Ukrainian culture today is a prestige of the state and pride of the Ukrainians

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We have more and more high-quality products in the cinema, music, appearing in the native language on television. The sector has received a significant increase in funding. But this is not enough. There is still much work ahead, says Minister of Culture Yevhen Nyshchuk in an interview with “Fashion of Diplomacy”.

“NOW WE ARE HAVING A GREAT PAIN — THERE IS A WAR IN THE EAST OF THE COUNTRY. BUT THERE IS PRIDE IN THE FACT THAT UKRAINE IS A COUNTRY WITH GREAT POTENTIAL”

THROUGH THE CULTURE, THE EUROPEANS LOOK AT US DIFFERENTLY — AS AT AN EQUAL PARTNER, — THE MINISTER OF CULTURE OF UKRAINE, YEVHEN NYSHCHUK

November 21 is the anniversary of the beginning of the Revolution of Dignity. How has Ukraine changed in four years?

— First of all, these are worldview changes, changes in activity of the society. For sometimes not only in our country, but also in the developed part of Europe, society might be very inert. The Revolution of Dignity finally destroyed the myth that Ukrainians are sitting in the huts, that we are too cautious and unable to sacrifice life for ideological principles. In 2013–2014, more than 100 people were killed for dignity, freedom and the right to vote. They were between 17 and 73 years old. People of different generations who fought for one idea. This is an incredible thing, which is sometimes forgotten and transferred to the stratum — “Sausages got more expensive in our country, the dollar rate has risen. Why did they die then?” No. They were not fighting for the dollar rate. They were fighting for principal fundamental values. This is the moment of our responsibility.

You were the voice of the Maidan. Did you think then that you would become the Minister?

— Everything could end very sadly for me. Overnight into February 19th, the sniper could well “take me off” and I would have been nobody. On February 24th or 26th, the talk about the formation of a government began. Someone said that I should have taken the responsibility. I did not know how to take it. The turning point was when someone provoked into a question on the Maidan: “What do you think, if our Yevhen becomes the Minister of Culture?” Everyone said: “Let’s do it.” I was not only an actor. I collaborated with Ukrainian artists, singers, creative groups, bands. I shared a common language with them. That is why I agreed.

Ukrainian culture today is a prestige of the state and pride of the UkrainiansWhat goal did you set yourself?

— The program has been built up along the way. At that moment, it was very important to rely on the development of creative professional groups. The condition of the Maidan was the dismissal of all the deputies, heads of departments who worked before that. I did it in the first 10 minutes, not off ending anyone. There were those who did not want to write an application for dismissal. They “got sick” for 4 months, but then did not work anyway. I did not know any of the people who were offered to vacant posts. I risked taking those who had never been in the system, who were not my friends and were not “cronies”, but professionals in their directions.

However, the system of the Ministry of Culture was blatant, corrupt.

— I have replaced the key people in the Ministry. Now there is a team working here that thinks differently, for which any “schemes” are totally unacceptable. We have removed the function from the Ministry with the help of which they “earned money”. One of the examples: the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation under the Ministry of Culture will begin work from the 1st of January. It is an independent body that will consist of a supervisory board and expert groups. They will select artistic projects for partial or full financial support. The Minister must not divide the money. This should be done by experts on a competitive basis. We will fight corruption schemes this way.

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Will the corruption not work there, either?

— Nobody is immune. But we are building those things that would make this situation most impossible, at the start. There are enough anti-corruption bodies in the country, which have to check everything. I hope they are a big deterrent. But there is another point — I am really relying on very authoritative people who will work in the fund.

Were you offered bribes?

— No, I was not. Probably, due to the glory from Maidan they did not dare to do it.

Numerous changes have come into the culture with you. In particular, the situation with the Ukrainian language on radio and television has improved. Although there was a lot of criticism.

— In this context, it should not be changed to a discussion of purely linguistic problems. In fact, this is a simple desire, which Germany, France, Sweden and other countries have to protect the interest of the own state, culture, language. It is not a secret, that the Ukrainian language, the production of movies and series, the output of books, songs on the radio and clips on television were impinged for many years. There was no encouragement to do this. Today, there is no harassment in relation to other languages. At the same time, there is a great impetus to creation, so that nowadays we have a quality through the quantity.

Every week there are new Ukrainian cinema premieres. Exciting “The Stronghold” came out. There are films that receive awards at numerous international fi lm festivals. “The Line”, which was made jointly with Slovakia, is now submitted to “Oscar”. “The Nest of the Turtledove” was filmed with the Italians — the tape appeared in two languages. Of course, there is a great need for high-quality television series. Therefore, these days, as part of the work on the budget, we want to accumulate funds in the Ukrainian State Film Agency both for a feature fi lm and support of the TV series production. The Ukrainian animation is to be supported as a separate program.

For how much is funding from the state budget enough and how has it changed over the last years?

— I am grateful to the first persons of the state, the Prime Minister, colleagues from the Government, who are increasingly giving ear to our industry. I am not tired of saying that culture is extremely important and it cannot be financed by the residual principle. And fortunately, the support of the industry was increased — last year by 1.5 billion hryvnias, now by 1.5 billion more. It cannot be said that this is enough. But still, it is a good dynamics. When I became the Minister in 2014, we had 29 million hryvnias for the development of cinematography, and in 2017 — 500 million. It is just a breakthrough and a merit of our team. According to the results of the last meeting of the Prime Minister with the cinema community, we ended up with the amount of almost 1 billion for the following year.

