Dontsov, Dmytro

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Dontsov, Dmytro [Донцов, Дмитро; Doncov], b 29 August 1883 in Melitopol, Tavriia gubernia, d 30 March 1973 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Political journalist and theorist, editor, literary critic. From 1900 to 1907 Dontsov lived and studied law in Saint Petersburg, where he was active in Ukrainian circles, joined the Revolutionary Ukrainian party and later the Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers' party (USDRP), and began his journalistic career. Imprisoned briefly and persecuted for his USDRP involvement, Dontsov fled from Kyiv to Galicia in 1908. In 1909–11 he studied law in Vienna. At the Second Ukrainian Student Congress in Lviv in 1913, Dontsov condemned the prevalent Little Russian orientation among the intelligentsia and advocated an anti-Russian political program and Ukraine's political separation. His speech, published separately as Suchasne politychne polozhennia natsiï i nashi zavdannia (The Present Political Situation of the Nation and Our Tasks), elicited the disapproval of many Ukrainian socialist leaders, as well as that of Vladimir Lenin. Breaking with the USDRP, Dontsov became the first head, in 1914, of the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine, which he soon left over political differences. In 1914–16 he headed the information service in Berlin of the Ukrainian Parliamentary Club in Vienna and edited its weekly press bulletin Korrespondenz (see Press and information bureaus abroad). In 1916–17 he headed the Bureau of the Peoples of Russia in Bern, Switzerland, and edited its press bulletin. In 1917 he returned to Lviv, where he finished his doctor of law degree, and then moved on to Kyiv. There he directed the press bureau and the Ukrainian Telegraph Agency under the Hetman government. Falling out with the regime after its proclamation of federation with Russia, Dontsov left Kyiv and in 1919–21 directed the press and information section of the Ukrainian diplomatic mission in Bern. By the early 1920s Dontsov had rejected all of his earlier socialist and Marxist ideas and had become a leading ideologue of Ukrainian antidemocratic integral nationalism. Up to the Second World War many of his articles appeared in the German, Polish, and Swiss press.

From 1922 to 1939 Dontsov lived in Lviv and became an influential figure as the editor of Literaturno-naukovyi vistnyk (1922–32), Zahrava (1923–4), and the journal Vistnyk (1933–9) and the author of numerous articles and books. With the Soviet occupation of Galicia, he fled to Gdańsk. From there he went to Berlin and then to Bucharest, where he edited the journal Batava (1940–1). In 1941 he moved to Berlin and then to Prague, where he wrote articles on Eastern Europe for the German press. In 1945 he fled to the American zone in Germany, and from there went to Paris, England, and the United States of America. In 1947 he settled in Montreal, where in 1949–52 he lectured on Ukrainian literature at the University of Montreal. His life in Canada was devoted to writing for the Ukrainian émigré press, mainly that of the Bandera faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), and revising many of his works of the 1920s and 1930s for publication. A good account of Dontsov's life and ideas can be found in Mykhailo Sosnovsky's Dmytro Dontsov (see bibliography).

Dontsov's writing is marked by passionate argumentation and a dynamic style. He quoted his ideological opponents somewhat freely. Dontsov changed his world view several times: he embraced socialism and then renounced it; he rejected religion and then extolled a militant church. All his work was directed clearly against Russia and against the idea of Ukraine's federation with Russia. In defending unconditionally the idea of Ukrainian independence, Dontsov attacked Russian imperialism in all its forms and made a decisive contribution to the undermining of Russophilism and the influence of Communist ideas in Western Ukraine in the 1920s. He pointed out that Ukraine was organically tied to the West and strongly condemned those tendencies among Ukrainians in the 19th and 20th centuries that weakened this tie. Influenced profoundly by the debacle of the Ukrainian struggle for independence (1917–20), for which he blamed its leaders, he idealized Cossack traditions (see Cossacks) and increasingly emphasized the importance of traditionalism and a ruling caste, and the necessity of militancy and activism among the younger generation. His ideology was built on the principles of voluntarism and idealism: irrational will, according to him, was the main force in the life of the individual and of society. Dontsov believed that ideas have played an increasingly important role in history; hence, he denounced Marxism and historical materialism, thus provoking bitter attacks by the socialist and especially Communist camps. Because of his brilliant style of writing and his oratorical skill, Dontsov's ideas had a great impact on the minds of many young Galician Ukrainians in the 1930s. Nationalism and idealism became a dominant ideology. Dontsov's theses were to a large extent the basis for the revolutionary underground activity of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in the 1930s. His ideology (Dontsovism) was opposed by Ukrainian democratic and Catholic circles, which condemned his antidemocratic, elitist ethic and his amoral justification (in his system of voluntaristic and pantheistic monism) of any deed that benefits the primacy of the nation. More than any of his contemporaries Dontsov was a figure of both adulation and vilification.

