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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.


Kyiv Traditions

Celebrating the Season Ukrainian Rites of Spring

Ukraine was a pagan country long before Christianity came around, so its no surprise that the locals respond so strongly to the coming of the warmth.
Were on the brink of spring again, even if for the second straight year there wasnt much of a winter to precede it. Contemporary Ukrainians celebrate spring by filling the arms of women with bunches of flowers on 8 March, but our ancestors took their spring celebratory rites more seriously. Anyway, winter is on the way out and spring is on the way in.  Its the beginning of March, but its not so much the calendar that hammers home that spring is here, but the signs on the street. Among those are the new abundance of birds, the first tender green leaves, longer days, and girls naked knees on the street.

 Being eye-catchers, the latter cause trouble for drivers and attract leering glances from male pedestrians. Whatever its high time to start changing your hibernatory mood, if not yet your winter clothes. According to Slavic pagan tradition, spring really arrives on 20 March, with the celebration of the vernal equinox. Unlike the autumnal equinox, which is considered to be the point at which the most severe part of winter begins, the vernal one is a sign that the days are getting sunnier and longer. Its a kinder, gentler sort of equinox. In times gone by pagans, especially the wise elders among them, used to welcome spring in the following manner: theyd sit in a circle and watch the dancing of the girl whom they would soon be offering as a sacrifice to the god of spring, so as to gain his benevolence. It was a rather uncompromising rite, Id say, but it did inspire one great Slav, the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, to write his revolutionary ballet The Rite of Spring, the discordant music and violence of which incited a riot when it premiered in Paris in 1913. Im sure the wise elders were looking forward to spring, but whether the sacrificed girl was is another matter.

 No Sacrifice Required
Yet there did exist more girl-friendly pagan vernal traditions. Some pagan tribes called the first day of spring Ostara. This was the day on which everybody celebrated the longer period of daylight, the return of warmth, and the commencement of the spring planting. Ostara (lets imagine ourselves to be pagans for a moment) is the day when the amount of daylight and darkness are equal. The lethargy of winter is dissipating; the promise of life reborn awaits. To mark the occasion, pagans decorated their altars with a light green cloth and candles, bowls of soil, a wand, a large seal, parchment, and something to write with. March flowers and violets were also among the items on the altar, but really any flower was okay. The Ostara rite began with pagans banging on a bell to begin a rite that included the erection of a temple, while the priest chanted for all to join in and welcome the new season. Holding flowers, the celebrants danced clockwise in a circle. Dancing was often accompanied by singing. Then, after the priest rang the bell three times, the dancing stopped. Next came another chant to welcome spring and the chance to wish for something to come true in the coming season. The wishes were written on a piece of parchment. Often, it seems, a person wished for the opportunity to do a good turn for another person. A nice tradition, to my mind, but unfortunately completely unrealistic today. I can hardly imagine a real wellwisher in our contemporary society.

 The elders would sit in a circle and watch the dancing of the girl whom they would soon be offering as a sacrifice to the god of spring

 But lets return to the celebration. The parchment passed from person to person and each celebrant wrote his or her wish. (Wait a second: were pagans literate?) When the writing was done, the leader took the parchment to the altar and set it on fire, allowing the ash to fall into the earth. Then the ash was mixed with soil with a special knife. Participants hugged and kissed each other to exchange positive energy and good feelings. The latter might interest Ukrainian young people a bit more than just dancing and singing. After the religious rite came the feast. It featured traditional food, especially such symbols of fertility as ham or other cured meats that reminded people that soon there would be fresh meat. There would also, of course, also be fresh greens, such as dandelions and early vegetables like asparagus, so that people would no longer have to eat root vegetables that store well. Pagan rites are mostly long gone, but Ukrainians still have a touch of pagan blood in them, so they respond even more strongly to spring than other nations do. Kyiv largely moves outdoors with the warm weather, with people strolling Kreschatyk and clubbers and midnight revelers moving into the parks. Gyms and exercise classes are raking it in as women trim themselves down for matchmaking season. (Spring hates singles.) In general spring prods people out of their long winter psychic naps and nudges them toward fresh undertakings. Here at Whats On, we wish you a happy new season! Spring is in the air, thank god.

Kseniya Karpenko

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Comments (1)
You are not authorized! Only registered and authorized users can add their comments!
celestial elf | 19.03.2011 17:25

Interesting Post thank you :D
thought you might like my Eostre/Equinox machinima film
Happy Ostara ~

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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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