Posts Tagged ‘culture’


Cultural dates for the diary – Odessa, Italy, Russia, Minsk (No Poland?)

December 15, 2016

For my erudite readers, a 24 hour hiatus from policy and politics and a climb from that grubby valley unto the high arts and cultural peaks with noteworthy and dates for the diary over the festive period.

The magnificent (seriously they really are very good) Odessa Philharmonic conducted by a true friend of the blog Mr Hobart Earle will be playing the following dates and venues:


19th & 20th December – Tchaikovsky Christmas Gala at Odessa Philharmonic.  (20th December is Mr Earle’s birthday so be especially generous in your appreciation)

The New Year sees the Odessa Philharmonic performing 12 concerts at as many venues around Italy.

For the true connoisseur, there is no orchestra as accomplished with its Viennese programme anywhere east of Vienna, therefore expect a magnificent return to Odessa and all things Viennese on 15th and 17th January.  It goes without saying, highly recommended.


26th January is for those with a taste for Haydin and Beethoven.

13th February is for the lovers, with the traditional Valentine’s programme.

21st February Mr Earle heads to Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall to dabble in some Grieg and Sibelius.

25th February for the many admirers of Verdi in Minsk who will receive a splendid performance of Aida.

Lo my erudite readership, if you are in Odessa, Italy, Moscow and Minsk (as many of you are if IP addresses are any indication) immerse yourselves in some high culture delivered by the Odessa Philharmonic under the baton of the only American cultural figure to have been awarded the “People’s Artist of Ukraine”.

Having made a particular point of lauding the Odessa Philharmonic with regard to all things Viennese when it comes to performance, it is worthy of pointing out that whenever it play its Polish programme, it is also at its best.

(Indeed Krzysztof Penderecki, who is undoubtedly the best Polish composer still with us (and one of the best ever) is hardly unknown to Mr Earle and vis versa.)


Thus in the spirit of new annual culture budgets, Polish-Ukrainian relations et al., the question to intellectual Polish readers (and friends in some cases), is why the Odessa Philharmonic plays Italy, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine – but not Poland when it has a splendid, very well performed Polish repertoire?


Drama (of the political sort) at the Russian Theatre Odessa

December 6, 2016

The Russki Theatre (Russian Drama Theatre) in Odessa is a longstanding and well known historical venue.


Since 2002 it has been managed by Alyaksandr Kopaygora.

Mr Kopaygora is nothing short of a controversial figure.

To be diplomatic, his management of the Ruski Theatre is far more in keeping with his ideology than managing a premises called Ukrainian Theatre.  To be less diplomatic and somewhat more blunt and also accurate, Mr Kopaygora was a leading ideologue in Igor Markov’s “Rodina Party” in Odessa.

Mr Markov’s party was (it is now officially defunct) robustly pro-Russia.  Indeed Mr Markov is currently living in Russia and actively playing to the Russian propaganda narrative (as a reader would expect).   Mr Markov has stated he will not return to Ukraine for as long as it pursues its “European” trajectory.  (He is also wanted.)  Among that same ideological crowd is Anatoly Wasserman (a man considered by many to be far more odious than Igor Markov).  Messrs Wasserman, Markov and Kopaygora were all leading lights in Party Rodina.

The loyalty to Ukraine is therefore more than questionably thin as far as Mr Kopaygora is concerned for far too many local constituents, and perhaps nominally exists due only to the meager (official) salary he receives from the Ukrainian taxpayer via the State.

(Indeed his anti-Ukrainian activities were reported to the Ministry of Culture in 2015.  As usual when it comes to the Ministry of Culture there was no response – which is why historical architectural buildings in Odessa continue to be bastardised and/or destroyed under the management of a Luddite/Philistine Mayor of no vision, despite the Culture Ministry’s statutory obligations toward protecting many such buildings.)

