Gregory Skovoroda

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Hryhorii Skovoroda)
Jump to: navigation, search
Gregory Skovoroda
Hryhoriy Skovoroda.jpg
Born 3 December 1722
village of Chernukhi, Lubny Regiment, Kiev Governorate, Russian Empire (present-day Ukraine)
Died 9 November 1794 (age 71)
village of Ivanovka, Kharkov Governorate, Russian Empire (now Ukraine)
Occupation Writer, composer, teacher
Language Latin, Greek, Church Slavonic, Ukrainian, Russian[1]
Ethnicity Ukrainian
Citizenship Russian Empire

Gregory Skovoroda, also Hryhorii Skovoroda, or Grigory Skovoroda (Latin: Gregorius Scovoroda, Ukrainian: Григорій Савич Сковорода, Hryhorii Savych Skovoroda; Russian: Григо́рий Са́ввич Сковорода́, Grigory Savvich Skovoroda; 3 December 1722 – 9 November 1794) was a Ukrainian[2] and Russian[3] philosopher, poet, teacher and composer. Skovoroda was of a Cossack background in current day Ukraine, who lived in the Russian Empire and made important contributions to Russian philosophy and culture.[4][5][6] He lived and worked in Sloboda Ukraine, which is today partly in modern Ukraine and partly in Russia. Skovoroda was so important for Russian culture and development of Russian philosophical thought, that he has been referred to as the "Russian Socrates."[7]

Skovoroda received his education at the Kiev Mogila Academy in Kiev. Haunted by worldly and spiritual powers, the philosopher led a life of an itinerant thinker-beggar. In his tracts and dialogs, biblical problems overlap with those examined earlier by Plato and the Stoics. Skovoroda's first book was issued after his death in 1798 in Saint Petersburg. Skovoroda's complete works were published for the first time in Saint Petersburg in 1861. Before this edition many of his works existed only in manuscript form.


Skovoroda was born into a small-holder Ukrainian Cossack family in the village of Chernukhi in Kiev Governorate,[8] Russian Empire (modern-day Poltava Oblast, Ukraine), in 1722. He was a student at the Kiev Mogila Academy (1734–1741, 1744–1745, 1751–1753) but did not graduate. In 1741, at the age of 19 due to his uncle Ignatiy Poltavtsev he was taken from Kiev to sing in the imperial choir in Moscow and St. Petersburg returning to Kiev in 1744. He spent the period from 1745 to 1750 in the kingdom of Hungary and is thought to have traveled elsewhere in Europe during this period as well. In 1750 he returned to Kiev. From 1750–1751 he taught poetics in Pereyaslav. For most of the period from 1753 to 1759 Skovoroda was a tutor in the family of a landowner in Kovrai. From 1759 to 1769, with interruptions, he taught such subjects as poetry, syntax, Greek, and ethics at the Kharkоv Collegium. After an attack on his course on ethics in 1769 he decided to abandon teaching.

Skovoroda is known as a composer of liturgical music, as well as a number of songs to his own texts. Of the latter, several have passed into the realm of Ukrainian folk music. Many of his philosophical songs known as "Skovorodskie psalmy" were often encountered in the repertoire of blind travelling folk musicians known as kobzars. He was described as a proficient player on the flute, torban and kobza.

In the final quarter of his life he traveled by foot through Sloboda Ukraine staying with various friends, both rich and poor, preferring not to remain in one place for too long.

This last period was the time of his great philosophic works. In this period as well, but particularly earlier, he wrote poetry and letters in Church Slavonic language, Greek and Latin and did a number of translations from Latin into Russian.


There is much debate regarding the language Skovoroda used in his writings. Skovoroda used a form of written Ukrainian which differed somewhat from the vernacular Ukrainian. As a scholar studying in a religious institution that relied heavily on various forms of the Church-Slavonic language although the foundation of his written language was Ukrainian.[9]

Apart from written Ukrainian, Skovoroda was known to have spoken and written in Greek, Latin, German and Hebrew. His poetry has been analysed for foreign non-Ukrainian elements. After an in depth study of Skovoroda's written works the Slavic linguist George Shevelov was able to deduce that apart from Ukrainian it contained 7.8% Russian, 7.7% non-Slavic, and 27.6% Church Slavonic vocabulary, and that the variant of Church Slavonic he used was the variety used in the Synodinal Bible of 1751.[9] Skovoroda's prose however a higher content of non-Ukrainian vocabulary: 36.7% Church Slavonic, 4.7% other non-Slavonic European languages, and 9.7% Russian.[9]

