Populism, Western Ukrainian

Image - Participants of a Prosvita meeting in 1868. Image - The Prosvita marching band in the village of Ilavche (1890s). Image - Meta, volume 1, 1863. Image - Cover of early publications published by the Prosvita society in Lviv.

Populism, Western Ukrainian [Західно-український популізм; Zahidno-ukrajins’kyj populizm]. A cultural and then political movement initiated in the 1860s by the young Ukrainian intelligentsia in Galicia (known commonly as narodovtsi, or populists). It arose in counterpoint to the clerical conservatism of the older intelligentsia, who had become disillusioned with the possibility of independent Ukrainian national development after the failure of efforts to secure full national emancipation and had begun to orient itself increasingly (both culturally and politically) to Russia (see Old Ruthenians and Russophiles).

The narodovtsi sought to help Ukrainians better themselves through their own resources. They identified themselves with Ukrainians in the Russian Empire and insisted on the use of vernacular Ukrainian language in literature and education. Their movement, deeply influenced by the writings of Taras Shevchenko, Markiian Shashkevych, Panteleimon Kulish, Mykola Kostomarov, Marko Vovchok, and others, built on the traditions of the Ukrainian national revival of the 1830s and 1840s as represented by the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood in Kyiv, the Ruthenian Triad, and the Supreme Ruthenian Council in Lviv.

Ukrainophiles in the Russian Empire had a determining influence in the establishment and development of the populist movement in Galicia, particularly the khlopomany of the 1850s, who propagated the idea of unity with the common folk and working among them. In the early stages of the movement contacts with Ukrainian students and the works of Ukrainian writers in the Russian Empire had a significant impact on it.

The populist movement in Galicia initially included postsecondary students, teachers, writers, and young clergymen. The earliest focus of its activity was literary, and many of its activists organized themselves around journals. Because of a shortage of funds, those publications (including the weekly Vechernytsi, , the monthly Meta, Nyva (1865), and the weekly Rusalka) commonly died out and were then revived under new names. The narodovtsi also established contacts with the young Ukrainian intelligentsia in central Ukraine that was grouped around hromadas, and organized similar bodies (largely composed of students) in Berezhany, Drohobych, Kolomyia, Lviv, Peremyshl, Sambir, Stanyslaviv, and Ternopil. Some older community leaders and writers, including Ivan Borysykevych, Stepan Kachala, Yuliian Lavrivsky, Kornylo Ustiianovych, and Sydir Vorobkevych, joined them. The younger generation of writers active in the movement included K. Horbal, Ksenofont Klymkovych, and Volodymyr Shashkevych; Omelian Partytsky and Danylo Taniachkevych served as the principal ideologues and organizers of the early hromadas.

The proscription of the Ukrainian printed word by the Russian authorities in 1863 (see Petr Valuev) and 1876 (see Ems Ukase) forced certain writers, including Mykhailo Drahomanov, Oleksander Konysky, Panteleimon Kulish, Ivan Nechui-Levytsky, and Mykhailo Starytsky, to publish their works in Galicia. Their doing so stimulated literary and scholarly activity among the populists there, and in 1867 the literary journal Pravda was established as the main voice of the populists (until Dilo emerged in 1880).

The populists took advantage of the new constitution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by forming a number of new organizations, including the Ruska Besida (later Ukrainska Besida) society (1861) and an attendant full-time theater (1864) (see Ukrainska Besida Theater) and the Prosvita society (1868), whose branches and reading rooms played a critical role in the Ukrainian national movement. In 1873, financial backers from central Ukraine helped to establish the Shevchenko Literary Society, which in 1893 was renamed the Shevchenko Scientific Society. Those community and scholarly organizations helped to shape a new populist national identity, worldview, and political outlook among Western Ukrainians. The ideas of Mykhailo Drahomanov were particularly influential, although not everyone in the populist movement agreed with his offerings. The crystallization of a populist viewpoint was further aided by the Sich student society of Vienna (est 1868), which acted as a conduit for transmitting Western European ideas to Galicia.