The Regional State Administration (RSA) of Odessa announced a competition for Mr Kopaygora’s role as his term drew to an end.  Competition (and “competition”) for public roles is now very much en vogue – and for many public positions a matter of law.

Odessa is renowned  for many things, among which are its “intellectual set” and “arty crowd”.  As such there are numerous individuals of suitable calibre capable of managing the Russki Theatre – albeit another was lost to abysmal Ukrainian driving and/or roads only yesterday.  (RIP Dr. Yulia Gomel, composer of symphonies, ballet, chamber and choral music – undoubtedly a loss to the city and Odessa National Music Academy.)

The day the competition winner was due to be announced, 6th December, the Regional State Administration cancelled the contest for the position.

The reason being, it finally succumbed to public pressure.  The public pressure was not aimed at Mr Kopaygora directly – but at the “competition panel”, the composition of which was stuffed with associates of Mr Kopaygora and therefore clearly compromised as far as neutrality is concerned.

Whether a well placed rumour, or a genuine leak, it also became known that law enforcement agencies were quietly taking an interest in the process.  A reader may conclude that if being busted for corruption is a likely outcome, then being busted over a trifling matter of fixing the competition result for the Russki Theatre is probably not worthwhile.  The risk/reward simply isn’t there.

Ergo, 6th December instead of announcing the “competition” result (and probable continuance in the role of Mr Kopaygora), it was announced that the competition had in fact been cancelled.

In sum, a wise decision by those within the RSA.

Clearly efforts will be made to insure the next competition panel is perceived to be far less biased (at least prima facie) and if that be so then it may come to pass that the official relationship between Mr Kopaygora and the Russki Theatre that began in 2002 will ultimately faceits final curtain.

In the meantime as the festive season approaches, the show must go on.




Holodomor remembrance – The path to a museum

November 26, 2016

Of the numerous, and seemingly never ending man made tragedies Ukraine has endured, and continues to endure, Holodomor undoubtedly ranks as among the worst and most inhuman.


In 2007, the Holodomor memorial was supposed to be joined in somber company with a museum.  To the shame of every variation of government since, that museum has still to even see the foundation laid.

Having only last week rightly acknowledged the need to build a monument and museum to the events of 2014, indeed President Poroshenko stated he would become a sponsor thereof and take personal responsibility for its manifestation, the President has declared that the Holodomor Museum has to be built.

He is absolutely right a museum there undoubtedly should be – and one that when visited burns hot and deeply into the consciousness of any and all that visit it.

Exactly a year ago today, the blog humbly suggested a way of permanent, public and unmissable commemoration.  The full entry as follows – “The problem with history, certainly when it comes to numbers, is often visualising the horrific loss of human life certain events cause – particularly those events that are “man-made”.

Most people can visualise a dead person, perhaps several.  Some can, and have seen, dozens at a time, occasionally hundreds.  Very few may have witnessed thousands of dead bodies in one place, but beyond that?

Be it any large war, the Holocaust, or the Holodomor, visualising millions and millions of dead is simply beyond comprehension.  The monuments we erect to commemorate such hideous outcomes are often simple and understated, and deliberately so out of somberness, respect and humility – but are therefore mostly forgotten until specific State appointed days of remembrance fall upon the societal calendar.

For how can there be a a monument of suitable scale that is commensurate to the sacrifices, or sacrificed?  How also to bring about remembrance in a more continuous subconsciousness within today’s society outside of the allotted day or hour?

There are museums of course, and libraries and the Internet – all accessible to many, but generally they too fail to adequately impress the sheer number of deaths involved in a manner that makes it digestible and comprehensible with any sense of lasting mental impression.


As these events travel further back in time with each and every passing hour, clearly justice becomes more and more symbolic – as perpetrators and survivors alike reach the natural ending of their days without their day in court.  Justice it seems, is that those who died and/or survived be not forgotten – at least for one day in the year.

