Literature. Ukrainian literature did not have a smooth path of development. The language for writing (see Standard Ukrainian), introduced with Christianity and used for religious ritual, changed at a slower pace than did the spoken word. The rift between the spoken and the written language widened over the years, owing to political events (the numerous invasions of the Mongols and the Tatars; the subjugation of Ukraine by other states, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Austria-Hungary; and the outright prohibitions of the Ukrainian language in print). The outcome of the divergence between the written and the spoken language was the adoption in the 19th century of a completely ‘new’ literary language based on the spoken variant. Although beneficial for the growth of Ukrainian national awareness, it had a detrimental effect on the development of literature. Mostly noticeably the continuity between pre- and post-19th-century literature seemed lost. Even literature in the vernacular did not develop smoothly. Ukraine at that time was split between two empires, a state of affairs that gave rise to regional vernacular differences and somewhat different tempi of literary growth. Nevertheless, in presenting Ukrainian literature as a whole, the literary process of the last millennium can be viewed as a continuum with several broad periods: the Kyivan, the Cossack, the vernacular, the renaissance of the 1920s, the pre-independence, and the contemporary. This periodization serves as a historical time frame; it does not divide according to esthetic or philosophical currents, more than one of which may be present in the literature of a given time period. More detailed periodizations have sometimes been used but would be inappropriate in a concise survey.
The Kyivan period. Both translated literature and a rich folk oral tradition played an important role in the development of original literature in Kyivan Rus’. The Christianization of Ukraine in 988 gave impetus to a dissemination of various adaptations (from the Balkan Slav originals) and translations (mainly from Greek) of religious texts. Besides Gospels (Ostromir Gospel 1056–7), Acts of the Apostles, and Psalters, of interest for the development of an independent literature were collections of sermons and lives of saints. The translations in such collections were often augmented with local materials, and existed in several redactions. The earliest and most notable such collections were the Izbornik of Sviatoslav (1073), the Izbornik of Sviatoslav (1076), and the latest, a 14th-century compendium of teachings titled Izmarahd (The Emerald). Also popular were such gatherings of aphorisms and sermons as Pchela (The Bee) and Zlataia tsip (The Golden Chain), which circulated in various editions. The oldest and most noted didactic work is ‘Slovo o zakoni i blahodati’ (A Sermon on Law and Grace, 1050) by Metropolitan Ilarion, the first native metropolitan of Kyiv. Somewhat more worldly are the teachings of Volodymyr Monomakh titled Poucheniie ditiam (An Instruction for [My] Children, ca 1117), included in the Primary Chronicle. Noteworthy as a sermonizer in the 12th century was Bishop Cyril of Turiv. His art is especially discernible in Slovo v novu nediliu po Pastsi (A Word on the First Sunday after Easter, ca 1170).
A more subtle form of didactic literature can be found in the numerous lives (see Hagiography). Modeled on translated hagiographies, lives of Saint Anthony of the Caves, Saint Volodymyr the Great, Saint Princess Olha, and others were written and collected in the Kyivan Cave Patericon, the most remarkable collection of lives in the Kyivan period. Also noteworthy are the early chronicles, which are unique for their wealth of information and their blending of fact and fiction, written sources and eyewitness accounts (eg, the Tale of Borys and Hlib). The chronicles were compiled by anonymous scribes and copied many times. They can be divided into three parts, the Primary Chronicle (up to the 12th century), the Kyiv Chronicle (from 1118 to 1190), and the Galician-Volhynian Chronicle (from the beginning of the 13th century to 1292).
Quite prevalent were apocryphal writings (Khozhdeniie Bohorodytsi po mukakh [The Mother of God's Journey through Suffering (Hell), mid-12th century]) as well as translated tales, such as Varlaam i Ioasaf or ‘Aleksandria’ (end of the 11th century). Also popular was the first ‘travelogue,’ Hegumen Danylo’s Zhytiie i khozhdeniie Danyla, rus’koï zemli ihumena (The Life and Pilgrimage of Danylo, Hegumen of Rus’, ca 1100). The most unusual and outstanding monument of old Ukrainian literature, however, is the secular epic poem Slovo o polku Ihorevi (The Tale of Ihor's Campaign, ca 1187). Particularly rich in poetic tropes (epithets, similes, metaphors, metonymy, hyperbole, and personification), the work suggests a sophistication indicative of a rich tradition of folk and martial literature with highly developed poetics. But the plea of the anonymous author for unity among the princes fell on deaf ears. The Kyivan Rus’ state, disunited, was too weak to withstand the onslaughts from the East. Kyiv fell to the Mongols in 1240, and the Principality of Galicia-Volhynia became the focus of political and cultural life in Ukrainian lands. The incorporation of Volhynia into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1340) marks the end of the period and of significant literary activity. No major literary monuments remain from the 14th and 15th centuries.
The Cossack period, or the Middle period of Ukrainian literature, began in the 16th century; its vitality was eventually smothered by Russian domination, in the 18th century, together with all vestiges of Cossack independence. It was a period of great unrest and political upheaval which culminated in the Cossack-Polish War, and of religious strife between the Uniates and the Orthodox, which centered around the Church Union of Berestia in 1596. Yet the period is also noted for its vibrant and varied cultural activity. When this period began, Ukraine was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and thus was open to influences from the West, especially to the post-Renaissance, post-Reformation emphasis on learning. It is not surprising that the Orthodox brotherhoods, experiencing their heyday at that time, established schools (the Lviv Dormition Brotherhood in the 1580s and the Kyiv Epiphany Brotherhood in 1615). Besides being bastions against Polonization the schools served as centers of literary creativity. The most famous and important school was the Kyivan Mohyla College (later Kyivan Mohyla Academy), founded by Metropolitan Petro Mohyla in 1632. Of immeasurable importance for the development of literature was the establishment of the first printing press in Lviv by Ivan Fedorovych (Fedorov) in 1574 and of subsequent printing houses by the brotherhoods. Even prior to the printing of the Lviv Apostolos (1574) and the Ostrih Bible (1581) several new translations of the Gospels appeared. Under the influence of Protestantism from the West, those publications were intended to make the word of God more understandable to the people (eg, Frantsisk Skoryna's publications [1517–25], the Peresopnytsia Gospel [1555–6], the Krekhiv Apostolos [1563–72], the Volhynian Gospel ).
