Ksenia Turkova https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/21397/all cached version 10/02/2019 16:46:56 en Words and war: Russian and Ukrainian linguists struggle to find common ground https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ksenia-turkova/words-and-war-russian-and-ukrainian-linguists-struggle-to-find-common-groun <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Russo-Ukrainian conflict has affected all aspects of relations between the two countries – even the way they talk (or don’t talk) about it. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ksenia-turkova/figura-umolchania" target="_blank">Русский</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Untitled.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Untitled.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has effectively brought contact between linguists in the two countries to a halt. If in the past they held conferences, ran professional exchange programmes, shared information and studied linguistic questions together, now they generally work in isolation. But as the conflict continues, language is constantly responding to what is happening. The linguists know that these linguistic processes need to be documented and studied, but there’s no one to do it.</p><p>And the problem isn’t only in broken contacts. Scholars find it impossible to rise above the fray and engage in pure, disinterested analysis. </p><p>One side (Ukraine) has, for obvious reasons, become too emotionally involved in what is going on, the other (Russia) tends to stick to the official line whenever any linguistic conflict arises. And if linguists from both countries meet at international gatherings, they restrict any discussion to neutral areas. But as time passes, more and more material is left unstudied and is lost and forgotten. </p><h2>Lost links</h2><p>“We mostly meet up in Europe; we avoid sensitive issues and don’t visit each other ‘at home’”, says Olga Severskaya, a senior researcher at the <a href="ruslang.academia.edu/" target="_blank">Russian Academy of Sciences’ Vinogradov Institute</a>, the regulator of the Russian language, about her relations with Ukrainian colleagues. In the spring of 2015 she attended a conference in the Austrian city of Graz, where issues connected with the conflict were discussed, but neither Ukrainian nor Russian delegates touched on its linguistic aspects. </p><p>Yevgenia Karpilovskaya, head of the Structural-Mathematical Linguistics department of the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences, for example, spoke in her paper on “The Role of Word Formation in the ‘Architectonics’ of the Ukrainian-language Internet”, about the interconnection of online communication and other aspects of the language.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Pechersk_28_09_13_131.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Pechersk_28_09_13_131.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Potebny Institute of Linguistics, at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kyiv. CC A-SA 3.0 Wadco2 / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Severskaya tells me that she is friends with a Ukrainian colleague, but they have avoided any discussion on controversial subjects. Ukrainian and Russian linguists, she insists, have very cordial relations at conferences, as though they want to assure one another that “what’s happening is not our fault”. They still, however, don’t want to analyse this “what’s happening”.</p><p>And at the same time, many contacts have indeed been lost. The Vinogradov Institute used to work in close cooperation with Luhansk University, but since that area came under the control of the self-styled LNR (Luhansk Peoples’ Republic) there have been no conferences held there. The institute also had close ties with other Ukrainian universities – Kherson, Kharkiv, Kyiv – but very little of that remains. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">An international placement is obligatory for people studying for a doctorate, but after the conflict began, the Ukrainian Ministry of Education removed Russia from its list of potential host countries</p><p>Lyudmila Pedchenko, head of Kharkiv University’s Russian department, confirms this – she and her colleagues used to go on exchange programmes with Moscow’s Pushkin State Russian Language Institute and Moscow State University (MGU), and their linguists came to conferences in Kharkiv, but now everything has changed. Exchange visits are out of the question and there is little contact with Russian specialists, even at a personal level. Also, an international placement is obligatory for people studying for a doctorate, but after the conflict began, the Ukrainian Ministry of Education removed Russia from its list of potential host countries.