It is of course possible to begin belated investigations and perhaps even reach judicial outcomes to cover the events of the past to some degree, and thus to provide some sense of finding of guilt.  If with regard to the Holodomor, Ukraine was to follow the lead of Germany in its ruling against Demjanjuk, a guard at Sobibor, who was found guilty not of any specific act himself, but being part of the “extermination machinery“, then it follows perhaps that there be room to find guilt of Joseph Stalin, the leadership of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the time etc. The question that arises is how far throughout that murderous and repressive apparatus does one go, and/or what parts of the institutions are targeted (apart from the obvious like the political leadership and the NKVD)?

Thus far, with regard to the Holodomor about 800,000 victims have been positively identified amongst figures that range from 3 to 7 million.  No doubt yet more will eventually be identified, and eventually there will be a far more accurate, although never precise, figure reached regarding the actual death toll.

If the names of these known Holodomor victims were individually placed on the average sized cobble stone that makes up Deribasovskaya, the main pedestrian street in central Odessa, it would more than re-cobble the entire street – which thus returns the reader back to the issue of visualising the horrendous and horrific loss of life.

Initially in Germany, and then latterly across Europe, there is something called the Stolpersteine.  It is a project where commemorative stones are laid outside the last known addresses of Jewish victims prior to their deportation (and in most cases extermination).  There are tens of thousands of such stones laid across Europe, outside tens of thousands of addresses throughout Europe.  They are a daily reminder to those now living at the address and/or walking along that street of the dark past it once witnessed – rather than a statue in a pleasantly manicured public space seldom visited.

Imagine, however, all those Stolpersteine laid together along a single public street.

If it is not the graphic images of WWI and WWII in museums or on TV that seem to leave the greatest impact, but when visiting, it is the sight of miles upon miles of headstones in cemeteries across Flanders, Artois and beyond that do, what societal impact would a major Ukrainian street cobbled/paved with individual names of those victims of the Holodomor have on an every day, rather than annual, basis?

Perhaps one day Ukraine will embark upon its own Stolpersteine project and place individual stones outside the addresses of all those known victims of the Holodomor as a daily reminder for those that walk there – or perhaps it will make a bold statement of remembrance where the name of each victim literally stretches from one end of the street to the other.  With 800,000 identified victims from millions, it will have to be a very long street, and rather than being a street with no name, it would be a street of a million names (and more).  Perhaps the boldest act is more appropriate for the victims who will never see justice?  A matter for the authorities (if they ever think of it).”

As a variation upon this Stolpersteine theme, perhaps the pathways within grounds of any new museum could be formed of a paving block with the name of each identified victim?  Or even perhaps the floor within the museum itself?

Something for the architects to consider?

It would be unique and provide a human sense of the scale of this crime for any that walk thereon or therein.


Eurovision goes to Kyiv – Political warfare will return to Odessa

September 9, 2016

A few weeks ago an entry appeared noting the facade of political comradery between Mayor Trukhanov and Governor Saakashvili and their attempt to present a united and stable political front when wooing decision makers to award the Eurovision contest to Odessa.

The undeclared, but nevertheless mutual feeling of both men was that after Odessa missed out on the European football championships in 2012 (despite building a brand new stadium) meant that Odessa was owed the hosting rights to a large international event.

The fact that the Chermomoretz stadium is situated in Park Shevchenko with a single access road and therefore simply failed to meet the minimum safety demands of the footballing authorities of two access/egress roads is not a particularly well known.  That it is not well known therefore means it is not understood as a reason why Odessa was refused Euro 2012 so far as the local constituency is concerned.

(It is even less known that (former Mayor) Eduard Gurvitz proposed creating tunnel to and from the stadium under Shevchenko Park to address the access/egress issue – a proposal that went nowhere.)