One consequence of religious controversy over the Church Union of Berestia was a rich polemical literature. The multitude of works which appeared varied in size and form from short, sharply worded ‘epistles’ to long scholarly exposés (eg, the Palinodiia ... of Zakhariia Kopystensky ). Typical of many of them is the fiery tract by an anonymous polemicist Perestoroha (Warning, 1605–6), which lauds the brotherhoods for spreading education and cautions against Catholicism (the ‘Union’), which will destroy that achievement. In another interesting anonymous polemic, Protestacja (Protestation, 1621), the author draws a direct historical line of development between contemporary Ukraine and Kyivan Rus’. Notable for their literary artistry are the writings of Metropolitan Ipatii Potii (eg, Uniia ... [Union, 1595]) defending the Uniates and the plea for Orthodoxy by Meletii Smotrytsky, Trenos, to iest lament ... (Threnos, or the Lament ..., 1610). But it is the 20–odd extant writings of the maximalist defender of Orthodoxy and Eastern asceticism, Ivan Vyshensky, which occupy the most important place in the polemical literature of the period.
Related to polemical writing and equally developed was the art of sermonizing (see Homiletics). Some of the most noted practitioners were Meletii Smotrytsky, Petro Mohyla, Lazar Baranovych, Kyrylo Stavrovetsky-Tranquillon, Antin Radyvylovsky, Saint Dymytrii Tuptalo, and Stefan Yavorsky. Copious use of allegory and allusion and the inclusion of various tales, translations, anecdotes, and apocryphal writings were the norm, and special emphasis was placed on the form and style of the sermon. Ioanikii Galiatovsky, for example, added to his collection of sermons (Kliuch razumieniia [Key of Understanding, 1659]) a large treatise on how to compose a proper sermon.
The popularity of the sermonizer's use of the unusual and the fantastic as illustration, and of tales accepted as ‘knowledge,’ was reflected in the publication of collections dealing with miracles and the lives of saints. Notable in that respect were the republications of the Kyivan Cave Patericon, first by Sylvestr Kosiv in Polish as Paterikon (1635) and then in Ukrainian (1661); the collections of short stories dealing with the miracles of the Mother of God (eg, Ioanikii Galiatovsky's Nebo novoie [New Heaven, 1665] and Saint Dymytrii Tuptalo's Runo oroshennoie [The Bedewed Fleece, 1680]); and Tuptalo's famous menaion of daily readings, Chet’ï mineï (1689–1705).
Fascination with the lives of saints and with the extraordinary also gave rise to a renewed interest in history, which fostered the development of the historiographic genre. Teodosii Safonovych, a teacher in the Kyivan Mohyla College, compiled a history (Kroinika) in 1672 composed of previous Kyivan Rus’ as well as Polish chronicles. Even more prominent was the historical compilation Sinopsis, published in 1674 in Kyiv and attributed to Innokentii Gizel. The work was republished many times and remained a basic historical text throughout the period. The momentous upheavals of the Bohdan Khmelnytsky period were recognized for their historical importance by the contemporary participants. Several Cossack chronicles appeared. Although strictly speaking those chronicles belong more to historiography than to literature, their style and influence on the Ukrainian Romantics played an important role in the later development of literature proper. Three chronicles deserve special mention: the anonymous Samovydets Chronicle, which begins with the Khmelnytsky uprising (see Cossack-Polish War) and ends in 1702; the Hryhorii Hrabianka Chronicle (1710), which concentrates on the Khmelnytsky period but begins in antiquity and ends at the beginning of the 18th century; and the Samiilo Velychko chronicle, completed after 1720. The last is perhaps the most lively and interesting of the three. In vivid and colorful language Velychko chronicles events and attempts to give the reasons for them, as well as to draw a moral for future generations. Not quite in the same genre but equally lively and interesting is the autobiography of Illia Turchynovsky. His adventures vividly portray the life of the wandering students-preceptors who played an important role in the development of literature, especially poetry and drama.
Although the religious tales, sermons, and secular chronicles are of interest, they nonetheless belong more to the realm of the ‘written word’ than to literature. Literature in its purer form developed in poetry and drama. Although a large corpus of poems survived (many of them in manuscript), no really major poet emerged. Many of the poems are of unknown authorship. Some have the name of the author encoded into the poem, acrostics being popular at the time; there are also poems in various shapes (cross, half-moon, pyramid, etc) and so-called crabs, which could be read both from left to right and from right to left. Such excess, playfulness, and ornamentation have prompted some scholars (eg, Dmytro Chyzhevsky) to refer to the period as the baroque. poetics were taught at the Kyivan Mohyla Academy and in the brotherhood schools (a course written by Mytrofan Dovhalevsky  and another by Heorhii Konysky [in Latin, 1744] are extant), and most of the poems show traces of having been school excercises. Written in syllabic meters, they mix images from the Christian and the ancient worlds. Allegory is a predominant trope (as in the extremely popular 17th-century didactic collection of prose and poetry with allegorical drawings, Ifika iieropolitika), and much use is made of certain set images (‘emblems’—a scythe for death, dove for purity, etc). Along with poems of religious or moral content, which stress the vanity and brevity of earthly life, there are numerous panegyrics and heraldic poems devoted to verbal description and the glorification of coats of arms. Epigrams are also quite widely represented. Those by the archpriest Ivan Velychkovsky are perhaps the most interesting.
