Election weekend in Ivano-Frankivsk: An oligarch wins the presidential election. An oligarch’s mate wins the by-election

The elections in Ukraine, and Ivano-Frankivsk, are over for now. Although, if president-elect Petro Poroshenko keeps his promise, then – quite rightly, I believe – parliamentary elections should be held by the end of this year. Ivano-Frankivsk held a parliamentary by-election in parallel with the presidential election, anyway, owing to former Svoboda deputy Oleksandr Sych taking up the post of deputy prime minister.

A Ukrainian trident formed of tea-light candles for World Inner Peace Day in front of the EU flag adorning the post office by Rally Square, Ivano-Frankivsk. 26 May 2014. Pro-European Poroshenko won the next day's election.

A Ukrainian trident formed of tea-light candles for World Inner Peace Day in front of the EU flag adorning the post office by Rally Square, Ivano-Frankivsk. 24 May 2014. Pro-European Poroshenko won the next day’s election.

The latest results suggest that voting in the presidential election in Ivano-Frankivsk more or less reflects the national result, with Poroshenko polling around 53-54% and nearest-rival Yulia Tymoshenko getting just over 13%. Whether his elaborate campaign roadshow swung voters here, is questionable. The impression I get here is that Poroshenko was not really a positive first choice, but merely seen as someone who would almost certainly win, thus it was best to get the elections over and done with, rather than permit a runoff in three weeks’ time and thus a volatile period of instability.

One of very few posters around the city supporting incumbent mayor Viktor Anushkevychus in his campaign to become a deputy in the Kyiv parliament. Displayed on a city centre bakery on 24 May, so Saturday, thus contravening electoral campaign rules.

One of very few posters around the city supporting incumbent mayor Viktor Anushkevychus in his campaign to become a deputy in the Kyiv parliament.
Displayed on a city centre bakery on 24 May, so Saturday, thus contravening electoral campaign rules. It says “Time for Decisive Action”. Something Anushkevychus generally hasn’t managed in his terms in office in the city.

 

In the parliamentary by-election, meanwhile, there was a huge swing against Svoboda. It’s candidate – this time, unlike Sych, not overtly supported as a joint candidate with Yatseniuk’s Batkivshchyna/ Fatherland party – polled just over 14%, down at least 20 points on the autumn 2012 election. The winner was controversial local businessman and Ihor Kolomoyskyy associate Oleksandr Shevchenko, who I’ve written about here, with about 37% of the vote according to the latest numbers. Shevchenko was second in 2012 and appears to have benefitted from facing weak rivals: the near-invisibility of Klitschko’s Udar candidate, a strong sense of dissatisfaction with incumbent mayor Anushkevychus (who polled about 25%) and a proliferation of younger activist candidates.

IMG_3208

A new German-themed steak house opened in the city last week, replacing the wonderful Zinger, a Polish-Austrian themed restaurant. Voting for Oleh Tyahnybok didn’t prove, however, to be “natürlich” for the people of Ivano-Frankivsk or indeed Ukraine.

The wheels seem to be falling off the Svoboda bandwagon, especially if it is struggling in its traditional heartland of western Ukraine and especially Ivano-Frankivsk. Oleh Tyahnybok, the party’s leader, polled around 1.16% nationally and appears to have done little better in the city. Meanwhile, the much-feared-in-Russia Dmytro Yarosh, leader of Right Sector, got less than 0.7% of the national vote, although he openly stated that he would not be campaigning actively. Still, he wasn’t short of media coverage in the election period. While Russia especially expressed strong fears of Ukrainian “fascism” and far-right extremism taking hold in Ukraine, this hasn’t materialised in terms of votes.

IMG_3207

Local Svoboda candidate Vasyl Popovych failed where Svoboda member and now deputy PM Oleksandr Sych won in 2012. Clearly there were some tensions between campaigns as Mykola Havryluk’s team pasted over Popovych’s face. Both campaigns broke electoral rules, still appearing on display on Saturday 24 May.

I have chronicled my observations on the far-right and nationalism in the city, too. In the immediate aftermath of the fall of Yanukovych and, in particular, the start of the occupation of Crimea, there was good reason to fear that right-wing extremism could gain a significant popular foothold in the city. Now, it seems, that hardcore of “activists” remain on the streets with their apparent faith in national revolution and holding power to account being their justification for disturbing the peace of the city, sometimes in some quite farcical ways, which nevertheless show the weaknesses of power structures in state and local authorities. These “activists” are almost exclusively now under the Maidan Self-Defence banner, with Right Sector even leaving its Tryzub/ Trident youth wing out of it now.

As for the election weekend itself in the city, it all passed without incident. On Friday evening, the popular Shuster Live talkshow rolled, partly, into town, with a live screening and cameras set up on Ivano-Frankivsk’s Vicevyj Maidan, or Rally Square. Those present could state their views on camera and interact with the studio. And quite a crowd gathered. Me speaking Polish to my wife (it’s a second language for both of us, so a fair intermediary in our everyday exchanges) attracted a bit of attention from people in the crowd, with one man proceeding to recall his experiences of travelling to Poland and much more besides.

IMG_3160

Shuster crowd, 23 May 2014, Ivano-Frankivsk.

IMG_3165

Shuster on telly on telly.

The Saturday before an election in Ukraine is supposed to be free of campaigning, with an impressive job undertaken around the city to remove campaign posters and any other materials. However, it was clear that the Poroshenko campaign was using some underhand tactics with new posters using his slogan but not mentioning his name appearing suddenly around the city. In 2012, I recall, Poroshenko’s favoured Udar party did something similar.

It was also evident that local Maidan (but not Self-Defence) activist Maksym Kytsiuk had been pasting his posters around the city on the day of “pre-electoral quiet”, as his image found itself on the outermost layer of the poster palimpsest on Saturday.

Kytsyuk local election posters cover Poroshenko posters. Both broke the rules.

Kytsyuk local election posters cover Poroshenko posters. Both broke the rules by posting and being on display on 24 May, the day before the election.

Saturday was also, apparently, World Inner Peace Day, at least in Ivano-Frankivsk, as google tells me it’s usually 21 May. Anyway, this was an occasion for a bit of new-ageism, as well as Christian calls for peace, as well as a bit of patriotism, as the opening picture in this post suggests.

On Sunday, I accompanied my wife to her designated polling station and observed the process. It is quite slow with lots of manual labour involved in registering voters who must come with their Ukrainian ID (internal passport). Then the voter’s name is checked off against one huge register, with one desk responsible for probably 500 or so voters. The voter then gets issued a ballot sheet with the top of it signed then torn off, kept by the clerk, while the voter keeps the ballot which includes a brief biography of each candidate. Then the process repeats for local elections. Luckily my wife’s address was processed at the same desk, although some addresses meant voters had to queue twice. Then, after voting behind a curtain, both ballots go into the same transparent, sealed box. Some Russian media, as well as western journalists, saw pictures from Kyiv of one voter depositing four ballots and ballot stuffing. But there they were voting for national president, city mayor, council party lists and candidate lists.

