Ianina Prudenko

2015 | Kyiv | audio visual installation

Art/Research project by Ukrainian curator Ianina Prudenko dedicated to the deconstruction of the myth of contemporary ATO hero.





This project is the result of my research as the cultural studies expert and the new media researcher. The purpose of this project is to provide the visual analysis of the propaganda videos. Those videos allow us to come across and research one of the sources of mythogenesis - the Ukrainian Hero in the making process. Based on the provided analysis we can have a critical look at the new process of the myth formation in modern Ukraine, describe its characteristics, point out some objective discrepancies towards the realities and in return it will provide us with a new challenge of creating an alternative image of a hero and focus on polynarrativeness of heroes in the cultural memories which are formed at the moment.

7 videos had been selected for the research and analysis. Some of them were broadcasted (or still broadcasting) on TV, some exist entirely online. The videos pathetic in nature, and it is created by corresponding anthropological images, archetypes of Ukrainian culture, national symbols, uplifting music and even the poetry from the WW II.

Gender, language and image comparisons of actual soldiers and volunteers as heroes – those three parameters are used to provide the analysis of the mythogenesis of the current Ukrainian hero.

Analysis data is presented in the exhibition space as a visualization – 3 pairs of charts (male/female; soldiers/volunteers; Russian/Ukrainian) where the size of the picture of the hero depends on the picture timeline of specific image. Cultural analytics method (Lev Manovich, USA) to research the modern culture and new media was used as an example to visualize the results of the analysis. It allows to analyze the large visual data and create visual results. Next to the charts the viewer can watch the selected propaganda videos.

The outcome of the analysis tells us that the mass media creates the image of the modern ATO hero as a predominately Ukrainian speaking male warrior who is primarily taking part in the combat actions.
The project was presented at National Art Museum in Ukraine. The discussion at the launch of the project was heated which proved that the myth deconstruction (even in the course of its becoming) is a very painful process for the national community.

Research by Ianina Prudenko

Project visualization: Iryna Kostyshyna, Kateryna Mokryak, Alina Yakymenko - all Visual Communication School Students ‘New Media’ department




[chart 1. Gender]

images 1–2

There are women-warriors in the ATO zone. The image of Nadiya Savchenko has already become the symbol of heroism and unbreakable spirit. Gender aspect analysis showed that the videos depict 3 female images compared to a vast majority of male images, although we know that the percentage of women-soldiers in ATO is rather high. But what should be noted is that the videos show us women whose role is solely to admire men – the heroes (videos #2, #6). Even the image of Nadiya Savchenko shifted from the feminist scale to the masculine one. The main adjective used to describe her is “manly” (ukr. – ‘muzhnist’, rus. – ‘muzhestvennost’, the root of the word is ‘man’).

Moreover, 3 women-warriors we see in the videos, are either in group video portraits (video #2), or do not even take actual part in the combat (girl radio operator on watch in video #1 and a female doctor in video #4). Video #1 (‘None Of Us Was Born For War’), which was shot by an American Director and the female presence is more like a visual gender quota, which is not even taken into consideration by Ukrainian propaganda video directors.

Such a repressive mythogenesis of an image of women-warrior had already happened before during the Great Patriotic War in the times of the USSR. Woman was not seen as a hero, and moreover psychologically persecuted in the post war time, and that caused many of them to wipe off the pieces of war from their biography. And only during the perestroika time Svetlana Alexievich published a book ‘War’s Unwomanly Face’ (1985) where she uncovered many a tragic story of female soldiers and post factum made a step to announce the soviet women during II World War as heroes.

The author encountered an opposition during the presentation of her Mythogenesis project at the National Art Museum of Ukraine. Some people from the audience opposed her presentation of gender chart and kept yelling out the remarks that a war is just for men, and it is solely a female role to stay at home and raise children.




[chart 2. soldiers/volunteers]

images 3–4

Volunteers are people who are doing the heroic work in ATO area, they are not paid by the Government but their role is mighty – from food, ammunition and weapon suppliers, to the search of dead soldiers identity. But the research shows us a different angle – gives us grounds to believe that the hero’s identity is primarily the participants of the war in our mass-media videos.

A student of military division of Kyiv Polytechnic University during the presentation of Mythogenesis at National Art Museum of Ukraine expressed his point of view that the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine does not encourage the work of volunteers in ATO zone, and as a result we don’t see it in the propaganda videos. According to the student, the lecturers provide a different take on volunteers during their classes – volunteers are seen as unpredictable, military uneducated people and because of that are dangerous elements in actions and in the army.

One of the obvious reasons of such attitude to volunteers is that the state officials are not interested in providing the volunteers with the finances Ukrainians are sending to support the Army. At the moment there are many complaints to the authorities with regards to distorted resource allocations of finances sent by the citizens of Ukraine to the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine and other authorities for the soldiers in ATO. More and more Ukrainians prefer to donate money for the Ukrainian army directly to the volunteers and their organizations they trust.

While working on a project I observe a new turn in mythogenesis our government is inclined. From spring 2015 social media (billboards) is full of the images of real heroes – cyborgs who protected Donetsk airport (the selected videos have actors playing them). We see 25 year old young adults who look 40. Obviously the government officials faced with allegations change their tactics to broadcast more honest and trustworthy images.

Video #6 is interesting for analysis here. It was made to support Kyiv – 1, Special Purpose Battalion of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. The Battalion was formed from dispersed Berkut division that received a rather dishonest reputation during the Euromaidan. In order to clear their reputation using the propaganda videos and asking Ukrainians to support the army, Ministry of Internal Affairs used the no regret World War II soldier image. Kyiv-1 battalion warrior in video #6 picks up a baton from the state defender of World War II. The words of the video echo: “You protected our freedom, it’s a great honor for us to defend it and bring back peace!”.




[chart 3. Language]


One of the reasons to break the war in the East of Ukraine is supposedly the use of the language. The results of the analysis tell us that the ratio of Russian and Ukrainian language in the video clips is 12/22, i.e. there are almost twice as many Ukrainian speaking heroes compared to Russian speaking. At the same time the eyewitness report (there is no official stats on the matter) that there are about 8 Russian speaking soldiers to every 10 Ukrainian army soldier.

3 images of heroes from video #1 made by an American director and 9 soldiers from amateur video #7, which is absent from TV broadcasting and can be viewed only on the internet, speak Russian. In the video the soldiers read the poem by Konstantin Simonov “Zhdi Menya” (tr. “Wait For Me”) in Russian. Thus, we can make a conclusion that Russian language is present due to ‘visual tolerance’ by an American director (similar to the matter of women-soldiers) and the amateur video where the real ATO soldiers perform the reading of the popular during the Great Patriotic War poem.

The results of the language aspect analysis charts visualized in audiovisual installation. Simultaneous usage of Russian and Ukrainian languages from the TV screens discredit the language aspect as an anthropological factor to create a miscommunication and cause the hostility among people.

Two propaganda videos were produced to commemorate May 9 – the V-Day in Ukraine. They exploit the connection between two generations of militaries in Ukraine the same way it is portrayed in the video dedicated to the Kyiv -1 Special Purpose Battalion. The first clip shows the ATO soldier calling his grandfather – the WWII veteran to congratulate him with the V-Day, clenching his grandparent medal in his hands. The second ad shows the quick telephone call from a female doctor in the ATO zone to her grandmother to congratulate with the holiday while her grandma is flipping through the pages of her own memory as a young doctor during the WWII. It is significant to note that both clips are in Russian and only at the end of the conversation the veterans respond “Glory to Heroes” in Ukrainian.



Charts data (pdf)



Prudenko (1)