Satire. A literary or artistic mode of ridicule of an individual person, a group, ideas, or society at large, through the use of hyperbole, the grotesque, parody, or irony. In art caricature is employed for the purpose of satire. Since classical times satire has existed in two major strains, the Horatian, which mildly mocks human foibles and frailties, and the Juvenalian, which expresses moral displeasure and indignation at human vices.

In Ukraine some satire appears in folk songs from the earliest times, but in literature satire developed in the 16th and 17th centuries as an effective weapon in the polemical literature of the time, especially in that of Ivan Vyshensky. Some satiric elements were present in the intermedes of vertep and school dramas in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 18th century, samples of sociopolitical satire of the Horatian tradition appeared: the carol ‘1764 hoda dekabria 23 dnia k. R.’ (1764 Year December 23 day k. R.) by an anonymous author; the ‘lampoon verses’ by Ieremiia, a monk of the Kyivan Cave Monastery, ‘Plach kyivskikh monakhov’ (The Lament of Kyivan Monks, 1786) and ‘Pribavok k plachu kyivskikh monakhov’ (Addendum to the Lament of Kyivan Monks, 1792); and the dialogue ‘Zamysl na popa’ (A Design against the Priest), ascribed to Ivan Nekrashevych. Some satiric elements are to be found in the tales and poems of Hryhorii Skovoroda. Likewise, Ivan Kotliarevsky's Eneïda (Aeneid, 1798) satirized contemporary mores.

Satire through irony and sarcasm is found in many of Taras Shevchenko's poems, or in parts of poems (‘Ieretyk’ [Heretic], ‘Kavkaz’ [Caucasus], ‘I mertvym, i zhyvym ...’ [To the Dead and to the Living ...], ‘Neofity’ [Neophytes], ‘P.S.,’ ‘Iurodyvyi’ [The Holy Fool], ‘Vo Iudeï vo dni ony’ [In Judea Long Ago], ‘Molytva’ [A Prayer], ‘Himn chernychyi’ [Nuns' Hymn], and ‘Saul’). His long poem ‘Son’ (A Dream) is a political satire, a ‘comedy’ bordering on the sardonic. Elements of satire can be found in Shevchenko's followers and predecessors, in the fables and proverbs of Petro Hulak-Artemovsky, Yevhen Hrebinka, and Levko Borovykovsky and especially in the Spivomovky (Singing Rhymes) of Stepan Rudansky. Some Horatian satire can be found in works of the second half of the 19th century, such as ‘Baba Paraska ta Baba Palazhka’ by Ivan Nechui-Levytsky, ‘Lovy’ (The Hunt) by Panas Myrny, ‘Smikh’ (Laughter), ‘V dorozi’ (On the Way), and ‘Koni ne vynni’ (Horses Are Not to Blame) by Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky, some stories by Stepan Vasylchenko and Les Martovych, and some comedies of Marko Kropyvnytsky and Mykhailo Starytsky. Political satire was often used by Ivan Franko (‘Svynska konstytutsiia’ [The Swinish Constitution], Lys Mykyta [Fox Mykyta], and various poems).

At the beginning of the 20th century satire appeared in the poems of Volodymyr Samiilenko, Oleksander Oles (the collection Perezva [The Postwedding Party, 1921]), and Osyp Makovei (the collection Pryzhmurenym okom [Through a Squinting Eye, 1923]). After the Revolution of 1917 the populist satirical traditions of the 19th century were continued by Yurii Vukhnal, Yu. Gedz (pseud of Oleksii Savytsky), and Vasyl Chechviansky (all repressed in the 1930s). A special place in satiric literature belongs to Ostap Vyshnia (Usmishky, 4 vols [Smiles, 1928]). Highly satiric were some of the later stories of Mykola Khvylovy (‘Revizor’ [The Government Inspector], ‘Ivan Ivanovych,’); some passages of his pamphlets, in their attacks on cultural backwardness and pseudo-enlightenment (prosvitianstvo), took on the sarcastic, often sardonic tone of Juvenalian satire.

Satire like all other art forms was of poor quality from the 1930s to the 1960s. Most of the satiric works written, by authors such as D. Bilous, Serhii Voskrekasenko, P. Kliuchyna, Oleksander Kovinka, Yevhen Kravchenko, and Stepan Oliinyk, were tendentious in the spirit of Party decrees; those of Yaroslav Halan, Yurii Melnychuk, Stepan Tudor, and others were defamatory in their attacks on Ukrainian nationalists. True satire revived in the 1960s in some of the poetry of Vasyl Symonenko, Ivan Drach, Vitalii Korotych, Anatolii Kosmatenko, and even Lina Kostenko. Of interest are the satiric works of the Shevchenko scholar Yurii Ivakin through to the 1970s. Bitter satire on the realities of the Soviet world is found in the works of repressed dissident authors, such as Valentyn Moroz (‘Reportazh iz zapovidnyka imeny Beriï’ [Report from the Beria Reserve, 1968; trans 1974]) and Mykhailo Osadchy (Bil’mo [Cataract, 1971]; trans 1976), as well as in some poems of Sviatoslav Karavansky, Ihor Kalynets, and others.

In Western Ukraine between the two world wars satire appeared in the feuilletons of T. Horobets (pseud of Stepan Charnetsky) and Roman Kupchynsky. Among émigrés in the West, authors such as Edvard Kozak (Hryts Zozulia, 1972), Ivan Kernytsky (Budni i nedilia [Weekdays and Sunday, 1973]), Mykola Ponedilok, M. Tochylo (Mykola Koliankivsky), Bohdan Nyzhankivsky-Babai (Virshi ironichni, satyrychni i komichni [poems Ironic, Satiric, and Comic, 1959]), and Z. Kohut (Kul’turni arabesky [Cultural Arabesques, 1969]) continued in the satiric vein, targeting the life of Ukrainians in their new countries of residence. (See also Humoristic and satiric press.)

Makivchuk, F. (ed). Satyra i humor (Kyiv 1955)
Ivakin, Iu. Satyra Shevchenka (Kyiv 1959)
Duz’, I. Ukraïns’ka radians’ka satyra 20-kh rokiv (Kyiv 1962)
Dzeverin, I. Problema satiry v revoliutsionno-demokraticheskoi estetike (Kyiv 1962)
Minchyn, B. Satyra na sluzhbi komunizmu (Kyiv 1964)
Honcharuk, M. Ukraïns’ka satyra periodu revoliutsiï 1905–1907 rokiv (Kyiv 1966)

Bohdan Kravtsiv, Danylo Husar Struk

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

List of related links from Encyclopedia of Ukraine pointing to Satire entry:

A referral to this page is found in 37 entries.