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The Ukrainian Institute is to be established abroad

Expert: “We need to create a network of foreign ‘epicenters’ of Ukraine”
16 February, 2017 - 11:47
Photo by Artem SLIPACHUK, The Day

Pavlo Klimkin, Foreign Minister of Ukraine, has recently announced the creation of the Ukrainian Institute, which will represent and foster the positive image of Ukraine across the world. The minister stressed that the main task of the institution is the identification of modern Ukraine in the world and enhancing its credibility abroad, among international intellectual and cultural circles. According to him, the main activities of the Institute are going to be cultural diplomacy, economy, science, education, public diplomacy. “This identification of Ukraine – it means what Ukraine is for the average Dutch, Greek, or Brazilian, the things it is associated with, and of course its appeal as a country for practical purposes such as tourism or investment,” he added.

It is expected that the Institute will be partially financed from the state budget, partly through grants, donations, and cooperation with charitable foundations. “Based on the analyzed experience, based on our discussions with civil society and many experts, we believe that the most appropriate shape of the institution will be the state agency that would not be part of the Foreign Ministry, but would be affiliated with it,” said the minister. It is assumed that the project will be implemented in two to four months, with the first offices of the Ukrainian Institute appearing in North America and Europe. The minister said that the format of the Ukrainian Institute is based on Polish and Czech experience, but it will be unique.

Managers will be select through open competition. According to the plan, these people are to be not only managers, but “creative directors” as well. The board will be created to oversee the activities of the institute, which will include experts in culture and cultural figures.

The head of the Foreign Ministry said that March will see debates and public discussion on the matter, and the Ministry will listen to all suggestions and comments on the proposed activities of the Ukrainian Institute. “We want to start a fruitful discussion. We would like everyone to contribute,” said Klimkin. “In creating this Institute we want to combine the efforts of the government, public sector, professional communities, businesses – everyone who works with us.”

It should be noted that a number of cultural missions of other countries operate in Ukraine, such as the Goethe Institute, British Council, Polish Institute, French Institute, Dante Alighieri Society, and others. For example, Goethe Institute was founded in 1925 and is now represented in 78 countries. British Council was established in 1934 and has its offices in 107 countries and territories.

Meanwhile, the idea of Ukraine’s cultural representation abroad came about in 2015: the Ministry of Culture has developed a bill to create the Ukrainian Institute (the Taras Shevchenko Institute). The institution were to become “an effective institutional framework for the conduct of cultural diplomacy and creating of Ukraine’s attractive brand across the world,” according to the ministry’s website. In April 2016 the project was presented to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Verkhovna Rada.

It should be noted that the idea of creating a Ukrainian cultural center has been repeatedly voiced by Oxana Pachlovska, professor at “La Sapienza” University of Rome, Doctor of Philology, writer, cultural scientist, and Shevchenko Prize winner.

“There are three main blocks of intellectual integration. First, there are departments in Western universities; in Europe, and in general, in the civilized world it so happens that intellectual perception of the country is primarily filtered through academic space. Secondly, there are cultural institutes that present the culture at the immediate historical moment: by films, exhibitions, libraries, video libraries, etc. And thirdly, there is the translation of literature and the publication of basic tools for the development of culture, namely textbooks and dictionaries,” said Pachlovska during a conversation at the “Personality Cult” program on Radio Promin.

The importance of such an institution for Ukraine has been emphasized by her on Den’s pages – particularly in the article “Barricades for Freedom and for Europe,” published in 2012. “And then the question is: whose fault it is for the lack of sources on Ukraine? Working at the University of Rome I have witnessed from 1991 onwards the process of Eastern European countries’ approach to Western reality. Embassies of Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia continue working as a giant factory that constantly bombard the intellectual space with multi-level cultural information. Their cultural attaches are Dante translators, poets, and intellectuals. In every European capital they have culture institutes, academies, libraries... Since I remember the Embassy of Ukraine, it never had any money. Any conference, any event related to Ukraine – a quiet voice, nervousness, lack of money even for phone calls,” says Pachlovska.

Den/The Day asked a commentary from Andrii KURKOV, the writer and vice-president of the Ukrainian Center of the International PEN-club, on the importance of an established Ukrainian Institute for our country and on how he sees this institution.

“Creating such an institution is very important. The image of the country depends on its cultural exports, i.e. the accessibility and attractiveness of the country’s culture abroad. Ukraine should try to be present at every role, including the honorary guests, at all international festivals, book fairs, biennials, etc.

“The Culture Institute should help each country to create a club of journalists and active intellectuals, who are interested in Ukrainian culture. This should not only be one-way flow of information and activities. We must, in the end, create a network of foreign ‘epicenters’ of Ukraine, of Ukrainian culture.

“In Ukraine, the Institute should organize promotions, cultural and educational activities for invited activists from abroad. This activity has to be coordinated with cultural institutions of other countries, so there is a constant cultural dialog.”