Serfdom to Post-Revolution:  Russia, Poland, Ukraine 


Prefatory Note:

This essay looks at the “agrarian question” in three eastern European countries—Russia, Poland and Ukraine— from serfdom to post-Revolution. Because the peasant class in this region made up the large majority of the population —over 80% at the beginning of the 20th century, as much as 90% in some areas—its fate was inevitably tied to political developments. It seemed to many that, after centuries of feudal oppression, this class would play a leading role in structuring the new social order that would replace the collapsing autocratic regime. This was not to be. Marxist revolutionaries not only had no place for peasants but were determined to eliminate them as a class. The latter part of this essay focuses particularly on Ukraine where the war against the peasantry was most violent, a deliberate genocide of some 10 to 14 million people, depending on estimate. In an ideological sense, the Soviet regime spelled the end of the peasantry as a class.


Interspersed through the essay are reviews of several literary works whose authors focused on the social conditions and injustices of their time:  Saltykov-Shchedrin draws a damning portrait of a family of rural gentry left helpless by the emancipation of its serfs; Taras Shevchenko accuses his socially ambitious Ukrainian compatriots of being willing lackeys of foreign rulers while oppressing their own downtrodden peasantry; Vasyl Stefanyk writes about the desperate peasants of Galicia at the turn of the century; Anton Chekhov, writing at about the same time, examines with a cool eye the social changes taking place but with only cautious hope that the future will be better; and Mykola Khvylovy measures the new socialist world that has been gained against the world of the peasant village that has been lost.

Because of the frequently-changing geographical boundaries of the region and its long and complicated history, these maps and the following brief chronology of major events referred to in the essay are provided for quick reference. 

  • 16th century: Poland colonizes western Ukraine.
  • 1648: Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky of Ukraine leads a rebellion against Poland. Treaty of Pereiaslav allows Russia increasing dominance over Ukraine.
  • 1709: Hetman Ivan Mazepa and Charles X11 of Sweden defeated by Muscovite army. Mazepa escapes.
  • 1772: First partition of Poland by Russia, Prussia and Austria. Province of Galicia is annexed to Austro-Hungarian Empire.
  • 1793, 1795:  Second and third partitions of Poland in which Russia acquires western  provinces of Ukraine. Poland ceases to exist as an autonomous entity.
  • 1765 - 1785:  Russia extends control over eastern Ukraine.
  • 1848:  Emancipation of serfs in Austrian-controlled Poland and Ukraine.
  • 1861:  Emancipation of serfs in Russia and Russian-controlled Ukraine.
  • 1905:  General strike by workers. Peasant redemption payments cancelled.
  • 1917:  Bolsheviks take Petrograd. The War and Revolution mark the end of agrarian feudalism in eastern Europe. Peasants occupy land.
  • 1918:  Re-emergence of an independent Poland. Galicia and other western Ukrainian provinces come under Polish control again.
  • 1922:  Ukraine becomes one of four federated Soviet republics.
  • 1929-33: Collectivization and “dekulakization” centred mainly on Ukraine.
  • 1933:  Bolshevik-imposed famine in Ukraine.

Part 1:  A Historical Overview 

Serfdom in Russia…

In the 16th century, when the feudal landholding system was being abolished in western Europe, the enserfment of the mass of population in most of eastern Europe was just beginning; and by the end of the 18th century, when peasants in France were rebelling against the last remaining restrictions of the old feudal system, Catherine II of Russia was putting the finishing touches on what had become one of the most repressive feudal orders anywhere in Europe. Peasant smallholders who had assumed that the land they occupied and which they had deemed their own by virtue of the work they had given it was now, by royal grant, the property of a landlord who claimed “over-rights” on his estate. Not only did they lose the land which they had worked for generations but also virtually all their rights and freedoms as successive enactments favouring landowners granted the latter increasing jurisdiction over the fate of their serfs. By the end of the century the condition of the peasantry in Russia was one of complete bondage, an enserfment of some 90% of the population, some to State-owned lands, the larger portion to private landowners. (1) 


While conditions and obligations varied from region to region and even from village to village, peasants were tied legally not only to the estate on which they worked but to the lord’s complete jurisdiction over them. So complete was this authority that they began to be seen not so much as something attached to the land but as the property of the landowner, the latter’s wealth measured not in hectares or villages, but by the number of serfs owned. They could not leave the land they were bound to nor travel any distance outside the community without a passport; and they could be bought and sold by the landlord without regard for family unity—even for sport or gambled away. 

Obligations of work on manorial land could extract anywhere from three to six days per week and the estate owner could impose any additional obligations he wished, such as an increase in taxes or payments in kind. Resistance was not to be tolerated. The least infringement of the rules could bring swift and often brutal punishment. For most of the pre-Emancipation period flogging was legal (or laws forbidding it ignored) and, indeed, was considered a preferred punishment to banishment as forced labour in Siberia or conscription to a twenty-five-year military service either of which, given the conditions that would have to be endured, was tantamount to a death sentence.

Peasant allotments, scattered strips carved out of the less productive area of the manorial estate, were seldom large enough to sustain a family. In some areas, such plots could produce enough grain to last for only part of the year, obliging the family to buy on credit, often at usurious rates, until the next harvest and then having to depend on the good will of the landowner to supply seed grain for the next sowing. Supplemental income, given the weekly servitude obligation and permission needed for temporary leave from the estate, was hard to come by. Earnings from cottage craft industries were minimal and in the event that a nearby mill or factory could provide work, wages were too low to substantially ease what was for most peasants a precarious existence. Hunger, malnutrition and ill-health were common. 

