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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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Ukraine History

The Ukrainian Girl Who Ruled the Islamic World

Slavic girls are famously popular among Turkish men, but only one of them ever managed to influence the workings of the mighty Ottoman Empire.
That was the legendary Roksolana, the 16th-century Ukrainian slave girl who became the only legal wife of the Ottoman Emperor Suleyman the Magnificent, influencing his policies and becoming his closest advisor and confidant. Its one of the most fascinating, and unlikely, stories in Ukrainian history.  Born 70 kilometers south of Lviv in what was then the Kingdom of Poland, the girl who would become known in Istanbul as both Roksolana and Khourrem was really named Anastasia Lisovska.


 Her father was a priest in the town of Rohatyn, at that point a major Galician city. When the girl was fifteen, the region was invaded by a party of Crimean Tatars, who captured her and sent her to Istanbul, where she was put up for sale at the slave market. Considered exotic goods because of her red hair and green eyes, Roksolana was purchased for the emperors harem. The slave-traders were amazed by her good spirits. Unlike most people sold into slavery, the girl was full of laughter and high spirits, leading them to rename her Khourrem, or The Laughing One. The name stuck, and it was what her royal husband would call her until she died.

 No real sources exist to explain how Roksolana distinguished herself from the harem to catch the Sultans eye, but there is a legend about it. When the new batch of slaves, many of whom were more beautiful than Roksolana, were presented to the Sultan, the Ukrainian girl startled him by pushing the dancer who was amusing him out of the way and bursting defiantly into a Slavic song. The court eunuchs didnt know what to do, and waited for a signal from the Sultan that they should take the audacious slave away and strangle her. But the Sultan was impressed. He gave Roksolana his handkerchief, a sign that he wanted her in his bedroom that night. Thus the relationship began. Observers who took note of this unusual coupling began to refer to the girl as Roksolana, a name which was a corruption of the words rossa and ruziac, meaning Slavic. The Sultan was also attracted by the girls reserved character and by the fact that she asked for permission to visit his library the story has it that when he returned from a military campaign once, he found Roksolana speaking a couple of new languages. Historians say she actually spoke Turkish, Arabic, and Persian in addition to Ukrainian, but linguistics werent her only strong point. She also became a good dancer, a fine judge of art and literature, and a shrewd politician. She understood that the first rule of her new home was the fittest survives, and she lived up to it. After Roksolana adopted Islam, Suleyman married her in 1530. That raised a few eyebrows, as it was the first time in history a Sultan had married a harem slave. From then on she accompanied the all-powerful autocrat during affairs of state, and she earned the respect of both foreign rulers and conservative Islamic figures.

 When the royal treasury was empty after the Empire had to suppress a number of Persian rebellions, and her husband was away on a campaign, Roksolana knew what to do. She ordered the opening of wine stores in Istanbuls European residential areas and at the seaport, which raised revenue from among non-Muslim foreigners. She also enlargened Istanbuls port facilities, thus broadening the market. In short, she made important decisions in her husbands absence. She used some of the revenue she earned to build new mosques, palaces, hospitals and schools. Roksolana gave birth to three sons as well as a daughter, but the true heir to the Ottoman throne was Mustafa, the eldest son of Suleymans other wife, Gulfem. The primacy of her rivals son was a real threat to her and her kids, given the viciousness that characterised court intrigues. So Roksolana took steps to consolidate her power. Her first victim was Suleymans Grand Vizier Ibrahim, whom she had assassinated in 1536 for scheming to usurp the Sultans power. Yet Mustafa still remained. The sly Ukrainian girl convinced Suleyman that Mustafa was plotting against his father to seize power, with the result that the emperor had the boy and his brother strangled with silk lace. Gulfem went mad in the aftermath and soon died. It might not have been the most pleasant or least stressful way to live for 30 years, but Roksolana did well at it, fighting tooth and nail for power on behalf of herself and her son - who did, in fact, succeed Suleyman as emperor. Not that she saw that happen. Roksolana died in 1558, eight years before her husband did, ending the story of the humble Galician teenager who ascended to the pinnacle of power in a mighty empire.

 Yulia Samus


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Comments (1)
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terenia | 10.04.2014 03:31

thank you this article was very helpful
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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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