Dontsov's main works are Moderne moskvofil’stvo (Modern Russophilism, 1913), Suchasne politychne polozhennia natsiï i nashi zavdannia (The Present Political Position of the Nation and Our Tasks, 1913), Die ukrainische Staatsidee und der Krieg gegen Russland (1915), Istoriia rozvytku ukraïns’koï derzhavnoï ideï (The History of the Development of the Idea of a Ukrainian State, 1917), Mizhnarodne polozhennia Ukraïny i Rosiia (Ukraine's International Position and Russia, 1918), Ukraïns’ka derzhavna dumka i Evropa (Ukrainian Political Thought and Europe, 1919), Kul’tura prymityvizmu: Holovni pidstavy rosiis’koï kul’tury (The Culture of Primitivism: The Main Foundations of Russian Culture, 1919), Pidstavy nashoï polityky (The Foundations of Our Politics, 1921), Poetka ukraïns’koho risordzhimenta: Lesia Ukraïnka (The Poetess of the Ukrainian Risorgimento: Lesia Ukrainka, 1922), Natsionalizm (Nationalism, 1926), Polityka pryntsypiial’na i oportunistychna (The Politics of Principle and of Opportunism, 1928), Spirit of Ukraine: Ukrainian Contribution to the World Culture (1935), Nasha doba i literatura (Our Era and Literature, 1936), Durman sotsiializmu (The Intoxicant of Socialism, 1936), De shukaty nashykh istorychnykh tradytsii (Where to Seek Our Historical Traditions, 1938), Dukh nashoï davnyny (The Spirit of Our Antiquity, 1944), Poetka vohnianykh mezh: Olena Teliha (The Poetess of the Fiery Limits: Olena Teliha, 1952), Pravda pradidiv velykykh (The Truth of the Great Ancestors, 1952), Rosiia chy Evropa (Russia or Europe, 1955), Vid mistyky do polityky (From Mysticism to Politics, 1957), Der Geist Russlands (1961), and Klych doby (The Watchword of the Era, 1968). The first volume in a multi-volume reprint series of Dontsov’s writings, Heopolitychni ta ideolohichni pratsi (Geopolitical and Ideological Works), appeared in Kyiv in 2001.

Dontsov's papers are preserved in the National Archives of Canada.

Lenkavs'kyi, S. ‘Filosofichni pidstavy “Natsionalizmu” Dontsova,’ Rozbudova natsiï (Prague), 1928, nos 7–8
Pushkar, K. Natsionalizm: Krytyka fraz (Lviv 1933)
Levyns’kyi, V. Ideoloh ukraïns'koho fashyzmu: Zamitky do ideolohiï Dmytra Dontsova (Lviv 1936)
Martynets', V. Ideolohiia orhanizovanoho i t.zv. volevoho natsionalizmu (Winnipeg 1954)
Iendyk, R. Dontsov: Ideoloh ukraïns'koho natsionalizmu (Munich 1955)
Sosnovs'kyi, M. Dmytro Dontsov: Politychnyi portret (New York–Toronto 1974)
Kvit, S. Dmytro Dontsov: Ideolohichnyi portret (Kyiv 2000)
Wysocki, R. W kręgu integralnego nacjonalizmu: Czynny nacjonalizm Dmytra Doncowa na tle myśli nowoczesnych Romana Dmowskiego. Studium porównawcze (Lublin 2014)
Zaitsev, O. Natsionalist u dobi fashyzmu: L'vivs'kyi period Dmytra Dontsova, 1922–1939 roky (Kyiv 2019)
Erlacher, T. Ukrainian Nationalism in the Age of Extremes: An Intellectual Biography of Dmytro Dontsov (Cambridge, Mass 2020)

Volodymyr Yaniv

[This article was updated in 2002.]

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