Wednesday 24 August 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 24/8/2022

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Olga Tokariuk

Declaration of independence

A year ago today, I was sitting under the scorching sun at Kyiv’s central Maidan square, watching a massive celebration of the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence. Tanks and other military equipment rolled past crowds on Khreshchatyk Street and the biggest cargo plane in the world, the Ukrainian-made Antonov AN-225 Mriya, roared above our heads. Fighter jets left a blue-and-yellow trail in the sky and military delegations from 14 countries marched next to Ukrainian soldiers in a show of solidarity. President Zelensky delivered a passionate speech: “We are a young country with 1,000 years of history,” he said. Ukraine will not let anyone “occupy its history” and “annex its heroes”.

The mood was festive. A young woman from the Luhansk area, whose family still lived under Russian occupation, told me that she had embraced her Ukrainian identity only recently. She proudly showed me her vyshyvanka, a traditional embroidered shirt that she had crafted for this occasion. A man with his wife and children said that he liked the idea of holding a military parade; Ukraine had to show that it had a strong army and could defend itself.

Image: Getty Images

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion, exactly six months ago today, at least 5,000 Ukrainian civilians and 9,000 soldiers have been killed; I dread to think that some people I saw at the parade last year might be among them. Ukraine now has 20 per cent of its territory under Russian occupation. The Mriya plane, which impressed adults and children so much, was destroyed in the first days of the invasion.

There are no public celebrations of Ukraine’s independence day this year because of the danger of Russian missile strikes. Instead there is an exhibition of burned and destroyed Russian tanks (pictured). People take photos, climb them to install blue-and-yellow flags, curse and ridicule Russia’s initial plans to take Kyiv in three days. Making a mockery of the enemy feels uplifting for many in these dark times. The war is not over yet and it’s too early to celebrate but Ukrainians remain adamant about defending the independence that has already cost them so dearly.

Olga Tokariuk is Monocle’s Ukraine correspondent.

Image: Lesha Berezovskiy

Urbanism / Ukraine

Lessons learnt

Almost two thirds of schools in Chernihiv were destroyed or damaged when the Russians invaded the Ukrainian city that’s 70km from the border with Belarus. Over the past six months volunteers from Kyiv and elsewhere have been busy helping to rebuild the classrooms. Summer lessons are in session when Monocle visits school #35 (pictured) in Chernihiv. “I am an optimist,” says Nataliia Ivanytska, the principal, as she prepares to reopen next month in time for the start of the school year. Even while it rebuilds, Chernihiv, the first major Ukrainian city attacked by Russia when it invaded from Belarus on 24 February, remains on edge. We catch Yevhen Zhovtyk sitting at an outdoor café in the city centre. A tour guide by trade, Zhovtyk signed up for the army at 09.00 on the day of the invasion. Asked what it felt like to help repel Russians from his city, he responds, “The war is not over yet.”

Read more of Monocle’s special report on Ukraine in the September issue of the magazine, on newsstands now.

Image: Rena Effendi

Society / Russia

Voice of the people

In the weeks following the invasion of Ukraine, thousands of Russians fled their home country for cities such as Istanbul, Yerevan and Tbilisi. Monocle travelled to the latter in early March to meet these 21st-century émigrés. All had one thing in common: they were vehemently against the war. Two of them, Anna Vilenskaya (pictured) and Anna Kostyukova, have since collaborated on a project called Voices of Russia, which seeks to establish a dialogue between Russians and the rest of the world.

Voices of Russia invited people to be interviewed in four secret locations in Moscow, St Petersburg, Novosibirsk and Ekaterinburg, answering questions about the war and what life is like in Putin’s Russia. Its first video goes live on Youtube as Russia wakes up to today’s six-month anniversary of the first full-scale attack on Ukraine. “I hope that people from other countries will watch this video and understand how many people in Russia are against the war and feel profound solidarity with Ukraine,” Vilenskaya tells The Monocle Minute.

Image: Getty Images

History / Ukraine

Release date

Ukrainians have had many independence days over the years. Those abroad sometimes celebrated 22 January, the date in 1918 on which the Ukrainian People’s Republic declared independence amid the turbulence following the October Revolution in Russia. This early Ukrainian state was consumed first by civil war and finally by the Red Army; the new Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) became a founding member of the Soviet Union in 1922.

But today marks the independence day that Ukraine has celebrated since 24 August 1991, the date on which the then Ukrainian SSR made its declaration of independence, freeing itself from the rapidly unravelling Soviet Union. It is possible that Ukraine will one day enjoy a second independence day every year, acknowledging the date on which Russia’s current assault finally foundered.

For more of Andrew Mueller’s On This Day series on Ukraine’s independence, tune in to the latest edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Eesti Teadusagentuur/Sander Hiire

Media / Estonia

Truth will out

Russia’s attack on Ukraine hit close to home for Estonia. Priit Hõbemägi (pictured), editor in chief of the Baltic country’s largest and oldest newspaper, Postimees, says that Estonia’s own history of Soviet occupation provided media outlets with useful skills. “We have better insights into how the Russian propaganda machine works because many of us have seen it in full steam here,” he tells The Monocle Minute.

That starts with a critical approach to information coming from Russia, the latest example being claims that the killer of Darya Dugina, daughter of an ally to Vladimir Putin, was a Ukrainian woman who fled Russia via Estonia. “We mainly fight Russian disinformation by not publishing it, at least not without our own commentary first,” he says. The ongoing crisis has also emphasised Postimees’s broader mission. “We are not here just to spread current information, we are here to guard the existence of Estonian people, culture and language,” says Hõbemägi. “That is our main objective.”

Hear more from Hõbemägi in a forthcoming episode of ‘The Stack’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

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Nestled in the hills above Nice, Casa Sallusti is a permaculture farm and hotel that was created to show how you can still enjoy the good things in life while taking care of the planet. We visit its founder, Isabella Sallusti, and meet the young folk who are working at the farm, having decided to swap the city for slow-paced living.


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