Whether or not the Eurovision organisers also require two entry/egress routes from any hosting venue is beyond the knowledge of this blog – maybe they do, maybe they don’t.  Nevertheless the only venue in Odessa large enough to host tens of thousands of “Eurovisioners”, TV crews, presenters, commentators etc is the Chernomoretz stadium – which is also open air and would therefore require a roof to insure those attending remain dry during early May.

New Odessa airport terminal

New Odessa airport terminal

The new airport terminal, which has taken years to get to its existing state, is months from completion even if the will and cash is found to complete it – and it is a terminal without any runway dedicated or connected to it.  The runway that exists naturally leads directly to the existing terminal (which will apparently eventually be “mothballed”).

Indeed when Governor Saakashvili first arrived in Odessa, one of the first things he muted was opening an entirely new Odessa airport, far from the existing one.  It is a prospect that has not entirely died a death with US interest in an entirely new air hub.  There is indeed a case for a passenger and freight air hub to be made.

That the city would have coped with accommodation demands, and found thousands of English speaking volunteers, done “enough” for disabled ablutions and access etc is not in doubt.  It caters for a million and more tourists each year and therefore it would have coped – and coped fairly well with all such matters if it had been successful.  The political and societal will existed in sufficient quantity to insure success.

9th September witnessed the decision makers award the hosting rights to Kyiv – a city that has previously hosted Eurovision in 2005.  The committee charged with making the decision voted 19 in favour of Kyiv and 2 for Odessa.  A very clear and unambiguous vote.  No doubt finances and (existing/lack of) infrastructure had much to do with the outcome.

The outcome of the decision will have repercussions of course.

As the vast majority of people from Odessa are oblivious as to why the city was denied the 2012 football tournament, this will appear to be yet another snub by Kyiv.  No more and no less.

It will portray, not only to those in Odessa but also all provinces, that major international events always go to Kyiv and thus decentralisation is something that is a selective issue (and in truth it is, as the genuine reasons Odessa did not get Euro 2012 display).  By extension it will give the perception that lacking infrastructure and/or infrastructure development will never arrive in the provinces when there is no apparent desire or incentive to take the world beyond Kyiv (or the war in Donbas) as far as central authorities are concerned.

There is now no need for Governor Saakashvili or Mayor Trukhanov to continue with their facade of political unity.  The open political warfare that saw a Eurovision inspired armistice begin a few weeks ago can now recommence – and undoubtedly will in earnest.

The parliamentarians of Odessa attempting to unseat Governor Saakashvili will actively return to that cause.

The 100 Verkhovna Rada parliamentarians (not one of the sixteen from Odessa) that have signed a resolution to remove Mayor Trukhanov will be joined by yet more colleagues.

In short open political warfare on all fronts both in and toward Odessa can now recommence without the necessary (albeit temporary) truce hosting Eurovision would have brought.

There may soon be a Waterloo moment in Odessa, but it will have nothing to do with Eurovision and everything to do with politics.

Will those that govern have the sense to explain why Eurovision didn’t come to Odessa and attempt to correct public perceptions – or will they do as they did for Euro 2012 and leave faulty perceptions to grow in fertile conspiratorial soil?

Who will emerge victorious from any political Waterloo?


If music be the food of love – play on!

August 28, 2016

The Bard knew a thing or two about humanity and life’s bemusement and intrigues – as all great writers do, for an acute sense of observation is somewhat key to prose able to retain interest (and with great prose distinctly lacking, it is why this blog will never have readers counted in millions).

Act 1 Scene 1, The Twelfth Night :  (The Duke) “If music be the food of love, play on.  (Give me excess of it; that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die.”)

The issue of Eurovision 2017 and which city will host it remains unresolved, despite a promised announcement on 1st August.  Then another canceled announcement on 24th August.  Time ticks away – and with it preparatory time for whichever city will eventually be announced as host.

That announcements continue to be postponed is not entirely unsurprising when the cynical gene within a reader is well aware that nefarious local governance in Kyiv, Dnipro and Odessa all to eagerly awaits the €15 million that will be allocated to insure the host city does Ukraine proud.  Continued delays in an announcement simply provides the cynical with the impression that horse trading and dirty deeds are occurring behind the political curtain.


