Ukraine Literature Between the 16th and 20th Century

By | December 24, 2021

Only with the emergence of works written in a language, even if partially distinct from the Great Russian, can a Ukrainian literature begin in the strict meaning of the word. But for this to be evident, it is also necessary to bear in mind the distinction not only geographic but historical between the Ukraine, which is usually called Russian, and the western part of the extended territory that goes from the Dnieper to the Volga and which, due to its ethnic and linguistic characteristics, is to be considered as a unit.

If from the century X up to the whole century. XIII the origins of the Russian and Ukrainian literatures are quite common, some element, ever greater, of differentiation, can be noticed in the period from the end of the century. XIII to the middle of the century. XVII. Popular speech gradually frees the written language from the Slavic-ecclesiastical color. Monuments of Ukrainian literature in the broad sense of the word can therefore be considered the ecclesiastical books published in Krakow by the typographer Švajpolt-Fiol, the Bible (in the popular Ukrainian-Biancorussa language) published in 1517-19 by F. Skorina, the poetic and eloquent works by Ivan Vyšenskyi (opponent of the Union of Churches, who died in 1620), as well as those polemics and scientific topics of Meletij Smotryśkyj (Grammatyka slovenskyja pravylnoje syntagma, 1619). For Ukraine 2006, please check computergees.com.

The political dominance of Moscow, alongside the intellectual dominance of Kiev (Ukrainian Kiiv), had serious consequences for the Ukrainian people. Ukrainian-Polish culture (S. Polockyj, E. Slavineckyj, D. Tuptalo, T. Prokopovič) benefited Moscow more than Kiev. However, historical works in Ukrainian inspiration were published (such as those of S. Velyčko and H. Hrabjanko (in the Polish spelling Grabianko), which with dumy (historical songs of popular color) kept the spirits awake during the Ukrainian wars against Poland. under the conduct of Bohdan Chmelnytsky (Chmel′nitsky; 1648-1656).

A first act of real persecution by Granderussa was the prohibition that in 1720 Peter the Great gave the Ukrainian printers to print new books, as well as the reprinting of old ecclesiastical books, which were to be published only according to the spelling of Granderussian ecclesiastical books..

Under Catherine II, the Russian language was introduced into the Kiev Academy and all Ukrainian schools. In this era lived Gregory Skovoroda (1722-1794), a strange type of wandering philosopher, who, almost a contemporary of Voltaire and Rousseau, was considered one of the most profound thinkers of his time, a true interpreter of the rights of man and in general of human nature.

With the appearance of Skovoroda coincided the diffusion of secret societies with liberalizing spirits, to which today we want to attribute, in addition to the Cossack traditions, the birth of the idea of ​​Ukrainian independence.

The work (outwardly of a strictly literary color) of I. Kotljarevskyj (1769-1836) can also be linked to the keeping of popular poetry, to whose disguise of the Aeneid, published in 1798, as well as a meaning of linguistic rebirth, is given that of a poetic and spiritual rebirth and that of an indictment against serfdom. From this point of view, the works of the satirical poet PH Artymovskyj (imitator of Horace) and those of the fabulist E. Grebenka are considered to be linked to that of K.. The foundation, in 1808, of the University of Kharkov (Ukrainian Kharkiv), gave the Ukrainian spiritual life a new impetus in the national sense. A few years later (1816) the first Russian-Ukrainian magazine was founded, the Ukrainskyj Vestnik, and the writer Gregorio Kvitka (pseud. Osnovjanenko ; 1778-1843) began his activity, whose stories suggest those of G. Sand of a rural character, Auerbach’s Dorfgeschichten and also the Memorie of a hunter by Turgenev, one and the other to the posterior ones. The scientific study of the Ukrainian people and especially of their folk poetry contributed to this revival. It was not limited to Russian Ukraine. Eastern Galicia takes an eminent place in the movement: three Galician writers, M. Šaškevyč, I. Vahylevič and I. Holovac′kyj, published in 1837 the almanac Rusalka Dnistrova which marks a real date in it. The Galician revival was to find nourishment later in the revolution of 1848 in Austria. It is noteworthy that Holovna Ruska Pravda, founded in 1848, in its appeal to the Ukrainian people made its program for the introduction of the Ukrainian language in high and low schools and the dissemination of useful books in Ukrainian. Two years earlier in the Russian Ukraine the foundation of the secret society “Brotherhood Cyril and Methodius” (1846) had set itself a cultural task, in addition to the political one of a Slav federation. This idea was already expressed in the poem by Ivan Ševčenko Jan Hus of 1845.

