Belinsky, Vissarion

Belinsky, Vissarion [Belinskij], b 11 June 1811 in Sveaborg, Finland, d 7 June 1848 in Saint Petersburg. (Portrait: Vissarion Belinsky.) Leading Russian literary critic of the 1830s and 1840s, who considered Ukraine to be culturally and historically a part of Russia. Consequently, Belinsky was opposed to the development of Ukrainian literature, since he believed it would have to limit itself to the description of peasants and would have no readers. However, Belinsky praised Hryhorii Kvitka-Osnovianenko's Ukrainian stories and admired Ukrainian folk songs and folk customs. His belief that Ukrainians could not develop a high culture and an independent literature (see his review of Yevhen Hrebinka's Lastôvka, 1841) was most apparent in his attitude to Taras Shevchenko, whose Haidamaky (The Haidamakas) he attacked in 1842 and on whose arrest he wrote a scurrilous letter to P. Annenkov. Soviet scholars (V. Spiridonov, Fedir Pryima) attempted to attribute to Belinsky a mildly favorable, anonymous review of Shevchenko's Kobzar in Otechestvennye zapiski (1840). Two British scholars (Victor Swoboda, R. Martin) refuted this claim. During the Soviet era Belinsky's attitude to Ukraine has been grossly distorted (I. Bass) in order to show his ‘beneficent’ influence on Ukrainian literature.

George Stephen Nestor Luckyj

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]

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