Podolynsky, Serhii

Podolynsky, Serhii [Подолинський, Сергій; Podolyns’kyj, Serhij] (Podolinsky, Sergei), b 31 July 1850 in Yaroslavka, Zvenyhorod county, Kyiv gubernia, d 12 July 1891 in Kyiv. (Photo: Serhii Podolynsky.) Socialist theoretician and activist, and physician. Podolynsky studied science and medicine in Kyiv, Paris, Zurich, and Breslau (now Wrocław). He published a number of works on medical topics, including a long study titled Zhyttia i zdorovia liudei na Ukraïni (The Life and Health of People in Ukraine, 1879). He worked as a physician in Ukraine in the mid-1870s, but in 1878 he settled in Montpellier, France, where he continued to practice medicine and also lectured at the famous Montpellier medical school. In the early 1870s he became involved both with the Russian populist P. Lavrov's Vpered! group and with the Hromada of Kyiv, particularly with the Hromada's most radical members, the socialist Mykhailo Drahomanov and the Marxist Mykola Ziber. To the end of his active life Podolynsky combined a revolutionary socialist perspective with devotion to the Ukrainian nation.

In 1875 he broke with the Russian Lavrovists over the national question and spoke of the formation of a separate ‘Ukrainian social-democratic party.’ In the same year he wrote two brochures that were the first works in the Ukrainian language to advocate socialism, Parova mashyna (The Steam Engine) and Pro bidnist’ (On Poverty). Podolynsky produced more popular socialist literature in Ukrainian over the next few years as well as some longer tracts on agrarian problems and the development of Ukrainian industry. He co-operated closely with Mykhailo Drahomanov and his journal Hromada (Geneva), to which he contributed several articles and of which he formally became coeditor in 1881. He was also involved in the international socialist movement, contributed to German-, Italian-, and especially French-language socialist journals, and reported on international socialist affairs in Vpered! and Hromada.

Podolynsky made an important contribution to theory in his article ‘Socialism, or Human Labor and the Unity of Physical Forces,’ which was published in several versions and four languages in 1880–3. Although the theory was rejected by Friedrich Engels and then long forgotten, it came to light again in the 1970s and 1980s. The Ukrainian dissident Mykola Rudenko drew on Podolynsky's ideas for his Ekonomichni monolohy (Economic Monologues). Podolynsky has also come to be regarded as a precursor of energy economics or socioenergetics. His activities were cut short in January 1882 when he suffered a mental collapse, from which he never recovered.

Mytsiuk, O. Ukraïns’kyi ekonomist-hromadivets’ S.A. Podolins’kyi (Lviv 1933)
Martínez, A; Naredo, J. ‘A Marxist Precursor of Energy Economics: Podolinsky,’ Journal of Peasant Studies, 9, no. 2 (January 1982)
Podolyns’kyi, S. Vybrani tvory, ed Roman Serbyn (Montreal 1990)
Zlupko, S. Serhii Podolyns’kyi—Vchenyi, myslytel’, revoliutsioner (Lviv 1990)
Serbyn, R.; Sliudykova, T. (ed). Serhii Podolyns’kyi: Lysty ta dokumenty (Kyiv 2002)

John-Paul Himka

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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