Remarkable among the many religious poetasters were Kyrylo Stavrovetsky-Tranquillon (Perlo mnohotsinnoie [A Priceless Pearl, 1646]), who used lines of irregular length close to those of folk dumas; Ioan Maksymovych, who presented religious truths in a broad narrative manner (Bohorodytse Divo [Virgin Mother of God, 1707] and Otche nash [Our Father, 1709]); and Klymentii, Zynovii's son, who is notable for the sheer number (369) of opinionated poems which he composed at the beginning of the 18th century. Arguably the best poet of the period, the peripatetic philosopher Hryhorii Skovoroda wrote religious and morally didactic poetry. The popularity of his live-and-let-live theocentric philosophy as expressed in the collection Sad bozhestvennykh pesnei (Garden of Divine Songs, 1753–85) can be seen in the fact that some of the poems (eg, nos 10 and 18) became folk songs. His Basni Khar’kovskiia (Kharkiv Fables, 1774) marks the beginning of the fable genre in Ukrainian literature. Quite widely known toward the end of the period was the collection of religious poetry Bohohlasnyk (The Praise Book, 1790), from Pochaiv, with many poems based on legends and apocrypha about the Mother of God.
Among the more worldly poems are numerous panegyrics, such as those written in honor of Metropolitan Petro Mohyla, (eg, Evkharistirion, albo vdiachnost’ [Eucharisterion, or Gratitude, 1632], Evfoniia veselobrmiachaia, [Joyful Ringing Euphony, 1633]). One of the earliest such poems was Vizerunok tsnot (A Pattern of Virtue, 1618), by O. Mytura in honor of Yelysei Pletenetsky. Kasiian Sakovych wrote a eulogy to Hetman Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny (Virshi na zhalosnyi pohreb zatsnoho rytsera Petra Konashevycha Sahaidachnoho ... [poems for the Grievous Funeral of the Knight Petro Konashevych Sahaidachny, 1622]) in which he praised the role of the Cossacks as defenders of Ukraine against the Tartars. The Alfavit sobrannyi rifmami slozhennyi ot sviatykh pisanii ... (An Alphabet Compiled and Rhymed from the Holy Writings ..., 1705) consists of short narratives about sins and punishments. Remarkable for its separatist aspirations was Semen Divovych's Razgovor Velikorossii s Malorossiei (A Conversation of Great Russia with Little Russia, 1762). The few poems attributed to Hetman Ivan Mazepa stand out because of their lyricism coupled with concern for the Cossack nation.
Equally important was the development of the dramatic genre. Western European morality, miracle, and mystery plays were part of the Jesuit school curriculum in Poland and from there entered the curriculum of the brotherhood schools. Joined with the study of poetics, school drama concentrated on the development of poetic dialogue. One early example of a dramatic dialogue is the collection of Christmas poems of Pamva Berynda (1616). Soon afterward, full-length dramas were composed, such as the widely known play by an anonymous author Aleksii, chelovik Bozhyi (Alexis, Man of God, 1673). To captivate the audience and to provide relief from their often-heavy didacticism, plays were interrupted by entr'actes consisting of humorous dialogues called intermedes. Those contained rather down-to-earth slapstick humor, but also, at times, social commentary in the form of mocking stereotypes of members of the various social strata of the time—Polish lords, Jews, Cossacks, Gypsies, and peasants—as in an untitled play by Mytrofan Dovhalevsky  or in Heorhii Konysky's Voskreseniie mertvykh [The Resurrection of the Dead, 1746]). Students and seminarians were more than willing to compose intermedes, especially for the plays which were part of the repertoire of the puppet theater, the vertep. (Texts for vertep dramas have survived only from the 1770s.) Since the students and wandering precentors presented the vertep at village and city fairs, both the serious mystery plays and the slapstick interludes reached a wide audience. The most famous play of the time, Vladimir (1705) by Teofan Prokopovych, is unusual in its blurring of the strict division between the serious and the comic. Glorifying Volodymyr the Great for christening Rus’, Prokopovych merges the comic and derisive elements with other elements of the play and so initiates the genre of tragicomedy. A much weaker tragicomedy, dealing with the fall in morals of the day, is Varlaam Lashchevsky's Tragedokomediia ... (1742). Of interest also is the drama Mylost’ Bozhiia Ukrainu ... svobodyvshaia (God's Grace Which Has Liberated Ukraine ..., 1728), by an anonymous author. It moves away from religious themes and deals with events during the Bohdan Khmelnytsky period. The use of personifications in the play to portray such ‘personages’ as Ukraine or News (in Ukrainian both are singular and feminine: Ukraïna, Vistka) is also quite typical of the time.
Although the Cossack period in Ukrainian literature lasted until the end of the 18th century, it had begun to decline with the signing of the Pereiaslav Treaty of 1654, when Ukraine came under ever-increasing Russian domination. In 1667 the Treaty of Andrusovo divided Ukraine between the Russian and the Polish states. In 1709 Hetman Ivan Mazepa in league with Charles XII of Sweden, failed in his attempt to wrest Ukraine from Russian control. In 1720 Peter I of Russia banned all ecclesiastical printing in Ukrainian by decree, and in 1723 the Hetman state lost the right to choose its own hetmans. Catherine II of Russia had the Zaporozhian Sich razed in 1775; in 1783 serfdom was introduced in Ukraine. By 1785 the remaining Cossack starshyna had been given the status of nobility so that its absorption into the Russian gentry would be facilitated. All through the Cossack period most of what was written in Ukraine was written in the bookish language, which in the 18th century came under the strong influence of the Russian language and consistently grew farther away from the vernacular.
