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42 posts categorized "Ukraine"

03 May 2017

Petro Lyzanets and his love for linguistics

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The Ukrainian collection of the British Library receives many donations during the year, but a recent generous gift was especially noteworthy. First of all, it consisted of an exceptional number of books – 37, and secondly, they were all by the same author. Olga Kerziouk and I wish to thank the Uzhhorod National University and Petro Lyzanets for their amazing contribution to Ukrainian and Hungarian studies.

Picture 1 with portrait

 Volodymyr Fedynyshynets, Fenomen profesora Lyzantsia. (Uzhhorod, 1996) YA.2002.a.18051.

Petro Lyzanets (also known as Péter Lizanec in Hungarian), a Ukrainian linguist and Professor at Uzhhorod National university was born on 2 July 1930 in the village of Izvor, later renamed as Rodnykivka, in the Zakarpattia Region  of Ukraine. One of a family of five children, he received his education at Uzhhorod State University, and his love of the Hungarian language developed during his studies at school and was encouraged at home by his mother. In 1948 he became a student of Ukrainian language at Uzhhorod State University and also worked at the library, writing his thesis about Mykhailo Luchkai (1879-1843) (also known as Michaelis Lutskay).

In 1989 Petro Lyzanets wrote an introduction to Luchkai’s book Hramatyka slov’iano-ruska = Grammatica slavo-ruthena (Kyiv, 1989; YA.2001.a.7611) (pictures below), which became a bestseller due to huge public interest.

Picture 2 Mykhailo Luchkai   Picture 2.1 Mykhailo Luchai-reprint

Ukrainian/Hungarian dialects in the Zakarpattia Region continued to be a strong academic interest of Petro Lyzanets for many years, as evidenced by his books Atlas leksychnykh madiaryzmiv (Atlas of lexical Hungarian elements; volume 3; Uzhhorod, 1976; awaiting shelfmark; picture below on the left) and Ukraïnsʹko-uhorsʹkyĭ slovnyk stalykh slovospoluchenʹ ta vyraziv = Ukrán-magyar állandosult szókapcsolatok és kifejezések szótára (Ukrainian-Hungarian dictionary of idioms and phrases; picture below on the right),  Magyar-ukrán állandosult szókapcsolatok és kifejezések szótára = Uhorsʹko-ukraïnsʹkyĭ slovnyk stalykh slovospoluchenʹ ta vyraziv (Hungarian-Ukrainian dictionary of idioms and phrases), both published in 2009 (awaiting shelfmarks).

Picture 3 Atlas leksychnykh  Picture 4 Ukrainian-Hungarian dictionary

In 2000 and 2010 were published IUvileĭnyĭ zbirnyk na chestʹ 70-richchia vid dnia narodzhennia profesora Petra Lyzantsia (YA.2002.a.28390) and IUvileĭnyĭ zbirnyk na chestʹ 80- richchia vid dnia narodzhennia profesora Lyzantsia (YF.2012.a.5983) celebrating the 70th and 80th birthdays of Petro Lyzanets (picture below).

Picture 5

While we already had volume 1 of A kárpátaljai magyar nyelvjárások atlasza = Atlas vengerskikh govorov Zakarpatia (Atlas of Hungarian dialects of Transcarpathia Region) (Ungvár: 1992; Maps 217.a.21.), it was great to add volumes 2 and 3 to our collection (picture below).

Picture 6 Atlas

We also received a donation of the complete Works of Petro Lyzanets (1957-2010) in 30 volumes (picture below).

Picture 7 Works

 Rimma  Lough, SEE Cataloguer Russian/Belarusian/Ukrainian


Magyar-ukrán szótár = Uhorsʹko-ukraïnsʹkyĭ slovnyk / szerkesztésében Péter Lizanec = za redaktsiieiu P.M. Lyzantsia (Ungvár, 2001). Awaiting shelfmark.

Ukraïnsʹko-uhorsʹkyĭ slovnyk = Ukrán-magyar szótár (second edition) /szerkesztésében Péter Lizanec = za redaktsiieiu P.M. Lyzantsia. (Ungvár, 2008).

Profesor Lyzanets’ Petro Mykolaīovych: bibliohrafichnyī pokazhchyk (do 70- richchia vid dnia narodzhennia) (Uzhhorod, 2001) YF.2005.a.14044

Kárpátaljai Magyar Tudományos Társaság : életrajzi lexicon = Zakarpatsʹke uhorsʹkomovne naukove tovarystvo : bibliohrafichnyĭ dovidnyk ( Uzhhorod, 1995) ZF.9.a.8543

Petro Lyzanets’ = Péter Lizanec. Naukovi pratsi = Tudományos művek (Uzhhorod, 2009-2013). 30 volumes. Awaiting shelfmark.


25 December 2016

The Universe in ‘the Galosh of Happiness’: Halia Mazurenko

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Anyone who wants to see the construction of the artistic phenomenon in the space of the artist and poet Halia Mazurenko’s syncretic meaning and metaphor has to understand the aesthetic nature of her artistic heritage. Her childhood and youth were full of sharp collisions and spiritual dramas, which in her later years gave corresponding emotional material for deep philosophical reflections.

Halia Mazurenko was born on 25 December 1901 in St Petersburg into the family of a Russian landowner, Sergei Bogoliubov, and Elyzaveta Mazurenko, the descendant of a Ukrainian Cossack family. Her godmother was the Russian poet Zinaida Gippius. But soon the circumstances Halia’s life changed: her parents divorced, and the mother and daughter returned to their family in Ekaterinoslav/Katerynoslav (now Dnipro).


 Cover of Vybrane (Selected works) by Halia Mazurenko (Kyiv, 2002). YF.2005.a.20221

Young Halia spoke French fluently and started to write poems at an early age. Her first poem was dedicated to Ukraine. At the same time she also studied drawing and sculpture in the private studio of the well-known Ukrainian impressionist Viacheslav Koreniev. At the age of 14, she started to work in the Ekaterinoslav Historical Museum, which held a valuable collection of Ukrainian Cossack artefacts. Its director, Dmytro Iavornytskyi, commissioned her to sculpt the heads of Ukrainian Hetmans for the facade of the museum building. But Halia went to join her uncle at the front during the First World War, and later joined the Ukrainian liberation struggle in the army of Symon Petliura.

After the end of the War, Halia continued her studies in Warsaw and Berlin, where in 1921 she presented her sculpture at the Exhibition of Ukrainian Art Students, together with Mykola Hlushchenko, Ivan Babii, Mykola Butovych and Fedir Iemets. After this she moved to Prague, where in 1926 she published the first collection of her poems Akvareli (‘Watercolours’). At the same time she became a student at the Ukrainian Studio of Plastic Arts, where her supervisors were the painter Ivan Kulets', the sculptor Kostiantyn Stakhovskyi, and the graphic artist Robert Lisovskyi. She also prepared her dissertation on the psychology of colour in the work of Vincent van Gogh, as well as collaborating on the literary journals Literaturno-Naukovyi Visnyk (L'viv, 1892-1932; Ac.762/4) and Proboiem (Prague, 1935-1937; ZL.9.a.159).

