Monday, March 31, 2008

Ze'ev Jabotinsky

Ze'ev Jabotinsky was a Jewish and Zionist author, orator, soldier, leader, and founder of the Jewish Self Defense Organization in Odessa. He was born and raised in Odessa and wrote in some of his works, that despite attending Hebrew school, he felt rather detached from the religious aspects of Judaism. His writings were printed in Ukrainian/Russian papers before he even graduated high school and was sent to Switzerland and Italy to be work as a reporter for a Russian paper. He attended the University of Rome, while in the area, and later became a lawyer upon his return to Russia.

After the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, he joined the Zionist movement. Jabotinsky quickly established the Jewish Self Defense Organization and learned modern Hebrew. He changed his Russian name of Vladimir to Ze'ev, meaning wolf, in Hebrew. He became the leader of right-wing Zionists after Theodore Herzl's death in 1904 and was the Russian delegate to the Sixth Zionist Congress. At a conference in Helsinki, Finland, he called upon European Jewry to help with the liberation struggle of ethnic minorities in Russia. Jabotinsky criticized Russian Jewish leaders for participating in the centennial celebration of Nikolai Gogol, because Gogol was a reputed anti-Semite.

Jabotinksy ended up in Palestine and helped establish defense training for Jewish men, however was thrown in jail for being Socialist and enveloping Bolshevik views. Both of which, were untrue. Upon returning from the 16th Zionist Congress, Jabotinsky was exiled from Palestine under British rule. In the 1930s, Jabotinsky was concerned with the Polish Jewish population, whom he believed 'were living on the edge of the volcano'. He predicted "bloody super-pogroms" would strike European Jews. He pleaded with Polish/Hungarian/Romanian governments to allow a 10 year plan for the evacuation of their Jewish populations to Palestine. They all agreed, however some Jews of these countries viewed this as playing into the hands of the anti-Semites. He also understood that there would be Arab opposition to the emigration of Jews, and drafted a constitution for a Jewish state that held Arabs in an equal light in all aspects of public life. He died of a heart attack in New York in 1940, while visiting a Jewish self-defense camp.

There are more streets, parks, and squares named for him in Israel than for any other Jewish or Israeli person in history. I find it incredibly interesting that stemming all the way from Odessa, a middle-class Jewish kid was able to help pave the way for the modern formation of Israel.

Ukrainian Superstitions: Pysanka

I was trying to search for some Ukrainian superstitions other than the ones we had discussed in class and I found out that there are some pretty neat ones dealing with pysanky (painted eggs).

Back when Ukrainians were pagans the sun god was the main focus of worship. Birds were the sun god's favorite creation because they were the only ones that could get near him. Humans couldn't catch the birds, but they could catch their eggs - therefore, eggs were considered magical objects and the source of life.

The Hutsels, who we have also learned about in class, supposedly believe that the fate of the world is dependent on pysanky. "As long as the custom exists," the world will exist. However, if the Hutsels (or maybe everyone) quit the tradition of egg painting evil will take over the world. This evil takes the form of a serpent that is for whatever reason chained to a cliff. Every year this serpent sends out his little followers to see how many pysanky have been produced. If the number is low than the chains holding the serpent to the cliff are lengthened and he is free to cause havoc and destruction all over the earth. If the egg count is high, however, the serpent is chained tighter to the cliff and peace will reign for another year. Similarly, every time a woman paints a pysanka, the devil is pushed farther down into captivity within the depths of hell, and when the last woman in the world ceases to paint pysanky, evil will rule the world.

There are also superstitions attached to the colors of a pysanka egg. An old myth says that it is wise to give old people eggs with dark colors or rich designs because their life has already been fulfilled. For younger people, it is better to give them a primarily white egg because "their pages have yet to be filled." That doesn't seem like it would be a very interesting pysanka. Also, if an egg breaks, one is supposed to bury it.

Lastly, it is bad luck for a girl to give her boyfriend or husband a pysanka with no designs at the top or bottom of the egg because it means he will be bald.

I had to research more, but it's not only Hutsels who believe these superstitions. Most Ukrainians paint pysanky as a favorite past time. Mothers pass it down to daughters, and daughters carry it on for future generations. People take the designs very seriously because each shape or line represents something. Specific results such as fertility and good health are intended when painting these eggs, so symmetry and beauty are key. To give a pysanka as a gift is a sign of love and friendship.

All in all, I think this is very interesting because it is not a "spur of the moment" superstition such as spitting over your shoulder or knocking on wood so as not to jinx yourself. In other words, it is more of a systematic, time consuming procedure with a very long history and religious ties that gets passed down to generations. One thing that I found strange is that this tradition and the superstitions involved with it seem to be oriented towards women: for example, mothers pass it on to daughters, and only when the last woman stops painting pysanky will evil rule the world. The only time guys are really mentioned is when they will grow bald if their girl friend leaves blank spots on the egg. Is it a female-dominated tradition, and even if the men join in with the painting, do they follow the superstitions as much?

These were my sources - the last link is a video:


As we were discussing Taras Shevchenko, I was fascinated to learn he created over 1,000 pieces of poetry, paintings or sketches within three years! He was born a serf, became educated by his landowner Engelhart, was a painter’s apprentice, was forced to be a soldier and then purged to Siberia. In his short life, he had a huge impact on the way Modern Ukrainian language was viewed/used and his work is looked at. His literary heritage is regarded to be the foundation of modern Ukrainian literature and, to a large extent, the modern Ukrainian language. Shevchenko also wrote in Russian and left many masterpieces as a painter and an illustrator.

Serfdom was abolished in Russia in 1861 by Tsar Nicholas II due to fear that peasants/serfs would revolt. He wanted to free them from the top instead of them rising up against the regime. Shevchenko died in 1861, and so I think it is interesting to question what type of other influences he may have had on Ukrainian culture if he had lived?

The Russo-Turkish Wars ended with the Ottoman Empire losing control in south-central Ukraine. Ukrainian writers and intellectuals were inspired by the nationalistic spirit stirring other European peoples and became determined to revive the Ukrainian linguistic and cultural traditions. The Russians imposed strict limits on attempts to raise Ukrainian language and culture, even banning its use and study. The most notable Russian writer of Ukrainian descent was Nikolai Gogol, for his work The Nose and The overcoat.

Nikolai Gogol was born in the Cossack village of Sorochyntsi, in the Poltava guberniya of the Russian Empire. In 1820 Gogol went to a school of higher art in Nezhin and remained there until 1828. It was there that he began writing. In 1828, on leaving school, Gogol came to Petersburg. He had hoped for literary fame and brought with him a Romantic poem of German idyllic life — Hanz K├╝chelgarten. He had it published, at his own expense, under the name of "V. Alov". Unfortunately it was met by the magazines with scorn. He bought all the copies and destroyed them, swearing never to write poetry again (

Gogol is considered to be one of the first masters of short prose. His fictional story Taras Bulba, based on the history of Ukrainian cossacks, was the result of this phase in his interests and his heritage. During this time he also developed a close friendship with another Ukrainian then living in Russia, the historian Mykhaylo Maksymovych. While in early writings Gogol endowed Ukraine with cultural wholeness and a heroic past, his Russian depictions are austere and fractured.

Vissarion Grigorievich Belinsky; the champion of the left literary critic called upon Russian literature “to serve the causes of justice for the disadvantaged and of progress toward a more open and democratic society”. Belisnky’s view on Gogol’s work such as the Overcoat, was that it was serving a just cause, that the underdog should rise up against the Russian Empire. Gogol however, viewed himself as a conservative and became devoutly religious. He saw his work as merely fiction and believed that the serf should stay the serf. It is interesting how two Ukrainian men could have such different impacts during their times.

