Zhytetsky, Pavlo

Zhytetsky, Pavlo [Žytec’kyj], b 4 January 1837 in Kremenchuk, Poltava gubernia, d 18 March 1911 in Kyiv. (Photo: Pavlo Zhytetsky.) Philologist and ethnographer; member of the Imperial Russian Geographic Society from 1873, the Historical Society of Nestor the Chronicler from 1879, the Shevchenko Scientific Society from 1903, the Ukrainian Scientific Society in Kyiv from 1907 (first honorary member from 1908), and corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences from 1898; husband of V. Zhytetska and father of Hnat Zhytetsky. He studied at the theological seminary in Pereiaslav (1851–7), the Kyiv Theological Academy (1857–60), and Kyiv University (1860–4; m phil, 1878) and taught Russian language and literature in gymnasiums in Kamianets-Podilskyi (1865–8) and Kyiv (1868–80), at Galagan College (1874–80, 1882–93), in military schools, at Saint Petersburg University (1880–2), and at the Saint Vladimir Cadet School in Kyiv (1882–93). As a Ukrainophile and a leading member of the Old Hromada of Kyiv from the 1860s and a founding member of the Southwestern Branch of the Imperial Russian Geographic Society (1873–6), he was kept under constant police surveillance and denied a university career. He was in charge of the Hromada's Ukrainian dictionary project, and from 1902 he was a consultant to Borys Hrinchenko on the preparation of the Ukrainian-Russian dictionary. In 1908 he received an honorary doctorate from Kyiv University.

Zhytetsky's first work, an article entitled ‘Russian patriotism’ (Osnova, 1862, no. 3), argued for the viability of an independent Ukrainian literature and culture. The first historian of the literary Ukrainian language, he wrote (in Russian) the first complete and systematic (but soon obsolete) history of Ukrainian sounds (1876) and a pioneering survey of 17th- and 18th-century literary Ukrainian with an appendix consisting of Synonima slavenorosskaia (1889; Ukrainian trans 1941). For these books he was awarded the Uvarov Prize (1877, 1890). He also wrote a book of studies of Ukrainian folk dumas (1893; Ukrainian trans 1919); textbooks on the theory of creativity (8 edns, 1895–1911), the theory of poetry (8 edns, 1898–1913), and the history of poetry (6 edns, 1898–1913); a book on Ivan Kotliarevsky's Eneïda (Aeneid) and 18th-century Ukrainian literature (1900; Ukrainian trans 1919); and studies of the Peresopnytsia Gospel (1876), W. Humboldt (1900), Oleksa Storozhenko's stories (1903), and Ukrainian translations of the Gospels (1905). In 1883 Zhytetsky rejected Mikhail Pogodin's and Aleksei Sobolevsky's hypothesis that medieval Kyiv was ethnically Russian, and argued that Kyivan Rus’ was the cradle of the Ukrainian nation, and that Ukrainian linguistic traits were already present in 12th-century literary monuments. Zhytetsky's letters were published in a 1937 Warsaw edition of the Old Hromada's correspondence with Mykhailo Drahomanov. V. Plachynda's biography of Zhytetsky and an edition of his selected works (ed L. Masenko) were published in Kyiv in 1987. The valuable archive of his papers is preserved at the National Library of Ukraine.

Roman Senkus

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

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