09 February 2018
Among the outstanding figures of 20th-century Ukrainian culture Maria Prymachenko (1909-97), the Honoured Artist of Ukraine and winner of the Shevchenko National Prize, occupies one of the highest places. Her name belongs to the line of outstanding artists of naïve art, such as Henri Rousseau, Niko Pirosmanishvili, Ivan Generalic and Nykyfor Drovniak.
Maria Prymachenko devoted nearly 60 years to her beloved occupation, painting. Her works are spread among Ukrainian museums and private collections. The largest part of her legacy, nearly 650 works, dating from 1936 to 1987, is kept in the collection of the National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Applied Art in Kyiv.
Maria Prymachenko was born in the Kyiv region into a peasant family. In her childhood she suffered from polio, which left her an invalid for the rest of her life. But this severe illness did not break her spirit. Having learned embroidery from her mother during childhood, in the late 1920s and early 1930s the future artist started to work in the Ivankiv Co-operative Embroidery Association, where she brought her own interpretation to traditional ornaments as well as creating her own artistic designs. The Kyivan artist Tetiana Floru saw Maria’s embroideries in the Ivankiv market, and in 1935 invited the talented girl to work in the Central Experimental Workshop of the Kyiv Museum of Ukrainian Art. Here folk artists from the whole of Ukraine were assembled together for the preparation of the First Republican Folk Art Exhibition, which took place in Kyiv in 1936 (photo of Maria Prymachenko from 1936 above), and was later shown in Moscow and Leningrad. In 1937 some of Prymachenko’s drawings were presented in the International Exhibition in Paris.
From the start Maria Prymachenko showed herself to be an artist with a unique world view. In the creation of artistic images in her drawings from the 1930s a decisive role was played by line and by the principles of traditional Ukrainian ornaments, presenting flowers, plants and animals in two-dimensional forms.
This period of Maria Prymachenko’s life was brightened by two important events: after several successful operations in Kyiv, she could stand on both legs – and in Kyiv she met her beloved fellow countryman, the Red Army lieutenant Vasyl' Marynchuk. After productive activity in the Workshop, she came home to her native village, Bolotnya. In March 1941 she gave birth to her son Fedir. A few months later Ukraine was occupied by the Nazis. The artist experienced all the horrors of war: her brother Ivan was shot by the Germans, and later her husband also perished. The hard war years were exchanged for post-war poverty, constant work on a collective farm, and bringing up her son. She had neither the time nor the strength for painting. But her intensive artistic energy constantly sought realisation. At the beginning Maria embroidered a lot, and later took up painting again,predominantly small compositions with animals, birds and landscapes on leaves from school sketchbooks.
With time the format of her paintings increased. The white backgrounds of the 1930s works gave place to coloured ones in the 1960s-1980s. At the same time her technique changed: from the transparent watercolours with clear graphic contours of her early works to thick intensive gouache, which gave birth to wonderful full-toned depths of colour. But the world of her images remained unchanged, as well as the virtuosity of line and colour.
Flowers had a special place in her artistic heritage. Bright, decorative, unusual in shape and colour, they rose to the rank of the miraculous, and joined the aesthetic-philosophical interpretation of relations between human beings and the universe.
Poppies (1964) Reproduced in Mariia Pryimachenko. Al’bom
Images of birds, which for centuries have personified goodness, love, peace, and represent intermediaries between heaven and earth, occupy a significant place in her numerous compositions.
Bird (1962) Reproduced in: Mariia Pryimachenko. Al’bom
Decorative pictures with images of animals and fantastic creatures are a quintessential part of Prymachenko’s art. She impresses us by her talent for the creation of new unique images. Many critics noticed her specific 'philosophy of the good’, which she embodies in images of ‘kind’ beasts and birds (lions, hares, bulls, horses, storks, swallows etc.). In the 1970s an important innovation appeared – on the backs of her drawings she wrote captions, a kind of explanatory proverbs, organically linked to the images.
Many articles and albums with reproductions of her works were published, exhibitions held, films were made, coins and postage stamps issued in the independent Ukraine. The magic world of Maria Prymachenko continues to capture the imagination.
Two postage stamps with fantastic beasts by Maria Prymachenko (From Wikimedia Commons)
Olena Shestakova, Head of Department, National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Applied Art
Oleksandr Naiden, Mariia Pryimachenko, Ornament prostoru i prostir ornamentu (Kyiv, 2011) YF.2012.a.9431
Oleksandr Naiden, Mariia Pryimachenko 100 (Kyiv, 2009). On order
Derzhavnyi muzei ukrains’koho narodnoho dekoratyvnoho prykladnohio mystestva URSR. Al’bom (Kyiv, 1983) L45/3278
Platon Biletsky, Soviet Ukrainian art. (Kyiv, 1979). X.421/20427
Natalia Brodskaia, Naïve Art. (New York, 2000). LB.31.c.12796.
26 January 2018
As discussed in a previous blog post Władysław Reymont’s Bunt (‘The Revolt’) – a story of farm animals revolting against their master, first published in 1922 and re-discovered in Poland in 2004 – raised the question of whether and how this obscure story by a long-forgotten Polish writer could have inspired Orwell’s more famous treatment of the same theme in Animal Farm. The recent rediscovery of an even earlier story of an animals’ revolt on a farm in 19th-century Ukraine told as political satire makes the question of how such strikingly similar plots travel, cropping up in such seemingly disparate worlds, even more fascinating.
Written in 1880 by Nikolai Kostomarov, the great Russian and Ukrainian historian, writer and ethnographer, the manuscript of Skotskoi Bunt (‘The Farm Animals’ Revolt’) lay dormant long after the author’s death in 1885. It was finally published in 1917 in one of the most popular magazines of the time, Niva. The fact it was published just before October Revolution may explain why the story never gained much readership at the time. But it doesn’t mean it was not read by Niva’s devoted audience – even as some of them fled the Revolution, such as the Vinavers, Zinovieffs and Nabokovs, who would later be influential in the London literary and cultural scene.
Front page of issue 34-37 of Niva, September 1917, where Skotskoi bunt was first published. Available in our Reading Rooms via Electronic Resources
There are various ways in which the story might have travelled from revolutionary Petrograd via post-revolutionary Poland to post-Second World War Britain, each worth a story in its own right. But the interesting thing would be to compare these tales to see how much they have in common.
The basic plot and the main dramatis personae remain the same in all of them, though each story takes its own, different narrative route. Kostomarov’s rebellious animals rise against the landlord but never in fact gain control of the farm. The person in control turns out to be a trusty old farmhand, Omelko, who possesses the gift of understanding animals’ talk. While the master panics, running around with a rifle, Omelko jumps onto the wall and quickly outwits the leaders of the insurrection – the powerful bull and the beautiful stallion – by giving in to their fervent demands and granting them and their folk freedom. But soon some of the rebels are forced, shouted or talked into submission, with many confused beasts gratefully returning to the fold. When winter comes and the liberated “horns and hooves” run out of food, which for the most part they had destroyed themselves, the leaders are punished: the bull felled and sent to the slaughterhouse, and the horse neutered. Omelko is instructed to take every precaution to prevent the uprising ever happening again, and the world returns into the old rut.