Also important in ending the Cossack period in Ukrainian literature was the rise of classicism in the literature of the West. The influence of classicism began to be felt in the Russian Empire in the second half of the 18th century. Of the prescriptive tenets of classicism the most important for the further development of Ukrainian literature was that which defined the three styles of literary writing, high, middle, and low. Classicism recognized different registers of language: only odes, tragedies, and scholarly writings were written in the high style (ie, the bookish scholarly language; in Ukraine at the time that meant Russian); drama and prose were relegated to the middle style (a mixture of the bookish and the vernacular spoken by clerks and other literate people); and comedy, burlesque, and travesty were written in the low style (the language of the peasantry; in ‘Little Russian,’ Ukrainian).
Vernacular literature. It is not surprising then that travesty links the Cossack period with the period of the vernacular. The transposing of high and serious works of antiquity studied in school into the ‘low’ language of the common people was popular. Many verse-travesties have survived from the 18th century. Some, such as Iarmarok (The Fair, 1790) and Zamysl na popa (The Plot against the Priest, 1790) by Ivan Nekrashevych, tend more toward the burlesque; others, such as Virgilievi pastukhy ... v malorosiis’kyi kobeniak pereodiahneni (Virgil's Shepherds ... Dressed in a Little Russian Vest, ca 1794) by Opanas Lobysevych, rely more heavily on the humor derived from the use of the common language. It is in that spirit that the ‘father’ of Ukrainian vernacular literature, Ivan Kotliarevsky, wrote his famous epic poem, Eneïda (Aeneid, pts 1–3, 1798; pt 4, 1809; pts 5–6, ca 1820; first complete edn 1842).
The work, which appeared in its entirety only after Kotliarevsky's death, was a tremendous success, no doubt because of its skillful travesty of the Roman classic and its able use of the Ukrainian vernacular to reveal that language's wealth of picturesque idioms. Although Kotliarevsky was only following the dictates of classicism and did not set out to ‘create a literature in the vernacular,’ his highly sensitive ear for the idiomatic language, sharp eye for ethnographic detail, and talent as a writer produced the unexpected. No small part of the success of the travesty lay in the fact that Kotliarevsky abandoned the stilted syllabic versification which had never quite suited the randomly stressed Ukrainian language, and wrote the Eneïda in a 10-line strophe of four-foot iambs, thereby giving a start to the use of syllabo-tonic metrics in Ukrainian literature. Surprised by his own success, Kotliarevsky nonetheless seemed to realize the importance of his work, for he injected a serious tone in the last three sections of the epic and also went on to write two plays in the newly ‘discovered’ language, Natalka Poltavka (Natalka from Poltava) and Moskal’ charivnyk (The Soldier Sorcerer), both in 1819.
The most important follower of Ivan Kotliarevsky in the genre of travesty was Petro Hulak-Artemovsky, noted for his travestied adaptations of the odes of Horace (Do Parkhoma) and the expanded adaptation of a fable by the 18th-century Polish writer Ignacy Krasicki (Pan ta sobaka [Master and His Dog, 1818]). Hulak-Artemovsky's attempt to use Ukrainian outside of travesty or burlesque, as in his translation of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Fisherman, produced awkward results. His language was still too much in the register of the burlesque. Hryhorii Kvitka-Osnovianenko, the initiator of the Ukrainian short story, was more successful in his attempt to write ‘serious’ works in the vernacular. Although his play (Svatannia na Honcharivtsi [The Betrothal in Honcharivka, 1836]) and early stories still reflect the burlesque tradition (eg, ‘Saldats’kyi patret’ [A Soldier's Portrait]), his later stories are more somber in tone and are imbued with the sentimentalism that was fashionable at the time. Whereas Kotliarevsky in his comedies showed that Ukrainian peasants could laugh and were funny, Kvitka-Osnovianenko (his collection of stories appeared in 1834) did no more than show that they are capable of tears and sadness.
As classicism gave way to romanticism its rigid laws were abandoned. Gone were the high and low styles. The Romantics were genuinely interested in folk songs, legends, myths, and the heroic past. Several histories appeared, the most notable being Istoriia Rusov (printed in 1847 but written at the beginning of the century and circulated in manuscript form). The authorship is uncertain; but although the language of the work is Russian, its message is that of Ukrainian patriotism. Also important is Istoriia Maloi Rossii ... (History of Little Russia ..., 1822) by Dmytro Bantysh-Kamensky.
Several collections of Ukrainian folk songs and dumas appeared in quick succession, the most influential of them Nikolai Tsertelev's first gathering of dumas (1819) and Mykhailo Maksymovych's Malorossiiskie pesni (Little Russian Songs, 1827). At Kharkiv University young scholars imbued with the spirit of romanticism formed a group (see Kharkiv Romantic School) around Izmail Sreznevsky, a Ukrainophile Russian scholar and ethnographer. Their interest in and collection of folklore confirmed their belief that the Ukrainian folk tradition was indeed rich in content and language and convinced them of the inaccuracy of the notion that the vernacular language could be used only for humorous literature. They developed new genres, translated and imitated works from other literatures, and wholly embraced Johann Gottfried von Herder's idea that Slavic folk poetry was closer to nature and less soiled by corrupt civilization than that of other peoples. The most prominent of the Kharkiv group were Levko Borovykovsky, whose ballads and whose contribution to the development of poetic vocabulary make him a precursor of Taras Shevchenko; Amvrosii Metlynsky, a poet full of nostalgia for the heroic past of the Cossacks and pessimism for the future; and the lyrical poet Mykhailo Petrenko, known for one extant poem, in which he captures supremely the eternal quest to escape into boundless space. Most of the authors of the period also wrote in Russian; some did so exclusively and thus belong to Russian literature. The famous Nikolai Gogol is a prime example.
