|Vasyl Semenovych Stus|
Vasyl Stus on the cover of a book of his poetry My People, I Will Return to You
|Native name||Василь Семенович Стус|
January 6, 1938|
Rakhnivka, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
|Died||September 4, 1985
Perm-36, Kuchino, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
|Alma mater||Donetsk National University|
|Known for||poems, human rights activism with participation in the Ukrainian Helsinki Group|
|Movement||dissident movement in the Soviet Union|
Shevchenko National Prize, Antonovych Prize
Vasyl Semenovych Stus (Ukrainian: Васи́ль Семе́нович Стус; 6 January 1938, Rakhnivka, Ukrainian SSR – 4 September 1985, Perm-36, Kuchino, Russian SFSR) was a Ukrainian poet, translator, literary critic, journalist, and an active member of the Ukrainian dissident movement. For his political convictions, his works were banned by the Soviet regime and he spent 13 years in detention, until his death in Perm-36—then a Soviet forced labor camp for political prisoners, subsequently The Museum of the History of Political Repression—after having declared a hunger strike on September 4, 1985. On November 26, 2005, the Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko posthumously awarded him the highest national title: Hero of Ukraine. Stus is widely regarded as one of Ukraine's foremost poets.
Vasyl Stus was born on January 6, 1938 into a peasant family in the village of Rakhnivka, Haisyn Raion, Vinnytsia Oblast (province), Ukrainian SSR. Next year, his parents Semen Demyanovych and Iryna Yakivna moved to the city of Stalino (now Donetsk). Their children joined them one year later. Vasyl first encountered the Ukrainian language and poetry from his mother who sang him Ukrainian folk songs.
After secondary school, Vasyl Stus entered the Department of history and literature of the Pedagogical Institute in Stalino (nowadays Donetsk University). In 1959 he graduated from the institute with honours. Following graduation, Stus briefly worked as a high school teacher of Ukrainian language and literature in Tauzhnia village of Kirovohrad Oblast, and then was conscripted to the Soviet Army for two years. While studying at the university and during his military service in the Ural mountains, he started to write poetry and translated into Ukrainian more than a hundred verses by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Rainer Maria Rilke. The original copies of his translations were later confiscated by the KGB, and were lost.
After his military service, Vasyl Stus worked as an editor in the newspaper Sotsialistychnyi Donbas (Socialist Donbas) in 1960-1963. In 1963, he entered a Doctoral (PhD) program at the Shevchenko Institute of Literature of Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kiev. At the same time he published his selected poetry.
In 1965, Stus got married; his son, Dmytro was born in 1966.
On September 4, 1965 during the premiere of Sergei Parajanov's film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors in Kiev's Ukrayina cinema, Vasyl Stus took part in a protest against the arrests of Ukrainian intelligentsia. As a result, he was expelled from the Institute on September 30 and later lost his job at the State Historical Archive. After that, he worked as a building constructor, a fireman, and an engineer, continuing his intensive work on poetry. In 1965, he submitted his first book Circulation (Круговерть) to a publisher, but it was rejected due to discrepancy with Soviet ideology and artistic style. His next poetry book Winter Trees (Зимові дерева) was also rejected, regardless of positive reviews from the poet Ivan Drach and the critic Eugen Adelgejm. In 1970, the book was published in Belgium.
On January 12, 1972, Stus was arrested for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda". He served a 5-year sentence in a labor camp, and two more in exile in Magadan Oblast.
In August 1979, having finished his sentence, he returned to Kiev and worked in a foundry. He spoke out in defense of members of the Ukrainian Helsinki group (UHG). Stus himself joined the UHG in October 1979.
“In Kiev I learned that people close to the Helsinki Group were being repressed in the most flagrant manner. This at least had been the case in the trials of Ovsiyenko, Horbal, Lytvyn, and they were soon to deal similarly with Chornovil and Rozumny. I didn’t want that kind of Kiev. Seeing that the Group had been left rudderless, I joined it because I couldn’t do otherwise … When life is taken away, I had no need of pitiful crumbs. Psychologically I understood that the prison gates had already opened for me and that any day now they would close behind me – and close for a long time. But what was I supposed to do? Ukrainians were not able to leave the country, and anyway I didn’t particularly want to go beyond those borders since who then, here, in Great Ukraine, would become the voice of indignation and protest? This was my fate, and you don’t choose your fate. You accept it, whatever that fate may be. And when you don’t accept it, it takes you by force … However I had no intention of bowing my head down, whatever happened. Behind me was Ukraine, my oppressed people, whose honour I had to defend or perish". (“Z tabornoho zoshyta" [“From the camp notebook"], 1983).
On 14 May 1980, prior to the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, he was arrested and received a 10-year sentence for "anti-Soviet activity". The later influential (in Ukrainian politics) Viktor Medvedchuk defended poet Stus during this trial in 1980. In the closing speech from the defence Medvedchuk stated all of Stus’ crimes deserved punishment; he also told the court to make sure that the defendant fulfilled his daily norm at the factory where he worked at the time, despite alleged serious stomach problems. Stus's requests to get another public defender were dismissed by the court.
Vasyl Stus died after he declared hunger strike on September 4, 1985 in a Soviet forced labor camp for political prisoners Perm-36  near the village of Kuchino, Perm Oblast, Russian SFSR, where he had been transferred in November 1980. Danylo Shumuk reported that the commandant, a certain Maj. Zhuravkov, committed suicide after the death of Vasyl Stus. In the Kuchino camp, out of 56 inmates kept there between 1980 and 1987, 8 died, including 4 members of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group.