</p><p>“We can get new dictionaries and books on our subject, but only through the internet – that’s our only source of information from Russia”, says Pedchenko. “Naturally, I agree that a linguist ought to study everything relevant to their area, but I realise that in the present situation it’s not easy to be objective, to stand back. Perhaps some time needs to pass for that to happen. Any analysis of this kind requires an impartial approach, whereas we’re too close to the situation to see it objectively”. </p><p>“Some people are still in personal contact, but there are no new contacts developing”, Svetlana Kuranova, a lecturer at Kyiv’s <a href="ukma.edu.ua/eng/" target="_blank">National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy</a> (NAUKMA) tells me. Our university had just a few links with Russia: our postgraduates would spend time at Baikal and MGU, and one of our students got top marks there. She conducted a survey among Polish, Ukrainian and Russian students, looking at the associations the word “patriotism” had for them. But that was before 2014. It’s harder to do that now; not everyone would want to visit Kyiv. But I think it might be possible to organise some kind of internet conference”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Our relations with our Ukrainian colleagues are perfectly friendly; it’s just that the general situation and the problems with air travel have made contacts difficult”</p><p>Leonid Krysin, head of the Modern Russian Language department at the Vinogradov Institute remembers his colleague Dr Leonid Kasatkin visiting Kyiv in 2014, at the height of the Maidan. “He told us that everything was quiet and calm, and that our propaganda exaggerated the situation”, he says. “Our relations with our Ukrainian colleagues are perfectly friendly; it’s just that the general situation and the problems with air travel have made contacts difficult. We had already begun working with the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences on a large Russian-Ukrainian dictionary, but had to just drop the project – although the problem here was mostly financial; there just wasn’t any money for it”. </p><p>Nearly all the linguists I asked, in both sides of the border, insisted that there was no final break: cooperation was just “on hold”. In the words of Professor Mikhail Dymarsky of St Petersburg’s Herzen University, “My contacts with colleagues in Kharkiv are currently dormant, but I could revive them at any moment, and I think they would respond immediately”. </p><h2>Russia’s “official” linguistics</h2><p>At the same time we can’t claim that there is no reference to the linguistic aspects of the conflict in the two countries’ academic or media spheres. The issue is written about, but the people that do the writing seem to be stewing in their own juice: they don’t research the issue dispassionately, but base their findings on the official position of whichever side they are on. </p><p>This is particularly the case in Russia. Many of the people I spoke to admitted that when discussing the conflict they don’t stray from the “party line”. This is reflected in articles published in the last three years by the Ekaterinburg periodical “Political Linguistics”, the only serious journal in Russia that covers this field. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/PoliticalLinguisticscontents.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/PoliticalLinguisticscontents.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="561" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Table of contents from “Political Linguistics”, Issue 5 (59), 2016. </span></span></span>Some do indeed touch on the linguistic aspects of Russo-Ukrainian relations. But “touch on” is the operative word: it’s not easy to find material on specifically linguistic areas of the conflict. You most you can find is an occasional indirect reference in articles on Russia’s image abroad or the language used in propaganda wars. </p><p>The periodical’s third issue of 2015 contained, for example, an article entitled “<a href="https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=https://cyberleninka.ru/article/n/ksenostereotipy-v-yazykovoy-kartine-mira-i-v-diskurse-evropeyskogo-parlamenta&amp;prev=search" target="_blank">Xeno-stereotypes in the Linguistic World View and the Discourse of the European Parliament</a>”. The authors’ notes suggest that this discourse needs to be studied, in order to explain the “mechanisms of stereotypical mental models and programmes that are used to influence public opinion on contemporary Russia”. The article itself states that Europeans are fed stereotypes that hark back to the ethno-psychological subconscious, and are usually based on the age-old geopolitical “lusts” of certain political writers. </p><p>The same issue also had an <a href="https://issuu.com/novayagazeta" target="_blank">analysis of the content of the liberal <em>Novaya Gazeta</em> newspaper</a>, which its authors say embodies “a strategy of defending anti-Russian political forces: EU and USA policies aimed against Russia; cultural figures who insult Russian national consciousness and the Orthodox Faith; Ukrainian chauvinists and extremists, and NGOs, subsisting on foreign grants, whose activities are dubious in terms of our national security”.</p><p>Some publications do touch on the issue of hate speech, but only with great caution. The third issue of “Political Linguistics” for 2014 contained an analysis of “the disturbing vocabulary of our time”, in other words slang expressions for ethnic groups: words such as “Moskal” (a traditional derogatory term for a Russian used by Ukrainians) and “Khokhol” (a traditional derogatory term for a Ukrainian used by Russians) that have been revived in the present conflict. The authors of the article looked mainly at students’ language and came to an optimistic conclusion: “In an educated Russian speaking environment the intentional use in speech of slangy terms for ethnic groups as an element of invective is still regarded as impermissible”.