Serfdom in Poland …

The situation in Poland, where serfdom had been established earlier was, if anything, worse. Here the landed nobility ruled without any effective opposition. The monarchy was too weak to impose any constraint, there was virtually no middle class which might have initiated some reform-minded leadership, and the generally low level of education of the gentry itself (an illiteracy rate of 4 to 1 in the province of Volhynia, for example) (2) precluded the likelihood of an enlightenment movement within its own ranks. The noble landlords thus ruled like “kinglets” in their own domains, hostile to any encroachment on their authority over a servile peasantry on whom their wealth depended. The country’s literary establishment, who might have been expected to draw attention to the glaring inequities of the system, seemed mainly inclined to expressions of nationalistic fervour. Only an occasional voice, such as that of  Tytus Szczeniowski, a writer of the mid-1800’s, was raised to protest the injustice on which the nobility rested. In using forced labour, he said to them, you “…exploit sweat and toil…trick the peasant…abuse the right of punishment…whip pitilessly…” and refuse to see that the faults in them you decry are due to “the wretched situation [you] keep them in”. (3) 


The testimony of Jan Slomka, a serf who became mayor of the village of Dzikov on the Vistula, one of twelve villages belonging to the same lord, describes in detail the harshness of existence for the peasants on the estate. No worse punishment could be had for men or women, he claims, than those imposed by serfdom. Service obligations in his village ranged up to six days per week, farm implements were minimal so productivity was low, living accommodations in the village were of the most rudimentary kind, there were no schools, and lashes were meted out for even minor transgressions. Every year there was a pre-harvest famine. For everything that he needed the peasant was beholden to the lord – for “both land and water, yes even the wind; since only he was allowed to build a wind-mill to grind corn.” (4)

The ruthless exploitation of serfs over generations and the cruelty with which they were often treated would leave a deep residue of hostility to landowners. It is notable, for example, that after the partition of Poland, the peasants took no part in the 1863 nationalist uprising against Russia; indeed, because they perceived the condition of Russian peasants to be better than their own, their hope for some alleviation of their condition lay more with the Russian tsar than with their own Polish nobility. 

Despite the tension building from underneath, the Polish nobility refused to attribute any fault to themselves, complaining instead about peasants’ laziness and ignorance and blaming Jewish tavern-keepers for peasant drunkenness. Some, like Madame Hanska (whose fame would rest on having been one of Balzac’s mistresses) could even pretend that the peasant was happy, that he “…leads a carefree, child-like existence…is paid and fed, and servitude, far from being a burden to him, becomes a source of happiness and tranquillity.” (5)  Meanwhile, landowners continued to exercise complete and often brutal authority over their serfs – as did Madame Hanska’s husband, for example, who had several of his serfs flogged for having dared to pick up forest debris to mend their thatched roofs. 

Serfdom in Ukraine…

Western Ukraine, under Polish occupation since the 16th century, became the most socially backward region in the Polish Republic. Here, according to the Polish novelist Josef Kraszewski (whose accusations would engender such a public outcry from the noble authorities that he would eventually be forced into exile), “…the oppression inflicted by the lords… was nearly beyond belief”, a grinding exploitation of ever-increasing taxes, dues, and payments so that life had become almost unbearable. (6) Native language use was prohibited and schooling denied. After the partition of Poland in the late 1700’s when the provinces of western Ukraine came under Russian control it was noted by the new administration that the suicide rate among the peasantry here was greater than in any part of the Empire. 


In the province of Galicia, which after the partitioning of Poland came under Austrian jurisdiction, the Austrian monarchy imposed restrictions on Polish landlords’ authority over their serfs. Obligatory labour was limited to three days per week; corporal punishment was outlawed; educational seminaries for the clergy established; a free press allowed; and compulsory education introduced in 1873. (7)  These liberalizing reforms, aimed at returning basic civil liberties to the peasant populace would have a far-reaching effect for it was in this corner of Ukraine that a nationalist movement would begin, a movement dependent finally not on the thin ranks of a long-suppressed urban intelligentsia or a reluctant Ukrainian petty nobility (whose interests remained allied with Poland) but on a peasantry whose growing consciousness of itself as an oppressed class began to merge with an awakening sense of its long-disallowed identity.

The Ukrainian nobility was complicit in the exploitation of the Ukrainian peasantry. As far back as the 16th century, when Poland incorporated much of Ukraine into the Polish Kingdom, Ukrainian nobles welcomed an annexation that granted them equal economic and political privileges with the Polish nobility – notably, freedom from taxation and military duty and the opportunity to expand their landholdings by claiming State land as their own or by appropriating peasant properties and, as in Poland, using serf labour.  In return, they allowed themselves to become Polonized – to adopt a culture they deemed superior to their own, to speak Polish, to exchange their Orthodox religion for Catholicism and generally to emulate the insolent manners of a class that defied any interference in its oppressive authority over an enserfed population. 

This old nobility was largely swept away by the Cossack rebellion of 1648  but would be replaced by a new elite -- rising from the “elder” or officer class of the Cossacks themselves. This was a society whose own humble beginnings had been as runaway peasants fleeing the oppression of Poland’s manorial system. The farmer-soldier community they founded on the Left Bank of the Dnieper River was based on an essentially democratic egalitarianism; any threat of feudal encroachment had been met with rebellion. Now its professional elite began to distance itself from the rest of the community and to identify its elevated status with land ownership, claiming hereditary title to land and exacting labour obligations from the peasants living on it. When Cossack lands  became part of Muscovy in the late 1700’s under Catherine II, the Ukrainian gentry, like the Russian nobility, was granted complete control over their peasants. As in the Polonized West, this Ukrainian elite was again assimilated into the dominant—this time Russian—aristocracy, its leadership lost to any Ukrainian national cause or to the principles of equality and freedom on which Cossack society had been built. Many rank and file Cossacks, who did not share in the privileged status granted to their elders, moved further east—to Kuban, the further steppes of Asia, Siberia; the condition for peasants, now prevented legally from moving, worsened.


Taras Shevchenko (8)

The betrayal of the Ukrainian peasantry by their own countrymen is a recurring theme in the poetry of Taras Shevchenko. Writing in the middle decades of the 19th century, he raised an angry voice not only against the oppressive cruelties of foreign colonizers but against those of his own compatriots who, having elevated themselves in rank, had abandoned the wretched among them.


In “My Friendly Epistle” he addresses himself to an intelligentsia that has scurried off to foreign lands to borrow a “heap of words”, who now talk of Truth and Liberty and Justice but remain indifferent to the political and social injustices in their own midst. He sees no evidence that lofty ideals are being translated into an awakening of social or national consciousness. Instead, he accuses them, “…you still bend your backs today/ To aliens, and are prompt to flay/ The hide off lowly peasant brothers…”. Jealously guarding their privileged status while mouthing empty rhetoric, they have forgotten that they, too, once came from humble stock; and he warns them that their vain pretensions will be found out:

The peasant’s untaught eye will poke

And peer into [your] very souls

Unspared by specious aureoles…

Soon will the wretched creatures find

Your hides are of a kindred kind… 

The insidious effects of colonialism seep everywhere into the nation’s being. In another poem, “The Dream”, he trains his eye on an all-too-subservient civil service who “scribble” away at documents that will cheat their own countrymen, as easily seduced by their Russian masters as had been the Ukrainian nobility before them. They jabber away in the Russian tongue and curse their lack of promotion on a father who had had to sell his last cow in order to send them, belatedly, to a Russian school. “Ah, leeches, leeches!…” Shevchenko calls them; such, he laments, are now my country’s hapless children. 


