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2017 marked the beginning of Ukraine’s cultural renaissance

2017 marked the beginning of Ukraine’s cultural renaissance
Article by: Andriy Lyubka
Translated by: Anna Mostovych

In 2017 Ukraine did not succeed in setting an example of successful reforms, but culture is the one sphere where achievements have been undeniable. The past year can definitely be called the year of the renaissance of Ukrainian culture. Most importantly, there is every reason to believe that in 2018 the resurgence in Ukraine’s cultural production will continue and strengthen.

Cinema

cyborgs
Poster for the Ukrainian feature film “Cyborgs”

This was indeed the first year when audiences went to see Ukrainian films not for patriotic reasons but because of their entertainment value. Moreover, in 2017 there were so many Ukrainian films that many people were not able to see all of them — especially in the fall, when a new domestic film was released almost every weekend. Successes were not far behind. “Cyborgs” (feature film chronicling the heroic defense of the Donetsk airport — Ed.) was a film whose quality was in no way inferior to Western films and which will continue to bring pleasure in the coming years. The comedy “Dzidzio Contrabass (with a record breaking Ukrainian box office of 22 million hryvnias — Ed.) not only paid for itself but also was profitable for its creators. “The Stronghold ” (“Storozhova Zastava”) was an adventure/fantasy film for children and adolescents executed at a world-class level. Finally, work also began on popularizing Ukrainian history– “Chervonyi” was an action film about the uprising of UPA soldiers in a Soviet labor camp that  received good reviews while also generating decent box office receipts.

The 2018 budget for state financing of cinema production has been increased significantly, so we can hope for progress in this area. It is also important to encourage the growth of movie theaters in order to provide access to new films for the inhabitants of small towns and district centers.

Books

A visit to any bookstore reveals the impressive diversity of the Ukrainian book market. Ten years ago only children’s literature was of high quality and quantity. In 2017, however, it became obvious that the entire book market in Ukraine is getting on its feet. The translations are particularly gratifying — now the world bestsellers are published by Ukrainian publishing houses almost concurrently with Western markets.

The business and motivational book category is flourishing, and these books were top sellers in the bookstores throughout the year. Thus, the system of licensing the importation of Russian books has breathed new life into Ukrainian book publishing, which is gradually changing into a profitable business rather than a hobby. In addition, a Ukrainian Book Institute was finally established in 2017– an institution designed to promote both reading and Ukrainian books at home and abroad.

Music

Singer Oleh Skrypka, leader of the rock band Vopli Vidopliassova
Singer Oleh Skrypka, leader of the rock band Vopli Vidopliassova

The same way that restrictions on the importation of Russian books have revived Ukrainian publishing, the introduction of quotas for Ukrainian music in radio broadcasts has given impetus to the development of the domestic music industry. It turns out there were quite a few new bands (that is, they already existed but the listening public did not have the opportunity to discover and hear them), and the quality of their product is absolutely competitive. This fact has been confirmed by statistics from the radio stations: according to government data, all national, regional and local radio stations in 2017 exceeded the required quotas for Ukrainian-language songs on the air by 25%.

We hope that the flowering of the Ukrainian music industry will encourage the moral revival of certain performers, so that next year we will no longer see Ukrainian stars appearing on Moscow stages and award ceremonies.

Language

Poster for the Ukrainian film "The Stronghold"
Poster for the Ukrainian film “The Stronghold”

” It would seem these are only words … Words and voice — nothing more. But the heart beats — and comes alive. When it hears them” (from a poem by Taras Shevchenko).

As we can see from the reviews in the fields of cinema, book publishing and music, there were significantly more opportunities to hear the Ukrainian language in Ukraine in 2017. In addition, the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) passed the law “On Education”, where article No. 7 allows for the process of the linguistic decolonization of Ukraine to begin.

The plans are even more ambitious for 2018. Society is demanding the passage of bill No. 5670-D, “On ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the state language,” which will restore to the Ukrainian language the rights it deserves to have in its own country. Additionally, the approaching elections will encourage politicians to prove their own patriotism ,which means this bill has fairly high chances of becoming law.

Wishes for the New Year

In the coming year we wish for the Ukrainian culture to continue its dynamic development and for other areas — especially the economy, medicine, and the anti-corruption fight — to follow culture’s example and not lag behind too catastrophically. Happy New Year!

Andriy Lyubka

Andriy Lyubka is a Ukrainian poet, prose writer, and essayist. He is the author of eight books and the winner of the “Debut” and “Kyiv Lavra” literary awards. His works have been translated into more than ten languages. 

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
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