Being in difficult financial circumstances she married, but soon after the birth of her daughter she was divorced. Halia’s mother persuaded her to continue her studies in Prague, and took the grand-daughter Maryna with her to Ukraine. Halia would never see her child again: in 1937 she received a message about the arrest and execution of her mother. Only at the end of her life in London did she find that Maryna had been rescued by her mother’s neighbour and grew up in a strange family under the name of Goncharova. This was not the end of difficult circumstances in Halia’s life; in the 1930s she married the literary critic Baikov, and had a son and a daughter. With two small children she survived the bombardment of Prague, and after the Second World War she moved to London with her family, where she worked actively in the fields of literature and art. From 1961 to 1973 there were nine personal exhibitions of her work in the USA, Iceland, Wales, Pakistan, and London.


Cover of autobiographical novel by Halia Mazurenko Ne toi kozak, khto poborov, a toi kozak, khto ‘vyvernetsia’(‘A true Cossack not so much defeats the enemy as knows how to escape from his clutches’) London, 1974; X.908/28914.

The majority of her works were watercolours, mixed graphic techniques, and enamels. The subjects of her works were symbolic landscapes, floral and animal motifs, sketches for psychological portraits, and mystical scenes. In London she published at her own expense collections of her poetry, often illustrated with her own drawings. The most famous of them are Kliuchi (‘The keys’, London, 1969; X.908/19768), Zelena iashchirka (‘The Green Lizard’, London, 1971; X.900/5253), Skyt poetiv (‘Poets’ retreat’, London, 1971; X.908/24280), Try misiatsi v literi zhyttia (‘Three months in the alphabet of life’, London, 1973’ X.108/12821) and Pivnich na vulytsi (‘Midnight on the street’, London, 1980; X.950/2914; cover below).


For decades, working in her modest accommodation in London’s Belsize Square, she built her unique imaginary world, and as she wrote in one of her poems, ‘The Galosh of Happiness’ creating her own milieu. As well as making thousands of drawings, paintings and enamels, hundreds of poems (some in English), and her albums of memoirs, she also taught pupils at her private art studio ‘Tuesday Group’.

Title-page of Silent melodies (London, 1982). X.955/1928

She died on May 27, 2000, leaving a massive heritage, which we can describe in her own words ‘In philosophy I am interested firstly in the moral strength of humans… The moral height of a strong personality which did not bend under circumstances was always the inspiration for my work’.

MazurenkoЗ новим роком

  Handwritten message Z Novym Rokom! (Happy New New!) by Halia Mazurenko (From the private archive of Roman Yatsiv, reproduced with his kind permission).

Dr Roman Yatsiv, Pro-Rector, Lviv National Art Academy

Further reading:

25 poetiv ukrains’koi diaspory (Kyiv, 2006). YF.2007.a.23877

Ihor Kachurovskyi,  Promenysti syl’vety (Kyiv, 2008). YF.2011.a.17413

Halia Mazurenko. (Lviv, 1991). YA.2000.a.13341

01 December 2016

Ukrainians Mark 70 Years of AUGB

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To mark the 70th anniversary of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB), an academic conference was held earlier this month at the Association’s Central Office in London. Academics from both the UK and Ukraine considered various historical aspects ranging from prominent personalities to émigré publications to highlighting a rich array of data and source archival documents.


Speakers at the conference (Photo by Ihor Polataiko, reproduced by kind permission of the AUGB)

The origins of the AUGB go back to 1945 when Ukrainians serving in the Polish Armed Forces under British command came up with the idea of creating an official body to cater for their ethnic and spiritual needs. With the help of the Ukrainian Canadian Servicemen’s Association, based in London’s Sussex Gardens, they coordinated activities from late August 1945 up to the AUGB’s inaugural General Meeting in Edinburgh in January 1946. A Central Office was purchased in March 1947 which provided a base from which to help incoming Ukrainians settle in Britain.

In early 1949 an Invalids Fund was also established after the British Government decided (December 1948) to transport some 300 sick and injured Ukrainian former prisoners of war to Germany (and from there back to the USSR to face almost certain death). The decision was ultimately reversed in the face of Ukrainians threatening all-out strike action in protest, though the London Times of 30 December 1948 suggested that it was the hunger strike of the individuals concerned, coupled with the ‘repugnant’ nature of the government’s decision, that ‘naturally’ aroused objections among ‘ordinary Englishmen’. During that year alone, AUGB members donated a shilling a week to raise over £17,000 - the equivalent of well over £1.3 million today. This enabled the purchase of a property in Chiddingfold, Surrey, to provide care for those who were unable/unfit to work, or who simply required respite care. The property also accommodated summer youth camps until the 1960s and subsequently became a residential care home until its closure in 2012.

Over 300 Branches of the Association were created in the late 1940s but this number became substantially reduced by the mid-1950s as Ukrainians settled in closer proximity to each other in major towns and cities. Within these clusters they formed amateur cultural groups – choirs, dance ensembles, orchestras, theatre groups  - and also collected funds to purchase community centres.


 From the collection of 40 postcards Ukrains’ka Pisnia (Ukrainian Song; London, 1969)

As AUGB activities expanded, the AUGB Library (1947), the Association of Ukrainian Women (1948) and the Association of Ukrainian Teachers and Educators (1955) were established. The last coordinated community nurseries and language schools for a growing second generation. To facilitate consistency the AUGB published practical guidelines (in 1955) on methods of education, notably in four volumes of Materiialy Vykhovannia i Navchannia (Educational and Teaching Materials) dedicated to different aspects of Sunday school teaching.

I am often asked what drove that first generation of Ukrainians to be so generous with their time and the little money that they earned. The answer lies among the many resolutions adopted during the Association’s Annual General Meetings, illustrated by this example from 1948: “The AUGB, as a non-party generally-national organisation, calls on all Ukrainians to work together, irrespective of faith and political persuasion, to attain our ultimate goal – a Free, Independent and Sovereign State of the Ukrainian Nation”.

This love of Ukraine made the preservation of language, culture, and devotion to the homeland an important goal. Amongst other things it inspired regular publications of: a newspaper from November 1945 to the present, initially Nash Klych (‘Our call’) and then from spring 1947 Ukrains'ka Dumka (‘The Ukrainian Thought’; LOU.1165 [1994]); an annual calendar booklet, Kalendarets' ukraintsia u Velykii Brytanii (1947-2004; P.P.2458.lo.); a satirical magazine, Osa (‘Wasp’) (1947-1948); an English-language quarterly The Ukrainian Review (1954-2000; P.P.4842.dns.) and a school children’s magazine, Iuni Druzi (‘Young Friends’; 1955-1984; P.P.5992.gan.).

OSABLOGKURLIAKBi-weekly Osa (Wasp),  issue 1/46 1947

The latter was supplemented by the publication of children’s books, such as the alphabet and early reading text-book Bukvar (1958), or popular national tales, such as ‘Grandad’s Turnip’ (1954-55), or indeed the delightful narrative poems of the exceptional Leonid Poltava – Zhuchok-Shcherbachok (‘The little beetle Shcherbachok’; W.P.9391/3.), Slon po Afrytsi khodyv (‘The elephant walked through Africa’; 1955; W.P.9391/2) and others.

PoltavaBooksBlogBooks by Leonid Poltava from the British Library’s Collections

The books were published predominantly in Ukrainian but there were exceptions. Perhaps of particular note was the publication of Song out of Darkness, a collection of poems by the national poet, Taras Shevchenko translated by Vera Rich  to mark the centenary of the poet’s death, which we are now working on to update and republish.