In Reymont’s story there is also a character who understands animals’ talk, called Mute, but he is on their side. He too feels mistreated by his fellow men and joins the animals in their mass escape from man’s bondage. Later he and his friends fall out and go their separate ways. Mute dies alone in the wilderness, but the animals continue their exodus east, towards the promised land.
Orwell’s story has the line between man and beast clearly drawn, the two facing each other on opposing sides, as in Kostomarov’s, though never on an equal footing as they are with Mute in Reymont’s story; that line later blurs as some of Orwell’s animals become all too human.
Although the stories have the same triumvirate (triumbrutat?) of leaders, the original stirrers among them are different. In Kostomarov’s it is the bull, so wilful and strong it has to be kept in fetters at all times and beaten into submission if need be; in Reymont’s it’s a dog named Rex, not so long ago the master’s favourite but through some unintended mischief fallen out of favour; in Orwell’s it’s Old Major, the wise boar, the philosopher of change. Their characters and motivations differ too – from the injured pride of a bull aware of his power, through the vengeful hurt of the rejected man’s best friend, to the wisdom of the old swine who dreams of a fairer world. Yet the way they inflame their brethren to rise and fight is the same – with long idealistic speeches. The most surprising one is given by Kostomarov’s brawny bull who sells pure Marx to his fellow bovines, calling on them to assert the ownership of their labour and the right to enjoy its fruit as they see fit. But perhaps it was not Marx but Blanqui, since it is the original elite group of the revolutionaries, the cattle, who establish the dictatorship. Interestingly, this shows that in Kostomarov’s time, although the Age of Revolution had already dawned, the exact way of doing it was still being debated, the Blanquists and Marxists soon joined by the ever-growing number of theorists who claimed to have the know-how.
‘Ploughing in Ukraine’, painting by Leon Wyczółkowski, 1892. (Image from Wikimedia Commons. Also reproduced in Urszula Kozakowska-Zaucha, The Borderlands in Polish Art (Olszanica, 2009), LF.31.b.7294. )
Interestingly, only Kostomarov’s and Orwell’s stories try to set the animals’ rebellion on a proper ideological foundation. Reymont’s story, much closer to the actual Russian Revolution, emphasizes the psychology of hurt and vengeance which drives the rebellion to its tragic end. Orwell on the other hand concerns himself mostly with exposing the mechanics of power and how it corrupts, painfully knowledgeable as to how these things end. And while Kostomarov and Reymont stay with the simple formula of a cautionary tale – one funny in still a fairly theoretical argument, the other bleakly confirmed by eye-witnesses, Orwell upgrades it to a biting political satire more suited to the sophisticated 20th century reading public.
The shifts in emphasis in each story reflects the time in which it was written, their changing social and political context practically covering the entire Age of Revolution from the mid 19th to mid 20th century. For undoubtedly, the parable of the animals’ revolt as told by Kostomarov, Reymont and Orwell tells the same story of revolution - how the idea developed, how it came to pass and what happened to it when it actually won and died. And why.
Wiesiek Powaga, Polish translator
22 December 2017
50 years ago, in 1967, the Kyiv publishing house Dnipro published a small edition of the novel by the Ukrainian writer Mykhailo Kotsiubynskyi, Tini zabutykh predkiv (‘The Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors’), with illustrations by the outstanding graphic artist Heorhiy Yakutovych. At this time Kotsiubynsky’s work inspired many people – it is worth mentioning the film of the same name by the director Serhii Paradzhanov in which the artistic director was Yakutovych himself. The same ideas were circulating in the artistic milieu of Kyiv, but everyone manifested them in their own way. And if Paradzhanov’s film influenced the future development of contemporary Ukrainian cinematography, the book, illustrated by Yakutovych, became a classic achievement in the development of 20th-century book art.
Photo of Yakutovych, from the family archive of Volodymyr Yurchyshyn.
Yakutovych was born in Kyiv on 14 February 1930, into the family of a military officer, which influenced his childhood as the family constantly moved from one place to another – from Moscow to Leningrad, from Estonia to Finland. From 1948 to 1954 he studied in the newly-created Graphics Faculty of the Kyiv State Art Institute, under Illarion Pleshchynskyi and Vasyl' Kasiian. There he also met his future wife Oleksandra Pavlovs'ka. The artist was strongly influenced by his meeting in 1961 with the Russian graphic artist and woodcut illustrator Vladimir Favorsky, whom he considered as his teacher, and who inspired The Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors.
Yakutovych’s work with Kotsiubynsky’s masterpiece started in the early 1950s as his diploma project, when he went to the Carpathians (at this time still a closed military zone), collecting sketches of life among the Hutsuls. Later when assisting with Paradzhanov’s film, he spent nearly a year living in the mountains enriching his experience, which led to the creation of his series of woodcut illustrations to The Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors.
The scheme of the book is exceptionally clear: the artist divided it into four parts, each corresponding to one of the periods in the life of the main character, the Hutsul shepherd Ivan Paliychuk: childhood, youth, adulthood as a farmer, and lonely misfit. These milestones in the story are marked by four illustrations at the beginning of each section, combining different time fragments of the novel (images below). They are complemented by 16 illustrations in the text, each symbolizing a separate idea, making the story by themselves.
At the same time as The Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, Yakutovych illustrated a collection of stories by Mariia Pryhara, Kozak Holota (The Cossack Holota), an adaptation for children of the Ukrainian epic stories of the Cossack period. Understanding the nature of these stories, the artist turns to the tradition of Ukrainian folk art, particularly popular prints.
After The Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, Yakutovych continued his interest in Ukrainian history which can be shown in his series of historical tales – Zakhar Berkut (1974; X.950/31763), Slovo pro Ihoriv pokhid (1982; YA.1996.a.7413) and Povist' mynulykh lit (Chronicle of the Bygone Years; 1982; 805/6102). The last one, created in collaboration with Mykola Pshinka (artistic design) and Volodymyr Yurchyshyn (artistic design and fonts), received the highest award in the All-Union Competition of Book Art, the Ivan Fedorov Diploma. Here all the elements of the design - the illustrations, ornaments, fonts and text composition - create one complete artistic object: the book.
Chronicler from: Povist’ mynulykh lit (Kyiv, 1982). X.805/6102.
For nearly ten years Yakutovych worked on one of the last of his works, a series of illustrations to Gogol’s novel Vii (1989), where he presented the supernatural nature of Gogol’s work by making them look like delusions, using different perspectives and scales.
Celebrating the anniversary of The Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors in the spring of 2017, the publishing house Artbook published a new book Like a Shadow, edited by Polina Limina and Pavlo Gudimov, dedicated to the history of the creation of Yakutovych’s woodcuts. It includes numerous artistic works and sketches, archival material, photographs and early studies of the artist’s work by contemporaries. The last chapter is quite personal, where the artist’s son Serhiy gives one of his last interviews, sharing memories of his father.
