The book Ukraine Incognita was published 10 years ago. That was a special event in the life of the newspaper and our readers, which marked, as we can see today, the beginning of a whole library series of Den under the same title. Today this first book, treated with great awe at the editors’ office, is a bibliographic rarity and continues to be the most symbolical and popular of all the books we have published. These are not empty words, for in its 10-year history Ukraine Incognita has been republished five times in Ukrainian and once – in Russian, and its overall pressrun is 12,900 copies. Incidentally, we cannot rule out that in the near future we may republish it again, for we have no copies left in the stock.
Ukraine Incognita includes the publications of Den of the period 1997-2000. Though it is small in volume (at least compared to our ‘heavyweight’ book in all meanings The Power of the Soft Sign), the range of topics it touches upon is quite wide, from the ancient history of Ukraine to modern times. In the preface to the “first swallow” of 2002 the chief editor of Den Larysa Ivshyna writes: “Opening ourselves for the world, we ourselves must understand our own Ukraine. We are not going bare to Europe. We’ve been present there for a long while. And this book is another demonstration that the lamentations have not been productive. We have the luck to be part of a bright and strong nation.” Now it is evident that these words might have become an epigraph to any of the books published later in the Library series of The Day: Two Rus’es, The Wars and Peace, The Day and Eternity of James Mace, Klara Gudzyk’s Apocrypha, My Universities by Larysa Ivshyna, Why did HE destroy US? by Stanislav Kulchytsky, Your Dead Chose Me by James Mace, two-volumes Extract+150 and Extract+200, The Power of the Soft Sign.
Again, some of these books have been published many times in various languages, English, Polish, Russian, Armenian, Romanian, etc. They are in constant demand, for the society is coming to itself and its history, though in somewhat slower pace than we would like it to. Therefore it is The Day’s merit too, albeit it may sound immodest.
“Ukraine Incognita has a fantastic history,” Larysa Ivshyna recalls, “The book had a self-made edition. When I came to Kirovohrad to present our precious publication, I was approached by a man, who said (I will never forget that exciting moment): “You are saying this is the first edition of the book, but it is not! And he showed me an accountant’s ledger, where cuttings from our newspaper were glued and it had the same title Ukraine Incognita. Later I found out that many people had ‘self-publications’ of this kind, Academician Zhulynsky in particular. After the book was published, the academicians (and especially their wives) thanked us for relieving their libraries from piles of cuttings, archives, and folders. And I immediately made a very advantageous agreement with that good man from Kirovohrad – his name is Andrii Ivanko – I exchanged his ledger for two copies of Ukraine Incognita. This self-made Ukraine Incognita showed Ukrainian history is in great demand among Ukrainians.”
Therefore the popularization of Ukrainian history continued in the way of a website Ukraine Incognita (incognita.day.kiev.ua) which has existed for one year by now. But in this short term it has however managed to offer many unique things for the Internet community, like the projects Museums Online and Ukraine’s Intellectual Map, as well as the columns Route No.1 and Ukraine’s Family Album, which has been given a kind of new life in this website.
“Nine years after the print version of Ukraine Incognita was published for the first time, we have created an eponymous website, the idea of which has existed for a long while,” says Ivshyna, who initiated the creation of this Internet resource. “The difference between them is the same as between Britannica and Wikipedia.” “This is people’s aristocratism that has existed in all times and which needs to be fueled by all kinds of spiritual and intellectual weapons,” The Day’s editor-in-chief is convinced.
The website’s column Feedback, which has been renewed on a regular basis, carries in particular the opinion of an influential Russian political scientist, a leading associate at Carnegie Center (Moscow) Lilia Shevtsova: “I truly admire the project Ukraine Incognita. The aspiration to make history a factor of the national self-consciousness, an attempt to bring the society to restoration of historical memory, the attempts to make the academic history a living one via the new communication is a really ambitious agenda. But it is successful!”
“Once, as I was talking to a professor, who did not know I was working in The Day, said that his library (nearly 5,000 books) was incomplete because it did not have Ukraine Incognita,” said the editor of the website incognita.kiev.ua Artem ZHUKOV. “I felt immensely proud of working in the periodical, which besides high-quality daily press makes extra projects, which reveal Ukraine’s past for Ukrainians. These days I receive almost everyday the feedback from those who follow the online version of Ukraine Incognita, which was created a year ago and I understand that I can calm down, because the libraries of Ukrainians, though virtual ones, are complete. This is a feeling of satisfaction from having an opportunity to contribute in creation of these products. For creating intellectual bridges between scarcely known and popular things, we build the grounds for discussion and seeking construction view on our place in history.”
Unfortunately, some of the authors of the first and significant for The Day book Ukraine Incognita are no longer with us: James Mace, Serhii Krymsky, and Klara Gudzyk. But it is gratifying to understand that Ukraine Incognita, which hopefully will be republished many times, is a paper yet eternal monument to them.