SongOutOfDArknessTitlepage Frontispiece and title-page of Song out of Darkness (London, 1961)

The AUGB’s Library and Archive was also named after the Ukrainian bard. Today it works closely with the British Library and its collection of over 35,000 books is open to all students, academics and casual visitors interested in studying Ukrainian diaspora publications.

HOLODOMORCOVERBLOGCover of the catalogue Holodomor 1932-33 movoiu dokumentiv (London, 2003; YF.2012.a.16782) published for the exhibition commemorating 70 years of the Great Famine in Ukraine

As Ukrainians celebrate the 25th anniversary of the independence referendum vote of 1 December 1991 and simultaneously focus on events in Ukraine over the past three years (notably the annexation of the Crimea and the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine), we continue to face fresh challenges, adapt and seek new ways of developing, communicating and working with our members and the wider community. Our newspaper, website and social media aim to bring news and events to wider audiences and promote a greater understanding, not only of our heritage, but the contribution that we can make to academic research and cultural diversity.

Fedir Kurlak, AUGB CEO

03 October 2016

Pavlo Kovzhun or ‘adopt his enthusiasm...’

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When Filippo Tommaso Marinetti explained his view of the beauty of the contemporary world, in his first Manifesto of Futurism (1909), Pavlo Kovzhun was only thirteen. A few years later he already considered himself to be a Futurist, but at the same time did not care for the radical Italian’s desire to “exalt aggressive action, a feverish insomnia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap”.

In a short time this fact became the main point of difference in the experience of Ukrainian and Italian Modernism. However this was never a point of contention between Western European and Ukrainian artists – later Kovzhun, already an experienced artist, promoted Italian artistic classics of the 1900-1910s with admiration, showing his understanding of the audacity of this avant-garde movement.

In the history of Ukrainian modern art it is difficult to find a figure with equal enthusiasm and devotion to his art as Pavlo Kovzhun. The inheritance which he took from his idol Heorhii Narbut committed him to the exhausting work which drove him to his grave at the age of 43. But the scale of his creative work is enormous compared to the shortness of his life.

PavloKovzhunPortraitPavlo Kovzhun was born on October 3, 1896 in the village of Kostiushky in the Zhytomyr region. He studied at  the Kyiv Art College from 1911-1915, where his teachers were Hanna Kliuer-Prakhova, Mykola Murashko, and Ivan Seleznov. From 1913 he began to show his works in exhibitions. Aged 18 he was one of the founders of the Futurist Literary Artistic Group.

His first artistic works (mostly graphic) were under the influence of the St Petersburg artistic group Mir Iskusstva, and its leading representative, Heorhii Narbut. The direction introduced by this outstanding graphic master appealed to the young artist – the recreation of the heritage of the old Ukrainian engravers. Kovzhun wholeheartedly shared the ideas of the young Kyiv intellectuals that new qualities of Ukrainian art should be built on the spiritual and aesthetic basis created in former times. This appeal to the period of the climax of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, recognized throughout Europe, seemed to Pavlo Kovzhun and some of his student friends (Robert Lisovs'kyi, Vasyl' Kryzhanivs'kyi and Anatol' Petryts'kyi) the best choice as a basis for their art. Later Kovzhun developed this idea theoretically, analysing some aspects of contemporary Ukrainian graphics, and also presented his own formal-aesthetic arguments to prove it. His first graphic works, marked by modernist stylistics, appeared in the prestigious St Petersburg journal Apollon (British Library P.P.1931.pmf), and in some periodicals in Kyiv.

With the start of the First World War, and the Ukrainian National Liberation struggle, Kovzhun was at the front, creating printed matter for the army units, promoting Ukrainian national identity. He was one of the co-founders of the Hrunt publishing house and the Muzahet literary-artistic group. After the retreat with army troops and the government of the UNR (Ukrainian People’s Republic), in 1921 he edited the satirical humorous journal Izhak (Hedgehog) in Stanislav (then in Poland; now Ivano-Frankivsk). In the same year he moved to Lviv. ‘From now I begin to work,’ he wrote in a letter to the Ukrainian poet and intellectual  Mykola Voronyi. ‘I nearly lost my faith. I lived through the war in fire and revolution in blood, but still holding our banner. This is my nature. Now there is no blood, no fire, I pulled up my sleeves and took my brush and pen.’

In Lviv he initially worked on some private commissions (interior design, artistic decoration). In 1922 he became a member of the literary-artistic group Mytusa, and was a founder member and Secretary of the Group of Representatives of Ukrainian Art. As well as taking part in numerous art exhibitions, he cooperated with the editors of the periodicals Mytusa, Moloda Ukraina, Budiak, Masky, Zyz, Kul'tura, Nova Kul'tura, Svit, Mystetstvo, Universal'nyi Zhurnal, and Nova Heneratsiia. He was a member of the artistic group ‘Artes’ (Lviv, early 1930s), co-founder of the Association of Independent Ukrainian Artists (1931), of which he was also Secretary.

PAVLOKOVZHUNAWARDEXLIBRISDSC_2994Exlibris of the Ivan Franko  Society of Writers and Journalists by Pavlo Kovzhun. From: Ekslibris. Zbirnyk asotsiatsii nezalezhnykh ukrainskykh mysttsiv. Pershyi vypusk. (L'viv, 1932) Cup. 936/2190) 

Kovzhun’s artistic legacy consists of hundreds of graphic works, dozens of paintings, and more than a hundred publications on art. In cooperation (mostly with M. Osin'chuk) he created frescoes in twelve churches in Galicia, which became exemplars of this type of work for his contemporaries, and have not lost their artistic value even at the start of the 21st century. But the most remarkable contribution of Kovzhun is in the area of book illustration and periodical design. He was responsible for the design of the most prestigious books published in Ukraine between the wars: books by Ivan Franko, Volodymyr Vynnychenko, Pavlo Tychyna, Osyp Makovei, Borys Hrinchenko, Mykhailo Staryts'kyi, Mykola Holubets' and others, and dozens of calendars and periodicals. Among his works are posters, caricatures, book-plates, publishers' logos and emblems, theatre designs and more.

PACLOKOVZHUNBOOKCOVERSDSC_2985Covers of books designed by Pavlo Kovzhun from the British Library's collections: Chykalenko, Ievhen. Spohady (L'viv, 1925-1926).20003.f.45 (on the left) and Franko, Ivan. Boryslav smiiet'sia (L'viv-Kyiv, 1922) YA.1988.a.15528 (on the right).

In his stylistic designs Kovzhun’s graphic works absorb in themselves a combination of the leading concepts of European visual art between the wars: Futurism, Expressionism and Constructivism. The basis of his artistic creations which he developed systematically as plastic equivalents of Ukrainian national style, was the concept of Neo-Baroque. In combination with these leading universal styles the majority of Kovzhun’s works are marked by his interpretation of Art Deco, which was recognized by famous artists and critics: articles about Kovzhun appeared in prestigious art journals, such as Grafika (Poland), Umeni Slovanu (Czechoslovakia), Gebrauchsgraphik (Germany) and others.

PAVLOKOVZHUNBACLEXLIBRIS2DSC_2993Bookplates for various Ukrainian authors designed by Pavlo Kovzhun (from: Ekslibris. Zbirnyk asotsiatsii nezalezhnykh ukrainskykh mysttsiv. Pershyi vypusk. L'viv, 1932. Cup. 936/2190) 

Pavlo Kovzhun died on May 15, 1939 in Lviv, and was buried in the historic Lychakiv Cemetery . He left a huge and varied artistic and theoretical legacy. His art and his mentality were full of the pathos of the creation of new values in Ukrainian aesthetic culture, which unites with the realities of 21st century art.