Cover of IAk u tini: Heorhii IAkutovych iak iliustrator knyhy "Tini zabutykh predkiv = Like a Shadow. Heorhiy Yakutovych as the illustrator of the book "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors". (Kyiv, 2017). YF.2017.a.25613
One of the best-known of Ukrainian graphic artists in the second half of the 20th century, awarded many prizes and distinctions, Yakutovych influenced the future principles of book design, and worked in the spheres of graphics and film production. In Ukraine a graphic art exhibition and competition named after him has taken place since 2002. The artist’s sons Serhiy and Dmytro and his grandson Anton followed the same path, dedicating their lives to working in graphic art, painting and film.
Original concept by Polina Limina, editor-in chief of the publishing house Artbook, with the kind editorial assistance of Oksana Yurchyshyn-Smith
Igor’ Verba. Georgii IAkutovich. Poisky, rabota. (Moscow, 1970). X.410/3266.
Lidiia Popova, G. IAkutovich (Moscow, 1988). YA.1998.b.3073.
Tini zabutykh predkiv. Knyha. (Kyiv, 2016). YF.2017.b.1958
S. Paradzhanov. Tini zabutykh predkiv: rozkadrovky (Kyiv, 1998). YA.2002.a.21508
18 December 2017
December 18 2017 marks 250 years since birth of Yevgenіy Bolkhovitinov, Metropolitan of Kyiv and Galicia (secular name Evfimii Alekseevich Bolkhovitinov). He was an outstanding personality within the Orthodox Church, a religious historian, author, and explorer of ancient written and archaeological heritage.
He was born into the priest’s family in Voronezh. From 1778 he studied at the Voronezh seminary, and later simultaneously at the Slavic Greek Latin Academy and Moscow University (1784-1788). During these years he published his first literary translations.
Once back in Voronezh after his studies, Bolkhovitinov taught in the seminary, oversaw its library, and served as prefect. A literary group that developed around him founded the first printing house in Voronezh.
After becoming a widower in 1799, Bolkhovitinov moved to St. Petersburg, where he took his vows under the name Yevgenіy. From 1800-1803 he taught at the Ecclesiastical Academy of St. Petersburg. In 1808 he bacame Bishop of Vologda, in 1813 Bishop of Kaluga, and in 1816 Bishop of Pskov. In 1822 he became Metropolitan of Kyiv.
In all the cities and dioceses where he served he invested a tremendous amount of time and energy into managing church work, resolving daily problems in the diocese, building and restoring churches, and providing oversight and support to religious educational institutions.
However, his activity spread beyond just the duties of his job. In each of his placements, he took great interest in local historical memorials and history of monasteries and churches, he explored local archives and libraries. For more than 30 years he collected material for his dictionary Slovar’ istoricheskii o … pisateliakh Dukhovnago china Greko-Rossiiskoi TSerkvi (Historical Dictionary of Past Clerical Writers in Russia; picture below) – a fundamental work that paved the road for history of literature and remains a valuable resource. Yevgeniy gladly shared his knowledge and collected information with other researchers. Vasily Sopikov admitted that success of his fundamental bibliographical work Opyt rossiskoi bibliografii (St Petersburg, 1813-21; 011908.e.1.) was possible in great part due to Yevgeniy.
Yevgeny reached the greatest success as enlightener and scholar at the time when he was the Metropolitan of Kyiv. He actively connected with advanced scientists and scholars such Alexander Vostokov, the well-known bibliographer V. G. Anastasevich, patron and collector Count Nikolay Rumyantsev and many others. The British Library holds his correspondence Perepiska Mitropolita Kievskago Evgeniia s …grafom Nikolaem Petrovichem Rumiantsevym i s nekotorymy drugimi sovremennikami, s 1813 po 1825 vkliuchitelno, (Voronezh, 1868-72; 7708.eee.2.)
These relationships turned Kyiv into one of the major centre of scholarly and historical activitiy alongside Rumyantsev’s Group - an informal society of historians, philologists, other humanitarian scientists who did their research work under patronage of Count N.P. Rumyantsev (1754 – 1826) - and the Moscow Society of History and Russian Antiquities.
Metropolitan Yevgeniy oversaw the opening of the Kyiv Ecclesiastical Academy Conference, students worked under his supervision to explore historical topics, public thesis presentation took place, as well as Yevgeniy published his own work. This all created a new social and cultural milieu and formed intellectual profile of the city.
Yevgeniy wrote Opisanie Kievo-Sofiiskago sobora i Kievskoi ierarkhii (Kyiv, 1825; 5005.d.4.; title-page and frontispiece below), the first description of history and archaeology of the 11th-century Kyiv Saint Sofia Cathedral, as well as a description of the Kyivan Cave Monastery, Opisanie Kievo-Pecherskoi Lavry (1826).
In order to determine the size and appearance of the Desiatynna church Yevgeniy organized the excavation of the church’s foundations in 1823-1824 and published the report detailing the findings in the journal Otechetvennye zapiski (St-Petersburg,1839-84; Mic.F.13.) This excavation project started archaeological investigation of Kyiv. In 1830s a few remains of places mentioned in annals that relate to Kievan Rus were discovered, such as famous Golden Gate. In all these discoveries Metropolitan Yevgeniy served as a consultant. After the foundation of Kyiv University (1834), Yevgeniy’s dream of founding a city archaeological society came true – in 1835 the Provisional Committee For Investigating Antiquities in the City of Kiev (Vremennnyi komitet dlia izyskaniia drevnostei v Kieve) was formed.
The time when Yevgeniy was Metropolitan of Kyiv created a distinctive epoch, it facilitated formation of city’s intellectual space, set historic and archaeological thought in motion, specifically focusing on studying Kyiv. According to Yevgeniy’s testament, his library, comprising tens of thousands of volumes and manuscripts has been gifted to the Kyiv Ecclesiastical Academy and seminary, and to Saint Sophia Cathedral.
Tetiana Ananieva, Research Fellow at the Hrushevsky Institute of Ukrainian Archaeography and Source Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv
E. Shmurlo, Mitropolit Evgenii kak uchenyi. Rannie gody zhizni (St Petersburg, 1888). 010795.f.33.
N.I. Poletaev, Trudy mitropolita Kievskago Evgeniia Bolkhovitinova po istorii russkoi tserkvi (Kazan', 1889). 3926.i.33.
