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This webpage reproduces a section of

Survey of Ukrainian Historiography
By Dmytro Doroshenko

published by
The Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences
in the U. S., Inc.,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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 p92  First Efforts to Collect and Publish Ukrainian Historical Material

During the last decades of the eighteenth century Ukrainian history became the center of interest for many educated Ukrainians. Ukrainian patriots, realizing that the old forms of Ukrainian social and political life were becoming extinct, and that at the same time memories of the heroic period of Ukrainian history were becoming dim, hastened to collect ancient monuments in order to preserve at least in literature and in the libraries some traces of the past, and to strengthen in this way the further development of a Ukrainian national revival.

Attempts were made to rescue historical documents and archives from destruction. Some individual collectors, like A. Chepa, succeeded in gathering considerable material which they placed at the disposal of scholars. Attempts were made to publish some of the historical sources, not only those relating to history itself (as for example the "Cossack Chronicles"), but also to geography, ethnography, statistics, and all that aids the study of the Ukraine's past. [. . .]

At the same time, the first efforts were made to introduce into literature the Ukrainian language as spoken by the people, in  p93 place of the learned and scholastic language of the past. Opanas Lobysevych (1732‑1805), the son of the znachkovyi tovarysh66 from Pohar in the Starodub regiment, who from 1785 to 1787 was the marshal of nobility of the Novhorod Siversky, translated Virgil's Eclogues into Ukrainian vernacular. [. . .] Lobysevych was also preparing an edition of "interludes" by Konysky and Tansky "in honor of our motherland. "67 [. . .] Thus the way was prepared for the great achievement of Ivan Kotlyarevsky.

Ukrainian patriots making these efforts to preserve the traditions of the past, looked hopefully to the new generation for support and encouragement. "We shall be fortunate," writes V. Poletyka to A. Chepa, "if we will see new patriots defending with the same steadfastness the rights, the privileges and the liberties of our country. On the other hand, we must turn away from the evil betrayers of the country, the infamous egoists. "68

Among those who made a great contribution to Ukrainian historiography, either by collecting and preserving documentary material, or by publishing and analyzing it in their writings, were O. Bezborod'ko, V. Ruban, F. Tumansky, O. Rigelman, O. Shafonsky, M. Antonovsky, A. Chepa, V. Poletyka, Ya. Markovych, and V. Lomykovsky.

Oleksander Bezborod'ko (1747‑1799) was the son of the Secretary General, Andriy Bezborod'ko (1711‑1780). He was educated in Hlukhiv and in the Kiev Academy, served in the General Court, in 1774 became a colonel in Kiev, but as early as 1775 went to St. Petersburg, where he became secretary to Catherine II, and later a Minister of State, Chancellor, and Prince. A very influential politician during the reign of Tsar Paul I, he succeeded in restoring the General Court and some other administrative  p94 agencies in the Ukraine, which had been abolished by Catherine. From St. Petersburg, Bezborod'ko corresponded with friends in the Ukraine about collecting materials for Ukrainian history. In 1775 he prompted his countryman, Vasyl' Ruban, who was also in the service at St. Petersburg, to write a Little Russian history, and asked his father in the Ukraine to send Ruban books and manuscripts relating to the history of the Ukraine "since there are men who intend to publish a history of Little Russia." [. . .]

Encouraged by Bezborod'ko, Ruban published Ukrainian and Cossack chronicles.

Vasyl' Ruban (1742‑1795) was born in the Romen District and educated at Kiev Academy. Later he went to St. Petersburg where he chose a literary career, and in 1774 he became secretary to Prince Potemkin and interpreter at the Military Collegium. With the help of Bezborod'ko he published the following historical materials:

1. Kratkiya politicheskiya i istoricheskiya svedeniya o Maloi Rossii (or in full: Brief Political and Historical Information About Little Russia Together with a List of Ukrainian Roads and Mails, a Register of Clergy and Public Servants, also the Total of Population. Gathered from Various Places and Edited by Vasyl' Ruban, St. Petersburg, 1773, 99 pp.).

2. O privilegiyakh korolevskikh v bytnost' Kieva pod Pol'sheyu (or in full: Royal Privileges Issued to Kiev Schools Under Polish Rule and the Imperial Charters Issued to Them on Kiev's Return to Russia), Starina i Novizna, St. Petersburg, 1773, pp107‑130.