The poor showing of the largely Russophile Supreme Ruthenian Council in the Viennese parliamentary elections of 1879 (it elected only three delegates) prompted the populists to participate more directly in politics. Their activity initially took the form of publishing political newspapers for the peasantry (Bat’kivshchyna, from 1879) and the intelligentsia (Dilo, from 1880). In 1880 the populists organized the first Ukrainian all-people's meeting in Lviv, at which various addresses on political and economic themes were delivered. In 1885 they established their own political organization, the People's Council, which soon became the strongest Ukrainian party in Galicia. The leading populists of the period included Oleksander Barvinsky and his brother, Volodymyr Barvinsky (editor of Dilo), the economist Volodymyr Navrotsky, Demian Hladylovych, Omelian Ohonovsky, Yuliian Romanchuk (editor of Bat’kivshchyna), and the composer Anatol Vakhnianyn.

 In the course of its evolution the populist movement lost its element of social radicalism and dropped its opposition to the Greek Catholic hierarchy; eventually it became quite conservative, loyal to the Austrian government, and dominated by the clergy. The shift was a result of the aging of its membership and its co-operation with clerics who had broken with the Russophiles. A new radical populist movement arose in reaction. That group, which looked to Mykhailo Drahomanov as a mentor, included Ivan Franko, Teofil Okunevsky, Mykhailo Pavlyk, and Ostap Terletsky. It finally established definite structures in 1890 with the creation of the Ukrainian Radical party and the newspaper Narod.

In 1890 the Austrian government, in conjunction with the Polish provincial administration of Galicia, attempted to appease Ukrainian cultural and political demands by establishing the New Era policy. The populists in particular were courted for their support. Although the New Era provided some concessions, it lacked substance and was largely unpopular among the Ukrainian people. Opposed by such leading populists as Yevhen Olesnytsky, the New Era lasted only until 1894. That year a schism emerged in the populist contingent of parliamentary delegates between a progovernment faction led by Oleksander Barvinsky and Anatol Vakhnianyn and an opposition faction led by Yuliian Romanchuk. In 1899 the majority of populists joined with the right wing of the Ukrainian Radical party to form the National Democratic party. Barvinsky's faction, centered around the offices of the newspaper Ruslan, continued to support New Era policies and later formed the Catholic Ruthenian People's Union (later the Christian Social Movement).

Influenced by its counterpart in Galicia, the populist movement in Bukovyna emerged initially in literature. In 1869 Yurii Fedkovych came out in favor of using the Ukrainian vernacular, as did the brothers Hryhorii Vorobkevych and Sydir Vorobkevych. In the mid-1880s the populists overcame the influence of local Russophiles and took control of leading community organizations, such as Ruska Besida in Bukovyna (1884) and Ruthenian Council (1885). The newspaper Bukovyna was formed in 1885 as the voice of the local populists, who included Fedkovych, Yerotei Pihuliak, Omelian Popovych, Ivan Tyminsky, and Vasyl Volian. A schism among populists did not occur in Bukovyna until after 1900, when they broke off into the National Democratic party, the Ukrainian Radical party, and the Ukrainian Social Democratic party.

Ukrainian populism was slowest to develop in Transcarpathia, where it was initiated in the 1880s by László Csopey in literature and language education. It became more widespread in the 20th century as a result of the efforts of Avhustyn Voloshyn, Hiiador Strypsky, and Yurii Zhatkovych. The Ukrainian national revival in Transcarpathia in the 1920s and 1930s was marked largely by a populist ideology.

Terlets’kyi, O. Moskvofily i narodovtsi v 1870-ykh rr. (Lviv 1902)
Barvins’kyi, O. Spohady z moho zhyttia, 2 vols (Lviv 1912–13)
Levyts’kyi, K. Istoriia politychnoï dumky halyts’kykh ukraïntsiv 1848–1914 (Lviv 1926)
Olesnyts’kyi, E. Storinky z moho zhyttia, 2 vols (Lviv 1935)
Sokhots’kyi, I. Budivnychi novitn’oï derzhavnosty v Halychyni (New York 1961)

Vasyl Lev, Illia Vytanovych

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

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