasses national minorities and indigenous people.”
The explanatory note attached to the draft law stated that the purpose of the law was to improve the legal framework of state policy toward the ethnopolitics of Ukraine, taking into account “the changes that have occurred during the years of independence, modern European standards, and the challenges associated with the armed aggression of Russia.”
The new law introduces the definition of “national minority (community)”; determines the rights, freedoms, and obligations of individuals belonging to national communities; establishes principles of state policy on protecting rights of national communities; and provides for the creation of advisory bodies containing representatives of national communities.
Provisions of the New Law
Under the newly adopted law, a “national minority (community)” is identified as a permanent group of citizens of Ukraine who are not ethnic Ukrainians, traditionally live within the internationally recognized borders of Ukrainian territory, are united by common ethnic, cultural, historical, linguistic, or religious features, are aware of their belonging to the national community, and demonstrate a desire to preserve and develop their linguistic, cultural, and religious identity. (Law No. 2827-IX, art.1, para. 1.)
The state guarantees national communities protection from discrimination (art. 4) and grants them rights, freedoms, and interests as they are defined in the law (art. 3.1). These rights include self-identification, freedom of assembly and expression, preservation of the national community’s linguistic and cultural traditions, and participation in political, economic, and social activities. (Art. 5.)
These rights extend to the ability to register first and last names in national identification documents according to ethnic traditions, use national community languages in communications with government institutions, publish books in national community languages, and create national-community-language media outlets. The use of national community languages is also allowed in settlements and regions traditionally inhabited by national communities or in which national communities constitute a significant part of the population. The law lists textual, visual, and audio information that can appear in national community languages and the conditions when the Ukrainian language must be duplicated in the languages of the respective national communities. (Arts. 6–10.) The use of national community languages in educational institutions is also regulated by the law. (Art. 11.)
The law also obligates the state to develop a policy that would include principles of refraining from assimilating national communities against their will, protecting them from any actions aimed at forced assimilation, and preventing inter-ethnic conflicts and the use of national communities by other states for the autonomization of their regions of residence and the disintegration of Ukraine. (Art. 3.2; Art. 13.2(7), (9).) Moreover, local state administrations and bodies of self-government are charged with the duty to coordinate activities of national communities and assist them in resolving ongoing issues. (Arts. 17, 18.)
The rights of national communities can be restricted on grounds established by Ukrainian legislation. The law also specifically prohibits any portrayal of the Russian Federation and its official representatives in a positive light. (Art. 5, para. 6.)
The Law will enter into force on May 6, 2023.
Iana Fremer, Law Library of Congress
February 14, 2023
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