Evgeniĭ, Metropolitan of Kiev, 1767-1837. Vybrani pratsi z istoriï Kyieva (Kyiv, 1995). YA.1997.a.9759
IEvhenia Rukavitsyna-Hordziievsʹka, Kyïvsʹkyĭ mytropolyt IEvheniĭ (IE. O. Bolkhovitinov): biobibliohrafiiia, biblioteka, arkhiv (Kyiv, 2010). YF.2012.a.20365
27 November 2017
The Scythians (Σκύθες), currently the subject of an exhibition at the British Museum, were nomadic herdsmen who spoke an Iranian language and inhabited the steppes of modern Ukraine, Moldova and southwestern Russia (the Don River basin). The Scythians appeared in the territory of modern Ukraine in the 7th century BC, having come from the steppes of Inner Asia. After a while the bands of Scythian warriors crossed the Caucasus Range and attacked the states of the Middle East – Urartu, Assyria, Media, Babylonia. Scythian warriors are even mentioned in the Bible (Colossians 3:11). Almost 30 years the Scythians terrorized the Middle East, and then returned to the North Pontic steppes. Here the Greek city-colonies such as Tyras, Olbia, Chersonesus and Panticapaeum, the capital of the Bosporan kingdom, were their neighbors and trading partners.
Cover (above) and map (below) from E.V.Chernenko, The Scythians 700-300 BC, colour plates by Angus McBride (London, 1983), X.622/16001
At the end of the 6th century BC the Scythians became well known throughout the civilized world, having defeated the Persian king Darius I. A century later the “Father of History”, the Greek scholar Herodotus, wrote about this war. He composed a detailed description of Scythia including its borders, which generally coincide with the borders of modern Ukraine, the names of neighboring tribes, the story of the campaign of Darius, the retreat of the Scythians and the further expulsion of the Persians, the description of Scythian life and the burial of Scythian kings in barrows.
Cover of a Ukrainian translation of Herodotus Istoriï v devi’aty knyhakh (Kyiv, 1993) YA.1998.a.5482
The Scythians were known in the Hellenic world first of all as skilful mounted archers and brave warriors. Scythian mercenaries served in Athens as guardians of order; they were a kind of police. Weapons of Scythian types – short swords, bronze arrowheads, scale armour – have been found not only in Scythia but also in Central Europe, Iran, and Central Asia – wherever the Scythian warriors sent their horses.
Except for the work of Herodotus, the only source for the study of Scythian nomads is their archeological sites – the burial mounds known as kurgans. In the North Pontic Steppes stand thousands of these kurgans of varying heights – from 20-metre-high royal tombs to the low mounds of ordinary herdsmen which are hardly visible. In fact, the archeology of Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire, began with the excavation of Scythian royal burial mounds and Greek cities in the 18th century.
The first of these – Lyta Mohyla – was excavated in 1763 on the orders of General A.P. Melgunov near the modern city of Kropivnitsky. In this kurgan (known also as the Melgunov Kurgan), dated to the early 6th century BC, evidence of the Near Eastern campaigns of the Scythians – a sword, battle-axe and throne decorated with gold in the Assyrian-Urartian manner – was discovered. It is interesting that the first Scythian kurgan to be excavated was found to be the oldest.
Description of a golden sheath and fragment of sword hilt from Melgunov’s kurgan. From Ellis H.Minns, Scythians and Greeks. A survey of ancient history and archaeology on the north coast of the Euxine from the Danube to the Caucasus. (Cambridge, 1913). 7706.i.19.
In the 19th-early 20th century, such famous kurgans of 4th-century BC Scythian kings as Kul-Oba (1830), Chortomlyk (1862-1863), Solokha (1912) were excavated in the territory of modern Ukraine. It was in these barrows that masterpieces of jewellery with the images of Scythians were found: the golden cup from Kul-Oba, silver amphora and golden gorytus (Scythic bow-case and quiver in one) from Chortomlyk, and a silver cup and golden comb from Solokha. These finds then went to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg where they are still kept.
Gold comb with the image of a battle scene. 430-390 BC. From the Solokha kurgan, Zaporizhia Region. Found by N.I.Veselovsky in 1913 during excavations conducted by the Imperial Archaeological Committee (State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg; photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The excavations of Scythian royal kurgans were continued in 1958 by the patriarch of Ukrainian Scythian studies, Professor Oleksiy Terenozhkin, who discovered the Melitopolsky Barrow.
Cover of: A.I. Terenozhkin and B.N. Mozolevskiĭ, Melitopolʹskiĭ kurgan (Kyiv, 1988). YA.1992.a.8828
Next came the sensational finds from the Haymanova Mohyla near Zaporizhia (1969), Tovsta Mohyla near Nikopol (1971), Berdyansk Kurgan (1979), and Bratolubivka (1990). At the same time, hundreds of low mounds of ordinary Scythians were unearthed in the Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Kherson, Mykolayiv, and Odessa regions of Ukraine.
Silver gilded bowl with relief images of Scythian warriors. 4th century BC. From the Haymanova Burial Mound, Zaporizhia Region. Excavated by V.I.Bidzilya, 1969-70. (Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine, Kyiv.)
Gold ritual vessel with relief images of griffins, lions, horses and deer. 5th century BC. From the Bratolyubivka Burial Mound, Kherson Region. Excavated by A.I.Kubyshev, 1990. (Institute of Archeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv.)
All these sites are dated to the 4th-5th centuries BC – the heyday of Scythia. And not without reason, the symbol of Ukrainian archeology became the famous golden pectoral found by Boris Mozolevsky in the Scythian royal barrow of the 4th century BC at Tovsta Mohyla in 1971.
The end of the Scythian steppe culture came in the early 3rd century BC. Under the onslaughts of related but hostile newcomers from the east the Scythian entity, already being weakened by internal problems, disintegrated. The remnants of the Scythians migrated west to the Dniester and Lower Danube. Gradually the Scythians were assimilated by the Sarmatians and Goths and by the middle of the 3rd century AD they disappeared as a political and ethnic unit.
Gold and enamel pectoral – a ceremonial adornment of a Scythian king. Mid-4th century BC. From the Tovsta Mohyla kurgan. Dnipropetrovsk Region. Excavated by B.M.Mozolevsky, 1971. (Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine, Kyiv; photo from: Wilfried Seipel, Gold aus Kiew. 170 Meisterwerke Aus Der Schatzkammer Der Ukraine. Eine Ausstellung Des Kunsthistorisches Museum. (Vienna, 1993)).
Dr Oleksandr Symonenko, Chief Research Fellow in the Institute of Archaeology of the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences in Kyiv, Corresponding Member of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Berlin.
E. V. Chernenko, Skifskie luchniki (Kiev,1981).X.629/17920
E.V. Chernenko, Die Schutzwaffen der Skythen (Stuttgart, 2006).X.0415/55(3) [BD.2]
Gold der Steppe: Archäologie der Ukraine (Neumünster, 1991). Awaiting shelfmark
21 November 2017
George Orwell’s Animal Farm was first published on 17 August 1945 and on 28 August the Russian scholar and critic Gleb Struve wrote to Orwell to say that he found the book “delightful” and would like to translate it for the benefit of Russians, “who could read the truth about their country only when outside it”. Replying to this letter on 1 September, Orwell wondered “what the procedure is. Are books in Russian published in this country, i.e. from non-official sources?” He told Struve that, at about the same time, he had received a letter from a Pole who wanted to translate the book into Polish. Orwell’s main worry was how to pay his translators, but he said he was “anxious that the book should find its way into other languages. If translations into the Slav languages were made, I shouldn’t want any money out of them myself (The Complete Works of George Orwell (CWGO), vol. 17, pp. 274-5).
