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oleksandr.aronets
Олександр Аронець
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Dear Mark!

I am writing you in regard to unjustified blocking of my (https://www.facebook.com/oleksandr.aronets) FB page.


During the past few months, pages of Ukrainian bloggers, civil activists and even Members of Parliament were subject to en masse blocking. In most instances such blocking is not justified. It appears that Russian "troll army" has a hand in complaining about almost any posts by Ukrainian influencers of public opinion. (As recently as June 7, 2015, New York Times published a thorough investigation on Russian propaganda "trolls": www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/magazine/the-agency.html?_r=0). It seems that after receiving high volume of complaints, FB administration has to block posts, perhaps without a thorough investigation of the merits of such complaints.


Among other things, post that were blocked cite preeminent Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taras_Shevchenko's_legacy and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taras_Shevchenko), comments expressing indignation regarding Crimea's annexation, normal and polite criticism as well as irony regarding Russia.


In my case, my page is now blocked for the third time in the past month. It appears that I was blocked for using the word "moskal" (English translation: Muscovite), and the explanation given states that this term might be offensive for some users. I respectfully disagree with such interpretation, because word "moskal" does not have negative connotation in Ukrainian language. Moreover, this is a frequently used word.


As an argument, I would like to refer to commonly accepted fact that proper use of language are often dictated by the language used by writers and poets. For example, word "moskal" was used by such prominent Ukrainian writers as Taras Shevchenko, Ivan Franko and Ivan Kotlyarevsky. For instance, Kotlyarevsky wrote a play entitled "Moskal-Charivnyk" (The Muscovite-Sorcerer). English-language Wikipedia refers to this play as "living classics":


His two plays, also living classics, Natalka Poltavka (Natalka from Poltava) and Moskal-Charivnyk (The Muscovite-Sorcerer), became the impetus for the creation of the Natalka Poltavka opera and the development of Ukrainian national theater. (Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Kotliarevsky)



However, I understand that it is possible that FB administration viewed word "moskal" according to the meaning it might have in Russian language. In such a case, similar-sounding words do not always possess the same meaning the same (example: "constipated" in English vs "constipado" in Spanish, where in one language it means "difficult or incomplete of infrequent evacuation of the bowels" and in other simply "cold").


From a strict perspective of linguistic science, consensus on word usage is achieved over (often prolonged) periods of time, as a result of extensive comparisons of different scientific opinions. Just like in any other science, terms and definitions may evolve over time. However, there are no differing viewpoints on the meaning of the word "moskal" in Ukrainian language: it simply does not have negative connotation.


Below are some excerpts from several Ukrainian academic dictionaries (by necessity, in Ukrainian first with my translation in English immediately following):

Example 1

«Dictionary of Ukrainian Language» (http://sum.in.ua/)

МОСКА́ЛЬ, я, чол., заст.

1. Вояк, солдат. Баба-повитуха в чистій сорочці, командувала молодицями, неначе генерал москалями (Нечуй-Левицький, III, 1956, 109); Нема нікого, тільки москалі на варті (Михайло Коцюбинський, III, 1956, 350); Не було ні хвилини, щоб Яків не допікав матері, чого вона вдруге заміж пішла й нащо вона його в москалі запроторила(Грицько Григоренко, Вибр., 1959, 140).

2. Росіянин. — Всяке ледащо норовить, як би козака в грязь затоптати. — Не діждуть вони сього, невірнії душі! — каже Шрам.. — Отже, щоб не діждали, батьку, так треба нам з москалем за руки держатись (Пантелеймон Куліш, Вибр., 1969, 94); Говорять [галичани-емігранти] увесь час по-російськи, але з таким «акцентом», що навіть не москалям «вуха в'януть» (Леся Українка, V, 1956, 362).

MOSKAL (masculine)

  1. Warrior, soldier.
  2. Person originating from Russia


Example 2

Ukrainian-Russian dictionary by A. Nikovsky (published in 1927) gives the following

Моска́ль, -ля́ –

1) русский.

• Москаля́ підпуска́ти, підво́зити кому́ – пыль в глаза пускать, надувать, обманывать кого.

2) холодный северный ветер;

3) солдат;

4) сорт льна;

5) сорт чесноку.


