Book ArsenalBook Arsenal

The International Book Arsenal Festival

Due to the emergency situation in Ukraine caused by the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus resulting in COVID-19, the Mystetskyi Arsenal is forced to postpone the 10th International Book Arsenal Festival till May 26-30, 2021. Previously, the 10th International Book Arsenal Festival was scheduled for May 20-24, 2020.

The International Book Arsenal Festival – an annual project of the Mystetskyi Arsenal – is an intellectual event in Ukraine, where the book, literary and artistic scenes develop and interact with each other, and joint high-quality, timely and innovative projects are implemented.

Each year, the program of the Festival raises and reflects the important issues of human existence, as well as society and culture, prompting the proactive position of the participants and visitors.

The mission of the Book Arsenal Festival is to create such interactions when the combination of aesthetic experience and intellectual engagement in the context of the book enhances the ability of man and society.

The goals of the Book Arsenal Festival are as follows:

  • To stimulate the qualitative development and interaction of the book, literary, and artistic scenes

  • To problematize and comprehend the important issues of man, society, and culture

  • To create a friendly space for the representation of the book in all its manifestations

  • To integrate the Ukrainian book and literary community with the international one

In 2019 The International Book Arsenal Festival won The Literary Festival Award of The London Book Fair International Excellence Awards 2019. The winners of The London Book Fair (LBF) International Excellence Awards 2019 were announced on 12th March, 2019.

The Book Arsenal History 

In 2011, the International Book Arsenal Festival was held for the first time. Every year more than 150 Ukrainian publishers present their publications at the book exhibition-fair. Among the guests of the Festival during the previous years were the most famous Ukrainian authors, such as Yuriy Andrukhovych, Serhiy Zhadan, Oksana Zabuzhko, Taras Prokhasko, Yuriy Vynnychuk, Irena Karpa, Andrey Kurkov, Irene Rozdobudko and others.

Фото – Олександр Попенко

During the Festival existence, its International Program has included almost 500 well-known international authors from more than 50 countries: Svetlana Alexievich, Ulf Stark, Anne Applebaum, Karl Schlögel, David Sutter, Jonathan Coe, Joseph McElroy, Askold Melnychuk, and many others.

The special Kids Program of the Festival comprises a hundred events related to the modern challenges of children’s literature.

Focus theme of the Festival

Since 2017, by expanding the international component, attracting new partners and following the latest trends in the book publishing market, the Festival, however, seeks to focus on one theme in order to best represent it through literature, art, educational practices, rereading it and reflecting on it.

In 2017, the Book Arsenal Festival discussed the nature of laughter, its diversity and decisive role in times of crisis. The focus theme called Laughter. Fear. Power combined discussions about the political carnival, black humour and the phenomena being laughed at on the Ukrainian Internet. This theme was chosen due to an important occasion, the 175th anniversary of Ivan Kotlyarevskyi’s full publication of Eneyida – a vivid example of Ukrainian laughter culture.
In 2018, the curatorial team of the Festival suggested looking ahead. What does humanity dreams of? What will the future world order be like? What are the chances of democracy in the face of hybrid challenges? How to resist dehumanization in times of changes? Are modern technologies able to create an (over)human? These and other questions were tried to be answered during the events of the focus theme of the Festival The Project of the Future.
In 2019, the Festival focuses on a theme of co-existence, a common being based on values ​​and arrangements. As in the wider context – meaning our distant and close neighbors, political and cultural, issues of (good) neighborliness, partnership and cooperation on the international scale. 

Being an interdisciplinary project of the Mystetskyi Arsenal, each year the Book Arsenal Festival pays special attention to the visual component – from exhibition projects on the art of book publishing, illustration, design, art books and art objects, and installations to the latest design trends in zines and self-published books.

Фото – Andrei Maximov

The Best Book Design Contest

Since 2016, the Book Arsenal Festival, together with the Goethe-Institut in Ukraine, with the support of the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Buchkunst Foundation, has been holding a competition for the best book design among the Ukrainian publishers and cultural institutions. Each year, the publications included in the shortlist of the contest are presented within the collection The Most Beautiful Books of the World at the Frankfurt and Leipzig Book Fairs.

In 2016, a book by Julia Musakovska Men, Women and Children in the design of the Agrafka art studio (The Old Lion Publishing House) became the winner of the contest.
The winner of the contest in 2017 in the category Art Book and the Grand Prix of the contest was the book Decommunized: Ukrainian Soviet Mosaics (Osnovy Publishing); design by Dmytro Yarynych, photo by Yevhen Nikiforov.
The top position and the Grand Prix of the contest in 2018 were given to the book This is How I See (The Old Lion Publishing House). The authors and illustrators of the book are Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv (the Agrafka art studio). In 2019 the book This Is How I See won the bronze medal at the ‘Best Book Design from all over the World‘ competition.  The annual book design competition ‘Best Books from all over the World‘ organised by the German Book Art Foundation (Stiftung Buchkunst) and has been held in Leipzig since 1963.
In 2019 the book MARIA received the Grand Prix of the Contest, published by RED ZET, the artistic incarnation: Illya Zhekalov, Lesia Maruschak. The same book won in the Experiment category.

Photo: Oleg Pereverzev

Photo: Oleksandr Popenko


Traditionally the Book Arsenal Festival holds charitable campaigns for collecting books.

In 2016, 230 books from the Arsenal of Good Affairs and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) were delivered to public centres of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhya and Kyiv regions. Also, the Arsenal of Good Affairs, along with the Yakaboo online bookstore and public initiatives by writers Serhiy Zhadan and Andriy Kokotyukha, conducted their own campaign for collecting books for front-line libraries.
In 2017, due to cooperation with partners and volunteers, such libraries were enriched with novelties: the Library of the College of Luhansk State Academy of Culture and Arts, the Yavir National and Patriotism Center  at the library branch #2 of the city of Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk region, the Hrushevskyi Mariupol City Historical Library, as well as the Ostrovskyi Central Specialized Library for the Blind in Kyiv.
Thus, together with the launch of a study room, thanks to the volunteer organization Small Heart with Art, a library appeared in the HIV department of the Okhmatdyt clinic, for which more than 1,000 books were collected by the Yakaboo company and Mystetskyi Arsenal.
In 2018, the Mystetskyi Arsenal, the Yakaboo online bookstore and the public organization CrimeaSOS handed over 150 books for children of political prisoners living in the annexed Crimea.
During the Festival, the company and the International Institute for Integral Development organized a charity book collection for rural school libraries in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kropyvnytskyi, Zhytomyr, and Rivne regions.
When the Festival ended, all books from the Showcase of Novelties were delivered to the Ostrovskyi Central Specialized Library for the Blind – for the blind readers from all over Ukraine. Flatbed books can be read by blind readers through special programs, and some of them are voiced.
In 2019, more than 100 books, which were given by publishers for our Showcase of Novelties, are sent in Kostiantynivka for Novodmytrivka’s Educational Complex’s library which is situated in Donetsk region. Also about 40 books transferred to the Ostrovskyi Central Spesialized Library for the Blind.