Original Paper

Language Policy

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 37-58

First online:

Language rights versus speakers’ rights: on the applicability of Western language rights approaches in Eastern European contexts

  • Aneta PavlenkoAffiliated withCITE Department, College of Education, Temple University Email author 

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The main purpose of the present paper is to draw attention to contexts where two conceptions of linguistic rights—the rights of languages and the rights of speakers—come into conflict. To illustrate such conflict, I will examine justifications of language laws adopted in two post-Soviet countries, Latvia and Ukraine. I will begin with an overview of Soviet language policies and their impact in the two countries. Then I will discuss similarities and differences in language management dilemmas faced by Latvia and Ukraine after the dissolution of the USSR. Next, I will discuss how Latvian and Ukrainian language policy makers and their Western supporters justified the transition from official bilingualism to official monolingualism and point to problems with the discourses adopted in these justifications.


Post-Soviet countries Latvia Ukraine Russian Minority language rights