What is the Ukrainian Institute and how will it differ from the British Council and the Goethe-Institute?

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Why has our state being already 27 years old been establishing a network of its own cultural and information institutions? In which countries the first branches of the Ukrainian Institute will be opened and how their funding will be implemented?

Volodymyr Lukianov, Executive Director of the State Institution “Ukrainian Institute” has been answering all these questions exclusively for the FD.

What is the main purpose of the activity of the “Ukrainian Institute”?

– The main objective of the “Ukrainian Institute” (and it is written on the first page of its Statute) is the representation of Ukraine abroad.

We must show that Ukraine has a powerful modern culture and does not forget about its past. In Ukraine, there are many young artists nowadays – in art culture, in pop culture and in cinema that has been developing rapidly since 2014. The Institute will also popularize Ukrainian language, because there is a demand for the study of our language abroad, and therefore the teaching of Ukrainian language for foreigners has been clearly defined in the Charter.

How will the teaching be carried out? By the setting up of the schools creating or at the basis of the Institute?

– On the basis of the Institute. The teaching system will resemble the teaching of English at the British Council or the German language teaching system at the Goethe-Institute. It takes time to create such a system. With the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, we have to determine how the Ukrainian language will be taught and who will do it – the graduate specialists or the representatives of the overseas Ukrainians.

Could we say that Ukraine had finally reached that status when we would have been able to develop our own public and cultural diplomacy in full scale?

– Our Minister wanted to do it in 2015. But we had to adhere the certain bureaucratic procedures. Last year, a resolution was passed by the Cabinet of Ministers, according to which the “Ukrainian Institute” began to be established as a state institution; in particular, its financing was envisaged. Some say that the amount of 20 million hryvnas that had been set this year for the development of the Institute is very small, but I want to answer – let us start to work. When a full-scale work starts, then we will be able to speak in the language of figures.

What has provoked the creation of the “Ukrainian Institute” exactly in 2015?

– This has happened due to the events of 2014. When the annexation of the Crimea occurred and when the war broke out in the east of Ukraine, we began to realize that modern Ukraine is not effectively represented in the world.

What is the Ukrainian Institute and how will it differ from the British Council and the Goethe-Institute?But Ukraine has been existing as an independent state for over 26 years. Why have not you thought about it before?

– I can parry a question. Why haven’t we been filming so many Ukrainian films before?

Why haven’t we published so many Ukrainian books? Why has not the Ukrainian Institute of Books been established before (with this year’s budget of 200 million hryvnias)? Until 2014, nobody could dare to dream of it…

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So, can we say that 2014, EuroMaidan, the tragic events in the spring and the war pushed the leadership of the state to create a new concept of the Ukrainian state?

– As the President of Ukraine said, 2014 was the beginning of the final break of those bonds that united us with the Soviet Union.

27 years ago, in my opinion, we had just taken shape as an independent state with an area of 603,700 square kilometers. In 2014 there was a serious break in our minds – we realized that we should create new projects, shoot new films, publish more books, talk more about our country abroad. Similarly, the British Council was created a hundred years ago, the British state is much elder, so the British people had passed a certain way to realize that such a representation of their own country abroad is necessary.

What are the criteria for a competitive selection for the position of Director of the Institute?

– We have taken the best from the British Council, the French Institute and the Goethe-Institute. We have registered such a structure of the competition, in which there is the Expert Commission that selects the Professional Competition Commission and the Supervisory Board. Competitive selection is carried out by evaluating of the presentations of the projects development programs of the Institute by the Competition Commission and conducting of the interviews with each candidate individually. The criteria for the selection of the general director were professionalism, responsibility and honesty, the awareness that the use of public funds in the days of armed aggression against the Ukrainian people should take place in priority areas for the state and be understandable for the ordinary Ukrainians.

Therefore, an important element of the Competition Commission’s activity was the proper emphasis on the qualities, abilities, skills and capacities that are needed for a true communicator of Ukraine in the foreign information space.

By the way, the Expert Commission includes people who are respected in the Ukrainian cultural space, for example, Ivan Kozlenko, a very authoritative person in the world of cinema, Tetiana Teren, at that time the director of the Ukrainian Institute of the Book, Olha Sahaidak, co-founder of the charitable foundation “Art Subsoil” and other well-known people. The expert commission elects six members of the Competition Commission. At the suggestion of the Foreign Ministry, the well-known art manager Pavlo Hudymov and the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine Andrew Gunder who in London, for five years, had been heading the local “Ukrainian Institute”, joined the Competition Commission.