Although by the early 19th century Polonization had progressed in Galicia as far as Russification had in central Ukraine, if not farther, the national awakening in terms of a turn to the vernacular occurred there at almost the same time as in Russian-ruled Ukraine. The 1837 publication of a collection of poems in the vernacular, Rusalka Dnistrovaia (Dnister Water Nymph), published in Buda, Hungary (its printing was not permitted in Galicia), marks the beginning of Ukrainian vernacular literature in Galicia. The collection was the effort of three Lviv seminarians, Yakiv Holovatsky, Ivan Vahylevych, and, the most talented author and the leader of the ‘trinity,’ Markiian Shashkevych (see Ruthenian Triad).
Such authors as Mykola Ustyianovych (‘Mest' verkhovyntsia’ [The Highlander's Vengeance, 1849]) and Antin Mohylnytsky continued to write in the Romantic tradition in Galicia, but Kyiv became the center of romanticism in the 1840s. Kyiv was the seat of the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood, which consisted, among others, of Taras Shevchenko, Panteleimon Kulish, and Mykola Kostomarov, the last of whom provided a link with the Kharkiv Romantic School of the 1830s. Yet unlike the Kharkiv school the brotherhood had a definite, if rather utopian, political and national program: it called for a Slavic federation and believed that Ukraine, where the Cossack traditions of freedom and democracy had flourished, would provide the leadership in the federation. Those ideas were incorporated into Knyhy bytiia ukraïns’koho narodu (The Books of Genesis of the Ukrainian People), written by Kostomarov. He also wrote drama on the Shakespearean model, philosophical poetry, and literary criticism. Another prominent member of the brotherhood, Kulish is noted primarily for his novel-chronicle Chorna rada (The Black Council, 1857), the first historical novel written in Ukrainian. Kulish was also a poet, a translator (of William Shakespeare and the Bible), and a publisher of Osnova (Saint Petersburg). Although Kulish's prose works far surpassed those of his predecessor Hryhorii Kvitka-Osnovianenko, as a poet he could not surpass Shevchenko.
Unlike Panteleimon Kulish Taras Shevchenko was imbued with the Romantic spirit of revolt, and with him Ukrainian romanticism reached its pinnacle. Shevchenko had the ability to express profound thought in seemingly simple words. With the appearance of his Kobzar (The Minstrel, 1840), and his ‘Haidamaky’ (The Haidamakas, 1841) Shevchenko dispelled all doubt as to whether the Ukrainian vernacular was suitable for a full-range literature. His poems consist of simple lyrics, ballads, Byronic poems, social and political satire, didactic exhortations, and paraphrases of biblical texts. He was popular in his day, and his popularity continued to grow and with it the influence of his poetry. Though Ivan Kotliarevsky is the ‘father’ of literature in the Ukrainian vernacular, Shevchenko is the father of the national revival which culminated in an independent state in 1918 [see Struggle for Independence (1917–20)].
The death of Taras Shevchenko in 1861 for all practical purposes marks the end of the Romantic movement in Ukraine, although Romantic works continued to be written not only by his epigones but also by some talented writers. The most prominent of the belated Romantics were the poet Yakiv Shchoholiv, the prosaist Oleksa Storozhenko, who in his stories and in an unfinished novel dealt with the fantastic elements of the Cossack past, and Yurii Fedkovych. Fedkovych is known primarily for his lyrics, imbued with German romanticism and full of Hutsul folklore, with which he brought about a revival of Ukrainian literature in Bukovyna.
Barring those few exceptions, the majority of writers of the time followed the new literary trend of realism and its philosophy of positivism. They stressed the importance of the exact sciences, expressed belief in evolution and progress, preached democracy, and tried to portray reality in an objective, naturalistic manner (naturalism). To be sure, the transition from romanticism to realism was not a sudden one; both elements can be detected in the works of many writers. The best example of the duality is found in the prose of Marko Vovchok, the first major woman writer in Ukrainian literature. In her short stories (1857) she joined elements of the former ethnographic romanticism (descriptions of various folk customs, ceremonies, and dress) with themes of serfdom, and she was one of the first to speak out against the evils of such a social system. Other notable writers on the border of the two movements were Stepan Rudansky, whose collection of verse based on folk humor (Spivomovky) is unique, and Leonid Hlibov, a sensitive lyricist noted mainly, however, for his adaptation of traditional fable plots into Ukrainian by using Ukrainian motifs and folklore to illustrate them.
Realism, however, had its greatest impact on the development of prose, especially of the long short story, the novelette (povist’). The genre proved most suitable for conveying the populist message. The first to introduce populist propaganda into his writings was Oleksander Konysky. The real masters of 19th-century Ukrainian realistic prose were Ivan Nechui-Levytsky and Panas Myrny. Nechui-Levytsky formulated the principles of Ukrainian populist realism (a work must be realistic in its portrayal of the world, national in inspiration, and populist in ideology) to which both writers adhered. Borys Hrinchenko was also an important practitioner of the realistic novelette, although he is better known as a poet and lexicographer.
In the second half of the 19th century the tsarist regime severely curtailed literary activity through the Valuev circular of 1863 and the Ems Ukase of 1876, which prohibited most publication in the Ukrainian language. Since those decrees were not repealed until 1905, many works remained unpublished or had to be published outside of the Russian Empire, most often in Galicia, where no such restrictions existed. Some works appeared too late to have any influence on the literary process. Such was the case with the family-chronicle novel Liuboratski by Anatolii Svydnytsky, written in 1861–2 but not published until 1898. Some scholars and writers even left Russian-ruled Ukraine for Galicia, most notably the historian Mykhailo Hrushevsky. Others went farther west, as did the journalist, scholar, and political ideologist Mykhailo Drahomanov, who in 1876 settled in Geneva, where he published the journal Hromada (Geneva). Through his socialist works he exercised a profound influence on intellectual life in Ukraine.
