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Solemn speech of Leonid Finberg, editor-in-chief of Dukh I Litera Publishing House and director of the Center for Jewish Studies, on the occasion of presenting him with the Light of Justice Award for moral, spiritual, and ethical leadership.

We didn’t notice how much we changed. Our museums have become qualitatively different, and they are led by responsible professionals – large-scale figures – Taras Vozniak, Yuliia Lytvynets, Dmytro Stus, Oleksandr Rojtburd, and Petro Honchar. Ukrainian cinema was revived and, as in the past, during the time of Parajanov, Balaian, and Muratova, how it became a part of the national and international cultural life. “Cyborgs” by Akhtem Seitablaiev, Serhii Loznytsa’s films, and documentaries by Serhii Bukovskyi and Roman Shyrman have become an important part of Ukrainian contemporary culture. The network of Ukrainian theatres has expanded; there are now about 50 of them in Kyiv alone. Performances rose, and everything is now at a very high level, starting with directing and finishing with acting.

I’m talking about Morituri te salutant on the small stage of the Franko theater directed by Bohomazov, about the performances of the DAKH theatre directed by Vlad Troiitskyi and many other. In Kyiv, dozens of public and private cultural institutions compete every day, especially on weekends—the Arsenal and Gallery M17, Master Class and Kalita Art Centre, Izolyatsia, and Dukat. They offer exhibitions, concerts, workshops, and lectures.

Fantastic changes have also taken place in the area to which I am related and which I know better, which is the country’s book market. We have a completely new philosophical library, which is headed by the European Dictionary of Philosophies, a world intellectual bestseller published in Ukrainian under the editorship of Kostiantyn Sihov and Andrii Vasylchenko. Books by Andrii Baumeister, Volodymyr Yermolenko, and Oleh Khoma are available in this library. They were either written by them or were translated from other languages but were edited by them. We have a new historical library that presents the world and domestic history as an alternative to the Soviet and Russian lie that has been fed to generations of our grandparents, parents, and ourselves for a long time. We read books by Natalia Yakovenko, Yaroslav Hrytsak, Tamara Vronska, Serhii Plokhii, Timothy Snyder, David Sutter, and many others.

Judaism has been revived, and three universities have master’s programmes. We have published more than 100 books in our NaUKMA Judaica Centre alone (unfortunately, there are not so many competitors). We held about 30 scientific conferences and more than 60 art, historical, and cultural exhibitions.

Another victory is the Ukrainian children’s book, one of the most interesting in Europe. Some of these books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. This is a synthesis of texts and videos that have never existed before.

Our achievements are not only books but also libraries: translations of the humanitarian book supported by the Vidrodzhennia Foundation; European philosophy (projects of the Institute of Philosophy and the Dukh I Litera publishing house); Polish literature and journalism; the library of Judaism; the library of “Resistance and Hope”; “Figures of Culture;” and the library of Nobel laureates. I didn’t name all of them, even the ones I knew. But I emphasise that I am talking about libraries as a collection of books. We can also see significant changes in other areas of humanitarianism.

What are the opportunities for training and internships for young scientists and students? They can’t even imagine that their parents had to get permission from the party committees, which proved their trustworthiness, and also from the holders of a visa to leave the country, not just to study but simply to travel abroad.

The situation has also changed dramatically in the language sphere. If earlier Russian-language texts dominated and were responded to by important figures from Moscow and St. Petersburg, now, especially with the beginning of the Russo-Ukrainian War, this information channel has practically ceased to exist. Ukrainian-language humanities and Ukrainian literature dominate. If, as a publisher, I get a good text written in Russian, then I look for translators in Ukrainian for it to be read. We frequently refuse to publish texts, even good ones, in Russian—not because of us, but because of buyers.

It is important for me to say all this because we need to compare our present first of all with what we had yesterday. And only then with what is available in Berlin, Paris, or New York. That’s right; it doesn’t work otherwise. We can’t jump over that abyss, the Soviet-Russian one. Only occasionally can you crawl out of it, and even then, only with extreme effort.

Having noted the victories, I will focus on the challenges that urgently need to be addressed.

We do not keep our finger on the pulse of global humanitarian thought because we translate a relatively small number of books that educated communities need. Our distance from intellectuals and the public is prohibitively great, and we have not yet learned how to effectively disseminate contemporary ideas and books. We have minimal volumes of electronic versions of nonfiction; it practically does not exist. The problem requires systematic reflection. We are only taking the first steps abroad by distributing Ukrainian books. It is difficult to build chains between us and our partners in the world, but it is absolutely necessary. And the main issue is not communication. If we interest the world with outstanding experience and creative ideas, we will be heard!

I’ll try to identify ways to solve some of these problems.

First of all, no one but us will solve them. But how to do it?

We should clearly formulate the issue as a managerial task. We remember what Stanisław Jerzy Lec said: “It is easiest to hide your thoughts when they are not collected in words.” So, it is necessary to clearly answer the question of how to keep your finger on the pulse of world humanitarian science. To achieve this, it is necessary to unite a group of intellectuals (philosophers, historians, specialists in geopolitics, etc.) who will collect a data bank of texts that need to be translated and distributed. It is necessary to calculate the resources that are needed for this (finance, specialists, and publishers) and decide where to find them. There are a lot of such resources. You need to look for them in international and domestic foundations, contact philanthropists, and so on. Recently, state structures in this area, such as the Institute of Books, the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation, and the Ministry of Information, have started working quite effectively. Responsible business benefactors also lend their shoulders to important projects. I have dozens of confirmations from our experience alone. Someone personally or a group of people should take responsibility for solving the problem. It is critical to know how many people are willing to accept such responsibility. Independent public organisations play a significant role in society. The Ukrainian PEN Club continues to win projects, and the post-Soviet Union of writers—whose genes are inextricably linked to Sovietism—continues to have endless internal conflicts. This aspect of personal responsibility is crucial, as it determines whether or not we will feel responsible for all the significant problems facing the nation. If “no,”  we are doomed to defeat. If “yes,” we should do it. We need to create powerful intellectual centres that will formulate and dictate to society. The government needs to structure a list and hierarchy of problems that need to be solved together. The activity of the “Club of Rome” can be analogised to some extent.

I don’t have a ready-made recipe for how to form such intellectual centres, but I have absolute confidence that they are vital. I am ready to join the creation of one of these centres, clearly understanding that the key roles here should belong to our children, who are more energetic, more educated, and so on.

The leading role in the implementation of this idea should be played by individuals who feel responsible for themselves, the fate of their children, and the fate of the country in memory of their great predecessors.

Maidan did not end in 2014. The humanitarian development of Ukraine is one of our Maidan events today, and the drama here is no less than then. Not just the east of Ukraine is experiencing the war. We also have our own battlefield, perhaps safer but no less responsible.

We have come a long way in recent years, and what we have done allows us to speak of Ukraine as one of the centres of freedom and democracy in the modern world.

Our potential is the solidarity of Ukrainian intellectuals, proven in many cases. They need to be fixed adequately, organisationally, recognising the importance of this step. Inner solidarity and solidarity with the democratic civilised forces in the world are with those for whom the ethical values of Judeo-Christian civilisation are the guiding principles of life, for whom human rights and the legal culture of the civilised world are not just words but absolute values.


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