Polling station queue on Novhorodska Street, around 13:30, 25 May 2014.

Polling station queue on Novhorodska Street, around 13:30, 25 May 2014.

Around the city it was clear that some polling stations were overwhelmed by the number of voters, with the bureaucratic procedures also lending themselves to queues. Polling stations are in various buildings, ranging from the Regional Administration through the student halls where my wife voted through to a vodka factory in the Knyahynyn district, as this news report shows.

IMG_3194

Knyahynyn spirits factory impressive stained glass.

IMG_3193

Knyahynyn Spirits factory as a polling station

On Saturday we took a walk around this interesting area of Frankivsk, just off the main road to Lviv out of the city, yet possessing the air of a village. Indeed, it was one of the two founding villages that were merged into the original city of Stanislaviv once it expanded beyond its fortress limits. Some of the roads here, meanwhile, seem to resemble the conditions that might have existed when the city was founded by Polish nobles in the mid-seventeenth century. Something for the new local MP Shevchenko to get to work on, perhaps?

Crap road, and not the only one, in Ivano-Frankivsk.

Crap road, and not the only one, in Ivano-Frankivsk.

In the late afternoon I headed to the Hirka (Górka) Stadium, just behind the Polish church in the city, to watch the second leg of the first round of the regional cup. Teplovyk (Heating Plant Worker) Ivano-Frankivsk beat Enerhetyk (Energy Plant Worker) Burshtyn 9:0 to secure an 11:2 aggregate win. The first-leg result seemed like something of a miracle for Enerhetyk judging by this result, while the goalkeeper from Burshtyn pulled off quite a few stunning saves to keep things in single figures. The quality of the football wasn’t too bad from Teplovyk who are now Frankivsk’s leading team following the bankruptcy of once-top-flight Prykarpattya (formerly Spartak) when they were owned by… new local MP Shevchenko!

Hirka/ Górka Stadium, home to Teplovyk Ivano-Frankivsk, 9:0 winners over Enerhetyk Burshtyn

Hirka/ Górka Stadium, home to Teplovyk Ivano-Frankivsk, 9:0 winners over Enerhetyk Burshtyn

It seems that there is still a healthy appetite for football in the city, with a crowd of some 300 attending this match in bright sunshine (until a storm just before the end). Pensioners mingled with younger men, youths and families at this neat stadium. According to the men I spoke to at the local football association office next to the university, the regional league took a break for the elections, so this cup competition was launched to tide things over.

Teplovyk’s rivals, Enerhetyk Burshtyn -from a town with a huge power and heating plant near to Ivano-Frankivsk – are sponsored by Svoboda. It seems that the team’s luck resembles that of the Party. Heavy losses all round.

Svoboda sponsor Enerhetyk Burshtyn. Not much luck here either, 9:0 losers.

Svoboda sponsor Enerhetyk Burshtyn. Not much luck here either, 9:0 losers.

The trip to the football was intended to crown what I had planned as “British weekend” in Frankivsk, starting with an English breakfast in one café, lunch in an English-style theme pub before supper at Churchill restaurant by the market square. Unfortunately, extra teaching meant I missed breakfast while Churchill was booked out for the day. So, that plan – it’s not a patriotic gesture on my part, as I don’t consider myself British, or even English – to explore concepts of identity, foreignness and globalisation as experienced in Ivano-Frankivsk will be saved for another week. Although, I did make it to one of the many “stock” shops here, buying some shorts to cope in the heat wave. Mine was called Euroshop, though, whereas it seems Britain is associated more with second-hand clothes…

IMG_3238

The entrance to “The World of Second Hand” on Novhorodska Street in the city centre

IMG_3168

Fashion Point, with British and European second-hand clothes.

In western Ukraine, at least, election weekend passed peacefully, with everyday life carrying on. Although the consequences of the election – for everyday life, for living standards, and for the state of Ukraine – remain to be seen. And it seems that a large part of the outcome won’t be decided in western Ukraine, but in the south and east where armed struggled continues. Although, perhaps, if things quickly unravel for Poroshenko and the current government, ordinary Ukrainians might begin to again ask whether their protests in the winter of 2013/14 were for this:
An oligarch wins the presidential election. An oligarch’s mate wins the by-election.

Advertisements

Campaigning for a seat in parliament surrounded by stinking sewers, Soviet-era flats and bored kids

This video relates to the blog post below, where I explore critically the approach to the by-election campaign in the city. Patriotic campaigns are cynically, I say, detached from the by-election campaign, so here one candidate arranged a fundraiser for soldiers in a truly bizarre venue.
https://uauk.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/frankivsk-parliamentary-by-election-shevchenko-soldiers-and-songs/

Frankivsk parliamentary by-election: Shevchenko, soldiers, stinking sewers and awful songs

Returning from work today, I noticed a poster on a nearby flat advertising a concert sponsored by local parliamentary by-election candidate and businessman Oleskandr Shevchenko. The poster was stuck between various adverts including visas to the USA, a campaign to launch a civil protest (Maidan) against loans in foreign currencies, a garage for sale, seeking a flat to rent and a poster advertising surgery with a local councillor from Svoboda. The chalked graffiti suggests unusually strong passion for Linkin Park.

Nominally the concert was “in defence of the country! Support the Ukrainian army!” The attractive woman in traditional dress was presumably included to attract the male gaze to this patriotic event. A sticker informed readers that they could donate money to the Ukrainian military by texting or calling 565. This is a nationwide campaign that has been running for months and nothing to do with Shevchenko. Still, it was a good way – presumably – to circumvent rules on campaign spending meaning that although, as the top-left of the poster states, this event is supported by Shevchenko, it’s not an electoral campaign event. Even though it displays his campaign logo. And is taking place just four days before Sunday’s elections. Admittedly, the event was first scheduled for 8 May but owing to the period of mourning following the mass killings in Odesa it was postponed.

Shevchenko's concert in no way electioneering

Poster advertising today’s concert “in defence of the country” and in “support of the Ukrainian military”. Organised by Oleksandr Shevchenko but, of course, in no way an election-campaign-related event.

The electoral candidate who sponsored this concert is a rich local businessman who co-owns the Bukovel ski resort in the Carpathians. The other owners include Ihor Kolomoyskyy’s Privat-Group, so perhaps Shevchenko’s political affiliations are clear thanks to that, although he is standing as an independent. He campaigned in the 2012 parliamentary election for the same seat, but lost out to Oleksandr Sych, the joint Svoboda-Batkivshchyna candidate. Sych is now a deputy PM, so must put his seat up for re-election. This is why Frankivsk is quite exceptional in the current campaign. In the 2012 campaign, Shevchenko used the slogan “a surname you can trust”, referring to the national poet Taras Shevchenko. It seemed like he had little to offer from his own personality.

