Author Andriy Lyubka: “We need to show interest in the cultures of neighboring countries and to form their interest in Ukrainian culture.”

The Aspen Institute Kyiv invited leading cultural figures and members of the Community — the most active seminars, alumni and leaders in their fields — to discuss the topic of culture. During the event, author Andriy Lyubka spoke about ways to promote Ukrainian culture worldwide. 

It is easier to overcome the Russian cultural lobby abroad with the support of the diaspora.

Andriy Lyubka emphasized the largest-ever wave of interest in Ukrainian literature worldwide. Unfortunately, due to funding cuts, the Ukrainian Book Institute does not have enough resources to support this interest.

– After the Ukrainian government created the Book Institute and implemented the Translate Ukraine program, the number and quality of translations increased significantly. In addition, this program supports the purchase of rights to books by Ukrainian writers abroad. The mechanism has begun to work, but it still lacks sponsorship. This is mainly due to the full-scale Russian invasion.

At the same time, Russians are actively working to popularize their culture abroad. Andriy shared an observation about the Slavic Studies departments at the Canadian and American universities he visited, which are instead a “gathering of Russians.”

– They find graduate students and funding, approve research topics, and all of Russian literature. This is a vast lobby, which is quite challenging to overcome without the support of the Ukrainian diaspora. Our citizens abroad realized the importance of fostering a Ukrainian academic elite, so they created special funding programs for students interested in Ukrainian culture. However, this work was carried out only partially and with government support.

Supporting interest in Ukrainian culture will yield results in 20-30 years.

Andriy Lyubka also shared a successful example from the Balkans. After the end of the wars, 20-30 years ago, a new generation of scholars appeared there. They went to Western universities because the topic of their culture interested many, and they brought the relevant research to a new level. Andriy believes that introducing a sponsorship program now will yield results much later.

– If we could support financial interest in Ukraine and provide scholarships to people who want to learn Ukrainian, we would see results in 20-30 years.

We need to be interested in the cultures of neighboring countries and to form their interest in Ukrainian culture.

Andriy Lyubka is convinced that to promote Ukrainian culture successfully, we must focus on neighboring countries. This should be a two-way movement – we must be interested in their cultures and foster their interest in Ukrainian culture. 

– We talk about decolonization but focus on big capitals instead of translating books by our neighbors. Real promotion happens when we build horizontal connections: we watch their films and invite their writers. We need partnership and mutual respect. And we also need systematic funding for creative initiatives.