- Dukhnovych, Aleksander
- Duts'-Faifer, Olena / Дуць-Файфер, Олена
- Fedynyshynets’, Volodymyr
- Kalynych, Ivan
- Khoma, Vasyl’
- Kostel’nik, Havriil, Gabor
- Kseniak, Mykolai / Ксеняк, Миколай
- Kubek, Emilij A.
- Literature, Early manuscripts
- Mal'tsovs'ka, Mariia / Мальцовська, Марія
- Papharhaji, Ahneta Buchko
- Papharhai, Diura / Дюра Папгаргаї
- Pavlovszky, Maria
- Pavlovych, Aleksander
- Petrovai, Vasyl’ Ben’ko/Petrovaj, Vasil Benko
- Petrovtsii, Ivan
- Rusinko, Elaine
- Segedy-Falts, Liubka
- Sukhyi, Shtefan / Сухый, Штефан
- Trokhanovskii, Petro/Trochanowski, Piotr
Literature. The artistic literature of the Rusyns reflects the diverse historical, political, and linguistic circumstances under which it developed. Sharing its common beginnings in religious texts dating from the sixteenth century, Rusyn literary development gradually assumed distinct patterns along the northern (*Lemko Region) and southern (*Subcarpathian Rus’ and the *Presov Region) slopes of the Carpathians. In the *Vojvodina, Rusyn literature followed its own path from the end of the nineteenth century. Despite its many styles and linguistic forms, Rusyn literature embodies a consistent historical tradition that has stressed adaptation and survival. Rusyn writers have fashioned a unique national narrative which, on the one hand, has affirmed and kept faith with native values, while on the other it has accentuated stratagems of survival and compromise with surrounding cultures.
Subcarpathian Rus’ and the Presov Region
The earliest extant Subcarpathian manuscripts (see also Literature, Early manuscripts), which date from the fourteenth century, are copies of medieval Kievan texts written in *Church Slavonic. However, in Rusyn versions of religious literature there is evidence of a distinct national character. The oldest popular literary document, the Gerlakhovskii tolkovyi Apostol (The Gerlachov Great Epistle), contains the Church Slavonic texts of epistles, accompanied by didactic interpretations written in the Subcarpathian vernacular. This linguistic compromise reflected the need to preserve the dignity of Church Slavonic at the same time that it recognized the benefits of adapting the texts to the linguistic needs of the local audience. Subcarpathian scribes freely modified the original texts, adding material from various sources, including folklore, and using a language rich in local dialectalisms and popular sayings. In didactic miscellanies (sbornyky), there appeared alongside the words of the Holy Fathers of the Church secular tales and even superstitious materials, which asserted the local tradition within the authoritative religious culture. Such stylistic heterogeneity is also apparent in the sixteenth-century anti-Uniate polemics of Mykhail *Orosvygovs’kyi-Andrella of Orosvyhiv. In his polemical tracts Andrella blends languages and employs discursive strategies of intertextuality, allusion, and linguistic play that reflect a creative use of language variance. His multiform texts, which straddle the borders of religions and languages, illustrate the realities of Rusyn life of the time.
The written poetry (virshi) and spiritual songs of anonymous authors collected in manuscript songbooks from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries provide another indication of the syncretism in Rusyn literature that resulted from intersecting influences. Works such as “The Song of Terrible Years” and “The Icon of Klokochevo” lament the destruction of the land and the suffering of the people during the anti-Habsburg wars and uprisings of the seventeenth century. These songs preserve indigenous oral forms, such as the kolomyika structure, within the imported tradition of bookish verse. The result is a unique national expression, in which Rusyn authors attempt to find a meaningful identity within an oppressive and unstable world by turning images of powerlessness into endurance and social oppression into moral virtue. The “Song about Rusyns” and the “Song about Evil Landlords,” among others, establish a Rusyn self-image that is stoic, rather than passive, in which Rusyn resistance emerges as ironic cynicism.
As Rusyns from Subcarpathia began to attend Western institutions of higher education (in Trnava, Vienna, Budapest) during the second half of the eighteenth century, they were inevitably exposed to assimilationist pressures from the dominant Roman Catholic culture of Hungary and Austria. If a cultural representative from Subcarpathian Rus’ or the Presov Region wished to articulate his experience in literary form, it usually had to be within the terms established by the dominant discourse. Consequently, Subcarpathian writers adapted their own literary expression to established European literary norms. Rusyn historians and grammarians, for example, produced works in Latin (the recognized language of European scholarship and until 1844 the official language of the Hungarian kingdom) or in Hungarian. Thus, when he died in 1849, Vasyl’ *Dovhovych left an unpublished manuscript of 190 poems, of which 131 were in Latin, 41 were in Hungarian, and 18 were in Rusyn vernacular.
Nevertheless, most of the churchmen who founded a written Rusyn literature turned for inspiration not to Latin-Magyar culture, but rather to Russian literature and the Church Slavonic language. At the outset of the nineteenth century, Andrii *Val’kovs’kyi and Aleksander Baizam wrote formal odes in Church Slavonic addressed to the Greek Catholic Rusyn bishop Andrii *Bachyns’kyi. Their praises for the bishop’s promotion of the Rus’ spirit were filled with overt references to the language and culture of Russia. In 1804 Hryhorii *Tarkovych, later to become the first Greek Catholic bishop of Presov, addressed celebratory verses to Joseph, the Palatine of Hungary. What may appear on the surface to be an obsequious imitation of Hungarian and Russian cultural authority is, by postmodern reading strategies, a subversive discourse that expresses political pragmatism and contains the seeds of cultural resistance. While imitation was a means of gaining a voice for the oppressed Rusyn culture, it did little to promote the development of a local, national culture.
