Trauma, hype, culture manifestation. How neosharovarshchyna appeared

Viktoriia Demchuk

The Pantone Color Institute identifies blue and yellow as the main colors of 2022, the Stefania song is sung by the choir at Britain’s Glastonbury festival, and the Balenciaga show guests receive a T-shirt with a yellow and blue flag at the entrance. Ukraine has become a trend for the whole world, but the war is still a trend for all Ukrainians. 

The war permeated all spheres of life and everyday life. Therefore, we have a sushi set called Chornobaivka, underwear with the inscription “Come back alive” and songs about Bayraktars. Why are Ukrainians so eager to label everything without exception with the symbols of our struggle? What of all this will affect the perception of Ukraine by the world and what will become a subject for research by our descendants – in this article you can find the answers.

Translator: Viktoriia Volosheniuk

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, 38 million Ukrainians have grown older – and it’s not about biological age. Ukrainians have grown up as a nation of the living and the unborn. Someone continues the philological war with neologisms, slang, and feminitives in an effort to preserve the “purity” of the language, forgetting that a language that does not change is dead. And someone cuts a strip of embroidery from an old towel and sews it on a blazer in an attempt to show that Ukraine is fashionable, although, in fact, it is destroying heritage.

Whatever wisdom growing up leads to, it is always a path of bruises and extremes. This is roughly what happens to us.

Structural changes in thinking, perception and attitude to certain things, like any social process, have different manifestations. Thus, in parallel with the awareness of one’s own culture, the revival of national consciousness also produced a product that causes not pride, but shame, and if wider, cringe – we call it neosharovarshchyna. Actually, it is a collection of items of clothing, items on the sushi menu, and household items, named after the terrible events that we lived and continue to live.

Neosharovarschyna is also an all-Ukrainian hype about authentic things, or rather their destruction.

This process is not a child of sharovarshchyna, which has existed for more than 60 years and which we wrote about in one of our materials – as this is a cultural and journalistic term, usually negative, for “a way of representing Ukrainian culture and identity with the help of pseudo-folk peasant and Cossack clothing, elements of everyday life”, a narrow view of traditional culture in general set by Russian colonialism politics. Sharovarshchyna was a product of ideology related to the political processes and cultural pressure of the Soviet Union. But neosharovarshchyna, Ukrainians produce it on their own. The global difference is that neosharovarschyna is not planted outside, this process is organic and quite logical, but it has its drawbacks.

Such a reaction of the market and the cultural segment to social changes is quite adequate since people have the desire to associate themselves with certain slogans, illustrations, and images. For the most part, the creation of such products does not involve bad intentions, they do not want or at least do not plan to spoil the idea of ​​a nation or culture, it is rather a desire to spread their own, made to their own taste and style. However, this does not negate the fact of responsibility for products representing the nation, especially in times of war.

All that glitters is not gold

A common problematic phenomenon at the moment is hyping on tragic events. If the “Chornobaivka” underpants are most likely an object of fast fashion and profit, the t-shirts with a demonstration of the death of the luminaries of Ukraine look like conscious hyping of deaths and fetishization of their demise.

Anna Fesenko, designer of the Ukrainian ethnic clothing brand Etnodim:

After the victory, a lot of attention will be focused on us, and we need to show that Ukrainian culture is about quality and aesthetics, and not about fast fashion, as it happens here.

From my own experience, the demand for clothing that associates you with the nation has grown tremendously after a full-scale invasion. But the number of goods, which we actually call krinzh, has also increased. It needs to be eliminated. I understand that these things are not done out of bad ambitions or beliefs, it is out of a desire to spread Ukrainian culture, but not always for the people who do it, it is a matter of spreading culture. Very often this is a question of earnings and business.

The demand for clothing that associates you with the nation has increased greatly since the full-scale invasion. But the number of goods, which we actually call cringe, has also increased. It needs to be eliminated. It’s understandable these things are not done out of bad ambitions or beliefs, it is out of a desire to spread Ukrainian culture, but not always for the people who do it, it is a matter of spreading culture. Very often this is a question of money and business.

