Life and career
Ohloblyn traced his ancestry to the Novhorod-Siversky region of Left-bank Ukraine, which had formed an important part of the autonomous Ukrainian "Hetmanate" in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and throughout his professional career as a historian retained a lively interest in this area and wrote frequently about it. Educated at the universities in Kiev, Odessa, and Moscow, from 1921 to 1933 he taught history at the Kiev Institute of People's Education (as Kiev University was known after the revolution), but during Joseph Stalin's purges, was dismissed from his posts, forced to recant his allegedly "bourgeois nationalist" views, and suffered repression including several months of imprisonment. In the late 1930s he returned to teaching at Kiev and Odessa universities. When the Germans occupied Kiev in the fall of 1941, Ohloblyn was elected head of the Kiev Municipal Council, a post which he held from September 21 to October 25, and was a member of the Ukrainian National Council which tried to organize Ukrainian life under the difficult conditions of the occupation. he desperately tried to save from execution some of Jews he knew but the German commandant of Kiev informed him that "the Jewish issue belongs to exclusive jurisdiction of Germans and they will solve it at their own discretion" (, in Russian). Politics under the Nazis was not to his taste and he quickly retired from his public positions and returned to his scholarly work. In 1942 he worked as a director of Kiev Museum-Archive of Transitional Period, whose exhibition compared life under Bolsheviks and under Germans. In 1943 he moved to Lviv in western Ukraine and in 1944 to Prague. Upon the approach of the Red Army, he fled west to Bavaria. From 1946 to 1951, he taught at the Ukrainian Free University in Munich. In 1951, he moved to the United States where he was active in various Ukrainian emigre scholarly institutions such as the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the US and the Ukrainian Historical Association. From 1968 to 1970, he was a Visiting Professor of History at Harvard University.
During his early Soviet period, Ohloblyn authored several monographs on Ukrainian economic history (reprinted in the west in 1971 as A History of Ukrainian Industry) and began publishing on the Mazepa era of the early eighteenth century. After the war, he continued his studies of seventeenth and eighteenth century Ukraine, publishing books on the Treaty of Pereiaslav of 1654 between the Ukrainian Cossacks and the Muscovite Tsar (1954), the political elite of Left-bank Ukraine in the eighteenth century (1959), and Hetman Mazepa and his era (1960). He also published an important update to Dmytro Doroshenko's pioneering "Ukrainian Historiography" (1957).
In his various publications which appeared in the west, Ohloblyn followed his distinguished emigre predecessor, Dmytro Doroshenko, in stressing the strivings for national unity, autonomy, and independence of the Ukrainian Cossack elite and their successors, the Ukrainian gentry of Left-bank Ukraine. He greatly admired Hetman Ivan Mazepa whom, he thought well represented this trend, and who actually openly defied Moscow during the reign of Tsar Peter the Great.
In his writings on Ukrainian historiography, Ohloblyn took a moderate position, positively evaluating the work of his former opponent Mykhailo Hrushevsky, who had been severely criticisized by the generations of the 1930s and 1940s, including Doroshenko, for his ostensible undervaluing of the strivings of the Ukrainian Cossack elite for statehood and independence. Ohloblyn tried to evaluate populist Ukrainian historians like Mykola Kostomarov, Volodymyr Antonovych, and Hrushevsky within the context of their own times rather than that of the next generations which had learned new lessons about the importance of statehood from their experiences during the revolution.
Although Ohloblyn never held a tenured professorship at an American university and was largely unknown to the English speaking world, his activities in the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Ukrainian Historical Association and his extensive publications in the Ukrainian language influenced younger generations of Ukrainian historians in the United States and other western countries. His students and admirers who have continued his work include Lubomyr Wynar, Orest Subtelny, and Zenon Kohut.
- Oleksander Ohloblyn, Treaty of Pereyaslav 1654, trans. Bohdan Budurowycz (Toronto-New York, 1954).
- Idem, "Ukrainian Historiography, 1917-1956," Annals of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the US, V-VI (1957), 307-456.
- Lubomyr Wynar [Liubomyr Vynar], Oleksander Petrovych Ohloblyn 1899-1992: Biohrafichna studiia (New York, 1994).