Part 2:  Emancipation

The history of landowner-serf relationship in eastern Europe was punctuated by peasant rebellions, long periods of endurance broken by revolts of uncontrolled violence against a system which had turned once independent smallholders into slaves. In their fury peasants pillaged and burned, often killing the most oppressive landlords, helped themselves to the manor’s stores of grain, cut timber from the estate’s forests and fought the military called in to quell the riots. 


By mid-19th century the tension in peasant villages, the ever-present threat of revolt and news of the liberalizing reforms in western Europe could no longer be ignored, yet neither the Polish nor Russian nobility could bring itself to approve of any changes to a social order which would undermine the undisputed privileges it had enjoyed for so long. When Austria declared the emancipation of all serfs under its jurisdiction in 1848 the Polish nobles were hardly prepared for such a drastic upheaval. In Russia, despite the fact that Enlightenment ideas had drifted in on the tide of the Napoleonic Wars and some few radical reformers were debating the cause of abolition, the Russian nobility continued to stall. The 1825 Decembrist uprising which had promoted liberal reform, including the abolition of serfdom, had failed but writers such as Gogol, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Saltykov-Shchedrin, Herzen kept the question of a nation 90% enserfed in the public consciousness. When Alexander II became tsar in 1856 he warned the nobility of the consequences of inaction:  “It is better to abolish serfdom from above than to wait for the time when it will begin to abolish itself from below.” (9)  A small minority welcomed the coming change as both necessary and inevitable but the majority waffled in a fog of resistance or inertia, unable to come to terms with the need to re-establish society on a more just and egalitarian basis. Some perhaps even felt like the landowner in the province of Kaluga who argued that no children would be born of a peasant marriage if God really meant serfdom to end. (10)  Despite the nobles’ inability to come to any agreement on the terms of the release of their serfs, Alexander II declared their emancipation in 1861.


Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin: The Golovlovs (11)

Saltykov-Shchedrin was primarily a journalist whose early writings on the social conditions of mid-19th century Russia were considered dangerously radical by censors and government officials. Among the loudest of his detractors were landowners angered over his exposure of the abuses of a serf-holding system. Accused of “pernicious free-thinking”, he was sentenced to several years of internal exile in provincial government service, an experience which would later be recorded in satirical reviews of the corruption and ineptitude of Russian officialdom. 


The Golovlovs,published in 1876, a chronicle of  the disintegration of a family of petty nobility over three generations, grew out of earlier journalistic sketches. Many of the novel’s features – a despotic matriarch, the avaricious accumulation of property, poisonous family relationships and ruthless treatment of serfs -- are semi-autobiographical.  His own family, descended from 17th century nobility, remained staunchly supportive of serfdom and so was representative of the general resistance of the landowning class to social reform. Shchedrin would say of his unhappy childhood in a family torn by dissension, often over property, that it was spent “amidst the charms of serfdom, in all its brazen cruelty”.

The Golovlov household is run by Arina Petrovna, the family matriarch whose predatory instinct for acquisition of property as well as for extracting the maximum possible returns from it have added substantially to the worth of the family estate. In forty years she has expanded the family’s landholdings ten-fold and the number of serfs from a meagre one hundred and fifty to four thousand. The extra granaries and storerooms that have been built are filled to overflowing and the kitchen is kept busy with pickling and preserving as peasants from the estate’s villages arrive with yet more garden produce, eggs, berries or woodland mushrooms. All this largesse, as Arina keeps saying, is due to Our Lady’s help. 

Her husband, Vladimir Mikhailovich, has long ago retreated from any interference in his wife’s machinations. An indolent drunk, a “stringless balalaika”, as his wife thinks of him, his main preoccupations are imitating bird sounds, composing “free verse” which impresses no one and lurking in hallways to seduce maidservants. Having given up all ambition, he is grateful on his deathbed for at least one mercy – that Emancipation has not yet been declared and so he won’t have to rub shoulders with serfs when he is called by God. 

The children of this marriage offer no hope for the family’s moral regeneration. The oldest son, Stepan  (“Stepan-the-blockhead” as Arina usually thinks of him), a buffoon and mischief-maker like his father, a sponger and gambler, unable to make a successful career in either the civil or military service, slinks back to Golovlovo where he is begrudgingly allowed a room, a small allowance and the leftovers from Arina’s dinners. Slowly drinking himself to death, his world is reduced to gray and shapeless days thinking only about food, drink and a little tobacco, sometimes sitting at his open window begging passing serfs for an egg, a piece of cheesecake. 

A daughter, Anna, is abandoned by the military officer she had run away to marry and dies after giving birth to twins, leaving Arina, as she wryly notes, with two more mouths to feed. Pavel, a younger son (“the idiot”), sullen and apathetic, retreats to the upper rooms of a faded manor house in the village he has been given as his inheritance and, like his father and older brother, fades into an alcoholic haze in which he rails against the burdens of estate management, against the perfidy of his brother Porfiry and the insults and humiliations he has borne, complains that rain falls on Golovlovo but not on his land and broods constantly about the inequities of the division of the family property. 

If Arina has been driven by a greed for acquisition, she has at least been able to pretend that all her effort has been “for the family”. For her son Porfiry (“Judas the bloodsucker”) the pursuit of wealth subsumes all other considerations, including any concern for the welfare of family members. By cunning manipulation, including ousting his mother to a decrepit and distant village, he has assured that he will be sole master of Golovlovo, the largest landowner in the district. Even his own sons are driven away, one to suicide, another, refused help with a gambling debt, to death in a convict convoy to Siberia. All of Porfiry’s dealings with others are based on deceit but his lies and evasions, his oily flattery and ostentatious displays of meekness and piety mask an obsession that increasingly loses touch with reason or reality. Sitting in his study, unshaven, in a grubby and tattered dressing gown, his days are spent in petty and fantastical calculations of wealth. On his 200-acre woodlot, how much would each tree be worth if it were to yield two saw mill shafts, a good-sized beam and two smaller ones, to say nothing of the branches?  And how much money would he make out of milk if all the cows in the neighbourhood died except his?  Unable to deal effectively with the practical management of the estate and its “stupid, vulgar brood of peasants”, Porfiry’s world is reduced to the fantasies he can play out in his ledgers. 

