International Cultural Diplomacy Forum 2022

December 7, Brussels, Belgium

The International Cultural Diplomacy Forum is an annual conference that brings together leading experts from Ukraine and other countries to discuss insights, best practices, challenges, and the future of international cultural diplomacy and cultural relations. 

About the Forum

This year the forum aims to bring the civil society and public sector together to develop a consolidated position on the future of international cultural relations in Europe and the integration of Ukrainian culture operators into the cultural sphere of the EU. Сultural diplomacy practitioners, international journalists, scientists, and diplomats talked about strengthening cultural relations between Ukraine and the EU, as well as about the rethinking the role and the future of European cultural relations in the aftermath of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, discussed practical solutions to sustain and rebuild the country’s devastated cultural ecosystem. 

During the forum, a multimedia exhibition “Postcards from Ukraine” was held, which aims to demonstrate the damage caused to the Ukrainian culture heritage by Russian troops. 

Forum programme:

9:30 – 9:55 CET

Official opening of the ICDF 2022

Speakers’ Quotes:

“We must protect the culture as well as our people, and for this it must be heard with all its rotundity – so that its testimony is heard by the whole world. A powerful culture of resistance is being created in front of our eyes, the culture of a country fighting for freedom. It is important to us that the whole world sees and hears this, as well as our classics. Now culture is a frontline, it protects itself from destruction and protects us – from the loss of memory, values, ourselves”.

Listen to the welcome word.

“Russia has made numerous attempts to destroy Crimean Tatar culture and identity as well as what we see with Ukrainian today. Ukrainians are very motivated to liberate their homeland as well as the culture as part of our identity. And next year we will continue promoting Ukrainian culture. We believe it’s crucial to defend and protect ourselves. We will also dedicate special attention to Crimea within the unique diplomatic format such as the Crimea platform that unites today 60 countries of the globe. Because everything started from Crimea, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been many times saying, and the victory will come with the Crimea de-occupation”

Listen to the welcome word.

“We know all the harm which is done to the cultural heritage of Ukraine/ There is a tendency to attack museums, libraries, and other institutions that host art and culture. And we already getting prepare to what is needed to be done after this war to rebuild and to reinstal all this different institutions. What is important for us is also to listen to the voices of the culture of Ukraine. Because it is the artists of the creative sector from Ukraine who can tell us what is really needed at this very moment in time”.

Listen to the welcome word.

“Culture has a huge power and we witness it every day in our life. Unfortunately this power of culture has been largely misused by Russia. So now it is equally important to rethink the role and the future of European cultural relations after Russia’s full-scale invasion. We have terrible damage to Ukrainian cultгural heritage from the consequences of Russia’s war. We know that we will winn and we do our utmost to rebuild and restore all the damages”.

Listen to the welcome word.

“Damaged monuments, looted museums, burnt archives and destroyed schools are all over Ukraine. The destruction of Ukraine’s cultural heritage by the Russian army is unacceptable and unprecedented. The UNESCO registered more than 221 destroyed cultural centers in Ukraine of each 98 religious sites, 17 museums, 78 buildings of historical and artistic interest, 18 monuments and 10 libraries. And the destruction is going on day by day. These (cultural) targets should never have been targeted. they do not have any military value. Ukraine should not have been targeted in the first place. This war is unjustified and unprovoked war – a war of aggression”.

Listen to the welcome word.

9:55 – 10:10 CET

Opening Keynote Speech. Embracing Reality for Lasting Change: Ukraine’s Cultural Diplomacy Today 

Speaker’s Quote:

“On 24 February millions of people across the world woke up to the existence of Ukraine. Our resilience and bravery. The EU and Ukraine will come closer to each other and do it every day. And there is no other way for either of us. This means that we must learn more about each other to coexist, to cooperate and to strengthen each other. And culture is the best medium to develop such affinity and understanding. Cultural relations are successful only if it relies on strong, resilient institutions within Ukraine. Cultural diplomacy is a factor of Ukraine’s national security. Ukraine must have a distinct and competitive cultural identity for survival and prosperity”.

10:10 – 10:55 CET

From resilience to resistance. Ukrainian culture at war

Speakers’ Quotes:

“If to talk about how the artists can react to the war, basically all my art is inspired by this experience of war happening for 8 years. I do talk about the plant so much and for me they are real pacifists on this planet as much as possible, because they rebuild their bodies in a way that they can allow themselves not to be violent to humans, to animals”.

“How many people know what happened in 1937? It was the year of the killing of all our (Ukrainian) intelligence. It was totally the dividing line between who we were in this period before and who we were after. Because if we talk about art in 1920’ we were in the same line with european best writers, artists, theater makers. And after this date of 1937 – who we are? Who are we from the Soviet Union perspective in art? We are funny, we are good singers and dancers from the village in the national costumes – that was our place in a culture. But our place before 1937 was really another. And we talk a lot about it now. So that is the biggest question for me”.

“For me being a Ukrainian artist in general means the fact that I do write in Ukrainian, I do write about Ukraine and I do reflect on the things happening in Ukraine. But it is obvious that after 24th of February  there was much more attention to Ukrainians and Ukrainian artists. But there were different reactions. There are artists who reflect immediately. But some long forms, for example writing, need some distance. There are many artists in Ukraine who have to changed the role in general in some sense because many of them went to the army and some of them were there before”.

