The Maidan needs not only food and warm clothes, but also spiritual and intellectual knowledge. What confirms this maxim is activity of the newly-established Maidan Free University. The chief editor of Den met its students the other day and presented the newspaper’s projects aimed at strengthening society – the most important goal of today. Immediately after the lecture, Den readers began to publish their impressions in social networking sites. “I thought I knew the history of Ukraine to some extent, but after your lecture I understood that there were lots of lacunas that need to be filled with information. Thank you, Ms. Ivshyna. I look forward to the next meeting,” writes Ihor Buznytsky, an IT entrepreneur.
At the request of lecture listeners and those who could not attend Free University lessons, The Day publishes a synopsis of Ms. Ivshyna’s speech.
UNWRITTEN CONTEMPORARY HISTORY
“Den has often been called free university since its inception in 1996. From the very outset, the newspaper was trying to encourage the emergence of civil society. But can there be a civil society that consists of untaught people? A citizen is a person who can exercise his or her rights for the benefit of themselves and their country. So we have not been speaking about devotion to a party, to the government or the opposition. We have been speaking about stimulating healthy processes in Ukrainian society.
“In the 1999 presidential elections, which I consider a watershed for this country, we supported a candidate who I think stood a good chance to radically change the situation and we could have started to move towards Europe as long ago as then. It was very difficult to win in those conditions, and our candidate lost.
“Yevhen Marchuk said during the 1999 election campaign: ‘Whoever wants to run for the Ukrainian presidency must know profoundly the entire history of Ukrainian defeats.’ We must know, for example, how Ukraine lost its independence. We had taken a lot of such attempts, but they all ended in a tragedy.
“Besides, the contemporary history of Ukraine is still to be written. I have an intention to launch one more Den project satirically titled ‘Contemporary History for Dummies.’ As we do not know our contemporary history, we make too many mistakes, beat around the bush, and fail to put two and two together. There were a lot of disappointments after 1999. Readers would cancel subscription, and some journalists abandoned the newspaper the very next morning after the elections. But I said then at the first briefing: ‘They have won, but we were right.’ I said we would deal with Ukrainian society. We have been trying to ‘grow’ it in all these years.”
AN ALL-OUT COMPULSORY EDUCATION EFFORT
“The newspaper’s column ‘History and I’ signaled the birth of an idea to actively study Ukrainian history. As you know now, this country needs an all-out historical education effort. The Soviet school did not give people the knowledge of history, but there still were traditional stories told in families, people were coming back from prison camps and telling about Stalinism, and all this was laying the groundwork for changes. Our younger generation was unlucky. In my view, they were not taught Ukrainian history in conceptual terms. Den’s first book Ukraina Incognita, after which the entire library was named, came out 10 years ago. A well-known politician, who used to work at an embassy, told me that when he was once flying on a plane and reading the English-language Den, he discovered for himself a Pereiaslav Rada other than the one taught in school – I mean the facts and the way it all began. If they had only known how soon they would need this knowledge!
“People are beginning to understand what the knowledge of history means. Here is a fresh example with the Shevelov plaque in Kharkiv. What resistance the people could have put up if they had read his ‘Moscow, Maroseika’ in time! Incidentally, we have also published, as part of Den’s book project, some works by Shevelov and Olzhych’s Ruin, which is absolutely necessary to know.
“I seem to be playing two roles now. On the one hand, I am a person who has done my best to avert street protests, to make sure that we could entrust power to wise and fairly elected people and live in the conditions of a European country. But, on the other hand, I think that if we are still destined to have a Maidan, the latter should be filled with intellectually developed people. It is not enough to chant ‘Down with the gang!’ or ‘Shame!’ We need to understand what platform has brought us to and will take us from the Maidan. Our first gain is that we have showed ourselves to the world as a nation that loves freedom. We have been longing for it for centuries on end. But a propensity to revolts is not the main feature of an aristocratic nation. What are of paramount importance are intellect, reason, and being able to rally together. We have shown a solidarity that we have never had before.