Everything that had animated and animated the best Ukrainian spirits seemed to be concentrated in the figure of Shevchenko (1814-1861). Ukraine with its past and present, its destiny and its conscience, enters, through the work of Š., In world literature. The harsher the existence, the more tenacious the aspirations, the deeper the pain, the more perfect and harmonious the work. Painter and ethnographer as well as poet, Š. he gave to his poetic conceptions the background of the homeland nature and of the habits and customs of his people. Self-taught genius, son of the people (his father was serf in the village of Kirilivka), he nourished his experiences and insights into historical and social culture and rightly his lyric poems and poems have been called mirror of the Ukrainian soul and to the his work, as at Memoirs of a Turgenev hunter, credit has been credited for influencing Tsar Alexander II’s decision to abolish serfdom. While influences from other writers are not lacking in his works (especially Žukovskij, Pushkin, Mickiewicz), their ensemble is closely linked to popular poetry, in whose spirit Š. he wrote, among other things, his dumy and the historical poem Hajdamaci (re-enactment of the Ukrainian revolt against the Polish nobility in 1768).

In the same period as Š. other writers gained fame: Pantelejmon Kulis (1819-1893), Mykola Kostomarov and Maria Marko-Vovčok (pseudonym of Maria Markovič, 1834-1907). The first two are historians, as well as writers, while the third is a narrator. Kulič, besides being a poet and narrator and historian (he represented in a certain sense the struggle of the petty bourgeoisie against the aristocracy), was also a very effective translator (Bible, Shakespeare, Byron, W. Scott). His historical knowledge introduced into a series of W. Scott-esque historical novels, which began the Ukrainian novel in the modern sense of the word. The novels of I. Levickyj (1838-1918), who drew his subjects from the Ukrainian life of his time, were especially important for their social character.

While the reaction following 1848 in Austria had aggravated the situation in Galicia, Ukrainian literature had been able to develop for a few years in the Russian territory, limited, however, to the works of the so-called belletristica and to historical materials. When the restrictive measures of the Russian government after 1876 again took on a character of persecution, it was again Galicia that prevailed with the poet Ivan Franko (1856-1917), who, like Shevchenko, considered Ukraine as a whole and advocated, alongside to independence from foreigners, even individual spiritual freedom. A man of doctrine – he was an excellent philologist – he saw himself excluded from the higher education, to which he aspired, and for forty years he spoke to his people through epic songs, novels, stories and dramas, revealing the nature of a fighter, which perhaps another Ukrainian, the historian and sociologist M. Dragomanov (or Drahomaniv) had at the same time. Only one part of his activity, that of a lyric poet, showed how much sadness and fatalism was in his soul. In this tone she had only rival in her time, in a poetess, Lesja Ukrainka, the most notable of the many Ukrainian poetesses and writers (besides the mentioned Marko-Vovčok, Anna Barvinok-Kuliš, Dniprova Čaika and later L. Janovska and O. Romanovyčeva). Compared for its social tones to the Negroes of the first epoch, Lesja Ukrainka also asked the history of all peoples, ancient and modern, for reasons of inspiration, without being extraneous even to the symbolic current of the end of the century. XIX. that of a lyric poet, showed how much sadness and fatalism was in his soul. In this tone she had only rival in her time, in a poetess, Lesja Ukrainka, the most notable of the many Ukrainian poetesses and writers (besides the mentioned Marko-Vovčok, Anna Barvinok-Kuliš, Dniprova Čaika and later L. Janovska and O. Romanovyčeva). Compared for its social tones to the Negroes of the first epoch, Lesja Ukrainka also asked the history of all peoples, ancient and modern, for reasons of inspiration, without being extraneous even to the symbolic current of the end of the century. XIX. that of a lyric poet, showed how much sadness and fatalism was in his soul. In this tone she had only rival in her time, in a poetess, Lesja Ukrainka, the most notable of the many Ukrainian poetesses and writers (besides the mentioned Marko-Vovčok, Anna Barvinok-Kuliš, Dniprova Čaika and later L. Janovska and O. Romanovyčeva). Compared for its social tones to the Negroes of the first epoch, Lesja Ukrainka also asked the history of all peoples, ancient and modern, for reasons of inspiration, without being extraneous even to the symbolic current of the end of the century. XIX. the most notable of the many Ukrainian poetesses and writers (besides the mentioned Marko-Vovčok, Anna Barvinok-Kuliš, Dniprova Čaika and later L. Janovska and O. Romanovyčeva). Compared for its social tones to the Negroes of the first epoch, Lesja Ukrainka also asked the history of all peoples, ancient and modern, for reasons of inspiration, without being extraneous even to the symbolic current of the end of the century. XIX. the most notable of the many Ukrainian poetesses and writers (besides the mentioned Marko-Vovčok, Anna Barvinok-Kuliš, Dniprova Čaika and later L. Janovska and O. Romanovyčeva). Compared for its social tones to the Negroes of the first epoch, Lesja Ukrainka also asked the history of all peoples, ancient and modern, for reasons of inspiration, without being extraneous even to the symbolic current of the end of the century. XIX.