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Some publications do touch on the issue of hate speech, but only with great caution</span></p><p>Here it’s worth looking at how how events in Donbas are described. In another article in the same issue of <em>Political Linguistics</em>, its author speaks of a “war” “breaking out”, as though Russia had nothing to do with it. And none of the sources I have read uses the term “annexation” in relation to Crimea – although there are articles about “Crimea’s reunification with the Russian Federation”. </p><p>There is, on the other hand, active engagement between Russia and Crimea. Some linguists from Luhansk University, for example, moved to Crimea after hostilities began and now go to conferences at Moscow universities. </p><p>Others, who have stayed in the officially unrecognised Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics (DNR and LNR), also visit Moscow. One paper at a recent conference at MGU was entitled “A genre-stylistic profile of the public political texts of Novorossiya” [a proposed confederation of the DNR and LNR – ed.] The use of the term Novorossiya was a giveaway – the audience could immediately identify the author’s political position. </p><h2> Ukraine and the importance of self-analysis</h2><p>Ukraine, meanwhile, has had its own slant on the linguistic aspects of the events of the past few turbulent years. But what is interesting is that it’s not linguists but mostly journalists, media specialists and public figures who are engaged with the issue. </p><p>In Ukrainian towns and cities you can find seminars and lectures for media professionals on hate speech and how to avoid it. And the speakers admit that it’s not only Russian propaganda that uses defamatory language, but Ukrainian media as well. </p><p>In September 2015 the Ukrainian National Union of Journalists and the independent Media Trade Union held a conference on “The Problem of Hate Speech in Ukrainian Media” (Ukrainian link) which was effectively devoted to self-criticism and self-analysis. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">“We always talk about explicit propaganda and defamatory language in the Russian media, but we pay less attention to the same vocabulary when it’s used by our own side”</p><p>Valery Ivanov, a professor at Kyiv’s Taras Shevchenko University and head of the Ukrainian Press Academy, pointed out that Ukrainian journalists were guilty of using hate speech themselves: “We’re always talking about explicit propaganda and defamatory language in the Russian media, but we pay less attention to the same vocabulary when it’s used by our own media. Is our job to inform - or to incite hatred? If the aim of the media is to fulfil their professional responsibility, to inform people about what is happening in our country, then we should avoid using emotive terms. This is an essential for information platforms”. </p><p>Anastasia Stanko, a journalist with the <em>Hromadske TV</em> channel, touched on the same subject at a <a href="http://journalism.ucu.edu.ua/video/4636/" target="_blank">master class at Lviv’s Catholic University</a> (Ukrainian link). Anastasia has reported widely from the conflict zone in Eastern Ukraine, and was even taken prisoner by an LNR militia in summer 2014. </p><p>“We have laughed so much at Russian journos and so often accused them of pushing propaganda, that we have become their little shadows”, she said. “Think, for example, about the formulaic descriptions we hear on many Ukrainian channels – they are “terrorist forces”, while Ukrainian troops are “our heroes”. And anyone who is killed has the right to “fall in battle”, and not be “liquidated”.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/16263245611_ffb8933f17_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/16263245611_ffb8933f17_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>After the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine, many faculty members from Luhansk University fled to Crimea. CC BY-NC-ND Ekaterina Sotova / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>A group of Ukrainian specialists in different areas of the social sciences and humanities – philosophy, languages and literature, sociology, history, psychology, political science and communication – has also set up a portal, <a href="https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=http://www.liga.net/projects/euromaidan/&amp;prev=search" target="_blank">The Narrative of the Dignity Revolution</a>, and plans to present a historical-semantic dictionary of the events of the Maidan at Kyiv’s annual spring book festival.</p><p>As I have already pointed out, these initiatives are more often the work of journalists and activists than of linguists. But the linguists are also becoming involved in the hate speech issue. In an <a href="http://www.ukrinform.ua/rubric-society/2076622-larisa-masenko-movoznavec-profesor.html" target="_blank">interview on the <em>Ukrinform</em> website</a> (Ukrainian link), Ukrainian linguist Larisa Masenko spoke about how over the last two or three years, a lot of words connected with war and conflict have crept into Ukrainians’ everyday speech: “People have started using various hurtful words and phrases in their conversations. The other side talk about “Ukes” and “Maidan morons”, while we call them “potatriots”, “Colorados” [the orange and black stripes of the pro-Russians’ flags are reminiscent of Colorado beetles and from a Ukrainian viewpoint deserve the same fate – ed.] and so on. This kind of thing is unavoidable in wartime”. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">Those few Ukrainian linguists who still go to conferences in Russia often express explicit pro-Moscow views in their work</p><p>Those few Ukrainian linguists who still go to conferences in Russia often express explicit pro-Moscow views in their work. One speaker from Odessa, for example, entitled a presentation he gave at Moscow State University, “The Ukrainian media’s stylistics in a period of acute political and economic crisis”. In it he not only used emotive language (“a disaster”) but said in his conclusion that “political experts and commentators can’t agree on what kind of war is going on in the east of the country. We read and hear the terms “civil war”, “hybrid war”, “war of conquest”, “interethnic war”, “undeclared war”, “internal war” and so on. And there’s no consensus in our government on how to define the tragic events that have been going on in Donbas for over two years”.