ANALYSIS: The status of Ukrainian military terminology
by Stephen D. Olynyk
A positive lesson this author learned while serving in the U. S. Army is that discourse on a serious subject must begin with a definition of key terms under discussion to facilitate correct mutual understanding among the participants.
Terminology is a subdivision of vocabulary, and military terminology is an "aggregate of terms used in military language. It is an essential medium of military command, communication and control." Another author defines terminology as "the skeleton of linguistic communication, which forms the national-psychological component of everyone's outlook ... An army without its native language lacks national soul."
Before I address the present state of military terminology in the Ukrainian armed forces, let me review the history of Ukrainian military terminology.
Perhaps the first written record of early Ukrainian military terminology can be found in the ancient chronicles (litopysy) of Kyivan Rus'. Lacking further written evidence, we may assume that the legions of Sviatoslav, Volodymyr, Yaroslav, King Danylo and other Kyiv and Halych princes, as well as their respective military commanders, must have used fairly standard military-related terms to effectively command their armies. They led military compaigns that covered vast territories and spanned several centuries of Kyiv and Halych Rus' statehoods. Unfortunately, little of that terminiology has come down to us in written form. However, it can be assumed that successive generations of Ukrainian military leaders inherited and adapted some of that terminology for use in the armies of their day.
A rich source of military terminology is the period of Ukrainian Kozak history, especially from the middle of the 16th century to the middle of the 18th century. As Kozak institutions, military organization, tactics and strategy developed, an analogous development of native Ukrainian military terminology took place. It was relatively primitive in modern linguistic terms, but, as a means of military command, communication and control, it served its purpose. It is probable that some of the terminology had its origins in terms used by the armies of Kyivan Rus'. Also, given the relatively long association of Ukrainian Kozak military institutions with the Polish state (especially the institution of "registered Kozaks" who served the Polish king), Kozak terminology was influenced by developments in Polish military terminology. In turn, Polish terminology was itself under the strong influence of Western European military terminology, especially French. We also find Turkish and Tatar influence in terminology of the Kozak period.
Nonetheless, the core of Kozak military terminology was the Ukrainian vernacular. It first developed in the Sich Host (Zaporizhska Sich) and spread throughout the Kozak territory, especially during the period of the Hetmanate. To this day, the Ukrainian terms for military staffs and units (e.g., sotnia, kurin, polk, bulava, etc.) as well as military ranks (sotnyk, polkovnyk, bulavnyi, otaman, hetman, etc.) have survived and have become either an accepted part of current Ukrainian military terminology or a point of controversy.
With the destruction of the Ukrainian Kozak State in the second half of the 18th century and the gradual incorporation of some of the Ukrainian Kozaks as cavalry units into the standing Russian tsarist army, Ukrainian military terminology entered a hiatus as it gave ground to Russian military terminology, which in turn was heavily influenced by German and French military terminology.
During the 19th century, the fate of the Ukrainian literary language itself became tenuous. With the issuance of the Ems Ukaz in 1876, the Ukrainian language was declared a "nonentity"; its use was prohibited in socio-cultural and political life. While we can find many military-related terms in classic works such as Kotliarevsky's "Eneida" and in Shevchenko's poetry, the actual revival of interest in Ukrainian military terminology began with the revival of the Ukrainian language at the turn of this century.
Since Ukraine was divided during the 19th century between the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires, and since the latter practiced greater tolerance in most walks of public life, it was in the western parts of Ukraine during the rule of Austria-Hungary that the formal revival of Ukrainian language and linguistic research took place. A leading role was played by the Shevchenko Scientific Society, which established a Ukrainian National Terminology Committee in 1905 in Lviv. Among its terminological research was also a nascent interest in military terminology.
With the formation of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen (Ukrainski Sichovi Striltsi) as part of the Austro-Hungarian armed forces mobilized to fight the Russians on the Eastern front, we see the beginnings of the development of modern Ukrainian operational military terminology. In 1914, for example, a manual on formations and drill was published by the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen's Association (Pravylnyk Pikhotyntsiv, Rozdil I: Vporiad. Chastyna I; Lviv: Biblioteka Sichovykh Striltsiv, 1914; reprinted in 1918). It was planned as the first in a series of such field manuals.
The creation and evolution of the Ukrainian independent state during 1917-1920 provided a great impetus to the development of Ukrainian military terminology. In 1919 the newly established All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (Kyiv) created a Committee on Orthography and Terminology, which initiated a scholarly and methodological research program into Ukrainian terminology, including military terms.
However, urgent requirements of the political-military situation in Ukraine during the wars of liberation forced the Ukrainian military leadership to address the issue of Ukrainian military terminology in the most practical way: they expedited the development of field manuals and regulations, if only in their preliminary draft form, in order to fill the operational needs of the beleaguered Ukrainian armed forces.
Unlike the new state of Israel, which after its declaration of independence in 1947 had to develop Hebrew military terminology practically from scratch, the Ukrainians in 1918 had a tradition, albeit somewhat limited, to fall upon. Thus, we see the old Kozak terms for units, ranks and basic weapons and equipment, as well as commands for drill and operational maneuvers being incorporated into modern Ukrainian military terminology.
