In October Cambridge Ukrainian Studies will launch Shevchenko2014.org, a website which will become an instrument to promote the activities celebrating the bicentennial of Taras Shevchenko in the United Kingdom, Ukraine, and beyond. Fellow scholars from different universities and cultural institutions of Ukraine, Europe, and North America will help to update the interactive calendar of events. Besides, the resource will have a few additional features, in particular, a blog and a photo stream. The materials uploaded to the resource are supposed to encourage all users of the website to study the creative work and biography of Taras Shevchenko. The authors of the idea told The Day that they are going to create a special soundtrack for the website.
“I strongly believe that we need to present, to the extent possible, the bicentennial as a cohesive event taking place all over the world,” head of Ukrainian Studies at Cambridge University Dr. Rory FINNIN emphasized in his commentary to The Day. “Shevchenko is a giant, but the wider world knows relatively little about him. Particularly here in England, we have a wonderful opportunity with the bicentennial to capture the interest and imagination of the British media and to transform Shevchenko the national bard into Shevchenko the world artist. I hope that, in some small measure, our very basic, straightforward site can help us achieve this goal.
“I want to emphasize that the website will not have many ‘bells and whistles’ at all. It will be simple but, I hope, informative. As you know, Cambridge Ukrainian Studies is a research and teaching initiative, but we also work very hard to cultivate public knowledge of Ukraine’s vibrant cultural heritage in Europe.”
According to Rory Finnin, the main source for the website will be the material submitted to two international contests, which have been previously announced. The first one is called to choose the most innovative new renditions of a poem by Shevchenko. The participants of the competition can not only recite the poems, but also try their hand in performing of a music piece based on Shevchenko’s poetry or offer their own visual interpretation of his verse. Videos and audio materials in any language can be submitted to the contest.
Ukrainian Studies plan to award the author of the most original photo ‘with’ Taras Shevchenko. All willing are invited to send their own photos, photos of their friends and relatives next to a Shevchenko monument, beside a Shevchenko portrait, under a Shevchenko street sign, etc. The winners will receive from Cambridge University prize bags with university’s CDs, DVDs, books, T-shirts, and other surprises.
“I sincerely welcome the intentions of the Cambridge University,” noted the head of the Department of Shevchenko Studies at Taras Shevchenko Institute of Literature of NAN of Ukraine, Doctor of Philology Valeria SMILIANSKA. “Even today Shevchenko’s texts, if read without bias, may sometimes be acutely topical. At the same time there is an apparent need for popularization of his works in the world, and the Internet is one of the best tools to do this.
“The initiative of the British scholars looks especially appropriate in the background of lack of adequate interest to Kobzar’s personality in the world. As a result of disappointment of the world society in political processes that are taking place in Ukraine, the interest in Ukrainian culture and Shevchenko’s creative work, in particular, has also waned. Besides, his works are quite complicated and are hard to translate, and the reality he describes is not quite understandable for a modern European.
“It should be emphasized that a kind of Shevchenkophobia (to use Ivan Dziuba’s expression) is present in our society. Unfortunately, there are people in Ukraine who want to discredit Shevchenko by way of various cock-and-bull stories, inadequate interpretations, and insinuations. Such things humiliate the dignity of not only the poet himself, but the entire Ukrainian nation. It is good that there are people who are trying to spread the truth about Shevchenko. It would be wonderful if at least on the anniversary year TV and radio devoted at least several minutes to reading of Kobzar’s texts, followed by a commentary. Probably, this would have helped us to get rid of stereotypic idea about Shevchenko many Ukrainians get from school program.”