3. Kratkaya letopis' Malyya Rossii (A Short Chronicle of Little Russia from 1506 till 1776 with an Account of Its Government, with a List of Former Hetmans, General Officers, Colonels and Clergy; Also Description of the Land, Its People, Towns, Rivers, Monasteries, Churches, Number of People, and Other Information, St. Petersburg, 1777, 248 + 60 pp.).

4. Zemleopisanie Malyya Rossii (or in full: A Description of the Little Russian Land, Its Cities and Towns, Rivers, Number of Monasteries and Churches, the Number of Elected Cossacks,  p95 Cossack Helpers and Plebeians According to the Census of 1764; also A Note on the Poltava Regiment, Information about Roads and Mails, and Alphabetical List of all Classes and Supplementary Information on Churches of all Dioceses, St. Petersburg, 1777, pp118) [. . .]

The most valuable of them all is Kratkaya Letopis' Malyya Rossii, which reproduces the text of Kratkoe opisanie Malorossii composed in the 1730's.

Almost simultaneously with Ruban, another Ukrainian, Fedir Tumansky (1757‑1810), who worked in the field of Russian literature, also undertook the publication of Ukrainian historical material. Graduated from the Königsberg University, he later became a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. In the journal Rossiiskii Magazin (Russian Magazine), which was published by him in St. Petersburg from 1792 to 1794, he published the following materials:

1. Vypiska iz Zapiski 1749 g. (or in full: Extract from a Note of 1749 on the Election in the Zaporozhian Sich of the Koshovi Atamans, Military Justices, Secretaries and Osauls, and also Colonels, Which Was Usually Held During the New Year. Rossiiskii Magazin, 1792, I, pp187‑98.)

2. Manifest Getmana Bogdana Khmelnitskago (from Bila Tserkva), ibid., 1793, II.

3. Letopisets Malyya Rossii, ibid., 1793, II‑III.

Oleksander Rigelman (1720‑1789) was of German origin. His father came to Russia from Brunswick in the early eighteenth century. Young Rigelman was born in St. Petersburg. In 1738 he finished the Nobles' Corps (College) and participated as a military engineer in the Turkish campaign. In 1741‑43 he lived with the Zaporozhians, while measuring new boundaries. During 1745‑48 he resided in the Hetman State and drew plans for Ukrainian cities. From 1747 to 1749 he assisted in the building of fortifications around Kiev [. . .] In 1782 he retired with the rank of major-general and lived in Andriyivka, near Chernihiv, together with his second wife, a Ukrainian, nee Lyzohub.

In 1778 Rigelman wrote Istoriya malorossiiskaya ili povestvovanie  p96 o kozakakh. In Andriyivka he revised this work and renamed it Letopisnoe povestvovanie o Maloi Rosii i eya narode i kozakakh voobshche (Narrative Chronicle of Little Russia and its People, and about the Cossacks in General), 1785‑86. For some reasons, although the book was prepared for publication, it was not published until sixty years later.

Rigelman's work begins with a preface addressed to the reader in which the author states that historical accounts of the Ukrainian past have previously been inaccurate:

Although a great deal is known about Little Russia, its people, and that in early times it was under the rule of the Kiev princes . . . the two available histories of Little Russia by unknown authors, in spite of the fact that they are in agreement in describing the period of Bohdan Khmelnytsky and his successors . . . are full of omissions and give false account of the origin of their people, based obviously on fables.

Rigelman supplemented these two histories by such sources as 1. Books on the ancient Russian peoples; 2. Chet'i Minei; 3. Synopsis; 4. Substance of Polish and Russian histories; 5. The History of Azov; 6. Old Russian court records. [. . .]