PAVLOKOVZHUNMOSTRECENTBOOKTITLEPAGEDSC_2989Title page of Pavlo Kovzhun. Tvorcha spadshchyna khudozhnyka: materialy, biobibliohrafichnyi dovidnyk. (L’viv, 2010). YF.2012.b.406

Dr Roman Yatsiv, Pro-Rector, Lviv National Art Academy

Further reading:

Sviatoslav Hordynskyi. Pavlo Kovzhun. 1896-1939. (Krakiv-Lviv, 1943). Available at:

Roman Iatsiv. “Pereimemo ioho entuziazm..”. In Dzvin, issue 12/1991, pp. 93-98. P.P.4842.dpt

Myttsi Ukrainy. Entsyklopedychnyi dovidnyk (Kyiv, 1992). YA.1999.a.172

Syrota L. Literaturna hrupa “Mytusa” i Pavlo Kovzhun. In : Narodoznavchi Zozhyty. Issue 5/1998. ZA.9.b.1768

Kis-Fedoruk, O. Knyzhkova hrafika Pavla Kovzhuna. In : Narodoznavchi Zoshyty. Issue 1/2000. ZA.9.b.1768

Kis-Fedoruk, O. Z istorii vzaiemyn Pavla Kovzhuna i Mykoly Voronoho. In : Vidkrytyi arkhiv. Tom 1, 2004. ZF.9.a.3222

Pavlo Kovzhun. Tvorcha spadshchyna khudozhnyka: materialy, biobibliohrafichnyi dovidnyk. (L’viv, 2010). YF.2012.b.406

Mitchenko, Vitaliĭ. Estetyka ukraïnsʹkoho rukopysnoho shryftu. (Kyiv, 2007). YF.2008.b.2188

24 August 2016

The 1919-1921 Ukrainian Diplomatic Mission in London

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24 August 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the day when the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of the then Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) declared Ukraine’s independence and the creation of today’s sovereign state of Ukraine. This decision was endorsed in a referendum held in Ukraine on 1 December 1991. The United Kingdom officially recognised Ukraine at the end of the year, and on 10 January 1992 diplomatic relations between Ukraine and the UK were formally established. Later in the year the Ukrainian Embassy in London began to function. This was not, however, the first time that diplomatic representatives of an independent Ukrainian state were based in London.

In the years 1919-1921 there was a semi-official diplomatic mission in London representing the government of the Ukrainska Narodna Respublika, or UNR (variously translated as Ukrainian People’s Republic or Ukrainian National Republic), established in the revolutionary period after the fall of the Russian Empire. A law providing for the dispatch of a ten-member mission to England was passed on 23 January 1919. Part of the text of this law is shown in the following image from a collection of laws and resolutions concerning Ukrainian government institutions abroad, published unofficially in 1919 in Vienna.

Zbirnykzakoniv5759.aa.17From Zbirnyk zakoniv i postanov Ukrainskoho Pravytelstva vidnosno zakordonnykh instytutsii, compiled by Ivan Khrapko (Vienna, 1919) 5759.aa.17.

The mission was not officially recognised by the British government and initially had difficulties in obtaining clearance to enter the UK. It finally arrived in London, via Vienna, Stockholm and Copenhagen, in May 1919. The first head of the mission was Mykola Stakhovsky, a practising doctor and, from May 1917, administrator of the Podillia region of Ukraine. In September 1919 he resigned owing to ill health. To succeed him the UNR government appointed Arnold Margolin, a prominent Ukrainian-Jewish political leader who was the UNR government’s deputy minister of foreign affairs from January to March 1919. Margolin headed the London mission from November 1919 until his resignation in August 1920. His successor was Jaroslav Olesnitsky, a lawyer from Western Ukraine, who was already on the staff of the mission.

UNR mission
Members of the initial staff of the London mission. From Istorychnyi kaliendar-almanakh “Chervonoi Kalyny” na 1939 rik (Lviv, 1938)

The mission’s two main tasks were to urge the British government to recognise the Ukrainian republic and to provide information on the state of affairs in Ukraine. The mission also appealed for moral support for Ukraine in its struggle against Soviet forces, and sought to establish commercial relations between Ukraine and the UK.

Shortly after arriving in London, the mission established a Ukrainian Press Bureau which published a weekly bulletin entitled The Ukraine. This covered topics such as events in Ukraine, activities of the UNR government and its delegation at the 1919-1920 Paris Peace Conference, and opportunities for trade with Ukraine. 35 issues in total were published, between July 1919 and February 1920, before it was discontinued, probably owing to a lack of funds. A complete set of The Ukraine is held by the British Library (LOU.LON 628 [1919] and LOU.LON 580 [1920]).

TheUkraine1919 Page 1 of the first issue of The Ukraine (London, 1919) 

The British Library also holds a copy of a 64-page booklet, published by the mission, entitled Ukrainian Problems. A Collection of Notes and Memoirs Etc. This contains the texts of various letters and memoranda addressed to British officials between March 1919 (when the mission was still seeking permission to enter the UK) and September of that year.

UkrainianProblemsCoverCover of Ukrainian Problems  (london, 1919). 8095.g.35.

In the second half of 1920 members of the London mission were closely involved in an unsuccessful attempt by the UNR government to gain the admission of Ukraine to membership of the newly-formed League of Nations. In November 1920 the UNR government, having suffered military defeat, was forced to leave Ukraine for exile in Poland. This, and the increasing consolidation of Soviet power in Ukraine, made it ever more difficult for the mission to fulfil its purpose. Its head, Jaroslav Olesnitsky, returned to Ukraine in 1921.

Although Ukraine’s struggle for independence in 1917-1920  was short-lived, it played a pivotal role in the formation of the modern Ukrainian nation. It was also a key reason why the Ukrainian SSR was initially established as a nominally independent state, even though in reality it was controlled by Moscow. Ukraine’s distinctiveness was emphasised again in 1945, when the Ukrainian SSR, along with the Soviet Union as a whole and the Belarusian SSR, became a founding member of the United Nations, the successor of the League of Nations. In this story, which culminates in Ukraine’s declaration of independence 25 years ago, it is worth remembering the part, albeit small, played by the London diplomatic mission of the UNR.

Roman Krawec, editor of Ukrainians in the United Kingdom: Online encyclopaedia 

 Further reading

Dyplomatiia UNR ta Ukrainskoi Derzhavy v dokumentakh i spohadakh suchasnykiv, ed. by I. Hnatyshyn, O. Kucheruk and O. Mavrin, 2 vols (Kyiv, 2008). ZF.9.a.7417

Arnold Margolin,  From a Political Diary: Russia, the Ukraine, and America (New York, 1946). 9011.g.15.

D. Saunders, ‘Britain and the Ukrainian Question (1912-1920)’, The English Historical Review, vol. CIII, no. 406 (January 1988), pp. 40-68. P.P.3408.

22 August 2016

The First World War, Ukraine, and the Birth of Independence?

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In 1914, when the First World War broke out, the Ukrainian lands were split between the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires. Ukrainian soldiers fought on both sides of the conflict; 4,500,000 Ukrainians fought in the Russian armies and 250,000-300,000 in the Austro-Hungarian armies.