The most important writer to be influenced by Mykhailo Drahomanov was Ivan Franko, the dominant Ukrainian literary figure in the last quarter of the 19th century. Franko's choice of the Ukrainian vernacular over the yazychiie, the dialect advocated by the moskvofily (see Russophiles), irrevocably confirmed the end of that movement in Galicia. Franko was a universalist. He was equally at ease with the realistic novelette, the lyrical poem, the epic poem, drama, the essay, the political pamphlet, and translation. He was a first-rate philologist and literary critic, as well as an avid collector and cataloger of folk oral literature. He could not, however, always reconcile his feeling of duty toward his people with the strict artistic demands of a work of literature. As a consequence his literary output is uneven. Nevertheless, owing to his efforts Ukrainian literature made enormous advances in the development of genres and themes.
The desire of the realists to reach as wide an audience as possible with their positivistic message, coupled with the tsarist prohibition of Ukrainian publications, made theater important and spurred the writing of drama. The three most noted dramatists were Mykhailo Starytsky, Marko Kropyvnytsky, and Ivan Karpenko-Kary. Starytsky had a predilection for melodrama, and in addition to writing his own plays he adopted and improved works of others. All three mixed ethnographic romanticism with realism, especially in their comedies, but Karpenko-Kary was the first to succeed with historical drama. In his works the line between comedy and tragedy is no longer distinct, and the love intrigue does not necessarily provide the central conflict.
Toward the end of the 19th century realism in Ukrainian literature started to give way to modernism. Some writers no longer aimed for a naturalistic ‘copy’ of reality, and instead elected an impressionist mode. Along with that change the novelette gave way to the short story. In drama the action passed inward, to explore the psychological conflicts, moods, and experiences of the characters. Poetry abandoned its realistic orientation in favor of the symbolic; emphasis on content gave way to a fascination with form. The work of Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky marks the transition from realism to modernism. His first stories were in the vein of Ivan Nechui-Levytsky and Panas Myrny. Later he adopted and perfected the impressionistic manner of narration (eg, Intermezzo). Olha Kobylianska, a woman writer contemporary of Kotsiubynsky, was not so much an impressionist in her manner as a neoromantic. She instilled in her heroes (often women) an aloofness and an aristocracy of spirit. The neoromantic tendency in modernism prompted to a rekindling of interest in folklore and resulted in the appearance of three remarkable works of literature: Hnat Khotkevych's novel Kaminna dusha (A Soul of Stone, 1911), which in its treatment of female sexuality anticipates D.H. Lawrence; Lesia Ukrainka's play Lisova pisnia (A Forest Song, 1911); and Kotsiubynsky's novelette Tini zabutykh predkiv (Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, 1913).
The master of the very short impressionistic story was Vasyl Stefanyk. Condensed, dramatically charged, their subtle orchestration owing much to the local dialect of Stefanyk's heroes, his stories reveal the anguish at the heart of human existence. Two other writers who joined with Stefanyk to form the Pokutia triad were Marko Cheremshyna and Les Martovych. They used methods similar to those of Stefanyk but rarely achieved the same results. The novelist and dramatist Volodymyr Vynnychenko was deeply interested in the psychological experiences and especially the morality of the intelligentsia. Other modernist prose writers of note were Stepan Vasylchenko, Arkhyp Teslenko, and Bohdan Lepky.
Lepky also wrote poetry, as did most of the other members of the modernist group represented by Moloda Muza. The most prominent in that group of Galician modernists were Petro Karmansky, with his end-of-the-century pessimism, and Vasyl Pachovsky, remarkable for his formal diversity. A modernist group in Russian-ruled Ukraine, centered around the journal Ukraïns’ka khata, produced no major poets. Outside of that group stood Oleksander Oles, by far the most popular lyricist of the period, the spirit of whose lyrics waxed and waned with the success and failure of the Revolution of 1905 and the Revolution of 1917; Volodymyr Samiilenko, with his satiric verse; Ahatanhel Krymsky, with his exoticism; and Hrytsko Chuprynka, memorable for his experimentation in sound. All of them contributed to the development of modernist poetry. Average poets but important to the modernist movement were Mykola Vorony, the author of a modernist manifesto of 1901, and Spyrydon Cherkasenko, who introduced elements of symbolism into Ukrainian drama.
Although the realist Ivan Franko wrote some modernist verse (Ziv'iale lystia [Withered Leaves, 1896]), by far the most renowned poet of the modernist era was Lesia Ukrainka. More Romantic than modernist in style, her lyrics reflect wilful determination to conquer the disease that afflicted her body. The fighting spirit of her poems made them timely for the increasing struggle of Ukrainians for self-realization. Yet her greatest achievement was in the realm of the poetic drama. She chose universal themes and gave them her own unique treatment, as in Kaminnyi hospodar (The Stone Host, 1912), where she provided an early feminist treatment of the Don Juan motif.
The renaissance of the 1920s. The vernacular period came to an end with the First World War. The downfall of the Russian Empire and Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Revolution of 1917, the establishment of an independent Ukraine (even if for a very short time) [see Struggle for independence (1917–20)], and, finally, the relative leniency of the Soviet regime during the period of Ukrainization in the 1920s all led to a stupendous renaissance of literary activity. New writers appeared by the dozen. They formed literary groups and organizations (Lanka, MARS, Hart, Pluh, Nova Generatsiia, Vaplite, Prolitfront), published almanacs and magazines (such as the highly imaginative Literaturnyi iarmarok), and espoused various literary trends (symbolism, expressionism, impressionism, futurism, neoclassicism, neorealism, etc). There was a boom in literary criticism and scholarship. New histories of literature were written. It was one of two most vital eras in Ukrainian literary history.
