Amid the flora and fauna of the Hryshko National Botanical Garden in Kiev, Ukraine, sits a lizard-shaped park with attractions such as a $46,000 crystal falcon and a 330-foot-long tent resembling a golden loaf of bread. Welcome to Kiev’s “Corruption Park” — an exhibition being staged this month by the European Union’s Anti-Corruption Initiative.
As visitors make their way through the park, they come face-to-face with lavish mock-ups of politicians’ offices, some of which contain the actual spoils of former Ukrainian leaders. The golden, loaf-shaped tent was found in the home of former Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych in 2014; in front of it sits a $300,000, limited-edition BMW seized by the government from a corrupt official.
Nearly all of the displays here are interactive. In one of the park’s nine tents, visitors lie on their backs to watch the imagined dreams of a corrupt politician; in another, they use virtual-reality headsets to experience what it is like to work in the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine. The goal is for visitors to see “the direct relation between top-level corruption and ordinary Ukrainians," said Volodymyr Solohub, a spokesman for the E.U. Anti-Corruption Initiative.
Corruption has plagued Ukraine for decades. Before he was ousted in 2014, Yanukovych was paying on average more than $1 million in bribes per day and living in a luxury mansion that included a private zoo, the Telegraph reported. Four years after his departure, Ukraine is still ranked as one of the most corrupt nations in Europe, second only to Russia.
This problem is costing Ukraine 2 percent of its gross domestic product per year, a representative from the International Monetary Fund estimated — a price that its leaders are increasingly starting to recognize. On June 7, after months of delay, Ukrainian lawmakers voted to establish an independent anti-corruption court that could potentially provide access to billions of Western aid, the New York Times reported.
Yet, on the same day the new court was approved, Oleksandr Danylyuk, Ukraine's finance minister and an anti-corruption advocate, was dismissed. The day before, Danylyuk had said he was pressured by Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman to allow "political corruption" or quit, Reuters reported.
Discussing the formation of the anti-corruption court in a column for The Washington Post, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that Ukrainians have grown "skeptical" of the prospect of progress against corruption. Even Poroshenko, a strong supporter of the reform movement in 2014, has been described as an ally of the old oligarch class in Ukraine.
As the country attempts to move forward, Eka Tkeshelashvili, the head of the E.U. Anti-Corruption Initiative, said educational initiatives such as "Corruption Park" are essential to building domestic pressure against the issue.
"If public opinion about corruption does not change, it will be very difficult to hope something can be done about it," she said.