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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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Ukrainian Culture

Will the Financial Crisis Save Ukrainian Books?

Ukrainian publishers are ringing the alarm bell. As the financial crisis progresses, the purchasing power of average Ukrainians is falling, and people are starting to try to save money. That means that theyre going to buy less books, which will weaken the native publishing industry even more. Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
The brothers Kapranovy, well-known Ukrainian writers and the heads of the Zeleny Pes (Green Dog) publishing house, have studied the history of their trade in independent Ukraine. In the first years of independence, explains Vitaliy Kapranov, the publishing of Ukrainian books fell dramatically. By 1997, the country was printing almost no books. In that year, there were hardly 600 titles available in the country. In 1998, when Ukraine introduced the hryvnia and inflation was somehow tamed, publishing in the country began to grow.

The trend continued until 2004, when the government introduced a VAT on Ukrainian books. The new tax slowed growth in the industry for the next two years.
Then, in 2006-07, the industry adjusted and growth renewed, and today the situation seems much better: Ukraine publishes 17,000 titles a year. Whether thats a lot or a little is open to question, but the fact is, these 17,000 account for only 15 percent of the books on sale in the country. The rest come from Russia and Belarus. The reason? Ukraine simply does not satisfy the markets demand for a diverse cross-section of books, from childrens literature to dictionaries, scientific texts and other reference materials.
Vitaliy says, Any civilized country has to publish nearly 100,000 titles to cover all forms of demand. Russia publishes 120,000130,000 titles a year. Since Ukraine publishes significantly fewer, its forced to import. The problem is, many of the book imports into Ukraine are illegal. According to our data, for each book imported to Ukraine legally, there are six imported illegally, says Kapranov. The paradox is this: mass-market books like detective novels and romance novels are always in high demand. We import them illegally instead of publishing them here and earning immediate profits. We actually support the Russian book market.
Oleksandr Krasovytsky, the head of the publishing house Folio, is similarly vexed by illegally imported books. In practical terms, the problem is that the prices for illegally imported books are lower than those for books published here or imported legally. In order to avoid the competition, and with no hope of state intervention, Folio avoids publishing mass-market literature altogether.

Printing in the Crisis
The financial crisis further exacerbates the issue. As money in the state budget decreases, Vitaliy Kapranov is sure the government will slash culture funding first. The state will tighten the belt on outlays on culture and books. This is crucial, because 50 percent of the publishing market is financed from the state budgets. Cutting funding to the book market by 10 percent will result in a decrease of book production by five percent.
The biggest enemy of the Ukrainian book is probably inflation. The rate of profitability of the publishing business is 13-15 percent. If inflation is 25 percent, it is absolutely unprofitable to publish a book, says Kapranov. Whats more, we cant raise prices any more books in Ukraine are already expensive, and if we raise the price, no one will buy them. Oleksandr Krasovytsky is not as pessimistic: I dont like to dramatise inflation. Small publishing houses will definitely suffer if inflation rises. Big publishing houses have a chance to make money: as long as they possess lots of product in warehouses, they can take the place of small publishers in the market. So far Folio has closed five out of their 14 bookshops. And that tendency will continue, says Krasovytsky. The number of bookshops will fall, first of all because of increased rental fees.

A Silver Lining?
One potentially positive aspect to the crisis is the decrease in the imports of Russian books. Prices on Russian books have already risen, making their continued import financially risky. As Kapranov says, This means there will be less high-quality science literature. Granted, such books have a limited audience, and mass-market fiction will still be imported. But even so, it leaves an empty space on the market we could occupy. Krasovytsky think this may result in increased Ukrainian printing. The fewer books are brought from Russia, the more empty shelves there are in book shops. We are getting ready to occupy those shelves. Hes similarly optimistic about the financial crisis: he doubts it will greatly affect the purchasing power of Ukrainians, at least as concerns books. I remember the situation in Russia in 1998. People saved money, planning to buy cars or apartments, but the money depreciated so people began to buy books instead of cars.
Kapranov, seeing the opportunity presented by the crisis, says two things need to be done: first, illegal imports must be stopped, and second, more books need to be distributed to the regions. If yesterday regional bookshops headed for Kyivs Petrivka or Odessa market to buy books, today, with the higher transport fees, it is more profitable to deal with distributors who deliver to the regions.
Krasovytsky says there are still too few bookshops in Ukraine. The demand today simply does not find adequate supply. Even in crisis times, the more bookshops, the more sales. Another thing that should be done: the state should finance more libraries. Then publishers can sell the same titles to the state and to bookshops.
In the midst of a financial crisis in which workers are losing their jobs, many people think state funding for culture is controversial. To such people Kapranov would answer: I remember the 1990s, when a bunch of writers came to the Verkhovna Rada and we all expected they would do something with Ukrainian culture, language, books. And they all said: We need first to feed people, and after that well think about culture and books. What we see today, continues Kapranov, is the result of that policy: bands of uneducated hooligans strolling around the city. Weve fed them and even given them cheap beer to drink. Now we have the chance to create a comeback for the Ukrainian book, a chance to start educating people. The country will not perish from the financial crisis, but it will definitely perish if the majority of its people end up gopniki [louts].

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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