However, as with today’s concert he wasn’t afraid to dip into his own pocket, offering local residents – but only those registered to vote for the seat he was contesting – free trips to his Bukovel resort. My wife went on such a trip in summer 2012 in the build up to that year’s October elections, with her former schoolteacher then working in Shevchenko’s PR campaign. My wife says that food was promised but never materialised, although those on the trip were allowed to skip the queue for the chairlift – which they used for free – while the Skype connection on a conference with Shevchenko was quite poor, so that was abandoned and she could sneak off for a swim. It seems that this is a man no immune to gimmicks, with today’s concert perhaps following in that vein. Sorry, too cynical – it’s a nice patriotic gesture and in no way related to the electoral campaign.

Earlier today Shevchenko was again at the university speaking to students, although when a debate was held for all candidates a week ago, he did not attend along with nine other candidates, who include the current mayor, an UDAR candidate, local Maidan activists, a student and journalists and others. Instead, he turned up a couple of hours later to have another session alone with students. He has also signed a deal with the Precarpathian University to continue cooperation whereby students can attend his Bukovel ski resort on various apprenticeships and internships. Signing it on 21 May, in the run-up to the election, seems like rather convenient timing, while questions should also be raised about the close relationship the university – which nominally ought to be autonomous – has with Shevchenko, who appears to be the institution’s favoured candidate. However, a local newspaper reports that incumbent mayor and parliamentary candidate Viktor Anushkevychus was speaking at the Tourism Department of the Precarpathian University and posters were displayed stating that attendance was “compulsory”, a violation of electoral – and presumably – university rules.

Shevchenko is also controversial in the city because of his involvement with the bankrupted and now amateur local football team, FK Prykarpattya. It seems he lost interest in pumping money into the club quite quickly. The current campaign has also infuriated locals who have been receiving unsolicited texts from his campaign team informing people when Shevchenko will be appearing on regional television. Suspicions were raised that PrivatBank’s client list was being used, although that is denied. Instead, numbers from the database of Bukovel, the ski resort he co-owns, were the source and a list of “supporters of the candidate”.

* UPDATE, 23 May 2014 * A local newspaper is reporting that Shevchenko has broken electoral rules by giving free gifts to student-participants of an art competition. Presumably a free concert is falls within similar guidelines?

Image

Today’s fundraising concert. Totally not part of Shevchenko’s electoral campaign. The by-election is this Sunday.

What was truly odd about today’s event was that it took place not in the city centre (perhaps Shevchenko’s rival, current mayor Viktor Anushkevychus put the kibosh on that?) but in a small square between two Khrushchev-era blocks of low-rise flats outside the city centre. Close to where I live, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to experience this provincial electoral campaign – sorry, patriotic event in support of the Ukrainian military that just happens to be organised by a millionaire electoral candidate. I dragged my wife along using ice cream from a nearby shop as a bribe and we went along to watch the campaign show. Sorry, did it again. We went along to watch the concert in support of the Ukrainian army.

The MC made sure that the sparse crowd knew that Shevchenko had sponsored the event between each act, although there was no overt mention of the election. One of the acts, who you can watch on my video here, is apparently a former Ukrainian Voice participant. I’m not sure how far she got, but my wife was convinced – and I’m pretty sure – that she was lip-synching today. Her music is typical of the event which featured, basically, bad Central/Eastern European wedding band backing music with some generally patriotic songs reflecting upon beautiful landscapes, beautiful language or heroism. This guy was an exception, as he forsook the bad wedding music and went for a bit of a crooner vibe. But patriotic. It was hard to stand much more, and the ice cream had been eaten, so we headed home, passing people coming back from a walk around the city lake making comments like “what the hell is that racket?” Even back home it was impossible to escape the electoral campaign – dammit, patriotic fundraising concert for Ukrainian soldiers – as it resounded around the area and beyond. (That link is to another video.)

Image

Bizarre setting for this concert, between some Khrushchev-era flats and beside a dilapidating heating plant.

The concert was sparsely-attended, perhaps no more than 150 people, including loads of kids and the people hanging out of the windows of the numerous flats facing onto the square. Even if children were allowed to vote in this election, I’m not sure this concert would have done much to convince them, with the singers struggling to get their “hands in the air”. And this was the sole trick of which they availed themselves, besides appealing to a kind of sentimental patriotism in the songs. It didn’t help, perhaps, that the sewer covers in the square were not quite tight and on this hot day the stink was pretty awful. Sadly, Shevchenko himself didn’t turn up – but it’s not part of the political campaign, so why would he. Still, no one made much fuss about insisting on calling or texting 565 to support the military.

Image

As to the other candidates in the by-election, they are not immune to gimmicks. Mykola Havryliuk, a young man responsible for the Typical Frankivsk portal, organised on Sunday an event letting off 352 Chinese lanterns. All part of the celebrating the city’s anniversary, not the campaign, you see. Still, at least he is involved personally in his electoral campaign, as he handed me a leaflet on Monday and exchanged a couple of words. Lots of candidates, meanwhile, are having their campaigners gain access to flats and are leaving newspapers and leaflets attached to door handles. This newspaper is a rather impressive effort, although the candidate is unknown to anyone I’ve asked. I say it’s a newspaper, but really its a newsletter all about Mykola Petrunyak. Although he does have an interview with Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh who is much less enthusiastic about the EU than Petrunyak, who promotes – in the title too – a European Ukrainian. Interestingly, he stresses his connections to Ukrainians working abroad, of whom there are very many in this region, sending money back to the city and funding their families, as well as the building boom here.

Image

More by-election campaign materials. European Ukrainian and “pick the future”.

It is interesting to observe here the different approaches to campaigning, with a real cross-section of traditional door-to-door canvassing, leafleting, meetings, attempts to impress with big events, gimmicks and freebies (that seem to backfire), as well as turning to social media by younger candidates, especially. There are also question marks over the fairness of incumbent mayor Viktor Anushkevychus being still in post while campaigning and thus having access to certain political and media resources, as well as a greater public profile. However the by-election campaign is being conducted, the candidates are likely to enjoy a particularly high turn out owing to the presidential elections.

And, in an update on recent posts about the Armoured Personnel Carrier farce and the stand-off between Maidan Self-Defence and the police authorities in the city (it has been a pleasure to write about something different today, more light-hearted), there was no sign today of any protest outside the police HQ. Everything was cleared up, the doors unlocked, the remnants of the burnt tyre cleared away. It seems increasingly to be the case that these protests are part of a campaign for particular interests in the city to secure “their man” for the police posts rather than a genuine civil movement.

