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Volodymyr Vynnychenko

Volodymyr Vynnychenko
Writer, statesman, and politician. Vynnychenko began to study law at Kyiv University in 1901 but, owing to his expulsion in 1902 for ‘revolutionary’ activities, he never completed his studies. He was a member of the Revolutionary Ukrainian party (RUP) and, later, the executive committee of the Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers' party (USDRP). In 1917 he returned from Moscow to Ukraine to take part in the Ukrainian struggle for independence (1917–20). As leader of the USDRP he was chosen one of two vice-presidents of the Central Rada and then the first president of the General Secretariat of the Central Rada, the autonomous government of Ukraine. During the Hetman government he headed the oppositional Ukrainian National Union, and then, until February 1919, the Directory of the Ukrainian National Republic. Upon disagreeing with the pro-Entente politics of the Directory, Vynnychenko left for Vienna and finally settled in France.

Vynnychenko began writing while he was a student, during which time he produced stories depicting the working-class milieu, which he knew best. His first story, ‘Krasa i syla’ (Beauty and Strength, 1902), created a sensation and brought him almost immediate recognition. In the 20 plays he wrote (many of them translated and staged in various theaters of Europe) Vynnychenko examined closely the frequent disparity between deed and ‘noble word,’ aim and moral code. Promulgated best in his novel Chesnist’ z soboiu (Honesty with Oneself, 1906), the notion provoked misunderstanding and criticism. Vynnychenko was accused of strict individualism and total amorality. In all, 11 novels appeared during Vynnychenko's lifetime, of which Zapysky kyrpatoho Mefistofelia (Notes of Pug-nosed Mephistopheles, 1917) and Soniashna mashyna (The Sun Machine, 1928; the first Utopian novel in Ukrainian literature) stand out.

Throughout his life Vynnychenko kept a detailed diary, of which two volumes have been published (Shchodennyk [Diary, vol 1, 1980; vol 2, 1983]). They provide some insight into his artistic, personal, and political life. Of historical interest is Vynnychenko's three-volume memoir of the struggle for independence (1917–20), Vidrodzhennia natsiï (Rebirth of a Nation, 1920).

Until the late 1980s Vynnychenko was proscribed in Ukraine, and his collected works have not been republished since the 24-volume edition of 1926–30.

Vynnychenko's CIUS Press Books

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