The work is divided into four parts in six books. The author defends the theory of the Slavic origin of Ukrainians. "The Cossack or Little Russian people," he writes, "is descended from the more ancient Slavs, and not from any other people, as they themselves write." Rigelman rejects the stories by Guagnini, Stryjkowski, and others about Kozars and kozeroh. According to him the original home of the Slavs was between the Dnieper, Dniester and Vistula, in Red Rus′ (Galicia). He tells of Kiy, Shchek and Khoriv, and dates the appearance of the Cossacks from the tenth century. The Cossacks were in the service of the Kievan princes, although they frequently fought against them, until Prince Mstislav Volodymyrovych defeated them and slew their leader, Rededya, whose death "opened up the way to the Ukraine." The Tatars came later. In the fourteenth century he mentions Cherkesy or Cherkasy. From then on there follows a traditional exposition of Ukrainian history. Rigelman frequently  p97 uses the terms Ukraine, Ukrainians. In his last chapters dealing with the eighteenth century, Rigelman records some very valuable data on the life of the Zaporozhians and their military system [. . .]

The work ends with a panegyric in honor of Catherine II and Rumyantsev, "the Commander-in‑Chief of all Little Russia," for "their services and generosity towards that country." The author completes his history with the year 1787.

The Supplement (Pribavlenie k sei letopisi) is divided into five parts: 1. What Happened in the Ukraine in 1787 (about the journey made by Catherine II through the Ukraine); 2. Description of the Zaporozhian Cossacks (an interesting account of the Zaporozhian life and customs); 3. A Short Description of the Customs of the Little Russian People; 4. Notes; 5. A List of Names of All Former Hetmans of Little Russia (begins with Dashkevych and gives short biographies). Rigelman's work also includes twenty-eight of his drawings of Ukrainian types, which have great artistic and historical value, and two maps.

Rigelman, who was a Ukrainianized German in the Russian army, treats Ukrainian history from the viewpoint of a foreigner. He is sympathetic toward the Ukrainians, but at the same time remains loyal to Russia, especially in the last chapters of his work. Rigelman was also the author of Istoriya ili povestvovanie o Donskikh kozakakh (History of the Don Cossacks) written in 1778, and published in Chteniya in 1847.

According to Ikonnikov, "the works of Rigelman give a systematically arranged history of Little Russia from its beginning to the merger of its self-government with general (Russian) institutions, and hovers on the borderline between a chronicle and a critical history" (Opyt russkoi istoriografii, II, p1953).

Rigelman's Narrative Chronicle of Little Russia, edited by Bodyansky, appeared in the Moscow Chteniya, 1847, Nos. 5‑9, and separately in Moscow, 1847, 665 + xiv pp. with 28 illustrations and 2 maps.

Opanas Shafonsky (1740‑1811), the son of a Cossack captain, a student at Halle and Strassburg universities, and president of  p98 the Criminal Court of the Chernihiv Vicegerency, in 1786 wrote Chernigovskago namestnichestva topografi­cheskoe opisanie s kratkim geograficheskim i istoricheskim opisaniem Malyya Rossii (A Topographical Description of the Chernihiv Vicegerency with a Brief Description of the Geography and History of Little Russia). This is a most valuable work, containing a wealth of information on the Hetman State in the eighteenth century. Shafonsky's manuscript circulated among students of Ukrainian history, and was published in 1851 in Kiev, the expense met by M. Sudiyenko.

Mykhaylo Antonovsky (born in Borzna in 1759), a graduate of the Kiev Academy and Moscow University, served in the Admiralty and was later employed as a librarian in the Imperial Public Library in St. Petersburg. He contributed Istoriya o Maloi Rossii (History of Little Russia) to the work by I. G. Georgi, Opisanie vsekh obitayushchikh v rossiiskom gosudarstve narodov, St. Petersburg, 1799, vol. IV pp233‑237 (A Description of All Peoples Inhabiting the Russian Empire). Antonovsky's Memoirs were published in Russkii Arkhiv, 1885, vol. I.

Andriyan Chepa was born in the early 1760's in the Poltava District. He served at the Zemsky Court in Romen and later in the Office of the Little Russian Governor General, Rumyantsev. He died around 1822. On his estate in Chepurkivka (Pyryatyn District) Chepa collected a great number of documents and historical materials. He planned to publish a Ukrainian historical journal modelled upon Novikov's Drevnyaya Rossiiskaya biblioteka. Chepa was in correspondence with V. Poletyka, Rigelman, Ya. Markovych, Berlinsky, and Bantysh-Kamensky to whom he loaned his materials.