For more information and literary work by Gogol:

Ivan Mazepa

As I was watching Roman Onufrijchuk's lectures on the Ukraine I was particularly captivated by the story of the Cossack Ivan Mazepa. Although I think Western audiences are more accustomed to thinking of the Ukrainian Cossacks as a band of totally unorganized rogues who pillaged and fought, my findings on Mazepa in the online Encyclopedia of Ukraine entirely contradicted this image. Apparently, Mazepa was a very organized and savvy Hetman, who sought not only to secure legal rights for the Cossacks, but to encourage within his Hetmanate an appreciation for literature, painting, and architecture. Indeed, the Encyclopedia of Ukraine states that some scholars now refer to the period of Mazepa's rule as the "Mazepa Renaissance" for its many advances in the humanities!

Most interesting to me were Mazepa's relations with Peter I of Russia. That a Cossack Hetman was even recognized by the Tsar, much less seen as a military and civil threat, indicates the magnitude of Mazepa's s sphere of influence. Mazepa and Peter I had initially formed an alliance, but it had become a burden on the entire Cossack population due to the Tsar's constant interference in their affairs and his exploitation of their labor. Soon, Peter I sought to abolish the Cossacks' status as "free agents" and to obliterate the Cossack order that bound the members together, assuming that Mazepa could not overpower him. Mazepa, however, began his own secret plotting with King Stanislaus of Poland and Charles XII of Sweden, forming an alliance that supported the independence of the Cossacks and their right to national self-determination. Moreover, Charles XII refused to make peace with Moscow until Ukraine and the Cossack lands were freed of Peter I's rule.

Unfortunately for Mazepa, the Russo-Swedish war, carried out on Ukrainian territories, resulted in a defeat for Charles XII, and Peter I was free to take his revenge on the Cossack dissenters. Russian forces captured Baturyn, Mazepa's capital, and massacred its 6,000 inhabitants. Peter I then began to persecute Mazepa's followers so that Mazepa, along with 3,000 of his loyal men, were forced to flee to Turkish-held territories. Mazepa's dream of an independent Cossack nation was extinguished.

Still, it amazes me that a little Cossack Hetman with some 10,000 men behind him managed to both battle and form alliances with some of Europe's greatest powers, and to be recognized by these powers as either a political equal or a serious military threat. This certainly speaks to Mazepa's skill as an orator, a politician, a military leader, and a statesman. And to think that he did all this not in the midst of a militant society, but as the head of a people who built Baroque churches, supported translations of the New Testament, and attended the Kyivan Mohyla Academy for higher learning!

If you'd like to learn more about Mazepa, here is a useful link:\M\A\MazepaIvan.htm

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ivan Franko, and the life of the Lviv writer

Along with Taras Shevchenko, there is another heralded Ukrainian writer, poet, and political hero of nearly ‘prophet’ status- especially so in western Ukraine; His name is Ivan Franko, and spent most of his life writing and working in the city of Lviv.

Born in eastern Galicia in1856 (former large territory of western Ukraine), his hometown of Nahuevychi is located in the modern-day Lviv oblast. Perhaps so, because of some of his German ancestry. Ivan’s family, thankfully placed him on the educational route in life, attending village and then monastic school, eventually attending the Lviv University where he studied Ukrainian language, literature, and philosophy. It is worth mentioning that he knew Taras Shevchenko’s poem “Kobzar” by heart in its entirety.

However, attending the University, he became heavily involved in socialism and socialist writing. He was arrested because of this and sent to prison for 8 months- in which he continued to write about socialism, including political satires. He studied the works of Karl Marx and began to organize workers’ unions in Lviv. He was kept under close government watch, even after his release. Franko’s passion only grew, while he continued to write and influence local political and social groups- for which he was arrested yet again. The University disenrolled him for the civil disobedience, but ironically, the University was re-named after Franko years after his death.

He moved back to Nahuevychi where much of his writing was done. Here, he translated many German writings, including those of Goethe. In addition to this, it seems that he wrote for countess journals and newspapers- much of it being political commentary. Interestingly, he even wrote about the life and works of Taras Shevchenko- whom he would later join in Ukraine’s highest literary echelon.

He married Olha Khorunzhynska in 1886, in the month of his 30th birthday. Yet again, his writings and collaboration with other political commentators in western and central Ukraine led to his third arrest and imprisonment. This pushed him to form the Ruthenian-Ukrainian Radical party with Mykailo Drahomanov, his writing compatriot from Franko’s days at Lviv University. Later, starting in 1891, he attended several universities, including Chernivtsi University in western Ukraine, and Vienna University in Austria. He was offered a job at Lviv University some time later, but was never able to work because of strong objection from the government leaders.

He continued to write, through which he continued with criticism of the Ukrainian Social Democracy and popular Marxist politics. He was quoted as saying that “Marxism was ‘a religion founded on dogmas of hatred and class struggle.’ His relationship with Drahomanov became strained through differing ideas, and the Radicl party he helped found eventually split in 1899. With the help of other Lviv political natives, he founded the more successful Ukrainian National Democratic Party the next year.

Franko was indeed famous, and perhaps even notorious while alive; especially amongst Ukraine’s educated and university-aged youth. He was celebrated for 25 years of influential writings in 1898, by the entire Ukrainian community of Galicia, and once again for his 40 years in 1913. He is considered by modern Ukrainian writers and language historians to have literally changed & permanently solidified the structure/style of Ukrainian language and writing (along with Taras Shevchenko and Lesia Ukrainka) into the form most speak and write today. Despite enjoying relative popularity during his life, Franko struggled to make a living for himself and his wife through his chosen path of work. The poverty in which Franko lived inspired Lviv students and political activists to purchase a house for him in the city’s center.

Writing until his death, he passed away with nearly nothing, with only admirers (no family) to attend his funeral in 1916.

However, simply knowing a timeline of the man’s life does not offer one the true understanding or motivation of Franko. Because of the vast number of his works, one can see that he did not live an easy life; He wrote in part to earn what money he could. It is quite remarkable that he chose to dedicate his life to spreading his philosophies on nearly every facet of Ukrainian life at the turn of the 20th century. He continually called for the lower class peasants, and Ukrainians as a whole people, to struggle against the existing order of life- of subservience and complacency with the national identity at the time. It is extensive and exhausting to attempt to read into his true thoughts on life at the time, but I believe that some insight may be gained by reading what Franko wrote on Politics, and his own Ukrainian nationality:

“…I never belonged to the faithful of that religion, and had the courage, amidst put downs and disregard, to bravely carry my flag of old-fashioned people-based socialism, which is based on ethic and humanistic cultivation of masses, a flag standing for general availability of education, science, critical thinking, human and national freedom. The flag does not stand for party dogma and despotism of its leaders; it does not represent the bureaucracy or parliamentary corruption, which would supposedly lead to the ‘bright’ future."
-spoken quote from Franko

"My Ukrainian patriotism – it is not a sentiment, not a national pride, it – a heavy yoke, placed by fate on my shoulders. I can tremble; I can quietly curse the fate, but I cannot throw down this bondage, cannot go look for another homeland, because then I would be loathed by my own conscience.”
-exerpt from Ivan Franko letter

(quotations from )

You can sense the frustration, in that he desires individual thought and judgment upon his own character- but still feels obligated to support the ‘Ukrainian’ cause. This slight bitterness could be a result of his poverty, or socioeconomic status- or, perhaps he formulated his ideas because of the government/leadership of the people at the time, and how they simply "put up" or dealt with their situation instead of taking a stand. Through this struggle, I believe, is why he fights so strongly to definitively change the political and moral fiber of the nations people.