The beginning of a truly Rusyn literature came with the national awakening of the mid-nineteenth century. Aleksander *Dukhnovych, “the national awakener of the Carpatho-Rusyns,” put literature firmly in the service of the national cause as it directly addressed the Rusyn people about the realities of their existence. Dukhnovych was the author of the first primer for Rusyns, Knyzhytsia chytal’naia dlia nachynaiushchykh (1847), which contained a long didactic poem in the Rusyn vernacular. Addressed to children, the poem challenges negative stereotypes while advocating educational enlightenment and national regeneration. Also included in the Knyzhytsia is Dukhnovych’s lyrical poem “Zhizn’ Rusyna” (Life of a Rusyn), which extols earthy reality in the spirit of romanticism and reveals a deep sympathy for the innate nobility of the downtrodden and unappreciated Rusyn peasant. Dukhnovych’s primer, his poem “Life of a Rusyn,” and his play Virtue is More Important than Riches (1850), with its depiction of Rusyn vices, together constitute his creative formulation of the Rusyn national character. He also celebrated Rusyn national feeling in the poem “Vruchanie” (Dedication), which subsequently became an *anthem, sung by Rusyns wherever they live.
Dukhnovych was the motivating force behind the first organized Rusyn literary circle, the *Presov Literary Society. Before it was banned by the government, the society published 12 books and the first Rusyn literary *anthology, Pozdravlenie Rusynov (Greetings to the Rusyns). The anthology, which appeared three times (1850, 1851, 1852), presented the work of 20 local authors, whose writings represented the first deliberate artistic efforts of a people in the process of constructing a cultural tradition and a national identity. The contents of the anthologies are diverse in style and language, and include solemn odes in lofty Church Slavonic as well as folk lyrics in the local vernacular. The themes reflect those popular traits of romanticism that dovetail with Dukhnovych’s national goals: an interest in history and prehistory; the expression of edifying emotions ranging from patriotism to religious sentiment; the evocation of the native landscape as a living entity; a romantic idealization of the people; and an overall celebration of freedom. Finally, the anthologies outlined a broad subversive stance that would become the basic stance of Rusyn literature for the remainder of the nineteenth century; that is, a Slavophile identification and affiliation with Russian culture which would serve as antidotes to the cultural denigration Rusyns were to suffer from an increasingly nationalist Magyar center.
The basic challenge to the founders of Rusyn literature at this stage in its development was to assert and maintain a unique national identity, while still claiming an affiliation with the greater Slavic cultural world and while attempting to secure a position for Rusyn culture within a Hungarian political context. Rusyn literature from its foundation thus reflected seemingly contradictory aims and a coexistence of diverse styles and languages. The three literary anthologies of the Presov Literary Society demonstrate the existence at mid-century of two parallel streams in Rusyn literature, one striving toward the expression of universal themes on the sophisticated level of established European culture, the other looking to more local sources of inspiration and voicing indigenous concerns in a more popular idiom. One of the authors represented in the anthologies, Aleksander *Pavlovych, was to become second only to Dukhnovych as a poet of his people. His verses included in the anthologies sought to identify the Rusyn spirit in history and folklore at the same time that he hoped to place it in the broader context of *pan-Slavic solidarity. Pavlovych’s other poems, written in the Rusyn vernacular, dealt directly with social conditions and articulated the experiences of a people suffering under cultural and political domination.
Before the initiatives of Dukhnovych and Pavlovych could flourish a new period of oppression ensued, following the implementation of government-inspired denationalization and magyarization programs after 1867. The Hungarian government’s policy provoked among some cultural activists subversive strategies that took the form of affiliation with the fraternal culture of Russia. Hence, Subcarpathian literature of the second half of the nineteenth century was in both theme and language characterized by resistance to magayarization. Most Subcarpathian writers chose to use a literary language based on Russian, rather than any of their own Subcarpathian dialects, believing that the use of the language of the powerful empire to the east would help keep alive cultural specificity and serve as a defense against national assimilation. The Russian-based literary language used by Rusyn writers came to be known as the “traditional Carpatho-Rusyn language.” It contained a range of transitional forms, with deviations in grammar and spelling as well as admixtures of dialectalisms and neighboring languages. Because of its inconsistencies, it was disparaged by critics as a macaronic jargon (*iazychiie). While the iazychiie did not permit writers to create an authentic Rusyn literature that would satisfy nineteenth-century purist standards, modern linguistic and literary theories suggest reading strategies that recognize and appreciate the creative potential of intersecting languages. Put another way, the very essence of Rusyn literature lies in its ability to straddle discourses.
The major writers honored as the second generation of Rusyn “awakeners” included Aleksander *Mytrak, Anatolii *Kralyts’kyi, Ivan *Sil’vai, Ievhenii *Fentsyk, and Iulii *Stavrovs’kyi-Popradov. Like Dukhnovych and Pavlovych, all were Greek Catholic priests who favored an emotional, didactic lyricism, as well as some prose realism. Still struggling to create a national identity and to achieve social development and educational progress, Rusyn literature continued to stress social over aesthetic values. Its major themes—Carpathian nature, Rusyn history, social injustice, love for the Rusyn people, and indignation directed at the denationalized and increasingly magyarized intelligentsia—are expressed in somber tones that reflect the oppressive and pessimistic political atmosphere of the time. By the turn of the twentieth century a group of younger writers, including Avhustyn *Voloshyn, Iurii *Zhatkovych, and Ivan Vas’ko, began to treat themes from Subcarpathian village life in their native dialects.
After Subcarpathian Rus’ became a part of Czechoslovakia in 1919 Rusyn literature enjoyed a renaissance. For the subsequent two decades, the Rusyn intelligentsia was for the first time left to work out its own cultural identity in relative freedom. The effects of centuries of colonial domination, however, quickly became apparent in the internal disputes over the appropriate cultural and national orientation. *Russophiles, *Rusynophiles, and *Ukrainophiles debated issues of national identity and language as they sought to find the best defense against denationalization. While all sides looked to local tradition and expressed a sense of Rusyn patriotism, the body of literature they produced was diverse in language and content. Vasyl’ *Grendzha-Dons’kyi was the first Subcarpathian author to use literary Ukrainian. His lyric poetry and novels of social protest celebrated the heroic Rusyn past and lamented the misery of the still downtrodden Rusyn people. Iulii *Borshosh-Kum”iats’kyi and Sevastiian *Sabol (pseud. Zoreslav) also believed that Rusyns were part of the Ukrainian nationality and that, therefore, they could best survive by adapting to Ukrainian culture. By contrast, Russophile poets such as Andrii *Karabelesh, Mykhail *Popovych, Vasyl’ *Dobosh, and Andrii *Patrus-Karpats’kyi sought psychological security for the Rusyn people by stressing their cultural connection to Russia. Using literary Russian, these authors expressed similar themes and emotions as the Ukrainophiles but appealed to the concept of a common-Russian (obshcherusskii) culture for identification and support. Russian-language authors were most prolific after the Hungarian regime returned to Subcarpathian Rus’ during World War II. During those years writers such as Emilian Balets’kyi, Ivan *Kercha, Iurii *Hoida, Vasylii *Sochka-Borzhavyn, and Dymytrii *Vakarov invoked the eastward-looking Slavophile sentiments of earlier Rusyn writers and opposed Ukrainophile tendencies with appeals to Slavic brotherhood.
