About the first steps, organization and about who was involved in program “Man of the Year”


The nationwide program “Man of the Year”, which has existed for over 22 years, has long since become one of the visiting cards of modern Ukraine. Many prominent politicians, representatives of business and art circles are dreaming of becoming nominees of the premium, since it is given to outstanding people who have made a significant contribution to the most important areas of professional and social life of our country. Arkadii Raitsyn, the founder and head of the program is telling about the first steps, organization and about who was involved in its creation, in an exclusive interview with the FD.

Please, tell us how the “Person of the Year” program was launched? What was an impetus for this?

— To be honest, dissatisfaction with myself became the impetus for this. It was 1995. It was the time of changes. We had to find ourselves in a new system of state coordinates. Until 1991, there was a great country of the USSR, where I, since 1988, was successfully engaged in organizing of the mass entertainment and cultural events in my hometown Dniprodzerzhynsk. But, since 1992, the need for further evolutionary steps had become clear. In the spring, 1995, this need finally came to the desire to create a public premium for the outstanding and extraordinary merits in young Ukrainian state. I knew that in some leading countries of the world (the USA, Great Britain, France) well-known premiums are annually given in the field of cinematography, musical and theatrical art. And I thought – why not to take the next evolutionary step?

Why not to establish a public premium in our country, which would mark achievements not in mono-genre, but in a wide leading range of professional and social achievements. I realized the development of any successful state is based on local, municipal governance, business and finance, journalism and art, sports, and patronage. I spent a lot of time working out the most optimal model for the future prize. And then numerous consultations and negotiations started which led that project to the capital in order to gain the national status.

Аркадій Райцин з першим Президентом незалежної України Леонідом Кравчуком та його помічницею Оксаною Сибірцевою. 20 ювілейна церемонія вручення премії «Людина року», 26 березня 2016 р.

But in order for such a project to work in full force, it was necessary to establish certain connections and to get organizational work going. This is a titanic work. How did you succeed?

— The work was indeed titanic. My communicative skills, of course, came into play, as there were plenty of contacts and negotiations. At that time, there was a somewhat paradoxical situation – despite the fact that the Dnipropetrovsk region was then the staffing basis of state power in Ukraine – it was quite difficult to solve issues in the native region. At that time, there was a popular statement in the offices – “a feast during a plague”. Twenty and a half years ago, this phrase had time to become boring for me, as at that time I was questioned on the expediency of holding the planned by me event, using this particular quotation. Not everyone understood the topicality and necessity of this program. Nevertheless on March 2, 1996, in Dniprodzerzhynsk, a zero ceremony, as we started to call it afterwards, the ceremony of awarding the “Man of the Year–1995” premium took place. A quite powerful group of famous Kyiv residents arrived for this bright performance as guests and participants. First of all, there were very famous, popular cultural and art fi gures – Yurii Rybchynskyi, Taisia Povaliy, Pavlo Zibrov, Volodymyr Bystriakov, Taras Petrynenko and Natalia Mohylevska. Olena Romina and Les Zadniprovsky were invited as the show presenters, at that time the best specialists in this genre. We also invited the representatives of the most prominent print media, in particular, “Kyiv Records”, “All-Ukrainian Records” and “Mirror of the Week”. We invited a special correspondent of the First National TV Channel, and, the event was outlined by many representatives of the press on the regional and urban scale. When the ceremony took place quite resonantly, it became clear that a certain precedent was created. Moreover, among those who received the awards at the Dniprodzerzhynsk ceremony, there were: very well-known at that time banker Serhii Tihipko, who then headed PrivatBank, and in some time became the Vice-Prime Minister of Ukraine, and also a popular TV-presenter, Alla Mazur, who came from Kyiv to receive an award as a journalist, and serious representatives of the regional elite. Then certain circumstances helped to elaborate the project, in particular, on the advice of Yurii Rybchynskyi, who dismissively advised to transfer the event to the capital.

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Since August 1996, consultations with the representatives of the national elite began. Yurii Rybchynskyi and I were lucky to meet and to share already proven idea with a whole galaxy of wellknown statesmen who realized the importance of such a project. Among them I cannot help but mention Vadym Hetman, Dmytro Markov, then the Press Secretary of the President of Ukraine, Valeriy Pustovoitenko, then the Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, People’s Deputies of Ukraine Serhiy Teriokhin and Olexandr Riabchenko, and many others. This way – step by step – a national concept was built.

In the autumn of 1996 it was clear that on the eighth of March 1997 there would be the first national-level ceremony. We were supported by the leading nation-wide media, which half the year before the first ceremony held the intrigue of the forthcoming festive event. Finally, the first ceremony took place at the National Palace of Arts “Ukraine”. Of course, it is most memorable for me for all the life. For when you are standing on stage and see the current President of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, and along with him a large number of top figures of the state and political elite of Ukraine, there are many representatives of the same elite among the nominees, too, it is hard not to feel not only pride for my own project, but also a great deal of excitement. That’s how it all started …

Аркадій Райцин з відомим журналістом та телеведучим Володимиром Познером. 22 березня 2013 р.

The contemporary history of Ukraine can be divided into two periods – before 2014 and after 2014. In addition to the war, which brought a lot of grief, there have been some changes in the society. In particular, the rapid development of domestic cinematography and domestic book-printing, which until 2014 had been, frankly, on the periphery. Isn’t the introduction of new nominations being planned in this regard?

