The New Europe]
[16 August 1917
THE UKRAINE PROBLEM
demand for Ukrainian schools and university and for a democratic franchise as a weapon of national defence.
Meanwhile, in the Russian Ukraine the old historic traditions smouldered under extremely unfavourable circumstances. For a brief moment national feeling raised its head in 1846, and a brilliant little group of writers created the Guild of SS. Cyril and Methodius at Kiev to further the twin ideals of nationality and democracy. But within a year it shared the fate of all similar institutions under the hateful rule of Nicholas I.: political thought and literary effort were repressed with equal severity. Centralism and autocracy went hand in hand; and in 1863 the Minister of the Interior, Valujev, roundly declared that “the Ukrainian language never has existed, does not exist, and must not exist.” On this basis all attempts to develop the language were treated as the first step towards political separatism, and even scientific and historical research were viewed with profound disfavour. In 1876 the authorities went so far as to prohibit the publication of any book in Ukrainian, save of a purely historical or literary character: and in practice the censorship made this decree almost absolute. For thirty years this iniquitous embargo was upheld. The sufferings of the Ukrainian peasant-poet, Taras Ševčenko—the Burns of the Slavonic world—will always remain one of the most shameful incidents in the history of national Chauvinism. With a refinement of cruelty Nicholas I even went so far as to order the exiled poet to be deprived of the physical possibility of writing and painting; and this order remained in force for three years. But here, too, the spirit of liberty triumphed over all obstacles—
“Bury me, be done with me! Rise and break your chain.
Water your new liberty with blood for rain!
Then in the mighty family of all men free
Maybe sometimes very softly you will think of me!”
So sang Ševčenko, and his songs became the watchword of a new era for his race and set in motion forces as elemental and irresistible as the mighty waters of his own Dniepr. Hatred followed him beyond the grave, and on the centenary of his death the Tsar’s soldiers held back with their bayonets the crowds which sought to pay their tribute at his tomb. But on the same day in Tarnopol and in Lvov thousands
- From Mrs. Voynich’s charming translations (Elkin Matthews, 1s.).