Taras Shevchenko and the Search for a Ukrainian Literary Identity

Culture Trip

Largely regarded as the father of Ukrainian literature and linguistics, Taras Shevchenko was a brilliant but controversial philosophical artist and scholar of the 19th century. Lindsay Parnell explores his life and work.

Portrait of Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861)

Orphaned at age 11, Shevchenko was forced to serve as a serf in the home of a Russian aristocrat before being sent to St. Petersburg to apprentice and pursue his natural artistic talents. In 1838, the talented illustrator enrolled at the Academy of the Arts to study with the acclaimed Karl Briullov. Shevchenko excelled at the visual arts as a highly skilled painter, but his creativity and artistic expression quickly transcended the boundaries of a canvas and brush and found their way to pen and paper.
His debut collection of poetry in 1840, Kobzar shared its title with what became the author’s nickname and a term synonymous with the Ukraine’s literary renewal in the mid 19th century. It marked a new direction for Ukrainian writing and inspired a nationalist movement stimulated by the prosperous potential of the Ukraine and its people. Shevchenko travelled from Russia to the Ukraine in the 1840s and became greatly distraught by the harsh economic circumstances imposed upon the lower class. These visits profoundly inspired Shevchenko. Writing in both his native Ukrainian and Russian, Shevchenko’s poetry explored his notions for Ukraine’s national philosophy and spoke out against the oppressive reign of the government in its cruel mistreatment and disregard of the impoverished lower classes.

Title pages for Shevchenko’s “Haydamaky” (1964)

Shevchenko’s political involvement with Ukrainian intellect and revolutionary Nikolay Kostomarov, along with other associates of the Brotherhood of Saints, increased his support for the self-determination and political liberation of Slavic nations. Shevchenko was quickly arrested after the publication of The Dream (The Son), which featured an explicit attack on the Russian Emperor Nicholas I and his family. This alleged act of betrayal led to ruthless punishment in the form of physical torture. The poet and painter was then imprisoned and ultimately exiled with members of the Russian military to Orsk.
Shevchenko’s work offered a revolutionary revitalization of the Ukrainian language and national identity. Written with a refreshing elegance and precision, his poetry articulated a specifically Ukrainian identity in a way Ukrainian writing never had. The poet’s most notable piece, Haidamaky was published in 1841 to much controversy because of its political slant. As a respected and venerated member of a circle of famous Ukrainian scholars and intellectuals, Shevchenko was inspired by the political rebellion of lower class peasants and their uprising against Polish aristocracy residing in the Ukraine. His poetry and paintings today still embody the fierce revolutionary spirit of those silenced by reigning regime.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article