Ukrainian Literature

Ukrainian Literature

Ukrainian literature is the literature in the Ukrainian language.

The oldest epoch of Ukrainian literature is essentially identical to the Old East Slavic literature (see Russian literature) of the Kiev period (see Russia, history). Only after the fall of the Kiev Empire in the 13th century did the development of Ukrainian, Russian and Belorussian linguistic systems – in addition to the predominant Church Slavonic – enable the emergence of Ukrainian-language literature in the narrower sense, the main national-language components of which, however, did not appear until the late 19th century. The development of Ukrainian literature is particularly related to the fate of Ukraine which belonged to the Lithuanian state from the 13th to the 16th century, from 1569 to the Polish and from 1654 to the Russian state and could not achieve permanent state independence.

13th to 17th centuries

The Tartar incursion in 1237-40 and the rule of Lithuania and Poland brought about an almost complete standstill in literary development; the literature of this period is almost without exception a Church Slavonic-Ukrainian translation and chronicle literature. It was not until the 16th century that Western European influences and the resistance of the Orthodox Ukrainians against the union with the Roman Catholic Church gave the impetus for a revival of literature. In the 16th and 17th centuries, for example, there is a wealth of religious and polemical literature on the Union with Rome in Ukrainian-Church Slavonic, Latin and Polish. The Athos monk Iwan Wyschensky (* around 1550, † around 1620) represented medieval ways of thinking and living. The Church Slavonic language codified for the first time Meleti Smotryzky (* 1578, † 1633). The frequent fights with the Crimean Tatars, Turks and later also Poles favored the cultivation of the hero song (Duma). The brief epoch of state independence under the hetman B. Chmelnyzky and the longer relative autonomy of the Ukrainian Cossacks under Polish and later Russian rule, as celebrated in the anonymous “Istorija Rusow” (2nd half of the 18th century, published in 1846), along with folklore, formed a never-lost basis for Ukrainian national and linguistic independence. The late Baroque poet and philosopher H. S. Skoworoda processed Western suggestions into an idiosyncratic system that also encompasses mysticism.

Newer Ukrainian literature

The newer Ukrainian literature began in the context of the general national awareness in Eastern Europe at the end of the 18th century. Groundbreaking had I. P. Kotljarewsky, decisively promoted by its classical, written in Ukrainian folk language “Aeneid” -Travestie (“Enejida,” 1798) the emergence of the modern Ukrainian writing and literary language. He was followed by the ballad and fable poet Petro Petrowytsch Hulak-Artemowsky (* 1790, † 1865) and the novelist H. F. Kwitka-Osnovyanenko, who is still partly writing in Russian and is considered the founder of the more recent Ukrainian prose.

In the 1830s / 40s of the 19th century, national-romantic groups of poets formed around the cultural centers of Kiev, Lemberg and Kharkiv. The secret Kyrillos Methodios Society, founded in 1845/6, became of great importance, in which national, Pan-Slavic and social endeavors were combined, as expressed in perfect form by T. H. Shevchenko, who worked his way up from serf to Ukrainian national poet. His circle also included the writer and historian M. I. Kostomarow and the playwright, prose writer and poet P. O. Kulisch. Markyan S. Shaschkewytsch (* 1811, † 1843) contributed through his romantic-historical and reflexive poetry to the literary rebirth of the Ukrainian vernacular of Galicia – today’s western Ukraine.

The official Russian reaction to this national-Ukrainian movement from 1845 was an even stricter censorship with repeated printing bans for Ukrainian-language publications (1863, 1876–1906, 1914–17) and an intensified Russification policy, through which the young Ukrainian literature in its further formal and content development and expansion was severely hindered. Only in western Ukraine, which with its cultural center Lviv belonged to Austria, could it develop more freely. While maintaining folkloric-ethnographic stylistic devices, the inclusion of realistic topics was successful, sometimes including social issues, for example with Iwan Semenowytsch Netschuj-Lewyzky (* 1838, † 1918) who emphasized Ukrainian independence in his prose about the Ukrainian village before and after the abolition of serfdom as well as about the clergy and the new national intelligentsia; also with the narrator P. Myrny with psychologically deepened novels and with the learned writer and translator B. D. Hrintschenko, who dealt with the problem of Ukrainian nationalism and socialism in the rural world in realistic dramas and stories. At an early stage in women’s literature, Marija Olexandriwna Markowytsch became known under the pseudonym M. Vovchok . The climax of this epoch was the work of the scientifically active West Ukrainian I. J. Franko, who turned to in-depth psychological analysis of current and historical topics in all literary genres.

The constant struggle against Russification and the close interweaving with the political-national tendencies made the commitment to “pure art” called for by modernism difficult. Ukrainian literature adopted many of the innovations that had prevailed in Western and Russian poetry (impressionism, artistically refined comprehension techniques, cosmopolitan inclinations, portrayal of states of mind and spirit), but tried to combine them with traditional methods. The outstanding authors of this transitional epoch – a more dynamic literary life was possible again in Russia since 1904 – were the prose writer M. M. Kozjubynsky and the playwright L. Ukrajinka who brought the Ukrainian literature from the field of popular-provincial to European status, as well as the poet O. Oles, who took up suggestions of the modern age. 1906–14 the group of modernist writers “Moloda musa” existed.