Now who could possibly – after what is now being called the “Revolution of Dignity”, rather than Euromaidan now – be so cynical so as to co-opt apparent patriotic sentiment for political ends?

Image

All cleared up again after yesterday’s farcical encore

Presidential campaigning in the western provinces of Ukraine; tragedy and uprising in the south and east.

In this post you’ll get: comments on Odesa, mourning, Petro Poroshenko’s presidential campaign roadshow, other candidates’ visits to Ivano-Frankivsk, and the new constellation of political posters in the city.

Presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko comes to town as things in Odesa turn tragic.

Presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko comes to town as things in Odesa turn tragic.

I have been away from Ivano-Frankivsk and Ukraine for a couple of weeks, hence the lack of updates on the blog. However, after a trip to Poland at the end of April, then the Carpathians over the May holiday, I am back in Ivano-Frankivsk. Since the last blog updates, the situation in Ukraine generally has grown more critical and indeed tragic. The horrific events in Odesa, with people burned alive – including youths, as reported here – has begun to draw attention to the seriousness of the threat of civil war. Whereas, perhaps, Luhansk or Donetsk seemed very distant from Galicia, Odesa is a city many here have visited for holidays and is reachable within 12 hours by train, rather than the 24+ needed to reach the east. Although the national media are carrying symbols of mourning – images of candles burning, or indeed real candles on news desks – the narrative being presented is largely one that isn’t willing to fully explore events in Odesa. Meanwhile, some of the reaction on social media has been less than compassionate – even hubristic – given that not all of those in the Odesa Trades Unions building were “separatists”, “pro-Russians”, “anti-Maidan” or whatever other labels are being applied. Some usually sensible people are sharing images such as this one – as well as much more tasteless memes – where ‘the patriots of Odesa’ are being mourned, so those who are termed “pro-Ukrainian” or “pro-Maidan”, with the rest of the victims implicitly condemned.

Before I get misunderstood or accused of being “pro-Russian”, or not understanding “Ukrainian realities”, my point is this: those participating in the protests in Odesa and elsewhere are a mixture of people, ranging from professional soldiers and fighters – including Russians and other non-Ukrainians – to ordinary people on the street. Whether or not you agree with what those on the streets of Odesa, Luhansk, Slovyansk and elsewhere are fighting for, or protesting against, when a mass killing occurs, with a variety of victims, then decorum and respect are dignified responses.

The point of this blog is to record and comment on life in Ivano-Frankivsk, so it is to that which I now turn.

On the road with Poroshenko. Perhaps his own bus manufacturing company made this vehicle?

On the road with Poroshenko. Perhaps his own bus manufacturing company made this vehicle? The slogan reads “Live anew”.

When returning from Poland on Wednesday morning, 30 April, after a week or so away, the most obvious difference in the appearance of the city since the last week of April was the overwhelming number of presidential campaign  posters that had appeared (and by-election materials – Frankivsk is exceptional in that there is a by-election for parliament, too, on 25 May as the existing MP, Oleksandr Sych, is now in the Cabinet). It was noticeable that those of Petro Poroshenko, “the chocolate king”, far outnumbered anyone else’s. Indeed, the total number of his posters probably exceeds those of all other candidates combined. He is the wealthiest and currently leading candidate for election.  He visited the city on 2 May and we returned from the mountains in time to catch his show and his promise that under his rule people will “live anew”, the main slogan of his campaign.

I call it a show because the meeting – held on the city’s Vichevyj Maydan (Rally Square), by the post office and site of the first gatherings which became Euromaidan – was massively stage-managed and on a huge scale. The posters around the city announced that not only would Poroshenko be speaking, but also the rock performer Taras Chubay and another band would be performing. The event, starting at 18:00, also had two MCs, guest speakers including a poet and a playwright, as well as Yuriy Lutsenko, a politician who was released from jail about a year ago after being imprisoned on political charges. A crowd of several thousand packed the city streets in numbers not seen since Euromaidan to hear Poroshenko and catch his show.

Taras Chubay and band play some decent rock using Andrukovych's poetry.

Taras Chubay and band play some decent rock using Andrukovych’s poetry.

After a brief introduction from the MCs, Taras Chubay took over. In deference to the then ongoing events in Odesa where some deaths had already occurred, he toned down the set and sang two or three songs based on Frankivsk poet Yuriy Andrukhovych’s works. The music, however, was still heavy rock played by a slightly aged but impressively tight band. After some poetry from a local poet Dmytro Pavlychko, with his reading largely appealing to the legacy of UPA fighters, local playwright Maria Matios spoke. I have a grudge against her because her rather depressing, patriotic, pathos-laden plays dominate the repertoire of the local theatre – so much so that they might as well make it her exclusive stage. One of my main passions is theatre, so Matios’ dominance seems to stifle any significant creativity or experimentation.

Local playwright Maria Matios appeals, like her plays, to a pathos-laden sense of patriotism.

Local playwright Maria Matios appeals, like her plays, to a pathos-laden sense of patriotism.

Local Poet

Local Poet Dmytro Pavlychko

After the cultural section, Yuriy Lutsenko appeared. Whatever you think of his politics, it is undeniable that he is a compelling and effective speaker. Although a few eyebrows were raised when billionaire (albeit not multi-) Poroshenko was not counted as an oligarch and instead something of a counterpoint to the various oligarchal clans that seek to rule Ukraine. I’m not sure what the technical or legal definition of an oligarch is but even if Poroshenko is relatively less well-off than, say, Akhmetov, Firtash or Kolomoyskyy, then he’s still pretty loaded and has had his fingers in political pies since the millennium at least. He was even a co-founder of the Party of Regions. Lutsenko, though, continued to hold the crowds attention, although it became clear that even his rhetorical powers were beginning to wane as he spoke for some 25 minutes. It turns out that Poroshenko had been delayed in the town of Kalush, after also performing in Kolomyya the same day, so Lutsenko was holding the fort.

Yuriy Lutsenko impressing with his rhetorical skills and holding the fort while Poroshenko is delayed

Yuriy Lutsenko impressing with his rhetorical skills and holding the fort while Poroshenko is delayed

Eventually, just before 19:00 the main attraction appeared on stage – but in keeping with his man-of-the-people, definitely-not-an-oligarch persona, he took to the stage by walking through the huge crowd, his image relayed on the massive screens. Obviously he was flanked by significant security, just in case. On the screens, too, there appeared images of crying older women, as if the nation’s saviour had appeared. My wife and I had taken her godson, aged 10, with us – and he seemed transfixed by the celebrity status of Poroshenko, and insisted that we remain to see him. Even seeing Lutsenko in person got the ten year old quite excited. I had to go off to teach a class, but my wife’s report suggests that the message was similar to Lutsenko’s – vote Poroshenko in the first round, he’s the main candidate, get over 50% and avoid a second round of elections and get the country running properly again.