Cover of Teresa Jelenska’s Polish translation: Zwierzęcy folwark (London, 1947). 012642.pp.100.
The first translation of Animal Farm into a Slavic language – in fact, into any language! – was into Polish. It was made by Teresa Jelenska, the wife of a Polish diplomat, and published at the turn of 1946 and 1947 in London by the League of Poles Abroad.
Teresa Jelenska was also instrumental in putting her son’s friend, a young Polish-born Ukrainian Ihor Szewczenko in touch with Orwell. Szewczenko, then aged 25, wrote to Orwell in April 1946 immediately after he had read Animal Farm and saw at once, as he put it, “that a translation of the tale into Ukrainian would be of great value to my countrymen” (CWGO, vol. 19, p. 72). Szewczenko (who later changed the spelling of his name to Ševčenko, the heading under which his works can be found in the British Library’s catalogue), translated Animal Farm while commuting between Munich, where he lived with his wife and mother-in-law, both Soviet-Ukrainian refugees, and Quackenbrück in the British zone of Germany, where he worked for a Polish newspaper.
A year later, when the translation was ready for publication by the Munich publisher Prometheus, Szewczenko wrote to Orwell again asking him for a preface for the book and Orwell, although he was “frightfully busy”, did indeed write the preface to the Ukrainian edition, which remains his most detailed explanation of his motives for writing the “fairy story”. He was particularly glad to find out from Szewczenko, who published his translation under the pseudonym of Ivan Cherniatynskyi, that his publishers in Munich were the Soviet Ukrainians, who defended the “acquisitions of the October revolution”, but turned against the “counter-revolutionary Bonapartism” of Stalin and the Russian nationalistic exploitation of the Ukrainian people. Orwell was “encouraged to learn that that kind of opposition exists in the USSR” (CWGO, vol. 19, p. 73).
Cover of the Ukrainian translation by ‘Ivan Cherniatynskyi’, Kolhosp tvaryn: kazka, with an introduction by George Orwell. ([Munich, 1947?]) 12593.f.40.
The first Ukrainian edition was not very lucky. Orwell informed his friend, writer Arthur Koestler on 20 September 1947 (CWGO, vol. 19, pp. 206-7), that “the American authorities in Munich have seized 1500 copies of it and handed them over to the Soviet repatriation people, but it appears 2000 copies got distributed among the DPs (Displaced Persons) first”. In the same letter Orwell told Koestler that he had given Szewczenko his address and added: “I have been saying ever since 1945 that the DPs were a godsent opportunity for breaking down the wall between Russia and the West”. Shortly before that, in his review of James Burnham’s book The Struggle for the World (London, 1947; 8011.ee.32.), he expressed a similar thought even more directly: “one of the most important problems at this moment is to find a way of speaking to the Russian people over the heads of their rulers” (CWGO, vol. 19, p. 105).
It was precisely the plan to send Animal Farm into the Soviet Union that made Orwell agree to fund the publication of Gleb Struve’s translation into Russian by the DP publisher Possev. Approached by Possev six months before his death, Orwell immediately supported the idea of publishing the translation in a book form (it had already been serialized in the publisher’s weekly magazine of the same name (no. 7-32, 1949) and smuggling it into the USSR, but he still wanted to know for sure who he was dealing with. “I suppose the editors of this paper are bona fide people and also not Whites?” – he asked his recent acquaintance, a German communist Ruth Fischer in a letter of 15 July 1949 (CWGO, vol. 20, p.146). The first part of his question could easily be confirmed, but it was more complicated with the second. As Orwell had feared Possev, unlike the Ukrainian publishers of Animal Farm, were indeed “Whites”. They enjoyed Orwell’s satire of the Soviet regime, but could not stomach him satirising the church and religion and the role they played in society. That is why – as it became known much later, in the 1980s – they censored Orwell and cut out from Animal Farm two paragraphs describing the role of Moses, the tame raven, who tells the animals about “Sugarcandy Mountain, to which all animals went when they died.”
Title-page of the Russian translation. Skotskii khutor. ([Frankfurt am Main], 1950). 12654.de.12.
This was of course only the beginning. Eventually Animal Farm was translated into at least 70 languages, including Esperanto, but it is worth stressing that the Slavic languages (Polish, Ukrainian, Russian) were among the first. The French publication appeared later than expected, only in October 1947, because, as Orwell wrote to Koestler in January 1946, “The French publisher, who had signed a contract to translate Animal Farm, has got cold feet and says it is impossible «for political reasons»” (CWGO, vol. 18. p.28) – this no doubt was the result of the 1945 elections in France, when the Communists became the largest party in the French National Assembly. But those whose countries were directly under the Communist rule continued publishing the book abroad – in 1952 Animal Farm came out in Lithuanian and in 1955 in Serbian.
Cover of the Lithuanian translation. Gyvulių ūkis. Fantastině apysaka. (London, 1952). X.950/31145
Masha Karp, editor of The Orwell Society Journal and author of a forthcoming Russian biography of George Orwell
The Complete Works of George Orwell edited by Peter Davison (London, 2000-2002). Vols. 17 (YC.2001.a.13719), 18 (YC.2001.a.16202), 19 (YC.2002.a.23095) and 20 (YC.2002.a.23177)
Masha Karp. ‘The Raven Vanishes’. The Orwell Society Journal. No. 9, December 2016, pp. 16-19
Ksenya Kiebuzinski. ‘Not Lost in Translation: Orwell’s Animal Farm Among Refugees and Beyond the Iron Curtain’, The Halcyon: Newsletter of the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, no. 59, June 2017.
24 August 2017
The 7th International Arsenal Book Festival was held from 17-21 May 2017 in Kyiv, in the National Cultural-Artistic and Museum Complex ‘Art Arsenal’. New publications from more than 150 publishing houses were presented there.
Above and below: Photos from the festival. With a kind permission of Oleksiy Bazylevych
This year the Festival, entitled ‘Laughter. Fear. Strength’, provided an opportunity for discussion of the nature of laughter, its many-faceted forms, its decisive role in periods of crisis, and the way in which we laugh now. An important occasion relating to this theme was the 175th anniversary of the publication of the complete edition of the Aeneid by Ivan Kotlyarevsky – a shining example of Ukrainian humorous culture.
The poet and playwright Kotlyarevsky was the creator and father of modern Ukrainian literature. He devoted the major part of his life to the creation, in burlesque travesty style, of the poem Aeneid, which parodies Virgil’s epic. The Aeneid of Kotlyarevsky is a true encyclopaedia of the popular life, domestic affairs and customs of contemporary Ukrainian society.