After an in depth analysis of Skovoroda's language, G. Shevelov came to the conclusion that the high incidence of Church-Slavonic and the occurrence of Russian words reflect the circle of people with which Skovoroda primarily associated himself with, and on who he was materially dependent – and not the villagers and the village language that he knew and spoke.[9]

George Shevelov concludes: ″In Summary, the language of Skovoroda, minus its many biblical and ecclesiastical, political and personal features is, in its foundation, the Slobozhanshchina variety of standart Russian as used by the educated″.[9]


Three days before he died, he went to the house of one of his closest friends and told him he had come to stay permanently. Every day he left the house early with a shovel, and it turned out that he spent three days digging his own grave. On the third day, he ate dinner, stood up and said, "my time has come." He went into the next room, lay down, and died. He requested the following epitaph to be placed on his tombstone:


"Water cannot exist without fish, just as air without birds, just as time without people."

"Your feet can't help but lose their way, when your heart has lost it."

"Can a person, who is blind at home, see clearly at the marketplace?"

"Wisdom was not created from books, but books were created from wisdom."


Soviet stamp with portrait of H. Skovoroda (1972).
Skovoroda on Ukraine's largest banknote

On 15 September 2006, Skovoroda's portrait was placed on the largest banknote in circulation in Ukraine, the 500-hryvnia note.

The Hryhoriy Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy, founded in 1946, operates under the auspicies of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine (until 1991 Academy of Sciences of the UkrSSR).[10]


Skovoroda's works during his life were not printed, because censors found that his sacred writings were offensive to monasticism. Brought up in a spirit of philosophical and religious studies, he became an opponent of church scholasticism and the spiritual dominance of the Moscow-based Orthodox Church. "Our kingdom is within us" he wrote "and to know God, you must know yourself...People should know God, like themselves, enough to see him in the world...Belief in God does not mean belief in his existence and therefore to give in to him and live according to His law...Sanctity of life lies in doing good to people."

The official Muscovite stance divided humanity into more or less blessed by God and blessed, and those that are cursed, such as the serfs. Skovoroda taught that "all work is blessed by God", but distribution of wealth outside the circle of God called unforgivable sin. The Muscowite Orthodox clergy was intolerant to Skovoroda's teachings as considered them heretical. Skovoroda taught that the only task of philosophy was to seek the truth and to pursue it. But in terms of human life, this goal is unattainable, and human happiness lies in the fact that everything has to find the truth. This goal can go in different directions, and intolerance of those who think differently, has no justification. Similarly, religious intolerance does not find justification for eternal truth revealed to the world in different forms. In relation to himself he was utterly uncompromising however in complete harmony with their teaching and their lives. He was very gentle and observant in relation to others.

Skovoroda defended the right of the individual in each person, but translated this into concrete political language of the time. This meant a strong democratic trend that was associated with sympathy for enslaved peasant masses, with sharp hostility to the Muscovite oppressors.

It was only in 1798 that his "Narsisis or Know thyself" was published in the Russian Empire and even then without the inclusion of his name. In 1806 the magazine "Zion Vyestnyk" printed some more of his works. Then in Moscow in 1837–1839 a few of his works were published under his name, and only in 1861 the first almost complete collection of his works was published. The best and most complete, was published in 1896 in Kharkiv under the editorship of Professor. D. Bahaliy. Here 16 of his works, with 9 of them appearing for the first time! Also published here Pans biography and some of his poems. Another edition of the works in December. A full academic publication of Skovoroda's works still does not exist, because manuscripts are held in various archives and libraries where access to them is difficult.

List of works[edit]

  • Skovoroda, Gregory S. Fables and Aphorisms. Translation, biography, and analysis by Dan B. Chopyk (New York: Peter Lang, 1990) Review: Wolodymyr T. Zyla, Ukrainian Quarterly, 50 (1994): 303–304.
  • Skovoroda, Hryhorii. Piznay v sobi ludynu. Translated by M. Kashuba with an introduction by Vasyl' Voitovych (L'viv: S$vit, 1995) Selected works (original: Ukrainian language).
  • Skovoroda, Hryhorii. Tvory: V dvokh tomakh, foreword by O. Myshanych, chief editor Omelian Pritsak (Kiev: Oberehy, 1994) (original: Ukrainian language, translated from other languages).
  • Skovoroda, Hryhorii (Gregory), "A Conversation Among Five Travelers Concerning Life's True Happiness" (Translated into English by George L. Kline).
  • Skovoroda, Hryhorii (Gregory), "Conversation about the ancient world".