In August 1914, while the global conflict was beginning to take shape, a small group of political exiles from the Russian-ruled area of Ukraine, who were living in Vienna, began an independence movement. It was founded on 4 August 1914 by six men who called themselves the ‘Union for the Liberation of Ukraine’ (Soiuz Vyzvolennia Ukrainy): Oleksander Skoropys-Yoltukhovsky, Marian Melenevsky, Andrii Zhuk, Volodymyr Doroshenko, Dmytro Dontsov and Mykola Zalizniak.

The Union’s first attempt to reach out to the West is held in a collection of printed ephemera at the British Library. The four page leaflet is entitled ‘To the Public Opinion of Europe’ and details their views on the need for Ukraine to be liberated from the rule of both the Russian and Austro-Hungarian governments.

To the public opinion 1

 D. Donzow [et al.] To the public opinion of Europe: on behalf of the ‘Bond for the Freeing of Ukraine’. ([Vienna], 1914). British Library Tab.11748.aa.4.(15).)

To the public opinipn 2

The leaflet was dated 25 August 1914 and it appears that the Union began to distribute them immediately. The New York Times commented on this, saying:

The Ruthenian inhabitants of Galicia, one-half the population of the country, founded a League for the Release of Ukraine and flooded Europe from the 25th of August with notifications and descriptions hostile to Russia.

In actual fact this report is a little misleading, there were not very many employees of the Union (only 42) and it was not particularly well supported by the public. What it does indicate is that the Union, and its publication, reached the ears of far-flung America.

Although this foray into printing was successful, their next attempt, a manifesto that was to be signed by the rulers of both Germany and Austro-Hungary was rejected by both countries, and the half a million pre-printed copies they had made to distribute among the public had to be destroyed. Neither Germany nor Austro-Hungary wanted to support an independent Ukraine openly, at the risk of making the political situation with Russia worse. Although the countries would not sign the manifesto, both sent the Union money to help spread the message about an independent Ukraine. After this failure to be officially recognised by the two countries, the Union moved to Berlin, and the members limited themselves to printing propaganda leaflets and distributing them along the Eastern Front. The Union had offices in neutral Switzerland, as well as Romania, Sweden, Norway, Britain and the United States, to help pass along information about their cause.

Znachinnie samostiinoi 8095.ff.86Title page of Oleksander Skoropys-Ioltukhovskyi, Znachinnie samostiinoi Ukrainy dlia ievropeiskoi rivnovahy [The Importance of independent Ukraine for European stability]  (Vienna, 1916). 8095.ff.86.

In 1915 the Union began to fight for the rights of Ukrainian prisoners of war. Originally these prisoners were detained with people from other countries, but the Union fought for separate, Ukrainian, camps. These Ukrainian prisoner of war camps were established, and captured soldiers could choose whether they wanted to move into these special camps with their countrymen. The Union went around the camps delivering citizenship classes, in order to try and win sceptical soldiers over to support for an independent Ukraine.

Ukrainian League songs
From: Sim pisen’. Hostynets dlia ukrainskykh voiakiv vid “Soiuza vyzvolennia Ukrainy [‘Seven Songs. A Present for Ukrainian soldiers from Union of Liberation of Ukraine’], with the stamp of the Union on the left-hand page (Vienna, 1915)

But in March 1917 the Ukrainian Revolution began. It was begun in Ukraine, by people who lived there, and the Union (still in Berlin) had no connection to the revolution. In actuality the Union had little, if any, connections in Ukraine during the years 1914-1917. Despite the Union fostering national pride among prisoners of war, and gaining some (financial) recognition from the Austrian and German governments, the revolution has overshadowed their efforts, and they have largely been forgotten in the history of Ukrainian independence.

Ann-Marie Foster, PhD Placement Student in the British Library

Further reading:

Oleh S. Fedyshyn, Germany’s Drive to the East and the Ukrainian Revolution, 1917-1918 (New Jersey, 1971) X.800/7830.

Georg Brandes, “Fate of the Jews in Poland” (From The Day, Nov 29, 1914) in The New York Times Current History: the European War, February, 1915, by Various. ([New York], 1915). (Available online via Project Gutenberg)

Ivan Pater, Soiuz vyzvolennia Ukraïny: problemy derzhavnosti i sobornosti.  (Lʹviv, 2000). YA.2002.a.27084

Soiuz vyzvolennia Ukraïny 1914-1918 Videnʹ (New York, 1979). YA.1987.a.2971

Orest Subtelny, Ukraine: a history.  (Toronto, 1994).  95/11578

Ann-Marie Foster is a PhD placement student at the British Library cataloguing the First World War Ephemera collection. Her research examines the ways in which families used ephemera and memorial objects to remember loved ones who died during war or in a disaster.

16 August 2016

The Spiritual Jewel of Kyiv

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This year marks the 1020th anniversary of the completion and consecration of the first stone-built church in the state of Ukraine-Rus', the Church of the Dormition (better known as the Church of the Tithes) in Kyiv. This church was built by Grand Prince Volodymyr  to replace the principal pagan sanctuary – the shrine of Perun – and symbolised the transition of Rus' to Christianity and the consequent recognition of the Kyivan state by the Christian world.

Baptism of the Holy Prince Volodymyr.  Fragment of the fresco by V.M Vasnetsov, St. Volodymyr's Cathedral in Kyiv (From Wikimedia Commons).

The official conversion of Kyivan Rus' took place in 988, and imparted an exceptionally high status to the Grand Prince. The baptism of the people of Kyiv was followed by extensive building work. A fortified stronghold, known as the ‘City of Volodymyr’, was constructed on the Old Kyiv Hill, dominated by the magnificent Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God. The Tale of Bygone Years (also known as the ‘Primary Chronicle’) dates the foundation of the church to 989.

The building of the church was the culmination of Volodymyr’s Christianisation of Rus', which helped establish close relations with Byzantium, and brought his people to acknowledge Graeco-Roman culture. The church took seven years to build and was consecrated on 12 May 996. Much of the building work was carried out by craftsmen from Byzantium. Although its official name was to be the Church of the Dormition, it soon became popularly known as the Church of the Tithes (Desyatynna Church), because to celebrate its opening, Prince Volodymyr held a great celebration and set aside one tenth of his revenues for the maintenance of the church.

PEKARSKABLOGDESIATYNNADSC_2352Title page of Tserkva Bohorodytsi Desiatynna v Kyievi, (Kyiv, 1996).  LB.31.c.9576, with an image from the 15th-century Radziwill Chronicle showing the Consecration of the Church of the Tithes 

The church was relatively small (22 x 31 m). Its roof was supported by two rows of six columns, and three semicircular apses extended from the east wall. The interior was lavishly adorned with icons, crosses and precious stones which Volodymyr had brought from Chersonesus, where, the Chronicle tells us, he himself had been baptised. The floor of the church was made of glazed terracotta tiling. Some fragments, made of marble, porphyry and other coloured stones, have survived. The walls were decorated with frescoes and mosaics. Because so much marble and carved stone was used in the interior, the Chronicle describes the church as ‘marmoreal’.

The church contained the relics of saints – Pope Clement I and his disciple Phoebus – which Volodymyr had also brought from Chersonesus. Here, too, he brought the sarcophagus of his grandmother, Princess Olha. In front of the church there was a square, where Volodymyr placed four ‘copper shrines’ (possibly ancient altars) and copper figures of horses which had formerly adorned Chersonesus. Situated in the very heart of Volodymyr’s seat of power, the Church dominated not only the Upper City of Kyiv, but also the lower area, known as the Podil, and enhanced the ancient capital by its remarkable beauty.

