Features News Events Interviews Take me out Competitions RSS
On the cover
7 (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 EuroMaidans three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the countrys 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

Ivan Franko Was A Father of Ukraine

Ivan Franko is probably Ukraines second best-known writer, after (surprise!) the sainted Shevchenko. President Yushchenko might not be trying to get a statue of him put up in every world capital, but there is a Franko monument in Vienna, which isnt bad, and here in Ukraine his works are studied in school from the moment kids learn to read until they graduate. The great man was a novelist, poet, scientist, critic, ethnographer, journalist, political and social activist and more. Franko was born 27 August in 1856 into a peasant family in the village of Naguevychi, in whats now western Ukraine.

That region of Ukraine, Galicia, was subordinated to the relatively benign rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was characterised by rural poverty and had such attendant problems as a high rate of child death and almost total illiteracy on the part of its peasant population but on the other hand it possessed a level of political freedom that didnt exist in those parts of Ukraine that were part of the Russian Empire. There was no serfdom in Galicia and Frankos family was comparatively wealthy. His father was a master blacksmith and could afford to provide his elder son with an education.
Yet the young Frankos life wasnt easy. He lost his mother when he was five years old and his father when he was nine. But he continued his education and after graduating from the village school went to the nearest town, Drohobych, to attend the gymnasium. There he lived with a distant relation who maintained a carpentry shop Franko would sleep in newly-made coffins on the premises. Still a youth, he began to understand his tremendous intellectual capabilities: he could relate a teachers entire lecture word for word and read several books a day. As the gymnasiums best student he went upon graduation to Lviv to study philosophy at the university. 

Lviv Man About Town
In Lviv he became a real literary dandy, wearing a stylish frock coat and publishing articles under a witty pseudonym. In the citys bohemian circles he met the illustrious Kyiv intellectual Professor Mykhai lo Drahomanov, known for his revolutionary social federalist ideas. His friendship with the controversial social activist and scholar cost Franko a good deal the imperial authorities, wary of subversive ideas spreading on the edges of their empire, drew up phony charges against Franko and he spent nearly a year in prison. Locked up, living in terrible conditions along with nine other convicts, he seriously damaged his already poor health. But his imprisonment only strengthened his political views he was sure Ukrainians were a full-fledged nation who deserved their own independent state and who shouldnt have been divided between two empires. Moreover, he insisted on the value of the Ukrainian language as a separate entity unto itself, not a regional dialect as the powers that be in Vienna and Saint Petersburg considered it. He soon became disappointed by Drahomanov, as the latter saw Ukraine in federation with Russia, while Franko wanted to unite Ukrainians in an independent state.
At the same time, Franko never stopped educating himself, and proceeded to the University of Vienna, where he earned his doctorate in philosophy. In 1893 that venerable university first heard Ukrainian, when Frankos professor asked his student to speak his native language aloud. Franko had the chance to stay in Vienna and establish for himself a career as a scientist, but instead he returned to Lviv, hoping to be useful to his motherland. The latter, however, did not welcome him as warmly as it might have: despite a recommendation letter from the University of Vienna, he did not land a professors chair at Lviv University, mostly for political reasons. Now 40 years old, he was an outcast in Galicia. The imperial authorities saw him as a freak, a marginal and crazed rebel. On the other hand, progressive youth and the Ukrainian intelligentsia saw him as the Ukrainian who would exemplify and represent new European trends in literature, science, politics and social thought in his native country. In literature he touched off a real revolution by adapting spoken folk Ukrainian language to literary forms, using new poetic genres in his works. He also became a well-known interpreter, on account of the fact that he could command 14 languages. Visit the Franko museum in his native village and youll be astonished by the size of the sculpture park in which are displayed monuments to the writers he translated from Petrarch to Goethe to Shakespeare to Pushkin to the ancient Greek poets and beyond. 

The Soviet Version
Franko was deeply interested in social issues and founded his own periodical, Life and Word, to promulgate his ideas. In its pages he strongly criticised Marx. That, of course, didnt stop the Soviets from presenting Franko as a leading advocate for proletarian revolution, instead of the humanist democrat that he was. They liked to stress that Franko had always been a strident atheist who dreamed of eternal Ukrainian-Russian UNI0N. This biased representation of Franko lasted for a long time, as many of his political and social works were banned in the Soviet era, while others were rewritten or abridged. In fact, Franko wanted Ukrainians to consider themselves a European nation: during an era when Ukrainians were defined by their regional affiliations and loyalties, he called upon them to accept the idea of a state system. But he proclaimed individualism as among the highest values.
For last six years of his life Franko was paralysed, but he continued to write, dictating his works aloud. By the end he had written some 5,000 works. Its hard to imagine an ordinary person merely copying out such an amount of text, much less conceiving it. Franko died shortly before seeing his close friend, the great historian Mykhailo Hrushevsky, become president of a unified and independent (if tragically short-lived) Ukraine, a country that Franko had done much to help create. To that same extent, hes one of the fathers of contemporary Ukraine.
His life was not simple: official institutions refused to acknowledge him, he lived off the scanty income from his publications and he had a reputation as a rebel and a crazy utopian. For decades he was misunderstood thanks to Soviet propaganda, and only now is Ukraine starting to recover him as a genius. Strangely enough, mysterious misfortunes follow the name of Franko even today: his parents house, where he was born and grew up, has by now been set on fire three times by an insane neighbour and employees of the Franko museum in his native village often guard the building themselves, in fear that the lunatic arsonist might show up again.  


Kateryna Kyselyova

Go back

Comments (0)
You are not authorized! Only registered and authorized users can add their comments!

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 Didnt 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 dont 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 childrens 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. Whats 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