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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

The Roads of Mykhailo HRUSHEVSKY: Lviv, Chelm, Moscow..

4 December, 2001 - 00:00

November 25, 2001 marks 67 years since the demise of the president of the Ukrainian Central Rada and famous Ukrainian historian Mykhailo Hrushevsky. His death occurred in Kislovodsk, a spa city, where he went for a vacation from Moscow. It happened that a considerable span of his life Hrushevsky spent outside Ukraine.

Mykhailo Hrushevsky was born on September 29, 1866 in Chelm (now Poland) into the family of a high school teacher, Serhiy Fedorovych Hrushevsky, and his wife, Hlafira Zakharivna. He was baptized in the local Ivan Bohoslov Orthodox Church, a site of worship to this day. The house where the famous historian was born is still there and the 125th anniversary of his birth was marked by a memorial plaque in Ukrainian and Polish installed on the house. The ceremony was attended by representatives of Ukraine, Poland, and the United States.

Mykhailo Hrushevsky began his education in Tiflis (Tbilisi, Georgia) where he graduated from a local high school, later completing his studies in the St. Volodymyr (now Shevchenko) University in Kyiv. Hrushevsky’s titanic public and political work was carried out predominantly in Lviv and Kyiv. Coming to Lviv in 1894 at the invitation from Lviv University to head the Chair of World History (with a focus on the history of Eastern Europe, meaning Ukraine), he spent twenty years in that city which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. On coming to Lviv, Hrushevsky established close links with progressive Galician public figures, becoming actively involved in the work of the Shevchenko Scientific Society where he chaired its History and Philosophy Section. Three years later Mykhailo Hrushevsky was elected head of the Society and Editor-In-Chief of its publications.



In Lviv Hrushevsky began writing his fundamental work, History of Ukraine-Rus’. The Lviv period saw important events happening in his personal life. In 1896 Mykhailo Hrushevsky married Mariya Sylvestrivna, a teacher coming from the Voyakovsky family. Their daughter Kateryna was born in 1900. She continued her father’s scientific work after his death, becoming a renown specialist in culture, sociology, and folklore. Persecuted by the Stalin regime, she died in exile in 1943.

In 1902 Mykhailo Hrushevsky built a villa for his family. As researcher Vasyl Horyn noted, “It was not just a villa; it was a center for studying the historiography of Ukraine, the office of the scholar, university professor and public figure, the site of the day-to-day creative work of the great historian. Almost each night, his well- stocked library became the venue of tea parties during which the Lviv elite discussed the problems of the day. When World War I began, the Hrushevsky family was in Kryvorivnia from where they moved to Vienna. Not one of the Hrushevsky family ever returned to Lviv to live in their house.

Mykhailo Hrushevsky spent the last years of his life in Moscow. He had been in Moscow several times, first as a teenager with his parents, later on his frequent trips to work in the city’s archives, and on two more occasions exiled from Ukraine to Moscow by the tsarist and Soviet governments.

In 1914 Mykhailo Hrushevsky went from Vienna to Kyiv, where he was arrested and exiled to Simbirsk and then to Kazan. Finally, following a campaign by Volodymyr Vernadsky, the world famous scientist, Hrushevsky was moved to Moscow in 1916, subject to police surveillance and forbidden to engage in professional activities. The letter written by Vernadsky to Hrushevsky in 1915 (found in the archives of the Russian Academy of Sciences) mentions an appeal signed by scholars of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Moscow University to Internal Affairs Minister Khvostov requesting Hrushevsky’s transfer to Moscow. Volodymyr Vernadsky sympathized with Hrushevsky and supported him. In his letter he wrote that the sanctions imposed against Hrushevsky were senseless and impermissible.

At that time Mykhailo Hrushevsky lived in Moscow at the corner of 55 Arbat Street and 38 Dieniezhny Lane in an apartment within easy reach of the archives where he worked most of the time. Mykhailo Hrushevsky was witness tothe epoch-making developments unfolding in Russia, one of them being the February Revolution. Meanwhile, in March 1917, the Ukrainians established the Central Rada , in absentia electing Hrushevsky, the undisputed leader of the Ukrainian national movement, its president. The scholar came to Kyiv, receiving an enthusiastic welcome from the Ukrainians, with such a landmark event as the declaration of the independent Ukrainian People’s Republic taking place, followed by the republic’s eclipse, Hrushevsky’s emigration and return to Kyiv in 1924.

In 1931 through 1934 Hrushevsky was exiled to Moscow for the second time. These last years of his life were traumatic: during his short stay in Moscow in 1931, he was arrested and escorted to Kharkiv where the GPU (a forerunner of the KGB) began his interrogation, accusing Hrushevsky of complicity in the counterrevolutionary activities of the Ukrainian National Center. On the orders from Minister Genrikh Yagoda, Hrushevsky was brought back for permanent residence to Moscow where he was released and put under police surveillance. Reprisals against Hrushevsky were quick to follow, with his followers in Kyiv arrested, one of them his nephew, S. Shamrai. The scholar’s works were criticized by one and all, with KP(b)U Central Committee First Secretary Stanislav Kosior branding him a diehard leader of the Ukrainian counterrevolution. In a related move, Ukrainian Second Secretary Pavel Postyshev called Hrushevsky the leader of the Ukrainian National Center (one of about fifteen fictitious organizations made up during the period — Ed.), the latter dubbed by Postyshev a militant nationalist fascist organization. Ukraine’s Commissar of Education Volodymyr Zatonsky accused Hrushevsky of being the main theorist of bourgeois nationalism. Against the backdrop of such unfavorable odds, Mykhailo Hrushevsky continued his research, completing the tenth volume of his History of Ukraine- Rus’ and allegedly finishing an unknown eleventh volume as well. He resided in Moscow at 2-3 Pogodinskaya Street, block 4, apartment 102. The Ukrainian community in Moscow, the Cultural Center of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow have appealed to the Mayor’s Office for the permission to install a memorial plaque on that building. Currently, the issue is being considered by the Mayor’s Office.

In 2000 the Mykhailo Hrushevsky State Memorial Museum, the only one in Ukraine so far, was opened in his villa in Lviv. In September the 135th anniversary of Hrushevsky’s birth was marked by the Lviv public and guests of the city in a ceremony at his museum which was highlighted by the presentation of second volume of his letters. Independent Ukraine honors the memory and pays its respects to its outstanding representative, renowned political figure, and world famous historian Mykhailo Hrushevsky.

By Tetiana KOSTENKO, art expert Photos by the author
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