After the establishment of the Soviet regime in Subcarpathian Rus’ (renamed the Transcarpathian oblast’) in 1945, Ukrainian was declared the only acceptable literary language and many Russian-language Rusyn writers adopted the new linguistic medium. During the Stalinist years, and again in the 1970s, Subcarpathian writers who tried to adapt to the obligatory optimism required by Socialist Realism overlaid their traditional themes with Soviet cliches. All national feeling and loyalties were replaced by Communist ideals. In their historic novels and short stories Fedor *Potushniak, Mykhailo *Tomchanii, and Ivan *Chendei rewrote the Rusyn past and created a reality consistent with the imposed political ideology. Ideological injunctions were in the long run more damaging to the integrity of Rusyn literature than any restrictions on language.
In the Presov Region, which remained part of Czechoslovakia, Fedor *Lazoryk and Ivan *Matsyns’kyi, who also switched from Russian to Ukrainian, were among the first poets to relate the Rusyn experience of the post-war years. In prose, Vasyl’ *Zozuliak, Fedor Ivanchov, Mykhailo *Shmaida, and others described the local problems of the Presov Region Rusyns, who after 1948 were experiencing collectivization and forced change from a Russian to a Ukrainian national orientation. A younger generation of prose writers, such as Vasyl’ Datsei, Stepan *Hostyniak, and Mykhailo Drobniak, used Ukrainian consistently to treat subject matter from everyday life with some satire and psychological realism. Only a few authors, mostly amateur writers living in the countryside (Anna *Halchak, Mikolai Hvozda, Ivan Kyndia, Iurko Kolynchak, Andrii Tsaptsara, Ivan Zhak) were allowed to publish in their native Rusyn dialect lyrical poetry and stories that dealt with nature, village life, traditions, and national consciousness in the Presov Region.
When the Communist regimes fell throughout central Europe and the Soviet Union after 1989, Rusyn writers responded quickly. Many who had previously made a career using Ukrainian now turned to some form of the Rusyn language and applied their talent and expertise to rejuvenating a Rusyn national identity. In the Presov Region, where a Rusyn literary language was codified in 1995, sophisticated prose on Rusyn themes is being written by Mariia *Mal’tsovs’ka. In addition to short stories, Shtefan *Sukhyi writes poetry with a postmodern flavor, ranging in theme from traditionally poetic subjects to specifically national topics, anecdotes, and comic commentary on modern life. Sukhyi’s poetry achieves a balance between the local and the universal, yet it is imbued with a Rusyn spirit. In Subcarpathian Rus’ (Transcarpathia), the new Rusyn literature is still characterized by linguistic diversity. Ivan *Petrovtsii writes poetry in a specific dialectical version of Rusyn that deals provocatively with nationality issues and Rusyn relations with Ukraine. Vasylii Sochka-Borzhavyn produces lyrical verse in both Russian and Rusyn, while Volodymyr *Fedynyshynets’ writes nationally conscious poetry in literary Ukrainian and more recently in Rusyn. Like their predecessors, contemporary writers continue the Rusyn literary tradition of hybridity as they adapt to current linguistic and political conditions.
Bibliography: Petr Feerchak, Ocherk literaturnago dvizheniia ugorskikh russkikh (Odessa, 1888); Volodymyr Birchak, Literaturni stremlinnia Pidkarpats’koi Rusy, 2nd rev. ed. (Uzhhorod, 1937; repr., 1993); Evmenii Sabov, Ocherk literaturnoi dieiatel’nosti i obrazovaniia karpatorossov (Uzhhorod, 1925); F.F. Aristov, Literaturnoe razvitie Podkarpatskoi (Ugorskoi) Rusi (Moscow 1928/1995); Evgenii Nedziel’skii, Ocherk karpatorusskoi literatury (Uzhhorod, 1932); Antonin Hartl, “Pisemnictvi podkarpatskych Rusinu,” in Ceskoslovenska vlastiveda, Vol. VII: Pisemnictvi (Prague, 1933), pp. 273-290; [Stepan Dobosh], Ystoriia podkarpatorus’koi lyteratury (Uzhhorod, 1942); Oleg Grabar, Poeziia Zakarpat’ia 1939-1944 (Bratislava, 1957); Iurii Baleha, Literatura Zakarpattia dvadtsiatykh— trydtsiatykh rokiv XX stolittia (Kiev, 1962); Oleksa V. Myshanych, Literatura Zakarpattia XVII-XVIII stolit’ (Kiev, 1964); Vasyl’ L. Mykytas’, Davnia literatura Zakarpattia (L’viv, 1968); Vasyl’ Mykytas’, Haluzka mohutn’oho dereva (Uzhhorod, 1971); Vasyl’ Mykytas’, Z nochi probyvalysia . . . (Uzhhorod, 1977); Josef Sirka, The Development of Ukrainian Literature in Czechoslovakia 1945-1975 (Frankfurt-am-Main, Bern, and Las Vegas, 1978); Liubytsia Babota, Zakarpatoukrains’ka proza druhoi polovyny XIX stolittia (Bratislava and Presov, 1994); Vasyl’ Khoma, Rozvytok rusyns’koi poezii v Slovachchyni vid 20-kh do 90-kh rokiv XX stolittia (Bratislava, 2000).