In general, Ukrainian poetry was not extraneous to the new currents, just as it was not extraneous to the previous Russian and European ones. The gradual transition from one to the other can be seen very well from V. Samijlenko, B. Lepkyj and O. Makovej (Russian Ukrainians or Galicians without notable difference) to M. Fylanskyj, O. Oles, A. Krymskyj and P. Karmanskyi. The latter, trained above all on the lyric of Foscolo and the prose of Mazzini, has the merit of having enriched the Ukrainian metric with new forms.

Even in the prose narrative there is little difference between Russian Ukrainians and Galician Ukrainians: on the one hand Panas Myrnyj, B. Hrinčenko, VM Kocjubynskyj, V. Vinničenko, L. Janovksa, on the other V. Štefanyk, I. Martovič, the aforementioned Makovej, A. Čajkovskyj and the Bucovina narrator O. Kobylanska. The names of the most notable among them – such as Kocjubynskyj (died in 1914), by some compared to Fogazzaro, and Vinničenko, the most violent modern realist in Ukraine, compared, but without foundation, to M. Gor′kij – have also crossed the borders of the homeland. Both psychologists, not without value, have gone beyond the traditional limits of their homeland to address human topics of universal value. Less known are the Galicians Stefanyk and Martovič, both tragic painters of peasant life, under the more or less direct influence of Maupassant and Chekhov the former, Dostoevsky the latter. Finally, Kobilanska occupies a separate place, which, formed at the school of the narrator and poet Jurij Fedkovič (1834-1888), also active in Bucovina, not only represents this part of the Ukrainian land, but also the new female aspirations in the homeland literature, next to the Galician N. Kobrynska.

The most flourishing period in the modern era was for Ukrainian literature in Russia, the one between the 1905 revolution and the beginning of the world war. Even if someone, like Vinničenko, bowed to the general depression of the first years following the failure of the 1905 uprisings, in general the intellectual movement, in the form of magazines in Ukrainian and cultural organizations and struggles in favor of the Ukrainian school was intense and not lacking good results, up to the prohibition of the Ukrainian press, which occurred again with the world war.

To maintain between the end of the century. XIX and the first decade of the XX century the contacts with the European world contributed the translations of Franko (Greek and Latin classics, Dante, Cervantes, Goethe), of V. Ščurat (anthologies from various languages, Chanson de Roland), of Lesja Ukrainka (Heine), by Karmanskyj (Foscolo, Mazzini, Carducci), by Krymskyi (oriental poets), by M. Rudnyckyj (modern French lyric).

The history of the theater had a place to itself. Already a cultural intermediary between Europe and Moscow in the distant past, the Ukrainian-language teatm could only have life in the periods between one measure and another of restriction. Kotljarevskyj and Ševčenko had already tried themselves in dramaturgy, but a modern Ukrainian theater could be talked about in the second half of the century. XIX only with the appearance of practical writers also of specifically theatrical problems: M. Staryckyj (1840-1905), M. Kropyvnytskyj (1841-1910) and I. Tobilevič (Karpenko-Karyj, 1845-1900).

The revolution of 1917 was reflected at first in Ukraine, as in Russia, especially in poetry. Thus, for example, the poet P. Tičina (born in 1891) passed from symbolism to social arguments; an analogous evolution underwent M. Semenko (born in 1892) already representative of the ego-futurist current. The civil war prevents a rapid literary flourishing, but, at its end, among other things, the Russian poput è iki movement (or fellow travelers) had its equivalent in Ukraine. Ukrainian literary phenomena under the Soviet regime are analogous to those in Russia, in direct dependence on political events. But linguistic and scholastic autonomy bears very wide fruits, even if of not exceptional artistic value. Some writers assert themselves with their own features: thus the playwright I. Mikitenko (born in 1897), the narrators M. Choylovo (born in 1893), O. Kopilenko (born in 1900), P. Panč (born in 1891), I. Senčenko (born in 1901), who depict the life of the countryside, the bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia after the revolution, with new formal attempts, swaying between Mikitenko’s realism and Choylovo’s rhythmic prose. The so-called proletarian novel also develops, with its own representatives: A. Šijan, V. Kuzmin, Ju. Zorja, etc. Poetry, however, passes into the second line in this movement.

Finally, as phenomena in itself, we must remember the Ukrainian activity that has its center in Lviv, around the Shevchenko society and that which takes place in the so-called sub-Carpathian Russia in the borders of Czechoslovakia.

Ukraine Literature Between the 16th and 20th Century