Skip to main content
На сайті проводяться технічні роботи. Вибачте за незручності.

Larysa Ivshyna on how we can win

An “extract” of views from a Cherkasy roundtable in which Den’s editor-in-chief and contributors participated
28 January, 18:00

The Den photo exhibit is still in progress in Cherkasy. Over 1,500 people have visited it in less than a week. “People keep on coming,” says Olha Hladun, director of the Cherkasy Oblast Art Museum. Last Friday this museum not only saw the opening of the Den Photo Exhibit 2014, but also hosted a roundtable organized by Mykola Hrytsenko, president of the Charitable Foundation in Support of the Newspaper Den’s Initiatives, and Professor Volodymyr Polishchuk of the Cherkasy National Bohdan Khmelnytsky University. Those who took part in this meaningful and frank debate on Ukraine’s knottiest problems were Larysa Ivshyna, editor-in-chief of our newspaper; Professor Volodymyr Panchenko of Kyiv Mohyla Academy, writer, literary critic, chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Charitable Foundation in Support of the Newspaper Den’s Initiatives; Mykhailo Slaboshpytsky, writer, Shevchenko Prize winner, executive director of the League of Ukrainian Art Patrons; and Valentyna Kovalenko, Chairperson of the Cherkasy Oblast Council.

The dialog focused on Den’s “road,” the situation in Ukrainian society and its intellectual stratum, and our historical “weapons.” We offer our readers the most interesting fragments of the discussion.

Larysa IVSHYNA: “I might as well say that we have intellectually ‘dug over’ the entire country. But I am absolutely self-critical and realistic, so I know that it is not so. Moreover, I  know that it was impossible – at least because the ruling political class is not reliable.

“But does this mean we should have refused to do this work, even being aware that we were warming a mug of water on a big bonfire? Anyway, this was to be done, and we did it. We grew our ‘crops’ on ‘experimental grounds.’ Now it is time to ask society if this needs to be ‘mass-produced.’ For this work proved to be viable in the ‘Den country.’

“Incidentally, in terms of the duration of my office, I can compete with Nursultan Nazarbayev only – January 13 marked 18 years of me being Den’s editor-in-chief. I was the chief editor under Kuchma, Yushchenko, Yanukovych, and I demonstrate the stability of an evolving leadership. Here is my personal recipe: I have been looking for those who know how to raise the intellectual bar. It was obvious that Ukraine’s civil society, which had come out injured from the Soviet Union, was absolutely disoriented and unaware of its place in the world. We ‘were stormy,’ for we did not have a high ‘assemblage point’ and had to search for one.

“I was not original perhaps, but I found allies in the person of Ukraine’s best philosophers, such as, for example, the late Serhii Krymsky whose works lay the groundwork for almost each of our books. His ‘High Sky Effect’ was for me the tone to orchestrate other things.

“I will say bluntly: in 1999 the newspaper was in stiff opposition – it was the only one to oppose the reelection of Kuchma for a second term. Although we failed to win, we were right, which is especially obvious now. After 1999, when it became clear that it was impossible to solve this problem politically, I decided to focus on society. For the trouble is not only in the upper crust, but also in the lack of preparedness among the grassroots and the political elites. I was looking for the like-minded in various spheres. For example, Professor Panchenko once suggested that we make a book out of the ‘History and I’ series of articles. It was about 10 years ago. I asked him if he would take part in doing this. The professor said ‘yes.’ That was the best possible reaction. I expect this from everyone who visits our roundtables. If we want to change this country, we must make a joint effort.

“So, we began to make the book Ukraine Incognita which became a bestseller. The book was republished six times, and I call it ‘our library’s grandmother.’ Then we attached this book’s title to our now thriving Internet history portal. The latter takes into account various tastes of readers: you can read an electronic version, visit an online museum, etc. We do not ‘conservatize,’ though I remain a progressive conservative in some basics. Yes, I approve of reading books. I think personal contact with a book develops human brains and imagination better than ‘likes’ and other electronic gimmicks.