Literary developments among Rusyns living in the Lemko Region north of the Carpathian Mountains can be divided into four basic periods. The first consists of so-called old literature and includes, for the most part, original and translated religious texts, legal and related documents, religious and lyrical poems based on folk tradition, historical epics, and transcriptions of oral folklore.
The oldest surviving examples of religious manuscripts date from the beginning of the sixteenth century. At that time there existed in Sanok and Odrzechowa a “circle of scribes,” who copied material for use in Lemko parishes. Among the surviving manuscripts, all from the sixteenth century, are: the Ievangeliia (Gospel, 1542) from Szlachtowa; the Apostol (Epistles) from Wojkowa; the Ievanheliia (Gospel) from Krynica; the Uchytel’na Ievanheliia (Interpretive Gospel) from Odrzechowa; the Liturgikon (Liturgy) from Kostarowce; and the Izbornik (Miscellany) from Bonarowka.
Particularly interesting are the “interpretive” Slavonic gospel texts (postillas). Intended for popular education, the postillas were supplemented by didactic explanations in the vernacular language that provided an understanding of Christianity in a simple and often apocryphal, narrative form. They also contain ecclesiastically appropriate tales based on oral folk tradition. Some of these texts date from the sixteenth century, although most survive from the seventeenth century, including the Ievanheliia of Shtefan of Rychwald (1666) and the Ievanheliia of Timothy of Wysoczany (1635). The impact of the Protestant Reformation, with its emphasis on translations of religious and other writings into vernacular languages, encouraged Lemko translations not only of interpretive Gospels but also of other genres. Particularly noteworthy was the activity of the eighteenth-century priest Ioann *Pryslopskii, from Kaminna, who translated into Lemko vernacular (together with his own explanatory notes) the Psalms of David (Psaltyr), a large portion of the Magnum speculum exemplorum (The Great Mirror), excerpts from the life of St. Patrick of Ireland, and—according to some scholars—even the entire Gospel. From his pen came as well several church books—the Bohohlasnyk, Liturgikon, and Irmologion—for use in the Kamianna parish. Aside from Pryslopskii’s translations, other examples of religious literature intended for Lemkos from this period are the acrostics of Shtefan Krynytskii (second half of the 17th century) and the Sbornik dukhovnykh stykhov y pisnei (Collection of Religious Verses and Songs, mid-18th century), which also included secular historical and love songs.
Old secular literature from the Lemko Region can be said to begin with the Latin-language writings by the renowned humanist Pavel/Pawel from Krosno (ca. 1470-1517). Although composed in an entirely Polish cultural sphere, the origins of the author and his very self-designation, Paulus Ruthenus (Paul the Ruthenian), justify placing him within the context of Lemko creative literature. Other examples of Latin poetry modeled on Roman classical literature are found among Lemko authors even as late as the first half of the nineteenth century (for example, the poetry of Teodor Kuryllo).
On the other hand, the local Rusyn vernacular was also being used. One example is a unique document, Akty sela Odrechowy (Records from the Village of Odrzechowa, 1549), which provides a good insight into local life and village self-government. The sixteenth century witnessed as well the first examples of Lemko-Rusyn translations from secular, in particular Polish, literature. The famous Chronicle (1551) of Marcin Bielski appeared in a Lemko-Rusyn translation under the title Kosmohrafiia, opysanie vseho svita (The Cosmos, or a Description of the Entire World, 1584), while during the first half of the eighteenth century there appeared the Ystorie rozmayte z Rymskykh y tezh ynshykh avtorov korotko zebrane. The latter was a Lemko-Rusyn translation based, in turn, on a Polish translation of the well-known medieval work, the Gesta Romanorum. Original Rusyn-language verses by anonymous authors are recorded in the margins of seventeenth-century minei (collections of religious texts for feast days). These verses deal with historical and religious themes as well as numerous scenes from everyday life.
The second period in the evolution of Lemko literature begins sometime in the mid-nineteenth century and is closely connected to the national awakenings that were taking place at the time among all the peoples of central and eastern Europe. This period also heralded a new stage in the history of the Lemko Region, which began to be considered a distinct dialectological and ethnographic as well as cultural and national entity. One of the chief aspects of Lemko literary life at this time was its close ties with centers in eastern Galicia, both in terms of literary form and access to publishing in *Old Ruthenian and *Russophile-oriented publishing houses. The dominant language used in Lemko literature was the so-called *iazychiie (Russian with Church Slavonic and local vernacular influences) written in the etymological alphabet that included the hard sign ъ and the letter jat—?.
There were also efforts to introduce vernacular Lemko as a literary language, an idea proposed by Matvii *Astriab in his essay, “Kol’ka slov o lemkovskoi besidi” (1871). Such a view reflected an increasing tendency toward formulating a clearer idea of a distinct Carpathian homeland, although within the context of a East Slavic/common Russian (obshcherusskii) patriotic framework. This understanding was especially noticeable in descriptive prose works that elaborated on the particularities, customs, and mentalite of the local inhabitants, which, in turn, had a decisive impact on the formulation of a Lemko self-image. Memoirs represented yet another example in which the local geographic and cultural situation was emphasized. No less important were belletristic works in which the setting as well as heroic characters and their exploits were situated within a Lemko or Carpathian landscape.
The most important genre at the time was, in fact, belletristic prose, including tales, short stories, novellas, and in rare cases, novels. Historical prose was especially popular. In particular, the epic tales of Vladymir *Khyliak were to mark a full flowering of the narrative form, as in his Shybenychnyi verkh (1877-78), Russkaia dolia (1880), Pol’skii patriot (1872), and his more than one hundred vignettes from the life of the intelligentsia and the rural folk of the “poverty-stricken Lemko Region.” Another talented prose writer was Petro *Polianskii, whose two-volume collection, Karpatskii novelly (1888), was translated into German and Italian. Perhaps the most important practitioner of historical prose was Vasylii *Chernetskii.
Poetry, on the other hand, did not achieve any noticeable advances during this second period. Those writers who did compose verses, such as Modest *Humetskii, Amvrosii Polianskii, Henryk Polianskii, and Hryhorii *Hanuliak, seemed to do so only as an afterthought to other literary activity.