The most renowned poet of the time was Pavlo Tychyna. An innovator in form, rhythm, and imagery, he was the embodiment of what has since his day been called a ‘romanticism of vitaism’ (Yurii Lavrinenko). A predilection for canonic metrics and classical harmony united a group of five poets commonly referred to as the Neoclassicists. The group was centered around Mykola Zerov and included Maksym Rylsky, Mykhailo Drai-Khmara, Pavlo Fylypovych, and Yurii Klen. Mykola Bazhan was an exponent of expressionism, and Mykhailo Semenko propagated futurism. Other important poets of the time were Vasyl Blakytny, Oleksa Vlyzko, Yakiv Savchenko, Dmytro Falkivsky, Dmytro Zahul, Geo Shkurupii, Valeriian Polishchuk, Maik Yohansen, Teodosii Osmachka, the prolific lyricist Volodymyr Sosiura, and the philosophical poet Yevhen Pluzhnyk.
The 1920s were by no means a renaissance only for poetry. The prose of Mykola Khvylovy, with its erratic telegraphic style, and his pamphlets, with their turbulent exhortations and rhetorical questions, were part and symptom of the prevalent spirit of national vitality. Khvylovy's pamphlets, which provoked the Literary Discussion, and his attempt at grouping writers into organizations—Vaplite and Prolitfront—to create a new proletarian Ukrainian culture make him the most important single author of the period from a literary and cultural but also a political point of view. Ukrainian prose was enriched by the lyrically romantic works of Yurii Yanovsky and by Valeriian Pidmohylny, who gave Ukrainian literature its first modern novel in the neorealistic tradition. Ukrainian drama reached its apogee in the works of Mykola Kulish especially during his collaboration with Les Kurbas and the Berezil theater. Other prose writers of note were Mykhailo Ivchenko, Andrii Holovko, Ivan Senchenko, Hryhorii Epik, Volodymyr Gzhytsky, Arkadii Liubchenko, Bohdan Antonenko-Davydovych, Oleksa Slisarenko, the lyrical impressionist Hryhorii Kosynka, the humorist Ostap Vyshnia, and the essayist and parodist Kost Burevii. All of them were soon to be repressed.
The pre-independence period. The renaissance of the 1920s ended abruptly and brutally. By the 1930s the Communist party had taken full control over literature; all independent organizations were abolished, and writers were forced into the Writers' Union of Ukraine. The great terror began, and by 1938 most of the writers had either accepted Party control or been imprisoned, killed, or driven to suicide. It is estimated that over 250 prominent writers perished during the decade, and the shortest but most intense period of Ukrainian literary development thus ended. Socialist realism was proclaimed the sole acceptable literary manner. Authors who survived the terror (eg, Pavlo Tychyna, Maksym Rylsky, Mykola Bazhan, Yurii Yanovsky, Volodymyr Sosiura) were cowed into submission. They renounced their former literary works and wrote panegyrics to Joseph Stalin and to the Party. Other themes (eg, collectivization, five-year plans, industrialization) were decreed and enforced from above. The 1940s and 1950s in Soviet Ukrainian literature were lean years with respect to literary quality. Representative of the period were the novels of Natan Rybak, Ivan Le, Leonid Pervomaisky, Yurii Smolych, Petro Panch, Iryna Vilde, and Mykhailo Stelmakh; the dramas of Oleksander Korniichuk and Ivan Kocherha; and the poetry of Tychyna, Rylsky, and Andrii Malyshko. The exception was the highly individualistic Volodymyr Svidzinsky.
Between the world wars the national struggle continued to be the dominant theme of literature in Western Ukraine and among the political émigrés in Prague. Most representative of the émigré group both in theme and style was the nationalist-romantic poetry of Yevhen Malaniuk. A fighting spirit and historical determinism mark the works of many poets of the nationalist school, such as Yurii Darahan, Yurii Lypa, Leonid Mosendz, Oleksa Stefanovych, Oksana Liaturynska, Sviatoslav Hordynsky, Bohdan Kravtsiv, and two who fell victim to the Gestapo terror in Ukraine, Oleh Olzhych and Olena Teliha. Teliha managed by her extreme sensitivity to soften the often-sharp edges of nationalist poetry. Quite apart from the nationalist group stood the most unusual poet of the period, the imagist Bohdan Ihor Antonych, and the pro-communist Vasyl Bobynsky.
Ukrainian literature outside of Soviet Ukraine experienced an unusually intensive period of development in the displaced persons' camps in West Germany and Austria immediately after the Second World War. Thrown together from various regions of Ukraine, writers managed to replay on a small scale the activity of the 1920s. They convened congresses, organized literary activity (see MUR), and published almanacs, journals, and books. A key role in the activity was played by the linguist, scholar, and literary critic, George Yurii Shevelov and the novelist Ulas Samchuk. Variety and impetus came from a large group of authors, some of whom, such as Teodosii Osmachka, Yurii Klen, Ivan Bahriany, Mykhailo Orest, and Dokiia Humenna, had managed to escape the purges in Soviet Ukraine. Also of note were the dramatist, prose writer, essayist, and publisher Ihor Kostetsky; the politically ambivalent Yurii Kosach; the poets Vasyl Barka, Vadym Lesych, and newcomers to literature, Oleh Zuievsky, Yar Slavutych, Leonid Poltava, and Ihor Kachurovsky (who also wrote prose). The episode came to an end in the early 1950s as the majority of the authors died or emigrated to North America and continued their literary work there.
