Kapnist, Vasyl

Image - Volodymyr Borovykovsky: Portrait of Vasyl Kapnist.

Kapnist, Vasyl, b 23 February 1758 in Obukhivka, Myrhorod regiment, d 9 November 1823 in Kybyntsi, Poltava gubernia. (Portrait: Vasyl Kapnist.) Noted poet; civic and political figure. He served as marshal of the nobility for Myrhorod county in 1782 and for Kyiv gubernia in 1785–7. In 1782 he composed ‘Oda na rabstvo’ (Ode on Slavery) protesting the Russian government's abolition of Ukraine's autonomy. During the Russian empire's two-front war with Turkey and Sweden his plan for reviving volunteer Cossack regiments in Ukraine, drafted in 1788, was not implemented by the tsarist government. In 1791 Ukrainian patriotic circles, probably from Novhorod-Siverskyi, entrusted him with secret negotiations in Berlin for Prussian aid in the event of a Russian-Prussian war and a possible Cossack rebellion against Russia, but he did not obtain a definite commitment (see Novhorod-Siverskyi patriotic circle). His comedy Iabeda (Calumny, 1798) condemned Russia's centralist policy in Ukraine. As general judge (1802) and marshal for Poltava gubernia (from 1820), he defended Ukrainian interests, especially during the Napoleonic invasion of 1812–13 when 15 Cossack regiments were re-established and when Cossacks were exempted from the draft and various taxes (see Ukrainian regiments in 1812). In this period he wrote lyrical poetry, modeling himself on classical poets such as Horace. He also translated Slovo o polku Ihorevi (The Tale of Ihor's Campaign) into Russian, adding an interesting commentary emphasizing the poem's Ukrainian origin and distinctive Ukrainian qualities. His collected works were published in 1796, 1806, 1849, and 1960.

Berkov, P. V.V. Kapnist (Moscow-Leningrad 1950)
Ohloblyn, O. ‘Vasyl' Kapnist,’ Literaturno-naukovyi zbirnyk UVAN, vol 1 (New York 1952)
Matsai, A. ‘Iabeda’ V.V. Kapnista (Kyiv 1958)

Oleksander Ohloblyn

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1989).]

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