The depiction of the characters of Kotlyarevsky’s Aeneid in visual art has a long history. Its first illustrator was the Ukrainian painter, graphic artist and student of folklore and ethnography Porfyriy Martynovych, who in 1873-4 created several drawings for the Aeneid. In 1903-4 a jubilee edition of the Aeneid was published with 10 black-and-white illustrations by the painter and graphic artist Vasyl' Kornienko. A single colour illustration was created in 1919 by the outstanding graphic artist Heorhiy Narbut; however, it became a permanent treasure of Ukrainian art.
Narbut’s illustration to Kotliarevsky’s Aeneid (Image from Wikimedia Commons)
In 1931 Ivan Padalka, professor of painting at the Kyiv Art Institute and one of the Ukrainian artists of the Boychuk school, illustrated the Aeneid. In 1937 the Aeneid was published with illustrations by the graphic artist and painter Mykhailo Derehus (1904-1997), and in 1949 with illustrations by Ivan Izhakevych and Fedir Konovaliuk (1897-1984).
The largest project illustrating the Aeneid is that by Anatolii Bazylevych, differing in the number of the illustrations – 130 drawings in colour – and the depth of his understanding of the poem. An outstanding master of book art, the creator of numerous illustrations for classical works of Ukrainian and world literature and those of contemporary writers, Bazylevych is rightly considered one of the artists who determined the image of Ukrainian art in the second part of the 20th century.
Photograph of Anatoliy Bazylevych, from the periodical Ukraina (Kyiv, 1966). By kind permission of Oleksii Bazylevych.
Bazylevych was born on 7 June 1926 in Zhmerynka in the Vinnytsia region, into the family of an engineer. Later his family moved to Mariupol where he spent his childhood and had his first art lessons in a school art study group. He survived the Nazi occupation and forced labour in factories in Germany, where he was deported with his family and where his father perished. Despite all these hardships, Bazylevych did not abandon his dream of becoming an artist. He received his education at the Kharkiv Art Institute in 1947-1953, afterwards moving to Kyiv, where for many years he worked with several publishing houses.
The work of illustrating the Aeneid occupied nine years of the artist’s life: three variants of the book’s design, hundreds of sketches from nature, and the creation of his own original fonts. He finished his work on the Aeneid in 1967. In the Aeneid Bazylevych was not just an illustrator: he was a creator of images, who by his own methods opened up the real core of the text to a wider audience. In a way he was the co-author of the Aeneid in his own genre. This is the key to the huge popularity of the editions of 1968-70. ‘Have you seen Bazylevych's Aeneid?’ people asked one another at this time. There were queues for the book in the shops; the first edition quickly sold out, and in 1969-70 there were two more editions. The British Library holds that of 1969.
Above: Title-page of: Ivan Kotliarevskyi, Eneida. (Kyiv, 1969). YF.2013.a.13059 Below: Enei and his Cossacks (from Ivan Kotlarevskyi, Eneida (Kyiv, 1989). YF.2013.a.26059
Altogether Bazylevych’s Aeneid was published in dozens of editions in different designs and with different numbers of illustrations, in both colour and black and white variants, published in Germany, Canada and Georgia as well.
Anatoly Bazylevych. Venus visiting Zeus. 1989. Paper, indian ink, watercolour. Collection of O. Bazylevych. Photograph M. Bilousov. By kind permission of Oleksii Bazylevych.
Anatoly Bazylevych. Aeneas and Dido. 1989. Paper, indian ink, watercolour. Collection of O. Bazylevych. Photograph M. Bilousov. By kind permission of Oleksii Bazylevych
The Aeneid was the greatest of Bazylevych’s works. After 1968 he continued working on the Aeneid, copying images, designing calendars and cards with images of Cossacks until his death in 2005. This year the publishing house Artbook published a new book: Eneida Bazylevycha (The Aeneid of Bazylevych; edited by Pavlo Gudimov, Diana Klochko), dedicated to the history of the creation of Bazylevych’s illustrations. ‘A book about the book’, the Aeneid of Bazylevych includes material from the family archive, a memoir by the artist's son Oleksii, original illustrations and sketches, and the author’s layouts. In the competition for the best book design which was held for the third time during the International Arsenal Book Festival in cooperation with the Goethe Institute in Ukraine and with the support of the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Buchkunst Fund, The Aeneid of Bazylevych was one of the three best books about art.
Oleksii Bazylevych, Member of the National Union of Artists of Ukraine, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Drawing in the Boychuk Kyiv State Institute of Decorative-Applied Art and Design
15 August 2017
The present British Library exhibition on the Russian Revolution also touches upon the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1921. The war started over the disputed territory of Ukraine between Soviet Russia and the newly -created independent Polish state (1918), following the Polish-Ukrainian combats. Poland’s independence was threatened by the advance of the Red Army into Europe, the aim of which was to spread the Bolshevik revolution in the West. The military conflict escalated when Józef Piłsudski, Poland’s Chief of State, formed an alliance against Soviet Russia with the Ukrainian leader Symon Petlyura in April 1920. Following the initial successful offensive in Ukraine by their combined forces the Polish troops were pushed back by the Red Army towards Warsaw, the Polish capital. The turning-point of the war was the Battle of Warsaw, which took place on the outskirts of the capital between 12 and 25 August 1920.
Polish poster from Soviet-Polish war, reproduced in Rok 1920 : plakaty ze zbiorów Centralnej Biblioteki Wojskowej im. Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego. (Warsaw, [ca. 2011]), LF.37.b.277
The Soviets planned to take Warsaw by enveloping the city from the north and south, and attacking it from the northwest. The Polish plan assumed the concentration of the Polish troops on the North and South Fronts to counterattack an anticipated Soviet advance. The forces of the third Central Front were to attack Soviet’s weakest positions. The Soviet intelligence discovered the Polish plan but because of its simplicity they considered it a trick to mislead the Red Army.
However, essential to the success of the Battle of Warsaw was the monitoring of Soviet communications which started as early as September 1919. The Polish Army Cipher Bureau (Biuro Szyfrów) was set up in May 1919 and its first head was Jan Kowalewski, a polyglot and cryptologist. With the help of a group of university mathematicians – Stanisław Leśniewski, Stefan Mazurkiewicz and Wacław Sierpiński – Polish cryptologists broke practically all the Red Army ciphers and codes. During the course of the war they deciphered a few thousand Soviet military messages. This significantly contributed to the victory of the Polish Army as the Poles became aware of gaps in the Soviet lines and the manoeuvres of the Red Army.
In the critical days of the Battle of Warsaw Polish radio-telegraphers blocked Soviet commander Mikhail Tuchachevsky’s orders to his troops by reading Bible excerpts on the same frequency as that used by the Soviet radio station. As a result the commander lost contact with his headquarters and the troops marched north instead of following the order to turn south. The decisive moment of the Battle was the recapture of Radzymin, a small town 23 km from the capital, by the Polish forces on 15 August. It halted the Soviet advance on Warsaw, also boosting Polish morale. After the war the Battle of Warsaw was known as the “Miracle on the Vistula”. As we know now it was no miracle; it was down to the Polish military intelligence.
