Ukrainian-Russian Literary Relations in the Nineteenth Century: A Formulation of the Problem

George G. Grabowicz

Ukraine and Russia in Their Historic Encounter, Edited by Peter J. Potichnyj, Marc Raeff, Jaroslav Pelenski, Gleb N. Žekulin, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, University of Alberta, Edmonton, 1992, pp. 214-244.

Since my avowed concern is with formulations, I should state at the outset that from my perspective the relation between Ukraine and Russia is not that of an “encounter,” even a “historical encounter,” but something much more intimate and long-lasting–in the language of soviet pathos, a historical and indissoluble embrace or, as others might see it, a Sartrian No Exit. At the same time, since this article follows my earlier discussion of Polish-Ukrainian literary relations (which was also first presented in this same hospitable setting), I should stress that from the perspective of modern Ukrainian history and literature the Russian-Ukrainian relationship is undoubtedly the more central, and, especially in the nineteenth century, incomparable more complex. Mu concern here, as stated by the subtitle, is not with the entire range and massive contents of this relationship, but with the principles and concepts by which we can systematize and facilitate our understanding of it; a comprehensive treatment, one which is sorely needed, would require the dimensions of a monograph. But even at this preliminary stage, the broad implications, and the difficulties, of this undertaking are clear.  they are best indicated by the fact that, apart from the chronological designation, all the terms employed to describe this investigation–not only “literary relation,: but above all the meaning of the works :Ukrainian” and “Russian”–require fundamental re-examination.