In Ukraine: Kyiv’s Book Arsenal Plans a June Festival

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The 11th edition of Ukraine’s Book Arsenal Festival, impossible to hold last year, now has dates of June 22 to 25 at Mystetskyi Arsenal.

At Kyiv’s Book Arsenal Festival in 2019, at Mystetskyi Arsenal, an opening day event. Image: Book Arsenal Festival

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Our Institution Stays Strong’
On the day of Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked assault on Ukraine, February 24 of last  year, the staff and colleagues of Kyiv’s Book Arsenal Festival issued a statement, and you can see our report on it here.

“This morning,” they wrote, “on February 24, Russia launched a full-scale war against Ukraine. Explosions can be heard in many cities of Ukraine, and the enemy’s tanks and heavy artillery crossed the Ukrainian border from the north, the south, and the east. There already are casualties among Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, including children.”

The hope at that point was that the planned 11th edition of the festival at Mystetskyi Arsenal could be held in May. As we know, this wasn’t possible.

However, the news today from Kyiv (April 4) is that the festival’s organizers expect to mount a 2023 edition in the Ukrainian capital, running June 22—an evening opening event—to 25, at the Mystetskyi, the country’s national art and culture museum complex.

Yulia Kozlovets

In a message to Publishing Perspectives, the festival’s director, Yulia Kozlovets—you’ll find our interview with her here—writes, “Three days instead of five, three stages with about 50 tailored events, limited space and number of stands—the festival this year will be a special war edition, but it is to be held!”

Under the circumstances, Kozlovets tells us, “There are a lot of challenges, and we are changing a lot this year, depending on the situation. But we do hope for the best and work a lot!”

She considers this year’s effort a demonstration, she says, of how “when the country is in a state of war, our institution stays strong, and how more and more sustainable we become.”

‘Exchanges of Experiences With Colleagues’

A panel discussion on the second day of the Book Arsenal Festival in 2019. Image: Book Arsenal Festival

The approach being announced includes changes that reflect “the very unequal working conditions of the publishing market’s representatives because of the war, the impossibility of organizing their equal representation with individual stands, and the riskiness in terms of safety and security.”

One key to the what’s being attempted is that three bookstores will operate book sales at the festival, rather the festival itself handling that aspect of the show. Those Kyiv-based stores:

  • Sens bookstore will manage the nonfiction section
  • Book Lion bookstore will manage the fiction section
  • Zakapelok bookstore will manage children’s books, as well as comics and graphic novels
  • The Dovzhenko Centre, which has an institutional partnership with the Mystetskyi Arsenal, will handle the show’s art books
“When the country is in a state of war, our institution stays strong, and how more and more sustainable we become.”Yulia Kozlovets, Book Arsenal Festival, Kyiv

In a prepared statement beyond her comments to Publishing Perspectives, Kozlovets says, “Our team has worked through several scenarios, looking for a decision on the format of the festival in the state of war.

“The format that we offer aims to present our visitors with a wide inclusive selection of books from the maximum range of Ukrainian publishing houses, which, in turn, will help support more agents in the industry. In addition, the cooperation with local independent bookstores, I hope, will allow us to draw attention to the importance of this particular link in the way of a book from the author to the reader: such bookstores—each with its brand, client approach, the culture of building healthy business relations with publishers, and the strategy of developing local communities around them—deserve greater visibility.

“It’s also important that such format of the Book Arsenal will allow publishers to participate in the festival as guests, have more opportunities to focus on meetings and exchanges of experiences with colleagues, networking, and internal professional discussions.”

In short, the show in June is meant to give the Ukrainian industry’s players an all-too-rare chance to get together and compare notes on what they’re going through in a war-beleaguered market.

‘A Shelter Is Available in Mystetskyi Arsenal’

Bookselling at the 2021 edition of Kyiv’s Book Arsenal Festival. Image: Book Arsenal Festival

For participants’ safety, “a shelter is available in the Mystetskyi Arsenal, equipped thanks to the support of the International Renaissance Foundation,” media messaging says.

In English: ‘Book Arsenal Is To Be Held This Year!’

For those who need specifics about the festival now in its planning stages, a 90-minute online “morning Zoom coffee” meeting is to be held at 11 a.m. (8a.m. GMT) Wednesday (April 5), led by Kozlovets and her associates–Olga Zhuk, the Mystetskyi’s director-general, and Yuliya Kolomak, head of Art Arsenal’s partnership development program.

More details are to be posted soon on the site of this festival which, as many of Publishing Perspectives’ international subscribers know, was given the Literary Festival Award of London Book Fair‘s International Excellence Awards in 2019.

Kozlovets adds that the June festival will include a special exhibition of war literature published after 2014, “books created by war veterans, combatants, and members of their families.”

And it’s no doubt with special satisfaction that Yulia Kozlovets and her colleagues see the news of their planned festival moving in international media today, as NATO formally installs Finland as the 31st member of the pact. As NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels and others are pointing out (The New York Times‘ Steven Erlanger is writing updates here), the new inclusion of Finland’s intensely robust modernized force of up to 280,000 troops is being seen as a strategic setback directly resulting from Putin’s savagery.

With the determination that has become an emblem of Ukrainians’ national culture, Kozlovets says, “The festival is going to happen, against all odds.”

At Kyiv’s Book Arsenal Festival in 2019, an event on the fourth day. This year’s June event is to run for three days, plus an opening evening event. Image: Book Arsenal Festival

Here is all our coverage of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and its impact on the country’s publishing industry, as well as international reactions.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Book Arsenal Festival is here, and more on the international book fairs, festivals, and trade shows in publishing is here. More on the freedom to publish and the freedom of expression is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.