Odessa has a strong case being a cultural and tourist centre already.  It also was a city that was not chosen to host the Euro 2012 football championships unlike Dnipro and Kyiv.  Further Kyiv hosts international ice hockey championships at the same time as Eurovision.  The usually fractious, indeed internally hostile (as outlined in a recent entry about tourism policy – or the lack of it due to the dysfunctional governance) leadership of Odessa feels Ukraine owes it to the city.

Yet it is perhaps the openly fractious and extremely hostile relationships between Mayor and Governor, City and Oblast administrations that is the major reason to doubt the awarding of Eurovision to Odessa.  Indeed in another recent entry outlining the many woes of Mayor Trukhanov (and questioning his grip on City Hall), Odessa landing Eurovision may very well take pressure off, rather than place pressure upon the Mayor – “All of that said, there simply doesn’t “feel” to be any real desire to remove Mayor Trukhanov – yet.  Undoubtedly if Odessa is chosen to host Eurovision, then there will be no desire to do so until after the event anyway whilst the Ukrainian elite put on, and intensely buff, a veneer of respectability to the world peering in.  The ugliness and nefariousness of removing Mayor Trukhanov prior to that event if held in Odessa would be simply unthinkable.”

In short, if Odessa is chosen Mayor Trukhanov will undoubtedly remain unchallenged until after the event in May 2017 – to remove him before would be unthinkable.  Likewise the blatant political maneuvering by the parliamentarians of Odessa to remove Governor Saakashvili would be equally unthinkable.

Considering the outright animosity between Governor and Mayor and their respective administrations, the 28th August witnessed an exceptionally rare sight.  Extraordinary in fact.

The Governor and Mayor called a joint press conference promoting Odessa as the host city of choice for Eurovision 2017 and putting on something approaching political unity over the issue.


It is a significant effort on their part to stand shoulder to shoulder and share the same press conference.  The last time they shared a press conference and stood shoulder to shoulder was on the 30th June 2015 – some 14 months ago.

Naturally since that time they have attended numerous functions as guests – for example at the recent film festival both were present – and sat 6 seats apart.  At a US Sea Breeze event aboard ship, when both attended, one more or less stood at the stern whilst the other at the bow.  The distance between them at all such functions about as far as possible, with ne’er a word spoken between them – the blog knows as the blog receives invitations to these events too and is acquainted with both men.

Official joint press events however, are as rare as rocking horse shit – thus this is a noteworthy event.

Ergo, this joint press conference, standing shoulder to shoulder to champion Odessa is a significant effort on their part to display to the leadership in Kyiv that they are willing to put Odessa first when it comes to hosting Eurovision.

If so there are potentially benefits for all – especially Kyiv, in granting hosting right to Odessa.

For Kyiv, something of a truce between them, no matter how temporary that armistice, would be something of a good result.  With no obvious alternatives to Mayor Trukhanov (without jailing him and keeping him out of any electoral race) there appears little option but to leave him in post – for now.  If Governor Saakashvili is also preoccupied with Eurovision, he may become just busy enough to relieve some pressure upon the current Cabinet through his persistent calls for early Verkhovna Rada elections, and also his consistent calls to throw Mayor Trukhanov out of office.

Also for Kyiv, the political efforts of the parliamentarians of Odessa to oust the Governor would also have to be put on ice.

For Odessa, even limited communication and cooperation between Oblast and City administrations would be a change from the current unhelpful situation – and may lead to cooperation in certain other areas too – at least until Eurovision 2017 concludes.   A window of opportunity, (albeit certainly a limited window until mid-May 2017 when open warfare would resume), with regard to cooperation between City and Oblast administrations presents itself, and despite their serious differences and barbed commentary about each other, both men in their own way would wish to put the best possible shine upon both a city and oblast they actually do care about (in their own ways).