</p><p>In fact, Ukraine’s rulers reached a consensus on that subject long ago and never refer to it as a “civil war” – this is a term used exclusively by the Russian side. </p><h2>When emotions are no longer useful</h2><p>Russian and Ukrainian linguists who would like to find objective research on the conflict have discovered that their mutual neighbours in Belarus are eager to help. Svetlana Kuranova of Kyiv’s NAUKMA says that, “we are in pretty close contact with our colleagues there. And we can work together on a purely academic level, without politics getting in the way”. </p><p>The Vinogradov Institute’s Olga Severnaya agrees. At a recent conference she attended in Graz, one of the speakers was Aleksandr Lukashanets, chair of the <a href="https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&amp;hl=en&amp;prev=search&amp;rurl=translate.google.co.uk&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=http://dic.academic.ru/dic.nsf/ruwiki/1560258&amp;usg=ALkJrhjkpIpHjou5wty62uHPEam9QJMBpw" target="_blank">International Committee of Slavicists</a>, whose presentation touched on various politically motivated neologisms such as “Khokhlostan”, a derogatory term used by pro-Russian elements for Ukraine (c.f. “Khokhol”, above) and “Downbas”, a derogatory variation on Donbas used by the pro-Ukrainian side (“Down” as in Down’s Syndrome). </p><p>But the linguists believe that the people engaged in both sides of the conflict need to look at what it is doing to their languages. Svetlana Kuranova, for instance, is looking at the issue of linguistic identity and how ideology can influence personal relationships: “in time, scholars will study this issue dispassionately, but for the moment personal relationships get in the way. We need to be singing from the same hymn sheet – to be as objective as we can in our attitudes to one another. But for the moment, subjective non-linguistic factors are too strong for this to happen.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Now we have to look behind the headlines at the underlying reasons for the conflict. And for that we need to look at the language of hate”</p><p>The Russian language specialist and cultural historian Gasan Gusejnov believes that we need to try to rise above our emotions and get on with studying what he sees as an important issue: “The situation is very bad on both sides. The Russian side is of course entirely to blame, but now we have to look behind the headlines at the underlying reasons for the conflict. And for that we need to look at the language of hate. No one will ever know how exactly hate speech arises and spreads. Studies of the language of Nazism would be different without <a href="https://www.timeshighereducation.com/books/the-canon-the-language-of-the-third-reich-by-victor-klemperer/412045.article" target="_blank">Victor Klemperer’s “The Language of the Third Reich”</a>, just as Russian language studies would be without Andrey and Tatyana Fesenko’s “The Russian Language under the Soviets” (<a href="speakrus.ru/mix/fesenko/fesenko.htm" target="_blank">Russian link</a>) or <a href="https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=http://royallib.com/book/margolin_yuliy/puteshestvie_v_stranu_ze_ka.html&amp;prev=search" target="_blank">Julius Margolin’s “Travel to Ze-Ka”</a>, which describes the language of the Gulag. I wouldn’t like to guess what might happen in the future. Over the spring and summer I hope to write in more detail about the roots and flowers of this linguistic erosion. But the fruits might appear before that”. </p><p>Gusejnov recently finished a collection of essays about hate speech, which he wrote, as he says, to represent not “one side of the conflict”, but the side of “my Russian language from the rich resources of the Russian discourse of today”.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ksenia-turkova/cultural-cooperation-in-time-of-war-view-from-kyiv">Cultural cooperation in a time of war: the view from Kyiv</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/yury-drakakhrust/whose-side-is-belarus-on-anyway">Whose side is Belarus on anyway?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ivan-zhilin/crimea-s-ukrainian-underground">Crimea’s Ukrainian underground</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrei-bondarenko/russian-culture-through-lviv-s-looking-glass">Russian culture through Lviv’s looking glass</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ksenia Turkova Cultural politics Thu, 08 Dec 2016 17:46:48 +0000 Ksenia Turkova 107493 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ksenia Turkova https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/ksenia-turkova <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ksenia Turkova </div> </div> </div> <p>Ksenia Turkova is a journalist and presenter on Radio Vesti and Hromadske.tv. She writes for Snob.ru and pravmir.ru, and is based in Kyiv.&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Article license:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Ksenia Turkova Thu, 24 Mar 2016 11:03:27 +0000 Ksenia Turkova 100853 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Cultural cooperation in a time of war: the view from Kyiv https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ksenia-turkova/cultural-cooperation-in-time-of-war-view-from-kyiv <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555493/GettyImages-464868204_0.jpg" alt="GettyImages-464868204_0.