Ralph Lindheim, George S.N. Luckyj, eds. Towards an Intellectual History of Ukraine: An Anthology of Ukrainian Thought from 1710 to 1995. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996. 420 pp. $29.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8020-7855-1; $71.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8020-0871-8.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Luchka Haigh (Saint Mary's University)
Published on H-Russia (April, 1998)
Many western historians of Russia and the USSR, as well as most Russians, appear to have been genuinely bewildered when, glasnost permitting, Ukrainians declared a wish for an independent state. It was easy enough to see this viewpoint among such citizens as those of the Baltic republics, but Belorussians and Ukrainians are supposed to be junior members of one Russian family. The periodic pronouncements since 1991 of such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn serve to remind us that when it comes to Ukraine, many "Great Russians" still just don't get it. For such persons, this anthology ought to be an eye opener.
Lindheim and Luckyj have compiled forty-two texts, some of them translated into English for the first time. All were composed by Ukrainian writers, and in one way or another, they all address the subject of Ukrainian identity. Although the contributors are from both western and eastern Ukraine, the entries have to do largely with Ukrainians' relationship to Russia. A substantial introductory essay outlines their historical context. Each entry is preceded by a note about the author.
The anthology opens with the Bendery Constitution which was signed in April 1710, nine months after the Battle of Poltava where Peter I of Muscovy defeated the combined forces of Sweden's King Charles XII and of Cossack Hetman Ivan Mazepa. The tragedy drove Mazepa to the Moldovan town of Bender where he died. There his successor and what remained of his officers signed this document. It confirmed the status of "the ancient Cossack nation" and decried Muscovy's failure to live up to its part of the Pereislavl Agreement between Hetman Bohdan Khmelnitsky and Muscovy's Tsar Alexis. And it proclaimed an obligation on the part of Cossacks to work to halt Muscovite expansion.
Other men reconciled themselves to the defeat. Chief among them was Theophan Prokopovych, the sophisticated former rector of Kiev's Mohyla Academy. An ardent supporter of Mazepa before Poltava, in a "Sermon on Royal Authority and Honour" in 1718, he exhorted his flock to submit themselves to the tsar. He himself became his eloquent apologist. Two other entries from the 1760s, are both pleas for the Cossack starshyna to be granted the same rights and privileges as the Russian dvorianstvo enjoyed.
The next thirteen entries are from the nineteenth century. They attest to a rising consciousness of Ukrainian nationality on the part of the intelligentsia. The first of these consists of excerpts from an anonymous Istoriia Rusov which circulated in manuscript copies in the early 1820s. A somewhat shmaltzy idealization of the Cossack era, it identified Russians and Poles as oppressors of the Cossacks.
There are excerpts from nine letters written by Nikolai Gogol in the 1830s, seven of them to his friend Mykhailo Maksymovich, a Ukrainian scholar who lived in Russia. "I am sorry that you are ailing," he wrote. "Give up your lousy Russianness and go to the Hetmanate" (p. 88). On hearing that Maksymovich had been appointed rector of the new university in Kiev, he rejoiced. "To Kiev! To ancient, beautiful Kiev! The city is ours; it is not theirs" (p. 90). The entries testify to Gogol's preoccupation with Ukrainian history, folklore and art.
Selections from the work of the historian Mykola Kostomarov are included. A proponent of the idea of a Slavic federation, he was also a founding member in 1845 of the ill-fated nationalist Brotherhood of Saints Cyril and Methodius. In 1860, in Two Russian Nationalities, he argued that Ukrainians and Russians have been moulded by different historical circumstances such that Ukrainians have developed into cosmopolitan free spirits and Russians into parochial and intolerant ex-slaves. In a "Letter to the Editor of Kolokol," he expressed "heartfelt gratitude" to Alexander Herzen for his assertion in an earlier edition of the journal that "Ukraine must be recognized as a free and independent country."
Also a founder of the Brotherhood was Taras Shevchenko, the serf who became Ukraine's greatest poet. The association cost him ten painful years of exile. The editors have included the preface to his first volume of poetry published in 1847 in which he called for the development of a separate Ukrainian literature commenting "Let (the Russians) write as they like, and let us write as we like" (p. 103).
The first prominent Ukrainian emigre was Mykhailo Drahomanov. Forced by attacks in the Russian press in 1875 to resign his position as lecturer in history at Kiev University, he went to western Europe to represent the Ukrainian cause. In "The Lost Epoch: Ukrainians under the Muscovite Tsardom, 1654-1876," Drahomanov berated the Cossack aristocracy for succumbing to Muscovy's autocratic tsar and legal serfdom and non-existent education" (p. 160). He wrote that by tolerating serfdom, they had condemned their countrymen to centuries of foreign servitude. Now he hoped for an accommodation with Russia. In a "Draft Constitution for the Ukrainian Society in the Free Union," he imagined a reconstructed empire with a federal structure in which the regions had wide spheres of competence.
