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Imagining Scandinavia in Ukraine

Viktoriya Trostohon, Borys Grinchenko Kyiv University


Abstract: Ukraine has been an independent country for almost 27 years now, and thence it developed quite solid expertise in various fields of academic research. Many of them have a substantial basis as the legacy of the Soviet era. Nonetheless, Scandinavian studies comprise a lacuna on the level of Ukrainian tertiary education. 

In my presentation, I intend to discuss several ways Scandinavia is made known to a Ukrainian “consumer” and various, yet scattered initiatives that help shape the manner the Northern countries emerge in the minds of my fellow-citizens. 

First of all, fiction translations both lingering from the Soviet times (and the erstwhile censorship left a rather peculiar selection in the home libraries of intelligentsia), and the ones that have been appearing since the ’90s (which is always a translator’s trafficking of cultural contexts and mentalities according to their individual taste). 

Secondly, language instruction (I will concentrate on Swedish at this point) offered as a qualification by only three universities in Ukraine: Taras Shevchenko Kyiv University, Ivan Franko Lviv University, and Lesya Ukrainka Eastern European University. Language study also requires knowledge of culture, literature, and history, and is often carried out by the same instructor(s) which does not invite specific diversity. 

Thirdly, I will talk about three ambitions initiatives implemented by the former exchange students who have studied in one of the Nordic countries. These are Språkcafé i Kiev (since 2012) – originally, a language learners’ club that turned into a bigger organization uniting people with interest in Sweden and everything connected with it. Furthermore, there is Ukrainian-Scandinavian Center (since 2013), which is the first known attempt to build a foundation for adequate representation of Scandinavian countries and unite different existing as well as emerging initiatives, spread the knowledge of the region in Ukraine, and create a conducive environment (demand) for the Studies on the academic level in the long-term perspective. Finally, Swedish Language School – Kyiv (since 2017) works towards popularization of the image of Sweden in Ukraine through language learning.

These are three key factors that create an image of Scandinavia in Ukraine (apart from marketing of commercial products), and you will get a good laugh or even a chill upon learning what one of the Executed Renaissance authors wrote about Norwegians in his travel notes.

Theme: Scandinavia in the Eyes of the World

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