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p>How the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has changed the face of cultural exchange. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kseniya-turkova/antrakt-ili-zanaves" target="_blank">Русский</a>, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kseniya-turkova/antrakt-chy-zavisa">Українською</a></em></strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The average viewer of Russian television has long had the impression that Russia no longer has any links to Ukraine — whether in terms of transport connections (<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/25/russia-and-ukraine-suspend-direct-flights-between-countries">direct flights are suspended</a>), economic ties (<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ukraine/12078921/Ukraine-bans-Russian-foods-as-trade-war-escalates.html">there is a two-way food embargo</a>) or culture (Ukrainian TV allegedly doesn’t broadcast Russian films, Russian celebrities no longer perform in Ukraine, and bookshops don’t stock books from the Russian Federation). </p><p>But this isn’t quite the case: cultural links aren’t broken, they’re cracked. The worlds of cinema, music and publishing are still working.</p><p>Cultural cooperation between Russia and Ukraine circa 2016 is reminiscent of the two countries’ transport links: there are no direct flights, but the trains still run, or you can get there via an indirect flight. Some “passengers” have decided to stay at home and some have paused their communications while waiting for “fair weather”. But other people aren’t foxed, and continue trying to show, tell and explain to the other side. </p><h2>Readers and writers</h2><p>In one of Kyiv’s chain bookstores, the promotion shelf is full of Ukrainian literature. Not long ago, it looked different: most of the new titles there were from Russia, either works by Russian authors or translations into Russian from other languages. </p><p>There is no official ban on Russian literature, although Ukraine’s culture minister Vyacheslav Kyrylenko <a href="http://www.ukrinform.ru/rubric-culture/1959551-kirilenko-sozyvaet-sovesanie-po-zapretu-vvozit-knigi-iz-rf.html">recently suggested that there should be</a>. But while writers and publishers discuss the idea, booksellers are adapting: the staff at this shop tell me they are working with Ukrainian publishers in various cities to introduce their readers to new authors.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Publishers confirm that, over the last few years, Ukrainian titles have become the main attraction</p><p>Publishers confirm that, over the last few years, Ukrainian titles have become the main attraction. They fill the window displays and ground floor shelves, and readers have developed an appetite for new books from famous Ukrainian writers, not Russian ones as before. Among last year’s best sellers were books by musician Kuzma Scryabin, actor Ada Rogovtseva and millionaire businessman Garik Korogodsky. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/bendukidze_ternopil_3_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"Goodbye, Empire!" is a new book of interviews with <a href=https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/stephen-f-jones/kakha-bendukidze-and-georgia%E2%80%99s-failed-experiment">Kakha Bendukidze</a>. Source: http://starylev.com.ua.</span></span></span><span>Igor Stepurin, the director of the Summit-Kniga publishing house, tells me that the political situation and war, including the information war, have had an effect on his work. “Readers are usually people with their own political views; they are educated and now mostly bilingual. And given the choice between the Russian and Ukrainian editions of the same book, they will usually go for the Ukrainian one.”</span></p><p>According to Stepurin, some books have been coming out in Ukrainian in higher quality editions. These have recently included translations of Stephen King’s <em>Dead Zone</em>, published by The Family Leisure Club, <em>Romeo and Juliet</em> and a book of conversations with <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/stephen-f-jones/kakha-bendukidze-and-georgia%E2%80%99s-failed-experiment">Kakha Bendukidze</a>, the Georgian businessman and politician who died in 2014. “All these books have been published in Russian,” says Stepurin, “but our editions are much better translated, designed and produced. They do cost a bit more, of course, but our readers don’t mind.” </p><p>Stepurin’s colleague Aleksandr Krasovitsky, who runs the Folio publishing house in Kharkiv, doesn’t agree. He finds that books are not selling well; general demand has fallen in Ukraine. And this fall in Russian imports has more to do with economics than politics. There is, after all, no official ban, but imports have still noticeably declined: in 2013, before Maidan, books imported from Russia accounted for $13m worth of sales, while in 2015 sales had fallen to $3.5,. </p><p>“Russian publishers don’t want to put money into risky supply lines. That’s the main problem,” says Krasovitsky. “Everything else comes back to that. For example, publishers are spending less on promotional travel for authors. And for political reasons there was a list of only 37 Russian books sent by Gosteleradio [Ukraine’s state media company] to the State Fiscal Service. Also, now and then Russia