The final decline of the Golovlov family, spanning the decades just before and after Emancipation, has been precipitated by the end of serfdom but not caused by it. When Porfiry looks back on the family’s history – to grandparents and great-grandparents – he can identify traits that have marked them all – “idleness, unsuitability for any kind of work, and drunkenness”. (p. 296) There had been no need under serfdom to engage in any useful work, to question one’s social or moral obligations, to do anything except, like Vladimir Mikhailovich, live life as if it were one long holiday.  Even Arina’s burst of energy succumbs to the same inertia that defines the rest of the family. The kind of education that might have nurtured a sense of personal responsibility or social consciousness has been lacking and the result has been, as Shchedrin sees it, a subsidence of such gentry into a mental and spiritual stagnation in which, as for Arina and Porfiry, empty platitudes and pretentious exhibitions of piety become a substitute for real thought or religious feeling. Resentful of the new social order, unable to cope with practical difficulties or to summon up the resourcefulness needed to manage their estates more efficiently by adopting new techniques and methods, such gentry families that had been able to live comfortably enough under serfdom now found themselves sitting on estates whose workings they did not understand, paint peeling on their manor houses, “waiting to disappear”. 

Saltykov-Shchedrin’s novel is an indictment not only of a social system that had rested   on the exploitation of the mass of population but of a gentry that could not rise above the torpor into which it had sunk. The Golovlov family he depicts is unlike the more refined and educated examples of nobility to be found in writers such as Tolstoy and Turgenev but these, Shchedrin would argue, were the exception rather than the rule, made palatable to sophisticated urban readers by veiling the ugliness of their parasitical dependence on a wretched peasantry. The Golovlovs, caricatured as they are, were far more representative of the realities of life surrounding the Russian gentry. (12)  Isolated on their country estates, defensive of the arbitrary power they exercised and the privileges of their class, they often knew or cared little for the guilt-ridden debates of a small intellectual elite in Moscow or St. Petersburg.

Turgenev said about Saltykov-Shchedrin that he knew Russia better than any living man. What Shchedrin saw was a country uninformed, a Russia with a moral void at its centre. We grow, he said, like nettles against a fence. Nor did he believe, in a country which at the beginning of the 20th century was still 85% rural, that this void could be filled by the supposedly salutary benefits of living close to nature. The landscape of Golovlovo exerts no regenerating influence on its inhabitants; the skies here are always gray, the roads clogged with mud in the rainy season, the heat in summer “like scalding water”. Nature here is as oppressive as the dark and airless interiors of the estate’s houses. There is no Arcady here, either within or without. 


Part 3:  Post-Emancipation

The peasants in Poland and Russia and the colonized territories of Ukraine were set free by the Emancipation edicts but otherwise abandoned. Given only tiny strips of land, often less than they had had under the feudal system, equipped with only primitive implements (even by the beginning of the 20th century, about one-half of all farms were still using a wooden-board plough) and few, if any, draught animals, the peasants were left to fare as best they could. To compensate for the strips that had been allotted to them, the peasants were subject to redemption payments for the next 50 years (a levy which had been calculated at well above the market value of the land). Often illiterate, unable to understand any document they might have to sign and too often having no alternative but to buy grain or food on credit, they were especially vulnerable to a new money economy they did not understand. In Austrian Poland and Ukraine, laws were passed making usurious interest rates illegal but enforcement was often lacking. There was no schooling, no medical health and no charity. Outside work, especially in Poland and Ukraine, given the lack of enterprise by the ruling class in promoting any industrial development, was often non-existent. The nobility not only rejected any sense of responsibility for the situation but, anxious to retain as much of its attenuated power as possible, retaliated against the loss of its source of labour by appropriating forest, pasture and water rights and limiting access to often unscrupulous stewards.



Vasyl Stefanyk, “The Stone Cross” (13)

A few peasants in the post-Emancipation era prospered but most did not. By the beginning of the 20th century the average peasant family was subsisting on as little as two acres of land per head. (14)  In Ukrainian Galicia where, as elsewhere, there was a large increase in population, land division had greatly reduced the size of plots each family had – from an average of 12 acres in 1859 to 6 in 1902. (15)  In a region where the soil was exhausted and with no means of improving productivity, the situation by the turn of the century had become untenable. 


Vasyl Stefanyk’s short novellas focus on the often desperate conditions of  peasant life in that part of southwest Galicia where he himself had grown up. While he has sometimes been criticized for presenting too sombre a view of the hardships in this region, it is nevertheless true that conditions here were probably worse than anywhere in Europe at the time. Trapped by their poverty and demoralized by their helplessness, these villagers drudge their way through life, often quarrelsome and often given to violence and callous treatment of others. Stefanyk does not romanticize or idealize them, but neither does he moralize; what he depicts is the hard and bitterly-felt reality of their lives. Beginning at the turn of the century hundreds of thousands of peasants from this region, and especially the young, left their villages to emigrate, the majority of them to North America. “The Stone Cross”, published in 1900, depicts a family on the point of emigration to Canada. 

Ivan Didukh, who has returned to his village after ten years in the army, his parents now dead, has inherited a small plot of land, a portion of a sandy hilltop so unlikely of productivity that no one has ever tried to cultivate it. But Ivan sets to work on it, and slowly over the years, hitching himself alongside his horse to a small wagon loaded with sacks of manure, he has plodded his way up the steep slope, veins standing out on his forehead, his broad feet leaving their imprint on the path alongside his horse’s hoofmarks. 

This extraordinary effort has ruined his back. He now walks stooped, “broken”, as the villagers call him. But he has improved the plot, driven in posts and banked it with lumps of sod to prevent run-off so that it has begun to yield good crops. Tending the hill, painful as it is, has become the most demanding concern in his life. At the end of the day, standing against the setting sun, the two are as one, casting a giant-like shadow on the cultivated fields below. 

In his life he has borne all privations, all punishments and pressures and has survived, but his sons know that division of the plot into shares will not provide enough bread for any of them. They have thus decided on emigration to Canada, have persuaded their mother and finally, against considerable resistance, Ivan. 

Now the village gathers for a farewell to the family, a last supper, and Ivan stands before his guests, stunned at the prospect of leaving the only life he has known. Like a stone washed up on shore by a turbulent sea, he cannot contemplate an existence without the everyday burden of the hill he has tended. He is not to fret, the villagers say to him. “This country is not worth breaking your heart for…  [It] can’t bear so many woes.” (p. 26)  Calamity is inevitable; in a prophetic note, one of the villagers predicts that the time will come when people will slaughter one another.

