Kiev's New Minister of Culture Calls for Foreign Films to be Dubbed into Ukrainian

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
Protestor in Kiev during Ukraine's revolution

Yevgeny Nischuk, a prominent figure in the revolution, claims move won't harm interests of Russian speakers.

Distributors of foreign language films screened in Ukraine may soon be obliged to dub them into Ukrainian if moves by the country's culture ministry are approved.

Ukraine's new culture minister, Yevgeny Nischuk, wants all non-Ukrainian films to have voice-overs.

Nischuk, an actor, became known as the "face of Maidan" during the winter revolution in Ukraine when he worked as the presenter on stage in the center of Kiev's Maidan (Independence) Square, the barricaded heart of the anti-government protests that ended in the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych.

Now he is demanding that the interim government in Kiev pass a law mandating that all foreign films be dubbed into Ukrainian.

Nischuk claims the move won't infringe the rights of Russian speakers in Ukraine as films can also be sub-titled. But the move could provoke tensions in the east where many people speak Russian. It would also to distribution and P&A costs in the country.

A move to ban Russian as a second official language in Ukraine, shortly after Yanukovych fled the country Feb. 22, proved controversial and was among the reasons Russian President Vladimir Putin used as a pretext for supporting the secession of Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula dominated by ethnic Russians.

Crimea was annexed last week by Russia following a hurriedly organized referendum that has been declared illegal and constitutional by the international community.

"The Ministry of Culture will submit a proposal to [bring in] a law in favor of dubbing in the Ukrainian language," Nischuk said, according to Ukrainian media reports.

A Ukrainian film industry source Friday told The Hollywood Reporter that the move made no sense as current laws allow for flexibility in the use of language.

Ukrainian is the mother tongue of most people living in the west of the country and is widely used in Kiev and central regions. In the industrial eastern areas many people speak Russian, although the numbers considered ethnically Russia are much lower than in Crimea, where around 65 percent of people are counted in that category.