During this period of the revival of Ukrainian statehood, we see a modest but serious production of military terminological literature. We have a record of at least 30 titles of field manuals and regulations of various types that were produced and published during this brief period of four years, under very adverse conditions, as fighting raged on several fronts simultaneously. One of the best examples of these manuals was Otaman Petliura's Field Service Regulation (Statut Polovoii Sluzhby, Vynnytsia: 1920, ca. 400 pp.) published at the time of the demise of Ukrainian national statehood and the country's partition between Soviet Russia and Poland in 1920.
With the extension of Soviet power into Ukraine, attempts were made to introduce and expand the usage of Ukrainian as the language of command and communication in the Ukrainian Red Army units, especially prior to the formation of the Soviet Union (1924). Three Ukrainian-language Red Army field manuals were published between 1924 and 1926 in Kharkiv. These efforts were squelched, however, when the Russian language became the language of command and communication throughout the unified Red Army.
In academia, attempts were made to establish a formal program for the development of Ukrainian military terminology during the so-called "Ukrainization period," especially at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. One example of this is the publication in 1928 in Kyiv of a "Russian-Ukrainian Military Dictionary" by two brothers, S. and O. Yakubski, ("Rosiysko-Ukrainskyi Slovnyk Viis kovoii Terminolohii," reprinted in Munich in 1993). However, this effort was soon suppressed with the advent of new linguistic policies and political purges under Stalin in the early 1930s. Once again there was a hiatus in the development of Ukrainian military terminology in Soviet Ukraine.
The effort to maintain and develop Ukrainian military terminology was carried on, however, by scholars and officers of the former Ukrainian national armed forces in western Ukraine under Polish rule and in émigré communities abroad (e.g., Czecho-Slovakia, Germany, France and the U.S.). In Lviv, a monumental history of the Ukrainian armed forces, from ancient times through 1920, was published (I. Krypiakevych, et al., "Istoriia Ukrainskoho Viiska," Lviv, 1938). In Germany, Ivan Ilnytskyi-Zankovych, former lieutenant of the Ukrainian Galician Army (UHA) and also of the Army of the Ukrainian National Republic, published two military dictionaries: German-Ukrainian Military Dictionary (Berlin, 1939) and German-Ukrainian Air Force Dictionary (Berlin, 1939).
In the United States and Canada, we have an equally monumental history of the Ukrainian Galician Army: "Ukrainska Halytska Armiia: Materialy do Istorii" by Shankovskyi (Winnipeg: 1958-1976), 5 vols.; two air force dictionaries: Letunskyi Slovnyk (New York, Ukrainian Air Force Club, 1974, Part I), and Ukrainskyi Letunskyi Slovnyk - Proiekt (Toronto, n.d.); and a naval dictionary, a reprint from the Visti of the Association of Former Members of the First Ukrainian Division: "Ukrainska Morska i Sudoplavna Terminolohiia" by O. Horbach (Munich, 1958).
Even under the most adverse conditions of irregular guerrilla warfare during World War II, Ukrainian officers continued their effort to fill the need for military regulatory literature. Living in bunkers in deep forests, the staff of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) in 1943 prepared the Operational Infantry Manual (Boyovyi Pravylnyk Pikhoty, UPA, Postiy, 1943), which was essentially a translation from the Red Army's Russian-language manual, but was adapted to operational requirements of UPA fighting tactics.
After World War II, at first in displaced persons camps, some limited attempt was made to work on Ukrainian terminology including military terms, as exemplified by the draft manual on the organization and work of staffs, "Orhanizatsiia i Pratsia Shtabiv" (n.p., Viiskovyi Tsentr pry ZPUHVR, 1947) and the publication of a Ukrainian military journal, Do Zbroii (To Arms).
In the 1960s, during the so-called "Khrushchev thaw," a series of technical Russian-Ukrainian dictionaries (mathematics, technology, physics, chemistry, etc.) was published; albeit to a limited degree, these included also military-related terms. This can be said also about the general Ukrainian-foreign language dictionaries published during that period (e.g., Podvesko, M.S., Ukrainian-English and English-Ukrainian Dictionary, Kyiv, 1957). This program was again suppressed by the Brezhnev-Suslov deliberate program to Russify Ukraine. Once again we see another major hiatus in the development of Ukrainian military terminology in Soviet Ukraine. The onus for a new effort once again fell upon the Ukrainian diaspora. Especially in the United States, the two major academic institutions, the Shevchenko Scientific Society and the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences, attempted to continue the program of developing Ukrainian terminology to include military terms.
Stephen D. Olynyk is a retired U.S. Army colonel, now working as an independent consultant on national security. He spent one year (1994) in Kyiv as an adviser to the Parliament and the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine and continues to serve as a consultant. He has lectured at the Academy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, to which he also serves as a regular consultant, and is the author of many articles on military subjects.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, February 16, 1997, No. 7, Vol. LXV
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