But the journey to Canada, while it may resurrect the hope of prosperity for his sons, is death to Ivan. Before they leave, he asks his wife for forgiveness, three times, as in the last rites, and he leaves money to a trusted compatriot to assure that a funeral mass will be said here for them when they die. The heavy stone cross he has placed on the hill, so firmly planted it can’t be washed away, is to be left as a memorial and on the Holy Sunday when the villagers bless the fields some youngster should be sent up to sprinkle it with holy water. The priest, he knows, will not climb the hill.

They sing one last time together, their voices harsh and rough, as if from calloused throats, rusty voices that sing of sorrow. Walking to the train, accompanied by the villagers, dancing a polka with his wife along the road, the orchestra exhorted to play as it would for gentry, they pass the hill on which Ivan’s cross stands, his name and that of his wife already engraved on it. The bodies will leave for Canada but the spirit will die here, on the hill that has broken Ivan.


Anton Chekhov: The Cherry Orchard(16)

For the most part, the landed gentry in Russia knew little and cared less about farming. Land was simply looked upon as a source of revenue but when the Emancipation Act decreed the end of free labour, the chief factor on which this wealth depended, most landowners were unable or unwilling to commit themselves to ensuring the economic viability of their estates by reorganizing  them on capitalist lines. At the same time, many of the nobility, especially those in court circles, had begun to live beyond their means—frequenting the baths and gaming tables of Europe, hiring French tutors, generally imitating the style and manners of their European counterparts. Even at the time of Emancipation, many estates were already mortgaged; in the decades following, these estates went into inevitable decline. Land was sometimes leased to neighbouring peasants but given the primitive equipment they had to work with, returns were low. Between Emancipation and the First World War, one-half of gentry lands were sold to pay mounting debts, most often to an emerging class of bankers and industrialists. (17)


Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard presents a microcosm of Russian society at the end of the century—a family of old nobility, now penurious; a wealthy merchant risen from the peasant class; a young would-be revolutionary who castigates the social injustice on which the old regime rested yet is wary of the avarice of the new mercantile class; and servants who must leave a once proud aristocratic household to find a new place for themselves in a rapidly changing society.

The Cherry Orchard was first performed in 1904. Chekhov died a few months later, just before the 1905 Revolution which would mark the end of one order and the beginning of another. 

Liubov Ranyevskaya returns from Paris where she has been living for several years to the ancestral estate which is to be sold for unpaid taxes. Standing at the window of her old nursery, she looks out on a cherry orchard in bloom, masses of white blossoms against a blue sky, evoking in her tearful memories of a childhood in which she woke up happy each morning at the sight of such beauty. The orchard is famous, even mentioned in the “Encyclopedia”, and once the source of the family’s wealth. The old servant Firs recalls how the cherries were dried and preserved and whole cartloads sent to Moscow and Kharkov, how sweet those cherries were, though the recipe, as he notes, is now forgotten. 

Distressed as the family is that the estate will actually be sold, neither Madame Ranyevskaya nor her brother Gayev can offer anything but vague and unlikely propositions for saving the property. Perhaps a rich aunt will help them out, or Liubov’s daughter Ania will make a wealthy marriage, or Gayev might arrange another loan. They are unaccustomed to making practical decisions; but a worse failing is their inability to acknowledge that the leisured world of their childhood is past. Mentally and emotionally, it is this world they continue to inhabit. Ranyevskaya (“…no morals …”, her brother says) has squandered money foolishly, largely on her manipulative and philandering lover in Paris; and Gayev, when pressed by uncomfortable reality, retreats into an imaginary game of billiards (“Double bank shot in the side pocket!  Here goes a clean shot…”) or reaches for yet another sweet from his pocket  (“They say I’ve eaten up my fortune in candy”) or, at fifty-one, still asks the eighty-seven year old Firs to help him get dressed and undressed. 

It is the merchant Lopahin, a successful businessman whose father and grandfather were once serfs on the estate, shy and awkward in his manners, self-conscious in this company, who suggests a practical solution to their dilemma: the orchard can be cut down, the land divided into plots and leased for summer residences. A railway line now runs up to the property, it is not far from town, and so such a development would be a certain investment, bringing them a tidy annual income. But this is not a possibility Madame Ranyevskaya or her brother can even consider. When they are pressed by Lopahin to make a decision, accused of refusing to understand the plain language that tells them that otherwise the estate and its orchard will be sold, of being  “frivolous [and] unbusiness-like”, Madame Ranyevskaya can only reply that such a   proposition – of “cottages…summer people” -  is all too “vulgar” to contemplate. She can’t imagine life without the cherry orchard but neither will she haggle in the market-place. 

Inserting himself into the tension represented by Ranyevskaya and Lopahin, of a dying aristocracy and the ascendance of a new, entrepreneurial class is the university student Trofimov, an idealist who looks to a future in which humanity will have rid itself of all its illusions and petty ambitions and advanced to a freer and happier state. He has no sympathy for Ranyevskaya’s emotional attachment to the cherry orchard. Beautiful as it is, it is a symbol of an exploitative past. Don’t you see, he asks Ania, the faces of serfs gazing out at you from every tree? Your forefathers owned living souls and it so perverted their view of reality, and yours, that you no longer realize you are living “on credit”, at other people’s expense, while still insisting on the prerogatives of a privileged class. Such a past can be atoned for only by commitment to hard work in order to build a better society; the whole of Russia, he suggests, can become our orchard. 

Lopahin has little patience with this “perpetual student”. What, in fact, does he do besides talk?  Is he really any better than those members of the “intelligentsia” he himself criticizes who go around looking grim, philosophize endlessly but understand little, treat their servants with contempt and do nothing while the working masses, the presumed object of their “solemn faces”, continue to live in abominable conditions?  Trofimov’s answer is that when the time comes he will be ready and will lead the rest if necessary. If there is reason to believe in the sincerity of his convictions, it comes in a scene near the end of the play. Lopahin, knowing that the student is destitute, good-naturedly offers him money for his journey back to Moscow but Trofimov refuses. He is free, he says; he cannot be easily bought.