In a letter to V. Poletyka, dated February 17, 1810, he wrote: "I am busy gathering all kinds of papers relevant to Little Russian history. I collect not only historical documents, but various records relating to the rights, conditions, and customs of the people . . . I arrange my papers on Little Russia in order, so that they may be of use . . . Perhaps, if not I, then someone else will later make use of my collection for the benefit of our country."

 p99  It was a great pity that Chepa's collection, apart from some manuscripts which were on loan to his friends, perished in a fire in Chepurkivka.

Vasil'º Poletyka (1765‑1845), the son of the probable author of Istoriya Rusov, Hryhoriy Poletyka, was a student at Vilno University and, like his father, collected materials on Ukrainian history. These materials, he wrote to Count N. Rumyantsev, "were collected with great difficulty and care by my father in the last years of his life and afterwards by me, and they relate for the most part to Little Russian history, the writing of which was his task and then became mine." [. . .] "Among my manuscripts," wrote Poletyka to Chepa on April 23, 1809, "I find those by my father to be the best. The mind of a great scholar and the spirit of a patriot shines through them. From him I learned to love the people and my country, and also gained the knowledge of how best to defend them. It is flattering and pleasant for a son to have such a father as his teacher and mentor. It would be unforgivable to neglect his work. Little Russians, you owe him eternal gratitude. He is worthy of your monuments, and it will be best for all of you to keep him in your hearts."

In the same letter Poletyka expounds his views on the tasks of the Ukrainian historian, which are very much the same as those in the preface to Istoriya Rusov. "I am trying in vain to find documentary evidence for Little Russian history. Up to now, we have not had in our possession any complete histories of our country. Some important traces of them are lost because of the destruction of our country. Therefore a historian finds many obstacles and often throws his pen away. Aside from that, it will be left to posterity to assess his work dispassionately."

On the basis of these extracts from V. Poletyka's letters and for other reasons as well, V. Horlenko advanced the suggestion that Vasyl' Poletyka and not his father was the author of Istoriya Rusov. Basing his argument on the conviction, expressed earlier by Maksymovych, that Hryhoriy Poletyka knew Ukrainian history too well to commit many factual errors, Horlenko maintained that, hidden behind the two well-known Ukrainian personalities,  p100 George Konysky and Hryhoriy Poletyka, was none other than Vasyl' Hryhorovych Poletyka.

Still another Poletyka, Hryhoriy Ivanovych Poletyka, the cousin of Hryhoriy Andriyevych Poletyka, who was the counsellor of the Russian Embassy in Vienna, made a small contribution to Ukrainian historiography. According to Lazarevsky, he was "a rare type of Ukrainian and European," and a man of high culture; he corresponded with Hryhoriy Poletyka and supplied him with foreign books on the Ukraine. As V. Shchurat has shown, Hryhoriy Ivanovych Poletyka was almost certainly the author of an anonymous article "Saporoger Kozaken" which appeared in Wiener Taschenkalender zum Nutzen und Vergnügen, 1788, and served as a basis for the well-known booklet on the Zaporozhian Cossacks by Händlowich, published in 1789.69

Yakiv Mykhailovych Markovych (1776‑1804), the grandson of the author of the memoirs, was educated at Hlukhiv [. . .] and Moscow; he served in the guards and later with the help of Tro­shchynsky and Bezborod'ko received the post of interpreter at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While still in St. Petersburg he collected material for a large work on the Ukraine and was in correspondence with Chepa, from whom he borrowed some manuscripts. Markovych published only one part of his projected work. In 1804 he committed suicide probably as a result of financial difficulties.

In 1798 Markovych published in St. Petersburg a 98‑page book entitled Zapiski o Malorossii, eya zhitelyakh i proizvedeniyakh part 1 (Notes on Little Russia, Its Inhabitants and Products), which he dedicated to D. P. Tro­shchynsky. The author is a great enthusiast for his country. "Up to now," he writes, "Little Russia has not been described in detail by anyone. I have attempted to portray it not as a historian or scientist, but as a young son of hers who devotes his first record of feeling and understanding to his mother country."

The book consists of the following parts: (1) Historical  p101 Survey of the Country, Today Called Little Russia, from the Earliest Times to the Eleventh Century; (2) Earlier and Modern Social Systems of Little Russia; (3) Physical Description of Little Russia; (4) Chief Characteristics of the Ukrainians; (5) Rivers of Little Russia; (6) List of Minerals Discovered up to Now in Little Russia.