Drama was generally dominated by didactic plays intended for amateur stages and village audiences. There were, however, a few more ambitious efforts inspired by romantic drama of a historical-philosophical and religious character. In particular, satirical and didactic-educational works occupied a significant place in the Lemko literature of this second period. Many were written in a journalistic style and published in East Galician journals and other serial publications. It was not until 1911, however, that the first specifically Lemko publication appeared. This was the bi-weekly and later weekly newspaper *Lemko, which allowed for the existence of a new creative context and a marked the beginning of the use of Lemko Rusyn vernacular as a literary language. This trend was to continue during the following period.
The third period in Lemko literary history coincides with the interwar years of the twentieth century. This was a time of emancipatory efforts toward Lemko self-identity, in literature mirrored best in the works of Ivan *Rusenko and Dymytrii *Vyslotskii (pseud. Van’o Hunianka). As the author of deeply patriotic and inspirational verses, Rusenko inherited the mantle of Vladymir Khyliak. Imbued with a fervent love of his native homeland, Rusenko was to become the new national awakener. In contrast to Khyliak, Rusenko’s homeland was not the larger Rus’ of all the East Slavs, but rather one that coincided only with the Lemko Region, or by extension *Carpathian Rus’ “from Uzhhorod [in the east] to Szczawnica [in the west, near Nowy Sacz]”—where, as he said, “the people have been re-born.”
Vyslotskii-Hunianka, a contributor to the pre-World War I newspaper Lemko and later the spiritual father of the Lemko immigration in North America, is best remembered for his service on behalf of Lemko journalism. He also wrote engaging plays and short stories in a realistic and satirical style about Lemko life. Both Rusenko and Vyslotskii-Hunianka, as well as other activists and writers with whom they cooperated (Metodii *Trokhanovskii, Ioann *Polianskii, Teofil’ *Kuryllo), created a distinct Lemko orientation in the region’s literary evolution. Moreover, their literary and editorial work provided a solid foundation for the subsequent standardization of a contemporary literary language for Lemkos.
The interwar period also witnessed the struggle to introduce a Ukrainian national identity among the Lemkos. This led to the development of Ukrainian-language propagandistic literature directed specifically at Lemkos. Some Ukrainophile authors, including the editors of the L’viv-based bi-weekly newspaper *Nash Lemko—established to counteract the official organ of the Lemko Association/Lemko-Soiuz, Lemko, that appeared in the Lemko Region—were themselves of Lemko origin, while others were non-Lemkos who wrote propagandistic historical prose works and contemporary short stories specifically for Lemko audiences. It was also during the interwar period that the short-lived poetic talent of the greatest Lemko lyricist, Bohdan Ihor *Antonych, exploded onto the scene: through his unique imagery and pantheistic vision Antonych was able to immortalize his native Lemko Region far beyond its borders. His poetry was far removed from the entire range of Lemko literature, which at the time remained basically didactic and nationally committed in tone.
The fourth and most recent period in the development of Lemko literature is represented by works from the post-deportation (1945-1947) era, whether among Lemkos resettled in Ukraine or those scattered throughout Poland. This period is characterized by the predominance of poetry that is marked by a distinct evolution in both form and concept. The first stage in this evolution saw the dominance of epic and lyrical forms that were closely tied to folk poetry and that described the supposedly happy existence in the past in which Lemkos had led in their native mountainous homeland. Since in these early postwar years it was possible only to publish in the Lemko section (*“Lemkivska storinka”) of Poland’s Ukrainian-language newspaper, Nashe slovo, Lemko literary works were frequently propagandistic in nature. Iakov Dudra, Mykola Buriak, and Ivan Horoshchak typified such literary production. In contrast to this folk literary orientation is the evolution of lyricism which, since the early 1970s, has been based on sophisticated contemporary poetic form. The essence of such verse is found in expressions of longing and sorrow for the lost Carpathian homeland. Among its best practitioners are Ivan *Zhelem, Ivan *Holovchak, and Melanii Sobyn.
It was in the early 1980s, however, that Lemko literature experienced a decisive renaissance. At this time the decline of Communist rule and the possibilities for free expression began to unfold in Poland. The result since then has been the growth of Lemko self-expression characterized by a struggle for survival and the preservation of traditional Lemko values. The goal is not simply to preserve Lemko values for their own sake, but to adapt them to contemporary conditions on the basis of equality with the values of other peoples among whom Lemkos live. The present-day poets, like their predecessors, have been very active in the civic and cultural life of the Lemko Region. Not surprisingly, because of their deportation and the extensive destruction and decline of their homeland since World War II, tragedy is the dominant motif in a poetic world filled with strong emotions. Using contemporary free-verse, which at times is also translated into Polish, Lemko poets invite their readers to become engaged in the writer’s world of hopes and desires. The leading practitioners of such poetry are Petro *Trokhanovskii-Murianka, Pavel *Stefanovskii, Volodyslav *Hraban, Stefaniia *Trokhanovska, and Olena *Duts’-Faifer. By contrast, contemporary Lemko prose and drama are much less developed, and what does exist is rather traditional in style: either short prose works (usually humorous tales), or plays filled with descriptions of Lemko life.
Regardless of period, Lemko literature has from earliest times to the present been characterized by a high degree of civic and patriotic engagement which has varied only slightly in approach from period to period. As a result, writers have not only been creators of literature but at the same time have functioned as spiritual leaders for their people. While in the early periods most writers were priests, since World War I they have come primarily from the secular intelligentsia. Throughout all periods, literature has fulfilled an important integrating patriotic function in Lemko society.