MOSKAL

  1. Russian, person from Russia
  2. Cold northern wind
  3. Soldier
  4. Type of flax
  5. Type of garlic


Example 3


Almost identical definitions are given in "Dictionary of Ukrainian Language" by Borys Hrinchenko (published in 1909):


Моска́ль, -ля́, м.
1) Великороссъ. Москаль ликом в'язаний, у ликах ходе та й всіх у ликах воде. Ном. № 849. Підпуска́ти, підво́зити москаля́. Лгать, надувать, обманывать. Не слухайте, батьки, сього ледащиці: підвезе він вам москаля!.. Не москаля я вам підвіз, а роблю все по правді. К. ЧР. 376.
2) Солдатъ. Пан постановив оддати Миколу в москалі. Левиц.
3) Сортъ льна, сѣмя котораго не вылущивается само собой. Полт.
4) Сортъ чесноку. Вас. 204.
5) Насѣк. Pyrrhocoris apterus. Вх. Пч. І. 7. Ум. Моска́лик, моска́личок, моска́льчик. Роскажіть лиш, дядечку-москаличку, які дива ви бачили. О. 1862. V. 29. Ув. Москалю́га. К. Дз. 79.

MOSKAL

  1. Russian, person from Russia
  2. Soldier
  3. Type of flax
  4. Type of garlic
  5. Insect, Pyrrhocoris apterus


Example 4

Yet another use of the word is given in the the Spelling Dictionary by Hrygory Holoskevych (published in 1929).

Modern usage examples are given below:

Example 5

Furthermore, one of the leading Ukrainian channels "1+1" broadcasts a TV show called "The Last Moskal". You can even see direct transliteration in the following URL: www.1plus1.ua/video/show/serialy/ostanniy-moskal-420177.html. One of the blockings of my page resulted from mentioning this show!

Example 6

Last but not least, Luhansk District governor's last name is Moskal: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hennadiy_Moskal. Surely, if the word was offinsive, it would have not been used as a last name, in any language or cuture.


Based on the several references above, I hope I convinced you that work "moskal" has a plethora of meanings (soldier, type of flax, insect, etc.). Forgive me the irony, but which one of these meanings was deemed offensive by the Facebook administration? It appears that a negative connotation was ascribed to a word that had nothing negative about it, as further evidenced by the context in which I used the word.

Of course, there is a war raging in Eastern Ukraine, the war between poorly concealed Russian army and people of Ukraine. However, combat is only one aspect of this war. Another aspect is informational, that spans across different media types, Internet including. TV channel "Russia Today" is a classic example; this channel is well-know propaganda instrument created by Kremlin to misinform democratic countries. You even might be aware of several cases when Russia Today journalists resigned on air as a protest to shamless propaganda they were supposed to feed to their viewers. Curiously, BBC Russian Service just covered a criminal case in Russian court based on the poetry written by a Russian artist who used word "moskal" in one of his poems (http://www.bbc.com/russian/rolling_news/2015/06/15...). This is hardly an example of a tolerant, democratic society. This is just one of the numerous examples of the abuses of freedom of speech in Russia.

While I hope I am wrong, Facebook linguistic rules and regulations sometimes seem to closely resemble totalitarian oppression. Why should not Ukrainians be able to use their language freely, provided it complies with the rules? My familiarity with the topic and extensive research shows that word "moskal" is fully compliant with all rules.

Ban on certain words echoes Russian imperial rule, when for the past four centuries Russian empire issued over 50 official (and over 300 unofficial) bans on usage of Ukrainian language (that equates to a new ban every 9 months over the span of 400 years).

Finally, I want to point out that last time my page was also blocked (for a month this time) because of using word "moskal". Only I didn't use the word this time. Here is a screenshot:

This post does not violate any standards or rules set forth by Facebook.

I would kindly ask you to review my arguments and unblock my account. Even more importantly, I hope I built a convincing case showing that word "moskal" is in no way offensive in Ukrainian language. It appears that Facebook administration erroneously ascribed the negative meaning to the word based on misunderstanding, and perhaps difficulties with translating from another language.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your attention to my inquiry.

I look forward to using Facebook in the nearest future, as it is an important catalyst of democratic changes in the Ukrainain society.

Sincerely,

Oleksandr