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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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Kyiv Traditions

Christmas Puppet Theatre

For centuries vertep, a form of puppet street theatre, entertained crowds during the Christmas and New Year period. The performances were mainly religious in nature and can be regarded as the first genuinely popular form of street entertainment in Ukraine.


In the seventeenth century vertep was as much a part of Ukrainian Christmas celebrations as The Nutcracker was for the Soviet New Year. This form of popular street theatre originally took place in a large wooden box measuring up to four metres high and three metres across, divided into two tiers. The players in this form of carnival-type entertainment were puppets controlled by strings and wires controlled by skilled puppeteers who could control up to forty puppets during a single performance. The performances themselves were usually religious in nature, with the story of Christs birth proving particularly popular. In such cases the higher tier represented Bethlehem, and was reserved only for the spiritual doings of the likes of angels and shepherds. The lower tier was given over to the realm of man and featured Herods throne while the floor was covered with fur, serving the duel purpose of adding an air of luxury and hiding some of the mechanisms which controlled the puppets. The puppeteers took their place behind the box where they could control the puppets out of sight and put on different characters voices. Interestingly most of these puppeteers were students or clergymen, who passed on their stories orally.

 The word vertep comes from the Church Slavonic language and means the place where Jesus was born. Vertep as a form of puppet performance has its origins in the street performances of travelling troupes and puppeteers from the West, who toured Ukraine in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These performances were colourful and rather bawdy affairs, often taking place during major religious holidays but having very little to do with the Christian faith. These performances caught on in Ukraines Jesuit colleges, where they were adapted to tell stories from The Bible to a largely illiterate public. There is a written account of vertep performances in Lviv in 1666 but the ethnographer Oleksa Voropai believes that vertep may have begun in Kyiv during the reign of the Cossack hetman Petro Sagaidachny earlier in the seventeenth century. Sometimes these puppet plays were accompanied by church choirs and a number of musical instruments such as violins, lyres, drums, tambourines and cymbals. Over time vertep performances tended to become more secular in nature and sometimes only the lower tier was used, the heavenly tier seemingly abandoned.

 Vertep was most popular in West Ukraine. Originally it was only performed during the Christmas and New Year periods but this also changed over the years. During this time vertep began to mirror the social-political situation in the region, and during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries performances depicting ethnic and national relationships proved particularly popular. Eventually puppet theatre became street theatre starring real actors. The Christmas performances maintained their religious sentiment and included actors portraying angels, shepherds and kings wearing masks. Another added twist was the audience, which become much more active in later years, sometimes even taking roles in the shows. Like many folk customs, vertep included a number of characters who had their roots in pagan custom, superstitions, fairy tales and society at large with the devil, death, soldiers and gypsies featuring prominently.


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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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