Goethe-Institut has recently invited me to a cultural conference in Germany, which focused on the construction of a cultural segment in the former depressing coal-industrial city of Ruhr. I thought it was similar to Ukraine in the way its obsolete industry-oriented economy and old lifestyle was dying out, giving way to the new one. The renewal turned out to be an easy process in Germany: the state provides huge support to various cultural initiatives through reforms. One aspect of this is the transformation of former workshops into museums. For Ukraine, cultural reform is one of the most urgent issues. Without it, there will simply be no way out of the crisis.
This path has many risks. One is to draw yet another utopia on paper that will be full of officials and budget embezzlement. The most important step, however, is to bring private cultural initiatives and the state to a point where they intersect. Private institutions are often more important than the state ones today, so they must be supported. It is not necessarily standard monetary or financial support from the budget. It could be a tax relief or promotion of the national cultural product through state channels, regardless of who finances or initiates it – state or private institutions.
It is very important to understand that culture is not only about art, but also education, social institutions and initiatives, intellectual pastimes, and so on. Finally, we have to come to understand that the national cultural product and its progress is one of the country’s main strategic tasks. This product includes both mass and elite culture in proportions that will ensure the most effective presentation and presence of Ukraine in the world. In the modern universe, a state does not need to be engaged in culture on its own, but it must provide as much support as possible to those who are.
The current situation is that the private sector knows how and why the state and the private sector have to draw closer, but the state doesn’t. It is currently in a kind of stupor after a complete rejection of private initiatives, but the time has finally come for interaction. And it is this rapprochement, if only on the level of communication, that is the main task and trend in Ukrainian culture for 2015. We all have to gradually realize in what mess we are. Inactivity simply cannot be allowed, because it is the inactivity of the past years that has led to incivility, which in turn, has caused the current political situation.
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By the way, communication is ongoing on all levels. I, personally, am constantly invited to the Ministry of Culture, to talk on various issues, about how we can be helpful to one another, and that’s just great. At the same time, the private sector is undergoing a natural cleansing – we can see who is all talk, and who is actually doing something. After all, there is also a great demand for Ukrainian culture in Ukraine itself. For instance, the Book Forum in Lviv sold a record-breaking amount of books this year compared to the previous ones.
I’m sure that contacts will intensify and the weight of culture will grow regardless of the difficult economic situation, because as vast research and historic experience has confidently shown, crises increase the significance of culture and artwork. Now is not the best time for business, but it is the best time for culture. One does not have to be a prophet to foresee that the state will hardly finance culture next year. But I am convinced that patrons and initiators of various cultural initiatives understand very well, that it is in such difficult times, that money, effort and resources have to be invested in culture. They said that when Churchill was advised to cut the budget for culture, he responded: “Then what are we fighting for?” It is impossible to constantly lament that we are penniless, so there is neither time nor opportunity for culture in this vicious circle. On the contrary, it is necessary to use culture to cure our heads, even if it means being hungry. Only after that should the economy be remedied with a sound mind.