In the end it is Lopahin who buys the estate and its cherry orchard. Coming back after the auction to the manor house where Madame Ranevskaya, typically unheedful of cost or appropriateness of occasion, is giving a ball, Lopahin, still in near-disbelief at his good fortune, tells the company what he has done:  “Lord!  God in Heaven!  The cherry orchard’s mine!…If my father and my grandfather could rise from their graves and see all that has happened – how their Yermolay, who used to be flogged, their half-literate Yermolay, who used to run about barefoot in winter, how that very Yermolay has bought the most magnificent estate in the world. I bought the estate where my father and grandfather were slaves, where they weren’t even allowed to enter the kitchen…Hey, musicians!  Strike up!” (p. 580)  He, Yermolay, will take the ax to the cherry orchard, summer cottages will be built and future generations will know a new life here. 

The sale of the estate, at summer’s end, the weather now chill, symbolically brings an era to a close. Madame Ranyevskaya, relieved, in fact, that the estate is sold, will return to Paris and with the little money that is left after all the debts have been paid, will end her days in genteel poverty; Gayev has been given a job in a local bank, at which he is hardly likely to succeed (“too lazy”, says Lopahin); Anya goes off with Trofimov, won over by his vision of the new society and determined now to study and to work; and Firs, the man-servant who has looked after the family all his life, grown old and now ill, has been carelessly left behind in the locked manor house. They have gone and forgotten me, he says, and as he lies down on the sofa he gives a thought for a moment to his own situation.  “Life has gone by as if  I’d never lived…nothing is left, nothing…”. 

Representative as the play’s characters are of the upheaval in Russian society at the turn of the century, Chekhov characteristically neither glorifies nor condemns any of them. Ranyevskaya may be overly emotional and self-indulgent but she is also generous and kind; Gayev is not without sensitivity. Lopahin may be obsessive in his pursuit of money but he is hard-working and genuinely concerned about Ranyevskaya’s welfare. Trofimov, with his vision of the bright future in store for them all, offers up the most optimistic note in the play; but Chekhov, who questioned all faiths and doctrines, could not believe that the sorry conditions he saw all around him – coarseness and corruption, cruelty, servility, hunger and disease, could be so easily remedied. Lopahin taunts Trofimov for being idle in all but talk; Ranyevskaya questions such high principles in someone who has never engaged in real life; and Gayev wonders if in Trofimov’s utopian world people will not die just the same. Chekhov could believe that change was possible but not that humanity could be magically transformed. What was needed to change this “dreary” Russia was not dogmatic formulas but tolerance, compassion and hard work. 


Part 4:  The Revolution…and after

The Bolshevik Revolution was “…a Marxian and dogmatically anti-peasant revolution.” (18)
By the beginning of the century the unrest in the countryside had reached explosive proportions. Whether the peasant class became radicalized from within because of its growing perception of its exploited place in the social and economic structure of society is a much debated point. The Russian Populists, a socialist agrarian movement, believed that the coming revolution would be carried not by industrial workers but by the peasants. The Populist messengers sent out into the countryside, however, found the peasantry largely unreceptive to their idealistic enthusiasms. The peasants were not interested in abstract theories or revolutionary rhetoric; their quarrel was with the landowners who still held on to much of the land. Their growing literacy rate, an ability to read local newspapers and their acquaintance, sometimes as factory workers themselves, with the radical ideas of a discontented work force had the effect of galvanizing their own efforts into demands for a more equitable distribution of land. 


Marxist theory, however, had no place for peasants. On the eve of the Bolshevik Revolution its leaders were faced with the problem of what to do with an intractable group which comprised some 80% of the population (nearly 90% in Ukraine) and which did not fit in with the Marxist doctrine that social and economic evolution had to be based on the fate of industrial workers, on collectivization of property and use of large-scale production. Conservative and individualistic, convinced of their right to own their own plots of land, the peasants were seen not only as irrelevant to the purposes of the revolution but as an inimical, reactionary force that would stand in the way of socialist progress. Still, Lenin conceded, they were too large a group to be ignored. “A class which contains so many millions of people must be treated with consideration.” (19)

  The Bolsheviks, however, did not have an agrarian program in mind. To pacify the peasants and to gain time, the Soviets instituted the New Economic Policy in 1921. Even though land had been nationalized in 1918, peasants were given hereditary rights to their plots of land, could farm individually or collectively and were subject only to taxes in kind. It was a move contrary to Marxist doctrine but a necessary expedient. The peasants had already seized and occupied land in 1917, before the Bolsheviks were effectively organized. It would be dangerous to alienate them. The push for large-scale industrialization and an expanding industrial force, the main thrust of the Revolution, needed to restore food production which had been disrupted by the Revolution and Civil War.

The Famine in Ukraine…

Stalin had little patience with Lenin’s gradual approach. In 1928, he introduced the first Five-Year Plan with its destructive pace of production quotas for both industry and agriculture. All arable land was to be immediately collectivized; what had been given to peasants only a few years earlier was now to be taken away. The main thrust of enforced collectivization, while it was directed also at the Caucasus region inhabited by the Don Cossacks, at Kuban (where there were many Ukrainians) and the German-inhabited area of the middle Volga, centred primarily on Ukraine. Here was the richest arable land and also the most independent and self-reliant peasantry and the most resistant to collectivization. Independent farming here had made considerable headway during the NEP period and conditions for the peasantry had improved, making them a strong potential adversary to a Marxist revolution committed to the textbook theory that all power had to reside in the industrial proletariat. 


The methods used were brutal. Impossible quotas set by Moscow and forcible requisitioning of food began in 1929. When quotas could not be met, Stalin instituted a reign of terror on the countryside by ordering “the liquidation of the kulaks as a class”, a kulak being anyone who owned more than 20 hectares of land or who hired labourers. In practice, anyone who resisted collectivization, refusing to give up land or animals, was labelled a “kulak” and those who were not shot were sent to state-owned farms, mines or factories as bonded labour or shipped in cattle cars to be dumped off  without food or shelter in the empty wastes of Central Asia or Siberia. Robert Conquest (Harvest of Sorrow) estimates that between 10 and 12 million dekulakized peasants were deported, about one-third of whom died within two years. (20) 

The official press justified this “liquidation” of the kulaks as essential to the class struggle but Stalin’s plan was just unfolding. The continued forcible requisitioning of food and the levy of ever-increasing quotas which could not be filled was met with the accusation that the mass of peasants must also be kulaks to offer such resistance. By the fall of 1932, the country had been emptied by zealous Party workers of all food and the countryside was facing starvation. In his autobiographical novel, Forever Flowing, the Ukrainian-born writer Vasily Grossman, a political prisoner who spent thirty years in Arctic labour camps, includes a description by a Russian Communist activist sent to Ukraine to help with collectivization. Who signed the decree to implement mass starvation? she asks. “For the decree required that the peasants of Ukraine, the Don, and the Kuban be put to death by starvation…The instructions were to take away the entire seed fund. Grain was searched for as if it were not grain, but bombs and machine guns. The whole earth was stabbed with bayonets and ramrods. Cellars were dug up, floors were broken through, and vegetable gardens were turned over.” (21)  All standing crops were declared state property; anyone caught gleaning anything, even from their own plots, was arrested, deported or shot. Bread was confiscated, even grain from troughs. 