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What place does Ukraine occupy in the world cultural space?

— In addition to the traditional culture, which is revealed in embroidery, pottery, art, music, dancing and solo, we should be integrated into contemporary thinking, the world of artistic context. We must be direct participants in major European forums for this. This is the strength of cultural diplomacy, which gives us an opportunity to draw attention to us. Precisely through the culture.

For the very art has the shortest path to the human soul. For example, when we arrive at the Frankfurt Book Fair, we present a complete National stand with our publishing houses, books, translations and incredible topical design of the publications by our artists, drawing artists, with the stylish design of the stand itself; we hear from everywhere: “Oh, what is it? Ukraine?” Yes! This is, in fact, our voice, which is necessary to us, anywhere in the world. It is through culture that we are perceived as an equal partner.

What is our peculiarity as a cultural nation?

— These are great openness, sincerity and hospitality. The Eurovision confirmed that as well. Europeans like being in our country. They feel comfortable here. We have a great pain — there is a war in the East of the country. Thanks to our army, our Heroes, we are standing it. Indeed, sometimes we get frustrated with some processes. But it is natural; it is a matter of time. For, most importantly, there is pride and confidence that Ukraine is a country with great potential.

Many specialists from different fields leave the country. Is there the same problem in the culture?

— We are moving now from the constant Soviet thought: “Look, she has gone. These are the best opera ballerinas, singers, musicians leaving the country.” They are not leaving. Over the past year, there has been such a tendency for artists to sign contracts with the best stages in Europe and the world. But they leave behind the opportunity and consider it a pride to return permanently to their native stage. We must not make them traitors. They carry our talents to the world, show how deep and professional our art and people are in it. They identify themselves Ukrainians. In addition, they continue to come back here so that their talent could be enjoyed in Ukraine too.

How did the war change the culture and the Ukrainians?

— It showed: when a person’s heart is bleeding for their land, it does not matter where they were born. They go and protect it. This is a healthy patriotism. Now, for example, the movie “Cyborgs”, which will be released on screens in December, is being filmed. There is this situation, when the extreme moment happened — a person has made a decision that they are in the protection of their family, land and state — the aggressor did not expect this incredible thing. It is amazing that having such great losses we believe that we will stand and we will be building up the state we want to see.

You had a different life before the Ministry — you were doing your favourite job, travelled, got emotions. Where do you get emotions now?

— Apart from the documents, my work still involves meetings with artists. They are the source. I am ignited from them. I cannot say that I will make everyone happy. But from morning till night, I work to get some things done. I get a great pleasure from the fact that talented people are realized that they are on the screen. That good Ukrainian music finally sounds on TV and radio broadcasts. I am glad when I manage to implement an interesting, bold creative project, I am happy with the queues at the museum for interesting exhibition projects, and queues for Ukrainian cinema. I am glad that my colleagues receive major roles in movies and TV shows. Previously, it was an implicit ban. The main roles were played by Moscow actors. We were given the minor ones. The situation has changed now. The spectator likes Ukrainian artists very much; they are recognized in the streets, admired, photographed, taken autographs from. I get great pleasure from this. All this inspires to further work.

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Do you not regret that you are not in their place?

— No, I do not have time to miss here. The rhythm is very serious. Though one or two times a month at weekends I play in performances. This is a sign of attention to colleagues.

Are you being filmed in movies?

— In the cinema, I hardly manage. Except for an episode that can be filmed in 4-5 hours at the weekend. I have several projects like this. One in “Cyborgs”, where I am playing the military chaplain. The character is so interesting that maybe not everyone will recognize me at once. One more – I am playing Volodymyr Vynnychenko in the movie “Diary of Symon Petliura”. The fi lm shoots are still lasting. The last small role is in the movie “Kruty”, where I am the father of one of the young Heroes, that a hundred years ago came out armed with, in fact, only love to their native land against the completely armed forces. And they restrained it. These are some very symbolic things, the opening of our true historical pages to the world, so I am glad to join them. However, of course, the state work is taking all the time. I understood what I was going into. This is my responsibility and mission for that time, as measured by the political situation and the One above.

How do you see Ukraine in 10 years?

— We have to make significant changes in the part of the settled place on the geopolitical map of the world. If to talk about security, I am sure we will have become a member of NATO for 10 years. We must be a full-fledged member of the European Union. Clearly, we must gain peace in those painful regions of Ukraine where blood is shedding. These regions deserved to have a really happy life after suffering there. Over these 10 years we have to prove Europe and the world — we are full-fledged partners, one can and should work with us, and it is possible and necessary to invest here. And that we are the country of great potential.

Not all Ukrainians believe in such a good future. What advice would you give them?

— Save a little money, sit into a car or a train and go around the country. Look left and right. Visit castles, museums, theatres. Talk to people. Go to a beautiful coffee shop, drink some delicious tea, smile and go further. Discover our native land and its treasures and believe this faith will come.