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  • History of Ukraine-Rus′. Volume One. From Prehistory to the Eleventh Century
  • Charles J. Halperin
Mykhailo Hrushevsky, History of Ukraine-Rus′. Volume One. From Prehistory to the Eleventh Century. Translated by Marta Skorupsky. Edited by Andrzej Poppe, Consulting Editor, and Frank E. Sysyn, Editor-in-Chief, with the assistance of Uliana M. Pasicznyk. Edmonton-Toronto: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 1997. lxi + 602 pp. ISBN 1-895571-19-7 (v. 1). Cloth $79.95.

Mykhailo Hrushevsky (1866–1934) remains the greatest historian of the Ukrainian national school, and his ten-volume (eleven-book) Istoriia Ukraïny-Rusy was his masterpiece, a fully realized, scholarly, integrated (if unfinished and incomplete) history of the Ukrainian people from prehistory through 1658. The present volume inaugurates the project by the Peter Jacyk Centre for Ukrainian Historical Research at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta to translate the History, so as to make it more accessible to the widest possible scholarly and popular audience. Judging from this book, the translation will be a major achievement and a significant contribution to the study of early East Slavic history.1

Frank E. Sysyn's "Introduction to the History of Ukraine-Rus'" (xxii–xlii)2 sets the stage for the entire project. It surveys Hrushevsky's life and places his work within the contexts of Imperial Russian, Polish and Ukrainian historiography. Sysyn emphasizes Hrushevsky's intellectual roots in romantic nationalism and populism; his dynamic concept of the evolution of the Ukrainian "nation," which relegated modern notions of "nation" and "nationality" to the nineteenth century, and rated statehood as less important, in the primarily stateless history of the Ukrainians, than socio-economic and cultural history; and his vast erudition and prolific publications (over 2000 works). He describes the reception of Hrushevsky's work by his contemporaries and subsequent generations of scholars. Hrushevsky's History was controversial when it appeared, but soon influenced Russian historiography and became standard in Ukrainian historiography. It later lost some of its luster to adherents of the "statist" school of Ukrainian historiography led by Lypynsky, and was utterly rejected under the Soviets. However, even Ukrainian émigré proponents of the statist school subsequently [End Page 195] accepted Hrushevsky's schema and tradition of national historiography. Sysyn describes Hurshevsky as a "titan of industriousness" and a "historian of genius." Since 1991 a new "cult" of Hrushevsky has arisen in independent Ukraine, restoring his popularity there to that of the "national hero" elected the first president of the Ukrainian Republic 1917–1918.

Andrzej Poppe's "Introduction to Volume 1" (xliii–liv), like his editorial additions, translated by Myroslav Yurkevich, provides a ready preparation for the monumental work that follows. Poppe repeatedly stresses the continuing relevance of Hrushevsky's views, often confirmed by subsequent research; his devotion to the spirit of German historicism, which determined the scholarly standards to which he adhered; and his intuition, caution, and intellectual maturity. Poppe calls attention to Hrushevsky's rejection of racialist views. He is undoubtedly correct that even those who do not accept Hrushevsky's conclusion – that the legacy of Kyivan Rus' belongs almost entirely to the Ukrainian nation, slightly to the Belarusians, and not at all to Great Russians – will still understand Hrushevsky's position as a protest against Imperial Russian repression of Ukrainian national aspirations at the time of the History's composition, when even the status of Ukrainian as an independent language, rather than a dialect of Russian, met with hostility. Poppe contrasts the quality of Hrushevsky's History to the dregs produced by Soviet Ukrainian historians, and can barely suppress his rage at the servility of Soviet Ukrainian historians to the ludicrous fantasies about the Kyivan period of the "Russian archeologist" Rybakov. Poppe concludes by categorizing Hrushevsky's History, or at least the first three volumes (through 1340), as indispensable, and fully worthy of attention by the international scholarly community.

Hrushevsky's History is simply indispensable to all students of early East Slavic history. I would, however, question Poppe's assertion that there was a contrast between late nineteenth-century Imperial Russian historiography's emphasis upon the state and Ukrainian historiography's (and Hrushevsky's) attention to the "people" in their respective...