Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Some more thoughts on the problems of contemporary Ukrainian culture

Earlier on I posted two different posts dealing with the problems both abroad and internally within Ukrainian contemporary culture. Most recently with the selection of Verka Serduchka to represent Ukraine in the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest is another example of what ails the system.

One of the elements which has created problems in the formation of contemporary Ukrainian culture was the awarding of people with titles such as Merited Artist of Ukraine and other such titles. This carry over from Soviet times has created a group of haves and have nots in the Ukrainian cultural scene, and as a result has ghettoized Ukrainian culture, while promoting the tastes of those who are truly dinosaurs and who should have long ago become extinct. Another problem which this has promoted is the favourtism and benefits that these artists receive. This contributes to a disbalanced playing field for those who are truly talented and deserve government support and those who either purchased their titles, or simply were able to lobby to obtain it.

Shortly after Yushchenko's ascent to power as President of Ukraine there were a few healthy signs that were witnessed in the Ukrainian music industry, with the most mentionable was the refusal of Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, lead man of Okean Elzy, of receiving the title of Merited Artist of Ukraine. At that time there was still a glimmer of hope in the industry. But that glimmer of hope in the industry also faded as President Yushchenko failed to carry out the sweeping changes he had promised on Maydan. The process of cleaning out all that was rotten in the system not only did not take place politically, it didn't take place culturally. Nor was a strategy developed to develop Ukraine's cultural industry. Well a strategy was developed, but unfortunately there has no political will to push the strategy forth. It was developed by a friend of mine and the grandson of composer Kyrylo Stetsenko who carries his grandfather's name, and even though Kyrylo sits on the Advisory Council on Culture to the President, little has been done, in my opinion to carry this strategy forward. I have seen the document, nearly 200 pages, which outlines the steps for developing a cultural strategy for Ukraine. It is based on international experience, but as the old saying goes in Ukrainian:”Who are you to tell me what to do and how to do it!”

As a result we have a situation which is beginning to put Ukrainian contemporary culture in a ghetto. Music TV station M1 and event channels like 1+1 seem to be headed by individuals who have no, or little understanding of the promotion of national interests of an industry continue to minimize and mock Ukrainian culture in the following ways, but those who are being used as pawns seem to have little understanding of what is going on. For example, M1 will play some Ukrainian music as a token gesture, while 1+1 has been running one of the most retrograde shows called Dancing with Stars, where it has even invited individuals like Oleh Skrypka to participate. What to hell was Oleh thinking about by participating in such a piece of trash.

So needless to say, there is a long battle to be fought in the cultural arena in Ukraine. I hope that the diaspora understands that Ukraine has to not only undergo mass reforms politically but also culturally – Ukraine has to understand how to protect its interests in this sphere and start to doing so based on international experience and by putting forth its best foot. How it will do so will seriously involved a revolution, and the death of the dinosaurs who have been growing their pocketbooks while ignoring developments on the world stage.

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