Despite this, I find it incredible that during his life, Franko used his gifts not only to convey his serious messages about nationality and politics, but to craft poetry, prose, dramas, and also translations, on top of ethnography, folklore, history, esthetics, sociology, political economy and philosophy.

Information from:
Wilson, Andrew; The Ukrainians- Unexpected Nation pg 232.

Chernobyl: How it happened!

Image courtesy of

While an earlier poster noted what happened after Chernobyl, I thought learning exactly what happened that day would be interesting and informative. I wrote this because of my deep interest in this disaster. If you have any questions or comments about this, please contact me and I will do my best to answer them. If you have any questions about some of the details of the day, please let me know.  I used personal knowledge and for most of my research. I tried to take what I learned and turn it into a more lemans version of what was on Wikipedia. 
The following is some of what happened leading up to and on April 26, 1986:

During the daytime on April 25th, reactor 4 was shut down for maintenance. This was a decision made in order to test the reactor's ability to generate power, even if the reactor were to lose power. The point of the test was to determine whether the turbines in the rundown phase could power the pumps while generators were being turned on. The test had previously been tried on a different reactor, with negative results. However, there were some improvements made and the staff felt a new test was needed.
The disaster started to buildup during the day on the 25th. Unexpectedly, a power station went out of line and reduced the power to the nuclear reactor by 50%. Although, this was still enough power, much of the day was spent trying to keep the power station from reducing power further. Because too much time was spent keeping the power station up, the day shift was over by the time they were ready for testing. Instead, the night shift was placed in charge of the test. While this would not be a problem in most places, the night shift staff was not well educated on nuclear reactors-- most had come from coal reactors. 
Throughout the night this uninformed crew worked on the tests. They continued to lower power to see if their theory was correct. However, because of their ineptness they were unable to see problems looming.  The new crew was unaware of the prior postponement of the reactor slowdown, and followed the original test protocol, decreasing power too rapidly. When the operators commaded a small power reduction, the the reactor powered dropped to 5% of what was expected. The operators believed that the rapid fall in output was due to a malfunction in one of the automatic power regualtors. In order to increase power, automatic rods were pulled out of the reactor beyond a safe level. This pullout caused a buildup of Xe-135, a type of xenon found in nuclear reactors. 
Not knowing how unsafe the conditions were, the plant workers began their experiment at 1:23:04 a.m. on April 26, 1986. Unfortunately, the unstable state of the reactor was not reflected in any way on the control panel, and it did not appear that anyone of the crew knew there was any immediate danger. The steam to the turbines was shut off and, as the momentum of the turbine generators drove the pumps, the flow of water decreased, thus decreasing the absorption of neutrons by the coolant. The turbine was disconnected from the reactor, increasing the steam level in the reactor core. As the coolant heated, pockets of steam formed, causing voids in the coolant lines. 
Thirty Four seconds later, the operators ordered a shutdown of the reactor, inserting all control rods--including the manually inserted ones that had been withdrawn earlier. The slow insertion speed, along with the flawed rod design which initially reduces the amount of coolant present meant that the shutdown increased the reaction rate. This caused the reactor to jump to ten times the normal operational output. The rods began to melt and steam pressure rapidly increased. This increase cause a large steam explosion. This caused part of the roof to blow off, allowing oxygen to rush in. This combined with the extremely high temperature of the reactor fuel and graphite started a graphite fire. The fire greatly contributed to the spread of the radioactive material to the outlying areas. 
While this is a detailed explanation of how the Chernobyl disaster occurred, it is definitely not the main story. The lack of information form the government and time delay in letting the citizens know is what is spoken about today. As mentioned earlier, a poster already went into great detail regarding these issues. 
Again, most of this information came from Wikipedia, and I would be more than willing to help with any questions you may have. This is an edit from the previous post, so one of the commenter, "MarkR" may also be of some help. 

Frantsuzsky Boulevard

In the XIX century, the Frantsuzsky Boulevard was the place to inhabit by the rich. It was uniquely desirable though, because of its undeveloped beauty. The rich titled their villas and country homes "dachas". The street was originally named Malofontanskaya Dorogo (which means "small fountain road"), but was renamed after Nikoli the Second's visit from France in 1902. As it began, however, this road was rather ugly until 1894 when Odessa got a new city engineer, Vasiliy Ivanovich Zuev, to transform the boulevard into a picturesque place to live. His vision included paving the road, making it the first tarred road in Odessa. One interesting fact is that when the Boulevard was being built, the city governor and wealthy philanthropist Grigoriy Marazli, refused to have part of his park cut away for the construction of the road. So, the Boulevard got its only turn to the right to avoid any damage to the park and its boundaries. The wealthy occupied this Boulevard until the Soviet Revolution when much of it was converted to a health resort with sanatoriums.

On this Boulevard sits the Champagne Factory, which is one of the oldest in Ukraine. In front of the factory is the Pioneer Children Monument. This monument symbolizes the Young Pioneer Organization of the Soviet Union. This was a boy scout-like organization that was established by the USSR in 1922. Although membership was optional, almost all the children in the Soviet Union belonged to the organization for the duration of their childhood.

Another interesting attraction of the Frantsuzsky Boulevard are the cable cars that travel from the Boulevard to the beach. These cable cars are unlike those found in San Francisco, for the ride is in the air! This allows a spectacular view, while avoiding the steep hill between the Boulevard and the beach.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Volodymyr Ivasyuk

Volodymyr Ivasyuk was the "Elvis" of the Ukraine.  Before age 10 he could play the violin, piano and began writing his own music by age 15.  Also as a child he showed interest in poetry and art.

After that, the multitalented and intelligent Ivasyuk began to study medicine.  Sadly, he was kicked out of school because he and his fellow friends had tipped over a statue of Lenin.  
By his early twenties he had become famous both in the Ukraine and the entire Soviet Union where he won best song of the year in the entire Soviet Union two years in a row (Chervona Ruta in 1971 and Vodohray in 1972).
Then he moved to Lviv and became a doctor, and continued to create more songs/material, most of which were sung by Sofia Rotaru.
He then (as we heard about in class) at age 30 was hanging from a tree close to Lviv (possibly by the Soviets).

Vylkove - The Ukrainian Venice

After hearing about the “Venice of Ukraine”, I was interested in learning more about it. Unfortunately there is not much information in English about this town, so I would be happy if someone commented with links to some more information. Anyway…

Vylkove (Vilkovo) is located in southern Ukraine on the border with Romania. It is located in the Kilia part of the Danube River Delta. This area is a marsh. It was founded in 1775 (according to the pamphlet, 1746 according to the Vilkovo and Danube Biosphere Reserve link). The town has a series of waterways called “yeriks”, formed when people built up small islands for their houses from sediments. The waterways still exist and are navigated by boats, but there are also boardwalks and bridges for pedestrian traffic. There is an interesting People who live on the islands need to maintain them to prevent flooding and clear the trenches for boat traffic. The traditional boat is a “seagull” boat, used by the Cossacks. They are now called “herring boats” since they are used by local fishermen to catch Danube herring.

Vylkove has an interesting history because of its location. It was under Turkish rule for the first 66 years, then under Russian rule for 44 years, than divided by Turkey and Romania for the next 22 years. It switched between Russia (40 years) and Romania (21 years), and was under USSR rule before 1991, when it became an independent town of Ukraine.

