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Mykhailo Hrushevsky

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Mykhailo Hrushevsky

Mykhailo Hrushevsky, born on September, 29, 1866, in Kholm, died November 25, 1934, in Kislovodsk, North Caucasus. The most distinguished Ukrainian historian; principle organizer of Ukrainian scholarship, prominent civil and political leader, publicist and writer; member of the Shevchenko Scientific Society (NTSh), and the USSR Academy of Sciences from 1929. Hrushevsky's father, Serhii, was a Slavist and pedagogue. In 1869 the family moved to the Caucasus where Hrushevsky graduated from the classical gymnasium in Tiflis (1886). While still a gymnasium student he began to write belle lettres in Ukrainian. Hrushevsky graduated in 1890 from the Historical-Philological Faculty at Kyiv University where he was a student of V. Antonovych. He remained at Kyiv University to prepare his candidate's thesis, published as "A Survey of the History of Kyiv Land from the Death of Yaroslav to the End of the 14th Century", 1891, and then received a master's degree for the dissertation in 1894. In 1894, on the recommendation of V. Antonovych, Hrushevsky was appointed professor of the newly created chair of Ukrainian history at Lviv University.

Upon arriving in Lviv Hrushevsky became active in the NTSh. He became the director of the Historical-Philosophical Section in 1894, and in 1897 he was elected president.

In 1898, together with I. Franko and V. Hnatiuk, he founded "Literajturno-naukovyi visnyk", the most important forum for Ukrainian literature and political discussion of its time. Hrushevsky was also one of the organizers of the Ukrainian Publishing Association (1899) and the Society of Friends of Ukrainian Scholarship, Literature, and Art (1904). Hrushevsky's contribution to the development of education in Galicia deserves particular attention. Soon after arriving in Lviv he began to work towards the creation of a Ukrainian university there, beginning with the organization of popular lecture series and a summer school.

In 1898 the first volume of his monumental "History of Ukraine-Rus" was published in Lviv; by 1937 another nine volumes, covering Ukrainian history to 1658, had appeared in Lviv and Kyiv. This work was the first major synthesis of Ukrainian history ever written. In 1904 his "Survey of the History of the Ukrainian People" was published in St. Petersburg. Subsequently, versions of these popular histories appeared in German, French, English, Bulgarian, and Czech. In 1904, Hrushevsky published perhaps his most important essay, titled "The Traditional Scheme of 'Russian' History and the Problem of a Rational Ordering of the History of the Eastern Slavs". In this article Hrushevsky traced the history of Ukraine and of the Ukrainian people to the period of Kyiv Rus and argued that the history of the Ukrainian nation is distinct from that of the Russian both in its origin and in its political, economic, and cultural development.

In 1899, Hrushevsky was one of the founders of the National Democratic party, although he quit the party soon afterwards. Hrushevsky's real political activity, however, began only after the 1905 Revolution in Russia, which resulted in the easing of restrictions on Ukrainian life and the emergence of mass Ukrainian organizations and political parties. From then on Hrushevsky spent most of his time in Russian-ruled Ukraine, although he remained a professor of Lviv University until 1913.

Hrushevsky was a prolific publicist. His articles on Ukrainian and international political affairs appeared in various Ukrainian and Russian publications.

After a brief stay in St. Petersburg, Hrushevsky transferred his activities to Kyiv. In 1908 he was one of the founding members of the Society of Ukrainian Progressives, emerging as the universally acknowledged leader of the Ukrainian movement.

During the First World War, when the Russian government again clamped down on Ukrainian activities. Hrushevsky was arrested in the fall of 1914. After a two-month imprisonment in Kyiv, he was exiled to Simbirsk, then to Kazan, and finally to Moscow, where he remained under police surveillance. Despite this repression he continued his scholarly work.

Hrushevsky was released from exile after the February Revolution of 1917 and he quickly emerged as the leader of the Ukrainian national revolution. On 17 March, while still in Moscow, he was elected chairman of the Central Rada. Under his direction, this body soon became the revolutionary parliament of Ukraine. In 1917 Hrushevsky became a supporter of the newly formed Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries (UPSR), the majority party in the Central Rada. On April, 29, 1918, he was elected president of the UNR.

A coup d'etat led by P. Skoropadsky overthrew the government of the UNR. This ended Hrushevsky's involvement in government, although he continued his political activities, and his publicis-tic work. In 1919 he emigrated and increased his political-publicistic activities as a member of the Foreign Delegation of the UPSR. For the next few years he traveled widely in Western Europe trying to rally support for the Ukrainian independence movement and re-establishing scholarly contacts. His political writings of this period show his increasing reconciliation with Communist rule in Ukraine and his desire to return to Ukraine to continue his scholarly and civil work.

Hrushevsky left for Kyiv in early 1924. This action was severely criticized by most of the Ukrainian political emigres. Hrushevsky soon resumed his role as the central figure in Ukrainian scholarship. He organized a series of academic commissions to research Ukrainian history and folklore, and directed the training of new historians as the holder of the Chair of Modern Ukrainian History. He revived and edited "Ukraina" (1924-30), which became the main organ of Ukrainian studies. In 1926 Ukraine solemnly celebrated Hrushevsky's 60th birthday and the 40th anniversary of his schol-ary work.

Despite Hrushevsky's great achievements in this period, opposition to him grew steadily in official circles and among Marxist scholars. Increasingly, his historical scheme was rejected as "nationalistic", and he was criticized for not adopting the official Soviet Marxist interpretation of Ukrainian history. In 1929 these attacks increased. In March, 1931 he was exiled to Moscow and most of his students and co-workers were arrested and deported. By 1934, the school of history he had founded in Soviet Ukraine was destroyed.

Still, Hrushevsky remained a productive scholar in his last years, working mostly on Ukrainian historiography of the 17th and 18th centuries; his last two articles were published in periodicals of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1932 and 1934. Eventually, the difficult conditions of life in semi-freedom abroad and the further persecutions led to a deterioration of Hrushevsky's health. He died in Kislovodsk, where he had gone for medical treatment, and was buried in Kyiv in the Baikove cemetery.

Mykhailo Drahomanov   Mykola Lysenko