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¹7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope

28 February - 6 March 2014

Ukraine History

A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels

With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidan’s three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the country’s stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.


Ukraine Today
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard – and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.


Ukrainian Culture

When Walls Can Talk

People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.


Ukraine Today

Chornobyl is a Natural Paradise Exclusion Zone as Wildlife Preserve

With summer almost here, what better place to escape the hot city than in what might turn into Ukraine’s newest, weirdest nature preserve: the Chornobyl Alienation Zone?
History is full of ironies, and one of them is that the Alienation Zone around the Chornobyl reactor might in some ways be among the country’s cleanest places.

Sure, there’s lots of radiation up there. But the air’s pure, and the flora is lusher than ever. As for the fauna, the Chornobyl zone has seen a well-documented explosion in the diversity and size of its animal population. The Alienation Zone’s transformation into a de facto wildlife sanctuary underlines a startling reality: a nuclear disaster might be bad, but at least it keeps the people out.

 Apocalypse Then
At first things weren’t so rosy. In the months after the April, 1996 Chornobyl disaster, thousands of animals died. Irradiated corpses of horses lying around the area were only the most obvious manifestation of the poison in the air, their thyroid glands having withered away. Mice also stopped reproducing (reports had fetal mice liquidating in the womb). And four square kilometres’ worth of pine forest got so scorched that it turned rust red, which is never good. On the other hand, all the people left, too. The result is the return or burgeoning of such animals as lynxes, roe deer, great white egrets, swans, elk, moose, foxes, river otters, badgers, beavers, boars, raccoon dogs, wolves, warblers, azure tits, black grouses, storks, cranes, rabbits, hares, brown bears (the big, nasty sort of bear that’s mostly been run out of Europe) and other critters. This is all remarkable. A huge part of Ukraine – which has had little wilderness in it for at least a hundred years – is getting wild again. The most dramatic success story in the Alienation Zone is the population of Przewalski’s horses. These are an endangered breed of wild horses that were once native to the Eurasian steppes (such as Mongolia, but also southern Ukraine) and that vanished from their national habitats long ago. A couple scientists decided in 1990 that, even though the wooded Chornobyl zone wasn’t steppe, it was still a good place to try to bring back Przewalski’s horses from the brink of extinction. So they released 21 of them into the abandoned area. The graft took, and now there are some 150 of the short-legged, stocky horses wandering around. (A good discussion of the horses and indeed of the Alienation Zone in general can be found in Mary Mycio’s 2005 book ‘Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chornobyl.’)

 No Mutants
When you travel into the Alienation Zone, don’t you come face to face with three-headed wolves and other mutants? You don’t, because in nature, mutants don’t live long. Ask Darwin. None of the above is to say that the place is flawless. The animals don’t seem especially concerned about the radiation around them, don’t even seem to notice it, but radioactive they are. Still, the place is a phenomenon – an oasis of wildlife and pure air in a country that’s rapidly developing. If you’re a misanthrope, the place will validate your deepest-held opinions about how awful the human influence on nature is. As a group of scientists put it in a letter to the journal ‘Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry’, the “observation that typical human activity… is more devastating to the biodiversity and abundance of local flora and fauna than is the worst nuclear power plant disaster validates the negative impact the exponential growth of human populations has on wildlife.” There’s talk that the zone could be an official protected refuge in the future, and it would be one of the weirdest, most ominous, most startling refuges in the world – a radioactive wonderland.

 Mark Sabchuk

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Comments (1)
You are not authorized! Only registered and authorized users can add their comments!
Dereck Moore(Virginia) | 02.06.2008 21:43

hey! a nice piece, man! just returned from there, tnx for info, your article inspired me to go to Chernobyl with my fam. nature is great, people seem rather healthy looking. if in some time me and my wife might feel unwell, i know where to look for you. i\\\'m kidding, good staff!

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    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didn’t Know We Had

    Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Univer­sal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they don’t understand the meaning of these words.

    Kyiv Culture

    Pulling Strings
    Located on Hrushevskoho Street – the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades – children’s favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. What’s On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.


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