Mykytenko, Ivan

Image - Ivan Mykytenko Image - Scene from the Berezil theatre's performance (1930) of Ivan Mykytenko's Dictatorship. Image - A scene from Les Kurbas' production of Ivan Mykytenko's Dictatorship in the Berezil theater (1930). Image - A scene from Les Kurbas' production of Ivan Mykytenko's Dictatorship in the Berezil theater (1930).

Mykytenko, Ivan [Микитенко, Іван], b 6 October 1897 in Rivne, Yelysavethrad county, Kherson gubernia, d 18 October 1937. Writer, publicist, playwright, and Soviet activist. He was one of the leading organizers of Soviet literature in the 1920s and 1930s. Mykytenko headed the Odesa branch of Hart while he was a student at the Odesa Medical Institute. In 1927 he moved to Kharkiv, where he finished his studies at the Kharkiv Medical Institute. From 1932 to 1934 he was an organizer of the founding committee of the Writers' Union of the USSR. In 1934 he became a member of the executive of the Writers' Union of Ukraine.

Mykytenko began writing poetry and publicistic works in 1922, while still a student in Odesa. His first published collection of stories was Na soniashnykh honakh (On Sunny Tilled Fields, 1926), and his first novel was Braty (Brothers, 1927). He also wrote humorous works for children, including ‘Havryïl Kyrychenko—Shkoliar’ (Havryil Kyrychenko, the Schoolboy). His more notable works, such as Vurkahany (1928) and Ranok (Morning, 1933), were about the homeless in Soviet society. Mykytenko's first plays, Na rodiuchii zemli (On Fertile Ground, 1925) and Idu (I Am Going, 1925), were unsuccessful. His play Dyktatura (Dictatorship, 1929) was on the collectivization of the Ukrainian village; its superficial symbolism, use of pathos, and occasionally deft humor endeared it to Communist Party activists, and Mykytenko's plays became part of the repertoire of many Ukrainian and other Soviet theaters. The rest of his plays were written on commission, and served to illustrate the latest Party decisions. Among them were Kadry (or Svitit’ nam zori) (Cadres [or Shine for Us, Stars], 1930), Sprava chesty (or Vuhillia) (A Matter of Honor [or Coal], 1931), and Divchata nashoï kraïny (The Girls of Our Country, 1932). His later plays Bastyliia Bozhoï materi (The Bastille of the Mother of God, 1933), Dni iunosty (Days of Youth, 1935–6), and Marusia Churai (1935) were less popular. His best play with respect to artistic quality was Sol’o na fleiti (Flute Solo, 1933–6), which was conceived as an official satire on a deposed grandee, but came to be staged as a satire on the entire Soviet system and was therefore banned. Despite the fact that Mykytenko never strayed from the Party line and actively condemned writers and theater directors who did (he was particularly vehement in his criticism of Les Kurbas and Mykola Kulish), in October 1937 he was removed from the executive of the Writers' Union of Ukraine, dismissed from his position as editor in chief of Radians’ka literatura, and expelled from the Party. Recent sources indicate that he committed suicide. After his death his works were proscribed. He was rehabilitated after 1956, and most of his works have been republished.

Syrotiuk, M. Ivan Mykytenko: Zhyttia i tvorchist’ (Kyiv 1959)
Rod’ko, M. Proza Ivana Mykytenka (Kyiv 1960)

Ivan Koshelivets

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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