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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

Rock Star and Thinker Svyatoslav Vakarchuk

Svyatoslav Vakarchuk is hard to get a hold of. Whether on vacation, touring, or recording new albums, the Okean Elzy frontman and well-known Ukrainian is constantly on the go. But with the release of his new album At Night (which came out 1 December), Whats On made sure to track down the former parliamentarian. Ksenia Karpenko met up with Vakarchuk at Volkonsky Cafe to get the lowdown on his brief political career, his new record and why he plays more in Moscow than in Kyiv.

When asked about the title of his new album, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk waxes philosophical. Night is the most intimate time. You stay up on your own or with your loved one and your thoughts are true and untarnished by the days problems. I think night is something invisible, but that doesnt mean it doesnt exist, he says, adding that the albums 11 songs were written while he was travelling in Europe and the US. He explains, I took a break. Like all human beings, I had to spend some time with fiends and family. People cant just give, they also have to take.
Svyatoslav says his new album is completely different from anything hes done with Okean Elzy. It has different DNA. Its a tricky thing. Its not rock music like the guys at Okean Elzy do. Its a big musical experiment, kind of like modern opera music, he says. I released a solo album for two reasons: first, because Im the author of the main concept behind the album; and second because it would be unfair to Okean Elzy fans. Its not the music theyre used to.
Speaking of fans, Ukrainian supporters have had fewer chances to hear Vakarchuk lately, partly because he performs more abroad, including in Moscow, than in Ukraine. I thought that maybe he could just make more money there, but it turns out that Palace Sport (where Svyatoslav often gives concerts) can host 10,000 people, while the Moscow venues he plays are smaller, holding 3,000-4,000 people. So two concerts in Ukraine equal seven concerts in Moscow, says Vakarchuk. What Svyatoslav likes is how he and his band are treated in Moscow. Okean Elzy is loved and respected. Were considered close to them, but not of the same flesh and blood. I see the way Russians accept us as representative of their relationship with Ukraine: were close, but Western in a certain way.

Slava in the Rada
That may be because of the Orange Revolution, in which Svyatoslav was an eminent figure. Afterwards, to promote the same ideals, he went into politics and served for a short time in the Verhovna Rada. What was it like? It would be the same if you asked me about things in the circus, says Svyatoslav. But surely being a deputy had its perks, like reserved parking spaces? Reserved parking here in Kyiv is a mere myth. And by the way, I never drove a car with deputy numbers. But I dont regret anything. It was an experience, and an experience of something people shouldnt do.
He left the place with no illusions about the functioning of the government. The problem is that our politicians dont have shared goals. Theyve been misleading Ukrainians for 17 long years. And its not like Moses did in the Bible, its just wandering about without any final destination. But Im not frustrated. Frustration is for weak people. Strong people take advantage of their experience and knowledge. Anyway, its not some beau monde in there. Im more likely to respond to letters from people if theyre somehow being mistreated. Certainly, there were some petitions for increased salaries or pensions that we couldnt handle, but if someone was unlawfully deprived of housing, I immediately responded to the issue, trying to help and usually succeeding in it. The Rada is not about politics. The way I see it, its about helping people who live in this country, and though I quit, I keep helping people.
Despite his disappointment with the Rada, Svyatoslav is optimistic about Ukraines future, but is not sure how much time it will take to make things better. I would never give up my citizenship or move to another country. I do occasionally go abroad, to relax, to admire other cities. My greatest ambition is to write music for a Ukrainian film that goes on to win an Oscar award, he says.
Though Vakarchuk is without a doubt one of most popular singers in Ukraine, youd be hard-pressed to find anyone who will call him arrogant. At his upcoming performances, hes promoting a bunch of acts like SKAI, Boombox and Kryhitka Tsahes. Despite the demand for foreign performers, Ukrainians singers do play more in the capitals nightspots than they used to. To avoid mass hysteria for foreign performers we should stop simply bringing them to Ukraine and start promoting more our own. We have enough our own good performers, like Ani Lorak. If we dont hear new groups, it doesnt mean that they dont exist, says Vakarchuk. He sees the Ukrainian cultural problem as an educational one thats reflected in the average level of culture of the average Ukrainian. We dont listen to Beethoven or Rimsky-Korsakov, but we do listen some weird DJs. And moreover, people who pretend to be part of the cultural elite exist in their own circles, organise their clubs, publish their own magazines and are completely arrogant toward those less educated. I disrespect such people even more than the less educated with bad taste. The mission of those who are more successful should be to teach and educate, and not to ignore.
Before he leaves, I ask Slava about his life during the financial crisis. He sounds optimistic. I can rough it. Money has never been the most important thing in my life.

Ksenia Karpenko

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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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