Ukraine: Promoting Books in Ukrainian

A group of Ukrainian LJ users concerned about the sorry state of Ukrainian-language book publishing had a lively discussion on how the situation could be improved. One blogger even drew a parallel with the Aymara language of faraway Bolivia.

Below are just a few snippets of this conversation (UKR):

swalllage-kits: […] A publishing house – Fact, I guess – has declared this year the year of Ukrainian book in Ukraine.

Here's an idea: all conscious citizens should push out Russian-language literature from its position of being the leader of public transportation reading. I've been deliberately reading on the metro for a month, relentlessly trying to show that what I'm reading is a UKRAINIAN book.

So, do read in Ukrainian conspicuously – those of you who support this idea (somewhat marginal for our country): domination of the Ukrainian-language product and information ;)

otar: […] I read books exclusively, or almost exclusively, in Ukrainian :-) I don't read in marshrutkas, though, because I rarely manage to get a seat. In general, this is a wise idea, but I'm afraid it won't be supported by the majority that thinks “it doesn't matter in what language” :(

raw-stick: yeah, it may work. i think each little thing like this is important, because together they create a “cumulative effect.” In marshrutka, though, I can promote only the Lviv Gazette this way :)

swalllage-kits: this proposition is for the active segment of LJ users, who understand the magnitude of the problem. There are quite a few of people like this, as far as I know […]. and when they share it with friends, there'll be everyone :)

otar: I once had a similar idea […]: when you're buying a book in Russian, you first give me its title, and I send you a cheap copy in Ukrainian :)) I'll implement this idea one day, when my salary is at least 500 bucks.

swalllage-kits: […] it's necessary to translate, to organize this at a state level […]. but as I'm writing this, I don't really believe it'll lead to anything.

hey, how about calling publishers and asking them whether they've got such-and-such-and such in Ukrainian? ;) if we do at least 5-6 such pranks a week – maybe it'll get them thinking? ;)

iozhikov: To call publishing houses is a good idea. Also, to ask in bookstores.

didaio: They don't understand Ukrainian in Dnipropetrovsk bookstores. Even when you're asking about Russian books. Any other ideas?

trina-ka: And in Kharkiv [bookstores] they now understand ;-) maybe this will happen in Dnipropetrovsk if you start asking?!

iozhikov: Ask in Russian :-)

trina-ka: No, ask in Ukrainian – and then translate, if they somehow fail to understand ;-) politely, without arrogance ;-)))))


didaio: I'd like to create an internet shop to sell Ukrainian books. Startup capital for this is available. But it's been five months and I can't get myself to do a business plan. And without one, I doubt it'll work. I'm looking for people with a similar interest. Email: didaio[at]


didaio: Without thinking, I can name ten non-primitive books that are available in Russian but absent in Ukrainian. I can name books that are available in Ukrainian but are impossible to obtain in Dnipropetrovsk.

The problem with the Ukrainian-language literature isn't the lack of demand […], but the lack of publishers, authors and distribution. And reading in public won't solve the problem.


yacutu: […] The main thing isn't to promote the Ukrainian language to the masses, but to promote respectful attitude toward it. […] The general idea is this: if Ukrainian is esteemed, people will speak it, and learn it, and translate into it. And [swalllage-kits] has been told already: […] do a Whitman translation. You can do it. And post it in LJ. This will be your contribution. And those who cannot translate Whitman, let them do linguistic PR. And that'd be okay, too.


yacutu: Some more history. During the war for independence in Bolivia, at the beginning of the 19th century, 9o percent of the population spoke Aymara. And these Indians were the chief force directed by the Spanish-speaking Masons – leaders of the anti-Spanish rebellion. And what happened then? Today, some 5-15 percent – don't remember exactly – speak Aymara in Bolivia, and not all of them have a decent knowledge of it. Even though it's one of the richest, most flexible and most expressive languages in the world. It's even used as an intermediary language for computerised translation – as the language most fit to express any idea for further translation from, say, Finnish or Hungarian – into Basque or Ukrainian. That is, specialists think it can recreate nuances of certain phrases without losing any of the meaning, making it possible for the languages with different structures to “understand” an idea with all shades of meaning it carries. In Sweden, as far as I know, there exists such a translation project. And at home the language is neglected, even though it has the official language status. Why? Look at their poetry… well, here [swalllage-kits] is making a good point about [Taras] Shevchenko. There's nothing to read. Shevchenko's cool, that is, but poets like Whitman, Garcia Lorca, Auden are also needed, and there should be prose like that of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, because he is being read in Spanish and no one writes like this in Aymara, and from there journalism would appear, etc. Turns out political independence and formal official status don't mean anything. But if they had taken their language to the world level at some point in the past – through translations, even – it would've been different. And if they'd had enough translations of the world classics, their own literature would've emerged. The parallel is obvious, I hope.


Here're Wikipedia entries on some of the subjects mentioned above:


Ukrainian language:

Taras Shevchenko:



Aymara language:


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