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On the cover
7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope

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.


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.


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.


Ukrainian Culture

Weed Walk

In May each year, Kyiv life is pumped up by a number of public activities, including Soviet UNI0N fans who celebrate the international day of worker solidarity, those who honour victory over the Nazis and so on. Along with these two Soviet-tinted festivities, is a puff of fresh air, sort of its the Marijuana Liberty March.
Becoming more prominent and powerful, the public movement for marijuana does not go quite as far as demanding the legalisation of weed, pot, dope, cannabis, hash, blow, wacky tabacky, ganga call it what you will.

Rather, the movement draws attention to the drug legislation in Ukraine, and promotes a tolerant attitude towards smokers, tokers, potheads, dopeheads, weedies, caners, stoners, and what they smoke joints, spliffs, doobies, reefers, you get the drill. On the eve of the upcoming march, Whats On gathered a gaggle of midnight smokers. We strung together a few thoughts about future of weed smoking here in Ukraine. Then we went to McDonalds. 

Punishable Pleasures
Living in the suburbs of Kyiv and passing the nearby forest each evening, I can often smell the weed fumes coming from behind thick bushes. The silhouettes of young guys and girls emerging from the forest in high spirits leaves no doubt these teenagers have been puffing away on marijuana, hiding from the prying eyes of parents and militia. 
Today, having even a small amount of marijuana in your pocket is punishable by law, while selling just one gram of weed can result in 6-10 years of imprisonment. I deliberately write can, because with our Ukrainian militia, most things can be evaded with a little persuasion. The organisation Objective Reality, which holds the Liberty March every year, makes a rough estimation of the bribe for drug cases as between 1000 to 4000 hryvnia. Other sources give figures from 300hrv for having 1 gram of weed in your pocket, and up to $10,000 20,000 if a sizeable stash is found. 
However, in 2009, Ukrainian legislation made a step towards a tolerate attitude to partakers: planting more than 10 bushes of marijuana is a criminally liable offence, while the weed-grower who has up to 10 plants on his balcony with no intention of selling it, is charged only with administrative liability (meaning a fine and confiscation). 

A Word on Weed 
It would probably be fair to say marijuana is the most popular light drug in Ukraine. As the whole procedure of planting, producing and smoking is illegal, it is difficult to gauge the approximate amount in circulation within the country. Objective Reality states that each year, nearly 15,000 people are put in prison for having more than 5 grams of weed on them. 
Recalling my own student years, many of my classmates did smoke hash from time to time, simply because it was interesting to try. A really cool party invariably entailed a puff or two. I doubt this situation has changed much today the need for furtiveness and secrecy only adds thrill to the whole thing. For many people, marijuana smoking is stubbed out in their youth, for others it becomes a sort of lifestyle, where weed helps to overcome stress or distracts from problems. 
For some though, the topic is a question of justice. They take part in public actions or, as a guy calling himself Indica (real name Ihor) did, start an informational website, where one can find detailed info on all sorts of drugs including cannabis. He and his colleagues created the website last year, as they were interested in the topic of drugs and the laws surrounding it, and yet could not find objective information. There are many anti-drug sites that simply aim to frighten people. Others openly advocate being a stoner. Our site www.psyplants.org
publishes information as it is we give both the positive and the negative sides of the story and let the reader decide for themselves.

Hope for Dope?
He himself first sparked up a joint as a school graduate and remembers even now those hours of laughter it provided. Later, Ihor quit smoking weed. For some years though now, living in India where cannabis smoking is a regular thing, he has enjoyed a relaxing spliff from time to time. 
Another guy who agreed to share his marijuana memories, and wished to remain unnamed, also experimented for the first time as a teenager: Funnily enough, I did not start smoking actual cigarettes until I was 18, so in that respect you can say that marijuana was a gateway drug. Leaving weed as mainly a habit of youth, he does not smoke pot on a daily basis. He does, however, enjoy it from time to time, appreciating the specific mood it brings. It is something that can help with creative thinking your mind goes down unknown paths and can lead you to finding all sorts of inventive, sometimes even brilliant solutions, says our unnamed smoker. 
Now this sounds almost like pot-promotion, which we dont mean at all, but both our guys do support the idea of marijuana legalisation in Ukraine. Leaving aside the moralising aspect about which is more harmful smoking tobacco or pot, or even smoking pot or drinking horilka (which is legal and even considered a symbol of Ukrainian national pride), the bare logic says that if something is legal, it is easier to control. For instance, if Kyiv had certain clubs where marijuana smoking were permitted, its teenagers wouldnt have to hide in the forest at night, like feral animals, to enjoy their pleasures. Nor would they have to seek out dodgy drug dealers. 
At the same time, militia wouldnt have to patrol dark backstreets and parks in search of young smokers to top up their salaries. Its only the most primitive level of profiting from the illegal status of marijuana, and, as is commonly known in Ukraine, militia often become the main chain in the drug-dealing business. 

Pot Shots
Ihor also points out the economical and ideological aspects of the situation: Marijuana is illegal in Ukraine because certain officials need to sell alcohol, which nets them fat profits. At the same time, state officials want to keep people addicted to alcohol as that guarantees they will just be drinking, watching TV, working in low-skilled jobs and have little desire to develop themselves further. Its obvious that the legalisation of weed would distract young people from such dangerous drugs as alcohol and tobacco. Ihor doubts though, that marijuana legalisation is a realistic short-term goal for Ukraine, while our other dude says Ukraine is a specific case: The only way weed would be legalised here would be if someone in power found some personal profit from it!
So, while marijuana legalisation seems unlikely to happen in the nearest future, the Liberty March in Kyiv will once more try to persuade conservative Ukrainian society to change its aggressive attitude to smokers of the substance. Marching with the traditional three-coloured Rasta flag and portraits of hero Bob Marley, these public actions are usually viewed by the majority of older Ukrainians as something alien and dangerous. Little they know what might have gone into that traditional, legendary, Ukrainian cossacks pipe. Not so outlandish after all, perhaps...  

Check out www.cannabis.wikia.com/wiki/2012 for more info on the World Wide March for Marijuana 

Kateryna Kyselyova

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  • When Walls Can Talk
  • Rights We Didnt Know We Had
  • The Path to Europe Begins Here...
  • Documenting Life
  • Head into 2014 Healthy

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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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