By the spring of ’33 whole villages were dying. Those who tried to flee found roads blocked; some, who crawled through fields to reach cities died on the streets, largely ignored. The official press denied any problem. By the end of that summer, in Paul Magocsi’s “most conservative estimate”, nearly five million people, representing  15% of the total Ukrainian population had died from starvation or diseases related to malnutrition, a death rate of 25,000 per day. (22) Conquest’s estimates are larger: one-quarter of the peasantry, 19% of the total population. (23)  If the numbers of those “dekulakized” in the years preceding the famine who died later in labour camps are included, the figure is much higher: 10,000,000 by Magocsi’s calculation, 14 ½ million by Conquest’s. When the Soviet 1937 population census showed an embarrassing shortfall, the statistics were repressed and Stalin had the head of the Census Board arrested (and presumably shot). The 1939 census was “corrected” but, in Conquest’s calculation, allowing for a natural growth rate extrapolated from the 1926 census, not counting 1932-33 when no births would have been expected and omitting figures for those dying in labour camps (estimated at 3 ½ million) the statistics still showed a shortfall of 11 million. (24)

The terror-famine was, as Anna Reid describes it in Borderland, “a deliberate, genocidal attack on rural Ukraine”. (25) Stalin had reason to be especially paranoid about the Ukrainian peasantry. Strongly attached to the land, disinclined to migration to cities and thus inconveniently out of reach of its Russification programs, the Ukrainian peasantry, still almost 90% of the population, was also the heart of the nationalist movement in the country. An attack on them was also a blow against a dangerous “nationalist deviation.”  Pavel Postyshev, a Russian-born Bolshevik, was given the task of stamping out any such “deviation” and while his “corrective” work was aimed primarily at the political elite (many of whom had expressed concern at the repressive measures in the countryside) their liquidation as leaders would halt any deviationist tendency; indeed, Postyshev was able to declare 1933 as “the year of the rout of the Ukrainian nationalist counterrevolution”. (26)  While anyone suspected of nationalist leanings or insufficient loyalty to the regime also became victim of the later Stalinist purges of the 30’s the most brutal and dehumanizing attack, given the numbers that died, had already been borne by the rural peasantry. 

Stalin’s collectivization plan was successful. From 3.4 % of arable land in Ukraine collectivized in 1928, 70% of farms were collectivized by the end of 1932, 91% by 1935. (27)  A peasantry which had just begun to recover from two centuries of serfdom under Russia, three under Poland, had been wiped out as a class to become production workers for a State which dictated the rules of work to them. From serfdom to serfdom.

The famine was hardly noticed in the West. The Communist press reported nothing  and most western journalists, concerned more about offending their Communist hosts and gullibly paraded past facades put up in villages or schools on carefully-monitored tours, found it more prudent not to report anything negative. (One notable exception was William Chamberlin, Moscow correspondent of the Christian Science Monitor.)  The result, says Anna Reid in Borderland, was that the famine of 1932-33, which killed more people than the First World War on all sides, was to remain “one of the most under-reported atrocities of human history”. (28)  One influential journalist, Walter Duranty of the New York Times, whose accurate reporting might well have brought attention to bear, who toured the area in the fall of 1933 and who admitted privately that he knew the extent of what was going on, reported that there was no actual famine or starvation, only deaths due to malnutrition. The year before, he had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the “scholarship, profundity, impartiality, sound judgement and exceptional clarity” of his reporting. (29)


Mykola Khvylovy, “A Sentimental Tale” (30)

Khvylovy fought in the Revolution of 1917, was a communist and Party member. He became increasingly disillusioned, however, with what he saw as the failures of the Revolution and the oppression it brought to Ukraine. In opposition to the Kremlin’s centralist tendencies he began demanding full autonomy for the Ukrainian Republic and  as leader of a revitalized movement in Ukrainian literature, he advocated turning away from Moscow and its demands for socialist realism in art to follow instead the psychologically more empathetic examples of western Europe. His refusal to follow the Moscow line in either politics or literature branded him as a dangerous reactionary. In 1933, when the Russian Bolshevik Postyshev was sent to Ukraine to rid it of its “deviationists”, as the iron hand of Moscow began to close in on the intellectual elite and with the Stalin-instigated famine decimating the village peasantry, Khvylovy committed suicide by shooting himself.


Seventeen-year-old Bianca, a peasant girl, leaves her village home, the immaculate white cottage, the rooster crowing on the weather-vane and all the natural world that has delighted her in her young life—the flat steppe meadows, the scent of the sedge, snowdrifts on winter evenings. But it also is a savage and backward world and her overwhelming urge to leave it is driven by a need to find what in her romantic mind she thinks of as that “mysterious Distance”, something beyond the mundane interests of this narrow provincial life, a Commune where people are different.

In the city of Z she finds office work and becomes an exemplary worker but the people she meets are echoes of Gogolian grotesques. Kuk, the office manager, is vulgar, conceited, ape-like (as Bianca thinks of him), an elderly roue whose sideline specialty is seducing young typists. He complains that his chief ambition—to become manager of the Council of People’s Commissars—is constantly being thwarted by lack of promotion. A grey-eyed journalist Bianca keeps running into sadistically keeps pinching her, leaving her with blue marks, spits through her teeth when disgusted, and wishes that Z was more like St. Petersburg where on white nights young men “with calculating eyes” sell their bodies on Nevsky Prospekt. The beautiful Bianca, too, she notes, could be a prostitute; in Odessa or Moscow bourgeois men with money would pay top price for her body.

The only person Bianca feels at ease with is Comrade Ulyana who lives in the same building, wife of a former communist who beats her. Once, she says, looking into a mirror at her face with its broken nose, she had been beautiful—and loved. That was what the Revolution did for us: we were transformed, not only our inner worlds made ideal but physically born anew. She envies the people of Bianca’s generation who have inherited the world they made but are unmarred by the worries that have settled on her own generation. We crossed to the other side of the river, she says—but then, we were driven back and we have been grieving ever since. 

