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Chapter 6

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

Ukraine under the Soviets
by Clarence Manning

published by
Bookman Associates
New York,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 8

 p73  Chapter Seven

The Scholar­ly Revival

The third great field of development was in the realm of study and research, especially in such fields as concerned Ukraine, its history and culture. This was connected especially with the foundation and development of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and its subordinate institutions.

Ukrainian studies had developed during the nineteenth century and from the very beginning they had played a great part in the arousing of the national consciousness. While the scholars under the tsars were not allowed to touch the fundamental problems in the relation of Moscow and Ukraine and their results, of necessity, were compelled to stress the official line of the tsarist government as to the desire of the Ukrainian people to lose their identity in the Russian Empire, still studies in folklore and in folk-songs could not fail to bring home the great differences in the mentality and aspirations of the two peoples. Ethnography could not fail to show that the customs and the manners, the architecture and the decorations differed in Ukraine from the Great Russian territory and the scholars, if they were sincere and careful, could not fail to notice it and to publicize it.

As soon as the Ukrainian National Republic was set up, the situation changed, for now there was a Ukrainian regime which was not afraid to speak out. There began, despite the hardships and the destruction of the civil war, a new flood of publications in all these fields. By 1918, under the regime of Hetman Skoropadsky, plans were made for the establishment of an Academy of Sciences, its statutes were drawn up, and a few members selected as a nucleus.

 p74  The changing fortunes of the war compelled the postponement of its realization but the work was not really lost. Soon after the definite formation of the Ukrainian Soviet government, the work was resumed, with those men who had survived leading in the work.

Despite some slight interference of the Soviet authorities, who demanded that history should be treated along the lines of Marxo-Leninism, the Academy succeeded in remaining almost completely autonomous. The period of the New Economic Policy, which seemed to restore the financial position of the country and the more peaceful life, provided a fairly favorable atmosphere. As a result the Academy flourished and in 1924, it was even able to invite Prof. Mykhaylo Hrushevsky, the recognized dean of Ukrainian historical studies, to return to Ukraine and take a position in the Academy.

Hrushevsky accepted the invitation and on his return to Kiev, he renewed the work of the old Ukrainian Scientific Society which had been united with the Academy. As head of the Historical Section, he fostered the creation of a large number of commissions in various branches of study and from 1924 to 1930 he edited a journal Ukraine which speedily became the outstanding journal in the field of historical and cultural studies. There was no period of Ukrainian history, no section of Ukrainian archaeology, art, and ethnography which was not assigned to some commission or group in the Academy.

At the same time the Academy was put in charge of most of the libraries, collections and resources of the older universities on Ukrainian territory. This had its good and its bad sides. It materially increased the resources of the Academy and the material at its disposal. On the bad side, it rendered more difficult the position of the younger scholars who were seeking to start upon a career.

The various Soviet Commissars of Education had made these changes with the idea of securing large numbers of half-trained men and women who would occupy positions in the new state and take  p75 the place of the old bureaucrats. They therefore turned the universities into technical schools of a rather inferior character, unlike the situation in Russia, where despite all the changes there was still preserved the fiction of university teaching and research. It was made clear that the teachers were not supposed to busy themselves with more advanced subjects for these were now the province of the Academy. Still there was a steady stream of young people into its influence and for several years it could well be said that there had never been a time when Ukrainian scholar­ship was so free and untrammeled.

The Academy in Kiev was, of course, the highest organ of scientific studies but it was not isolated, for some of the academicians, like Dmytro Bahaly, set up in Kharkiv a Chair of Scientific Research like an institute and Slabchenko did the same in Odesa. The example of these were followed in smaller cities and similar research centres were opened in Poltava, Chernihiv, Nizhin, Dnipropetrovsk, Kamyanets Podilsky, Vinnytsya, Zhytomir, Mykolayiv and Luhansk.

In the early years there was a constant effort to establish closer relations with the Shevchenko Scientific Society and the other scholar­ly institutions in Western Ukraine, and for some years there was an active interchange of views between the scholars of the two sections. Several outstanding Western Ukrainians were elected to member­ship in the Kiev Academy and the scholars went back and forth across the boundary with considerable freedom and cooperated in the development of Ukrainian studies.