“So, whenever you launch a project you should look for people wiser than you and learn from them. And, while establishing a historical library, Den journalists were receiving an additional historical education by the yardsticks we made. For Ukraine has a very rich history and tremendous heritage. But the brain’s ‘throughput’ is too limited to make everything pass in a right sequence. This is why we should select and learn significant things. This also applies to the media. I can remember feeling a profound shock when I dealt with the first participants in the Den’s Summer School of Journalism. When I was asking them about some elementary things that you should know if you want to be a journalist, they looked at me in a wide-eyed wonder. I thus understood that our methods of teaching history had long been questionable. I            can remember the way we were taught         – school and college students were to know all dates instead of being able to understand meanings, the overall logic, and the conflict of ides and concepts.

“It is important for journalists to know the key names of our history. The off-the-orbit figures have degraded Ukrainian journalism which is now in a catastrophic intellectual condition. And no state-sponsored programs will pull us out of this degradation. Undoubtedly, we must do our utmost for such things to exist, but still one should take independent steps. We once took such an independent step so that students had no chance to say that they could not find or read something.

“The Russians used to say that even the Helsinki Human Rights Group was also formed in Moscow, while the Ukrainians had only been singing Stalin’s praises, unable to stand up for their own country. But there were such intellectuals as Petro Hryhorenko, Ivan Bahriany, and Vasyl Stus. Of particular interest is Stus in the reminiscences of Mikhail Kheyfets. This is fantastic, talented, interesting, and accessible. I        am sure that each of our books has confirmed its necessity.

“There is a debate club at Lviv Ivan Franko University, where students monthly read and discuss one of our books. Sometimes they write articles and contribute to Den. The older generation is glad to see that young people are able to focus on important things.

“There are a lot of temptations. The Internet is very wide. Earlier there was censorship, which helped search for and read samizdat. Now that almost everything is allowed, one should form taste and level instead of confining oneself to pop culture and informational trash.

“I see salvation in raising the intellectual bar higher. The Ukrainians are a heroic, courageous, and selfless nation, but… We have no mass-scale political aptitude. We gained independence five times, only to lose it. This means we have been in a chaotic motion, unable to focus at a right time on the persons who could pull us by the hair out of the dirt in which we wallowed for almost 400 years. You can’t possibly fight in the ‘quagmire’ without a systemic approach. We must lay communication lines, seek wise people, and build up a new quality of life.

“It may seem to somebody that this is an unreachable bar and we should only speak about what concerns the war. But Churchill said when he was asked to cut money for the arts: ‘Then what are we fighting for?’ What shall we do if we win? Shall we go on living as stupidly as before? That is the question.”

Mykhailo SLABOSHPYTSKY: “There are almost 900 higher educational institutions in Ukraine and fewer than 50 in France. Seemingly, we are not supposed to be in the situation we are in now, but… A journalist of a by no means ‘yellow rag’ once came to interview me on philanthropy and charity in Ukraine. This lady journalist did not know who Tereshchenko and Chykalenko were, even though she graduated from the Institute of Journalism. Such is the level of not only intellectual maturity, but also professional inefficiency.

“Sometimes you just go mute. You’ve said all the words and are tired of this, but there is no reaction. In this context, it would be wrong to mention the newspaper Den, for it has made a very positive impression on me. I read it from its very first issues. At first I was mistrustful of this publication because I believed before the Revolution of Dignity that there had been no grand and noble things in the world which the Ukrainians did not mess up. We are not short of ideas. The problem is how to implement them.

“When Den began to publish history materials, I would cut them out and put in a folder. I once dreamed of being a historian, I was well-read in a way, but here I saw that I was absolutely ignorant of certain things. Den was and still is a unique newspaper in Ukraine. This publication has undertaken a mission not only to inform and comment, but also to educate the reader intellectually. Den has begun to do a job which a newspaper seems to be incapable of – to create a big milieu out of its readers.

“I feel somewhat tired at times – at last I’ve received and read the Friday issue. Then I have a blessed illusion that I really know everything. Den is taking a systemic approach from the angle of Ukrainian interests. Then I feel I can go to any university classroom and give a lecture on a subject the newspaper dealt with.

“I agree with Ms. Ivshyna that our society is in a barbaric condition, which also includes the attitude of people to statehood. We are a colossal nation that may display individualism, anarchism, and, partly, egoism. But there are problems, as far as the ability to cooperate with one another and respect for our national gurus are concerned. We have a dulled national nerve – as a result of beatings, burnings, and exterminations. We underestimate ourselves in one thing: in what one individual can do if he has gathered 20, 30, or 50 people around himself. For any result is only the sum of individual efforts.