Bibliography: Ivan Ohiienko, “Psaltyr polovyny XVIII st. v lemkivs’kym perekladi,” Zapysky Naukovoho tovarystva im. Shevchenka, XC (L’viv, 1911), pp. 197-240; Teofil Kuryllo, Korotkyi perehliad pysatelei y zhurnalystov na Lemkovshchyni (L’viv, 1937); Mykhailo Dzvinka, “Literatura pivnichnykh zemel,” in Bohdan Strumins’kyi, ed., Lemkivshchyna: zemlia—liudy—istoriia—kul’tura, Vol. I (New York, Paris, Sydney, and Toronto, 1988), pp. 379-415; Helena Duc-Fajfer, “Glowne nurty wspolczesnej poezji lemkowskiej,” Roczniki Humanistyczne KUL, XLII, 7 (Lublin, 1994), pp. 185-200; Helena Duc-Fajfer, “Literatura lemkowska—zagadnienia badawcze,” in Andrzej Zieba, ed., Lemkowie i lemkoznawstwo w Polsce (Cracow, 1997), pp. 87-98; Petro Trokhanovskii, “Poezyia Lemkiv,” in Nataliia Dudash, ed., Rusinki/ruski pisni (Novi Sad, 1997), pp. 111-116; Helena Duc-Fajfer, “Contemporary Lemko Poetry and the Problem of So-Called ‘Lemko Separatism’,” in Paul Best and Jaroslaw Moklak, eds., The Lemkos of Poland (Cracow and New Haven, Conn., 2000), pp. 151-176.
Vojvodina When they settled in the Vojvodina (Backa and Srem), the Rusyns/Rusnaks of what later became Yugoslavia brought with them from the Carpathian homeland (Hornitsa) a rich oral literature, whose first transcriptions date from the eighteenth century. Belletristic literature began to appear at the end of the nineteenth century. Separated as it was from Rusyn literature in the Carpathian homeland and influenced by specific historical and political circumstances as well as a different linguistic situation in a diaspora environment, Vojvodinian Rusyn literature experienced its own internal and continuous dynamic. Among its characteristics have been the importance and even authoritative nature of tradition, a limited conception of the function of literature in society, a reluctance to develop its own potential, and the rapid process of its development from an oral art to a creative literature encompassing multiple genres and trends. These characteristics have also played a significant role in the formation and preservation of a national identity among Yugoslavia’s Rusyns.
The oldest manuscript collections of Rusyn literature from the Backa and Srem were described about a century ago in two studies by the Galician-Ukrainian scholars Ivan *Franko and Volodymyr *Hnatiuk. Hnatiuk’s study (1902) included excerpts from 122 religious songs, while Franko published (1899) for the first time examples of old literature on Christian themes, including apocryphal tales and legends. Although taken from manuscripts compiled in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the works themselves date from before the migration of Rusyns to the Vojvodina, which had begun in the 1740s. The original texts were written in Church Slavonic, to which scribes like Manoilov, Munkachi, Turinski, Timko, and others added the local Rusyn language. The trend toward using vernacular Rusyn steadily increased, so that in the mid-nineteenth century Mikhailo Dzhunia was composing his own sacred poetry in a mixture of Rusyn and Church Slavonic, while by the end of the century Vasil’ Korpash was writing exclusively in Rusyn. These developments marked not only a struggle on behalf of a literary language, they also resulted in the creation of an original literature. The scribes often added to the Church Slavonic texts their own tales on themes such as distrust of the beauties of the temporal world or digressions on the pleasures of the flesh. Such efforts at writing in one’s “own language,” while at the same time recognizing the dignity that the use of Church Slavonic would lend to the written word was part of a linguistic compromise that had characterized earlier Rusyn literary efforts in Subcarpathian Rus’ and the Presov Region.
Aside from religious texts, oral folk literature represented another rich tradition in Vojvodinian Rusyn literature. Such literature was first published in collections by Mykhail *Vrabel’ (1890) and Volodymyr Hnatiuk (1910). These texts reflected the preferences of a public at large, which was more interested in melancholy love songs than in heroic epic poetry. The songs were composed according to the structural rhythm of the kolomyika. The worldview expressed in this narrative prose reflected the experience and attitudes of the rural village, so that even the royal and aristocratic characters who appeared in the texts would speak in vernacular Rusyn. It also revealed the influence of Serbian literature and Hungarian folklore. The activity of the *Presov Literary Circle of Aleksander Dukhnovych in the Carpathian homeland during the second half of the nineteenth century also had an impact on the Vojvodinian Rusyns. School children used Dukhnovych’s primer (Knyzhytsia chytal’naia dlia nachynaiushchykh), while two natives of the Presov Region, the teacher and poet Petro *Kuzmiak and the folklorist and author of school texts Mykhail Vrabel’, settled in the Vojvodina, where they played a significant role in strengthening a sense of national awareness among the local Rusyns.
The beginning of conscious literary creativity (belles-lettres) among the Vojvodinian Rusyns dates from the nineteenth century and Andrii Horniak can be considered the first poet to write in a pure Vojvodinian Rusyn vernacular. Of the works that survive, his “Bozhe moi, Bozhe moi” (O My God, O My God) is a humorous text modeled on oral folk poetry. By the second half of the nineteenth century, the poetry of Petro Kuzmiak was filled with themes of freedom and the hardships of current socioeconomic conditions. The first separately published volume of Vojvodinian Rusyn literature was by Havriil/Gabor *Kostel’nik. His collection of poetry, Z moioho valala (1904), described in idealized terms the life of a Rusyn who lived in the heart of the Vojvodina (in the village of Ruski Kerestur) and who came from a family with strong *patriarchal and religious values. As an example of the late Romantic style, characterized by a high degree of pathos and an unsophisticated way of looking at the world, Kostel’nik’s 1904 collection was to have an enormous impact on the formation of a national identity among the largely rural Rusyn population of the Vojvodina at the outset of the twentieth century.
