Rhetoric of Presidential Elections: Ukraine vs. Russia

Antonina Berezovenko, Columbia University

In order to understand the socio-political changes in contemporary Ukraine, I will examine the different linguistic and paralinguistic methods that participants in public communication are using on the eve, during, and after the presidential elections. In other words, my paper will examine “what Ukraine is talking about,” “how Ukraine is talking about it” or “what Ukraine is keeping silent about.” The paper seeks to understand what kind of PR-technologies are relevant for today’s Ukraine and how language serves particular political goals and attempts to influence particular social communities or groups within Ukraine.

As a speech genre, the rhetoric of presidential elections addresses people as if they are a crowd on the one hand and as if they are a group of individuals on the other. This division defines two general appellative (or manipulative) strategies. Within these two strategies I will attempt to discover relevant nationally specific stimuli and will attempt to classify how similar or different they are in comparison to corresponding phenomena in Russia and the West.

Such an approach should indicate the locus of Ukrainian social consciousness on an imaginary scale stretching between two poles - East and West.

Looking back at the previous election one cannot forget that the language issue was crucial in defining the political orientation of the candidates. The language spoken by a certain candidate clearly signified his or her political preferences. Thus, if the campaign was conducted in Russian, then the candidate was pro-Moscow and anti-democrat, if in Ukrainian - then he/she was a nationally conscious democrat. The recent monitoring of the language dynamics in Ukraine demonstrates that this situation has changed. And in this paper I will make an attempt to describe the current language “landscape” of Ukraine per se and the nature of language as a political indicator.