Boiko, Vasyl

Boiko, Vasyl [Бойко, Василь], b 12 April 1893 (or 1892) in Malyn, Kyiv gubernia, d 1938 in Verkhneuralsk, RSFSR. Ukrainian political leader, literary scholar, and literary critic. In 1911 Boiko graduated from a Lutsk gymnasium from which he was once (in 1907) temporarily expelled for revolutionary activity. In 1911–2 he studied at the Peter the Great Polytechnical Institute in Saint Petersburg, where he also participated in student protests. In 1912 he moved to Kyiv to study at the Department of History and Philology of Kyiv University, attending seminars by Volodymyr Peretts, Andrii Loboda, Mykola Hrunsky, and others. Following his graduation, he worked at the department as a research associate. At the same time Boiko was actively involved in politics. Closely associated with the socialist wing of the Ukrainian national movement, he was a member of the Society of Ukrainian Progressives and later the Ukrainian Party of Socialists-Federalists. For the latter party he wrote two popular brochures on zemstvo administrations and elections to local councils. Boiko was one of the organizers of the Ukrainian student movement in Kyiv, and in April 1917 was elected member of the Central Rada as a representative of the Supreme Council of Ukrainian Students. In May–July 1917 he participated in the work of the committee on the drafting of the Statute of Ukraine’s Autonomy. He also worked in the electoral committee of the Constituent Assembly of Ukraine and edited its organ, Visti Holovnoï Komisiï (News of the Supreme Commission). In September 1917 he was a member of the Ukrainian delegation at the Congress of Peoples of Russia in Kyiv.

In 1918–19 Boiko worked at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in the commission responsible for the publication of new Ukrainian literature and was an editor for the Knyhospilka publishing co-operative. In 1918 he published his first book of literary scholarship: Marko Vovchok: istoryko-literaturnyi nacherk (Marko Vovchok: A Historical and Literary Sketch). He also edited and wrote introductions to the editions of selected works by Hryhorii Kvitka-Osnovianenko and Vasyl Stefanyk. In 1919 Boiko moved to Skvyra near Kyiv, where he taught at the Higher Pedagogical Courses and headed the People’s Education Department at the local revolutionary committee. In 1923 he enrolled in the Ukrainian Institute of Marxism-Leninism in Kharkiv, where he studied philosophy and sociology under Semen Semkovsky. From 1925 he taught at the Kharkiv Institute of People's Education and in 1928 he became full-time professor of dialectical materialism. From 1926 he headed the Cabinet of History of Ukrainian Literature of the Era of Imperialism and Financial Capitalism (late 19th to early 20th century) of the Taras Shevchenko Scientific Research Institute. In 1926 he contributed to the discussion regarding the formalist method in literature with his article Formalism i marksyzm (Formalism and Marxism) published in the journal Chervonyi shliakh. From 1927 Boiko also worked as research associate at the Department of Sociology of the Ukrainian Institute of Marxism-Leninism. In 1928 he published a monograph Dialektychnyi materialism (Dialectical Materialism). In his early literary studies, Boiko attempted to combine the sociological approach and formalist analysis of a literary work. In the late 1920s, he developed his own periodization of the history of Ukrainian literature on the basis of Hegelian-Marxist dialectic applied to the historical evolution of a national culture.

In 1933 during an ideological purge at the Taras Shevchenko Scientific Research Institute, Boiko was accused of ‘bourgeois nationalism’, ‘Pereverzevism’ and ‘Trotskyism’ and then dismissed from his post. In 1934 the People's Commissariat for Education sent him to the Verkhneuralsk Pedagogical Institute in western Siberia where he taught Russian literature until his death.

Galina Babak

[This article was written in 2020.]

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