Ukrainian literature experienced a renewed upswing in the 1920s. In addition to the so-called worker writers who were organized in the “Hart” (steeling) group, there were peasant authors who gathered in the “Pluh” (plow) group. Representatives of both associations came together under the leadership of the prose writer Mykola Chwyljowy (* 1893, † 1933) in the Free Academy of Proletarian Literature (“WAPLITE”). At the same time, trends such as futurism (Mychail S. Semenko, * 1892, † 1938), constructivism-dynamism (Valerjan Polistschuk, * 1897, † 1942), neoclassical (M. Serow ), symbolism (PH Tichyna ) and impressionism (Hryhori Kossynka, * 1899, † 1945). Topics were – in addition to the romanticism of the civil war – v. a. the criticism of the Russophile party bureaucracy and the excesses of the New Economic Policy (NEP), the famine, the work of the party. The left-wing avant-garde of the Kharkiv national-communist authors with M. Chwyljowy, Mykola Kulisch (* 1892, † 1942), J. I. Janowsky and Arkadi Lyubtschenko (* 1899, † 1945) were particularly active here. As a result of the Stalinist persecution, numerous Ukrainian writers died, fell silent or conformed to the official literary doctrine of socialist realism; many also left like Volodymyr Vynnytschenko (* 1880, † 1951) the country and emigrated.

After 1945

Second World War, German occupation and reconstruction essentially determined the literature of the 1940s and 50s. O. T. Hontschar and Mychailo P. Stelmach (* 1912, † 1983) formed a new perspective on the history of the Ukraine in the »thaw« period, carefully addressing Stalinism. O. J. Kornitschuk stood out with historical and patriotic dramas, while Semen Skljarenko (* 1901, † 1962) and Pawo Sahrebelny (* 1924, † 2009) wrote novels with a predominantly historical theme.

In the 1960s, a young generation of writers began to break away from an ideologically overloaded overall view of the events they described. Reflection on national independence and history, unconventional approach to all questions of human existence and expression rich in associations and metaphors shaped her work. Lina W. Kostenko (* 1930), IF Dratsch and W. S. Stus were successful in poetry; In prose, Hryhir Tjutjunnyk (* 1931, † 1980), Volodymyr Drosd (* 1939, † 2003), Jewhen P. Huzalo (* 1937, † 1995) and Valery Shevchuk (* 1939) dedicated pay attention to the worries and needs of the individual. This period ended in the early 1970s with repression against the most courageous representatives of this generation of poets (including Stus), whose attempts at artistic independence and national feeling were often defamed as “bourgeois nationalism”.

The authors who did not conform to the system withdrew from the official literature and worked underground, but received hardly any attention outside of narrow literary circles; It was not until the late 1980s that her works became accessible to a wider public. The poetry of Wassyl Holoborodko (* 1945) and Mykola Vorobjow (* 1941) as well as the poems of Stus, Iwan Switlytschny (* 1929, † 1992) and Jewhen Swerstjuk (* 1928, † 2014), which were written in the prison camps and in exile, are effective draw on symbols and metaphors from the history and religion of the Ukrainian people and thus create a new awareness of national identity.

The Chernobyl reactor accident (1986) was also processed in literary terms (IF Dratsch; Wolodymyr Jaworiwsky, * 1942; Juri Stscherbak, * 1934) and triggered extensive reconsideration processes. Instead of the ideological uniformity that had been imposed until then, a variety of literary currents can be observed, which encompasses aesthetic values ​​and hermetic isolation as well as mythology and this worldly relationship, v. a. in the works of J. Andruchowytsch, Wassyl Herasymjuk (* 1956)and Ihor Rymaruk (* 1958).

1980s until today

However, the real breakthrough to cultural rebirth did not come until the late 1980s, with the organ of the Ukrainian writers’ association “Literaturna Ukrajina” being the leading body. This weekly newspaper published a rehabilitation section and thus made known the work of hushed up, perished and exiled authors. In addition to the outlaws of the Brezhnev era, these were also older authors such as the socialist Volodymyr Vynnytschenko (* 1880, † 1951) or the avant-garde M. Chwylowy. In addition, the works of Ulas Samtschuk (* 1905, † 1987) and Wassyl Barka (* 1908, † 2003), created in North American exile, were received.

Literary studies were also caught up in the national and cultural renaissance and experienced a general reorientation: works whose authors had advocated an independent Ukrainian literary history and were considered “enemies of the people” have now been made accessible (Mychailo Hruschewsky, * 1866, † 1934; D. Tschižewski , * 1894, † 1977). Since 1988 Ukrainian writers have been involved in the process of Ukrainian rebirth in many ways. They founded a society of the Ukrainian language, took on ecological problems (movement “Green World”) and started the democratic movement “Ruch”.

The political unrest since 2013 (mass protests on the Maidan, armed conflicts in eastern Ukraine) have found their expression in poetry in particular. So exist z. B. the poems of the lyricist Liubow Jakymchuks (* 1985) from dismembered, dismembered language; Serhij Zhadan’s (* 1974) lyrical snapshots show people uprooted and disturbed by the war.

Ukrainian Literature

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