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Dytyniak Maria Ukrainian Composers – A Bio-bibliographic Guide – Research report No. 14, 1896, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, Canada.
  • Ern, Vladimir F. Григорий Саввич Сковорода. Жизнь и учение (Мoscow: Путь, 1912)
  • Marshall, Richard H. Jr., and Bird, Thomas E. (eds.) Hryhorij Skovoroda: an anthology of critical articles (Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1994)
  • Pylypiuk, Natalia. ‘The Primary Door: at the threshold of Skovoroda’s theology and poetics’, Harvard Ukrainian Studies, 14(3–4), 1990, pp551–583
  • Zakydalsky, Taras, "The Theory of Man in the Philosophy of Skovoroda" (1965)
  • Naydan, Michael M. (ed.) 'Special issue on Hryhorii Skovoroda', Journal of Ukrainian Studies, 22(1–2), 1997
  • Shreyer-Tkachenko O. Hryhoriy Skovoroda – muzykant., Kiev, 1971
  • "The world tried to catch him but failed — Hryhoriy Skovoroda, the 18th-century Ukrainian philosopher", Welcome to Ukraine, 2003, 1


  1. ^ ″It was a peculiar Russian that grew up on the Ukrainian substrat″. Shevelyov G. Skovoroda’s Language and Style // Hryhorij Savyč Skovoroda. An Anthology of Critical Articles. Edmonton — Toronto 1994. P. 129.; ″In Summary, the language of Skovoroda, minus its many biblical and ecclesiastical, political and personal features is, in its foundation, the Slobozhanshchina variety of standart Russian as used by the educated″. Shevelyov G. Skovoroda’s Language and Style // Hryhorij Savyč Skovoroda. An Anthology of Critical Articles. Edmonton — Toronto 1994. P. 131.
  2. ^ (Russian) G.S. Skovoroda in History of Russian Culture by Aleksei Losev.
    (Russian) Skorovoda`s biography on
    "Hryhorij Savyč Skovoroda: An Anthology of Critical Articles". CIUS Press. Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
    "Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy". Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
    Valery Belous. "Skovoroda Grigory Savvitch". Retrieved 2011-05-02.[dead link]
    Hryhorii Skovoroda; V. I. Shynkaruk (September 1974). "Povne Zibrannia Tvoriv u Dvokh Tomakh". Slavic Review (Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies) 33 (3): 559–560. doi:10.2307/2494760. JSTOR 2494760. (registration required (help)). 
    "Hryhorij Savyc Skovoroda: An Anthology of Critical Articles [CIUS Book of the Month]". Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
    "Skovoroda, Hryhorii". Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
    "Victoria Gaidenko, Khmelnitskiy Humanities and Pedagogic Institute, Ukraine". Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
    "Welcome to Ukraine". Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
    Розділи журналу :: Інститут Українознавства (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
  3. ^ Scherer S.P. The Life and Thought of Russia's First Lay Theologian, Grigorij Savvič Skovoroda (1722–1794): PhD dissertation. – Ohio State University, 1969. – VII, 184 р.
    Fuhrmann J.T. The First Russian Philosopher's Search for the Kingdom of God // Essays on Russian Intellectual History / Ed. by L.B. Blair. – Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971. – P. 33–72.}
    Schultze B. Grigorij Savvič Skovoroda // Schultze B. Russische Denker: ihre Stellung zu Christus, Kirche und Papstum. – Wien: Thomas-Moraus-Presse im Verlag Herder, 1950. – S. 15–27.}
    Busch W. Grigorij Skovoroda // Busch W. Horaz in Russland. Studien und Materialien. – München: Eidos Verlag, 1964. – S. 66–70.}
    Ueberweg, Friedrich. Die Philosophie des Auslandes. Berlin, 1928. S. 336 ff.}