“A human being has the habit of forgetting. He or she is not to blame, for such is life. Here, at Den’s photo exhibit, we can take a close look at the Revolution of Dignity. We have forgotten some faces, events, and even names, but all this is visualized here. And I am not surprised that it is Den that did this – also by way of intellectual ‘missions,’ like this and other roundtables.”

Volodymyr PANCHENKO: “I have had a feeling since 1990 that I am in a big theater and watch a never-ending complicated play. This drama is called history – it also comprises the present and the future, and we are inside. This drama is full of tragedies, heroism, fun, and joie de vivre. The newspaper Den has always highlighted the problem of historical memory. It is very important, as it is the question of identity. To be able to develop, one must know clearly who he or she is.

“I don’t know much about Donbas people, but the facts I know create an impression that one of their key problems is that of identity. It is difficult for them to answer the question of who they are. They think they are a bit Russian, a bit Ukrainian, a bit Soviet, but in general – Donetsk residents. If an individual has such a mess in their head, this will cause them trouble. Historical memory and national self-identification is an extremely important issue. If you want to live better, set your own brains right. In particular, we must look into, see, and feel history.

“Whenever I think about the great historical drama we are going through now, I have a feeling that history is repeating itself. The war Russia has foisted on us duplicates the events of 1917. This is a perennial scenario – it was put into practice by Lenin and Trotsky in 1917 and by Putin now. The three permanent components of the scenario are destabilization in the country to be conquered, the formation of a puppet government, and armed invasion. Once the puppet government has been set up, it begins to receive armed support. We can see this in action now – only the names are different. We have a Muravyov of our own, named Girkin. All is the same.

“It is also important to know such things as a preventive measure. We had until recently a military doctrine based on the assumption that there are no problems in the east. Only a person who does not know history can create a doctrine like this. Ms. Ivshyna often says that, before you become a civil servant, you must pass an exam in the history of Ukraine. If Ukraine’s civil servants knew their history better, they wouldn’t cherish illusions about Russia. The situation in our relations has always been like this. The first ‘Putin’ came up in 1169. He was the Prince of Suzdal, named Andrei Bogolyubsky, who burned Kyiv down. There was also Peter I and Catherine II, ‘Putin in drag.’ Putin means the same essences, as far as imperial tradition is concerned.”

L.I.: “Old ex-convicts warned in the 1990s that Russia was our sworn enemy. The general public thought that they had gone crazy, that this should not be said, and that we should behave differently. Those unheeded ex-prisoners are the guilt and sin of Ukrainian society, for in 1999 the presidential candidate Yevhen Marchuk said the Ukrainian Insurgent Army should be recognized as a warring party.

“It is often said here that we should rely on the experience of Gandhi. But how many times did Den write, for example, about Yevhen Hrytsiak, the leader of the Norilsk uprising? But this is not a fact of mass awareness. If somebody produces this value-related knowledge, what hinders it from circulating through all the capillaries of a societal body? Some people refuse to do this because this knowledge was produced by others. This is the problem of our society’s setup.

“We often speak to local media journalists at roundtables and photo exhibits, and it is a very nice communication. But when we go, the impression is that nothing has ever happen. The same applies to higher educational institutions. I am a member of the supervisory boards of four universities. I come into contact with students, then we leave and our allies remain in these universities, and we support them. Then we come again, and I ask how many people subscribe to the newspaper Den now that we have made so many Herculean efforts. An awkward silence is the answer. I also feel embarrassed, for this sacramental question comes up in an audience that has no skills of partnership.

“I leave alone the question of poverty in this context. Sometimes very modest people are ready to buy and subscribe to the newspaper. The point is there is no institution of reputation. People were never taught that it is prestigious to support rational knowledge. We may preach so many things, but it is important to have partners and allies in the provinces in order to keep this fire burning. We are too eloquent and spend all our energy on the rostrum. But there must be some effective qualitative results.”

Delimiter 468x90 ad place

Subscribe to the latest news:

Газета "День"