An important step in Vojvodinian Rusyn national life and subsequently in the direction of its literature came in 1919 with the establishment of the *Prosvita Rusyn National Enlightenment Society/Ruske narodne prosvitne druzhtvo “Prosvita”. At its first session, the priest Mikhailo *Mudri proposed that the Rusyn vernacular speech should serve as the basis for the group’s literary language which was approved by the 150 delegates present. The first normative grammar for Vojvodinian Rusyn was published in 1923 by Havriil/Gabor Kostel’nik; the following year the same author published the first dramatic work in Vojvodinian Rusyn, Ieftaiova dzivka. The Prosvita Rusyn National Enlightenment Society had its own publication program, which made possible the appearance of works by, among others, Osif Kostel’nik, Matfei Vinai, Ianko *Feisa, Silvester *Salamon, and Mikhal *Kovach. One result of their efforts was the appearance of a Vojvodinian Rusyn literary anthology, Rusko-ukrainski almanakh bachvansko-srimskikh pisatel’okh (1936). Since some members of the local intelligentsia felt at the time that it was necessary to maintain relations with Ukrainians and Ukrainian culture, the contributions to the anthology were in both Rusyn and Ukrainian. The works themselves represented a hybrid form mediated between folkloric and creative literature, filled with themes of praise for the past, national patriotism, fear of God, wholesome love between men and women, didacticism, and at times descriptions of social inequality framed within a spirit of Christian humanism. Exceptional in this context was Silvester Salamon, whose innovative works were imbued with a sophisticated worldview that went beyond local literary traditions and was receptive to the current avant-garde. Among the writers who continued these literary traditions were Iasha *Bakov, Havriil *Nad’, Shtefan Chakan, Mikola M. *Kochish, Evgenii M. *Kochish, and Vlado *Kostelnik.
After the end of World War II in 1945, Vojvodinian Rusyn literature reflected the general atmosphere of postwar reconstruction and assumed a social and didactic function. This marked the beginning of Socialist Realism in literature, which appeared in a whole host of new organs: the weekly newspaper *Ruske slovo, the annual almanac Narodni kalendar, and the children’s magazine Pionerska zahradka. This was also a period of experimentation. Iasha Bakov, “a little Rusyn while at the same time a Yugoslav with capital Y,” suggested that the orthographic base of the Rusyn alphabet be changed from Ukrainian to Serbian, and that Rusyn surnames of Hungarian origin should be rendered in their older Rusyn forms. Neither of these proposals were ever accepted, nor were any of his other utopian ideas, which reflected the cosmopolitan attitudes of a world traveler. In the end, Bakov’s efforts to change the direction of Vojvodinian Rusyn culture came to nothing.
In actual fact, this was a relatively unproductive period for Vojvodinian Rusyn writers whose concerns were largely directed to resolving the problems of the new socialist state and its relationship to the national minorities. Writers’ resistance to the imposed literary norm was evident in the fact that the literary journal *Shvetlosts stopped publishing for nearly a decade (1955-1965). During that period only a few minor literary works appeared, and most of these took the form of group anthologies—Odhuk z rovnini (1961), an anthology of poetry (1963), and an anthology of children’s poetry (1964). These anthologies were characterized by an awkward and unsuccessful attempt to integrate chronology and aesthetic values. While they presented a distorted view of the quality of the literature, they nonetheless did help prevent the collapse of Vojvodinian Rusyn literary life.
It was during the next period, the so-called golden age that began in the late 1960s, that Vojvodinian Rusyn literature clearly reached a stage whereby it became a serious factor in the general development of Rusyn culture. This was most evident in the writings of Iuliian *Koliesar, Miron Koloshniai, Shtefan Hudak, Miron Budinski, Mikola *Skuban, Melaniia Pavlovich, Miroslav *Striber, and Diura *Papharhai among others, whose appearance was in large part made possible by the increasing activity of the *Ruske Slovo Press and Publishing House.
Various forms of literature made their appearance within a creative framework governed largely by the principle of realism. The first novel in Vojvodinian Rusyn literature, Zhemi moia, by Vlado Kostelnik, was published in 1967. Meanwhile, new Rusyn poetry was largely measured against the quality of Diura Papharhai’s verse, which was distinguished by its lyrical beauty and its moving subject matter. Children’s literature began to appear in 1929, with the publication of Ianko Feisa’s Pupche and subsequent works by Mikhal Kovach and Mikola Kochish. But now, in the works of Diura Papharhai, children’s literature was being read by the public at large.
Whereas the struggle to define a national name and language seems to have been definitively decided in favor of the term Rusyn (ruski), the view that Rusyn literature is a branch of Ukrainian literature continues and is likely to survive among a few individuals. With regard to its aesthetic qualities, however, the fate of Vojvodinian Rusyn literature has become increasingly tied to the intellectual direction of the South Slavic world in which it functions. Part of that direction is characterized by a rejection of modern poetics.
During the 1980s and 1990s modernism in Vojvodinian Rusyn literature reached its apogee. At this time a new group of writers made their appearance on the literary scene, including Iuliian *Tamash, Irina Hardi-Kovachevich, Liubomir *Sopka, Agneta Buchko, Nataliia Kaniukh, Miron Kaniukh, Mariia Iakim, Iuliian Nad’, Nataliia *Dudash, Vladimir *Garianski, and Zvonomir *Niaradi, among others. These decades witnessed the appearance of numerous individual literary works, anthologies, translations into Vojvodinian Rusyn from other languages, histories of literature, and bilingual works by poets writing in Rusyn and Serbian.
The best of these works reflected the complex evolution of Rusyn poetic creativity. Alongside the avant-garde tendencies that had their beginnings in the works of Silvester Salamon, realistic poetic structures were being continued in the writings of traditionalists. Contemporary Vojvodinian Rusyn literature is at its best in the realm of poetry and essaays. Contemporary writers have succeeded in undermining many literary conventions through experimentation in both form and content. Their approach has moved somewhat provocatively between a sense of relativism and cosmopolitanism that rejects difference and particularity. Writers have succeeded in opposing tradition with literary complexity and originality with polyfunctionality, but they have declined to destroy tradition by means of a constructed dogma. Rather, they have tried to harness tradition to the service of a new set of cultural values. The result is a body of writings that is intertextually connected to world culture through reminiscence, allusions, and textual quotations from the entire range of the European cultural heritage. The most significant works of this kind are by Iuliian Tamash, Nataliia Dudash, Vladimir Garianski, and Zvonimir Niaradi, among others. These are authors known for their distinct individuality and for what has been described as their “open concealment.”
After the Revolutions of 1989 and the opening up of the former Soviet bloc in central Europe, Rusyn writers in Yugoslavia began to interact more systematically with Rusyn literary developments in other countries. One concrete result was the appearance of an anthology of poetry (1997) under the editorial direction of Nataliia Dudash, in which the works of writers from countries in Europe and North America where Rusyns live appear in various forms of the Rusyn language. With the appearance of this “pan-Rusyn” anthology of poetry, it could be said that the literary circle has been closed. Vojvodinian Rusyn writing began with a tradition of oral literature brought from the Carpathian homeland. It subsequently developed a distinct form that was influenced by its new surroundings, in particular by Serbian literature. Finally, it has become fully part of the general contemporary Rusyn literary process throughout Europe, where it has come to hold a leading place.
