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Byriuchyi Island: Off-Grid in the Sea of Azov

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: Nazar Bilyk’s installation ‘Quotation marks’ is part of the Biruchiy Contemporary Art Project on Byriuchyi Island (photo © Biruchiy Contemporary Art Project licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0).


Byriuchyi Island, in the north-west corner of the Sea of Azov, has been shaped by wind and waves. This remote piece of Ukrainian territory is the unlikely base for an ambitious contemporary art project.

Byriuchyi Island (Бирючий Острів) is not an island. That’s just one of the enigmatic things about this little fragment of Ukraine. Byriuchyi Island is an imposter, a fragment of land that affects island status, but is in fact connected with the Ukrainian mainland. It is the outermost portion of the long, sandy Fedotova Spit, which is joined to the mainland at Kyrylivka, a brash seaside resort well south of Melitopol.

It’s one of those remarkable geographical oddities, a spit that lazily juts out into the Sea of Azov, running in total for over forty kilometres, often no more than 100 metres wide but, at its seaward end, expanding to become about four kilometres across. And it is that outermost portion of the spit which is named Byriuchyi Island.

A rutted road runs down the spit from Kyrylivka to remote Byriuchyi.

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