The Genteel
August 11, 2020


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Vogue Ukraine April cover.

March 2013 marks another milestone for Vogue: the launch of Vogue Ukraine, the 21st international Vogue publication. Vogue's expansion into another country should not go unnoticed; it represents Conde Nast's (Vogue's parent company) acknowledgement of a country's support and nourishment of luxury.

Although Vogue's inclusion of Ukraine under its wing will not rid the country of its political and societal challenges, it does command the world to pay attention to the tiny Eastern European country, and blesses Ukraine with a badge of refinement. Yes, the people of Ukraine can make a mean borscht, design clothes, and dress well too. "Ukrainian women love fashion. Nowhere are the models more beautiful or the young designers more talented," beams Anna Harvey, Vice-President and Senior Editor, Brand Development, of Conde Nast New Markets.

Perhaps because Vogue can be considered as the godmother of luxury magazines, the launch of Vogue Ukraine is a big deal for Ukraine's luxury-loving citizens, and the country itself. However, Vogue Ukraine - albeit a celebratory honour for the country - highlights one overarching challenge that the country has been struggling with for years: Russianisation. Since the formation and demise of the USSR, Ukraine has been fighting hard to keep its nationality and identity separate from that of Russia. Yet, for the most part, Ukraine has lived in Russia's grand shadow.

At a mere 29-years-old, Masha Tsukanova will be heading Vogue Ukraine as Editor-In-Chief. With her silver-brown pixie haircut, business smart attitude and a firm-hand, Tsukanova is ready to shine a light on Ukrainian culture and talent. "In a couple of years, Ukrainian fashion will have its own face… And Vogue Ukraine is going to help this industry develop," she says, and continues, "We are going to be a meaningful magazine, not just this girlie, stupid, fashion-oriented attitude…We are going to speak about sharp issues."

Vogue Ukraine Editor-in-Chief
Masha Tsukanova.

And with that "modern girl" attitude, Tsukanova authored a provocative article in Vogue Ukraine's first edition about her experience freezing her eggs in order to pursue her career. According to Tsukanova, many Ukrainian women of her generation are not worried about starting a family, instead wanting to focus on their careers, "I'm the target audience for this magazine myself," she concludes.

Tsukanova's contemporary thinking and strong directorial involvement will prove useful when competing with Vogue Russia, which is also for sale throughout Kiev. "…We both came from the Soviet Union - but this is it. We are very different and have nothing to do with Moscow - we have our own identities..." Tsukanova makes a point to note, "Our [Ukrainian] tastes are more Western compared to Russia's. In Ukraine our styles are more calm, more relaxed while Russia's styles are more aggressive, flashy, and statement-making."

But it's important to mention that Tsukanova's controversial article, along with the rest of the magazine, was penned in Russian, not Ukrainian - the country's official language. The technicality highlights the biggest loss of all in the Russianisation of Ukraine's mass-media: the erosion of its mother tongue.

Tsukanova undoubtedly has a pro-Ukraine stance that I welcome; Vogue Ukraine ought to expose Ukrainian talent and provide readers with a voice of the modern generation that has been missing in the country's Russian-dominated mass media. But, Tsukanova's patriotism can only count for so much, when the magazine is only published in Russian (not even small sections are devoted to Ukrainian).

The decision to publish Vogue Ukraine in Russian would have come from the top - in this case, Eastern Europe's media giant and partner of Conde Nast Publications, UMH Group - and, naturally, Tsukanova would have to support its decision. When confronted with the sensitive question (at Kiev Fashion Week A/W 2013) of why the magazine would be published in Russian, Tsukanova replied (in Russian): "When people will start to buy publications in Ukrainian, then magazines, like Vogue, will be published in Ukrainian. As soon as the first happens - then the latter will follow immediately. In the meantime we want to profit."

Money speaks - in this case more than patriotism.

Money speaks - in this case more than patriotism. 

According to the CIA World Factbook, 67 per cent of the Ukrainian population do in fact speak the language, whereas only 24 per cent speak Russian (largely concentrated in the bigger cities). So why doesn't Vogue Ukraine feature at least one column written in the country's national language? 

Vogue isn't the only big player who publishes their Ukrainian magazine in Russian - so do Elle and Harper's Bazaar. Is it enough to simply concentrate on Ukrainian designers and feature Ukrainian models - like Canadian-Ukrainian Daria Werbowy, who appeared on the cover of Vogue Ukraine's first issue - to get a gold patriarchal star?

After all, focusing and featuring Ukrainian talent in a Ukrainian magazine is a given; sadly, what is apparently not, is the use of the country's native tongue.



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