Alphabet war

Alphabet war (azbuchna viina). Name given by Galician Ukrainians of the time to the alphabet dispute of 1859–61, which was provoked by the attempt of the Austrian government (Minister of Education L. Thun) to impose the Latin alphabet on them in 1859. The project to Latinize Ukrainian writing was inspired by the governor-general of Galicia, Count Agenor Gołuchowski, a Pole, and drawn up by Josef Jireček, a Czech scholar. It required the approval of a commission consisting of prominent Ukrainians, two Austrian officials, Governor-General Gołuchowski, and Jíreček. Most of the Ukrainian members (Yakiv Holovatsky, Yosyp Lozynsky, Mykhailo Malynovsky) opposed the plan as a potential means of Polonization. Finally, the commission adopted a reformed orthography based on Cyrillic script. Although this orthography was approved by the Ministry of Education in Vienna and prescribed in all schools and for the clergy by the governor-generalin Lviv, it was resisted by the Western Ukrainian community. In 1861 the Austrian government revoked all its decrees and allowed the Ukrainians to decide the matter of orthography themselves.

Franko, Ivan. ‘Azbuchna viina v Halychyni,’ ZNTSh, nos 114–16 (1912)
Simovych, Vasyl. ‘Iosyf Ïrechek i ukraïns’ka mova (Do azbuchnoï zaviriukhy 1859 r.),’ Pratsi Ukraïns’koho vysokoho pedahohichnoho instytutu im. M. Drahomanova v Prazi, 2 (Prague 1932)

Jaroslav Rudnyckyj

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]

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