bans the import of individual books by Ukrainian authors – Andrey Kurkov, for example. His novel The President’s Last Love has been banned by Russia for two years now. Before that it was on sale there for 12 years.” </p><p>Krasovitsky himself has almost stopped supplying new books to Russia. He feels it is right to split the market. The only exception to this rule was a novel entitled Printouts of Overheard Fragments of Intimate Conversations and Perusals of Personal Correspondence, written by anti-Putin journalist Yelena Tregubova, author of the bestselling political exposé Tales of a Kremlin Digger, under the pseudonym Elena Swan. The truck carrying copies of the book into Russia was, however, stopped at the border for nine hours and then turned back. Some other publishers, including The Family Leisure Club mentioned above, do still operate in the Russian market. </p><p>It’s interesting that books by Russian authors who have adopted an extreme anti-Ukrainian position since the start of the conflict are still on sale in Ukrainian bookshops - Zakhar Prilepin’s bestseller <em>The Abode</em>, for example. A lot of stuff comes in unofficially, of course. “One of the major Ukrainian suppliers of books from Russia is at loggerheads with his Russian partner, so the supplies aren’t coming through,” says Dmitry Kyrychenko, head of Bright Star Publishing. “There’s also the fact that a significant proportion of Russian books turn up in Ukraine either as contraband or pirated editions.”</p><p>“Live” connections may have dwindled, but they have certainly not stopped: Ukrainian authors visit Moscow, and recently the Kyiv publishers Laurus held a launch for a collection of short stories by Oleg Sentsov, the Ukrainian film director who was imprisoned for treason in August 2015. It was not, of course, a large public affair, just a small gathering at the Ukrainian embassy. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Live” connections may have dwindled, but they have certainly not stopped</p><p>And attempts by Ukrainian writers to win larger audiences usually fail miserably: take the example of the play <em>Maidan Diaries</em>, whose author Natalya Vorozhbit and her associates spent the three months between November 2013 and February 2014 recording interviews with people on both sides of the Maidan conflict and then compiled a verbatim drama from them. The play was due to be presented at the Moscow International Open Book Festival in the summer of 2014, but the organisers wouldn’t allow the reading to take place. It was removed from the programme. </p><p>As regards travel in the other direction, most literary visitors to Ukraine belong to that category of Russians who reject their government’s military-patriotic rhetoric and support the Ukrainians – the poets Lev Rubinshtein and Vera Polozkova; writers Liudmila Ulitskaya, Dmitry Bykov and Viktor Shenderovich, cartoonist Andrei Bilzho and journalist Igor Svinarenko. Polozkova regularly gives readings in Kyiv; Rubinshtein and Ulitskaya are invited to take part in the International Publishing Forum in Lviv. </p><p>Russian opposition non–fiction writers also visit Ukraine: the former editor-in-chief of TVRain Mikhail Zygar, for example, had a launch for his book <em>All the Kremlin’s Men</em> in Kyiv, and satirist Mikhail Zhvanetsky is another frequent visitor. </p><h2>Waiting for fair weather</h2><p>Next month, rock veteran Boris Grebenshchikov is bringing his band to Kharkiv for a concert, their second gig in Ukraine in six months – they performed in Kyiv in December. </p><p>BG, as he is commonly known, is however one of the few Russian musicians to still gig in Ukraine. Music critic Nikolai Milinevsky says that since the start of the conflict, the number of “exchange” concerts has gone down to near zero. The artists who still come can be counted on the fingers of one hand: rock musicians Grebenshchikov, Andrei Makarevich and Gleb Samoilov with their bands; the pop-rock band Romario and Basta and his rappers (who last performed in Kyiv in November 2015). Many artists, including the veteran rock band Auktsion, write: “We’ll come when there is peace.” </p><p class="mag-quote-center">So-called blacklists have also added to Ukrainian promoters’ troubles</p><p>Russian music producer Mikhail Kosyrev confirms that this is the case. He tells me that everyone decides for themselves whether to come or not, but that many have put performances in Ukraine on “pause”, waiting, as they say, for “fair weather”. </p><p>There’s also a clear dividing line by genre: the rockers and rappers still come, but Russian pop has disappeared from Ukraine’s music venues. Some musicians openly support the Kremlin’s actions; others may not make any political statements, are in sympathy with Ukraine and generally observe neutrality, but don’t want to risk their careers. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/RIAN_02441490.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>May 2014: Svyatoslav Vakarchuk performs at a 20th anniversary concert in L'viv. (c) Pavel Palamarchuk / VisualRIAN. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Milinevsky, the music critic, believes that a concert in Kyiv by Russian pop musician and songwriter Leonid Agutin, for example, would be a commercial success: “I think people would go to hear him. He’s politically neutral and very popular. Or there are [veteran Belarusian and Russian rock bands] Bi-2 and Spleen – they are also neutral, and Bi-2’s 2014 hit </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdh_TeuTXgU">‘They Drafted Him into the Army’</a><span> is widely seen as a statement of support for Ukraine.”