The term Executed Renaissance (Ukrainian: Розстріляне відродження, Rozstrilyane vidrodzhennya) is used to describe the generation of Ukrainian writers and artists of 1920s and early 1930s who were performing in the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic and were executed or repressed by Stalin's totalitarian regime. The term was first suggested by Polish publicist Jerzy Giedroyc in his letter to Ukrainian literature researcher Yuriy Lavrinenko, who later used it as a title for the collection of the best literary works of that generation.
The downfall of the Russian Empire after the First World War, the resulting abolition of imperial censorship, the establishment of an independent Ukrainian state, and the relative leniency of the Soviet regime in the 1920s all led to an astonishing renaissance of literary and cultural activity in Ukraine. Scores of new writers and poets appeared and formed dozens of literary groups that changed the face of Ukrainian literature. These processes were supported by politics of nativization (in Ukraine it was called Ukrainization), New Economic Policy (state capitalism) and elimination of illiteracy.
Writers mostly were consolidated into literary organizations with different styles or positions. The period between 1925 and 1928 was characterized by "literature discussion" on the initiative of Mykola Khvylovy. An object of the discussion was ways of development for new Ukrainian Soviet literature and role of writer in society. Khvylovy and his associates were supporting an orientation towards Western European culture instead of Russian, they were rejecting "red graphomania" (though they weren't rejecting Communism as political ideology).
The main literary organizations of that time were:
- "Hart" (Ukrainian: Гарт which means hardening) existed in 1923-25. Its main goal was uniting of all kinds of proletarian artists with further development of proletarian culture. One of the requirements of "Hart" was using of Ukrainian language. The organization ceased to exist after its leader Vasyl Ellan-Blakytny died.
- VAPLITE (Ukrainian: ВАПЛІТЕ, shortened of Free Academy of Proletarian Literature) was created in 1926 by Mykola Khvylovy on the base of "Hart". Its goal was creating of new Ukrainian literature through adopting the best achievements of Western European culture. VAPLITE was accepting Communism as political ideology but they were rejecting necessity of ideological meaning of literature as the main requirement to it. Among members of VAPLITE were Oleksandr Dovzhenko, Mykola Kulish, Les Kurbas, Mayk Johansen, Pavlo Tychyna, Oleksa Slisarenko, Mykola Bazhan, Yuriy Smolych, Yulian Shpol.
- MARS (Ukrainian: МАРС, shortened of Workshop of revolutionary literature) existed in 1924-29 (primarily under name of "Lanka"). The main postulate of MARS was honestly and artistically describe that time epoch. Among its members were Valerian Pidmohylny, Hryhoriy Kosynka, Yevhen Pluzhnyk, Borys Antonenko-Davydovych, Todos Osmachka, Ivan Bahrianyi, Maria Halych.
- "Aspanfut" (Ukrainian: Аспанфут), later Komunkult (Ukrainian: Комункульт) was an organization of Ukrainian futurists. Their values were "Communism, internationalism, industrialism, rationalization, inventions, quality". Among its members were Mykhayl Semenko, Heo Shkurupiy, Yuriy Yanovsky, Yulian Shpol.
- Neoclassicists (Ukrainian: Неокласики) was a literary movement of modernists among whose followers were Mykola Zerov, Maksym Rylsky, Pavlo Fylypovych, Mykhailo Drai-Khmara. They never established a formal organization or program, but they shared cultural and esthetic interests. They were concerned with the production of high art and disdained "mass art", didactic writing, and propagandistic work.
- "Pluh" (Ukrainian: Плуг which means plough) was an organization of rural writers. Their main postulate was "struggle against proprietary ideology among peasants and promoting of Proletarian revolution's ideals". Among its members were Serhiy Pylypenko, Petro Panch, Dokiya Humenna, Andriy Holovko.
Repression, Arrests and Executions
In late 1920s Stalin abolished the New Economic Policy and returned to forced collectivization. In this context changes in cultural politics occurred as well. An early example was the Union for the Freedom of Ukraine process in 1930, a show trial of 474 people (mostly scientists), 15 of whom were executed and 248 sent to prison.
The campaign was concentrated in the years from 1934 to 1940, reaching a peak during the Great Purge of 1937-1938. Overall, 223 writers were subjected to harassment, arrest and in a number of cases imprisonment and execution. Almost three hundred representatives of the Ukrainian renaissance of the 1920s were shot between 27 October and 4 November at Sandarmokh, a massive killing field in Karelia (northwest Russia).
Some important representatives of this generation survived. They remained in the Soviet Union (Oleksandr Dovzhenko, Pavlo Tychyna, Maksym Rylsky, Borys Antonenko-Davydovych, Ostap Vyshnya, and Mykola Bazhan), or emigrated (Ulas Samchuk, George Shevelov, and Ivan Bahrianyi).
A few representatives
- Mykhailo Boychuk (30 October 1882 – 13 July 1937), artist.
- Mykola Khvylovy (13 December 1893 – 13 May 1933) prose writer and poet.
- Hryhoriy Kosynka (29 November 1899 – 15 December 1934), writer and translator.
- Mykola Kulish (19 December 1892 – 3 November 1937), prose writer and dramatist; shot at Sandarmokh.
- Les Kurbas (1887–1937), film and theater director; shot at Sandarmokh.
- Valerian Pidmohylny (2 February 1901 – 3 November 1937), prose writer; shot at Sandarmokh.
- Klym Polishchuk (25 November 1891 – 3 November 1937), journalist, poet and prose writer; shot at Sandarmokh.
- Liudmyla Starytska-Cherniakhivska (17 August 1868 – 1941), writer, translator and literary critic.
- Mykhailo Yalovy (5 June 1895 – 3 November 1937), poet, prosaist and dramatist; shot at Sandarmokh.
- Maik Yohansen (pseuds: Willy Wetzelius and M. Kramar) (16 October 1895 – 27 October 1937), poet, prose writer, dramatist, translator, critic and linguist; shot at Sandarmokh.
- Volodymyr Svidzinsky (9 October 1885 – 18 October 1941), poet and translator.
- Нагорний К.О. Проблема національного самоствердження в публіцистиці лідера літературного угруповання "Гарт" В. Блакитного
- Ю. Луцький. Джерела до історії Вапліте
- Quote from futurists' manifest in their magazine "Nova Generatsiya".
- Юрій Лавріненко Розстріляне відродження: Антологія 1917–1933. Archived December 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. — Київ: Смолоскип, 2004.
- Krys, Svitlana (2016) ‘Book Review: Liudmyla Starytska-Cherniakhivska, The Living Grave: A Ukrainian Legend and Klym Polishchuk, Treasure of the Ages: Ukrainian Legends’, EWJUS: East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies, Vol 3, No 2, pp. 213-215