PEKARSKADESIATYNACHURCH                         Central part of the 'City of Volodymyr', with the Church of the Dormition. Reconstruction from the Museum of the Institute of Archaeology of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine.

The church contained the tombs of seven princes, and  also became the final resting-place of Volodymyr himself and his wife, the Byzantine princess Anna. Their sarcophagi, according to the 11th-century Chronicle of Thietmar of Merseburg, stood side-by-side in the church.

The end of the statehood and power of Kyivan Rus' came suddenly, with the Mongol-Tatar invasion. During the 1230s, Batu Khan moved through the Slav lands, destroying everything in his path. After laying waste to large territories of Rus', and bloody battles resulting in the capture of Pereyaslav  and Chernihiv, the hordes, led by Batu’s cousin Mengu Khan, reached Kyiv. Only the River Dnipro/Dnieper lay between them and the city. The splendid city of Kyiv made a great impression on the Mongols, and Mengu Khan was reluctant to storm it, instead offering its people terms of surrender. But the Kyivans did not surrender the city.

In November 1240, the 140,000-strong Mongol army, led by Batu himself, crossed the Dnipro and besieged the city. The siege lasted for ten weeks and four days. Then, having breached the fortifications, the Mongols broke into the city on St Nicholas's Day (6 December). They plundered churches and monasteries and carried off the icons, crosses and all of the church ornaments. Palaces, homes and workshops of the people of Kyiv, books, manuscripts and works of art – all the precious cultural treasures of the state – went up in flames.

There was a valiant resistance by  Kyivan troops, led by the boyar Dmytro, the regent for Prince Danylo of Halych. The defenders were driven back to the ancient centre. There, in the princely court, beside the Church of the Tithes, where people had taken refuge, the final and bloodiest fighting occurred. The Church was packed with people, in the main body of the building, the galleries, and even in the sanctuary. When the storming of the church began, says the Chronicle, ‘the walls collapsed under the strain’. The siege-engines, which hurled rocks against the walls of the church, also played their part.

As the Mother-Church of the land of Rus', the Church of the Tithes was the principal spiritual jewel of Kyiv and the whole of Rus'. The fate of this church mirrors the fate of Kyivan Rus' itself. Built when the Kyivan state was first achieving international recognition, it was destroyed at the moment of that state’s downfall.

The church has been the object of research for almost 400 years and can still be seen today in graphic reconstructions and in the findings of archaeological excavations, continued today by the Institute of Archaeology at the National Academy of Science of Ukraine.

PEKARSKABLOGBOOKSKYIVANRUSDSC_2353          Books about Kyivan Rus' and Kyiv from the British Library's collections.

Ludmila Pekarska, PhD, Curator, The Shevchenko Library & Archive in London

 References/further reading:

Povestʹ vremennykh let, podgotovka teksta, perevod, statʹi i kommentarii D.S.Likhacheva ; pod red.  V.P. Adrianovoĭ- Perett︠s︡. (Sankt-Peterburg, 1996) Ac.1125/225(351)

Ottonian Germany : the chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg, translated and annotated by David A. Warner (Manchester, 2001) YC.2001.a.8948

Iaroslav Pasternak, Arkheolohiia Ukrainy (Toronto, 1961) 7712.d.31

Natalia Polonska-Wasylenko, Ukraine-Rus' and Western Europe in 10th-13th centuries. (London, 1964)  X.709/12

IU. S. Asieiev, ‘Arkhitektura Kyivskoi Rusi X – pochatku XII st.’ In: Istoriia ukrainskoho mystetstva (Kyiv, 1966-1970), Vol. I. X.415/409 (1).

P.P.Tolochko, Kiev i Kievskaia zemlia v epokhu feodal'noi radroblennosti XII-XIII vekov (Kiev, 1980) X.805/2752

S.R. Kilievich, Na gore Starokievskoi (Kyiv, 1982) X.429/15964

Petro Tolochko. Kyivs'ka Rus' (Kyiv, 1996) YA.1997.b.4444

Tserkva Bohorodytsii Desiatynna v Kyievi : do 1000-littia osviachennia. (Kyiv, 1996) LB.31.c.9576


27 July 2016

Facsimile editions of works by Taras Shevchenko with artistic designs of Volodymyr Yurchyshyn

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2016 marks the 155th anniversary of the death of the outstanding Ukrainian writer and artist Taras Shevchenko. The writer’s works published during his life became rare even by the middle of the 19th century, which led to the reproduction of Shevchenko’s original editions as photographic reprints.

Taras Shevchenko. Self-portrait.1847
Shevchenko's self-portrait from 1847 (From Encyclopedia of the life and works of Taras Shevchenko

One of the main sources for the study of Shevchenko’s life and artistic heritage are his manuscript books. Almost all of them, the manuscript series Try lita (‘Three years’), Mala knyzhka (‘The Small Book’), Bil'sha knyzhka (‘The Larger Book’), Shchodennyk (’The Diary’), novels, autograph copies of some poems, letters, and albums, are now kept in the Department of Manuscripts and Textual Criticism of the Shevchenko Institute of Literature of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine. This material is completely inaccessible for a wide audience. That is why the photographic reproductions of the original material have such enormous importance, allowing many people to study Shevchenko's writings, his editorial work, sketches in the margins of his manuscripts, and so on.

In 1963 for the 150th anniversary of Shevchenko’s birth there was published a facsimile of his ‘Small Book’ (the so-called ‘top-boot booklet’) – a manuscript collection of his poems written during the first four years of his exile (1847-1850). Later editions followed in 1984 and 1989, issued by the publishing house Naukova Dumka  in an edition of 50,000 copies. Their introduction was written by the well-known Ukrainian philologist, literary historian, and director of the Shevchenko Institute of Literature Evhen Shabliovs'kyi. The excellent artistic design of these editions was created by the artist Volodymyr Yurchyshyn. The book and the separate introduction to it appeared in a slip-case decorated by red and black floral ornaments and thorns characteristic of his works.


Mala Knyzhka. Facsimile edition of 1989.  YA.1992.a.4330


The original edition of Kobzar (1840) from the collection of the Shevchenko Institute of Literature of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine was used for the 1974 reprint by the Dnipro publishing house. This book was published in an edition of 25,000 copies. The introduction was written by Vasyl' Borodin. The facsimile and the separate booklet containing the introduction in a slip-case (picture below) were also designed by Yurchyshyn, with black, red and white lace-like patterns created by lines, dots and ornaments. The artist used other colours as well in a delicate graphic style.

274.Футляр, фронтиспіс і титул

Volodymyr Yurchyshyn (1934-2010) was an eminent Ukrainian graphic artist, creator of scripts, master of book design, Honoured Artist of Ukraine (1990), winner of the Shevchenko National Prize (1990) for the artistic design of The Primary Chronicle (1989).

Photo of Volodymyr Yurchyshyn by H. Potiahailo (From the Yurchyshyn family archive.  Reproduced with kind permission of the family).

