Lviv, Ukraine

Lviv (Ukraine) became the fifteenth UNESCO City of Literature in December 2015, on the same day as Ulyanovsk (Russia), Baghdad (Iraq), Tartu (Estonia), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Barcelona (Spain), Nottingham (UK), Óbidos (Portugal) and Montevideo (Uruguay) joined the Creative Cities Network.

A city in western Ukraine, Lviv is home to a population of around 723,000. The city shows off its Polish heritage in its literature and its architecture in a cityscape dotted with bookshops, libraries, museums, theatres and green-domed churches.

To receive a permanent UNESCO City of Literature designation cities must apply to UNESCO and meet exacting criteria. They must show that they have outstanding literary heritage, a vibrant contemporary scene, and importantly, that they are a city where their sector works collaboratively to grow and develop through their chosen artform, via capital development and cultural engagement programmes.

1. Lviv in numbers

A city of over 730,000 people, Lviv is home to 45 book shops, 174 libraries, and 54 museums. Its libraries serve 334, 000 readers, representing around 45% of the city’s population. It also boasts 12 cinemas, 7 theatres, 5 cultural centres, 26 publishing companies, and 86 printers in an area covering 182.01 km2.

2. City of the Lion

First referred to in a written source in 1256, the Western Ukrainian city of Lviv’s name translates as ‘the city of the lion’. You can explore its vibrant cultural geography using the Lviv Interactive Map produced by the city’s Centre for Urban History of East Central Europe.

3. Centre for Urban History of East Central Europe

The Centre for Urban History of East Central Europe was founded in Lviv in 2004 as a private non-profit organisation which supports the cultural life of the Ukraine and its neighbouring countries. The Centre includes a large library, exhibition space, media archive and accommodation for visitors and conferences.

4. Literary Festivals

Literature is widely celebrated in festivals across Lviv. Since its inception in 1997, Lviv’s International Festival of Literature has hosted 538 authors from 38 different countries and welcomed audiences of over 60,000 people to the city. This makes it one of the biggest festivals in Eastern Europe, encompassing over 200 different events. Other Lvivian literary high points are the annual Ukrainian nationwide competition of children’s reading, Knyhomania, and Belarusian-Swedish Literary Days, held in the Lviv Les’ Kurbas theatre.

5. Inspirational Archbishoprics

In the early twentieth century Lviv was the only city in the world that was home to the residences of three Catholic Archbishops from the Roman, Greek and Armenian Catholic churches. This tradition of religious tolerance within the city has inspired numerous artists and writers to engage with the city’s heritage and culture.

6. Over 400 Years of Print Culture

Lviv is home to the oldest continuously active printing house in the Eastern Europe, the Assumption Brotherhood, founded in 1586.

7. Print City

The history of Lviv is inseparable from the history of printing in Eastern Europe. Foremost among well-known Ukrainian writers and printers is Ivan Fedorovych, founder of the first printers in the city.

8. More Countries – More Books

Since 2010 the Ukraine has developed its literary culture by connecting with Norway through the More Countries – More Books scheme. The aim of this project is to foster the spirit of international literary collaboration and share experiences common to readers and writers in both countries.

9. Project Book Platform

A ground-breaking initiative between the Armenian Literature Foundation, Armenia’s National Publishers Association, Georgian Book Publishers Association, the Ukrainian Publishers Forum in Lviv, and supported by Eastern Partnership Culture Programme of the EU, Book Platform supports the role of culture in Eastern Europe’s sustainable development and promotes regional cooperation among public institutions, civil society, cultural and academic organisations.

10. Lviv – City of Literature Conference

In February 2013 more than 100 professionals from literature-related fields took part in the first Lviv- City of Literature conference. Delivered jointly by Lviv City Council’s Department of Culture and NGO Forum of Publishers (Forum Vydavciv), experts developed several projects which focussed on enhancing Lviv’s literary heritage and culture.