Bibliography: Mikhail Andreevich Vrabel’, Russkii solovei (Uzhhorod, 1890; repr. Novi Sad, 1981); Volodymyr Hnatiuk, Etnografichni materiialy z Uhors’koi Rusy, Vol. III: Bach-Bodrogs’kyi komitat, Vol. IV: Baiky, legendy, istorychni perekazy, noveli, anekdoty—z Bachky, Vol. V: Kazky z Bachky, in Etnografichnyi zbirnyk Naukovoho tovarystva im. Shevchenka, Vols. IX, XXIX, XXX (L’viv, 1900-11; repr. Novi Sad, 1986); Volodymyr Hnatiuk, Uhrorus’ki dukhovni virshi, in Zapysky Naukovoho tovarystva im. Shevchenka, XLVI, XLVII, XLIX (L’viv, 1902; repr. Novi Sad, 1985); Diura Papharhai, “Havryil Kostel’nik: zachatnik umetnitskei literaturi iuhoslavianskikh rusnatsokh,” in Havryil Kostel’nik, Poeziia na bachvansko-srimskim ruskim literaturnim iaziku (Novi Sad, 1970), pp. 7-87; Julijan Tamas, Rusinska knjizevnost: istoriia i status (Novi Sad, 1984)—revised Rusyn-language ed.: Iuliian Tamash, Istoriia ruskei literaturi (Belgrade, 1997); Iuliian Tamash, Havriil Kostel’nik mezdi doktrinu i prirodu (Novi Sad, 1986); Silvester Salamon, Vibrani tvory, Vol. II (Novi Sad, 1989), esp. pp. 135-184.
A few Rusyn writers, like the mid-nineteenth century poet Nikolai *Nod’, were born within the present-day borders of Hungary, but they generally lived in *Carpathian Rus’, where they contributed to the general Rusyn literary process. The revival of Rusyn consciousness since the early 1990s made possible the development of a small but distinct body of Rusyn literature in Hungary.
The most important figure in this process is Gabriel *Hattinger-Klebashko. He has published three collections of lyric poems that deal with issues of Rusyn national identity as well as with traditional poetic themes in a spare, modernist free-verse style. He has also issued a collection of Rusyn translations of Hungarian poetry. In an aphoristic style similar to Hattinger’s, Iudita *Kishshova constructs a personal vision in poetic miniatures. Her first collection, Zvuk dushi (1997), presents universal themes and reflections on everyday life that valorize Rusyn tradition from a distinctively female perspective.
Bibliography: Shtefan Sukhyi, “Rusyn’ska knyha: styshkiv z Madiar’ska,” Rusyn, V, 1 (Presov, 1995), pp. 22-24; Shtefan Sukhyi, “Vitai, Iudito, na rusyn’skim Parnasi,” Rusyn, IX, 1-2 (Presov, 1999), p. 33.
Rusyn-language literature in the United States is connected with the large-scale immigration to North America that began in the 1880s and continued until the outbreak of World War I. In the 1890s the first of several Rusyn-language newspapers and annual almanacs began to be published, in which literary works, usually poetry and plays, appeared.
The most prolific author was the Greek Catholic priest, Emilij *Kubek, best known for his poetry, short stories, and a three-volume novel, Marko Soltys (1922), about life in the European homeland. Kubek’s poems, like those of another Greek Catholic priest, Sigmund Brinsky (Stichi, 1922), and the secular cultural activist Peter J. *Maczkov (Vinec naboznych stichov, 1958), were dominated by themes of longing for the physical beauty of the far-away Carpathians and were often filled with didactic moral strictures intended to counteract the effects of harsh working conditions and psychological alienation faced by Rusyn immigrants and their families. The social conditions of Rusyns both in Europe and America were best captured in short stories by the Lemko Rusyn Dymytrii *Vyslotskii, who published under the pseudonym Van’o Hunianka while living in the United States and Canada during the 1920s and 1930s.
The most popular genre in Rusyn-American literature was the play. Most plays were short and intended to be performed by the numerous amateur drama societies which, before World War II, existed throughout Rusyn communities in the northeast United States. Authors like Stefan *Varzaly, Valentine Gorzo, Stefan F. *Telep, and Nicholas *Cislak hoped to provide audiences with light-hearted slapstick comedy or to convey a moral message (usually criticism of drunkenness and violence against women). A few plays were inspired by recent events in the European homeland, such as the suffering endured by Lemko Rusyns during World War I at the *Talerhof internment camp or the “martyrdom” of the Orthodox priest Maksym *Sandovych, whose name provided the title of a Russian-language play (Maksim Sandovich, 1931) by Bishop Adam Philippovsky. The plays of Vyslotskii-Hunianka were intended to argue a political message: the shortcomings of capitalism and growing fascism that continued to oppress Rusyns in the Lemko Region and in Subcarpathian Rus’.
Rusyn-American literature was published in either the Roman or *Cyrillic alphabets and was generally written in the regional Rusyn dialect of each author. Some immigrant authors tried to write in Russian; none used Ukrainian. In the decades after World War II Rusyn literary works gradually stopped appearing, since English-language assimilation eliminated a Rusyn readership.
Bibliography: Paul Robert Magocsi, “Rusyn-American Literature,” in Woldymyr Zyla and Wendell M. Aycock, eds., Ethnic Literatures Since 1976: The Many Voices of America, Vol. II (Lubbock, Texas, 1978), pp. 503-520—repr. in Paul Robert Magocsi, Of the Making of Nationalities There is No End, Vol. II (New York, 1999), pp. 430-445; Pavlo Robert Magochi, “Literatura kraianokh z Karpatskei Rusi,” in Nataliia Dudash, ed., Rusinski/ruski pisni (Novi Sad, 1997), pp. 235-260.
Paul Robert Magocsi
Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.