In the field of history and of economics, it was necessary for the scholars to pay some slight attention to the Marxo-Leninist ideas. They could not too openly contradict them but it was usually possible, by the addition of a few official quotations, to speak quite plainly with regard for scientific truth and accuracy.

Even these restrictions were far laxer when it came to studies of language and material culture. The All‑Ukrainian Archaeological Society and the Society for the Preservation of the Antiquities of Ukraine sent out expeditions to all parts of the country.

 p76  The studies for the enrichment of the language developed two opposing tendencies. There was one group, including Evhen Tymchenko and Olena Kurylo, which championed a puristic development. They rested their studies on the older forms and the peasant dialects and sought to remove from the language features which they felt had been erroneously added by the literary men and the colloquialisms of the day. The opposing school, including Ol. Synyavsky and many of the younger men, took the opposite attitude and welcomed the innovations which had been introduced into literature, especially from Western Europe. The discussions revealed the wealth and the variety of the literary resources of Ukrainian and, on the whole, broadened the appreciation of its independent character, even though in their use of terminology many of their words failed to come into common usage owing to the position of scientific Russian.

At the same time the scholars endeavored to coordinate the orthography of the language in the east and in the west, for previously there had been considerable variation in the Galician and Russian Ukrainian. Thus the eastern, following the Russian tradition, did not separate g and h and there were other differences, especially in the transliteration of European names into the Cyrillic.

To carry this work through there was held in 1927 a special conference in Kharkiv. Scholars were invited from all parts of the Ukrainian world, and after lengthy discussions there was worked out a standard system which represented the general consensus of scholar­ly opinion and opened a new period in the writing of the language.

At the same time there were published over thirty technical dictionaries and a group of academicians including A. Krymsky, V. Hantsov, K. Holoskevych, M. Hrinchenko and S. Yefremiv, began work on against Ukrainian dictionary, six volumes of which, from A to P, were published. This was intended to be a general dictionary of the language and to represent all regions where Ukrainian was used, without stressing either archaism or reformation.

 p77  The development during these years was not only in the humanities but it extended to all fields of science, especially those that had to do with the study of the Ukrainian resources and agriculture. Young geologists, biologists, etc., found convenient opportunities for the use of their talents, and their studies revealed new and often unsuspected potentialities in the country.

All this work, which was under the Commissariat of Education, was treated kindly by the former Borotbisty and Ukapisty who were in control of the Commissariat. At times they grumbled that more was not being done in the field and under the principles of Marxo-Leninism, but they did not use their power to suppress or hinder the work. In a sense they looked at it with a certain lack of comprehension and criticism. It is not too much to say that this intellectual and scholar­ly activity proceeded outside the range of Communist interests and was allowed far more free scope than was possible in the case of the writers or the administration.

The only answer which the more rigid Communists found was the establishment of a large chain of Marxo-Leninist Institutes which were ostensibly devoted to the study of the philosophy of Communism and to the working out of Communist sciences on the same pattern as those in Moscow. These reflected the actual state of Communist thinking and were really schools for propaganda and not for scientific study in any sense of the word. They were liberally supported and they were frequently able to secure their pick of the more talented and ambitious scholars who were willing to rise through the established channels of Communism, rather than by the more exacting service of true knowledge.

It was not until 1927 that Skrypnyk, with all of his Ukrainian patriotism, hearkened to the Communist protests that there were no Communists in the Academy of Sciences and he insisted that a certain number of prominent Communists should be admitted. It was, of course, done but not without grumbling, for the members of the Academy had been very careful as to the type of man whom they elected and as to his scholar­ly abilities and reputation. They felt, deservedly, that the addition of these new members would lower the standards of the Academy but there was no way out.

 p78  This was to be the signal for the ending of the old system of relatively free thought. It was the first step in the approaching changes that were to wreak havoc on every form of Ukrainian life and bring to an untimely end the rapidly developing Ukrainian Renaissance.

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