Tintin Speaks Ukrainian and Faces-Off with Soviets in Newly Translated Comic

In 2016, after years of studying French and numerous trips to Belgium, translator and journalist Ivan Ryabchiy founded a publishing house for one reason only – to bring Tintin to Ukraine.

The iconic comics by Belgian cartoonist Georges Prosper Remi – known by the pen name Hergé – have been published in more than 70 languages but only now, for the first time, is there a volume also available in Ukrainian.

“Each Belgian, or each Belgian family has its own volume of Tintin. There are old ones. Sometimes they are 50 years old. They are relics,” Ryabchiy said.

“Just the front page of ‘Tintin’s’ first copy drawn by Hergé – in June, one of its variants was sold for $1.5 million at a large book auction in the U.S. This means that ‘Tintin’ is a brand,” Anne De Kyiv Fest Chief Curator Fedir Balandin said.

The first volume, called “Tintin in the Land of the Soviets,” appeared in French in 1929 and in fact, you might call the cartoon character one of the earliest foreign reporters to touch on the suffering inflicted on the Soviet government’s repressions.

The story tells of young Belgian reporter Tintin and his dog Snowy. They were sent to the Soviet Union to report on the Stalinist regime and on what people’s lives were really like. As a result, Tintin witnessed terror, repressions, and famine.

“A peasant says, ‘There is no grain.’ They begin to search and stab with their bayonets. They found nothing and the so-called ‘Kulak,’ or a peasant, was ordered to be interrogated. Tintin openly opposed it,” Ryabchiy said.

This is when the Belgian iconic character witnessed the famine in Soviet Ukraine, from 1921-1923.

The comic book itself is an indictment of the Bolsheviks.

“This book is presented today in this format. But it will be presented also at the Arsenal Book Fair in May,” Belgian Ambassador to Ukraine Alex Lenaerts said.

The release of the first volume, which took publishers about three years to negotiate, is just the beginning of Tintin’s epic adventures in Ukraine. Ryabchiy said that 23 more volumes remain to be translated.