Ukrainian Leader

by Elena  Zinchenko

As a poet, artist and thinker of a revolutionary
Shevchenko ardently fought against the social
and national oppression of
his people. The creative legacy
of Shevchenko
is a source of national pride for the
people and belongs to entire mankind.
( Nekrasov )


Taras Shevchenko is the greatest Ukrainian poet, who has exercised enormous influence upon the literary and intellectual life of Ukraine and the Soviet Union up to this day. He was born as a serf to a landowner. Because of his talent in drawing, his owner decided to send him to Warsaw to study art. Impressed by the quality of his drawings, admires in the Russian capital purchased his freedom for 2,500 rubles. Shevchenko then enrolled in the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied with many famous Russian artists.

While Taras was in St. Petersburg, far from the north of the sunny Ukraine, he published “Kobzar” at the age of 26. The first edition of Kobzar included only some of Shevchenko’s poems. His Kobzar becomes involved in society at all times and constantly deals with people and their problems. Reflections on the early struggles against the Poles and the spirit of Ukrainian Cossacks in their fight against oppression dominate his work.


In 1846 Shevchenko joined the Cyril and Methodius Society, a secret political organization. The main goal of the Society was the liberation of the Ukraine and the emancipation of the serfs. The Society wished to create a unified Slavic state, to be governed by a president and two Houses of Parliament.

The Society remained in existence for fourteen month and really achieved very little. In March 1847 the police of Tsar Nicholas I arrested the group. The Tsar gave strict orders that Taras Shevchenko was not allowed to draw or to write. Shevchenko passed ten years in exile. However, when in 1857 he was released, he was forbidden to reside in St. Petersburg.


 A new edition of Shevchenko’s Kobzar was issued in 1860, but several poems from the first edition had been removed, including “The Dream,” which depicted the suffering of the Decembrists in exile in Siberia. The Decembrists played a significant role in the evolution of Shevchenko’s political views. He was a great admire of Ryleev, whose poems are based on the theme of the struggle for freedom of the Ukrainian people. The Poem “Testament” is also among the most remarkable Shevchenko’s masterpieces, which vividly demonstrates his love for Ukraine. (see appendix1).Shevchenko’s poetry presents a vivid and tragic picture of life in the Ukraine. He is considered to be the greatest writer, who always represented Ukrainian people. In 1964 the Congress of the United States appropriated funds to construct a monument to Shevchenko in Washington, D.C.


 People compare Shevchenko, as a Ukrainian leader, with George Washington, who one day would liberate Ukraine, as Washington had freed the American Colonies. When the great American Negro actor, Ira Aldridge, came to St. Petersburg in 1826 to play “Othello”, he became a close friend of Shevchenko, who felt that Negroes in America shared the same fate of the Ukrainian serfs in the Russian Empire.

Shevchenko’s funeral on March 10, 1861 attracted many eminent literary figures, including Dostoevskii, Turgenev and Nekrasov, who dedicated a poem to him. Shevchenko was buried in Kanev, about 50 miles from Kiev on Dnepr River. Museums dedicated to Shevchenko’s memory have been created in Kanev, Leningrad, and Kiev.


 It has been said that Shevchenko had the same influence on the Ukrainian language that Pushkin had on the Russian. Through his literary efforts Shevchenko created a Ukrainian national consciousness still alive today within the Soviet Union and abroad.


Bibliography: M. Parkhomenko, Shevchenko: Great Ukrainian Poet.Moscow, 1964.




When I die, then make my grave High on an ancient mound, In my own beloved Ukraine, In steppeland without bound: Whence one may see wide-skirted wheatland, Dnipro's steep-cliffed shore, There whence one may hear the blustering River wildly roar.

Till from Ukraine to the blue sea It bears in fierce endeavour The blood of foemen - then I'll leave Wheatland and hills forever: Leave all behind, soar up until Before the throne of God I'll make my prayer. For, till that hour I shall know naught of God.

Make my grave there - and arise, Sundering your chains, Bless your freedom with the blood Of foemen's evil veins! Then in that great family, A family new and free, Do not forget, with good intent Speak quietly of me.



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