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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

A Divisive National Hero

Hes a historical legend, locations in Kyiv and across the country bear his name and his bearded face stares out from the 50hrv bill. Yet one of the greatest projects of his life ended in failure. Whats On looks at the life of Mykhailo Hrushevsky born 147 years ago on 29 September.

Mykhailo Hrushevsky is credited with helping to establish Ukraines idea of itself, he was involved with the violent politics of two empires, played roles in wars and revolutions, ran the country under wartime conditions, underwent persecution and exile under two regimes and died in the Caucasus under mysterious circumstances that could be ripped from the pages of a John LeCarre novel.

The Seeds Of Nationalism
Born in 1866, Hrushevsky would go on to spend a good portion of his early life in the same region in which his life would end in the Caucasus. In Tbilisi, Georgia, then known as Tiflis, he distinguished himself at the Russian-language gymnasium, where he started writing poems and stories in Ukrainian his ancestral language. From there he went to Kyiv Universitys historical-philological department, where he was star student under the influential historian Volodymyr Antonovych. Upon graduation, he was given the new chair in Ukrainian studies at Lviv University. Why Lviv University? Kyiv was then one of the main cities of the Russian Empire and St Petersburg was cracking down on expressions of Ukrainian nationalism. Barely 20 years earlier, Tsar Alexander II issued the Ems Decree, banning the use of Ukrainian in print as well as taking other anti-Ukrainian measures. Lviv, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was a more tolerant place.

Self And National Discovery
Hrushevsky was a dynamo of energy as a young professor in Lviv it was the first place he had lived where he was likely to hear Ukrainian on the streets. All over Europe this was an era of national reawakening, and Lviv was the capital of Ukraines take. Hrushevsky revelled in it.
His work would eventually become the seed for one of the greatest chronicles of history ever produced in Eastern Europe: his monumental History of Ukraine-Rus. Trawling Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, German and other archives, Hrushevsky worked to distinguish Ukrainian history from Russian history, and portray Ukraine as the heir to the cultural inheritance of Kievan Rus, which Russians considered the seed of Muscovy. The Lviv scholar was claiming an autonomous history for Little Russia, and essentially stealing Kyiv away from the Russians, which always considered it the original Russian town. He also insisted on a holistic Ukrainian national identity, positing that Austro-Hungarias western Ukrainians, who called themselves Ruthenians, should belong to the same nation as inhabitants of Russian Ukraine. His work offended scholarly opinion in staunchly reactionary Tsarist Russia.

Violent Times
After the revolution of 1905, the Tsarist regime was forced to liberalise, and while Hrushevsky kept his chair in Lviv, he joined the stream of Ukrainians back to Russian Ukraine spending much time in Kyiv and Kharkiv. In Kyiv he became involved in politics, becoming a leader of the Society of Ukrainian progressives, an organisation devoted to establishing Ukraine as a political entity. He was a member of the democratic, socialist left.
When World War I broke out the Tsarist regime cracked down on nationalism in the name of imperial wartime unity. The now famous historian was internally exiled to Simbirsk, Kazan and finally Moscow. When the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917, he was freed. In an understanding with Lenins regime, he became president of the Ukrainian National Republic, the first Ukrainian independent state. His republic was short-lived, it was soon overthrown by the right-wing, German-backed regime of Pavlo Skoropadsky, which itself was ousted by Symon Petliura then. Hrushevsky was forced into hiding by the mass violence of the Russian Civil War and eventually emigrated to Vienna. There he watched the Bolshevik regime with increasing approval as, at this pre-Stalinist point, the Bolsheviks were making noises about national determination. He returned to Kyiv in 1926 and reassumed his role as the dean of Ukrainian scholarly life.

Political Outcast And Divisive Legacy
Unfortunately, halcyon days in the fledgling USSR were almost over, the Stalinist era was looming. When it came, Hrushevsky attracted heat from Marxist intellectuals for his bourgeois nationalism and was increasingly harassed by the secret police. In 1931, he was arrested on suspicion he was involved with a subversive anti-Moscow organisation called the Ukrainian National Centre. He kept working under essentially house arrest in the Russian city of Kislovodsk, until he died in 1934. It was an anti-climactic ending worn down by persecution, rumours persist the secret police had a role in his death. Contemporary independent Ukraine is unimaginable without him, yet he is not without critics. For a younger generation of Ukrainian intellectuals, his dalliance with the Bolsheviks was unforgivable. Worse, men like Stepan Bandera and others from the radical Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists and Ukrainian Insurgent Army had contempt for his liberalism and weakness. He had, after all, been beaten by the Germans and the Russians. He had failed. In response to his perceived failure the Ukrainian national movement became militaristic, staunchly right-wing and suspicious. While Hrushevskys political career remains controversial, he is regarded as Ukraines greatest scholar of the 20th century and one of the most prominent Ukrainian statesmen in the countrys history.

Despite Hrushevskys respected place in Ukrainian history that respect does not extend to the places he frequented including the home he shared with his family at Saksahanskoho 111 which was demolished earlier this month.

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Comments (1)
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IyHa | 29.05.2014 20:15

A little bit late, bit fintitg for switzerland, a hello from over here :-)I read your comment on Kim Petras blog, and its astounding how often I read that someone from an english speaking country learned german :-) (eg. Zoeb Brain, too)Sarah

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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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