It is also worth mentioning the existence of a category of goods that inadvertently flaunt national symbols. For example, we understand why the text of the national anthem cannot be edited, but can be reinterpreted as a separate work of art. However, we should not forget that the two stripes of the flag are something that more than one generation died for. It matters what the flag will be used for. 

A certain dissonance among folklorists is caused by the information about the “non-traditional” nature of the Ukrainian floral scarf. The reason for the discussion of this accessory was the alleged imperial origin of the manufactures on which they began to be sewn in the 19th century. Experts refute this opinion and emphasize that the problem is not in the element of clothing, but in its application. 

Yaryna Syzyk, folklorist:

The manufacturer arose long before the Union and the sharovarschyna and were the main suppliers of scarves in the empire at that time. Such scarves were integrated into the Ukrainian traditional outfit and became an indispensable component, it remained a part of history.

It should be understood that materials for ethnic clothing were often brought from abroad. Such is the Ukrainian canonical coral necklace, which is a special marker but is not Ukrainian in origin. The only problem is that both the necklace and the scarf are easily integrated into the overall style and begin to be associated with it.

What’s wrong with bayers

It is almost a miracle that Ukrainians manage to generate funds, even in the current conditions. For some, it always existed, and for some, only with the war, a huge field for creativity and business opened due to the reinterpretation of Ukrainian culture. However, sometimes “artists” are parasites on the wave of patriotism.

In some cases, the usage of the “victim of marketing” strategy on consumers goes too far. Demand shapes supply, but quality should also shape price. And it is desirable that this quality does not include a second-hand jacket or a t-shirt from Kharkiv’s Barabashov’s market with a ribbon sewn on, pre-cut from an old towel. And it is desirable not to give this product the privilege of “ethnicity.”

Yaryna Syzyk, folklorist:

The folklorists’ circle is raging about some individual brands and sellers of authenticity. You can’t buy a second-hand jacket, cut an authentic towel to decorate it and say: buy it, the price is a hundred million moneys.

The price should justify not only the quality but also the context. When I’m offered not mass market things, but things that claim some kind of authenticity, and context, family history, they have to live up to that claim. But at the same time, these should not be authentic artifacts that have been cut or bought for nothing. I am ready to pay for highly aesthetic contextual things.

Prices are going up, sure, because they’re going up everywhere, but if you’re already charging a lot of money for goods without context, then know that you’re taking massive responsibility for what you’re doing.

The authenticity fund is in poorer shape than you think. We will no longer return the authenticity from the temporarily occupied regions because the Russians destroyed it and continue to destroy it, and here we are also involved in it. The best way is not to use mindlessly, not to wear and cut, but to make replicas, reconstructions, and research your family and people.

The vision of brands and designers is a modern culture for which there has to be responsibility. Artists are responsible for what they produce for the masses, and what Ukraine will be associated with in the world — this is what we will leave behind.

It is worth working with ethnic motives according to the doctors’ principle – “first, do no harm.” It would be sad if we were left with 50 embroideries for the whole country, a hundred towels and thousands of blazers with embroidery that hardly anyone would explore. The global difference between authenticity and ethnic motifs is that authenticity cannot be touched unless you have a special education for it.

Andrii Paslavskyi, founder of the Ukrainian traditional goldsmith workshop Vydymonevydymo:

Authenticity sellers do not realize the level of responsibility for the processes they undertake. They call their activity “preservation,” “rescue,” they say that they “share a part of the heritage of their ancestors with those who did not get it in the family.” In fact, they buy a thing in the village or more often from other resale shops for, say, 500 hryvnias and sell it with artificial values ​​on the Internet for 10,000 hryvnias, inventing whatever stories they want to justify their “noble” mission.

But at the same time, they take unique cultural artifacts from villages, they do not record the exact place of origin, nor the owner, nor the age, nor the history of who this thing belonged to, nor any context, they separate the sets, tear them out of the context of possible pictures where these clothes could be on the owners.

