Hantsov, Vsevolod

Image - Vsevolod Hantsov (arrest photo).

Hantsov, Vsevolod [Ганцов, Всеволод; Hancov], b 25 November 1892 in Chernihiv, d 5 October 1979 in Chernihiv. Noted linguist and lexicographer. After graduating from Galagan College, he studied under L. Shcherba, Aleksei Shakhmatov, and Jan Baudouin de Courtenay at Saint Petersburg University and taught there in 1916–17. In 1918 he was the education commissioner in Kozelets county. In October 1918 he became a professor at Kyiv University. In 1920 he became the director of the Commission for Compiling a Dictionary of Spoken Ukrainian of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (VUAN) in Kyiv, and from 1924 he was a coeditor of the VUAN Russian-Ukrainian dictionary. He played an active role in the Kharkiv Orthographic Commission. At the Stalinist show trial of the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine in 1930, he was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment, which were later extended, apart from a short break in 1947, until 1956. He then returned to Chernihiv and tried to resume scholarly activity, but was prevented from doing so by Ivan Bilodid. (A short article by him did appear, however, in Radians’ke literaturoznavstvo, 1966, no. 3.)

Before his arrest Hantsov worked on problems of the normalization of literary Ukrainian (see Standard Ukrainian) and on the history of Belarusian (a study of the Radziwiłł Chronicle, 1927), but his most important contributions were in the field of Ukrainian historical dialectology. On the basis of his analysis of Ukrainian dialects in the Chernihiv region he proposed the theory that the Ukrainian language was formed by the fusion of originally distinct dialectal groups—the southern and northern groups, of which the present-day southwestern dialects and northern dialects are a continuation. This led him to reclassify Ukrainian dialects (1924) and to develop a scheme of the early history of the Ukrainian language. His division of Ukrainian dialects into three groups—northern, northwestern, and relatively recent southeastern dialects (formed by the synthesis of two former groups)—provided the foundation for subsequent studies of Ukrainian dialectology. An analysis of Hantsov’s works can be found in Yurii Sherekh’s Vsevolod Hantsov. Olena Kurylo (1954).

George Yurii Shevelov

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1988).]

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