Life under Austrian rule was less oppressive. Western Ukrainians had a right to education in their language, to publish in it, and even to use it in courts and government offices. In the 1860s, they could send representatives to government assemblies in Lviv and in Vienna. So when Alexander II banned all Ukrainian publications, some writers took their work to Galicia. There are entries here from the work of two such men. In the 1890s, both the novelist Ivan Nechui-Levytsky and the journalist Borys Hrinchenko lashed out at the Moscophilism of persons who were willing to be incorporated into a broader all-Russian society. The former vented his rage against forced russification in his "Ukrainianism's Literary Summons against Muscovitism," writing that
(h)aving developed, in older days in the East, in isolation from the civilized nations of Europe, and having spent whole centuries apart, in contact only with the half-wild, primitive, pagan peoples of the north and Siberia...those Great Russians got used to despising and disregarding foreigners (p. 186).
Because of the freer atmosphere, the cause of western Ukrainian nationalism took on a somewhat different focus. Without question, its most prominent and prolific advocate was the socialist writer Ivan Franko. The article extracted here, "Beyond the Limits of the Possible," was not included in the fifty volumes of his collected works which were published in the USSR. In it, he argued that the first strategy of poverty-stricken Ukrainians ought to be to seek political independence. Economic restructuring would come in Ukraine only when exploiters, domestic and foreign, were removed.
The editors emphasize that the intelligentsia was radicalized at the beginning of this century. The Russians made it easy! There is a brochure entitled "An Independent Ukraine" produced for the RUP (Revolutionary Ukrainian Party) by Mykola Mikhnovsky, a Kievan lawyer. He assessed the Pereislavl treaty, the same one addressed in the Bendery Constitution, as a contract between two independent entities which was intended to create a loose "confederation of states" (p. 205). Because Russia had subsequently become dominant through force, deception and coercion, he argued that Ukrainians were legally entitled to their independence.
Bohdan Kistiakovsky, holder of the chair of law at Kiev University, started out being more conciliatory. He joined the Russian Constitutional Democratic Party supposing that liberal reform in Russia would promote Ukrainian cultural independence. With Peter Struve he co-edited the Russian emigre journal Osvobozhdenie. But he found that even most liberal Russians were chauvinists. He addressed "On the Issue of a Distinctive Ukrainian Culture" to Struve and berated him for sharing "the narrow, egoistic interests of...the Russian intelligentsia" and for his assumption that russification is a natural and necessary process (pp. 217, 222).
With the reforms of 1905, a new generation of national leaders emerged. At their head was Mykhailo Hrushevsky, an important historian and author of the masterly multivolume History of Ukraine Rus. He based all of his work on the assumption that Ukrainian and Russian history were separate even before the medieval Kievan principality. The article "A Free Ukraine" which is reproduced in this anthology was written when Hrushevsky was head of the short lived Ukrainian Peoples' Republic which emerged after Nicholas II abdicated. Proclaiming that "Ukraine is free of the chains placed on her by the cunning policy of the Muscovite tsars," he invited all of her residents, including Russians, Jews, Poles and Czechs, to participate in building a new state (p. 227). At first, Ukrainians were willing to accept autonomy within a restructured federal state, but in January 1918, the Central Rada issued its "Fourth Universal" which proclaimed Ukraine an independent republic. That document is reproduced here. For the next three years, it endured many invasions and changes of government. In the end, of course, its independence collapsed. Eastern Ukraine was absorbed into the reconstituted Russian empire, and the west into Poland.
There were, of course, reasons to be offered and people to be blamed. The emigre journalist Dmytro Dontsov villified the liberal intelligentsia for insufficient zeal on behalf of the nationalist cause. Much as he hated things Russian, he held Russians up as models whose anger and determination Ukrainians should imitate. From 1922 to 1939, he edited the Lvivan journal Vistnyk. There are extracts here from an essay entitled "Nationalism" in which Dontsov urged people to "the fire of fanatical commitment" (p. 263). His fierce brand of nationalism appealed to persons in the 1920s and 30s, and it was the inspiration for an Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which took the cause into World War II. Another journalist quoted here dismissed Dontsov's writings as "dishevelled and conceited" and nothing but "demagogic nationalism" (p. 288).
Until the early 1930s, an optimist could still strive to be both a communist and at least a cultural nationalist. In 1920, in The Rebirth of a Nation, Volodymyr Vynnychenko regretted that Ukrainian Bolshevism had not displaced the Central Rada in the independent state. The two most famous Ukrainian Bolsheviks were Mykhola Khvylovy and Mykola Skrypnyk. Khvylovy figured greatly in the literary life of soviet Ukraine. In this collection are pamphlets which he produced when he was a leader of the Free Academy of Proletarian Literature between 1925 and 1928. He called on Ukrainian writers to look not to Russia but to the western European mainstream as the source of their culture. Skrypnyk was the influential commissar of education who, from 1928 to 1933, was responsible for a policy of "Ukrainianization." In the excerpts from his speeches which are reproduced here, he spoke on behalf of the "Leninist view on the national question" and decried the "erroneous views" of those who favoured cultural russification. Albeit vintage wooden Marxist, his language was too radical for the 1930s when the Ukrainian intelligentsia was decimated. Both these men were driven to suicide within months of each other in 1933.