A deep knowledge of Ukraine’s past and of folk art, a mastery of graphic techniques, the skilful creation of fonts and ornaments – these are the qualities of Yurchyshyn’s heritage which add his name to the the greatest followers of Heorhii Narbut, Vasyl Krychevsky, and Olena Kulchytska.  These famous predecessors of Yurchyshyn created a new Ukrainian style of art in the first half of the 20th century; Yurchyshyn himself, whose artistic activity covered the period 1960-2010s, created contemporary Ukrainian book design.

Yurchyshyn always worked with the book as a unit, creating not separate elements, but a harmoniously unified design of the whole book. The elements of the book (slip-case, dust-jacket, cover, title-page, section-titles etc.) and its design (type, ornaments and illustrations) are always skilfully unified in his work into one complete artistic object – the book.

The largest collection of the artist's works and documents in Ukraine is now preserved in the Museum of the Book and Printing of Ukraine  in Kyiv. In 2015 the Museum organized an exhibition entitled ‘Volodymyr Yurchyshyn. Book Art. Selected Works’ to mark the 80th anniversary of the artist’s birth. The exhibition, accompanied by a catalogue in Ukrainian and English, was the first comprehensive presentation of the heritage of this master.  Among many other original works by Yurchyshyn included in the exhibition was the sketch for the slipcase for Shevchenko’s Mala knyzhka: Avtohrafy poezii Shevchenka 1847–1850 rr. (Кyiv, 1984 (paper, indian ink, gouache, quill pen, brush. Drawing. – 40×48,7сm.). The Museum collection also includes the facsimile of Shevchenko’s Kobzar (1840), published in 1974.

Volodymyr Iurchyshyn. Mystestvo knyhy = Volodymyr Yurchyshyn. Book art (Kyiv, 2015). YF.2015.b.1834 

These facsimile editions give us the chance to study some of the manuscripts and the artistic heritage of Shevchenko, revealing to us the hidden secrets of his creations, and Yurchyshyn’s masterly artistic designs bring to these editions the true aesthetics of the Book.

Nataliia Globa, Leading Research Assistant of the Museum of the Book and Printing of Ukraine.

References/further reading:

Pokazhchyk vydan' Shevchenkovykh tvoriv: pershodruky i okremi vydannia ta spys literatury pro nykh. Zibrav i vporiad. V. Doroshenko. 2-e vydannia, perehlianute i znachno dopodnene. (Chicago, 1961).

T.H. Shevchenko: bibliohrafichnyi pokazhchyk (1965-1988). Uklad.: L.V. Beliaeva, N.M. Myslovych. (Kyiv, 1989). 2725.e.1288.

Vydannia tvoriv Tarasa Shevchenka ta hrafichnoi Shevchenkiany: kataloh. Muzei knyhy i drukarstva Ukrainy. Uporiad. M.A. Korniichuk, H.V. Karpinchuk, N.V. Globa, L.P. Poriis'ka. Peredmova M.A. Korniichuk, L.P. Poriis'ka. (Kyiv, 2011).

Vydannia tvoriv Shevchenka u fondakh Shevchenkivs'koho natsional'noho zapovidnyka: kataloh. Upodiadnyky, O.O. Solopchenko, L.H. Silenko. Avtor proektu ta peredmovy I.D. Likhovyi. (Kyiv, 2004). YF.2005.a.29902.

Volodymyr Iurchyshyn. Mystetstvo knyhy. Vybrane. Z kolektsii Museiu knyhy i drukarstva Ukrainy = Volodymyr Yurchyshyn. Book art. Selected works from the collection of the Museum of the Book and Printing of Ukraine. Uporiadnyky katalohu: Viktoriia Belyba, Nataliia Hloba, Anna Dovbush, Halyna Emets', Hanna Sokyrina. Vstupna stattia: Ihor Dudnyk, Valentyna Bochkovsʹka. (Kyiv, 2015) YF.2015.b.1834.

Hloba Nataliia Volodymyrivna, ‘Faksymil'ni vydannia tvoriv T.H. Shevchenka u kolektsii MHDU.’Ukrains'ka pysemnist' ta mova v manuskryptakh i drukarstvi: materialy 1-i 1 2-i nauk.-prakt. konf. do Dnia ukrains'koi pysemnosti ta movy. (Kyiv, 2012).

Hloba N.V. ‘Fototypichni, faksymil'ni ta repryntni vydannia tvoriv T. Shevchenka.’Ukrains'ka literatura v zahal'noosvitnii shkoli, 2011, vol. 2, pp. 41-43.


28 May 2016

And yet the time will come: Ivan Franko in Memoriam

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Ivan Franko (1856-1916), together with Taras Shevchenko and Lesia Ukrainka, is one of the three pillars of classical Ukrainian literature. His extraordinary life and enormous creative output are well described by Marko Robert Stech and Arkadii Zhukovsky in the Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine with a very useful bibliography for researchers at the end:

With his many gifts, encyclopedic knowledge, and uncommon capacity for work, Franko made outstanding contributions to many areas of Ukrainian culture. He was a poet, prose writer, playwright, critic, literary historian, translator, and publisher. The themes of his literary works were drawn from the life and struggle of his own people and from sources of world culture: Eastern cultures and the classical and Renaissance traditions. He was a ‘golden bridge’ between Ukrainian and world literatures.


Ivan Franko in 1886 (From Wikimedia Commons)

The death of Ivan Franko on May 28 1916 was a great blow to the whole of Ukrainian society, then part of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires. He died in his beloved Lviv, amidst the horrors of the First World War, when  Ukrainians from both empires were fighting each other.  Soon after his funeral, through the efforts of his friends and especially Mykhailo Vozniak, the League of Liberation of Ukraine in Vienna published a book Pamiaty Ivana Franka. 

Cover of Pamiaty Ivana Franka (Vienna, 1916) 10790.v.6 (An electronic version of the work is available at:

This rare book is part of our significant collection of works by and about Ivan Franko. It describes his funeral in Lviv, with speeches and reactions from all over the world. Rare photographs of the funeral are part of the book.

Franko’s funeral procession in Lviv on May 31 1916. From Pamiaty Ivana Franka, p. 67

In 1932 the Canadian priest and translator Percival Cundy, before presenting his translations of selected poems into English in A Voice from Ukrainia, wrote in the biographical sketch:

In his great epic Moses, Franko puts these words into the mouth of the prophet and nation-maker of Israel as he surveys their tents from Mount Nebo, on whose peak he was soon to die:

As thou shalt through the centuries march,
Thou’lt bear my spirit’s stamp on thee

Franko could justly apply these words to himself in the relation to his own people, the Ukrainians of Galicia, for no man in modern times so profoundly influenced, spiritually and culturally, a nation than did he.

VoiceFromUkrainiaThe title page of A Voice from Ukrainia (Roland, Manitoba, 1932) 10795.p.34.

“The spirit’s stamp” of Ivan Franko was indeed so great that it could not be ignored even by the Soviet authorities. During Soviet times most of his works were published, with special emphasis on his radical activities (Franko was imprisoned three times for political activities) and early interest in socialism. The title of one of his poems, Kameniari  (‘Stonecutters’ ), was widely used when talking about him. Yet the process of re-interpretation of Franko started as early as the mid-1980s, and continues to this day. In her two studies, the literary critic Tamara Hundorova concentrates on the artistic aspects of Franko’s works instead of the usual ideological ones. The famous modern Ukrainian writer Oksana Zabuzhko and literary scholar Volodymyr Mazepa looked at his philosophical works, and the historian from Lviv, Yaroslav Hrytsak,  re-evaluated Franko as a scholar and important political figure in Galicia. New insights about Franko as a writer of criminal stories appeared in the book Ivan Franko – maister kryminal'noho chtyva (‘Ivan Franko as master of criminal stories’; Lviv, 2006; YF.2007.a.19860).