Today we are launching a series of publications dedicated to the tenth anniversary of the printed project Ukraine Incognita and the first anniversary of the eponymous web project, starting with the commentaries of those who remember how our first book was born and took an active part in its creation.
“HISTORICAL MEMORY AS A PREVENTION MEASURE TO RUINATION OF UKRAINIAN STATEHOOD”
Volodymyr PANCHENKO, literary critic:
“Of course, this is a very important project, because it is oriented at liquidation of damage caused to Ukraine in the Soviet time. Traveling much across Ukraine, I become convinced all the time that one of the greatest problems in Ukraine of that time is that the ‘connection between epochs was broken,’ as Hamlet said. Correspondingly, one needs to fill in these gaps in historical memory, because the scholars form this knowledge, produce in their monographs, but it is still remains in a narrow circle. So, the scientific-popular projects targeted at mass conscience rather than narrow specialists are extremely important. For the greatest problems emerge in the mass conscience, taking into account the level of historical knowledge.
“As for the project itself, meeting Larysa Oleksiivna was a happy moment in my life. I told her it would be great if one published a book based on the series of materials ‘Ukraine Incognita,’ and the idea of the Library is Ms. Larysa’s brainchild. I think this project is developing in an interesting way and is useful for the readers. It is very good that the printed version gave way to the website Ukraine Incognita. By the way, it is pleasant for me to recall that the first materials included the articles about the history of Kirovohrad and steppe Ukraine: it looked very sentimental for me. Peeping into the historical and opinion-journalism publications of the previous decades, one of course should work on shaping the school of modern Ukrainian opinion and especially historical journalism, because today, in the 21st year of independence we are experiencing a dramatic moment. I mean the idea of regional languages to divide Ukraine into parts, the ideas of federalism, which is now being mildly propagated by Viktor Medvedchuk and are of doubtful political quality. All this is dangerous for the Ukrainian statehood, and when one thinks about the alternative and preventive measures, I think the historical memory is a very important preventive measure nowadays. However, to summarize, I want to ascertain a positive trend: time is passing by, and it is working for Ukraine. For example, the recent match between the combined teams of Ukraine and the Czech Republic in Lviv. You had to see and hear how the audience in the stadium behaved, how the fans sang the national anthem of Ukraine on the last minutes of the game. Such things happen even in the places you don’t expect them to happen (for you do expect them to happen in Lviv). For example, at the Olympic Games boxer Usyk was dancing hopak, and when such trends emerge among people who were born in the years of independence, they give hope. That is why for many years ahead we have one prescription: to work, work, and work.”
“ALL OF US NEED UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT WAS HAPPENING TO US NOT LONG AGO”
Stanislav KULCHYTSKY, Doctor of History:
“The project Ukraine Incognita is being implemented not only on the short-lasting pages of the newspaper, but also in books, beside The Day has an access to the Internet, via the newspaper’s website and the website Ukraine Incognita. This project is extremely important, as we all need understanding of what was happening to us not so long ago. I wish success to the organizers and more active work namely in the sphere of analysis of that time, whose centennial we are going to mark in the near future, for the year 2017 is not far. I would like to see in the column Ukraine Incognita more materials on our recent past, which we called the Soviet past. The Soviet Ukraine ceased to exist 20 years ago, but it continues to live in our heads. We don’t have anymore the Soviet economy, Soviet symbols, sausage at 2.2 rubles, Zhigulevskoye beer (why did they need to name it: there was only one kind of beer in case one brought any). To cut a long story short, we don’t have Soviet realities, but people are still afraid of the state, depend on the state, and feels nostalgic about the past, forgetting about the cage they were living in. In the situation of Ukraine’s increasing lagging behind the world we called civilized – how can we possibly not lag behind, when everything remains unreformed – people start thinking: should we bring the country back to the people? The criticism on the part of modern Communists revealed by the power in small portions, an incredibly powerful propaganda pressure on the unsatisfied people on the eve of the elections, remind me, a historian, of 1917. Then the Bolsheviks unfolded the propaganda via their own newspapers on a significantly greater scale than all other political parties together. Many decades later it turned out that the money spent for the newspapers or Red Guard troops was funded by Germany. When will we find out where did the funding for the election campaign in summer-fall 2012 come from?
“One ought to know what the Soviet past was in order to make the conclusions for the future. The topicality of learning this is only increasing with time, because without reforms, painful yet needed, there can be no way out of the present-day situation which remains to be post-Soviet. It is a strange thing, but those who are in power do not understand this, like those who preceded them. We are sitting on a volcano. That’s why the riddles of Soviet Ukraine, which is so close to us, yet unknown, need to be published in a systemic and consistent way in the newspaper whose social meaning is growing with each year passing. The reason is that other channels to reach the readers with this kind of ‘untimely thoughts’ (Maxim Gorky’s expression) are gradually decreasing.”