Item #1961 [ON THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SOBER] Strashnyj Vorog. Knyzhka pro Gorilku. [i.e. A Terrible Enemy. The Book on Vodka]. Zagirnya, ariia.
[ON THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SOBER] Strashnyj Vorog. Knyzhka pro Gorilku. [i.e. A Terrible Enemy. The Book on Vodka]
[ON THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SOBER] Strashnyj Vorog. Knyzhka pro Gorilku. [i.e. A Terrible Enemy. The Book on Vodka]
[ON THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SOBER] Strashnyj Vorog. Knyzhka pro Gorilku. [i.e. A Terrible Enemy. The Book on Vodka]

[ON THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SOBER] Strashnyj Vorog. Knyzhka pro Gorilku. [i.e. A Terrible Enemy. The Book on Vodka]

Chernigov: Drukarnja Gub. Zemstva for B. Grinchenko, 1900. Item #1961

42 pp. 17,5 x 12 cm. Contemporary cardboard covers. First edition. In Ukrainian, but printed using pre-1917 Russian orthography. Overall good condition. Front and back cover attached to the cardboard presumably crafted by the library. Soiled boards, damp stains. Rubber stamps and ink marks on front and back cover & title, some illegible. Numerical stamp and ink marks on p. 42. One of the stamps visible on the front board and title is of Biblioteka 1-oi Ukrains'koi kooperatyvnoi Prosvity Tarasa Shevchenka. Prosvita, est. 1868, was a Galician Ukrainophilic organisation that focused on enlightenment, promotion of Ukrainian literacy and spreading yet unpopular ideas of an independent nation-centric Ukrainian state. It opposed both Russophiles and Westerners and played an important role in providing a stream of Ukrainian-language books during the late 19th century. Tovarystvo managed to print thousands of titles, was responsible for setting up schools and libraries all around the modern Ukraine territories.

M. Zagirnya (pseud. Hrinchenko Mariia, 1863-1928) was one of the few prominent Ukrainian women intellectuals of the XIXth century. Poet, writer and translator, editor of early Ukrainian-Russian vocabularies: Hrinchenko managed to combine her literacy, education, and husband’s publishing facilities in an aim to help the poor peasantry. Hrinchenko translated into Ukrainian Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Leo Tolstoy novels. She also made a number of first ever educational pamphlets in Ukrainian to appear in print, like the present brochure. Her husband, writer Borys Hrinchenko (1863-1910), the publisher of this book, was a prominent figure forming the first wave of Ukrainian cultural revival. As a writer, editor, linguist, author of the first scholarly Ukrainian vocabulary and Prosvita co-founder, Hrinchenko combined his nationalist stance with a dedicated educational approach. Since the 1876 Ems Ukaz, the Russian Empire tried to postpone the development of Ukrainian culture aggressively. Throughout all Eastern Ukrainian territories primary education in Ukrainian was banned, periodicals were banned too. Only wellknown fiction translations or educational texts were allowed by censors. In the wake of the same Ukaz, Strashnyj Vorog is in Ukrainian — but typed using pre-1917 Cyrillic orthography. The thing is, Ukrainian was regarded as some sort of “dirty” Russian, one of peasants, i.e. not a language that deserved its own ABC. The book received the censor approval in Odesa on 27th of July of 1899 and was printed in Chernigov only in 1900: it took a long time to publish even a totally harmless brochure.

Alcohol was a real problem for the peasants and it affected their productivity directly. It was a subject of ongoing jokes in higher classes of the society and a subject of deep sorrow among peasants. It led to violence, parasitism and theft. Drunken peasants, drunken factory workers were kind of a habitual landscape addition, often portrayed by classics acquainted with the rural life — from Pushkin to Bunin.

In all eight chapters of the book Hrinchenko is speaking directly to the reader. She describes how vodka was invented, why people are drinking it, how harmful drinking is for the brain, body and wallet — and, finally, gives some advice on what to do, describing early anti-alcoholic societies in the Western Europe. She uses very convincing examples understandable even by children. As such, Hrinchenko describes the toxicity of alcohol applied to the skin, provides examples of intergenerational drinking, describes why cheap hooch is dangerous and so on. Her tone is very different from haughty sermons or harsh country doctor’s advice. Hrinchenko refrains completely from any imperialistic ideas of state benefits of sobriety, focusing on personal and family values. Author’s tone is confidential and warm, full of sorrow and compassion towards the drunkyards. According to a recent study of early Ukrainian antialcoholic editions (Voloshenko, V. Kul'turne Pole Ukrainomovnykh Antyalkohol'nykh Vydan' “Dlia Narodu” Zlamu XIX-XX st. Ukrains'kyi selianyn, 2021. #25, p. 11-19), this brochure, although not the first Ukrainian-language thematic publication, was among the most popular ones. Hrinchenko herself used a lot of reference and studies in preparation of the text, there is no terminology nor apparatus at all. Hrinchenko deliberately kept the text simple. And it paid off. The book was asked in libraries and noted in many lists as the most engaging anti-alcoholic publication in Ukrainian. Such Ukrainian books even on the most prosaic topics were cherished, read in the library, read aloud for groups — while Russian books were lying on shelves or used as a source of wrapping paper for groceries. As one anonymous educated Ukrainian peasant remembers: “A book in Ukrainian is being read eagerly up to learning it by heart... Everyone hears it during the sermons and knows from other different books that vodka is harmful. But almost every villager says that it’s all made up. However this new book Strashnyj Vorog (about vodka) caught the attention of even the heavy drinkers — and they do believe the words written in the brochure” (Kievskaya starina, #6 for 1905, p. 300-301). Drinking was a negative social factor well into the later rapid industrialization of Ukraine. So the publishing of anti-alcoholic pamphlets and books for self-education continued even at a wider scale. According to a report Problemy Pyiatstva ta Alkoholizmu v Radians'kii Ukraini 1920-kh Rokiv ta Sproby ikh Podolannia (na Prykladi Kharkova) by H. Demochko (Gileia: naukovyi visnyk. Zbirnyk naukovykh prats'. Kyiv, 2013. — #75(8)), as much as 67% (sic!) workers were spending over a half of their earnings on alcohol. The back cover provides 45 (a part of the list, as only text on verso is visible) books printed by Grinchenko. No. 45 is the present book and it is priced at only 6 kopecks: a bargain compared to the price of a bottle of double-filtered vodka in a cafe — 60 kopecks.

The 2nd edition of Sistematicheskij Ukazatel' Knig i Nagljadnyh Posobij po Alkogolizmu (St. Petersbourg, 1914), a Russian bibliography of editions on alcoholism, N. Bludorov mentions not only this book, but states that a second edition was printed in Kyiv in 1907 (p. 104).

Natsional'na bibliohrafiia Ukrainy (Kyiv, 2019): vol 1., #6484.

Rare. Not in KVK. Not i in WorldCat. According to Natsional'na bibliohrafifiia, only one copy is being held in Ukrainian libraries, at the National Library of Ukraine.

Price: $1,200.00

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