Markovych finished his historical account with the end of the reign of Yaroslav the Wise and announced that a continuation would follow in the next part of his work. "Little Russia," according to Markovych, "was the cradle of the Rossy . . . The origin of the Cossacks is undermined by military history . . . perhaps the most plausible theory is that in the sixteenth century, a Little Russian by the name of Dashkevych, having seen frequent attacks by the Crimean Tatars, persuaded many of his countrymen to organize a defense of their land against the enemy. This proved success­ful and the defenders came to call themselves Cossacks — or 'lightly armed.' " The Cossacks were finally organized after the reform of Stefan Batory.

The most interesting parts are sections three and four of the book in which Markovych relates his personal impressions of life and nature in the Ukraine. "Whoever has a tender heart," he writes, "and whoever finds spiritual satisfaction in the contemplation of nature, having seen Little Russia, he will agree that nature in this country has real splendor. At least, I called it so in my heart."

Having cited favorable comments on the Ukrainians made by foreign writers (Friebe, Scherer and others) [. . .] Markovych continues thus:

It would appear that a people so endowed with qualities would in some way be overbearing towards others. Yet on the contrary, a Little Russian is by nature gentle and good; he has one fault — a little vanity. He receives every traveller with the greatest generosity and hospitality. He is glad if he can offer him food and assistance, and his spirit of generosity is hurt when a reward is offered for it. Poverty does not lead Little Russians to crime, since in the village and towns hospitals and homes for aged people are available for the poor and the ailing. Everybody offers them food and clothing.

 p102  With equal enthusiasm Markovych writes about the Ukrainian language and folksongs.

In ancient times the inhabitants of Little Russia had spoken a Slavic language which was later lost or spoilt during the time when they lived in slavery under the Tatars, Lithuanians, and the Poles. Despite this, in the Little Russian language or the speech as it is used today, some traces are still visible of the happy clime and tender spirit of its original creators. If one deletes from it vulgar words used by the common people, and borrowings from the German, the French and the Crimean Tatars — and then evaluates its spirit, it would surely be admitted that this language is pleasant and soft, full of poetic expressions and diminutives which reflect the fine sensibility of its inventors. It could be called the language of love . . .

Let us take, as an example, the Little Russian songs; they contain most beauti­ful images and impressions of nature, a simple but complete exposition of love, and their melodies always correspond to the thoughts. If their content is dramatic and depicts separation of lovers or family, then the melody of the song expresses this feeling with all its power. The untutored songstress often demands compassion from nature. She tells of her unhappiness to all the surrounding objects asking the birds to carry her sorrow­ful news to her dear ones. Music in her mouth becomes alive with all the passions of the soul. This inborn liking of the Little Russians for music makes their country another Italy.

The book by Markovych appeared in the same year as Kotlyarevsky's Eneida (1798). Its value lies, not in the factual information, but in the enthusiastic and ardent love for his country which was communicated to the readers. After Markovych's death the following incomplete studies were found among his papers: (1) "Vypiski kasayushchiesya do Malorosii" (Notes Relating to Little Russia); (2) "Fizi­cheskoe opisanie Malorossii" (Physical Description of Little Russia, based on the notes by Güldenstädt who travelled in the Ukraine in 1774); (3) "Flora Ucrainica" 1798, giving Ukrainian names of plants. A. Chepa writing after Markovych's death, mentioned that "he completed a history of Little Russia," but in fact Markovych was only in the process of gathering material for such a work.

Vasyl' Yakovlevych Lomykovsky (1778‑1845), a descendant of Hetman Apostol, finished Military College in St. Petersburg,  p103 served in the army, and later lived in retirement on his khutira "Trudolyub" near Myrhorod. He was a student of Ukrainian antiquity and collected dumy. Later his researches helped Kostomarov and Zhytetsky. Lomykovsky was the author of the following works:

(1) "O Malorossii. O drevnikh obychayakh Malorossiiskikh, o sluzhbe voinskoi i grazhdanskoi, o chinakh i dolzhnostyakh chinovnikov. Po alfavitu. Pisano 1808 goda." (About Little Russia. About Ancient Little Russian Customs, of Military and Civil Service, Grades and the Duties of Officials. Alphabetically Composed in 1808).