Not an oligarch, apparently; Poroshenko enters the stage through the crowd

Not an oligarch, apparently; Poroshenko enters the stage through the crowd

I’m not eligible to vote in Ukraine – but I can see the appeal of this argument. As another two weeks, into June, of campaigning and of temporary rule in Kyiv can only cause further destabilisation. Another appealing aspect of Poroshenko’s campaign is that he is the only candidate to have declared in his manifesto that he will call immediate parliamentary elections. I have been assured, having spoken here to legal experts, that the current government is in place in Ukraine legitimately, at least in terms of the law (however murky it is). However, an election could aid the cause of creating greater popular legitimacy for whoever is in power in Kyiv, with more representation for those living in areas where MPs have resigned or disappeared from parliament.

However, the above comments could all be academic as the most significant doubt in my mind is over whether the elections can be carried out successfully at all. In Ivano-Frankivsk and western Ukraine, sure, the campaigns are going ahead, candidates (at least those with any chance of getting elected here) are appearing on the main squares of cities and towns around the region. But I can’t really imagine the same happening in areas in the south and east of the country where the threat or reality of violence is actual. And, equally, if referendums are planned for those same areas for a week today, regardless of those plebiscites’ legitimacy in law or among the population, they will influence the way the Presidential election is conducted. Obviously, the way things are now is almost impossible, a damned if you do/don’t situation regarding the elections and almost anything else.

The greatest emotion that observing the election campaign in full swing in Ivano-Frankivsk while news of events in Odesa was filtering through was one of incongruity.

Other presidential candidates have also visited the city, although they came while I was away. Yulia Tymoshenko appeared on 1 May, holding a meeting in one conference centre, then appearing in the city centre, too, albeit without the song-and-dance attached to Poroshenko’s arrival. Olga Bogomolets, one of the best known medics from the Euromaidan protests, is standing in the election, too, and she spoke at the university at the end of April, while also holding a press conference in the city. There was very little, however, to announce her arrival in the university or beyond, while her posters seemed to be somewhat shoddy and subject to the elements. Bogomolets has, though, announced an alliance with Maksym Kytsyuk, a Sevastopol resident who was one of the leaders of Euromaidan in Frankivsk and a student here who was badly beaten in December by still unknown assailants. Oleh Tyahnybok, notorious leader of Svoboda, was also in town with his posters more noticeable about the city. Still to come is Anatoliy Hrytsenko, although there is no sign that any of the Party of Regions-associated candidates are planning to head this way.

Tyahnybok's poster with Bohomolets' obscured and sodden by rain, with another announcing another Taras Shevchenko-related event

Tyahnybok’s poster with Bohomolets’ obscured and sodden by rain

Meanwhile, with the presidential candidates in town, the mayors of Ivano-Frankivsk and Kalush travelled together to Donetsk region in an attempt to show national unity and hear the voices of ordinary people living in this now conflicted region of Ukraine. With Anushkevychus, the local mayor out of town, another candidate for the parliamentary seat here took his opportunity to mock his rival by taking a walk down Shevchenko Street. Its revitalisation, as I noted here,  has turned into something of a farce lasting over a year, with one of the city’s most prestigious streets now largely covered in rubble. The rival candidate, also called Shevchenko, has proposed renaming the street in (dis)honour of the mayor responsible for the farce. Shevchenko’s campaign is the only one that draws on European symbolism at a time when the EU seems increasingly powerless and lacking influence over the situation in Ukraine as the old Cold War powers play out their struggle again.

2014-05-03 12.13.24

Election campaign tents in the city centre with a much reduced stage in the background following Poroshenko’s departure

 

Oleksandr Shevchenko's campaign is the only one using overtly EU symbolism

Oleksandr Shevchenko’s campaign is the only one using overtly EU symbolism

 

As well as the mushrooming of presidential campaign posters, and a few by-election campaign tents, political posters have begun to appear again around the city in larger numbers, sometimes creating strange juxtapositions. There was also evidence of attempted sabotage, with Poroshenko not enjoying the support of Right Sector, it seems. It’s a bit baffling, too, as to why they’re putting their stickers in English.

Not everyone is pleased to see Poroshenko in town

Not everyone is pleased to see Poroshenko in town

Here various posters compete for space, with Poroshenko’s poster alongside that of Hrytsenko, as well as materials supporting the far-right nationalist OUN organisation, featuring the images of Bandera and Shevchenko.

Competing posters and messages

Competing posters and messages

Here, meanwhile, a poster for a singing competition held over several days in April and May by the central fountain in the city is accompanied by a Poroshenko poster revealing the full bill for his show, as well as a poster of Putin being shot through the head with the caption “This shit will soon die”.  The small poster at the bottom right, meanwhile, guides you to a nationalist portal called Neskorena Nacia or ‘The Undefeated Nation’ which wants ‘a Ukrainian Ukraine’. It declares itself to be the ‘leading Banderite portal’ and bears the OUN logo. It is noticeable that although the leader of Right Sector is standing for president, he is not campaigning actively and has indeed declared that his election funds are better spent, he feels, on sponsoring the fight against Russia. The nationalist message here, meanwhile, is one that predated the election campaign and indeed Euromaidan and events in south and east Ukraine.

2014-05-03 12.10.42

As for those who declare themselves to be Right Sector, or at least Maidan Self-Defence activists, they seem to have ceased most of their actions in the city now. The campaign against the regional head of police continues, although as something of a symbolic stand-off now with no marches being reported recently. However, the symbolic stand off means that now there is an armoured personnel carrier outside the police HQ. When I passed it on Wednesday, however, it was “staffed” by two young men who looked like teenagers with no one on the door. Obviously, an APC in the centre of Ivano-Frankivsk doesn’t look good and suggests that while Ukraine is under threat, local nationalist activists don’t really have their priorities straight if they think this is the best use of their resources. The report linked to above, meanwhile, continues the unfortunate rhetorical trend of deeming such “activists” the representatives of Maidan, whereas most of those active on Maidan or supporting its aims are now hoping that Poroshenko, or another president, will be able to bring some stability to the country and realise not only security but also the goal of improving everyday life in Ukraine in the long run.

Maidan Self-Defence in the crowd at Poroshenko meeting

Maidan Self-Defence in the crowd at Poroshenko meeting

 

While in Frankivsk everyday life and the election campaign seems to continue almost as normal, on the surface – with the tensions over war or civil war impacting psychologically – I can help feeling that it is somewhat incongruous now that such lavish campaigns are being carried out with the threat that hangs over the country.

