Ukraine: Localized ‘Yes-butno’ Meme Highlights ‘Most Popular Stereotypes’

Yes, I am Russian. No, I do not do ballet.

Yes, I'm from New Zealand. No, that doesn't mean I'm Australian.

Yes, I am African. No, I do not speak ‘African’.

These are just a few random (or almost random) selections from the huge Yes-butno collection, launched by Christine Chen on Tumblr in April 2011. On Facebook, the project's description reads:

Yes-butno was created to break assumptions and stereotypes that everyone makes about various cultures, genders, sexualities, etc. Find something that you can relate to, or learn something new. :)

The newest Yes-butno addition is Ukraine.

On September 19, 2012, Rost Tatomyr, a Lviv-based Facebook user, asked his “international friends” to name “the most popular stereotypes about Ukraine”:

[…] Or just impression which is very common in your country. Feel free to offend me :) It's just for one of my small graphic project. Thank you.

A few people responded, and five days later, on September 24, Tatomyr presented a set of nine Yes-butno items, which went viral on the Ukrainian segment of Facebook right away (more than 1,265 ‘likes’ and 4,080 shares in the first 12 hours since posting):

Rost Tatomyr's Ukrainian take on the Yes-butno stereotype-breaking meme.

Much of the discussion of the Ukrainian Yes-butno's is rather serious and heated, with many users focusing on the “language issue” brought up by Tatomyr (“Yes, I'm from Ukraine – No, Russian is not my language.”). Below is a small selection of such comments:

Olesya Dumendyak:

Yes, I'm from Ukraine, and Yes, my language is Russian! let's be honest half of Ukraine speaks Russian as native

Alisa Zagranichna:

Those of us whose native language is Russian don't have to be sorry to speak our native tongue. In fact we are bilingual and can speak Ukrainian fluently, which is a must for everyone living here. We are the patriots of our land no less than those whose native tongue is Ukrainian. But I will never be ashamed of my ancestors or my language. And my kids will speak both languages as well as English.

Christina Vasylkiv:

I have never seen a country in a whole world, where people, would say: “Yeh, I am French, but I speak Spanish and I am proud if it”. or Have you ever seen a German being a proud speaker of English? It is so damn difficult to explain to an American or any other person that is not familiar with “the Ukrainian linguistic phenomena” that there are Ukrainians that have never spoken Ukrainian in their life and are proud speakers of Russian. Where is a fucking logic in that???History?complicated relations?-get the fuck out of here. It is total absence of self-respect and sickly low self-esteem.

Lenka Gorbenka:

@Christina: so what? yes they re proud why not? why can't they be proud if they was taught russian since they were born and never even heard ukrainian but on TV? I am sure person who lives in Ukraine must know ukrainian- their state language, but lets face the truth – do u know the lever of ukr lessons in for example Donetsk? Lucky u u had a chance to learn ukrainian, but don't be that much proud of it – 50% of that is just the fact u were born in right place.

Myroslava Gongadze, journalist Georgy Gongadze‘s widow, responding [uk] to Gennady Shpak's comment about Ukraine's “misplacement” problem (“No, it's not in Asia. It's in Africa!”), writes [uk]:

Ukraine, by the way, is sometimes called “the white Africa” due to its corruption levels.

On a lighter note, Eugene Schyrba suggests this addition to the Ukrainian stereotype list:

YES, I'm from Ukraine. YES, our president is a vegetable.

And Juan Miguel Ropero adds this one:

YES, I'm from Ukraine. NO, my eyes aint beautiful


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