The collaboration between Kyiv-based publisher Osnovy and DOM goes back to 2017. New joint projects are currently underway.
Text: Damien Leaf
Photo: Dana Pavlychko, © Osnovy
The name sounds surprisingly sober for a publishing house whose most successful series is the Awesome travel guides with pop art-style covers: Osnovy is the Ukrainian word for ‘basics’. While the DOM publishers partner publisher from Kyiv shares our passion for architecture and design, its history actually began with very different books.
Founded immediately after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Osnovy was known in the young independent Ukraine for classics such as Plato and Nietzsche – hence the name ‘basics’ – but also for its titles on macroeconomics and other academic disciplines. The change came when Dana Pavlychko took over the company from her mother and stepfather. Born in 1987, Pavlychko studied public policy, economics, and international relations in Brussels and London and originally intended to become a civil servant. Instead, when she returned home, she revolutionised her parents' business step by step. ‘I myself am very interested in photography and design,’ she says. ‘And there was also an economic reason: beautiful books promised to sell better.’
The Awesome series was launched in 2012: it introduces Ukraine and its major cities (including Odessa and Lviv, for example) through short episodes on specific places and buildings, but also on people and food. Published in English, the books quickly became a bestseller among foreign visitors to Ukraine – and among Ukrainians searching for gifts for foreign friends. They sold a total of 60,000 copies. Recent Osnovy publications include two immensely charming photo volumes on Ukrainian railroad ladies and Ukrainian balconies. The transformation from Aristotle to art went so far that the publisher even opened a bookshop/café/bar in the centre of Kyiv.
This year would have been Osnovy's 30th birthday, but celebrations have been called off. The war changed everything from one day to the next: after the Russian attack, many of Osnovy's 20 or so employees had to flee to western Ukraine or abroad. Dana Pavlychko and her husband, a documentary filmmaker, together with their three children – aged one, two, and four years old – found shelter in the Bavarian village where DOM publishers runs its warehouse.
So far, donations have ensured economic survival. Employees stay in touch via Zoom, and Osnovy is now even selling books again via its online shop. Amid all the painful news, they want to use this forced interruption to change the publishing house: ‘I'm a kind of cheerleader for the team at the moment. We are all trying to stay positive.’ One way to make a difference is to tune into the podcast that Osnovy has launched. It's available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
The collaboration between Osnovy and DOM goes back to 2017 when Pavlychko met publisher Philipp Meuser of DOM at the Frankfurt Book Fair. This resulted in the joint book Decommunized: Ukrainian Soviet Mosaics. New joint projects are currently underway – on the architectural history of Ukraine, and above all, on its future.