 

A Trip to Kolomyya: 60 km away and a very different atmosphere

Image

On Saturday this weekend, my wife – who is a Ukrainian – and I travelled to the town of Kolomyya/ Kolomyja/ Kolomyia/ Kolomea/ Коломия. (With the regular changes to official transliteration methods, it’s not clear what the correct form should be in English). The town is around 60 km from Ivano-Frankivsk and is home to some great tourist attractions and also my wife’s grandmother, which was our reason for travelling.

Among the attractions is the Easter Egg (Pysanka) Museum (above), which has a huge collection of traditional Ukrainian painted Easter eggs, as well as examples from around the world. There is also the astounding Museum of Hutsul Folk Art, behind the Easter Egg Museum, and a short way off the main street, the town’s History Museum, offering a very insightful history of the town. Kolomyya has around 65,000 residents, making it the third biggest town in the Ivano-Frankivsk region after the capital and Kalush. Kolomyya, apart from having museums arguably superior to Ivano-Frankivsk, is a useful transport hub for getting you into some more obscure corners of the Carpathian Mountains or it makes a neat stop off along the way to Chernivtsi. Anyway, the tourist guide bit of this post is done.

Now I will focus on giving a sense of the atmosphere in the town and what can be judged from observing the urban space about attitudes to the recent events, including the Revolution.

Image

This is outside the town’s History Museum. The plaque to nationalist leader Roman Shukhevych, complete with UPA emblem and the ‘Glory to Ukraine/ Glory to the Heroes’ slogan, is admittedly larger than the museum’s own name plate, but this kind of imagery is – after months in Ivano-Frankivsk – unusually rare in Kolomyya.

Saturday felt like an ordinary day, no different from any other visit to Kolomyya. We arrived by bus from Ivano-Frankivsk, a typically overcrowded bus which was designed for maybe 40 people at most, including standees, but managed to carry 60 or more at one point. It was market day in town, with the main market heaving while the central street, Chornovola, was full of people trading cheese, fruit, flowers and other things. The cafes seemed fairly full as we passed them.

What was most striking the difference to Ivano-Frankivsk’s urban space which, as far as informal notices and such like around the city, is dominated by nationalist imagery, including the adverts for joining paramilitary organisations like UNSO or the stickers placed over municipal institutions supporting Right Sector (Правий Сектор), not to mention marches by that grouping and even more extremist associates.

In Kolomyya, we covered the entire town centre and some suburbs by foot and noticed very little nationalist imagery, slogans, stickers or colours. Instead, the EU flag and the original objectives of the early civil revolution of November and December 2013 seemed more evident. The Easter Egg museum, like the nearby Pysanka Hotel, flew the flag alongside the Ukrainian one.

Image

The Town Hall, which also doubles as the centre of the town’s revolutionary resistance committee, does not feature a single red-and-black flag. Instead, the flags of Ukraine, the EU and the Ukrainian Navy fly side by side, below the town’s crest.

Image

On the balcony by the flags there remains a plaque to Polish-Lithuanian revolutionary and freedom fighter (who is also an American hero), Tadeusz Kosciuszko. He was a leader in the 1794 Uprising which sought to defend Poland’s 3 May 1791 constitution and Poland’s sovereignty against encroaching Prussian, Austrian and Russian empires. Given the circumstances facing Ukraine, it seems apt that a trace of Kosciuszko remains in the town.

Generally, though, the extent to which the past of other communities once significant in western Ukraine is remembered is a contentious issue and best left for another time. No doubt any deepening of Ukraine’s relations with Europe will lead to the questions of the Polish and Jewish past in the region being examined more closely. (Back to tour guide mode: Kolomyya is also an important site for Jewish history, with one of the town’s synagogues remaining.)

Image

Below the Kosciuszko plaque, there is another, this time commemorating Ivan Franko, the man in whose honour Stanislaviv was renamed Ivano-Frankivsk in 1962. Kolomyya probably has a better claim to being named after him, since he was imprisoned here in 1880, as the plaque notes, while he also spent a fair amount of time having his syphilis treated. (I’d have got a photo of the clinic, but it’s a bit out of the centre, on the way to the train station.) It seems apt that two democratic revolutionaries are honoured on this one building which is now the headquarters of the national resistance committee.

Image

Here the symbolism is dominated by the colours of the Ukrainian national flag, with the local crest (the eagle) prevalent alongside the Ukrainian trident within the circle of the EU starts. I can’t recall seeing this imagery in Ivano-Frankivsk for a long time, apart from on the beanie hat of a small boy who was travelling on the same bus to Kolomyya in the morning. While the entrance to Ivano-Frankivsk’s administration building is covered in Right Sector stickers and paramilitary recruitment posters, Kolomyya’s is free of any such imagery. Even the small poster remembering the first Maidan dead is restrained and sombre, avoiding any nationalist symbolism.

Image

Image

 Indeed, even local shops – and not just this one – are proud to fly the EU flag, with this banner saying ‘Ukraine is Europe. Your contribution is important.’ This remains an echo of what seems to be, in the urban of space of Ivano-Frankivsk, largely forgotten, namely Euromaidan – the civil movement towards a European Ukraine.

Image

The only red-and-black nationalist UPA flag we saw flying in the city was outside this shop, Euro Second Hand. So even this shop has some connection to the European ideal, this time reflected in cheap clothes – seconds, second hand or sales items – imported to Ukraine and sold at affordable prices.

Image

The only Right Sector sticker we could locate in the town was – not unsurprisingly – on the memorial to the Maidan dead constructed on the city’s Rally Square opposite the town hall tower. While Right Sector had left a tasteful wreath, their representatives also decided that it would be worth putting at the top of the this memorial the group’s familiar sticker of a balaclava-wearing man.

Image

Seeing as no one from Right Sector was killed on Maidan, I interpret this as further evidence of the organisation attempting to appropriate the Maidan dead for its own cause of national revolution.

Image

Nearby there was also some kind of rock monument, perhaps symbolic of a Ukrainian grave-mound (могила) constructed in villages and towns to mark those killed in war, uprising and revolution. It is not clear what the pile of rocks in the town centre is supposed to signify, but someone had the idea of graffiting it with the slogan ‘Glory to UPA, the Heroes of OUN.’

Image

Next to this graffitied pile of rocks there was one of the town’s memorials to Taras Shevchenko whose 200th anniversary was celebrated a week ago. In fact, it’s more of a memorial to a memorial – one which was destroyed in 1914 by invading Russian troops. Still, no one a hundred years on has thought to turn this monument into a symbol of anti-Russian sentiment. I’m not so sure it could survive in Ivano-Frankivsk without a few stickers or red-and-black flags.

Image

At some point on Saturday, possibly while we were at grandma’s house, a march through the city did take place, as the local press reported. There was one red and black flag, although the main message of the protest was anti-war and calling for Crimea to remain with Ukraine. It is also clear that young people, possibly students and college pupils, were largely involved, again suggesting something closer to the spirit of the early days of Euromaidan.

