The Ukrainian Almanac "Frontyry mista" (City’s Frontiers)

The idea for publishing this almanac emerged after the Orange Revolution, amid an increasingly heated dispute over how to write the history of Dnipropetrovsk, especially its date of foundation. 

The idea for publishing this almanac emerged after the Orange Revolution, amid an increasingly heated dispute over how to write the history of Dnipropetrovsk, especially its date of foundation. The choice of the starting point of the history of the city determined three distinct narrative practices: 1) the Ukrainian national narrative, which has associated the first stage of the development of the city with the Ukrainian Cossacks and the Zaporozhian fortress Kodak, which was located on the territory of present-day Dnipropetrovsk, 2) the Russian imperial narrative, according to which the history of the city began with the Instructions of Catherine the Great (1776 and 1787), who apparently founded it in the middle of nowhere, having ignored the Ukrainian cultural and ethnic context, 3) the Soviet narrative, which has emphasised the increasing importance of the city since the late nineteenth century – due to industrial growth and the emergence of the proletariat; the final form of Dnipropetrovsk has been associated with the Soviet era. All these practices have had an obvious political tinge and have been associated with specific political parties.
The almanac is intended to depoliticise this discussion and to analyse the city as a multilayered amalgam of ethnic and cultural elements with independent ideological spheres. The authors’ aim is not to promote these ideologies, but to investigate them. The analysis of the city as a mosaic made up of many diverse elements, which form an integral whole and affect each other in complex ways, has led to the term ‘borderlands’ being understood as a border which both divides and connects these elements, and develops a space in which the interplay between two or more cultures produces something altogether different – a unique culture, the spirit of the city. In this way, the notions of borderlands and city have been combined.
The makers of the almanac also realised that the concept of borderlands has undergone considerable changes since it was first formulated by Frederick Jackson Turner. In fact, the application of the notion of borderlands to urban space seems to complete this evolution. Instead of simply appointing a group of authors to work on one main topic, the almanac makers decided to propose some general areas of research to the authors invited to take part in the project and allow them the freedom to choose what to write about and what research methods to employ.
The authors were asked not to impose their personal ideological preferences, but to reflect on them and refer them to the reflections of the followers of other ideologies. Hence the idea to make the almanac a meeting place for Ukrainian and Russian writers – and also to invite foreign writers. This implies a deconstruction of narrative practices connected with ideological uniformity.
The association between the situation of the borderlands and the city makes the authors turn their attention to such phenomena as urban diversity, multiculturality, and complex systems of social communication – and delve into all these issues.
Furthermore, the aim ofFrontyry mistais to revive the old tradition of the almanac, in which scientific essays, literary works, and historical documents were accompanied by splendid artwork. Hence the following layout ofFrontyry mista: the part entitled “The Basis” is devoted to scientific articles, “Enlightening Sources” includes source material and commentaries, “Verbal Horizons” includes literary work, “Perspectives” covers documentary photography, and “Maidan” is devoted to discussions.
The approach to the city described above has allowed the almanac makers to publish historical, sociological, ethnological and other types of studies in the sections entitled “The Basis” and “Maidan” – and also literary works and essays dealing with visual arts.
The almanac’s four volumes (2012–2014) were written primarily by Ukrainian and Russian authors, and also by Austrian, Polish, and Italian ones.
A bridge between Ukrainian and Russian scholars, writers and columnists, the almanac underwent a crisis in the early days of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The publication of the fourth volume was seriously delayed due to communications problems. Nevertheless, it was still published, its content reflecting these circumstances.

Vladyslav Hrybovskyi

Translated from the Polish by Paweł Łopatka