Some recent books about  Ivan Franko from our collections 

More books, articles and PhD theses will be published this year marking the centenary of Franko’s death and 160th anniversary of his birth in August this year. I hope the year will also be marked by new translations of Franko’s works into English.  The famous British translator Vera Rich translated the poem Moisei ('Moses'), beginning with its famous  Prologue :

And yet the time will come and, radiant shining,
You’ll shake the Caucasus; one of the free nations,
With the Carpathians as your girdle twining.

You’ll set the mighty sound of freedom racing
Over the Black Sea, free-holder, well-seated,
In your own house, in your own fields’ broad spaces!

It resonates with all interested in Ukrainian studies 100 years after Franko’s death.

Olga Kerziouk, Curator  Ukrainian studies


Iaroslav Hrytsak, Prorok u svoii vitchyzni: Franko ta ioho spilnota,1856-1886. (Kyiv, 2006). YF.2007.a.20769

Tamara  Hundorova,  Nevidomyi Franko: Hrani Izmarahdu (Kyiv, 2006). YF.2007.b.3067

Tamara Hundorova, Franko ne Kameniar, Franko i Kameniar. (Kyiv, 2006). YF.2011.a.12205

Volodymyr Mazepa, Kul’turotsentryzm svitopohliadu Ivana Franka (Kyiv, 2004) YF.2006.a.3593.
Oksana Zabuzhko, Filosofiia ukrains’koi idei ta ievropeis’kyi kontekst:  Frankivskyi period (Kyiv, 1993). YA.1998.a.5115


18 May 2016

Personal is Political: Eurovision 2016 and the Crimean Tatars

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When Crimean Tatar singer Jamala  won Eurovision 2016  for Ukraine this weekend with a song about her people’s tragedy, she was following a tradition of telling the Crimean Tatar experience of exile through verse and story.

Jamala at a "meet & greet" appearance during the Eurovision Song Contest 2016 in Stockholm (From Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Albin Olsson License: CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Here is an earlier example:

Hey, swallow, swallow! Spread your wings wide!
If you get caught by the enemy on the ground,
You may be deprived of a homeland, like the Tatar!
Sorrowful people, great people! People with stunted lungs!
I was born amidst you, I am one of you. I am a weed in your garden,
I am a weed in your garden.
(From Kollar Demir, Bas Emen, Budapest, 1919)

The author, Bekir Çobanzade (1893-1937), was a Crimean Tatar linguist and academic who studied and taught in Crimea, Turkey, Hungary and Azerbaijan. His poems and stories express a lyrical, personal grief at the fate of the Muslim Turkic Crimean Tatars, the indigenous people of Crimea. Under repressive Russian Imperial rule thousands emigrated to seek better lives. Soviet authorities, after a brief period of supporting national minorities, completed the exodus by forcibly deporting the entire nation in 1944 – the subject of Jamala’s winning song.

Coban-Zade portraitPhotograph of Çobanzade, first published in his poetry collection Boran (1928) From: D.P. Ursu. Bekir Choban-Zade (Simferopol, 2013), YF.2015.a.1408

Çobanzade did not live to see this final atrocity, which wiped out an estimated 46 percent of his nation. In 1937 he was executed for separatism, involvement in terrorism, and working as a foreign agent. He was rehabilitated in the 1950s.

The lyrics to Jamala’s song ‘1944’ begin:

When strangers are coming...
They come to your house,
They kill you all
and say,
We’re not guilty […]

Yaşlığıma toyalmadım
Men bu yerde yaşalmadım
[I could not spend my youth there/ Because you took away my land]

In the light of Eurovision rules that songs be apolitical, Jamala has said the song is not political but personal, telling the story of her grandmother who was deported. Every Crimean Tatar family living in Crimea at that time has this same story. When I was researching Dream Land (2008), my novel about the deportation and return home of Crimean Tatars almost fifty years later, I heard it again and again. I was fortunate to be able to interview many people who remembered the deportation, and Crimea before it – a land of roses and sunshine, but also of war and state-sponsored cruelty.

This generation is fast disappearing: one story recounted in Dream Land, of Seit-Amet who fought in the Russo-Japanese war and the First World War in place of his two brothers, was told to me by Seit-Amet’s son before he died in 2011. But the stories are passed on to those who were born in exile, or back in Crimea after Perestroika which allowed them to return. I was struck by the incredible vividness of this collective memory; often younger generations can recite their parents’ or grandparents’ experience as if they had lived through it themselves. Greta Uehling explores this phenomenon in her 2004 book Beyond Memory: The Crimean Tatars’ Deportation and Return.

The deportation, or Sürgünlik, was a nation-defining event. People were sent away on the basis of their national identity which the Soviet authorities then tried to obliterate, claiming that there was no such national group as the Crimean Tatars. During exile much Crimean Tatar culture and language was lost, but at the same time a campaigning National Movement was born, uniting a whole generation which defined itself by the determination to return to a lost homeland – and therefore, in opposition to Soviet authorities. Thus, while for every Crimean Tatar the deportation is a personal family story, it is also political, and the shared memory of this event informs current Crimean Tatar opposition to Russian annexation of Crimea.

Death Train-2.
Painting by Rustem Eminov (From

On 18 May 1944, when the bewildered Crimean Tatars – the majority women and children, as the men were fighting in the Red Army – asked the Soviet soldiers why they were forcing families from their homes, they reportedly replied “It’s not our fault – it’s Stalin’s orders.” The 2008 book and BBC series World War Two: Behind Closed Doors by Laurence Rees includes interviews with some soldiers who participated in wartime Soviet atrocities, including the deportation of the Crimean Tatars. Many repeat that they were just following orders. “I understand that it was cruel because I’m more experienced now,” says one now elderly man. “Now, we have democracy.” The implication is that they had no choice in or awareness of what they were doing, and thus what happened was not personal. It was political.

Writing in times of upheaval and repression reminiscent of Crimea today, Bekir Çobanzade’s ambitions for his works are touchingly modest. In a 1919 preface to a collection of poems unpublished in his lifetime he wrote “If history turns its attention to Crimea someday, and if one Crimean Tatar searches for another, my writings may surface. It is quite all right, if this does not happen. Crimean Tatars lost their flag, their glory, and their land. What if I were to lose a few nights without sleep and days in grief …”

Thanks to Russian annexation, history has indeed turned its attention to Crimea. And a Eurovision song is the unlikely vehicle whereby an international audience encounters the Crimean Tatar story, culture and threatened language which Çobanzade wrote “embodies my people's centuries-long sorrow, their anxious and yet brave voice.”

Lily Hyde, writer and journalist


Lily Hyde, Dream Land. (London, 2008) YK.2009.a.30188

Greta Uehling, Beyond Memory: The Crimean Tatars’ Deportation and Return. (Basingstoke, 2004) YC.2006.a.8885

Laurence Rees, World War II: Behind Closed Doors; Stalin, the Nazis, and the West. (London, 2008) YK.2009.a.30180

Ismail Otar, Bekir Sidki Çobanzade: Kirimli Türk Sair ve Bilgini. (Istanbul, 1999) ITA.2000.a.608 (English translations from the International Committee for Crimea.