</span></p><p>So-called blacklists have also added to Ukrainian promoters’ troubles. Initially these were kept secret by the Ukrainian Security Service, and musicians would discover that they would be turned back at the border just a few days before they were due to play. This happened, for example, to popular singer Sergei Penkin, whose repertoire includes folk and art songs as well as popular western classics, and whose concert was already sold out. </p><p>The concert, whose promoters had no idea that Penkin was on a blacklist, was cancelled at the last minute and all the ticket money returned. Eventually the Ministry of Culture <a href="http://mincult.kmu.gov.ua/control/uk/publish/article?art_id=245032786&amp;cat_id=244913751">published its blacklist of Russian artists</a>, which contained 80 names. </p><p>Musical traffic in the other direction — from Ukraine to Russia, has also shrunk from a broad river to a tiny stream. Okean Elzy, fronted by Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, is the best known Ukrainian rock band in Russia, but has not gigged there for a long time. There has been just one attempt to organise a concert since the beginning of the conflict. It was due to take place in St Petersburg’s Ice Palace in February 2014, but Vitaly Milonov, a United Russia member of the city’s Legislative Assembly and great enthusiast of bans in general, immediately wrote to the Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, demanding the concert be cancelled and Vakarchuk’s name put on a blacklist. The concert was indeed cancelled, but the musician has not become an official persona non grata — he has just refused to perform in Russia. </p><p>Other Ukrainian artists, such as pop singer Ivan Dorn, the hip hop and reggae duo 5’Nizza, the eclectic Valentin Strykalo band and rock band Bahroma still tour in Russia, as does the fusion funk-reggae group SunSay. Its founder and front man Andrij Zaporożec almost became Ukraine’s 2016 Eurovision entry, but was pipped at the post by the Crimean Tatar singer Jamal. There might have been a political factor here: Sunsay has been accused of supporting the <a href="https://www.rbc.ua/styler/zvyozdy/andreya-zaporozhtsa-podozrevayut-simpatiyah-1455485276.html">‘Russian World’ concept</a> by performing in Russia and Crimea.</p><p>Some Ukrainian musicians are in fact much more up front, not to say ostentatious, about their support for the Kremlin. The singers Ani Lorak and Thaisia Povaly travelled to Russia on 22 February, to take part in a concert celebrating Fatherland Defender’s Day.</p><h2>The end of cinema </h2><p>There are rather fewer reasons for bans on films, as very few Russian films are still being shown in Ukrainian cinemas, and very few Ukrainian films were ever shown in Russia. </p><p>Ukrainians have lost interest in Russian films, and audiences are much smaller than before, across all genres. According to Denis Ivanov, head of the distribution company Arthouse Trafic, this is even affecting animated films: these used to be real blockbusters, but the latest episode in the “Three Heroes” family-oriented comedy series, which came out at the beginning of last year, didn’t make it into the top ten grossing films in Ukraine (admittedly it didn’t in Russia either). </p><p class="mag-quote-center">Ukrainians have lost interest in Russian films, and audiences are much smaller than before, across all genres</p><p>Some cinemas have imposed a blanket ban on Russian films, although the Planet Cinema chain has made an exception for the comedy <em><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwOVQnBLSFs">Election Day 2</a></em>, which has just gone on general release. “Perhaps they did this because it’s been made by Kvartet-I,” says Roman Martynenko, head of the Multi Media Distribution company, referring to the indie Moscow theatre company set up by four theatre graduates in 1993 which has since also gone into film production. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/GettyImages-464868204_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>This House of Culture in Donetsk has long been used as a shelter for local residents. (c) Andrew Burton / Getty Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>As for Ukrainian cinema, Martynenko reports that it is difficult for films to access the Russian market. His company is currently involved in the distribution of two major Ukrainian projects: </span><em>St Valentine’s Night</em><span>, which opened in cinemas on 10 March, and </span><em>Let’s Dance</em><span>, which will come out at the end of this year. “We’re in talks at the moment,” he says. “Let’s Dance is a high quality production that is suitable for a mass market, so it might go on release in Russia as well, and St Valentine’s Night could well be shown on TV.”</span></p><p>The comedy <em>The Eight Best Dates</em>, starring Ukrainian actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy, might have a tougher time hitting the big screens. It has just been released in Russia, but State Duma members have already called for a ban, and for Zelenskiy <a href="http://www.novayagazeta.ru/news/1700879.html">to be blacklisted</a> as a person&nbsp;<span>“</span><span>who supports the punitive military operation in the Donbas territory”. But again, as with rock musician Vakarchuk, no official ban has been imposed.