Features News Events Interviews Take me out Competitions RSS
On the cover
¹7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope

28 February - 6 March 2014

Ukraine History

A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels

With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidan’s three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the country’s stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.


Ukraine Today
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard – and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.


Ukrainian Culture

When Walls Can Talk

People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.


Ukraine History

Taras Shevchenko The Ultimate Ukrainian, Examined

On 9 March Ukraine will celebrate Taras Shevchenko’s 194th birthday with events going on near Shevchenko monuments in most Ukrainian cities. What’s On looks at the life and work of the most iconic Ukrainian.
There’s no doubt that Taras Shevchenko is Ukraine’s most illustrious poet and the best-known Ukrainian poet abroad. There are monuments to him in Paris, in downtown Washington near DuPont Circle, and in numerous municipalities in Ukrainianheavy Canada. For that matter, there’s a town called Shevchenko in Manitoba. There’s even a street (if a short street) named after him in Manhattan’s East Village. Nor does South America lack its Shevchenko statues.  His poetry collection ‘Kobzar’ is probably the most translated Ukrainian text, mainly into Polish, English, German, Czech and Russian.

But if you think that’s impressive, take a look at his reputation here in his home country. A visitor doesn’t have to be in Ukraine long before he realises that every other street, institution, or geographical point of interest in the country is named after the fiercely-moustached writer. Wherever he is right now, Lenin must be jealous. In Ukrainian schools these days kids learn his life story by heart and memorise endless bunches of his verse. It’s not only Ukrainian literature teachers who love him. So do professors

 This quintessentially Ukrainian poet, a peasant son of the land, was actually a far more illustrious and interesting figure than he’s usually given credit for

 of Slavic philology (he established the modern Ukrainian written language), Ukrainian national history (he was one of the political activists of the Brotherhood of Sts. Cyril and Methodius and a ‘dangerous nationalist’ in the eyes of the Tsarist regime), philosophy (he was one of the great Eastern European humanists of his times), art history (he could paint as well as write, and he left behind a big collection of oil paintings and etchings), and music (he inspired Ukraine’s top composers and a lot of his poems were set to music). Students start learning about him the day they enter grade school and don’t stop until they get their doctorates.

 Worship and Hostility
Perhaps it’s needless to say, but there’s actually a complex and interesting man behind the myth of the Great Kobzar and Father of Modern Ukraine that’s fostered both here in Ukraine and in Diaspora communities. Critics have long moved beyond the story of how the poor kripak, or serf, managed to grow up into a great national intellectual. They’re onto new themes now, like his relations with the Russian intelligentsia and complicated view of Russian culture, or his unlucky private life. If they’re in an iconoclastic mood they claim that his talent is overblown and that the cult of Shevchenko has been a disaster for the Ukrainian mentality. Actually, the first hostile critics of Shevchenko appeared in the early 20th century, when the modernist Mykhailo Semenko wrote an aggressive manifesto in which he claimed to “want to burn ‘Kobzar’” and Mykola Khvylyovy announced that he hated Shevchenko. Meanwhile, his poetry has been so analysed and overanalysed that there’s hardly a living piece of it left. A lot can be said about the poems collected in the ‘Kobzar’. Shevchenko described the relations between Ukrainians and Russians, between men and women, between poor and rich. He was a thundering critic of the world around him, especially of the powerful people in it, and a protector of the humble and the downtrodden. Critics have complained that we don’t need lectures and instructions about how to live from our writers, but as the average reader of literature I’ve got to admit that Shevchenko’s tone of voice is something that appeals on a very deep level. A lot of it is uncannily relevant to the political or economical questions we’re dealing with today.

