Kharkiv Romantic School

Kharkiv Romantic School. A group of young poets who were professors or students at Kharkiv University in the 1830s–1840s. The term ‘school’ was proposed by Ahapii Shamrai, who researched and published their poetry. The school's main representatives were Izmail Sreznevsky, Amvrosii Metlynsky, Mykola Kostomarov, Levko Borovykovsky, Mykhailo Petrenko, and Opanas Shpyhotsky. Like young poets of other nations in the Romantic period, they were imbued with an incipient national consciousness, which prompted them to study the ethnography of their people. While collecting, publishing, and imitating folk songs, legends, and stories, the Kharkiv romantics developed their own, predominantly historical, themes. As a result of their ethnographic interest, their view of the common people differed from the patronizing attitude of their predecessors Ivan Kotliarevsky and Hryhorii Kvitka-Osnovianenko. Instead of treating the people as naive children of nature, they saw in them a source of spiritual renewal and strength and poetic inspiration. This new view was shared even by those who, like A. Metlynsky, were cowed by the suppression of the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood and did not believe in the feasibility of a national renaissance of the Ukrainian people. Without entirely overcoming the traditional inclination toward verbosity, the Kharkiv romantics nonetheless rejected the literary burlesque cultivated by the previous generation and reminded educated Ukrainians that, as Panteleimon Kulish wrote, their ‘native language exists not only for the purpose of berating the shiftless peasant.’ This new attitude towards the people later gave rise to a Ukrainian messianism, which was articulated in M. Kostomarov's Knyhy bytiia ukraïns’koho narodu (Books of the Genesis of the Ukrainian People).

Shamrai, A. (ed). Kharkivs’ka shkola romantykiv, 3 vols (Kharkiv 1930)
Luckyj, George. Between Gogol’ and Ševčenko: Polarity in the Literary Ukraine, 1797–1847 (Munich 1971)

Pavlo Petrenko

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

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