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For russians, the cultural war has always been and remains one of utmost importance — artist and curator

For russians, the cultural war has always been and remains one of utmost importance — artist and curator

The russians are not only trying to appropriate Ukrainian history, but they are also stealing our culture on mass. Meanwhile, in Ukraine, many people still associate Ukrainian culture only with flowered wreaths and Cossack pants (sharovary).

How was Ukrainian culture colonized?

Artist and curator Olesya Drashkaba discusses Ukrainian culture, colonialism and the culture war.

«The Soviet Union worked very actively to destroy everything national in each of its occupied territories. It did so in the following ways:

  1. The endowment of folk aesthetics with village and town stamps. Everything that was Ukrainian and traditional became as rustic and unmodern as possible.
  2. The mixing and assimilation of all ethno-aesthetics. For example, the costume of a folk artist had to be composed of different regions. The shirt had to be from one region, the skirt from another and the pants from some other region. The costume was artificially created. It originally represented the aesthetic of  beauty, but become the aesthetics of the «sharovary» style. It was unclear where the pieces came from — this is why we know little about our ethnic groups and art in general.»

Ukrainian art loves color. Why?

«Color is a big part of Ukrainian art. I once thought about how to describe Ukraine in two words. Color would be the first word. Ukrainian culture loves color. If you compare the icons, ours are bright, picturesque, and colorful, while Russian ones are dark and depressing. Color is important to us. It varies from region to region. Some are brighter than others, but it is definitely a huge component of all Ukrainian art, not only ethnic.»

The Russians started the war over borscht in 2019 with a tweet from the official profile of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, which said: «An eternal classic, #borscht is one of the most famous and beloved Russian #dishes and a symbol of national cuisine.»

Well, of course, Ukraine rightly did not remain silent. Russia was accused of appropriating Ukraine’s culinary heritage. Borscht is definitely Ukrainian and this was recognized by UNESCO. The Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage has included Ukrainian borscht in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage in need of immediate protection

Why is this important? Olesya Drashkaba explains.

«The fact that our borscht is a cultural heritage of Ukraine, now recognized by UNESCO, is very cool. First, it is a great form of de-Russification because Russia claims our borscht. I don’t know why, but for some reason they decided to present it as their dish. Borscht is a purely Ukrainian dish. Even the color is visible. Aesthetically, this is a very artistic dish.

Ukrainians do not understand that for Russians, the cultural war is of utmost importance. That’s why they steal our borscht and our Malevych.»

What should be done for the world to slowly begin to believe that most of the names, including Malevych, are Ukrainian?

«The first thing we have to do in this fight is to learn our art. Now the world is very interested in Ukraine, and it is time to bring our message to the world. Here the problem is that we do not know a lot about our culture. We also don’t know it too well.

  • «First of all, every Ukrainian should talk about Ukraine with other Ukrainians.» This was said by Vakhtang Kebuladze. It is very important.

The Soviet Union killed millions of people, so the Ukrainian people did not know their art well. Now we must rebuild it all. Read, study, listen, and create. This is what we must do now. This is a cultural front, and we have no right to lose it.»

Let’s not underestimate the power of Russian propaganda. To better understand the information warfare methods of the Russian Federation, listen to the podcast «Thinking is a basic function» on Hromadske Radio.

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Supported by:
Fulcrums (Tochky opory) project is on the air in Kyiv-Donbas live shows. It has been produced with the generous support of the International Medical Corps and JSI Research & Training Institute, INC. through a grant by United States Agency for International Development. The views and opinions expressed herein shall not, in any way whatsoever, be construed to reflect the views or opinions of all the mentioned organizations.

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