Humanism. The broad program of cultural reform inspired by the ideal of humanitas—the harmonious synthesis of intellectual, moral, and political virtues in a fully active life—and implemented by redirecting inquiry and education to classical studies. In reacting against the scholasticism of the medieval period, the humanists went far beyond simply reviving classical Greek and Latin and emulating the ancient writers. They reoriented man's interest from God and the afterlife to the individual and the fullest realization of his potentialities in this life. They freed men's minds from dogmatism and servility, and encouraged criticism and creativity. They offered hope of a new golden age rivaling that of Pericles and Augustus. Thus, humanism was nothing less than a total world view that constituted the intellectual underpinning of the Renaissance. Originating in the 14th century in the Italian city-states, in the 15th century it received a strong impetus from the influx of scholars and classical texts from Byzantium; towards the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century it spread from Italy to the rest of Europe. Its chief patrons and supporters were the secular rulers of Europe—patricians, princes, and kings who often employed humanists as ministers and diplomats. Humanism also received some support from the Catholic church, which assimilated some of its ideas and used them in the service of faith. As a complete secular alternative to the religious culture of the medieval period, humanism has had a decisive influence on the development of Western culture.
Humanistic ideas began to enter Ukraine towards the end of the 15th century. Their main carriers were foreign visitors and Ukrainian graduates of foreign universities. Because of an active trade between Galicia and the Italian states of Genoa, Venice, and Florence, a sizable Italian colony consisting of merchants, manufacturers, bankers, technical experts, and legal advisers flourished in Lviv in the 15th and 16th centuries. One of its most influential families, the Tebaldis, had close ties with Florentine humanists. It was probably A. Tebaldi who invited the humanist F. Buonaccorsi (Callimachus Experience) to Lviv in 1470. After medieval Lviv was destroyed by fire in 1527, a new city was built largely by Italian architects in the Renaissance style.
It is evident from student registers that sons of Ukrainian (Ruthenian) nobles and burghers studied at such universities as the Sorbonne, Bologna, Padua, Prague, and Heidelberg from as early as the 14th century. In the 15th and 16th centuries Cracow University admitted about 800 Ukrainians. A number of Ukrainians educated abroad became humanist scholars and educators: Yurii Drohobych, professor of Bologna and Cracow universities in the 1480s; Prince A. Svirsky, lecturer on Aristotle at Cracow University; Pavlo Rusyn (Paulus Ruthenus) from Krosno, teacher of Latin literature at Cracow University (1506–8) and then active among Hungarian humanists; and Lukash from Nove Misto, lecturer at Cracow University and author of a textbook in epistolography (1522).
The curriculum and methodology of the brotherhood schools, colleges, and academies (see Higher education) founded in Ukrainian and Belarusian territories in the 16th–18th centuries were strongly influenced by humanistic pedagogical theory and practice. The trivium and quadrivium inherited from the medieval schools constituted merely a framework that became filled with a new content—the classical languages and literatures. Jesuit and, later, Piarist schools emphasized Latin. Orthodox schools, in contrast, at first gave primacy to Greek, without neglecting Church Slavonic and Latin, but eventually turned to Latin in order to compete more effectively in the religious arena. The program of Uniate schools, which were established in the 17th and 18th centuries, was similar to that of the Orthodox schools. Greek churchmen and scholars who had studied in Italy and were steeped in humanistic studies played an important role in the development of Orthodox schools in Ukraine; for example, Arsenii of Elasson served as rector of the Lviv Dormition Brotherhood School, and Cyrill Lucaris served as lecturer at the Ostroh Academy (Meletii Smotrytsky referred to him as his teacher) and as rector of the brotherhood school in Vilnius.
The clearest evidence of humanistic influences in Ukrainian literature of the late 16th and 17th centuries is found in the polemical literature. Although the polemical tracts of such writers as Zakhariia Kopystensky, Khrystofor Filalet, Lavrentii Zyzanii, Herasym Smotrytsky, Meletii Smotrytsky, and Ipatii Potii are devoid of the tolerant spirit that was typical of humanists, they display an intimate knowledge of classical literature, an acquaintance with recent humanistic writing, and a mastery of the rhetorical devices and dialectical techniques practiced by the humanists. Ivan Vyshensky, the most gifted and powerful writer among the Orthodox polemicists, employed a style closely resembling that of the humanists, while rejecting their learning and educational program. A few Western literary works of the Renaissance period were translated into Ukrainian. While literary production in the Ukrainian (Ruthenian) language was very limited at the time, some Ukrainian writers, who came to be classified as Polish humanists, wrote in Latin. Pavlo Rusyn from Krosno produced a collection of Latin poetry entitled Carmina (1509). S. Orikhovsky (Orichovius Ruthenus) wrote a number of political treatises, including Fidelis Subditus (1543) and Quincunxie (1564), collections of historical studies such as Origo Polonorum (published posthumously 1611), and pamphlets warning against the Turkish threat. A professor of Cracow University, Tychynsky, signed his panegyrics Ticiensis Roxolanus, and Ch. Samborchyk used the pen name Vigilantius Gregorius Samboritanus Ruthenus. J. Herburt, the author of Tabulae, was known as Ioannis Ruthenus, and it is possible that Jan Szczesny Herburt, a Polish writer who defended the Orthodox church and the Ukrainian people from the Polish Catholic offensive, was of Ukrainian origin.
The humanistic school in Polish literature, which was founded by Jan Kochanowski, included some writers of Ukrainian origin and often dealt with Ukrainian themes. Mikołaj Sęp Szarzyński (1550–81), who was born in Galicia, quoted Ukrainian folk songs in his poetry. In his Latin poem Roxolania (1584), Sebastian Klonowicz (1545–1602) depicted contemporary life in Ukraine, and Szymon Szymonowicz (1558–1629), who was born in Lviv, produced a collection of verses about peasant life in Ukraine—Sielanki (Peasant Idylls, 1614, 1628). The latter was imitated by Szymon Zimorowicz (1608–29) and Józef Bartłomiej Zimorowicz (1597–1677) in their collections Roksolanki—to jest ruskie panny (Roxolanas—That Is, Ruthenian Girls, 1654) and Nowe sielanki ruskie (New Ruthenian Peasant Idylls, 1663). B. Głowacki (1543–1614), in his poem on Ivan Pidkova, praised the military prowess of the Cossacks.
Polish historical writing at the time had a humanistic inspiration. The works of Maciej of Miechów (1457–1523), Marcin Bielski (1455–1575) and J. Bielski (1540–99), Maciej Stryjkowski (1547–82), and S. Sarnicki (1532–97) contained much information about Ukraine (derived from extant Ukrainian chronicles) and influenced the development of Ukrainian historical writing in the 17th century.
The humanistic tradition remained a vital force in 17th- and 18th-century Ukrainian literature, which is commonly known as the Ukrainian baroque. Poetics and rhetoric textbooks (most of which were in Latin) written by Ukrainians were based on Italian or German models. Original Ukrainian poetry and drama were heavily influenced by classical and humanist authors. Much of this literature was written in Latin by such scholars as Stefan Yavorsky, Teofilakt Lopatynsky, Teofan Prokopovych, and Simeon Polotsky. The centrality of the humanistic curriculum in higher education accounts for the enormous influence of humanistic studies and ideals in Ukrainian culture to the end of the 18th century.
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[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1988).]