The Bard will probably be proven astute once more, for if Odessa is successful, from the announcement until the Eurovision finale, “If music be the food of love, play on.” 

Thereafter however a return to the current political situation seems assured “Give me excess of it; that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die.”

T’will be interesting to see, should no announcement be forthcoming by 2nd September and the City’s birthday, whether both Governor and Mayor will appear together once again that day to insure the message to Kyiv is understood.

(Then again, it is perhaps at Kyiv’s orchestration that both men appeared together in a show of unity prior to any announcements.)


Tackling tourism (or its development) – Odessa

August 14, 2016

A few days ago the blog had occasion to informally discuss infrastructure, PPPs and tourism with somebody who works within the Oblast Regional Development, (read infrastructure, PPP/FDI) and Tourism Division within the bureaucratic machinery.

It was an interesting conversation, and of the 30+ unrealised infrastructure and/or PPP projects of the Oblast, at some point in the future the blog will somehow (not necessarily by way of a large block of text) feature the most promising 5.

What swiftly became apparent, and reading between the lines of what was not said, is that there are serious communication issues between the City and Oblast bureaucracies, and also between those individual local governance entities and the relevant central ministries in Kyiv.

The lack of communication between City and Oblast governance comes as no surprise, particularly under the current leadership of both entities which have no liking of each other whatsoever.  This something set to continue, for there is no candidate to replace Mayor Trukhanov in any election that would beat him.  In fact there is no other candidate that is even promoting themselves as an alternative now in order to preposition themselves with even the remotest of chances.  In short, Mayor Trukhanov will have to be disqualified from reelection not to remain Mayor following any forthcoming elections – as poor a Mayor as he may be.  The sacking of Governor Saakashvili is a matter for the President and seems unlikely any time soon despite the on-going attempts of the local political class to unseat him.  Ergo the communication and cooperation impasse remains extremely likely.

That there is also a lack of communication between ministries and oblast is also no surprise – especially so when it comes to tourism.  There are is no shortage of interest in chjasing FDI or developing PPP infrastructure projects from any governance entity, but tourism is clearly something of a limp add-on therefore devoid of serious attention.

Indeed regarding FDI and PPP, albeit such things appear slowly, over the coming two years (should existing, if dysfunctional, stability across the political and economic arenas continue) some (quite surprising) projects will assuredly manifest across the oblast.

Nevertheless, the result is that there is no national, regional, nor city tourism policy worthy of the name – and certainly none that are complementary or part of an overarching vision.


Suffice to say that the last tourism conference in Odessa truly failed to inspire – whatsoever.

Albeit there seems to be little likelihood of a national tourism policy worthy of the name occurring anytime soon – let alone implemented – should Eurovision 2017 be awarded to Odessa then there may be something akin to an Oblast and City policy that has little choice but to force limited cooperation and implementation under the watchful eye of Kyiv that cannot afford a political farce, large scale corruption of invested funds, or event delivery disaster.

Having written a few lines in the Odessa Review (pages 44-45) regarding Eurovision as generally being an event that is a financial loss for the host city almost every year, it is therefore imperative that it is the Eurovision legacy in the immediate years that follow are capitalised upon in order to balance the books – or eventually turn a profit.  That means infrastructure spending on what those “Euro tourists” expect to find – and which is in fact what all tourists expect to find and yet remains largely absent in Odessa despite it being a city with a reputation for tourism.  Many of these issues are cheap fixes that should have been fixed long ago, and can be/should be fixed now, regardless of whether Eurovision is awarded to Odessa or not.  The Odessa Review article highlights but a few obvious and easily fixed failings (of many not mentioned).

There are governance issues relating to tourism at the best of times – even with effective communication of which Ukraine and Odessa has none.  That there is almost no effective communication within the Oblast and City administrations or those businesses involved in the industry makes development almost impossible.   Coherence and consistency are required.

