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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.


Ukraine History

Gogol the Man, the Music, the Legend

Its been quite a while since Gogols been around, 200 years in fact. Despite this, beginning with a huge concert on the 11th of this month, people still gather in his name. So while things must have been a different in 1809, the questions have to be asked: Who is Gogol now? And why is he still so popular? While we definitely know who he was a talented Russian writer with Ukrainian roots, a poet, a critic, a dramatist and a publisher youngsters today seem to have a bigger understanding of the man. In addition to the list above, the present Mykola Gogol has been turned into a creative guru of art and music, and to celebrate this, the city of Kyiv once more offers up GogolFest.

As often happens with famous writers, painters and such, popularity concerning them is often stronger in present-day than what it was when they were alive. With Gogol it is no exception, and it is because of this that peoples attitudes towards him have also changed. No longer is he considered to be the writer of dull classics we all had to read in school; in fact, Gogol has been resurrected as a fashionable icon, and even has a pretty cool festival in his name. For the third year in a row, this event will be an extraordinary way to spend your time. The festival offers a programme that is unlike any other, featuring the most creative people in the modern genres of art, music and literature. But lets consider the week-long festival details in a minute because to understand why it even takes place, we need to better understand the man.

The Facts
Mykola Gogol was born on 1 April on the boarder of the Poltavskiy and Myrhorodskiy regions in the village of Velyki Sorochetsi. Ironically, as an Aprils Fools baby, he was not a joking or funny sort at all. In fact, it was life that played jokes on him on a fairly regular basis. Right from the beginning, the influences on Gogol were many: from his mother who was a descendant of nobility, to his father, a descendant of Cossacks. And because Gogol spent most of his childhood in Velyki Sorochentsi, the countryside also influenced him a great deal. The atmosphere, specifically in works such as Vechory blyz Dikanky (Evenings nearby Dikanka), Viy and Taras Bulba, include old Ukrainian villages and the pictures he paints are quite vivid and precise.
When Gogol was 10, his parents sent him first to Poltava and then to Nizhyn to study. Interestingly, Gogol was not a good student. Reasonable in history, art and drawing, he was notoriously bad in philology, but thanks to his excellent memory, Gogol managed to prepare for exams and pass anyway. All of Gogols biographers have written about his constant search for something. What exactly Gogol was looking for remains unknown, but perhaps because of his inefficiency in school it was perfection he was after.  He himself knew that his weak points were languages and writing, as did his contemporaries, who used to constantly make note of the mistakes he made in his manuscripts. Because of this feeling of inadequacy, he often let his books burn to ashes thinking how imperfect they were.

Even so, upon finishing his studies, Gogol moved to St. Petersburg with ambitious hopes. Unfortunately, the big, grey city seemed to break Gogols spirit. He tried his hand at government service, but it proved too dull for his creative personality. He then tried his hand in the theatre, but was totally rejected. The only thing remaining that seemed of any interest to Gogol was literature. He started travelling more trying to find inspiration, but perhaps more realistically he was trying to escape the disappointment of his broken dreams. While spending time in St. Petersburg however, Gogol came to understand that the life of Ukraine and its people was also something of interest and significance to the citizens of Russia. It was during this time that he was inspired to write Evenings Nearby Dikanka; and it wasnt long after that the first volume of these Ukrainian stories were published.

In 1831, Gogol was offered a position as a teacher in the Patriotic Institute. It was this institute rather than the job that he considered important as it was the centre of literary awareness and activity. Here he met numerous influential writers and publishers and had the distinct pleasure of meeting Oleksandr Pushkin. Considered to be the most creative period in his life, Gogol wrote The Night Before Christmas, Sorochinska Fair and many others. At this time he also published two of his bestselling works Taras Bulba and Viy. Taras Bulba is a historical novel which has recently been used as the plot to a new movie bearing the same name, and the premise behind Viy has already been used four times in four different movies (1909, 1916, 1967 and 2009). At the time Gogol was writing Viy, religion and mystics seemed to captivate his attention and during the shooting of the movies; many mysterious happenings are said to have taken place, including deaths on set! Perhaps there is a connection with the author of the book? The death of the writer has a flavour of mysticism to it also. Gogol never slept in a bed because he considered it to be a place you go to die. Instead, he used a chair to sleep in. He would follow this uncomfortable practice until the bitter end, which came about after he received some very harsh criticism from a priest about some of his works. In a fit of pique he burned all that he had written, stopped eating, and, for the first time since childhood, took to bed where, as he had predicted, he died. Or so the story goes. In reality, we dont know the cause of Gogols death, as there are a few blank pages in his biography, which include, as well as the true nature of his death, his private life and love affairs.

Mykola Gogols life was a constant search for perfection. He never stopped trying to improve on what he had already achieved, and there was always a vast combination of mystic and folk motifs in his novels. This may be the answer to the question, why is Gogol so popular now? That aura that embodied the man looking for something a little bit more, a little bit different is very similar to Ukraines youth of today. They too are in search of a better life where they can successfully reveal their talents.

Not your everyday ordinary celebration, the first GogolFest was held in 2007. Featuring modern art, music and theater, artists (young and old, inexperienced and seasoned) get a chance to showcase their creativity that is usually outside what is generally accepted by society. Its become a school for the new Ukrainian Art elite where anyone can experience something new and valuable in their future creative work. This year GogolFest 2009 will be held in the Alta Expo Center starting off with a big concert on 11th April. To find out more about the goings-on, check out their website: gogolfest.org.ua

Vadym Mishkoriz

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Comments (2)
You are not authorized! Only registered and authorized users can add their comments!
dhdtdxppr | 31.07.2012 14:27

YU8RqJ yapqsqogojha

Theresy | 30.07.2012 18:52

Il est vrai que beaucoup dans notre vase clos frnpaochone ne voient pas la re9alite9 de pays, tel que l'Ukraine, qui depuis peu semblent s'imposer e0 leur attention. Pourtant il est d'autres qui se battent pour que ceux ne9s dans la culture frane7aise soient tout aussi bien informe9s que le reste du monde.

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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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