    Arseniew N. (von) Bilder aus dem russischen Geistesleben. I. Die mystische Philosophie Skovorodas // Kyrios. Vierteljahresschrift für Kirchen- und Geistesgeschichte Osteuropas / Hrsg. von H. Koch. – Königsberg; Berlin: Ost-Europa-Verlag, 1936. – Bd. I. – Hft. 1. – S. 3–28.}
    Jakovenko B. Filosofi russi: saggio di storia della filosofia russa. – Firenze: La Voce, 1925. – XI, 242 р.}
    (Russian) Сковорода Григорий Саввич // Энциклопедия Кругосвет}
    (Russian) Сковорода Григорий Саввич // Энциклопедия Кольера. – М.: Открытое общество, 2000.
    Марченко О. В. Сковорода Григорий Саввич // Русская философия. Малый энциклопедический словарь. – М., 1995. – С. 469–474.}
    Zenkovsky V.V. G.S. Skovoroda // Zenkovsky V.V. A History of Russian Philosophy / Transl. by George L. Kline. – New York: Columbia University Press, 1953; London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1953. – Vol. 1. – P. 53–69.}
    Goerdt, Wilhelm. Russische Philosophie: Zugänge und Durchblicke. — Freiburg: Verlag Karl Arber, 1984). Также см.: Studies in Soviet Thought 30 (1985) 73.}
    Genyk-Berezovská Z. Skovorodův odkaz (Hryhorij Skovoroda a ruská literatura) // Bulletin ruského jazyka a literatury. – 1993. – S. 111–123.}
    Piovesana G.K. G.S. Skovoroda (1722–1794) primo filosofo ucraino-russo // Orientalia Christiana Periodica. – Roma, 1989. – Vol. LV. – Fasc. 1. – P. 169–196.
    Болдырев А.И. Проблема человека в русской философии XVIII века. – Москва: Издательство Московского университета, 1986. – 120 с.}
    Вышеславцев Б. П. Этика преображённого Эроса / Вступ. ст., сост. и коммент. В. В. Сапова. – М.:Республика, 1994. – 368 с. – (Б-ка этической мысли). ISBN 5-250-02379-7 (С. 155)}
    (Russian) Лосев А. Ф. Г. С. Сковорода в истории русской культуры // Лосевские чтения. Материалы научно-теоретической конференции …, Ростов-на-Дону, 2003, с. 3—8.}
    Флоровский Г. В., прот. Пути русского богословия. – Paris: YMCA Press, 1937. – VI, 574 с.}
    Lo Gatto E. L'idea filosofico-religiosa russa da Skovorodà a Solovjòv // Bilychnis: Rivista di studi religiosi. – 1927. – Vol. XXX. – Р. 77–90.}
    Шпет Г. Г. Очерк развития русской философии. – Петроград: Колос, 1922. – Ч. 1. – C. 68–83.}
    Эрн В. Ф. Григорий Саввич Сковорода. Жизнь и учение. – Москва: Путь, 1912. – 343 с.}
    Эрн В. Ф. Русский Сократ // Северное сияние. 1908. № 1. С. 59–69.}
    Schmid, Ulrich. Russische Religionsphilosophie des 20. Jh. Freiburg, Basel, Wien: Herder, 2003. S. 9–10, 220, 234.}
    Onasch, Konrad. (Czech) Grundzüge der russischen Kirchengeschichte at Google Books (Czech) // Göttingen: Hubert & Co, 1967). vol. 3. — S. 110.
  4. ^ Лосев А. Г. С. Сковорода в истории русской культуры (in Russian). Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
  5. ^ (Russian) Article in the online encyclopedia Krugosvet
  6. ^ СКОВОРОДА, ГРИГОРИЙ САВВИЧ / (1722–1794), русский и украинский философ, поэт, педагог. Родился (in Russian). Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
  7. ^ (Russian) И. И. Кальной, Ю. А. Сандулов. Философия для аспирантов. От философии сродности до философии общего дела, от монолога к диалогу
  8. ^ (Russian) Указ об учреждении губерний и о росписании к ним городов, Электронная библиотека Исторического факультета МГУ им. М. В. Ломоносова
  9. ^ a b c d e George Y. Shevelov. Skovoroda's Language and Style. In book: Richard H. Marshall; Thomas E. Bird, eds. (1994). Hryhorij Savyč Skovoroda: An Anthology of Critical Articles. Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies. Toronto: CIUS Press. p. 131. ISBN 978-1-895571-03-5. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  10. ^ (Ukrainian) "About the Institute." Hryhoriy Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy at NASU. URL accessed 19 October 2006