“Den recently published an article to mark the 150th anniversary of a Polish uprising in which Ukrainians also took part – they fought for Poland’s freedom. And as we are told now not to receive foreigners and take their advice, I must say that free people of the world always stand by each other. I want to remind you of Andrii Potebnia who fought at Warsaw’s barricades 150 years ago – he is our pride. This also reflected on the development of Polish Solidarity. But the West was politically different at the time. There were Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan – the staunch anticommunists who knew very well what the ‘Soviet virus’ was. Poland ‘made it’ when there were such great Poles as Pope John Paul II and the national conservative Lech Walesa whose words we heard on the Maidan more than once. He cooperated with Polish intellectuals. The Poles did a great deal of intellectual work to win their independence before all the others could do so. Our newspaper has also been trying to be up to the mark – to learn and gain new knowledge in order to be able to give sound advice.”
THE NECESSITY OF “CROSS-POLLINATION”
“Route No.1 is this year’s marvelous story. It emerged because we felt the necessity of ‘cross-pollination.’ Major projects always need money. The ‘glossy’ enabled us to bring our persuasions into line with our plans. We publish it once a month on Fridays. It is intended for the people who do not read Den and cannot learn about themselves for lack of a normal informational space. They are accustomed to the glossy format. One of the pilot issues was headlined ‘The Ukrainians Who Changed the World.’ Back in August, I wrote the column ‘Freedom is the Totem of Ukrainians.’ The illustration was a photo that shows me standing by my hero Yevhen Hrytsiak. He was the leader of the Norilsk GULAG uprising. I was really pleased to hear the Maidan speak of Nelson Mandela. But we are inclined to play down our own heroes. We just do not know any. We were never told about them in the words they deserve. Mr. Hrytsiak sent recently a message to Euromaidan in a Den interview. He said he viewed it as a powerful manifestation of dignity. He says it is an altogether invincible force. And I believe him. If GULAG prisoners managed to defend their rights in a peaceful way, then is it more difficult for us now? Mr. Hrytsiak is an interesting thinker. He learned English on his own in the prison camp. I asked him in the early 1990s: ‘Are you going to take part in the elections?’ He answered: ‘No, for I know for sure that they won’t let me through.’ You see, this must be the departure point of our problems.
“We have placed here interviews with Levko Lukianenko, Yevhen Sverstiuk, and Bohdan Hawrylyshyn next to a Bentley advert. It is a compliment to the carmakers. Apart from Mr. Hawrylyshyn, these people are not exactly affluent. But, intellectually, they are ‘cooler’ than Bentley. I hope this kind of people will be duly honored some day.
“Another very interesting topic is the Alliance of Ukrainian Villages. I do not think that all should rush to big cities in the postindustrial era. In Ukraine, which had good communications and the Internet, we can also live, create, and develop in villages. If need be, we will come out and say our word. This fire must be kept burning. The Alliance of Villages with a high-speed Internet is our response. Horizontal links are going to matter very much.”
THE “BACKBONE” OF A JOURNALIST
“I happened to hear that, while Moscow desperately struggled against communism and Stalin, all Ukrainians sang praises of the regime. It is absolute rubbish. Let us recall the Helsinki Union… All the prison camps were full of Ukrainians. So Den decided that Petro Hryhorenko should be more accessible to readers. I saw that young people knew nothing about him. There was a lacuna in the important knowledge of the dissident period, which we could find earlier in Samizdat and oral reminiscences. So we thought that this knowledge should be returned to young people and, above all, to our future colleagues – students of the Summer School of Journalism. The first thing that interests me in journalists is the ‘backbone.’ They must know the history of their nation in the conceptual things that Den has learned.
“Present-day journalists are often saying there is too little freedom on television. In reality, there is more freedom than knowledge today. When you watch some channels, you understand that TV people have nothing to discuss with intelligent and exigent audiences. I am absolutely convinced that journalism is, above all, a civic stand. In this country, it is also the knowledge of history.
“I am not Cassandra, but the current course of events might have been foreseen as long ago as in the 1980s. It was quite obvious that once Russia solved her domestic problems she would take us up again. Now we must learn to be Ukrainian citizens.
“We have been preparing for Euromaidan in all the years that the newspaper has existed. From the events of 2004 until now, each of my days has been a Maidan. I do not think that we must perform an exploit once in 10 years and then wait for a miracle. If there are no efforts and everyday cooperation, there will be no miracle. We invite you to cooperate – stay by the wise Den, take an active part in our projects, and it will be interesting for us all, and we will surely win.”