“When I was addressing MOMA for 6 years asking them to hang the work of Vasyl Yermylov, a famous constructivist artist from Kharkiv, which was hanging upside down, it didn’t work until full-scale invasion. And for years they couldn’t hear me and after the full scale invasion it took literally a few hours to hang it properly”.

11:05 – 12:05 CET

Rethinking the role of international cultural relations in Europe and beyond  

Speakers’ Quotes:

“After the war, society will have big challenges. They have to rebuild, to form a new identity, to think how do we live with neighboring Russia. There I see a very big role for the cultural sector. And that is one reason why we have to support the cultural sector now. So that it’s coming strong out of the war and can bringUkraine to the future. Support of the cultural sector is important now so that they can continue. That they can survive. But the challenging questions ahead. I think we need culture to answer them. That’s the second reason why we have to support it now”.

“As soon as the French Embassy reopened in Kyiv also to be able to reopen the French Institute and the French Lycee. For us to show that France is back to help the Ukrainian people and government. But also the culture is there. Because it’s not an accessory, it’s a vital need. It’s all about the resilience of a nation, it’s all about European perspective and identity of Ukraine. So we need to be there on the ground, not only the EU but also the Member States”

“It’s important that we don’t stop now but speed up our exchange, our commitment and our European engagement in Ukraine. We have so much to learn”.

“We are talking to the world with a strong voice. We are not victims. Yes, we are fighting the aggressor, but we have the right to defend ourselves and we defend Europe and we will win. So we are talking to the world as winners. We are already thinking of what comes next after the V-day. We talk a lot about positive narrativisation of Ukraine. So we really by far do not want the world to think about Ukraine as a victim of aggression. (…) Ukraine was before, still is and will be much more than just a victim of the war”.

“Since 1945, there was a huge investment in culture and cultural diplomacy as a way to prevent the repetition of the horrors of WW2. And we see now that it kind of failed. Should something be changed in the approach?… It’s a collective failure. Military, politics, intelligents, journalists. We saw it coming since 2014, we had it under our nose and still we collectively failed. This is one of the things we have to be humbled about and to regret for the rest of our lives”.

12:45 – 13:15 CET

Mobilising Culture for War: the Case of Russia. Presentation of the research of Russia’s cultural diplomacy institutions 

Speaker’s Quote:

“How does culture instrumentalize war? The first way is ideological. With the help of the Russian world ideology and therefore in policy doctrine such an understanding of culture helps Russia to establish itself as a separate civilization, as a centre of gravity with the sphere of influence. And the second way is to use the major institutions of cultural diplomacy for world propaganda and war effort support”.

13:15 – 14:15 CET

Misuse and instrumentalisation of culture: how to deal with the consequences 

Speakers’ Quotes:

“If we are generally supporting economic sanctions on Russia, why then can we not think about sanctioning approach in terms of (museum) artefacts? It has to be a conversation at the level of the museum administration and the level of governance. But it is something that needs to be addressed”.

“Russia is very consciously using the export of ideology and culture to present an alternative model for the “decadent cynical and nigelist West”. Putin for a long time has been very conscious in building his image of conservative world leader. So this trinity of nation state, of family, of religion is something that has been highly attractive for many in the west who are unhappy about the wave of liberalism, multiculturalism and progressive values”.

“There is nothing soft in soft power. Whenever culture gets instrumentalized, it is not a cultural exchange any longer. It’s propaganda”.

“At the core of cultural diplomacy is personal relationships. Try to have a personal relationship with a former KGB agent or a hardcore alcoholic who is the head of a major cultural institution. Good luck”.

“This war is the first war that is deeply cultural”.

14:25 –15:25 CET

Bricks and Mortar: Developing Sustainable EU-Ukraine Cultural Relations 

Speakers’ Quotes:

”It’s simple to rebuild the roads and bridges, but also [it’s important to] invest in people. Invest in artists, invest in future creation of the creative world of Ukraine because at the end if you put funds in the infrastructure only I think you will miss. And what is your asset as a country is your people. It’s your creators, your artists and I’m sure that the future of Ukraine will shine with its artists and creators”.

“Dialog and partnership that draws on Ukrainian cultural strength is going to be vital for bringing Ukraine and European countries closer together”.

“If we are talking about connections and how to strengthen the relations between the EU and Ukrainian cultural spheres I should start probably from a one simple fact that we should acknowledge that we are living now in different contexts. Drastically different. What we are having in Ukraine and what is going on in the European Union. To be aware of this fact will fasten and make easier our communication and planning”.

“[We need] funding, coordination and maybe a pan-European approach to make sure that after this horrifying winter there will be new inspiration, new support in 2023”.

15:25 – 15:35 CET 

Speaker’s Quote:

“It is a war between Europe and Anti-Europe, it is an existential war for freedom, for the supremacy of human rights, for dignity and identity. Therefore, today we need from a united Europe not words of regret, but decisive steps: from a common position to suspend cooperation with representatives of Russian culture, the academic sphere and gongos institutions, because after their prepared soil, not only are Russian tanks and missiles firing at us, but they also promote the imperial narrative about the greatness of Russia. And we also need the creation of a common cultural and anti-colonial space between EU and UA”.

In 2022, the Forum was held in Brussels with an online broadcast on the Ukrainian Institute pages in Facebook and Youtube. 

All the photos — Anastasiia Veter

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