In January 1989, the first non-governmental Vasyl Stus Prizes were awarded for “talent and courage". This Prize was set up by the Ukrainian Association of the Independent Creative Intelligentsia, and is awarded every year on the poet’s date of birth in Lviv. In 1993 Stus was posthumously awarded the Taras Shevchenko State Prize for Literature.
In December 2008, a group of current and former students of the Donetsk National University sent an appeal to the Minister of Education, Ivan Vakarchuk, asking that the university be named after one of its alumni, Vasyl Stus. The Minister supported the initiative and approached the Rector of the university with a request to discuss the issue among staff and at the academic council. On 17 February 2009 62 out of 63 members of the university's academic council voted against renaming the university to Vasyl Stus or Volodomyr Degtyaryov (61 voted against this), 63 voted for not changing the name of the institute. On 13 February 2009, representatives of the university's students voted in the same fashion. The Donetsk National University, relocated to Vinnytsia due to the War in Donbass, was eventually renamed named after Stus on 10 June 2016. The new name was approved by 75 votes out of 105 of the university's academic council.
Dozens of streets all over Ukraine are named in Vasyl Stus's honour.
- Antonovych prize (1982)
References and footnotes
- (in Ukrainian) Про присвоєння В. Стусу звання Герой України| вiд 26.11.2005 № 1652/2005
- (in Ukrainian) STUS NO CHANCE FOR PROTECTION: disservice Medvedchuk, Ukrayinska Pravda (23 August 2016)
- Revolution in Orange: The Origins of Ukraine's Democratic Breakthrough by Anders Aslund and Michael A. McFaul, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2006, ISBN 978-0-87003-221-9
- Ukrainian Dissident Hero Poet Vasyl Stus, What's On Kyiv
- SHCHERBYTSKYY ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATED FOR THE FIRST TIME IN UKRAINE by Taras Kuzio, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (11 March 2003)
- Toronto pays tribute to former Soviet political prisoner, The Ukrainian Weekly (October 19, 1997)
- Jubilee Coin "Vasyl Stus ", National bank of Ukraine
- 70th Birth Anniversary of Vasil Stus, FSU Postage Stamps Catalogue
- Vasyl Stus - His Life, the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (March 01, 1999)
- Tykhy Oleksa (Oleskiy Ivanovych), Dissident Movement in Ukraine
- Stus, Vasyl Semenovych, Dissident Movement in Ukraine
- Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc opposing Vakarchuk's dismissal, Kyiv Post (24 June 2009)
- When silence is a crime (about Vasyl Stus) by Halya Coynash, UNIAN (February 27, 2009)
- On 5 February 2009 National Deputy Olena Bondarenko presented a new initiative: to name the university after Volodomyr Degtyaryov, the First Secretary of the Donetsk Regional Party Committee from 1963 to 1976. The initiative was endorsed by some other National Deputies, including the leader of the Party of the Regions Viktor Yanukovych, Mykola Azarov and others (source: When silence is a crime (about Vasyl Stus) by Halya Coynash, UNIAN (February 27, 2009)).
- (in Ukrainian) Донецький національний університет відмовився від Василя Стуса, ZIK (February 17, 2009)
- Ukraine Today website, June 10, 2016.
- Coynash, Halya (20 June 2016). "Donetsk University Finally Named After Great Ukrainian Poet Vasyl Stus". Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.
- Cult of Stalin sweeps back into Ukraine's Donetsk rebel 'republic', The Daily Telegraph (19 Oct 2015)
- Famous Ukrainians of all times, Sociological group "RATING" (2012/05/28)
- Top 11-100, Velyki Ukraïntsi
- Stus, Vasyl (July 1977). "The case of Vasyl Stus. Persecuted poet". Index on Censorship. 6 (4): 13–14. doi:10.1080/03064227708532669.
- Svitlychna, Nadia (February 1986). "The death of Vasyl Stus". Index on Censorship. 15 (2): 34–37. doi:10.1080/03064228608534045.
- Kostash, Myrna (1998). "Inside the Copper Mountain". The doomed bridegroom: a memoir. Edmonton: New West Press. pp. 34–70. ISBN 1896300383.
- Стус, Дмитро (2005). Василь Стус: життя як творчість [Vasyl Stus: life as creativity] (in Ukrainian). Kiev: Факт.
- Pavlyshyn, Marko (Winter 2010). "Martyrology and literary scholarship: the сase of Vasyl Stus" (PDF). The Slavic and East European Journal. 54 (4): 585–606. JSTOR 23345041. Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 May 2016.
- Achilli, Alessandro (2013). "Vasyl' Stus and Russian culture: a complex issue". Australian & New Zealand Journal of European Studies. 5 (2): 37–44.
- Achilli, Alessandro (September 2015). "Vasyl' Stus and death: on the thirtieth anniversary of his death". Krytyka.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Vasyl Stus.|
- Vasys Ovsienko. The death of Vasyl Stus in Zerkalo Nedeli, September 7–13, 2002. Available in Russian and Ukrainian.
- Vasyl Stus -- A Life Remembered
- Selected collection of poems by Vasyl Stus (in Ukrainian)
- Vasyl Stus Biography (in Ukrainian)
- The GULAG Museus at Perm-36 (a special labor camp for political prisoners where Vasyl Stus was retained)
- Вахтанг Кіпіані, Стус і Нобель. Демістифікація міфу, Ukrayinska Pravda, July 22, 2006 (in Ukrainian)
- Vasyl Stus Facebook Pro Vasyl Stus activist site (in Ukrainian)/ (in English)
- Ukrainian art songs on poetry of Vasyl Stus