</span></p><p>But Ukraine’s problems in the film market didn’t start with the conflict — they already existed before. According to Martynenko, in terms of cinema, Ukraine has always been quite dependent on its larger neighbour. And Ukraine’s bureaucrats are doing nothing to help its cinema industry cast off this dependence: on the contrary, they are strangling this barely viable sector with additional taxation. </p><p>From 1 January this year, VAT on film distribution has risen to 20%. “We need to create an environment that benefits us,” he says, “but nobody is interested in doing that. We have neither the opportunity to make our own films, nor to offer normal competitive prices on foreign markets, to avoid having to buy films via Russia. It’s all part of the same picture: we go to international cinema markets and try to buy films, but with a weak currency and 20% VAT we’ve got no bargaining power, so it’s always Russia that dictates the terms.”</p><p>This dependence on Russia can sometimes lead to absurd situations. Last year, for example, Ukrainian distributors bought rights to show Swedish director Daniel Espinosa’s thriller <em>Child 44</em>, based on the investigation of the crimes of Soviet serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, through a Russian company, Central Partnership. But the film was <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/15/hollywoods-child-44-pulled-in-russia-after-falling-foul-of-culture-ministry">pulled on the eve of its premier in Moscow</a> for allegedly distorting Soviet history, and the distribution ban affected not just Russia, but Ukraine as well. Ukrainian distributors obviously feel the need to free themselves from this dependence, and the sooner the better, but current government policy in their own country does nothing to help them.</p><p>TV serials are also affected by this situation. Most Russian serials have been banned by Ukrainian television, but it’s not easy to replace this massive chunk of schedule filler with local productions. A lot of programmes are now in production, but budget constraints are affecting their quality. </p><p>One example of auteur cinema, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s <em>The Tribe</em> has been shown in Russia both in cinemas and on TV, but it is an exception. The Tribe has been recognised as a major event in art cinema — a film of not just Ukrainian, but global significance.</p><h2>Art barricades</h2><p>The artistic community is an exception to this complex story of cultural relations. It has been shown to be the one that is most monolithic, principled and independent of purely commercial interests. </p><p>Progressive Ukrainian artists effectively closed themselves off from Russia after its actions in Crimea and Donbas. And those of their Russian colleagues who also deplored their government’s policies had an added stimulus to go to Ukraine and devote their work to the events taking place there. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">Ukrainian performance artists do nonetheless still go to Moscow — not to display their work to the public, but to use their art to express their political views</p><p>Konstantin Doroshenko, a contemporary art curator and one of Ukraine’s most influential art critics, tells me how the so-called referendum in Crimea took place as colleagues in St Petersburg were preparing for the 10th European Manifesta Biennale at the Hermitage. When Konstantin and his colleagues heard about the referendum, they refused to take part in the Biennale. </p><p>An exhibition of work by the left wing Ukrainian artist David Chichkan was also planned to open at the Lenin house-museum in Razliv, near St Petersburg. The opening was cancelled. Later Nikita Kadan, one of Ukraine’s most prominent contemporary artists, and his REP (Revolutionary Experimental Place) group, founded at the time of the Orange Revolution of 2004, dropped plans to hold an exhibition in Moscow’s Vinzavod Modern Art Centre. Many European artists followed their example at the time. </p><p>Konstantin Doroshenko remembers how Muscovites were bewildered by their decision: “‘Why don’t they want to come here? We’re even ready to fund them!’ But the Ukrainian artists’ and curators’ refusal to work with prestigious Russian art spaces only served to awake interest in them on the part of the Russian artistic community. Progressive artists supported Ukraine at its crisis point. Pyotr Pavlensky, the performance artist who is currently awaiting trial for setting fire to FSB headquarters, was on the Maidan and even built our barricade for us.” </p><p>Ukrainian performance artists do nonetheless still go to Moscow — not to display their work to the public, but to use their art to express their political views. </p><p>Crimean artist Maria Kulikovskaya, for example, <a href="http://censor.net.ua/photo_news/292714/ukrainskaya_hudojnitsa_zavernuvshis_v_flag_strany_ustroila_lejachiyi_protest_na_stupenkah_ermitaja_fotoreportaj">staged a provocative action at the Hermitage</a> during the Manifesta Biennale. She brought a Ukrainian flag with her, wrapped herself up in it and lay on a staircase inside the museum until she was thrown out by security guards. Later, Kulikovskaya told the Ukrainian press: “I went to Russia to look the beast in the eye!”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/beyond-frontline-introduction-to-new-series-for-odr">Beyond the frontline: introducing a new series for oDR</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-antonova-maxim-edwards-mikhail-kaluzhsky-thomas-rowley/nadiya-savchenko">#FreeSavchenko</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/on-prison-and-liberty-interview-with-pyotr-pavlensky">On prison and liberty: an interview with Pyotr Pavlensky</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ksenia Turkova Ukraine Russia Cultural politics Conflict Thu, 24 Mar 2016 10:12:53 +0000 Ksenia Turkova 100852 at https://www.opendemocracy.net