 Natives and Foreigners
Take, for example, the poem ‘To the Dead, the Living and the Unborn,’ written in 1845. Shevchenko addresses the poem to Ukrainians and discusses Ukraine’s problematic relations with our foreign neighbours. He’s harsh but at the same time sensitive. “And in the Sich the clever Germans their precious potatoes plant,” he writes. “And these, of course, you buy and for your health you eat them.” There’s more, but trust me: it’s all very applicable to the relationship that Ukrainians have to the many foreigners who have come to the capital in the era of globalisation. In addition, Shevchenko keeps hammering home that Ukraine has a great history and that there are a lot of things we can be proud of – the Cossacks, Khmelnitsky, the numerous battles we won. “What history!” he writes, later speaking of “the poetry of a free people’s epic.” And when he writes, “No other River Dnipro exists, no other Ukraine/ Yet in foreign fields you persist in attaining blessed goodness/ A better goodness,” it’s relevant to those many Ukrainians who persist in leaving their homes and pursuing their futures in Italy or Portugal. How many times have I run into young Ukrainian women who believe that paradise exists abroad? It’s terrible. Shevchenko wants to remind us that our country is beautiful, too, and that we have to believe in it. Sure, he gets dyspectic and disappointed sometimes, calling Ukrainians “Moscow’s dirty footmen,” but at the same time he believes in his nation’s glory and asks us to join together as brothers. Shevchenko’s famous line, “Read, study and discern/ And learn from foreigners/ But don’t disdain your own” is another line that’s very relevant. Shevchenko can be aggressive toward Germany, Poland, and Russia, but at the same time he wanted us to consider ourselves capable of standing on the same cultural level as them. Shevchenko loved to use the image of the abandoned Ukrainian woman, lost and crying, wandering around, pregnant by rich men or soldiers. Poems like ‘Knyazhna’, ‘Slepaya’, ‘Naymychka’, and ‘Pryncessa’ stimulate the tear ducts by describing the hard lives of beautiful Ukrainian girls who are unhappy in love. I don’t remember many happy women in Shevchenko. The famous line, “O lovely maidens, fall in love, but not with Muscovites/ For Muscovites are foreign people/ They do not trust you right,” has became proverbial, and might even express good common sense. However, Shevchenko was not a parochial writer. His work was reviewed in the Russian, French, Spanish, and Italian press during his lifetime. He himself long lived in St. Petersburg, the most ‘Western’ of the Russian Empire’s cities. His work was published in Leipzig and he was mentioned for the first time in the English-speaking world in 1877 in a magazine edited by Charles Dickens. New York City’s ‘The Galaxy’ and the famous Revue des Deux Mondes’ wrote about him. The British Slavist W.R. Morfill wrote a biography of Shevchenko in English in 1880. By the end of the last century his poems had been translated into more than 100 languages.

 Students start learning about Shevchenko the day they enter school and don’t stop until they get their doctorates

 So, this quintessentially Ukrainian poet, a peasant son of the land, was actually a far more illustrious and interesting figure than he’s usually given credit for being. He wanted Ukraine not only to be a strong country, but a strong country that had its place in the greater world. Meanwhile, his plea, in his ‘Testament’, that Ukrainians remember him with “with softly spoken, kindly word,” has been respected. No in Ukraine is going to forget him anytime soon.

 Natalia Marianchyk

Go back

Comments (5)
You are not authorized! Only registered and authorized users can add their comments!
hi | 18.03.2010 18:00

have sex

dumnut | 18.03.2010 17:58


dumnut | 18.03.2010 17:56

get a life

word | 18.03.2010 17:53

best poet

vitrohon@comcast.net | 09.03.2008 01:56

Nice article but for the life of me I cannot recall
a poem called "Slepaya".

Print Print   Send Send    In favorites In favorites

Read also:
  • A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels
  • More Than A Square
  • Game of Thrones
  • A Divisive National Hero
  • The Ukrainian Roots of Sholem Aleichem

    Global news 
  • Events Calendar
    «« October 2018 »»
    Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7
    8 9 10 11 12 13 14
    15 16 17 18 19 20 21
    22 23 24 25 26 27 28
    29 30 31

    Remember me
    Forgot your password?

    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didn’t Know We Had

    Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Univer­sal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they don’t understand the meaning of these words.

    Kyiv Culture

    Pulling Strings
    Located on Hrushevskoho Street – the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades – children’s favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. What’s On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.


    Essential Kyiv listings
    Car Rental
    Bars & Pubs
    Catering Services
    Courier Services
    Foreign Banks
    Hotel Service
    Internet Cafes
    Lost & Found
    Medical Care
    Language Courses
    Souvenir Shops
    Travel Agencies
    Real Estate
    Cable & Satellite TV
    Fitness Centers
    Flowers and Gifts delivery
    Food Delivery
    Freight Forwarders
    Internet providers
    Translation Services
    Veterinarian Clinics
    Beauty Salons
    Whatson Birdies Party

    Useful Links