According to the proposal of the Minister, the representative of the “Czech Institute” in Ukraine Lucia Rzhegorzhikova, who has successful experience in managing the Czech analogue of the “Ukrainian Institute” was included either. I would like to point out that the Ministry itself serves as the “secretary” that ensures the activities of these commissions. The first task is the election and appointment of the Director General of the Ukrainian Institute, and then, after the political decision to open the branches of the Institute abroad, the heads of these branches will also be elected.

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At the moment, I can say that the Competition Commission has chosen Volodymyr Sheik as the winner on the basis of the selection for the position of General Director. Tatiana Filevska got the second place. Now the Supervisory Board, acting on a permanent basis, in order to ensure the balance of interests of the state, society and subjects in the sphere of culture in the Institute, to ensure the observance of the principles of legality, independence, objectivity, transparency, accessibility to the public, should consider the elected candidates and approve the winner. Incidentally, by order of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs # 181 dated by the 20th of April, the supervisory board of the “Ukrainian Institute” has already been established.

Which institutions except the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been dealing with the establishment of the Institute? How does the cooperation between these institutions work? Have you come to an understanding?

– As I have mentioned, there is the Supervisory Board that includes such well-known personalities in Ukraine – Ahtem Seitablayev, Vlad Troitskiy, Lilia Mlynarych, as well as the representatives of the Ministry of Culture – because we promote Ukrainian culture, of the Ministry of Education and Science – because we want to set up the teaching of the Ukrainian language abroad and of the Ministry of Information Policy because the current geopolitical conditions require a strong informational policy outside. Also, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is represented by Iryna Podoliak, the First Deputy of the Chairman of the Committee on Culture and Spirituality.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is represented by Vasyl Bodnar, Deputy of the Minister that is responsible for the field of cultural and public diplomacy.

Concerning the cooperation, many people are wondering how much money will be spent for activities in Ukraine? Therefore, I must emphasize that the “Ukrainian Institute” is created to promote Ukrainian culture in other countries. In Ukraine, this activity will be provided by the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation that has been recently created and by the Ukrainian Book Institute. Our main goal is to popularize Ukrainian culture abroad.

How powerful will the financing of the Institute be?

– This issue must be understood and must be resolved at the highest state level. If we want to work at the level and scale of similar foreign institutions, then the relevant funding, first of all, should find the support from the Ministry of Finance. Therefore, funding should not be reduced, budgets should not be cut off , – in other words, not only the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should understand the importance of our Institute. I believe that our funding should be at the level of the Ukrainian Institute of Books.

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The Statute of the “Ukrainian Institute” refers to “mixed” funding, which means that budget funds are mainly aimed at salary payments and for the functioning of the foreign affiliates. If we prove that we do work effectively, then people by themselves will start investing in popularization of the Ukrainian culture abroad.

In which countries will the institutes of Ukrainian culture be opened first of all?

–First of all they will be opened in Europe.

During his thematic press conference in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Minister called four countries – France, Germany, Italy and Poland. At the same time, I would like to point out that our Ambassador in Turkey, Mr. A. Sybiha, did his best to set up the academic study of the Ukrainian language at the Istanbul University, where the specialty “Ukrainian language and literature” was implemented. This was his own initiative, but in the future, definitely, the branches of the “Ukrainian Institute” will do this. New York, London and Stockholm have already had the structures that are similar to the “Ukrainian Institute” and that were opened by the eff orts of local diplomatic and community centres, so we will be happy to cooperate with them. For example, on the basis of the “Ukrainian Institute” in Stockholm, we can create a regional Scandinavian centre.

How much will it take to set up the branches of “Ukrainian Institute” through the whole world?

– This issue depends on the commonplace financing problem. If funding is good, then about 10–12 branches will be opened within 4 years. One of the conditions of the competition is that the General Director should see the prospect of the Institute’s development not only for the first year, but for 3-4 years ahead.

Which of the cultural institutes was taken as an example? There is the Goethe-Institute and the British Council…

– As an example we have taken all the best they have. There are many issues in our Statute borrowed from their ones.

Will the training of diplomatic staff be conducted in Ukraine on the basis of the Institute – for example, in the reformed Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

– Yes, the Diplomatic Academy under the Ministry has been reformed. Nowadays, the Academy instructs those people that won the competition and will work at the central office of the Ministry and abroad – this is the first point.

The second point – there is a continuing training of employees of the Ministry at the Academy. For the directors of the branches and for their deputies, we also plan to arrange training at the Diplomatic Academy before sending them abroad.

These people must be thoroughly prepared; they should understand that they will have not only to promote Ukraine, but also to counteract Russia’s rigid information aggression against us.