Music, literature, clothing, and creative goods both reflect and shape the Ukrainian identity. The blending of traditional influences with the vision of contemporary artists weaves a story of the evolving—yet enduring— people of Ukraine, and, through the production and sale of creative goods, artisans share their part of this story with a broader audience. In the process, they drive the so-called “creative economy” of Ukraine.
As defined by the United Nations, a country’s creative economy refers to the trade, production, and labor comprising the set of its creative industries. Though different countries use varying terms (cultural industries, copyright-based industries, experience industries) and parameters to refer to their creative economies, creative activities usually include publishing, advertising, film production, architecture, music, fashion, performing arts, radio, computer games, and more. Globally, the creative economy is a multitrillion dollar industry, expected to soon comprise 10% of the global GDP. Unfortunately, in Ukraine, creative industries generate only about 4% of overall GDP. However, Ukraine’s largely untapped creative economy provides, perhaps, its most fertile sector for future growth and cultural diplomacy.
Above all else, failure to break with the Soviet perception of the arts—which relied on patronage rather than profit for support—has constrained the Ukrainian creative economy. When state funding ran dry, citizens questioned the cultural positioning of creative industries, legal protections failed to adapt, and no adaptation strategy or collaborative organizations guided artisans into positions of entrepreneurship, the creative economy suffered. Between 1990 and 2012, Ukraine lost 6,500 libraries, 25,400 film screening venues, and the number of cinema viewers fell from 552 million to a mere 14 million. Some international efforts, like the European Union’s 2011 Eastern Partnership Culture Program, helped bolster the sphere, but creative businesses did not thrive.