The Feast of the Polish Armed Forces is celebrated in Poland annually on 15 August to commemorate the anniversary of the 1920 victory over Soviet Russia at the Battle of Warsaw.
The Battle of Warsaw has been regarded as one of the most decisive battles in world history, since it saved Europe from the spread of communism at the time.
Magda Szkuta, Curator of East European Collections
Edgar Vincent, The Eighteenth decisive battle of the world. Warsaw, 1920, (London, 1931). 9100.aaa.20
Adam Zamoyski, Warsaw 1920. Lenin’s failed conquest of Europe. (London, 2008). YC.2008.a.8810
Grzegorz Nowik, Wojna swiatów 1920: Bitwa Warszawska, (Poznań, 2011). ZF.2013.a.26243
The British Library’s exhibition Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths is open until 29 August 2017, telling the extraordinary story of the Russian Revolution from the reign of Russia’s last Tsar to the rise of the first communist state. You can also read articles from our experts exploring some of the themes of our exhibition on our Russian Revolution website.
08 August 2017
Throughout the 19th century, a growing sense of Czech national identity was a constant source of alarm to the rulers of the Habsburg Empire. Friction between Czech and German speakers increased, and the first Slavic Congress, held in Prague in 1848, consolidated pan-Slavic sympathies. Although the Congress ended without formal agreement, one important result was the proclamation of a Manifestation to the Nations of Europe, calling for an end to the oppression of Slav peoples and ‘extending a brotherly hand to all neighbouring nations who are prepared to recognize and effectively champion with us the full equality of all nations, irrespective of their political power or size’.
On the outbreak of the First World War, many of the empire’s 8,000,000 Czechs and 3,000,000 Slovaks found themselves fighting under the Austrian flag. Wherever possible, their battalions were dispatched to the Italian front to reduce the likelihood of desertion to join their Russian and Serbian fellow-Slavs. Yet as the need for troops on the Eastern Front grew ever more urgent, this principle could no longer be maintained, and by 1915 many of these men found themselves deployed in Russian Poland.
On 5 August 1914 a battalion of Czechs and Slovaks known as the Česká družina (‘Czech Companions’) was organized within the Russian army to fight against the Austrians and their allies. More regiments were added as the war continued. In July 1917, the battalion, now known as the Czechoslovak Rifle Brigade (Československá střelecká brigáda), distinguished itself at the Battle of Zborov when its troops overran Austrian trenches. After this success, the Russians authorised the mobilisation of Czech and Slovak volunteers from Russian prisoner-of-war camps. The brigade was renamed again as the First Division of the Czechoslovak Corps in Russia (Československý sbor na Rusi) or the Czechoslovak Legion (Československá legie). By 1918 it contained some 40,000 troops.
An infantryman of the Third Archduke Karl regiment, stationed in Kroměříž. Illustration from Josef Dufka’s memoir Přál jsem si míti křídla (Prague, 2002) YA.2003.a.16242.
When the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917, the chairman of the Czechoslovak National Council, Tomáš Masaryk, began planning to transfer the Legion to France to continue fighting against the Central Powers. The Bolsheviks granted permission for the Legion to travel from Ukraine to Vladivostok to embark on transport vessels as many of Russia’s chief ports were blockaded, but this was hindered when, in January 1918, the German Army launched Operation Faustschlag on the Eastern Front to force the Soviet government to accept its peace terms. In early March, after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk had taken Russia out of the war, the Czechoslovak Legion successfully fought off German attempts to prevent their evacuation in the Battle of Bakhmach.
On 25 March, an agreement was signed ordering the Legion to surrender most of its weapons in exchange for safe passage to Vladivostok. The evacuation was delayed by the dilapidated state of the railways, the shortage of trains and the constant need to negotiate passage with local soviets. There was also mutual mistrust between the Legion and the Bolsheviks. When, on 14 May, a dispute broke out at the Chelyabinsk station between legionaries heading east and Hungarian prisoners of war heading west to be repatriated, Leon Trotsky ordered that the Legion be disarmed and arrested.
This triggered what became known as the Revolt of the Legions. By the end of June, the Czechoslovak Legion had seized Vladivostok and overthrown the local Bolshevik administration. On 6 July they declared the city an Allied protectorate. By early September they had swept Bolshevik forces from the entire length of the Trans-Siberian Railway and taken all the major cities of Siberia, but their seizure of Ekaterinburg came less than a week too late to save Tsar Nicholas II and his family.
Výkřik (‘The Scream’), a magazine printed by the Czechoslovak Legion during the Russian Civil War. RB.31.c.832.
As the Red Army gained strength and retook several cities the Legion’s enthusiasm waned, and when the independent state of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed on 28 October 1918, its members had every reason to wish to return home. On 18 November a coup overthrew the leadership of the Whites’ Provisional Government in Siberia, with which the Legion had made common cause, and Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak was appointed ‘Supreme Leader’. The Legion was left to defend Kolchak’s sole supply route and the gold bullion which he had captured from Kazan for much of 1919, but most legionaries were uneasy with Kolchak’s rule. On 7 February 1920, the Legion signed an armistice with the Fifth Red Army granting safe passage to Vladivostok on condition that they did not try to rescue Kolchak and left the remaining gold with the authorities in Irkutsk.
Illustration from Přál jsem si míti křídla: ‘One day we were delighted by the news in the papers that Austria was no longer fighting and the Czech Republic had been established.’
It was not until 1 March 1920 that the final Czechoslovak train left Irkutsk, and only in September that the last legionaries sailed from Vladivostok. Many of those who returned brought their skills and experience to the newly-established Czechoslovak Army; others, including Jaroslav Hašek, author of the satirical novel The Good Soldier Švejk, joined the Czechoslovak Communist Party. Still others lived to write their memoirs, including Gustav Becvar, whose account appeared in English as The Lost Legion. It concludes, ‘On 20 June 1920 we crossed the frontier of our newly freed homeland, the Czechoslovak Republic. […] Here, after six and a half years of weary exile, I saw my mother again.’
Susan Halstead (Content Specialist, Humanities and Social Sciences) Research Services
The British Library’s exhibition Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths is open until 29 August 2017, telling the extraordinary story of the Russian Revolution from the reign of Russia’s last Tsar to the rise of the first communist state. You can also read articles from our experts exploring some of the themes of our exhibition on our Russian Revolution website.
06 August 2017
On 6 August, Belarus will celebrate 500 years of printing, and also 500 years of East Slavonic printing. On that day in 1517 Francysk Skaryna (in various traditions his name has also been spelt as Francis Skaryna, Frantsisk Skorina, Franciscus Scorina and more) published the Psalter, one of the books of the Bible.
Skaryna was born in the oldest Belarusian city, Polatsk. He was educated in universities in Kraków and Padua, and started his publishing endeavours in Prague – then one of the main centres of printing – and continued in Vilnius, which remained the most important centre of Belarusian culture and history from medieval times until the 1920s.
