Pliushch, Leonid

Image - Tetiana Zhytnikova (Pliushch) and Leonid Pliushch Image - Leonid Pliushch

Pliushch, Leonid [Плющ, Леонід; Pliušč; Pliouchtch], b 26 April 1939 in Naryn, Kirgizia, d 4 June 2015 in Bessèges, France. Ukrainian mathematician, dissident, and literary critic. He completed his studies at the Kyiv University with a degree in mathematics in 1963 and worked at the Institute of Cybernetics of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR until 1968. In 1969 he joined the Initiating Group for the Defense of Human Rights. He was dismissed from his job in 1969 and arrested in 1972 for writing articles and signing letters of protest against the violation of human rights. He was declared mentally ill and incarcerated in the Dnipropetrovsk special psychiatric hospital. Pressure from various groups in the West, most notably from French mathematicians, led to his release and his summary expulsion from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to France in 1976. In 1977 he joined the Foreign Representation of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group. Also in 1977 his autobiography appeared, U karnavali istoriï (In the Carnival of History; also in English as History's Carnival, and in French, Italian, and German translations). Fascinated by the Tartu structuralist school (Iurii Lotman) and the Moscow mythologists (V. Ivanov), Pliushch turned to the study of literature. His approach to literature, somewhat influenced also by M. Bakhtin’s notions of the ‘carnival,’ permitted free-ranging associative interpretations. He made his debut as a literary scholar and critic with an insightful study of Taras Shevchenko as mythologizer, Ekzod Tarasa Shevchenka: Navkolo ‘Moskalevoï krynytsi’ dvanadtsiat’ stattiv (Taras Shevchenko’s Exodus: Twelve Essays apropos ‘The Soldier's Well,’ 1987). This was followed by a similarly stimulating examination of the most influential writer of the 1920s, Mykola Khvylovy, in Ioho taiemnytsia abo “Prekrasna lozha” Khvyl'ovoho (His Secret or Khvylovy’s “Beautiful Lodge,” 2006). Pliushch was active in the External Representation of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union and published in various Ukrainian and Russian newspapers and journals on literary and political subjects.

Danylo Husar Struk

[This article was updated in 2015.]

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