Kiev: Spilka revoliutsiinykh pysmennykiv “Z.U.”, 1928. Item #1240
26, XXXIV,  pp. 26,5x18 cm. In original illustrated wrappers. Covers restored, otherwise near fine.
Extremely rare almanac of the literary group ‘Zakhidna Ukraina’ [i.e. Western Ukraine], an organization that operated in 1925-1933. All members of the group were arrested and executed by NKVD for “counter-revolutionary activity”. Reproductions of Soviet artworks were printed on a prevailing part of the edition, supporting the texts. A significant part of the works belonged to representatives of the powerful Ukrainian revival, forced to end in the 1930s.
The edition comprises reproductions of 36 paintings, graphic works and engravings by Soviet artists, including avant-garde masters Illarion Pleshchinskii, Mark Epstein, Andrei Taran, Pavel Golubiatnikov, Viktor Palmov, as well as contemporary Ukrainian artists. Modern art historians regard the 1930s Ukrainian art as the starting point for the phenomenon of Soviet nonconformist art, generally associated with the Khrushchev Thaw. After 1932, along with the abolition of art and literary organizations, the Soviet state began to strengthen an anti-nationalist campaign. Due to the dominance of the peasant topic in Ukrainian works, they were blamed for propaganda of the bourgeois-kulak ideas, nationalism and formalism. A huge amount of Ukrainian artworks was withdrawn from circulation and exhibitions into limited access storages.
The story of this terror may start from the monumental artist Mykhailo Boychuk. Nowadays he is first associated with the executed Ukrainian revival and monumental art. Boychuk himself and most supporters of his principles (Boychukists) were executed in the 1930s. The Soviet authorities would continue to destroy their oeuvre even in the following decades. Artworks by his younger brother Timofii Boychuk (1896-1922, died of unspecified causes) and his wife Sofiya Nalepinska-Boychuk (1884-1937, executed) were published in this collection. The book also includes works by murdered boychukists Ivan Padalka (1894-1937) and Olexander Ruban (1900-1943). Jewish sculptors Josephine Dindo (1902-1953) and her spouse Bernard Kratko (1884-1960) suffered a similar fate. They immigrated and worked in Ukraine since the early years of the Soviet state, creating impressive sculptures of socialist workers. Both were arrested in 1937 and survived 10-year sentences in the GULAG.
Cover design of this collection was created by Soviet artist Anton Sereda (1890-1961) who was considered a representative of Narbut’s art school. Since 1915, he headed the department of metal arts of the Caucasian Handicraft Committee in Tbilisi. Then Sereda worked and headed the Kharkov School of Printing Art (now the Ukrainian Academy of Printing) and the Kiev Arts Institute. His cover opens this series of reproductions that depict people suffering from the deluge, workers of heavy industry and the peacetime life of peasants, including a Jewish man from an OZET commune.
Texts mostly belonged to West Ukrainian writers. The social and political situation in Galicia and other regions of Western Ukraine after its annexation by Poland underwent specific changes, including suppression of revolutionary literary activity. Some Western Ukrainian writers emigrated after the military conflict with Poland in 1919. In Kharkov, they formed their own organization in 1925, initially, as a section of a union of peasant writers ‘Plow’. ‘Zakhidna Ukraina’ echoed trends of Soviet Ukrainian literature but developed peculiar features at the same time. In 1926, the group began to operate independently, uniting more than fifty writers and artists from Western Ukraine region. Among them were V. Atamaniuk, D. Zagul, V. Gzhitskii, M. Irchan, M. Kichura, M. Kozoris, O. Shmigelskii, I. Tkachuk and others. Branches of the organization were established in Kiev, Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Poltava. The organization was headed by Dmitry Zahul, then by Miroslav Irchan. Its major activity was propaganda of the Soviet rule in Western Ukraine. ‘Zakhidna Ukraina’ issued collections of works by several writers, as well as editions of individual works. The collection contains 11 literary works by seven society members and four Soviet writers. Together, texts were dedicated to the population of Galicia and Carpatho-Ukraine that were suffering from the war, flood and bureaucracy.
Among the writers is also a person who miraculously survived the Soviet 1930s. The futurist writer and public figure Mykola Bazhan (1904–1983) didn’t join the group, yet his literary activity was regarded as “anti-proletarian” in the 1930s, so he felt his arrest was imminent. In 1937, he translated Shota Rustaveli’s epic poem ‘The Knight in the Panther’s Skin’ into Ukrainian that had been favored by I. Stalin. Thanks to this, Bazhan escaped arrest and death.
In 1932, another member of the group, Iurko Nikiforuk (1896-1983) managed to publish a book ‘Zakhidna Ukraina : Materiialy do bibliografii’ listing works on Western Ukraine that was printed on the territory of Soviet Ukraine in 1917-1929. Fleeing Stalin’s repressions, Nikiforuk moved from Kiev to Yaroslavl in 1934 and successfully hid there, working in local archives.
Of 11 works this almanac included, the bibliography lists only 3 works by Soviet writers and keep silent about others. Published once in the repressed almanac, this verse of ‘Zakhidna Ukraina’ was soon relegated to oblivion.
Only copy is located in Harvard University, according to Worldcat.