In the Belarusian cultural pantheon, Francysk Skaryna has a very special place. He was the most outstanding figure of the Renaissance and its humanist tradition in Belarus. He is also the most important Belarusian writer and translator of the period; an educator, philosopher and theologian, a fascinating entrepreneur and innovator, and an example of passionate patriotism.
Skaryna intended to publish the whole Bible. Between 1517 and 1519/20 he managed to produce more than half of the Old Testament – 23 books. These were translated into the Belarusian version of the Church Slavonic language then widely used in the Orthodox Church. Skaryna’s translation is close to the ‘Benatska Bible’ published in the Czech language in Venice in 1506 (C.18.b.2.); however, he consulted texts in ancient Biblical languages, as well as Church Slavonic manuscripts. The text of his Ruthenian Bible (Bivliia ruska) was supplemented by the translator’s prologues and commentaries in the Old Belarusian language.
In the prologue to the Psalter Skaryna explained his motives: “Seeing the usefulness of this small book, I decided to print the Psalter in Ruthenian words in Slavonic language for the glory of God in the first place [...] and for the good of everyone, because the merciful God sent me to the world from this people.” Skaryna intended his books for distribution among the common people (pospolityj lud) and other classes of his compatriots, the people of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (contemporary Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine). Interestingly, in virtually all prologues to his books, the printer mentioned his birthplace, the glorious city of Polack.
In 1520, Skaryna left Prague for Vilnius, the capital city of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, to open his own printing house. Printed Cyrillic books were still a novelty there, and the underdeveloped market dictated a different kind of literature. In Vilnius, Skaryna published The Small Travel Book (1522) and Apostol (1525) intended for daily prayer use by the largest possible audience, both clerics and lay people, as well as for use in primary schools.
Opening of the Psalter (Vilna, 1522-1523). C.51.b.5
Scholars and churches in Belarus continue to debate Skaryna’s religious affiliation. It is likely that he was born into an Orthodox family but educated by Roman Catholics. He served as a secretary to Bishop Jan of Vilnius and may have converted to Roman Catholicism. In his own prayers (Orthodox in form), Skaryna referred to Catholic dogmas which allows us to assume that he might have been a convinced Uniate (or a Greek Catholic, in the contemporary terminology). Skaryna travelled widely throughout Protestant Europe and was at least once accused by a polemicist of being a “heretic Hussite”, a follower of Jan Hus who was one of the forerunners of the Reformation. Church calendars in Skaryna’s books have some elements in common with the Protestant tradition.
After Belarus became part of the Russian Empire at the end of the 18th century, all Skaryna’s books were removed from Belarus. They ended up in state libraries in Moscow, St Petersburg, Vilnius and various private collections. Just over 500 books by the first Belarusian and East Slavonic printer are known to survive today, more than half of them in Russia. A significant number of Skaryna’s publications are found in Ukraine. Skaryna’s books were well known in Ukraine and influenced Ukrainian Biblical translation and printing traditions. In Britain, the British Library, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Cambridge have copies of Skaryna’s books. The Belarusian Library in London also has a small fragment of one of the Prague editions. Three digitised books printed by Skaryna from the British Library's collections (Books of Samuel and Kings C.36.f.4; Psalter C.51.b.5; Acts and Epistles; C.51.b.6) will be donated to the National Library of Belarus in September 2017.
In 1925, both the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Belarusian community in the western part of the country – then controlled by Poland – celebrated 400 years of Belarusian printing. The date related to the first book Skaryna published in Vilnius. For the occasion, the Belarusian State University Library (now National Library of Belarus) purchased ten of Skaryna’s books from a private collector in Leningrad. Since then, no more of Skaryna’s works were acquired for Belarus until February 2017 when one of the Belarusian banks announced the purchase of a copy of The Small Travel Book for its corporate collection. Currently, this copy is on tour to Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic and Italy - countries where Skaryna lived - before returning in September 2017 to Minsk for a grand exhibition, ‘Francis Skaryna and his epoch’.
The first 17 volumes of the facsimile edition of Skaryna's books (Minsk, 2013- ) donated to the British Library by the National Library of Belarus. Catalogued and photographed by Rimma Lough. ZF.9.a.11377
The National Library of Belarus, meanwhile, is about to complete a multi-volume facsimile reproduction of all Skaryna’s books (picture above). Digital copies for this project were offered by many libraries and collections from around the world. The National Library is donating this publication to major libraries in Belarus and abroad, as well as to all institutions preserving Skaryna’s works. On February 27 this year a delegation from the National Library of Belarus presented a copy of the facsimile edition to the British Library in the special event held in the British Library.
Kristian Jensen, Head of Collections and Curation, greeting the audience at the Belarusian event in the British Library.
Alongside this project, the National Library of Belarus has been acquiring as many digital versions of all known copies of Skaryna’s publications as possible to create a comprehensive collection and make it accessible to researchers. The Library has truly been the driving force in celebrating 500 years of Belarusian and East Slavonic book printing. Hundreds of events have taken place in Belarus and abroad, and more are still ahead, among them an International Congress “500 Years of Belarusian Printing” and the most comprehensive exhibition of Skaryna’s works; both are taking place in Minsk in September 2017.
Colophon of Bivliia ruska: Knigi tsarstv with the imprint information: Ū velikom Starom meste Prazskom, Tyseshta Pe̡tsot I Osmʺnadesetʹ
Ihar Ivanou, Head of Learning Resources, QA Higher Education, London
Ebenezer Henderson, Biblical researches and Travels in Russia, including a tour in the Crimea; and the passage of the Caucasus: with observations on the state of the Rabbinical and Karaite Jews, and the Mohammedan and Pagan tribes, inhabiting the southern provinces of the Russian Empire (London, 1826). 1048.k.28.
Cyrillic books printed before 1701 in British and Irish collections :a union catalogue, compiled by Ralph Cleminson ... [et al.]. (London, 2000). 2708.h.903 and m01/33811
Alexander Nadson, Skaryna's Prayer Book in: http://belarusjournal.com/article/skaryna%E2%80%99s-prayer-book-89
Arnold McMillin, Francis Skaryna’s Biblical Prefaces and their Place in Early Byelorussian Literature in: http://belarusjournal.com/article/francis-skaryna%E2%80%99s-biblical-prefaces-and-their-place-early-byelorussian-literature-27
P. V. Vladimirov, Doktor Francisk Skorina: ego perevody, pečatnyja izdanija i jazyk (Munich, 1989). X.0909/738(85)
Frantsisk Skorina i ego vremia : entsiklopedicheskiĭ spravochnik (Minsk, 1990). YA.1994.b.231
V. F. Shmataŭ, Iskusstvo knigi Frantsiska Skoriny (Moscow, 1990). 2708.h.486
E. L. Nemirovskiĭ, Frantsisk Skorina : zhiznʹ i deiatelʹnostʹ belorusskogo prosvetitelia. (Minsk,1990). 2708.e.1972
H. IA. Halenchanka, Frantsysk Skaryna--belaruski i ŭskhodneslavianski pershadrukar. (Minsk, 1993). YA.1996.a.12908
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