And they sell it simply as an “invaluable thing” of size M, which gives you a connection with your ancestors, thereby forever destroying invaluable information from which ethnologists and ethnographers could write an entire article or a conditional paragraph of the history of this or that village. Moreover, these people refuse to listen to constructive criticism, they clean up comments and ban them so as not to scare away buyers.

Where did “PTN-PNH”* disappear?

*Ukrainian slogan to russian president meaning “putin is scum” 

The story with currently popular slogans is also already associated with cringe. However, it is worth understanding that clothes, souvenir products, and accessories are strengthened more strongly in neosharovarshchyna. One way or another, some people may begin to associate their culture with these goods. Although slogans are a fleeting phenomenon. 

Yaryna Syzyk, folklorist:

There is such a concept as neo-folkloristics. The fact that we now have “Good evening, we are from Ukraine!”,” “Russian warship” and the like is also partly it. It is necessary to understand that these phenomena are temporary and will take their toll over time.

In 2014, “PTN-PNH” was active, but now it is gone. Such slogans are the reaction of society, it is adequate and completely fair. The only thing that plays a role here is the context.

I’m almost convinced that if people knew where this or that phrase came from, they would be less enthusiastic about using it, although some phrases, of course, resonate without explanation. For example, my friend got “Good evening, we are from Ukraine” tattooed on him, and everything would be fine, but he did not know where this phrase came from. He was very surprised when I told him that it was Marko Galanevych’s phrase from DakhaBrakha, but on the other hand, he became even more proud of it.

Truth in context

Ukrainian society has changed a lot over the past months. The question “Who am I?” has a stronger emotional-intellectual connection. It becomes interesting how the ancestors lived, what they wore, and who they were. And this thirst for rooting is not satisfied by the first query on Google. Therefore, right now, the demonstration of the context of a particular product or thing is gaining special strength.

Yaryna Syzyk, folklorist:

For a very long time, I tried to explain to people that this is an embroidered shirt of the 19th century, and this one is an embroidered vyshyvanka that is sharovarshchyna-like, and I will categorically cross it out with a huge red cross. But it doesn’t work, absolutely not, so it’s only by good example and sensible education that I change it.

I know people who love their plastic crowns dearly, and you can’t just come and tell them to take them off, because it’s gross. It just won’t work. Someone kissed for the first time in their sharovary vyshyvanka, someone danced at a holiday in kindergarten in it, and someone is honored to wear ethnic clothes, even if in reality they are not.

Explaining the context actually works best. Family history, something true – people will eventually come to it themselves. We will begin to ask ourselves questions, “Oh, what did my grandmother wear? According to what recipe she cooked that dish? And in the old photos, the embroidered shirt didn’t look like that.”

Ukrainians have begun to take care of our health as a nation – by treating an inferiority complex, avoiding Stockholm syndrome from the Russians and hoping to finally overcome internal “maloros” (as in malo – little + ros – russian, the term Ukrainians were called by Russian in the times of Russian Empire). The same will work with the ability to distinguish native and enforced.

People are able to recognize good ethnographic content regardless of what is being done in the country. An indicator of this is at least an increase in the audience on such pages as Ukrainian garment, krapka.krapka, shch.uka.ryba, but not on some didpanasmarket, etc. Ornaments and images do not always explain the context, it is also historical events, elements of cinematography, music, dance, historical personalities.

Anna Fesenko, Etnodim designer:

One and only concept of “Ukrainian folk clothing” is no longer enough for people. There is an understanding that this concept is used in any way. Looking for context. Conventional Etnodim is not traditional clothing. But there is a concept embedded in it. There are references to Ukrainian artists, for example, or shirts that contain symbols of the Executed Renaissance.

There’s an understanding that it’s not just what you’re told to be ethnic, it’s something bound by facts and history, so there’s a desire to associate yourself with it.

The Ukrainian people are experiencing today a test of knowledge of the lessons of history, especially drawing conclusions. That’s how we can describe this process.

The occupation poses a direct risk of loss of attachment to our culture, particularly to ethnic things. Some of them can no longer be returned because no one simply had time to get to know them. If the current events are another test, then, probably, it is also necessary to make the most of them.

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