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7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope


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28 February - 6 March 2014

Ukraine History

A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels

With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidans three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the countrys stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.

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Ukraine Today
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.

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Ukrainian Culture

When Walls Can Talk

People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.

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Opinion

I remember once being referred to as someone who smiled a lot, and thinking to myself that it was a pretty poor show if a society was so miserable that people actually thought it noteworthy that someone was prone to smiling. Public displays of emotion were frowned upon in the Soviet UNI0N, of course, and there was not a hell of a lot to be smiling at in the early 1990s, but even so it was hard in 2001 to get away from the stereotype of Ukrainians as a dour, miserable lot. Todays Kyiv is a much more welcoming place where you can find so many street level smiles that it no longer seems to be much of an issue, and the old widespread cynicism
about American-style Have a Nice Day consumer culture has been replaced by a realisation that you really do feel better if you smile.


The only people who talked about politics in 2001 were the expat know it all types along with a few committed but isolated Ukrainian activists and social scientists. The criminality of the regime was considered a closed book and accepted with a huge slice of fatalism by the vast majority of the population. On the few occasions when I asked Ukrainians about their politics I was amazed by their utter lack of interest and equal absence of knowledge. I remember once memorably asking over ten otherwise educated people in a bar if they could name the countrys current prime minister. None could. Contrast that with the situation circa 2007, when everyone has opinions about a vast array of political issues, political talk shows dominate the TV schedules, and elections are widely seen as valid and representative.


In late June Russias President Putin raised the specter of a return to Soviet-style schoolroom censorship when he called on the state to play a leading role in making sure the publishers of school childrens textbooks behaved in what he termed a more responsible manner. Few readers will be in any doubt as to the underlying message here, and as usual it was accompanied by all sorts of paranoia about Western plots and moral relativism defending the indefensible of the Soviet past. This latest breach with democratic norms represents another landmark along the road to pseudo-Soviet statehood in Russia and demonstrated just how far the Kremlin is prepared to go to whitewash historys bloodiest regime and keep a new generation of patriotically correct young Russians firmly under control.

4 (Comments)

Amid all the political backstabbing, farcical court hearings, accusations, counter-accusations, and staged demonstrations it would be all too easy to suggest that Ukraine was a disaster area lurching from one crisis to another. If one takes a few steps back and considers the broader canvas, however, it becomes apparent that however chaotic the current environment is the country would appear to be moving relentlessly towards greater political maturity and, crucially, gaining unprecedented levels of international interest and increased awareness.


This year has seen the release of several Hollywood and European horror films set in Central and Eastern Europe. It appears that horror is coming home back to its eastern routes but will movie moguls make it to Ukraine? Stuart Allen praises the countrys creepy credentials.

 

2 (Comments)

Ukraine's national football team surprised everybody by putting in an impressive World Cup campaign before bowing out to the Italians 0-3 in the quarter finals, leading to much renewed optimism that Ukrainian football could be the next big thing. However, with the domestic league full of foreign imports, dominated by oligarchs and in danger of buckling under a mountain of match-fixing accusations, there remains much to do before Ukrainian football can truly hold its head high.


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Ukraine Truth
Rights We Didnt Know We Had

Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they dont understand the meaning of these words.


Kyiv Culture

Pulling Strings
Located on Hrushevskoho Street the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades childrens favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. Whats On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.

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