(2) In 1809 he translated from the French Scherer's Annales de la Petite Russie, 1788.

(3) "O pervobytnykh zhitelyakh Malorossii oboikh storon Dnepra," 1812 (About the Original Inhabitants of Little Russia on Both Banks of the Dnieper).

(4) "Zapasy dlya malorossiiskoi istorii," (Materials for Little Russian History).

Lomykovksy's first work is of real importance since, in alphabetical order, it gives an explanation of many professional terms of special objects or terms used in everyday life. Some explanations are drawn from personal experience and knowledge of village life; of special interest are the words kazus, kantselyarysty, kantselyarii, kaftany, kozaki, kolegiya malorosiis'ka, komornyk, komisary, kompromis, korovai, korona, kontush. Lazarevsky edited this work under the title "Slovar' malorusskoi stariny" (A Dictionary of Little Russian Antiquity), Kievskaya Starina, 1894, VII‑IX, and separately. This also includes a biography of the author.


M. Hrushevsky, "Razvitie ukrainskikh izuchenii v kontse XVIII i nachale XIX v.," Ukrainskii narod v ego proshlom i nastoyashchem, v. I, St. Petersburg, 1914; N. Vasylenko "K istorii malorusskoi istoriografii," Kievskaya Starina, 1894, XI‑XII; A. Lazarevsky, Zametki pro A. Chepu," Kievskaya Starina, 1890, V, 1891, I; A. Lazarevsky, "Prezhnie izyskateli malorusskoi stariny,"  p104 Kievskaya Starina, 1894, XII (about Ya. Markovych); V. Horlenko, Yuzhnorusskie ocherki i portrety, Kiev, 1898; also in Kievskaya Starina, 1893, I, (about V. Poletyka and A. Chepa); M. Berezhkov, A. Shafonsky i ego trud: Chernigovskago namestnichestva topografi­cheskoe opisanie, Nizhen, 1910; N. Storozhenko, "A. F. Shafonsky," Kievskiya universitetskiya izvestiya, 1886, No. 10; A. Lazarevsky, "Zametka pro V. Rubana," Kievskaya Starina, 1897, II; N. Grigorovich, Kantsler knyaz' A. A. Bezborod'ko, St. Petersburg, 1879‑81, 2 vols.; A. N. Neustroev, V. G. Ruban, St. Petersburg, 1896; V. L. Modzalevsky, "V. G. Ruban," Russkaya Starina, 1897, No. 8; M. Horban', " 'Zapiski o Maloi Rossii' O. Shafon­s'koho," Naukovyi Zbirnyk Istorychnoyi Sektsii VUAN za rik 1926, Kiev, 1926, pp132‑145; A. Yershov, " 'Letopisnoe Povestvovanie' O. Rigelmana i 'Kratkaya Letopis' Malyya Rossii', vydana V. Rubanom," Zapysky Nizhyn­s'koho Instytutu Narodnoyi Osvity, vol. VII, Nizhen, 1927; O. Ohloblyn "Fedir Tumansky i yoho proyekt Akademichnoyi knyharni v Hlukhovi kinstya 1770 rr.," Naukovyi Zbirnyk UVAN u SSHA, II, New York, 1953, pp106‑114.

The Author's or the Editor's Notes:

66 Member of Cossacks upper class directly under regimental colonels.

[decorative delimiter]

67 N. Petrov, "Odin iz predshestvennikov I. P. Kotlyarevskago v ukrainskoi literature, A. K. Lobysevych," Sbornik statei po slavyanovedeniyu, izdav. Akademiei Nauk, vol. I, St. Petersburg, 1904, pp57‑63. See also O. Ohloblyn, "Opanas Lobysevych (1732‑1805)," Literaturno-Naukovyi Zbirnyk, No. 3, Korigen-Kiel, 1948, pp3‑10.

[decorative delimiter]

68 V. Horlenko, "Iz istorii yuzhno-russkago obshchestva," Yuzhno-russkie ocherki i portrety, Kiev, 1898, p57.

[decorative delimiter]

69 V. Shchurat, "Zherelo zvistok Hendl'ovyka pro zaporozhtsiv," Zapysky Naukovoho Tovarystva im. Shevchenka, v. 128, Lviv, 1919.

Thayer's Note:

a Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine, s.v.

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