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Panteleimon Kulish

Panteleimon Kulish (August 7, 1819 – February 14, 1897) was a Ukrainian writer, critic, poet, folklorist, and translator. He was the first person known to translate the whole of the Bible into the modern Ukrainian language and was also the first to write historical novels in Ukrainian. His most famous contribution in this field was the novel Chorna Rada (The Black Council) which was set in Cossack times. Kulish was also active in historical writing, composing a brief history of Ukraine in verse (under the title Ukraina) and a much larger History of the Reunification of Rus in three volumes. The latter dealt with the era of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky in the seventeenth century. His two-volume collection of Ukrainian folklore, Notes on Southern Rus retains its scholarly significance to the present day.

During his early years at the University of Kyiv, Kulish came under the influence of the historian and literary figure Mykhaylo Maksymovych who turned his attention to his native Ukrainian culture. In the 1840s, he became close to the poet Taras Shevchenko, and the historian Mykola Kostomarov and participated in the illegal Brotherhood of Saints Cyril and Methodius which envisioned a Ukrainian national rebirth, including national independence, within a free and equal Slavic federation.

In 1847, Kulish was arrested for his participation in this organization, and spent some time in prison and a few years in exile.

In the late 1850s, he was reunited with Kostomarov and others of the Cyril-Methodian "Brethren" and participated in the Ukrainian journal Osnova (The Foundation). At this time, he published his famous Notes on Southern Rus' in which he pioneered a new Ukrainian orthography for the Ukrainian vernacular, the Kulishivka alphabet, based on phonetics rather than etymology. This later became the basis of the modern written Ukrainian language.

In the 1860s and 1870s, he gradually turned more conservative and began to criticize Shevchenko, the Cossack revolts, and the ideal of the Cossacks as the defenders of popular liberty. Eventually, despite Tsarist repression of Ukrainian culture and the ban on the appearance of the Ukrainian language in print, he developed a theory that Ukraine and Russia should be politically united but divergent in culture, an approach which won few adherents among the Ukrainian intelligentsia of the time. Nevertheless, this conservative approach to Ukrainian affairs was never completely extinguished and was later resurrected in a different form by other Ukrainian political thinkers such as Viacheslav Lypynsky, Stepan Tomashivsky, and others.



In the 1880s, Kulish visited Austrian Galicia and, in light of the ban on Ukrainian publications in the Russian Empire, cooperated with the Ukrainian cultural and political leaders there. Thus he was one of the first Ukrainian figures to, at least in part, successfully bridge the gap between Russian and Austrian Ukraine.

He spent his last years isolated on his homestead in eastern Ukraine. During these years he translated a great deal of west European literature, including Shakespeare, into Ukrainian.


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