August 18, 2013 marked two years since the first visitor typed in their browser incognita.day.kiev.ua. Many active readers greeted us on the Facebook on the occasion of Ukraina Incognita’s anniversary, some of the greetings greatly delighting all involved in the project. “A lot of people saw the light of true history thanks to the website,” “The Day’s pages pioneered historical education in the Ukrainian information space,” – such praise is truly a major morale boost for continuing work, but at the same time it puts an enormous burden of responsibility to the product’s consumers.
Obviously, project creators need feedback. Financial reward goes hand in hand with moral satisfaction, the latter being the true incentive to progress further. The great Steve Jobs once said that “innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” It takes considerable courage and ambition to speak like that, seeing oneself in the above comparison. In our case, this daring innovator has been The Day’s editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna who initiated the project. With Incognita, we have moral superiority on our side, as 15 years of national and local history content published in the newspaper preceded our launching of the website that is in many ways unique. Moreover, Ukraina Incognita is also the name of the first book in The Day’s Library series that was published in 2002 and has been reprinted six times by now. Incidentally, we will present at the book forum in Lviv our next series, Subversive Literature, which is already the 14th book project of The Day. In cooperation with renowned scholars and writers, we explored quite a few contradictory, obscure, and totally forgotten episodes of our past. Moreover, some aspects of Ukrainian history have become a subject of general interest thanks to The Day. Building on this experience, we set out to continue studying and trying to understand Ukrainian history via another medium, that of the online world. Without false modesty, we feel we have been doing pretty well at it.
As for our reasons to see the website as a unique and the first of its kind, we have in our virtual museum storage rooms as much as 22 tours of Ukraine’s museums, a few series of local and national history and historical infographics, what looks like the most complete collection of microhistory texts (commonly known as “Family Album”) and an intellectual map of Ukraine, where everyone can add a tag and describe a city/hamlet/village/street. This is what allows everybody to feel involved in creating or writing history through the prism of their own experience and expertise. It looks like a least demanding effort that the Ukrainians can make towards creating a political nation, ending identity clashes and, as far as possible, developing a common perspective of our past. It would do half the job on the way to “a better future for the mankind,” or, in this case, for its Ukrainian subdivision.
It is fitting to quote here Ivshyna’s statement we used in a press announcement two years ago. “Careful reading of the processes that took place and are taking place now in the post-Soviet space has convinced me that the ongoing fight encompasses more than just resources, say, oil and gas; it is, above all, a fight for a place in history,” she said. It may seem strange, but it was obvious as far back as a decade ago that the Ukrainian society needed to understand its history, while now, history is perhaps the most powerful source of Ukrainian identity. However, to have the words carry “empirical” meaning, it is useful to define for ourselves the quality criteria and whether they would include concepts of aesthetic and intellectual which are fundamental for the Ukrainians as a European nation.