Governance, both vertical and horizontal dramatically and directly effects tourism.  It is only necessary to think of issues like border security, Visa issuance (for those that need them), the regulation of the aviation industry, the control (or lack of) it has over any attractions such as castles, catacombs,  the maintenance of public beaches,  parks et al.  This notwithstanding infrastructure such as roads, rail, obligations of e-promotion of the region, the regulation public transport, and of on-line/virtual agents etc.  (Almost everything else can and should be left to the micro-tourism industry itself and/or its industry associations).

Is tourism best placed within the Regional Development portfolio as it is in Odessa, where it is a footnote to infrastructure and FDI?  Tourism in Austria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, FYR Macedonia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the USA, falls within the economics ministries (business, industry commerce and trade).  In the UK, Italy, Turkey and Korea it falls within the culture ministry portfolio.

Would placing tourism within the economics ministry produce further and swifter development than within the regional development machinery?  Clearly a dedicated ministry for tourism such as Egypt, Brazil, Israel, Malta etc enjoy is not going to happen – and perhaps rightly, but if Ukraine has no ministry, does that prevent Odessa having a dedicated Tourism department within the oblast machinery, and would there be the justification for such a stand-alone department at the oblast level?

Whatever the case, is a regional development division clearly far more orientated toward infrastructure and investment chasing, the right entity to also be casting a watchful eye over existing tourism?  (Does it monitor standards and safety within?)

How much effort does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs put into promoting tourism in Ukraine?  It currently has far greater priorities and rightly so, but is any notable effort spent?  Are there nations that Ukraine would/should/could specifically target?  The USA?  Canada?  The Gulf States (which are seemingly more and more inclined to look to Ukraine lately)?  Israel? China?  Others?

For those that need a Tourist Visa to enter Ukraine, how easily and how quickly does a Visa appear in a passport?  Can they be bought at the airport on arrival in Ukraine?  If not, why not, and could or should they be?

The role of government will not remain a static one either.  Even if Ukraine maximised its tourism potential, governance will be required to create and insure conditions for market competitors within the sector – but is government even looking that far ahead when doing so little now?

How best to regulate and manage eco-tourism at the stunning Danube Delta?  The answer surely is jointly with Romania for it falls within the territory of both nations.  Who should facilitate such interaction?  At what level?  Who pays and for what?  Is it possible to find a co-operative funding mechanism?  Should tax revenue generated by eco-tourism be redirected back into eco-tourism – if so, in part or in full?

If promoting eco-tourism or the few niche historical tour operators, is that time better spent than promoting sun, sand, sea, water parks?  Or wineries?  Or mountains?  Diversification matters and some tourism niches require more of a promotional lift than others.

Would the creation of a dedicated “Tourism Investment Fund” be of benefit?  For example could it be used to put new facades in place of those crumbling where tourists regularly frequent, or fund specific issues such as the complete lack public disabled toilets?  Or wheelchair access?  Or Latin letter street signage in the tourist areas?  Perhaps it would be a pointless exercise when both the City Council and Ministry of Culture, both legally charged with preventing illegal construction in the historical town centre, and upon historically listed buildings themselves, abjectly fail not only in their responsibilities of prevention, but also enforcing the law and demolishing offending work despite their protests if and when made.

How effectively can internal/domestic tourism be developed?  What do other nations with very developed tourism industries do to generate internal tourism and thus industry growth?  Music festivals, language camps, sporting events, naturism, nudism, art festivals etc?  How to maximise the legacy of such events, encouraging sustainable and repeat domestic tourism?

Simply leaving tourism to fend for itself as currently appears to be the case is clearly failing to bring development – and the “what to do?” and the “how to do it?” in order to change that are questions that have been answered far more successfully by far less developed nations than Ukraine, and in localities far less attractive than Odessa.