Vylkove has two churches and one chapel, all named after St. Nicholas. One church is Lipovanian. Lipovans came to the area after they broke from the Russian orthodox church following reforms by Patriarch Nikon in 1654. Lipovans in Vylkove speak an archaic form of Russian and maintain their old religious practices.

The administrative center of the Ukrainian Danube Biosphere Reserve is located in Vylkove. This reserve supports over 950 plant species and nearly 260 bird species. It was declared a biosphere reserve in 1998, and in 1999 UNESCO included it in the network of biosphere reserves.

International Danube Day is on June 29 and has been celebrated three times in Vylkove. In 2007, the theme was “Celebrate the Danube cultures”. There was a bike tour through 17 Odesa settlements and a yacht that went from Odessa to Vylkove, passing through 270 km of the Black Sea coast and the Danube delta. On June 29, 2007, there was an open-air festival in Vylkove that attracted nearly 3000 people. More information and pictures from this festival can be found here, and information and pictures from the festival in 2006 can be found here.

Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve

Ukrainian Cossack History

Not being very familiar with the Ukrainian Cossacks, I choose to research this topic, supposing others in the class might also be unfamiliar. A great source, of course, is the Encyclopedia of Ukraine article at

The Cossacks began as free soldiers, protecting the steppe area from Turkish and Tartar raids. Although it does not seem clear to me, it appears their founding was even supported or allowed by the Polish-Lithuanian powers to assist in protecting the area. As the Cossacks grew in numbers and power, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth first tried to regulate them, and then later gave the them limited autonomy while still under Polish-Lithuanian control. By the late 1500s, the Cossacks began making their own external treaties but still assisted the Polish Army in certain battles: 1618, Moscow and 1621, Khotyn.

Of particular note is the Cossack-Polish Ward, 1648 to 1657. In some regards, this war is hailed as a great event--a Cossack uprising gathering a large portion of the Ukrainian populace and yielding a Cossack state. However, this state was never able to gain complete autonomy, the result of the war seeming to remove them from Polish rule, only to place them under Russian rule. Also, the local people fared very poorly, with all armies being very cruel and murdering many people (women, children, clergymen, Jews, etc.) of the opposing side.

This Cossack state mentioned above existed from 1648 until 1782. Although initially the general populous had more freedom under this state, soon class hierarchies again controlled available freedoms. The state was abolished by Catherine II in 1764--the governing bodies replaced by Russian organizations and serfdom for the peasants. Only few of the ruling Cossacks were given Russian nobility status. During the 1800s, army regiments were sometimes formed from previous Cossack groups, and periodic Cossack protests were engaged, resulting in the social class remaining somewhat distinct.

As a last note, an anti-socialist Ukrainian government formed in 1918, called the Hetman government, certainly with ties to the historical Cossacks. However, it was too closely tied with Czarist Russia, and after the Bolshevik revolution, the Hetman government eventually surrendered powers to the socialist Ukrainian National Republic in December 1918.

This is just a very brief historical outline of the Cossacks, but I think it adds some interesting perspective to some of our class discussion regarding Schevchencko, Cossacks and Ukrainian Nationalism.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Seven Wonders of Ukraine

The Seven Wonders of Ukraine are historical and cultural monuments located in Ukraine. To determine which landmarks would be considered, the Seven Wonders of Ukraine contest was held in July, 2007. Voting consisted of experts in Ukraine voting for their seven best sites, along with internet users who were allowed to vote for their seven favorite sites on the official website. A list of 1,000 possible candidates was composed and was later narrowed down to 21 by an expert council consisting of historians, culturologists and tourist specialists. Official voting opened on July 7th and was closed on August 21, 2007. During this time approximately 77,000 internet users voted on the campaign.

The results:

1st: Sofiyivsky Park in Uman, Cherkasy Oblast

2nd:Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Monastery of the Caves) in Kiev

3rd:Kamianets-Podilskyi Historical Complex in Kamianets-Podilskyi, Khmelnytskyi Oblast

4th:Khortytsia in Zaporizhia, Zaporizhia Oblast

5th:Chersonesos in Sevastopol

6th:Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev

7th: Khotyn Fortress in Khotyn, Chernivtsi Oblast

I had never noticed that there have been multiple 'Seven Wonders of the World'. A few that I found are the Seven Wonders of the Medieval World, Seven Wonders of the Modern World, Seven Wonders of the Natural World and Seven Wonders of the Industrial World. I find that it is only appropriate that Ukraine adds their beautiful Seven Wonders to the list!

The 7 Medieval wonders: Stonehenge, Colosseum, Catacombs of Kom el Shaqafa, Great Wall of China, Porcelain Tower of Nanjing, Hagia Sophia, Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The 7 Natural Wonders: Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef, Harbor of Rio de Janeiro, Mt. Everest, Aurorae, Paricutin Volcano, Victoria Falls

The 7 Industrialwonders : SS Great Eastern, Bell Rock Lighthouse, Brooklyn Bridge, London sewerage system, First Transcontinental Railroad, Panama Canal, Hoover Dam

For more information on The Seven Wonders of the World :

For more info specifically on Ukrainian Seven Wonders (great links available):

Carpathian Mountains

The Carpathian Mountain range stretches roughly 1,500 km through Central and Eastern Europe passing through Ukraine, Romania, Poland and Slovakia. The Carpathians are divided into three parts: Western Carpathians, Eastern Carpathians and Southern Carpathians. Ukraine lies in the Eastern Carpathians along with Southeastern Poland, Eastern Slovakia and Romania. The Carpathians are home to lynxes, brown bears, red deer and remains to be the last great refuge for wolves in Europe. The mountains are rich with rivers including the Dniester, Danube, Tysa, Prut, Seret and Wisloka. Flash floods are common in the spring and summer. The temperature ranges from -3 C in the winter to 20 C in the summer. Most precipitation occurs in June and July; the least, in January and February. The summers are quite cloudy and the winters are sunny. There are only small towns in the mountains, the largest of them are Sianik and Turka.

The Carpathians are a great destination for vacationers looking to ski, mountain bike, horseback ride, river rafters or hike. The Carpathians would be a very fun place to backpack because there are few areas were camping is prohibited and hikers are not restricted to the trail. As we can see in the pictures, this is a very beautiful region that would be exciting to explore! If you decide to go be careful, with no maintained trail system it is easy to get lost!

For those of you interested in skiing the Carpathians I recommend you check out Dan's post!
For more information on the Carpathians check out:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Odessa Catacombs

Sand stone is the main material that makes up the foundation of the older section of Odessa. Sand stone is relatively easy to dig through, and therefore it was used for building within the city. As a result of excavating large amounts of sandstone, large and elaborate tunnels were formed beneath the city that are known as the Odessa Catacombs. Because there are no hills or forests surrounding Odessa, many Ukrainian partisans hid in the catacombs and plotted against the Nazis who occupied the city during World War II.

The stories of these brave fighters are heavily disputed. According to "Official Soviet History", there were many different groups of Ukrainians who used the catacombs as a home base, but they all worked towards the same goal of killing the Nazis. Overall, there were a reported 6,000 Ukrainians and other Soviets operating in the tunnels and they participated in the killing of 6,000 Nazis as well as the derailment of 30 trains carrying Nazi officials and troops. The fighters were so organized and valiant that the Nazis were forced to keep 16,000 troops in Odessa and surrounding villages to keep order. While this story is "generally accepted", recently recovered documents indicate that the many partisan groups within the catacombs did not work together and at times spent just as much time fighting each other as they did fighting Nazis. This has also raised questions about the true effectiveness of this partisan warfare and whether or not they were as successful as Soviet History denotes.