In their introduction, Lindheim and Luckyj inform their readers that "a prominent place in Ukrainian literature and culture belongs to women" (p. 41). Do not believe them! It is anybody's guess how long it took them to find the one woman who appears in this book. She is Milena Rudnytska from western Ukraine who spoke before the First Ukrainian Women's Congress in 1934 in favour of nationalist aims and praised the virtues of the "female psyche and its ability to enrich our humanity" (p. 285).
The outbreak of World War II briefly revived hopes for liberation among Ukrainians. There are three documents from that period in the anthology. "The Manifesto of the OUN," written in late 1940 in western Ukraine, was a grandiloquent call to arms "for the liberation of the Ukrainian people and all other peoples subjugated by Moscow" (p. 291). A few years later, many of the OUNers joined the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) which fought against the Germans, against Soviet partisans, and until 1947, against the re-invading Red Army. In Kiev, a Ukrainian National Council formed in 1941 on the initiation of the OUN was forced underground under Nazi occupation. Its "Declaration" of April 1944 affirmed the popular will for a sovereign and united state. The third document by Petro Poltava, the UPA's most effective ideologist who was killed in battle, was a declaration on behalf of the importance of national self-determination in general.
For the official Soviet view of the Pereislavl treaty, there are the 1954 "Theses on the Three Hundredth Anniversary of the Reunion of Ukraine with Russia." Commenting on the Pereislavl treaty, it declared that "(b)y linking their destiny forever with the fraternal Russian people, the Ukrainian people freed themselves from foreign subjugation and ensured their national development" (p. 303).
Not to be missed is an essay by Ievahan Maloniuk whose article on "Little Russianism" analyzed the psychological and spiritual maiming which subjugation inflicts on people. Specifically, he examined Moscow's methods, honed over centuries, for producing "Little-Russians." There is "the deadening, the weakening, and, in time, the disappearance of historical memory...(which) has been cultivated at the same time by the systematic inculcation of an inferiority complex...and by a constant ridiculing of national values and treasures" (pp. 321-22). It is an analysis of marginalization in general and of the case of Ukrainian people in particular.
In the 1960s, the dissident movement in the USSR dared to raise long suppressed issues. For example, in response to the arrest of Ukrainian intellectuals, Ivan Dziuba presented a paper entitled "Internationalism or Russification" to Petro Shelest, the Ukrainian Party Secretary. It decried the fact that large sections of the population knew virtually nothing about Ukrainian culture and considered it beneath their notice. He was arrested but released after recanting. Dziuba went on to become independent Ukraine's Minister of Culture between 1991 and '94 and is currently co-editor of the prestigious journal Suchasnist.
A long entry in the Anthology consists of extracts from the "Program of the Popular Movement for the Restructuring of Ukraine" (RUKH) which was adopted at its founding congress in September 1989. It addressed every aspect of cultural, social and economic life of the republic's inhabitants and denounced "the treacherous policy of denationalization conducted under the guise of 'internationalism'" (p. 341). It designated as its main goal the construction of a democratic and humane society in Ukraine.
The longest single entry in this book is from a draft constitution presented to the Rada in 1993. The extracts reprinted here deal with guarantees of political freedoms and the rule of law irrespective of citizens' nationality or religion. Its substance resembles that of the RUKH program. The Rada finally adopted a new constitution in June 1996 just as this book was going to press.
Independence notwithstanding, it appears that there are still skirmishes to be fought in the battle for self-determination. In October 1995, the Ukrainian Writers' Union called a congress for the defence of Ukrainian culture. It issued a "Manifesto of the Ukrainian Intelligentsia" which contended that a small but entrenched pro-Russian establishment continues to frustrate and to disparage the national dream, dismissing nationalists as bigots out of tune with the contemporary age. The editor and critic Mykola Riabchuk remarked that a Russian minority still occupies key positions in the establishment. By pleading "integration with Russia," "official bilingualism" and so on, it conducts an insidious policy against Ukrainianization.
The entries in this anthology are persuasive testimony to the tenacity of Ukrainians' sense of their unique identity. The book is a good read for someone who wants an overview of the development of the sense of Ukrainian nationality. It is also a good reference book for the same subject.
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Elizabeth Luchka Haigh. Review of Lindheim, Ralph; Luckyj, George S.N., eds., Towards an Intellectual History of Ukraine: An Anthology of Ukrainian Thought from 1710 to 1995.
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