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— We have already got them. As for the cinematography, we do not need to introduce a new nomination – we have had the nomination “Artist” from the very first year of the development of the program. Outstanding filmmakers and documentary fi lmmakers Kira Muratova, Myroslav Slaboshpytsky and Serhii Bukovsky are among our star winners in this nomination. Moreover, not only directors became the winners, but also operators. Two years ago, Serhii Mykhalchuk, a talented cameraman, who received the main prize at the Berlin Film Festival, was our laureate in the nomination “Artist of the Year”. Of course, we also marked famous actors of cinema and theatre, too. In particular, the genius Bohdan Stupka, Volodymyr Goryanskyy and Oleksiy Vertynskyy. Domestic cinematography has always been and is at the centre of our attention. As for book publishing, I can say that at our next ceremony, which will take place on March 24, 2018, one of the most powerful innovative publishing houses in Ukraine – the Publishing House “ADEF-Ukraine” will receive the special premium “For a Significant Multi-Year Contribution to the Development of the Ukrainian Publishing and Printing Industry”. Over the past five-six years, it was they who have published and reprinted a huge number of great and rare books, including the Peresopnytsia Gospel. Incidentally, recently Ihor Shpak, one of the founders of this publishing house, presented a copy of this unique edition to His Holiness Patriarch of Rome. So, as you can see, we keep pace with time.

Please, tell me whether you are planning to introduce nominations in the field of literature itself? Let’s say – “Writer of the Year”?

— We have also long been including the writers with the nomination “Artist”. You see, we do not want to piecemeal our nominations, because that general concept, adopted in 1996 by us, envisaged the presence of more extensive professional areas. Therefore, since the first years of the program implementation in the nomination “Artist of the Year”, we have always had outstanding people in many fields of culture and art. These are writers, poets, artists, sculptors, actors and directors, musicians and composers, bright representatives of the genre of decorative and applied arts. In particular, according to the results of 2017, one of the laureates in this nomination is Victor Gutsal, People’s Artist of Ukraine, conductor, composer, artistic director of a unique group – the National Academic Orchestra of Folk Instruments of Ukraine. We honour artists in all directions, but we do not consider it appropriate to piecemeal this nomination.

Аркадій Райцин з Надзвичайним та Повноважним Послом України Михайлом Резніком та його дружиною Іриною Резнік. 21 урочиста церемонія вручення премії «Людина року», 25 березня 2017 р.

You noted that you remembered most the very first presentation of premiums. And were there any legendary events, which have remained in your heart and memory forever?

— Yes of course. It is embedded forever how during the awarding ceremony, a great Ukrainian financier and statesman who for the first two years headed the Higher Academic Council of the Man of the Year program, Vadym Hetman, received the “Financier of the Year” award, solemnly lifted the award over his head. This was the second national ceremony in 1998, there are many images of Vadym Hetman, who is making this joyous victorious gesture. In 2015, at the ceremony based on the results of 2014, the most dramatic, most tragic and challenging in modern Ukrainian history, we presented the International Foreign Policy Award to President of Lithuania, a reliable and loyal friend of Ukraine, Dalia Grybauskaitė. She came personally to receive this prestigious award, the ceremony took place at the National Palace of Arts “Ukraine”, all the great auditorium of the palace rose, congratulating her. The award was presented to her by the First President of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, together with TVpresenter of the 1+1 Channel Natalia Moseichuk. Ms. Moseichuk made a remarkable slip by naming the President of Lithuania “our Dalia.” I cannot help but remember the appearance of the great French singer, Patricia Kaas, on the stage during our ceremony. Her purely French charm cannot be forgotten. Summarizing my answer to this question, I would like to point out that lately, when we handle international premiums to representatives of other countries, they all being on the stage express the most sincere wishes of peace and prosperity to our country. And this can be considered as our contribution to public or People’s Diplomacy.

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Our laureates of international premiums at the last twenty-first ceremony were Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania to Ukraine Marius Janukonis and Chinese businessman Li Jinyuan and soloist of the Vienna Opera Zoriana Kushpler, and violin virtuoso, Vasyl Popadiuk, who is an ethnic Ukrainian, but represents Canada, and legendary singer and composer Faruk Zakirov from Uzbekistan. All of them are differently, but very sincerely, wishing goodness and harmony to our country and this is impossible to forget.

What allows you to maintain the political neutrality of your project in rather difficult Ukrainian conditions?

— Of course, there were and are the attempts to bring this project into political and around political affairs. But, starting all this business, I understood that there was a great responsibility that did not allow crossing the border. Thank God this was given to me by my parents. If a person is deeply-decent, then they will always make the right choice between reputation and earnings.

What would you like to wish the readers of our magazine?

— First of all, I would like to wish all the readers to read more. Actually, nowadays people are reading less and less – including magazines and newspapers. Secondly, I would like to wish optimism, patience and cheerfulness. It is very important in this so difficult time for all of us. Whatever complex the circumstances surrounding a person are, if such a person has optimism and cheerfulness in the soul, then this person, waking up and seeing the sun outside the window, will understand that life is wonderful and will begin to change the world for the better