Regardless of these questions, the Odessa Catacombs remain a very interesting feature and tourist attraction. There is now a Catacomb Museum in the nearby village of Nerubaiskoye where there is an entrance to the catacombs and tourists can walk around within a small area. Above the main entrance to the catacombs there is an inscription that reads:

"It was here in the catacombs of the Nerubaiskoye village that the partisans commanded by the Hero of the Soviet Union V.A. Molodtsov-Badayev had its underground base. They successfully operated behind enemy lines."

While these catacombs make for a very nice tourist spot, it is reported that every year at least one person gets lost in the catacombs and many have never been found by rescue parties. Below is rough map of the Odessa Catacombs:

Odessa Mama

After listening to Odessa Mama in class and having the tune stuck in my head for the next couple of hours, I figured it would be a great thing to write about.

Odessa Mama is a Yiddish song that is of Ukrainian origin. Before the Holocaust, it was popular in numerous countries, including the United States. Many notable performers have recorded their own version of this song. As we learned in class, the song is about the people's love for the city of Odessa; it is an ode to everything in Odessa, including the sidewalks, electric lights and hotels, as well as other modern amenities.

The term "Odessa Mama" is used by the people who live there to refer to their city, but ironically the term has criminal roots. There are so many strangers to cheat, con and rob along with so much contraband to steal. This is why over the years, "Odessa Mama" has bred such a criminal. Many port cities world-wide are notorious for having such a large class of criminals; however, there are very few places, including Odessa, that have been celebrated for this fact.

A fun fact that I found was that there is actually a Music Entertainment company called Odessa Mama Music Entertainment. Unfortunately, on the "Odessa Mama" section of their website, it does not give any relation that they have to the original song. Another fun fact is about the image below, which is a monument called the "Odessa Mama Monument." According to, this mother is atop three whales and has several babies lovingly cuddled to her bosom. Closer inspection of the babies show they are famous Odessa mayors.

If you are interested in watching another video of the singing of Odessa Mama, sung by Limpopo, the link is as follows:

Below is the English translation of the song! I found this at Please enjoy, and respond if you have any comments or questions!

Whoever has not been
In the beautiful city of Odessa
Has not seen the world
And knows nothing of progress
Who cares for Vienna of Paris,
They're puddles, jokes, no comparison
Only in Odessa is
A Paradise, I say.

There in a restaurant
They serve you beer
And with it a bite
Of fresh skrumbli
Bashmala and balik
And with them a shashlik
With a good glass of wine -What could be better?

Oh, Mother Odessa,
You're forever dear to me.
Oh, Mother Odessa,
How I long for thee!
Oh, Mother Odessa,
Who can forget you?
Oh, Mother Odessa,
I see you no more.
Oh, Mother Odessa,
I long for you and vow:

Your avenues, promenades
Are light, beautiful.
The cafes, the boulevards,
One can never forget.
The carriages, the gypsies,
The tumult, ta-ra-ram,
The hotels, the young ladies
Still are on my mind.

Oh, Mother Odessa,
You're forever dear to me.
Oh, Mother Odessa,
How I long for thee!
Oh, Mother Odessa,
Who can forget you?
Oh, Mother Odessa,
I long for you and vow:

Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay,
One cannot forget.
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay,
How I should like to see you again!
Hop tidl dam ti stidl didl dam ti.....

Oh, Odess-Odessa Mother,
You are the most beautiful panorama;
Everyone treasured you dearly.
The cabarets, restaurants,
You will still remember today
Who knows what has become of you?
Odessa, Odessa, I long for you!

Monday, March 24, 2008

hutsul folk art

The Hutsuls are an ethnic group from the Hutsul Region of the Carpathian Mountains. Originally, they were inhabitants of Kyvian Rus, but were forced to flee during the Mongolian invasion. The name Hutsul most likely refers to their semi-nomadic lifestyle which they were forced into after becoming migrant wanderers. Their colorful culture is captured in their folk art, which they are well known for. The Hutsuls best demonstrate their particular style in their clothing, sculpture, architecture, woodworking, metalworking, rug weaving, pottery, and egg decorating.

The Hutsuls distinguish themselves from the other ethnic groups living in the Carpathian Mountains by their distinctive dress, which is full of color and ornaments. Most Hutsuls wear linen shirts with multi-colored embroidery and even glass beads. These shirts are accompanied by sheepskin vests, known as kozhushynas, which are ornamented with leather, string, embroidery, and mirrors. Over their shirts they wear either a narrow or thin colorful belts, which are sometimes decorated with brass. In warm weather men wear broad rimmed hats which are decorated with strings and plumes. Women either wear a headband or a square scarf which is wrapped around their head or neck.

The Hutsuls are most well-know for their woodcarving, which is no surprise since their society is centered largely on logging. In the Carpathian there are several options for high quality wood such as oak, willow, ash, elm, beech, and plane, so the Hutsuls have a huge selection to choose from. They are known for often inlaying their carvings with objects of great contrast such as wood, brass, silver, bone, pearl, and glass beads. This rich and lively style is meant to represent traditional Hutsul culture.

Ukranian Carpathians – Bukovel Ski Resort

Ukranian Carpathians – Bukovel Ski Resort

The Bukovel Ski Resort is a $125 million development in western Ukraine that is already open to the public, but still expanding rapidly. In the next 3-4 years, an additional $1 billion is scheduled to be invested to outfit this resort with world class everything, from hotels, to ski lifts, to the best snow-making capabilities. It will also extensively expand its trails, a trail map can be found on the bottom of this blog.
The resort is located in the city of Ivano-Frankivsk located in the green region of the map.

This is a great region in Ukraine, not only beautiful from the mountainscapes but also close to Yaremche, which is called the tourist capital of western Ukraine, and also near Vorokhta a predominant winter sports city in the region. So the infrastucture surronding Bukovel is first class, and accessibility will not be an obstacle like with Dragobrat, currently the nations most popular ski resort. Dragobrat is only accessible by military grade truck lugging you up the mountain, but once you get there it is the best and tallest skiing in Ukraine so far.
What Bukovel will offer will attract all kinds of tourism to the area from Europe, Russia, and all over the world. Moscow is relatively close to this area, far closer than say the Italian or German alps, and with the most billionaires per-capita, one could easily foresee this being the next big hot spot in eastern Europe.
Bukovel will also be one of the biggest resorts in the world, having more lodging capacity that its western counterparts in Canada and the USA. With 600,000 visitors projected for this year alone, it looks to be well on its way to competing with these giants.
This indicates to me that Ukraine is finally taking big initiative to develop and attract international interest to this great country. First class luxury skiing is a unique and highly demanded means of entertainment that is perfect nestled in the regions Carpathian Mountains.

-Dan Nye

Tsymbaly: The Ukrainian Hammered Dulcimer

As music major, I am always fascinated to hear and learn about instruments around the world. And while reading about Hutsul’s Folk Art and Music, I had a strong urge to look deeper into finding out specific instruments from the Carpathian region in Southwestern Ukraine: particularly among the Hutsuls.

