Ideological limits for youth

Since the events of 2013-2014 lots of things have changed in Ukraine. The first political violence during the Revolution of Dignity events, the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia, and the endless bloody war in Donbass provoked and developed, once again, by the initiative of Russia itself and pro-Russian nationalist groups. All of those events and their consequences still determine how the government and civil society set priorities and formulate a strategy for the future development of Ukraine.

Some politicians say that we are trying to build everything in opposition to Russia and its methods of governing. They say that we are democratic and European without a true understanding of those terms. As a result, some political groups concisely or not copy the autocratic elements of governing from Russia and Belarus. They create many limitations on what is acceptable to speak about and what is not. Many taboos have been established. For instance, you cannot speak about the positive sides of the times when Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union because there could only be bad things then. Also, you are not encouraged to express your opinion on whether Russian should be recognized as an official language in some of the regions of Ukraine where it is more commonly used. If you try to say something like this, you will probably be labelled as a person who expresses sympathy to Russia and Putin's cruel plans to invade Ukraine.

Recently I have faced a situation that revealed another problem I had been reluctant to accept before.  I was asked to recommend a participant for one training course for Ukrainian youth activists. But after the first round of the internal selection process, the candidate was rejected by the committee. Looking for some constructive feedback for the applicant, I asked the recruiter about the reasons for the disapproval in order to give feedback to the person I recommended. I was stunned to learn the answer. The decision was based on the fact that the application form was filled in Russian.

After my appeal to the illegality of such a discriminated approach, the applicant was approved to go to the second round of the selection. Eventually, this youth activist got a possibility to participate in youth training based on the criteria related to his motivation and achievements.

Some Ukrainian political parties, civic organisations, and activists view this military conflict with Russia not just as a political or ideological conflict but as a cultural one. Even the use of the Russian language in public speech and statements might be considered inappropriate. Unfortunately, the basic rights for freedom of speech and cultural self-identification can be ignored in reference to the war circumstances. The law states that all studies in Ukraine have to be conducted only in Ukrainian. However, some organisations just ignore it. And theoretically, they can be punished if they use other languages. But I've never heard about such cases.

Currently, a range of different Ukrainian nationalist groups has a sort of power on the decision-making process in the legislative initiatives and policies. They got this power due to the aggressive Russian foreign policy in Ukraine.

If you express your opinion in a different way than it is set by the Ukrainian nationalist groups, you should be ready for a real fight to be heard. In some cases, they can even physically attack you because of your opinion. However, the authorities will not protect you. So, we are restricted to tabooing the topics of the suppression of ethnic minorities and the advocacy of cultural diversity.

This situation has to be changed. Human rights should be always welcomed and celebrated. Young people should have a possibility for personal and professional development and growth, and should not be restricted from public bodies or political groups. Common sense should prevail for good society principles and faith in equity should be our priority now.