My IWSG post is here.
Khrushelnytskyy family, early 1930s. Six of the people in this photo were murdered by Stalin’s thugs.
The Executed Renaissance is a term coined by Polish publicist Jerzy Giedroyc in a 13 August 1958 letter to Ukrainian literary critic and essayist Yuriy Andriyanovych Lavrinenko. In the letter, Mr. Giedroyc proposed this as the title for an anthology of Ukrainian literature of 1917–33.
“On the title. Maybe it would be good to give as a general name: Executed Renaissance. Anthology 1917–1933, etc. The title would sound spectacular then. On the other hand, the modest name Anthology can only facilitate penetration behind the Iron Curtain. What do you think?”
Jerzy Giedroyc, 1906–2000
The title was accepted, and the anthology was published in Paris in 1959, in the magazine Kultura, which Mr. Giedroyc had founded and was editor-in-chief of. Many Ukrainian emigrants had been published in this magazine, and it was instrumental in helping to reconcile Poles and Ukrainians.
Mr. Giedroyc sent review copies to the Writers’ Union in Kyiv and Ukrainian Soviet magazines at the editors’ expense, and took every chance he got to send it behind the Iron Curtain, both legal and illegal.
Since then, the term Executed Renaissance has expanded to refer to the great flowering of literary, cultural, artistic, musical, theatrical, philosophical, cinematic, intellectual, and spiritual life in Ukraine in the 1920s and 1930s after so many centuries of being under foreign heels and unable to express their native culture and use their own language. Many of these people were murdered during the Great Terror of the 1930s.
A good percentage of the Executed Renaissance weren’t from wealthy or upper-middle-class families, and so hadn’t had the luxury of a good education, or even any education at all. They had to learn about great art, literature, music, and other culture on their own initiatives, in between working on farms and in factories, serving in the military, and just trying to survive war and famine.
Their subsequent creations were all the more amazing because they were self-taught.
Literary association Lanka, 1924. Three of the people in this photo were murdered by Stalin’s goons.
For the very first time, a generation of intellectuals, writers, artists, and musicians came from the real world. They knew what it was like to work for a living, struggle for everything they got, and live without luxuries. When they wrote about peasants and the working-class, they based it on personal experience instead of romantic ideals and secondhand information. These weren’t pampered rich kids and champagne Socialists.
Many of their creative works prominently featured rebellion, independent thought, existentialism, and expressionism.
Members of VAPLITE, Free Academy of Proletarian Literature, 1926. Six of the people in this photo were murdered by Stalin’s goons; another committed suicide, physically and mentally broken by the Holodomor and the start of political repression
When Stalin took full power and eliminated all competition, a wave of terror started, and Ukrainian culture and language were once again repressed. Those who were lucky escaped the USSR, while others felt forced into unhappy silence or writing propaganda. Some chose suicide. Most of the rest were arrested on false charges, tortured, and shot or sent to the GULAG.
A great deal of literature now circulated through samizdat (clandestine, underground publication and distribution) and tamizdat (publication abroad after being smuggled out). Some works were forever lost.
Union of Peasant Writers, 1924. At least four of the people in this photo were murdered by Stalin’s thugs, and another died in the GULAG.
Most Great Terror victims were posthumously rehabilitated after Stalin’s death, and some managed to survive the GULAG. However, that didn’t undo the massive cultural loss. Untold numbers of a bright, talented generation with so much creative and intellectual potential were murdered. Some scholars estimate 30,000 Ukrainians were in the Executed Renaissance.
Just a few of the fallen:
Mykola Hurovych Kulish (6/18 December 1892–3 November 1937), playwright, teacher, WWI and Russian Civil War veteran
Mykhaylo Vasylovych Semenko (19/31 December 1892–24 October 1937), Futurist poet
Mykhaylo Boychuk (30 October 1882–13 July 1937), painter, founder and leader of the Boychuk school of art
Irchan Myroslav (né Andriy Dmytrovych Babyuk) (14 July 1897–3 November 1937), poet, novelist, playwright
Lyudmyla Mykhaylivna Starytska-Chernyakhivska (17 August 1868–1941), poet, playwright, novelist, died en route to a Kazakh GULAG at age 73. Her sister Oksana died in the GULAG in 1942, in her late sixties.
Ivan Vasylovych Lypkivskyy (14 August 1892–13 July 1937), painter
Valerian L’vovich Polishchuk (19 September/1 October 1897–3 November 1937), poet, novelist, literary critic
May all their memories be for an eternal blessing.