Tsymbaly is a Ukrainian version of a hammered dulcimer (cimbalom), a chordophone made up of a trapezoidal box with metal strings. Groups of three to five stings are tuned in unison, which are stretched between two bridges on the soundboard and is played by striking two wooden beaters against the strings. The origin of tsymbaly can be traced back to the Middle East where it was known as the Persian santur, which was brought into Ukraine during the Crusades. However, the first recorded evidence of the tsymbaly only dates to 17th century. Since then, it spread in popularity among people in the Carpathians in Southwestern Ukraine (specifically among Hutsuls and Bukovynians).

Tsmbaly have rich musical range of sounds and attain melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic functions as well. It is often used in folk ensembles called Troyista muzyka but also popular as a solo instrument.

Another interesting fact I have found was that as Ukrainians immigrated to Canada during WWI-WWII, tsymbaly became extremely popular in Western Canada where annual contests are still held in the beginning of August.

This is a video of a Hutsul Tsymbaly performance. The camera is rather shaky in the beginning but I hope you enjoy seeing and hearing an instrument from the other side of the world! (He is playing an Ukrainian melody from Huts├║lshchina (southwestern Ukraine).)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Lychakiv Cemetery as a tourist attraction?

The cemetery of Lychakiv is one of the oldest graveyards in Europe, dating from 1567. Lviv's most prominent graveyard is now an open air museum and considered by many to be even more than that. It is now a major Lviv tourist attraction, a "gallery of art work", featuring graves of many renowned personalities of Ukraine and Poland.

The cemetery really came into its own in 1787 when it became the final resting place for Lviv's intelligentsia, upper and middle classes. It was set in the hills of the Lychakiv borough according to an Imperial Austro-Hungarian edict that said all cemeteries had to be placed outside the city limits. In the 1850's the cemetery was expanded to include all the present day paths and alleys. In turn, it became the main cemetery for Lviv where almost everyone was buried. Almost all other cemeteries closed.

Of course, the most important aspect of the cemetery is the variety of beautiful gravestones in memorial to famous soldiers, poets, artists, writers, composers, historians, etc., primarily of Polish descent. Unfortunately, after World War II, many of the monuments began to be destroyed by the Soviets. The sculptures were destroyed up until 1971...the part of the cemetery dedicated to the Lviv Eagles was completely destroyed and turned into a truck depot! The Lviv Eagles were child soldiers that defended the city in the Ukrainian-Polish was of 1918-1919. The destruction stopped in 1975 as the cemetery was declared a historical monument, and since the 1980's reconstruction has continued and the cemetery has become a popular tourist attraction.

It struck me as odd that a cemetery would be advertised as a reason to come to visit a city, would be used as a tourist attraction. Then I remembered all the cemeteries or graveyards I have visited. These, however, tended to be battlefield cemeteries and any monuments within them, in my opinion, are less to be admired for artistic value (even if they are beautiful) and more so to act as a reminder of the deeds that were accomplished by the people or groups they represent. Lychakiv, on the other hand, looks like a very beautiful place meant to show off the architecture and artistic beauty of Lviv (like a town square or old building would do) more than make people remember who the people under the graves are or what they did. None of this bothered me, cemeteries for me were just never a place I would go to tour unless I had a reason, regardless of how beautiful. I then discovered that "cemetery tourism" is kind of a trendy thing, at least in the US, where cemeteries do things such as have Sunday jazz concerts, brunches, dog shows, bird watching sessions, etc. in order to raise money for preservation (partly due to so many people choosing cremation over burials.) It makes sense to me that certain older, architecturally attractive cemeteries would try to consolidate their customer base, "projecting themselves as repositories of architectural and sculptural treasures, like weeping marble maidens atop tombs. " I guess I answered my own question on why such a old and prestigious cemetery such as Lychakiv would open up for tourism.

Post WWII Polish/Ukrainian Deportations

One other thing...

During our discussion last Monday, Svitlana briefly touched on the post-WWII border shifts and the population transfer that took place between Poland and Ukraine. As Svitlana noted, this was a very painful process for those families dislocated, and the policy has since been condemned as ethnic cleansing. Here's a link to reviews of a book I've read that deals with this matter: It deals more with the Polish lands, and also with the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Poland after WWII, but it certainly also discusses the plight of Ukrainians in Poland and Poles in Ukraine.

Hutsul Music: Traditional & Ruslana-fied

Jessica gives a great analysis of motivations behind preservation of 'postcard people' cultures during the Soviet era. One of the topics that has interested me of late is the way in which Hutsul culture -- embroidery, music, dance -- has become commodified. A quick Google search for "Hutsul art" yields numerous hits for Ukrainian gift shops that cater not only to Ukrainians in Ukraine, but those in the diaspora. With many other aspects of Ukrainian culture suppressed or diluted under Soviet rule, it's not surprising that the traditions of 'postcard people' are gradually being reclaimed not necessarily as Hutsulyj, but more broadly as Ukrainian. Ruslana seems to have had more than a bit to do with this -- check out her song and video "Znaju Ja" for some Carpathian inspired music and great scenery of the area.

On the other hand, it seems that many Hutsul traditions are alive and well in smaller villages -- my YouTubing turned up a fun video series of a recent Hutsul wedding. Enjoy the music and the costumes:

Also, a quick word on the music: in addition to its unique collection of traditional instruments and frequent use of the tritone (augmented fourth or diminished fifth), traditional music of the Carpathians (both in Ukraine and Poland) is characterized by a very distinct singing style. Most notably, men and women sing in the same register, which leads many to observe that the babas singing seem to be really belting out their notes. You can here this a few minutes into the video above.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ethnicity in the USSR and "Postcard People"

On Monday, we heard the term "postcard people" used to talk about the Hutsul people who live in the Carpathian Mountain region. It's no coincidence that people like the Hutsuls have retained their traditional art and culture while other ethnic groups in the USSR did not. "Postcard people" refers to indigenous communities who were considered to be icons of folk culture in Soviet propaganda. Because of their special status they were not subject to many of usual Soviet reforms. The origins of this policy lies in the influence of Marxist theory in Soviet ethnography and also the form that the process of colonization took in the USSR.

Marxist theory explains cultural diversity among human societies by arguing that societies evolve through the stages of civilization based on technological development or mode of production, especially the division of labor. (The stages are in order: tribalism, primitive communism, feudalism, capitalism, and communism.) Because evolutionary change was fueled by changes in technology, material culture (physical things distinct to a particular culture) was of utmost importance. Soviet era ethnographers focused on the physical attributes of cultures like the Hutsuls (for example, their dress, music, and arts & crafts). The purpose of was to preserve their culture (for example in museums). Also, because it was believed that technological advancement, esp. industrialization, was the key to advancing a society or pushing it to evolve, the Soviet government imposed reforms on the majority that it wanted to evolve but not so with postcard people who were supposed to remain distinct (even considered primitive).

By preserving select "postcard people" Stalin was able to distinguish his imposed reforms from other forms of colonization such as that European countries imposed elsewhere. (European colonization usually aimed at "civilizing" populations, for example converting them to Christianity, teaching English, and imposing dress codes, not necessarily modernizing their technology.)

The USSR sought a monumental task: to bring thousands of ethnic groups and hundreds of nations across Eurasia under one administrative umbrella. This required a monumental standardization project. Local officials needed to follow the same guidelines in Siberia as in Balkans. To aid them, the Bureau of Ethnography provided documentation of local cultures and "scientific" evidence to support the Soviet argument that colonization was not an inherent bad but rather it was just that Europe had used it to exploit people. In this context, postcard people like the Hutsuls provided Stalin with propaganda for highlighting the diversity of the USSR and, in particular, how well the Soviet government had managed to maintain diversity in the collectivity.