Image

ImageImage

They gathered, admittedly in very small numbers, by the main Shevchenko monument in the town, although there was no trace of their presence when we passed the monument.

In Ivano-Frankivsk yesterday there was also a student-led anti-war protest calling for national unity. The weather was pretty foul, while students also tend to go home on weekends here, so that probably limited the numbers present. None, unlike in those in Kolomyya, bore any EU symbols, though. Today in Ivano-Frankivsk, meanwhile, there was another rally although the pictures show that this too, like the one on Friday, was hardly well attended.

Image

On a wall near the Kolomyya’s History Museum there was also evidence of a more radical strand to the earlier stages of revolution, this slogan calling for ‘Death to Yanukovych’. There’s also a faded happy birthday message to someone on the same way.

Image

This plaque, meanwhile, shows Kolomyya’s willingness to cater to visiting tourists, although sometimes, despite the best intentions, mistakes can emerge. After all, English is a real pain in the arse to spell. 

What the visit to Kolomyya suggests is that the situation in Ivano-Frankivsk, with the domination of the urban space by nationalist imagery and marches, could be something of an aberration, a local specificity, rather than something that prevails across the entire region. This is significant, since those who appropriate the balcony at Friday’s rally, claimed to speak for the people of the entire region, as well as the city. Indeed, their main gripe was with the regional administration. It seems that if support for Right Sector in Ivano-Frankivsk is marginal, and their apparent domination of the city space is an effect of their ‘successful PR’, as one representative of Self-Defence told me on Wednesday, then broader support across the region is even more of an illusion.

For now, the regional administration is holding out against the attempts to usurp power although it seems unlikely that Right Sector will shift away from its attempts to impose its will by force.

Still, the trip to Kolomyya was a refreshing change from the atmosphere in Ivano-Frankivsk and revived a sense of the initial purpose of the protests in Ukraine. Just as focussing on Kyiv gave a false impression of the situation in Ukraine generally, it seems that focussing on a regional capital gives a misleading image of the situation in the surrounding area.

Image

Yesterday Kolomyya also saw the funeral of the world’s oldest woman, Kateryna Kozak, who died at the age of 117 (in the 118th year of her life according to this funeral announcement). She lived through Austro-Hungary, the West Ukrainian Republic, the Second Polish Republic, Soviet Rule, German rule in the General Gouvernement, the USSR then Independent Ukraine. Her life, like that of my wife’s grandmother, is a reminder of how much historical change, how many empires, this part of the world has seen. Let’s hope that another geopolitical change isn’t on the way with events in Crimea.

Sunday in the Park with Taras: On Shevchenko’s 200th birthday.

Image

Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ukraine’s national poet, the Kobzar – the Bard, Taras Shevchenko. This whole year is being marked as Shevchenko year, with celebrations planned not only in Ukriane but also around the world among the diaspora and academic community. With the current events in Ukraine, however, the planned festivities have been somewhat overshadowed and muted. Still, Shevchenko’s place in the Ukrainian revolutionary tradition and canon is guaranteed, with this reflected in various cultural re-appropriations of his image. This article shows some very creative approaches, although the image of Shevchenko as Che Guevara features a somewhat misjudged slogan: ‘She’. Yes, it is the first sound in both men’s names, although in English I see ‘she’ – something perhaps more appropriate for yesterday’s celebration of International Women’s Day.

In Ivano-Frankivsk there was a poetry reading today on the Vichevyj Maidan (Rally Square) by the post office, while a much more widely attended event was held on the square outside the Administrative Office. Begun with the now obligatory Mass, the celebrations included music – including the playing of the bandura, the instrument of the Kobzar – various poetry readings as well as political speeches on the current situation.

IMG_2053

Today, however, my wife and I avoided the large-scale events organised in the city – although we will attend some Shevchenko-related events in the coming week. Instead, we took a walk along Shevchenko Street – formerly ulica Lipowa and Lindenstrasse, owing to the lime/linden trees which line this wonderful street that leads to the main park in the city, which is also named after Shevchenko. This street is home to the university where we both work and is also where my wife’s first home is. As the photo below shows, her first home – where she lived into her early twenties is falling into disrepair. It had been used as a teaching space for the pedagogical department and also as accommodation for lecturers and their families. Unlikely to be saved any time soon, the collapse of the building would free up some prime city centre real estate.

This photo also shows some of the attempts to revitalise Shevchenko Street, making it – at least for two thirds of the way – a pedestrian thoroughfare and the city’s calling card. However, renovations which were begun – bizarrely – at the start of November 2012 have hardly progressed, leaving the street in quite a mess. Here, though, some of the new paving stones and lamps are evident. The mayor had promised that the renovations would be finished in time for this 200th anniversary and if they weren’t, he said, the responsible authorities would be made to walk on their knees along the street to the park and the Shevchenko monuments located there. Our walk did not, sadly, reveal any bloodied rags and scraps of mid-range navy or black suits, so we can only assume that this threat was not fulfilled.

Image

Shevchenko Street, at the city centre end, starts with a relief plaque to the Bard, placed there on the 175th anniversary of his birth, as the photo above shows. It is modest, and now adorns a beauty salon, but is tasteful. Less successful, however, was the most recent monument – below – to Shevchenko, where the sculptor seems to have lost any sense of proportion giving this son of the peasantry a rather oversized head and huge hands. By all accounts, Shevchenko was a stocky chap but here he seems  to have been given the proportions of a hobbit. This statue, which was erected three years ago, is an exact replica of the Shevchenko monument in Ottawa. The sculptor is from the Ukrainian diaspora and there are plans to show a film made in the 1990s in Canada on local television in Ivano-Frankivsk.

Image

Image

More successful, however, was this original sculpture in the park, also featured at the start of this post. It shows Shevchenko is his later years, rather than the above sculpture which bears the image of a young Shevchenko that also features on the 100 UAH banknote.

IMG_2001

Here, by this statue we witnessed a young girl with her father who was explaining to her the importance of the poet and then with great reverence she laid a flower by the memorial, signally the respect with which he is treated in the country and features much more prominently in the life of the nation than, say, Shakespeare in Britain.

The walk in the park did not pass without incident as we encountered – as is usual around here – a thoughtless and selfish driver who declared it his right to park inside Shevchenko Park.

Image

My wife asked him whether he really needs to park right inside the park, since many other people with prams managed to cope without driving right into the park. After some pretty foul language from him, he decided to confront me about ‘how I got so wise’. I didn’t have the time or the will to explain. It seems that while some aspects of behaviour are being transformed by the revolution, such as teachers refusing gifts, the revolution can only truly be declared victorious when drivers stop being arseholes, parking in parks or on pedestrian crossings or jumping red lights.

