On Executed Renaissance

Bohdana Neborak 🇺🇦

In this thread, I'll tell you about some of the Ukrainian modernist writers from the Ukrainian 20s.

You definitely know about the "Roaring 20s" and "Génération Perdue». The Ukrainian modernism is called the "Executed Renaissance".

Like the first two, this term calls the generation which was pulled out of the specific time and space. In Ukraine we also have stories about parties, industrialization, fancy restaurants and revolutions in theater, literature, music, art. But I want to highlight the terminology.

Executed Renaissance is a term used to describe the generation of Ukrainian language artists of 1920s and early 1930s who were living in the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic.

The term "Executed Renaissance" was first suggested by Polish emigre publisher Jerzy Giedroyc in a 1959 letter to Ukrainian emigre and literary critic Yurii Lavrinenko as a title for a planned anthology of the best Ukrainian literature ever written by that generation.

At the beginning of the 1930s, there were 259 writers being actively published in the Soviet Union, mentioned Lavrinenko in the «Executed Renaissance» anthology.

At the end of the 1930s — 36. How had 80 percent of writers disappeared?

17 were shot, 8 committed suicide, 7 died of natural causes, and 175 had been arrested and put into camps. 16 were missing.

Ukrainian modernism in literature has several possible starting points. But it has a specific final point.

Ukrainian modernism in the territory of Ukraine is said to die on 13 May 1933, when its leading voice Mykola Khvylovy gunshot himself.

Khvylovy killed himself after the arrests of Ukrainian artists by the Soviet secret police Cheka became obvious.

After he traveled to Eastern Ukraine and witnessed The Great Famnie – genocide of Ukrainian people performed by the Soviets.

About the end of modernism. Of course, some writers fled the Soviet Union and went on writing; or those who opposed the regime inside the Soviet Ukraine were sentenced, killed, or made to die by the Soviets till the late Soviet times.

The censorship and the politics of the russification flourished. It was impossible to be a free Ukrainian writer, write what you wanted in Ukrainian, and get published. All such people were repressed and imprisoned (among them my godfather in 1972)

I work with Ukrainian literature every day. Before the full-scale invasion of Russia, I sometimes thought we have a distance big enough to emphasize the "renaissance", not the "executed". But now I feel my culture is under threat.

Read about some of the Ukrainian modernist writers executed by the Moscow politics in the Soviet times. If there are English translations, I attach the link.

Read those writers because they did what frightenes Russia the most:

Ukrainian modernists showed the Ukrainian character in the Ukrainian novel/poem as a full and independent person. That's what Russia cannot forgive.

Mykola Kvylovy, leader of his generation. Everybody wanted to write like Khvylovy. Committed suicide in 1933.

Read the translations by George Luckyj (who was the first to write a PhD about the Executed Renaissance «Literary Politics in the Soviet Ukraine, 1917—1934» at Columbia University in NYC)


Pavlo Tychyna, a leading poetic voice of the generation. Was made a socialistic voice, degraded his poetry. Died of natural causes in 1967.

Read the translations of his modernist poetry by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps that are used by NYC theater


Yevhen Pluzhnyk, tender and straight poetic voice. Died at Solovky concentration camp in northwest Russia in 1937.

(in the center of the photo)

Read Yevhen Pluzhnyk poem translated by Myroslav Laiuk.

Mykhayl Semenko, father of Ukrainian futurism, communist. Shot in the city center of Kyiv in the basements of Cheka in 1937.

Listen to Dakh Daughter's performance on Semenko's poetry.

Valeryan Pidmohylny, key novelist of the generation, shot at Sandarmokh in 1937.

Read Pidmohylny urban novel "The City" (1928). See the covers of the Ukrainian editions from 1928 and 2017.


Maik Yohansen, ironical poet, author of literary reportages, and linguist, shot at Sandarmokh in 1937.

(two images because he was so handsome)

Listen to Dakh Daughter's performance on Yohansen's poetry.

Mykola Zerov, key intellectual of the generation, poet, translator, and professor, shot at Sandarmokh. At Karelian camp he translated Ovid. Shot at Sandarmokh in 1937.

These stories and numbers I told you in the thread give only an idea of the Soviet Union’s attitude to the Ukrainian cultural elite, an attitude that imposed a kind of cultural silence for several decades. That brutally stopped the growth of Ukraine because of the Moscow politics

The last thing I want to show you is "The Word" house. A communist idea of joint living resulted into the house where leading writers should live together (and from were they were arrested).

This house was shelled by Russians on March 7.

Todays Russia is trying to impose to Ukraine and Ukrainian culture the same politics as 100 years ago.

Read Ukrainian literature, it calls for life.

Read and translate Ukrainian modernist literature. It tells a lot about the idea of Russia as well.