There is a general perception that tourism brings Odessa a far higher percentage of regional income than is actually the case, but there is certainly room, and in many cases at very little expense, to bring the reality closer to that perception.  What is lacking is policy – and the leadership that will pursue it.


The Odessa Review

June 17, 2016

It is perhaps time to highlight The Odessa Review, a recently launched English language monthly journal with two well received editions under its belt in the city (and more widely across Ukraine).

The very high quality printed versions of both editions thus far, (Edition 3 appears soon) can be found decorating many hotel lobbies and restaurants around the city centre – those Editions perhaps pleasingly from the Editor’s point of view (Vlad Davidzon) being “well-thumbed” very swiftly after distribution, and often seen being surreptitiously stuffed into handbags and/or “manbags” (presumably for English practice purposes).

Indeed it is perhaps testament that several EU chums from within the “Brussels bubble” that come to Odessa fairly frequently not only returned to their “bubble” with copies of Edition 1 purloined from hotels and restaurants for their office “waiting rooms”, but have also asked that subsequent Editions be acquired for them to take back in the near future.  Whether it be testament to the quality of the journal, or a testament to the impression Odessa leaves on people – or both – perhaps matters little.

The on-line versions vary slightly from the printed editions, but for a content overview the on-line version of Edition 2 is here.

For the sake of full disclosure, your blog author has made minor written contributions to both published editions, and also the forthcoming publication.  For clarity all contributory prose has been written for free – thus there is no financial incentive behind this entry.

The motivation, for those that may therefore question why provide free content is to support the promotion and knowledge of the English language (per Presidential Decree that 2016 is the year of the English language in Ukraine), and also to provide the many tourists in Odessa something to read in a language with which many will have varying degrees of understanding and familiarity with that eclipses their ability with Ukrainian, or Russian, or the Cyrillic alphabet.

Generally, it seemed like a project worth supporting at the expense of but several minutes taken to write a few lines.  Hardly a particularly arduous or onerous task once a month, and all start-ups require some degree of philanthropy and good will when (hopefully) setting forth on a path to success.

Thus far the content (your author’s prose notwithstanding)  has consistently met a high bar – a literary quality commensurate with the aesthetically pleasing graphics and calibre of the physical attributes (print, paper and production etc) of the journal itself.


The longevity – or not – of The Odessa Review naturally not only relies on the continued high quality of its content and ever changing erudite contributors, but also upon generating revenue.

Falling firmly without the captured oligarchical media ownership common of Ukraine, advertising revenue, donations and various categories of philanthropy (money and/or contributory time freely given) will ultimately be the deciding factor when it comes to the fate of The Odessa Review.

As regular readers of OdessaTalk will know, there is a “Donation” facility for those readers who feel they want to buy your author a drink.  Apart from $26.00 for a blog logo/banner, all donations received ($20 here, $100 there – and they all add up) have historically been given to various charities and/or needy individuals at your author’s discretion.  A reiteration of sincere thanks to all those that have donated, and not bought your author a drink as intended, but instead helped the needy recipients of your author’s discretion is once again offered – and inevitably overdue.

It is only right therefore, to advise any and all future donors, that over the coming summer months, and with one wary eye upon the inevitable horizon relating to the longevity (or not) of The Odessa Review, any donations will head its way – for it is a (primarily cultural) cause worthy of support.

Naturally, once the bitter winters return to Ukraine, donations will make their way, as historically they have, to assorted and random pensioners weighing a single potato to see if it falls within their meager pension, or those forced to deliberate over when and whether to turn on their heating at the expense of that single potato.

As for the grant givers with purses allocated to “bridge building” between “the West” and Ukraine, or incoming market entrants to Ukraine, or external entities wishing to attract Ukrainian attention/customers that may be looking for advertising space whilst supporting something worthy of support in the process, then do contact those young and energetic (English, Ukrainian and Russian speaking) people at The Odessa Review (and not this blog).

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