The face of the world of Z, with its reminders everywhere of the triumphs of the Revolution – the bust of Karl Marx in the city park, the Square of the Three Communards, the May Day celebrations—may be superficially different from that of the village Bianca has left but the savagery is the same, as surely blocking her from the “chimerical” Distance she seeks as did the backwardness of her own village. People behave like traumatized automatons, disoriented in a world they no longer recognize. Kuk is outwardly correct in his neat suit and the straight part in his hair, but the eyes are leaden and he talks as if in imitation of someone else. The grey-eyed journalist’s cynicism, always incredulous at Bianca’s innocence, is so complete that all life has been reduced to a perversion of natural instincts—for her, sexual exploitation of others. All live in fear. Kuk is terrified of communists. The journalist feels they are slipping into an abyss, that they are about to be overtaken by some universal catastrophe. Ulyana, who had once never questioned her belief in the goals of the Revolution now has doubts. She has begun to think and she is frightened: idealism may have its faults but so does materialism. And she, too, is haunted by a premonition that, like caged animals, disaster awaits them. 

It is when Bianca meets Charhar, the artist, that she feels she has touched the mysterious region she has been seeking. Instinctively, she knows they are alike; and Charhar admits that her purity, her “simplicity and spontaneity” awaken the artist in him; but he, too, is cold and aloof and when pressed by Bianca, who is determined to bring him “out to the light”, his talk, like that of the others, slides off into vague references and incoherence. He, too, is wary of commitment, has “forgotten how to love”, he says. Only once does he talk to her freely, about how he feels stifled by the overbearing self-confidence of this age, by “All these cells, commissars, communists—it is all such cheap demagogy…” (p. 98)  Yet, like the others, he fears them; one dare not expose oneself to them. Symbolically, his underground room is never free of the stamping and noise from the Soviet Employees Club above. And so even Charhar is unable to escape, through his art, from “the universal brothel” this new world has become. He will never paint that “picture of universal importance” in which a defiant hero challenges the hegemony of Moscow and escapes. At best, as has begun to happen, he will ease his “troublesome” days with vodka. 

The “Distance” of Bianca’s longing, of a Commune of purity and compassion, the great promise of the socialist Revolution, has been revealed as a repressive, dehumanizing order ruled by a debilitating fear and cynicism. Now there are commissars all around, the grey-eyed journalist warns her; and you will become like us. For this, Bianca thinks, she has given up the white cottage, the golden rooster on the weather-vane, the gardens of her village. But it is too late to turn back; her magical “Distance” is as lost as are the blue skies of her youth. In an act of revenge against the artist who has lost the moral courage to speak the truth, she gives up the last of her innocence to the corrupt office manager, Kuk. Perhaps, but only perhaps, she may herself challenge the system. She is angry, and she thinks; but like the defiant heroine who allied herself with the hetman who challenged Moscow, she might also go mad. 


(1) G. T. Robinson, Rural Russia under the Old Regime:  A History of the Landlord-Peasant World and a Prologue to the Peasant Revolution of 1917 (New York:  Macmillan, 1932), p.33.

(2) Daniel Beauvois, The Noble, the Serf and the Revizor:  The Polish Nobility between Tsarist Imperialism and the Ukrainian Masses (1831-1863), B. Reesing (Chur, Switzerland: Harvard Academic Pub., 1991) Table, p.227.

(3) Cited in Beauvois, p.15.

(4) Jan Slomka, From Serfdom to Self-Government: Memoirs of a Polish Village Mayor, tr. by W. J. Rose (London: Minerva Pub., 1941). Quotation is from p.15.

(5) Cited in Beauvois, pp.37-8.

(6) Cited in Beauvois, p.23.

(7) Conditions in Galicia are discussed in Jean-Paul Himka, Galician Villagers and the Ukrainian National Movement in the Nineteenth Century (Edmonton: U. of Alberta Press, 1988). 

(8) Quotations from “My Friendly Epistle” and “The Dream” are from Taras Shevchenko, Poetical Works: The Kobzar, tr. by C. H. Andrusyshen and W. Kirkconnell (Toronto: U. of T. Press, 1964).

(9) Miller Wright, Who Are the Russians?  A History of the Russian People (London: Faber & Faber, 1973), p.89.

(10) E. M. Almedingen, The Emperor Alexander 11 (London:  Bodley Head, 1962), p.46.

(11) Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, The Golovlovs, tr. by A. R. MacAndrew (New York: New American Library, 1961). All quotations are from this text.

(12) Nikander Strelsky, Saltykov and the Russian Squire (New York: AMS Press, 1966), p.139.

(13) Vasyl Stefanyk, “The Stone Cross” in The Stone Cross, tr. by J. Wiznuk and C. H. Andrusyshen (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1971). Quotations are from this text.

(14) Wright, p.95.

(15) W. E. D. Allen, The Ukraine: A History (New York: Russell and Russell, 1963), p.348.

(16) Anton Chekhov, “The Cherry Orchard” in The Portable Chekhov, tr. by Avrahm Yarmolinsky (New York: Viking Press, 1965). All quotations are from this text.

(17) Wright, p.95.

(18) David Mitrany, Marx against the Peasant (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1951), p.17.

(19) Mitrany, p.63.

(20) Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine (Edmonton: U. of Alberta Press, 1986), p.127.

(21) Vasily Grossman, Forever Flowing, tr. by T. P. Whitney (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), p.150.

(22) Paul Robert Magocsi, A History of Ukraine (Toronto: U. of Toronto Press, 1996), pp.563, 559.

(23) Conquest, pp.306, 301.

(24) Conquest, p.306.

(25) Anna Reid, Borderland: A Journey through the History of Ukraine (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1997), p.117.

(26) The Great Famine in Ukraine 1932-33 (Toronto: Ukrainian Brotherhood of St. Volodomyr, 1988), p.73.

(27) Magocsi, p.555.

(28) Reid, p.132.

(29) Conquest, p.320.

(30) Mykola Khvylovy, “A Sentimental Tale” in Stories from the Ukraine, tr. by G. S. N. Luckyj (New York: Philosophical Library, 1960). All quotations are from this text.

Two works not directly referred to in the essay but which were especially helpful are: Ivan L. Rudnytsky, ed., Rethinking Ukrainian History (Edmonton, U. of Alberta Press, 1981) and Orest Subtelny, Ukraine: A History (Toronto: U. of Toronto Press, 1988).

Personal Note