Category Archives: Ukraine

Much Ado About Russian: A Fight At the Ukrainian Rada

Multiculturalism entails multilingualism, and different countries react to the issue differently. Most people in the UK whom I came across were more positive than not about the fact that they could hear all sorts of accents and languages in the street. Bengali, Indian, Polish, Russian – anything went, it seems, as long as it was not the Queen’s English.

In Russia, and certainly in Moscow, the situation is different. I live in the same apartment block where I was born and grew up; many Russian (=white) neighbours know me well. But we have other neighbours, too, who arrived in the last 5 years from the former Soviet republics or Russian subject territories. They speak Russian to a different degree, and between themselves they naturally speak their native language. My Russian neighbours attitude is not enthusiastic, to say the least. On several occasions, when I got into a lift together with such Russian (=white) neighbour they would remark, as if I was a guest: “Oh, how good it is to see a Russian face!” A variation is “How good it is to hear the Russian speech“. Nationalism is overt here, and those Caucasian and Uzbek “newcomers” are often called “black”, as opposed to pale-skinned Russians.

However, for years since the demise of the Soviet Union the survival of Russian citizens in the former Soviet republics was also a sensitive, if not altogether painful, issue. The case of the Baltic States may be better known, and now Ukraine, a country that historically, culturally and politically has for centuries had strong ties with Russia, follows the same nationalistic course. Probably being close to Russia for such a long time explains, why the Verkhovna Rada deputees couldn’t stop half-way in defending their point of view.

Basically, on his coming to power, the current president Victor Yanukovich promised to raise the status of the Russian language in the country. Russians constitute the largest ethnic minority in Ukraine, so Yanukovich’s plan paid due respect to this fact. The Ukranian nationalists are against this, arguably for fear of threatening the status of the Ukrainian language. So when the bill was about to be discussed at the Rada this week, opposition’s garni khloptsi (Ukrainian for “handsome guys”) were adamant to have their way. To avoid discussing the bill they burst into the Rada praesidium, and a fight ensued. The photos were made by the RIA Novosti correspondent.

The nationalists believe that this Russian issue hammers a wedge in the Ukrainian society and is best to not be discussed. And they are ready to kick the air – literally.

Ukrainian Stray Dogs and Cats Die in the Name of Eurofoot 2012

At the top left corner of my blog there now hangs a widget which I hope you will use. It is an online petition to the Ukrainian President to stop cruelty on animals. You can read the petition below. Being Ukrainian by a quarter, I find it horrible, although it was documented even in fiction that stray dogs were killed in Russia and elsewhere. Personally, I believe the President Yanukovich has to stop this and to apologise. 

The context in which this measure is being used – the preparation to Eurofoot 2012 – is abominal. Sport has always encouraged cooperation and peace. I would go as far as to suggest to relocate Eurofoot 2012 to another country. Stray animals are the result of social policies. Every country partakes in presenting its best side, whenever necessary. But killing off stray animals so as to suggest as if there is no such problem in the country – sorry, this is criminal. 

The city Lysychansk (eastern Ukraine) is shooting and burning animals alive as part of Football Preparations for Eurofoot 2012.

Ukrainian Authorities are now using a mobile crematorium to exterminate stray animals. The local government bought a mobile crematorium for the disposal of stray animals. The mobile team of drivers and dog catchers are armed with a gun to shoot strays. The mobile crematorium also lends it to other cities and districts of the region.

The captured animals are thrown alive into the oven to 900 degrees C. According to locals, the dogs and cats burned alive.

The concentration of stray animals is not critical and can easily be controlled. The problem of stray animals to be solved by sterilization. We are horrified to learn the problem of stray animals in the Luhansk region in the town Lysychansk in Eastern Ukraine will be “solved” in this way and ignoring the Law on Cruelty to Animals.

Kyiv Fashion: Year 1972 – Part 1

As per announcement, here is a weekly feature on Kyiv Fashion booklets, spanning the period from 1972 till 1990. Be it for my mum’s heritage or some other reason, but there has always been many Ukrainian fashion booklets in our house. The most amazing thing about these booklets is that they all feature sketches and pictures, so you will be able to see how the sketching technique evolved in 20 years. You can view individual photos on Flickr.

Kyiv Fashion Announcement: Two Decades of Soviet Fashion

Kyiv Fashion Models 1974

I grew up flicking through the pages of old fashion booklets and magazines. Although I didn’t realise this at the time, most of those booklets were produced by the Kiev Fashion Model House, the actual models being drawn by the Ukrainian fashion designers. Some of the booklets were also in Ukrainian, so this, together with Nikolai Gogol’s folk stories, was my introduction to the Ukranian language that my maternal grandfather spoke.

Kyiv Fashion Models 1985

Naturally, as the years go by, we start appreciating same things in a different way. As a kid, I felt like missing some of the 1970s air: I loved those sophisticated ladies, a complex mix of innocence and seduction, and handsome men with moustaches, strong, independent, yet elegant. I drew much inspiration from these magazines and booklets throughout my teens, when I made paper dresses for the dolls or wrote romantic stories. To me, 1970s that I never actually saw epitomised the time of whirlwind romances, intrepid gentlemen, and ethereal ladies. Cue in Faye Dunaway, Michael Caine, Barbra Streisand, and Robert Redford, just to begin with.

Kyiv Fashion Models 1988
Kyiv Fashion Models 1987

This is just a teaser of what you can really expect to see and savour over the coming weeks. Apart from throwing tons of lights onto the Soviet fashion, these images are also unique in that they are all hand-drawn sketches representing changing perceptions of female beauty from year to year.

Kyiv Fashion Models 1989