An interesting outcome of the confrontation with this man was that a young woman carrying a 1980 copy of Shevchenko’s work Kobzar apart from suggesting that ‘he’s not worth it’, also thought I was Polish. (Knowing Polish, I tend to speak Ukrainian with a Polish accent). She thanked me first as a Pole for all the help my apparent nation had offered Ukraine, then I pointed out that I am British. She then thanked me for all the help Britain had offered Ukraine. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that in all likelihood Britain won’t do too much to help and seems more interested in the billions of Russian oligarchs.

Image

This post will now take the form of walk along Shevchenko Street to Shevchenko Park. Here is a view of the start of the renovated section at the corner with Horodynskoho Street. It is clearly very much a work in progress, although there is a clear impression of the intention to create a wonderful thoroughfare. It took a campaign by ordinary residents of the city last year to save the linden trees which gave this street its original name, with council and developers claiming the trees were variously a danger to lives or property, or that they could be replaced. The campaign was successful involving a series of protests and petitions, and it’s clear that the trees have now been given special protection.

IMG_1970 IMG_1971 IMG_1972 IMG_1973 IMG_1974

This set of pictures shows a building a little further up Shevchenko Street adorned with gargoyles or chimeras, as they are known here. This building housed the first Ukrainian language secondary school in the city. It also bears plaques to three Ukrainian men. The first is to Stepan Lenkavsky, an activist in the Ukrainian interwar nationalist and independence movement, who became leader of the Organisation of Ukrainian Revolutionary Nationalists in exile in Munich in the 1950s and 1960s, hence the OUN symbolism on the plaque and also graffitied onto the wall beneath it. He was most famous for authoring the Ten Commandments of the Ukrainian Nationalist, with his plaque here bearing the first: ‘You will secure a Ukrainian state or die fighting for it.’

The second plaque here is to Oleksa Hirnyk, another pupil of the school. In 1978 he burned himself to death close to Taras Shevchenko’s tomb on the 60th anniversary of the declaration of an independent Ukraine. He is an official, state-recognised Hero of Ukraine, although for a long time his fate was silenced, while Shevchenko’s poetry provided the inspiration for his resistance to Ukraine’s Russification under Soviet rule.

The third plaque features Mykhailo Dyachenko, another graduate of the school, and a nationalist activist who was the chief poet of UPA who died in 1952 fighting NKVD forces in Ivano-Frankivsk – then Stanislav – region.

IMG_1975 IMG_1980 IMG_1976 IMG_1977 IMG_1978 IMG_1979

Further along the street, as well as some wonderful examples of nineteenth and twentieth century urban architecture, you find the point where the renovations of Shevchenko Street have come to an end – namely just outside what is nominally the main entrance to the university. The paving stones are ready and waiting to be laid, while the workers have a portakabin available, but there doesn’t seem to be an urgency – despite the ideal weather for the job – to lay them. Not even to reach a few metres further so that it would be possible to enter the university without traipsing through mud. Thankfully the massive trenches that had tainted the street for months have been filled in. The state of the street has meant a significant increase in graffiti in this area, and none of it really that creative or humorous.

IMG_1981 However, there is evidence of a decent command of English, as well as a declaration of love of Ukraine in one of the photos above.

IMG_1983 IMG_1984 IMG_1985 IMG_1986

Further up the street, you get a sense of the eclectic variety of architecture on this street which reflects all eras of the city’s history. The street existed as a thoroughfare to hunting grounds in the seventeenth century when it was founded, then it became a more exclusive area of the city, hence some of the lovely townhouses. However, it also houses the university which – beyond any nice buildings it acquired – can’t be said to have contributed greatly to the city’s architectural heritage in any positive way. The building behind the green fence is the death trap where I am expected to conduct my classes, the Humanities Block, which featured in this post about health and safety at work and fire safety. Opposite the university are some communist-era blocks of flats, while a nineteenth century Austrian-era building features most probably a remnant of the Soviet-era service sector, shoe repair. The red sign suggests membership of an updated form of cooperative, while the plastic windows and doors are clearly a twenty-first-century imposition on the building.

IMG_1990 IMG_1992 IMG_1994 IMG_1995

IMG_1989

Further up the street there is evidence of great care being taken to renovate Austrian- and Polish-era buildings, even with their fine and intricate details, as the pink building shows. The row of buildings, meanwhile, shows a series of architecture from interwar modernism blending into Austrian-era bourgeois architecture. The building furthest to the right houses some of the finest rooms owned by the university, with this building knows as the Building of Academics. Here doctoral dissertations are defended and dignitaries hosted. Further down is the house where one of Ukraine’s leading contemporary writers, Yuriy Andrukhovych, lives.

Behind the red car is a more recent architectural addition which has taken a form common in the city, namely “renovating” an existing building while in fact substantially altering it and effectively putting something new in its place. This is also evident in the form of the house behind the high fence where a local oligarch, or probably a “minigarch” lives. Next door to this minigarch’s house is a nineteenth-century building which has fallen into disrepair with no chance of it being rescued.

IMG_1996Still, some of the grand buildings by the park remain untouched and in great condition. Some in the past housed high-ranking local Party officials, although the one featured here is now home to a monastery. Nearby is a kindergarten.

IMG_2003 IMG_2005 IMG_2006

Also in Shevchenko Park is the Rukh (Movement) Central Municipal Stadium which is still home to the largest local football team, Precarpathia Ivano-Frankivsk. The results board outside, however, still refers to the relative glory days of 2010/11 when the team was in the second-flight of Ukrainian football. Since then, following bankruptcy, the club has declined and despite talk of takeovers, it looks like it will be a long time before the city sees a decent standard of football again. The stadium could probably do with significant investment, since the stand in the third picture is apparently much too steeply built to enable fans to see the whole of pitch without obstruction. The most popularly attended events at the stadium now are rock concerts, with Okean Elzy having performed in spring and Skryabin in autumn.

IMG_2008 IMG_2007 IMG_2011

The mix-and-match form of the stadium gives it a certain accidentally modernist charm, while the traces of the efforts to extend its use are evident. Probably in the 1990s and early 2000s there was an internet and gaming club here called Kiberia. It is not quite clear, though, what this entrance gate was supposed to achieve, despite a vague resemblance to a 2D parthenon.

So, this was a walk along Shevchenko Street – one of the most historically and architecturally significant in the city – and into the park, which is a trace of the initial reason for locating a city here in the 17th century. In 1662, the Polish nobles, the Potockis, thought this would have made a great hunting ground.

This is by no means an exhaustive history of the street, merely a set of observations from a Sunday walk on the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great Ukrainian bard Taras Shevchenko. Still, this brief overview shows this street to be something of a palimpsest, reflecting better than any other in its architecture and history the 200 years that have passed since Shevchenko’s birth and indeed the entire history of the city.