Moreover, Hutsul diversity was protected by the particular history of the group itself. According to the Ukrainian Encyclopedia, the Hutsuls are the descendants of the original inhabitants of Kyivan Rus who fled into the mountains during the Mongolian invasion. Such distant history is difficult to argue. But, in more recent history (15th and 16th c) it is certain that the Hutsuls were a peasant group who were subject to domination by the Polish and Austrian nobility in previous centuries. They rebelled against European colonizers and maintained their unique culture. Thus, for the Soviets, they embodied the rural proletariat ideal in the face of bourgeois Europe.

If you are interested in learning more about Soviet ethnography and/or ethnic policy and affirmative action in the USSR, there is a great book by Francine Hirsch called "Empire of Nations". Also "Peoples of the RSFSR" is an encyclopedia with all the ethnic groups in the territory covered by the USSR.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Trembita

This woodwind instrument is not only used for funerals or for calling family members across the mountain. It is a multi-purpose, incredible instrument that was used for occasions of every type. There was the funeral trembita, also known as the pochorona, but there was also the large trembita. This is played on happy occasions, including festivals and weddings. The vivcars’ka trembita is used by shepherds to signal their location in the mountains and protect their herd from bears and wolves, while the koljadnyc’ka trembita is used to signal the Christmas carolers location in the mountains. This instrument is clearly necessary in a time and society where telephones are not on demand.

The trembita is usually some tree meters long, 2.3 to 5 cm wide at the mouthpiece and 6 cm wide at the bell. Longer and shorter trembitas do exist.The tube is made from a straight piece of pine or spruce, oddly they prefer to make it with a piece that has been struck by lightning! What they do is split the piece into two and carve out the core. Once this is complete, the sections are joined together and wrapped in lime bark.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video online to attach the sound that the trembita makes, but I hope you enjoy this picture that I found at Let me know if you have comments or questions!

Basketball in Kiev

Sports have always been a big deal in Ukraine. From soccer against the Nazis during WWII to basketball today, Ukraine has been at the center of the athletics world. Ukraine boasts six professional basketball clubs. The teams include BCK Dinamo Dnepropetrovsk, BC Kyiv, MBC Nikolacv, MBK Odessa, BC Pulsar and BK Sunny. The BC Kyiv team plays in the capital of Kiev. While professional basketball is big inside Ukraine, Ukrainian players have come to the U.S. and played in the NBA and NBA Developmental league. The following is a list of male players that have or currently play in either of the two leagues mentioned earlier:
- Kyrylo Fesenko
- Viktor Khryapa
- Sergei Lishouk
- Alexander Lokhmanchuk
- Slava Medvedenko (Current, Atlanta Hawks)
- Dleksiy Pecheroy
- Anatoli Polivoda
- Vitaly Potapenko (Current, Sacramento Kings)
- Alexander Volkov

Similarly to the United States, women's basketball is also popular in Ukraine. Many women's payers have come to the United States to play collegiately. One such player is Olga Firvosa. Olga played to Kansas State Women's Basketball from 1998 to 2000 as the teams starting center. The 6'6" Firsova is a native of Kiev and currently works for Kansas State Women's Basketball as their film exchange coordinator. 

While most people don't think of Kiev or Ukraine as an athletic powerhouse, both have done quite formidably in relation to other European countries in producing collegiate and professional basketball plaers. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ukraine's Music Industry (Kiev Pop Culture)

After learning about the Ukrainian pop star Ruslana and her transition to the world of politics, I decided to take a deeper look at the music industry. I was surprised to learn that MTV has launched MTV Ukraine in the past year! The channel kicked off on Friday the 24th of August 2007 with “Tantsi” music video by the famous Ukrainian band Vopli Vidoplyasova

MTV Ukraine features a broad mix of music videos by famous national musicians like Svyatoslav Vakarchuk and international musicians like Shakira. Along with a big variety of music videos and themed music shows, MTV Ukraine also broadcasts some trademark MTV US productions such as Pimp My Ride and Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County.

According to Viacom, MTV’s parent company, MTV Ukraine is set to take Ukraine’s music scene to the next level by providing Ukrainian youth with the best local and international music videos and programming that will reflect their tastes and interests as well as supporting the nations vibrant music industry.

Charchalis, Vice President, Horizon Capital (one of the founders of MTV Ukraine) commented “MTV is not just music videos, it's a lifestyle and we're confident that young adult Ukrainians will make it part of their lives. MTV has influenced entire generations and we're excited about delivering a Ukrainian language version of one of the world's strongest music and entertainment brands.”

It will be interesting to see how the launch of the station affects not only the Ukrainian music scene, but the identity of the younger generations of Ukrainians. Currently, though there are local Ukrainian pop stars, singers often look westward, trying to learn from Western professionalism and to copy the West's musical trends and preferences. Singers don't hide the fact that they want to make it overseas, which isn't always easy to do. Many professionals note that Ukraine's music market is behind in its development because it lacks structure: it's chaotic, with different formats and musical styles still trying to find their places.

Iren Osenniaya, who works in the Ukrainian media, says "the failure of our market is in its primitiveness and its unwillingness to learn from the West. Also, many of our artists don't want to develop their professional skills at all. Ukrainians have never been a people that like to stand out from the crowd, and that’s resulted in a music scene in which many projects resemble one another. But, industry insiders say, as soon as we realize that change is needed, progress will come by itself.”

I found this comment to be highly relevant given our previous discussions of the struggle to develop a sense of Ukrainian identity. While Ukrainian MTV gives these local singers a platform in which to express a unique Ukrainian message, it also brings the influences of Western culture.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Kiev National Opera House

The National Opera House is located in downtown Kiev, near Khreschatyk Street. It was established in the summer of 1867 by Ferdinand Berger. The day of the first performance, Askolds Tomb by Alexey Verstovsky, was declared a city holiday. The striking exterior of the building was designed in Neo-Renaissance style and had accounted for the needs of the actors and the spectators. The Exterior is complimented by the majestic and regal interior design through its classical style, called Viennese Modern. The greatest asset of the Opera House is considered to be the stage, which is one of the largest in Europe. The Opera House was creatively designed for productions of classical Ukraine and Russian operas and ballets. After viewing one show, you will leave the National Opera House amazed with its beauty and impressed on how it enhances the show. 

Kyiv - Current Events

Since a lot of what we have been discussing has been historically or politically focused, I thought it would be interesting to look up some of the current issues recently affecting Kyiv citizens.  Two articles I came across in the Kyiv Weekly newspaper struck me as interesting - one about the increased laws concerning smoking in the city and the other about the new funding for sufficient lighting to further illuminate the fantastic monuments in the capital, most of which we have discussed in class or have been mentioned on the blog.
The article on the cigarette crises in Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine was posted on March 5, 2008 and is entitled "Ban on Smoking ain't no Joking" (the translation is obviously skewed slightly but the humor of the title seems to have remained).  The primary concern of the article is that Ukraine is gradually adopting laws similar to other European countries in regards to smoking.  While it has not yet joined much of Europe in raising the price of cigarettes to its maximum in order to discourage sales, the government has started to reinforce the Law of Ratification which was adopted by parliament and signed by the president in 2006.  This law has "considerably limited the rights of smokers in public places," according to the article.  Also, there is some talk of forcing smokers to purchase a license in order to continue to smoke, as is being discussed in the countries of the European Union.  It seems that the primary reasons for these new efforts to decrease smoking habits in Kyiv and the rest of Ukraine have stemmed not only from the health risks involved, but also because the air in Kyiv is heavily polluted and the carbon monoxide released from the multitude of cigarettes is not helping especially when added to the problem of car pollution.  I found it interesting that the citizens of Kyiv are dealing with similar issues as our American cities like Los Angeles and New York in terms of smog and pollution, it makes Kyiv seem not so far from us!
The second article I read on the Kyiv Weekly newspaper website is more monumentally based.  The article posted in late February, entitled "Business to help Illuminate Kyiv for EURO2012," claims that authorities in Kyiv are working to enhance the artistic lighting around the city.  This project encompasses the proper illumination of 30 architectural monuments in the capital.  The city's chief artist, Viktor Hleba, says, "We will work on the design projects for comprehensive and intense lighting of buildings in Kyiv's central streets including Khreshchatyk, Volodymyrska and St. Andrew's Descent (Richard's Castle) ... and Volodymyr's Cathedral."  It is interesting to see how these monuments we have been discussing are still very much the focus of the Capital and that the Ukrainian citizens take pride in the well-being of these sacred monuments.  
If you want to see these articles or read more about current events in Kyiv visit the following website:

St. Sophia's Cathedral Kiev

Beside Maydan, perhaps no other architectural structure is as well known in Ukraine and abroad as St. Sophia's Cathedral in Kiev. Most would agree that the name and model for the Cathedral come from the more well known Hagia Sophia in modern day Istanbul. The building of the Cathedral began in ca 1037 and was completed two decades after the initial foundations were laid. After being built the Cathedral became the burial spot for Kievan rulers, most famous being Vladimir the Wise, the founder of St. Sophia Cathedral. The Cathedral was pillaged several times by various people/ groups, most infamous being Andrei Bogolyubsky and the Mongolian Tatars.

Interstingly enough, the ownership of the Cathedral has been disputed in the past. St. Sophia's ownership has passed from many hands including the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and then the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. After the Bolshevik Revolution and Ukraine's incorporation as the Ukrainian SSR, the communists had ever desire to destroy the Cathedral and replace it with a proposed park. Needless to say this did not happen although the Cathedral did fall into a state of disrepair over the years of negligance. To this day the cathedral is a hotbed of controversy as both the Greek Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Ukraine hold claims to it. A recent controversy about the denial to burial of a leader in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church sparked minor protests. As a result of its rich architercture and history, St. Sophia's cathedral has been named as one the wonders of Ukraine.

Kyiv during World War II

Given the western location the Ukraine within what was the Soviet Union, the city of Kyiv was virtually destroyed during World War II given its proximity to the rest of Eastern Central Europe. The Nazi Germans occupied Kyiv and most of western Ukraine following their 1941 capture of the territory and a large number of Soviet forces, thus explaining much of the destruction that occurred there. The German occupation of Ukraine continued, with brutality, until October 1944, a period over 1,800 days, with Soviet forces beginning to recapture territory in 1943. Kiev alone was occupied for almost 800 days.

The population loss in Kyiv alone was staggering. At the beginning of World War II, Kyiv was a booming city of 900,000 people, but by the close of World War II in 1945, Kiev was a city largely destroyed with only 186,000 people. The largest battle in Kiev was the Battle of Kyiv, a massive Soviet loss to the Nazi Germans in September 1941, with over 665,000 Soviet forces and 5 armies surrendering, a surrender that remains the largest surrender in the Soviet’s history.

What is remarkable, however, is how quickly Kyiv was rebuilt after World War II, being almost completely rebuilt by the mid-1950’s, again serving as one of the most important cities in the Soviet Union. Much of this can be credited to the Supreme Soviet’s decision to implement a five-year plan of restoration of industry in Ukraine. Followed was a revival of cultural life within the republic. Finally, Ukraine again served as the second largest economy in the USSR, the largest being the RSFSR.

Featured below is a photo of Kyiv burning during World War II:

Follows is an image of modern Kyiv:

Chernobyl Disaster in Ukraine: 1986

On April 26, 1986 at 01:23 am, Reactor IV at the V.I. Lenin Memorial Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station exploded spreading a radioactive plume throughout what is now known as Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine, making it the worst-ever civil nuclear accident to date. The Chernobyl disaster unleashed radioactive fallout 400 times more intense than the Hiroshima bombing in World War II and has affected nearly 3 million citizens, many of them Byelorussians. High-altitude weather patterns moved the radioactive isotopes, with approximately 70% landing in Belarus.

Initially the Soviet authorities did not alert residents of Pripyat (the town near Chernobyl) that radioactive isotopes had been spread throughout the region and that their health was in grave danger. Finally, several days later, residents were evacuated, and at a later time, the City of Slavutych was built to accommodate the former residents of Chernobyl. Even today, the residents are heavily dependent on the power plant, and a regular train operates between the town and the 30 kilometer “Zone of Alienation.”

Catastrophic economic impact was felt throughout the region. A few essential facts and figures about economic repercussions include the following:
1. Both the Belarusian and Ukrainian governments estimate that losses over the 30 years following the accident will total approximately $383 billion;
2. 784,230 hectares of farmland along with 694,200 hectares of forest have been rendered unusable; and
3. 82 agricultural enterprises, 22 factories and 22 raw material deposits were removed from service.

A report from the Institute of Sociology indicated the prevalence of five trends: self-victimization, social exclusion, expectations of future support, inadaptability to new environment, as well as lack of initiative. Furthermore, while UNICEF has continually promoted universal salt iodization to reduce iodine deficiency, a disorder which can eventually lead to a depressed Intelligence Quotient and acceleration of latent Thyroid cancer, voluntary usage of iodized salt remains around 15 to 30%.

Almost 22 years later, nuclear technology provided during the Soviet Union remains in many of the former Soviet republics, thus providing for another Chernobyl-like disaster to occur. Furthermore, action by the international community to remedy the ramifications of the disaster has been very limited, to the point that many who reside within Belarus and Ukraine today continue to feel the effects of the disaster.

Featured below is a picture of the Chernobyl Power Plant in current form.

Maidan - Independence Square

Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) is the main square in Kyiv, the capital city of Ukraine. The square was named after Ukraine received its independence in 1991.

The two biggest political protests that have occurred in Ukraine since 1991 have been centrally located in Maidan. In December 2000, the "Ukraine without Kuchma" campaign began rallying in Independence Square. Protesters set up tents on Khreshchatyk Street, the street that runs through Maidan. Oleksandr Omelchenko, the mayor of Kyiv at the time, ordered a major construction project to begin soon after in an attempt to dissolve the protest. This sort of practice is commonly used by local authorities in Ukraine in an attempt to non-violently end protests. In March 2001, the protest took a violent turn when riots began between the police and protesters. Dozens were injured in what some call the most violent riots in Ukraine's history. Soon after the protest ended.

From 2004 to 2005, a series of protests occurred in Maidan that came to be known as the Orange Revolution. Thousands of Ukrainians gathered in the streets near to Maidan to protest the corrupt political system and electoral fraud that prevailed in the 2004 presidential election. The protests, all of which were non-violent, led to an additional round of elections and the opposing candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, won. Unlike the "Ukraine without Kuchma" campaign, the Orange Revolution ended just as peacefully as it began.

Political protests continue to occur in Maidan, but none have reached the level that the "Ukraine without Kuchma" and Orange Revolution did. Maidan is a popular meeting place for Ukrainians and attracts thousands of visitors with its beautiful buildings and scenic landscape, but the true importance of this area lies within the political protests that have occurred here that have shaped Ukraine's political future.