Korolenko, Vladimir

Korolenko, Vladimir, b 27 July 1853 in Zhytomyr, d 25 December 1921 in Poltava. (Photo: Vladimir Korolenko.) Russian Populist writer and publicist of Ukrainian-Polish parentage. As a student in Saint Petersburg and Moscow (1871–9) he became an avowed opponent of tsarism. He was imprisoned for his beliefs in Viatka (1879–80) and exiled to Yakutia in eastern Siberia (1881–4). From 1900 to the end of his life he lived in Poltava, where he wrote his greatest work, the autobiography Istoriia moego sovremmenika (The History of My Contemporary, 1922; English trans, 1972), and served as the chief editor of Russkoe bogatstvo (1904–18). He was renowned as a champion of the oppressed and a democrat. He did not support the Bolshevik regime.

From 1878 Korolenko published over 100 stories and short novels and 600 articles and sketches. His realistic prose is characterized by its lyricism, moral outlook, delicate humor, and humane portrayals of the common folk and the oppressed, mostly in Siberia and Ukraine. Twenty of his stories (some of them his best) deal with Ukrainian subjects: eg, ‘V durnom obshchestve’ (In Bad Company, 1885), about the persecuted Uniate Catholics in Volhynia; ‘Slepoi muzykant’ (The Blind Musician, 1886; English trans, 1925), about Populists in Ukraine ‘going to the people’; ‘Les shumit’ (The Murmuring Forest, 1886), about Polisian peasants avenging themselves on a Polish landlord; and ‘Bez iazyka’ (Without the Language, 1895; English trans: In a Strange Land, 1925 and 1975), about the trials and tribulations of a Volhynian peasant immigrant in America.

Almost 250 of Korolenko's articles deal with Ukraine. He spoke out against the persecution of the Uniates in Volhynia and the Kholm region, the repression of Ukrainian peasant rebels in Sorochyntsi and elsewhere in 1906, the oppression of the Ukrainians and the imprisonment of Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky during the Russian occupation of Galicia in the First World War, and injustice in general.

Although Korolenko was involved in community affairs in Poltava, had a great love for Ukraine, its peasantry, and their folklore, and counted many Ukrainian intellectuals and writers among his friends, because of his mixed background and philosophical outlook he was indifferent to the Ukrainian national movement. His works have appeared in many editions in Russian. The major editions in Ukrainian were published in three volumes in 1923 (ed Serhii Yefremov) and in four volumes in 1953–4.

Boiko, I. Korolenko i Ukraïna: Bibliohrafichnyi pokazhchyk (Kyiv 1957)
Malyi, P. V.H. Korolenko i Ukraïna (Lviv 1958)
Ukraïna v publitsystytsi V.H. Korolenka (Kyiv 1958)
Donskoi, Ia. V.G. Korolenko: Ocherk poltavskogo perioda zhizni i deiatel’nosti pisatelia, 1900–1921 (Kharkiv 1963)
Mukhyn, I. Za viru bat’kiv (Uniiaty v khudozhnikh tvorakh V.H. Korolenka) (Chicago 1976)

Roman Senkus

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

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