There had been Ukrainian literary activity in North America since the turn of the century. Many of the early works were poems, written in simple, folklike verse, expressing longing for Ukraine or for acceptance in the strange new land. A few figures stand out, among them the dramatist Myrosalv Irchan (who returned to Soviet Ukraine), the poet Mykyta Mandryka, and the novelist-chronicler Illia Kiriak. With the advent of the immigrant writers after the Second World War, literary activity increased; it was especially enlivened by the appearance in the late 1950s of a group of younger authors known as the New York Group. There was little stylistic convergence between the depoetized strophes of George Tarnawsky, the sensual earthy images of Bohdan Boychuk, the surrealism of Emma Andiievska, the erudite allusions of Bohdan Rubchak, the mythical exoticism of Vira Vovk, and the otherworldliness of Patryciia Kylyna (Patricia Warren), but the members of the group were united in their attempt to create modern poetry devoid of immediate links to the tradition of nationalist poetry. Andiievska has also contributed significantly to the development of the modern Ukrainian novel. Some of the other writers who continued their literary activity in North America were the poets Vasyl Barka, Vadym Lesych, Oleh Zuievsky, Yar Slavutych, Leonid Poltava, Volodymyr Skorupsky, Borys Oleksandriv, Yurii Kolomyiets, Ostap Tarnavsky, and Bohdan Kravtsiv; the satirists Oleksander Smotrych and Bohdan Nyzhankivsky (Babai); the humorists Ivan S. Kernytsky and Mykola Ponedilok; and the novelists Ulas Samchuk and Oleksa Izarsky. Literary criticism and essays continued to be written by Yurii Sherekh (George Yurii Shevelov), Yurii Lavrinenko, Ihor Kostetsky, and Ivan Koshelivets.
After the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953 and the ‘de-Stalinization’ speech by Nikita Khrushchev at the 20th Party Congress in February 1956, the controls over literature in the Soviet Union began to slacken. A former member of Vaplite, the film director Oleksander Dovzhenko initiated the ‘thaw’ in Ukrainian literature with the publication of his autobiographical novelette Zacharovana Desna (The Enchanted Desna, 1957). The process of rehabilitation of some of the authors destroyed in the 1930s began slowly. Contemporaries of the purged authors wrote their memoirs of the times (eg, Yurii Smolych and his three volumes about the era of ‘restlessness’ [nespokii], 1968, 1969, and 1972). The rediscovery of the 1920s had a profound influence on the generation that was born just before or during the Second World War and began publishing in the 1960s. The so-called shistdesiatnyky (the Sixtiers) succeeded in a span of 10 years in revitalizing all genres of Ukrainian literature. Among the most prominent authors were, in poetry, Lina Kostenko, Ivan Drach, Vitalii Korotych, Mykola Vinhranovsky, and Vasyl Symonenko; in prose, Yevhen Hutsalo, Hryhir Tiutiunnyk, and Valerii Shevchuk; in cultural and literary criticism, Ivan Dziuba, Ivan Svitlychny, and Yevhen Sverstiuk; and in drama, Oleksa Kolomiiets. Some authors, such as the poet Dmytro Pavlychko and the novelists Oles Honchar, Leonid Pervomaisky, Roman Ivanychuk, Yurii Mushketyk, and Pavlo Zahrebelny, entered a newly creative phase. Although almost immediately new repressions occurred, in the 1970s, a second generation of writers managed to appear. Among them the most notable were the poets Ihor Kalynets, Vasyl Stus, and Vasyl Holoborodko and the prosaist Volodymyr Drozd. With the exception of Kostenko and Shevchuk, who ceased publishing for a decade, most of the authors of the 1960s and 1970s either accepted the strictures of Party control (eg Korotych, Drach, Dziuba, and Pavlychko) or were repressed (eg Svitlychny, Sverstiuk, Kalynets, Holoborodko). Symonenko, Tiutiunnyk, and Stus died in a prison camp of the Gulag.
The changes in the USSR in the six years before its dissolution in 1991 rekindled interest in the ‘white spots’—all that which had been removed from the history of Ukrainian literature. Writers who had been absent from Ukrainian literature since the 1930s have now been republished (Mykola Khvylovy, Mykola Zerov, Valeriian Pidmohylny, etc), as have poems by poets repressed during Leonid Brezhnev's regime, such as Ihor Kalynets, Mykola Vorobiov, and Taras Melnychuk. The literary scholar Mykola Zhulynsky has filled in some of the missing literary biographies. A new phenomenon in the development of Ukrainian literature has been the appearance of the urban avant-garde groups Bu-Ba-Bu (Viktor Neborak, Yuri Andrukhovych, Oleksandr Irvanets), LuHoSad (I. Luchuk, N. Honchar, R. Sadlovsky), and Propala Hramota (S. Lybon, Yu. Pozaiak, V. Nedostup). Their poetry is marked by a desire to épater, and frequently resorts to parody and satire. New in the development of Ukrainian prose are the urban and demimonde environments and expanded lexical registers in the prose works of Andrukhovych and Volodymyr Yavorsky. Among other younger writers of interest are the poets Vasyl Herasymiuk, Ivan Malkovych, Ihor Rymaruk, Oleh Lysheha, and Oksana Zabuzhko.
Ukrainian literature had a brief flowering in the 1960s in Czechoslovakia, during the Prague Spring. Most noteworthy were the psychological short stories of Yeva Biss and Vasyl Datsei, the poetry of Serhii Makara and Stepan Hostyniak, the criticism of Yurii Bacha, and the scholarship of Orest Zilynsky, Mykhailo Molnar, and M.ykola Mushynka. Although no major figures have emerged, some Ukrainian literary activity exists in Yugoslavia, Romania, Poland, and other countries where Ukrainians have settled (see Canada, Great Britain, Brazil, Australia, France, Germany, and United States of America, and also Literary criticism, Literature studies, Drama, Poetry, and Prose).
Danylo Husar Struk
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]
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