MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of People

Three Ukrainian Enlighteners

Authors: Pavel Yudin and Mark Rosenthal;
Written: 1949-53;
First published: 1954 in A Short Philosophical Dictionary, fifth edition;
Source: https://filslov.ru/
Translated by: Anton P.

Grigory Skorovoda

Skovoroda Grigory Savvich (1722-1794) – an outstanding Ukrainian philosopher, humanist, democrat and educator, who expressed the protest of the peasant masses against serfdom. After graduating from the Kiev Theological Academy, he was a poetics teacher at the Pereyaslavl Theological Seminary, then at the Kharkov Collegium. For progressive views, he was persecuted. The hostile attitude of the clergy and the ruling classes forced him to give up teaching.

In order to spread his views among the people, he chose the lifestyle of an itinerant philosopher. One of the first in the history of Russian and Ukrainian social thought, Skovoroda, raised the struggle against official religion and dead church scholasticism. He turned to man and his mind, to nature. His philosophical views are contradictory. The main question of philosophy he solved idealistically, recognizing the primary spiritual principle. At the same time, there was a strong materialistic tendency in his worldview. Following Mikhail Lomonosov, he came to the conclusion that matter is eternal in time and infinite in space.

He believed that law prevails in nature. His fluctuations between materialism and idealism took the form of a dualistic theory of three worlds and two natures. He argued that the whole world consists of a macrocosm (nature), a microcosm (man) and a world of symbols (the Bible). Each of them has two natures: an external material and an internal spiritual. Nature consists of many worlds, it is not created by anyone, cannot be destroyed, has no beginning or end, for the end of one is the beginning of another. This is the materialistic tendency of Skovoroda’s philosophy. Skovoroda believed that the world is cognizable, but in order to cognize the macrocosm, one must first know oneself, since the laws of the macro- and microcosm are the same. The other side of his epistemology is ethics: truth is complete in unity with virtue outside of it it is empty and turns into idle curiosity; knowledge and science should serve the people.

Skovoroda considered the Bible as a means of cognition of the spiritual principle, as a third, symbolic world. He singled out in it the external material side and internal divine content: the Bible for him is both God and the serpent. Here Skovoroda’s contradictory attitude towards religion and the Bible is reflected. He vigorously criticized the official religion (its orthodoxy, dogmatism and scholasticism, as ridiculous lies and the fables of the shameless, harmful and lying Bible), thereby rising to the level of militant anti-clericalism. At the same time, he clothed his preaching of enlightenment and ethics in a religious form. He wanted to create a religion of love, virtue and truth. God for him is nature, man, truth, virtue, etc. Skovoroda criticized the church, hated the white and black clergy.

Skovoroda fought for the interests of the oppressed common people, he angrily criticized the rich for money-grubbing, for their parasitism. In money-grubbing, he saw the source of all social disasters: litigation, robbery, flattery, buying and selling, extortion, wars, the fall of states and republics. The people are in chains, politically oppressed, deprived of rights, in ignorance, Skovoroda said. He called to wake the people up. Skovoroda saw salvation in self-knowledge: having cognized the evil inclination, people must free themselves from it and build a new society based on reason, truth and virtue. He dreamed of seeing the mountainous Rus as a mountainous Republic. Skovoroda passionately loved his homeland and people. With all intransigence, he spoke out against anti-patriots and cosmopolitans. He ardently defended the unity of Ukraine with Russia, the friendship of these two fraternal peoples.

Skovoroda was realistic and strong in criticizing the rich, landowners, officials, official religion and clergy, but he was weak and utopian in addressing issues of social development. His worldview evolved towards materialism and towards a more acute formulation of social problems. But he did not come to a materialistic solution to the fundamental question of philosophy; in public views, although he went beyond the enlightenment of the 18th century, he did not reach revolutionary positions. His views reflected the weakness and narrowness of the peasant anti-serf movement. Philosophical and literary works of Skovoroda: The initial door to Christian good behavior (1766), Dialogue about the ancient world (1772), Friendly conversation about the spiritual world, Alphabet of the world (1775), The struggle of the Archangel Michael with Satan (1783) and others.

Taras Shevchenko

Shevchenko Taras Grigorievich (1814-1861) – a great Ukrainian poet, revolutionary and thinker, an ideological ally of the Russian revolutionary democrats, the founder of the revolutionary democratic trend in the history of Ukrainian social thought. His worldview was formed under the influence of advanced Russian literature, especially the ideas of Russian revolutionary democrats; his views reflected the interests of the revolutionary Ukrainian peasantry of the mid-19th century, the era of the crisis of the feudal-serf system in Russia.

A serf peasant, ransomed from captivity, Shevchenko, in the words of Dobrolyubov, is “a poet of the people ... He came out of the people, lived with the people, and not only by thought, but by the circumstances of life, was closely and bloodily connected with the people.” Shevchenko was one of the most active participants in a secret political organization in Ukraine, Cyril and Methodius Society and headed the revolutionary, leading nucleus in it. He was associated with a group of Petrashevists, who, in their plans for a peasant uprising, hoped to use his revolutionary activities in Ukraine. The Tsarist government persecuted him all his life. In 1847; he was arrested, consigned to a soldier and exiled to the distant Kazakh steppes. For ten years (1847-1857) he was in exile. After the exile, Shevchenko became close to the members of the Sovremennik magazine and its editors, Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov.

Like Chernyshevsky, he called the people to the ax. His fiery poetry (Dream, Caucasus, Testament) and all his revolutionary activities were aimed at fighting against the gang of self-serving landowners and the crowned executioner, the Tsar, against the dishonest liberals, against the stupid lyricists (the apologists of serfdom). Shevchenko is a fighter for the people’s republic. He calls on the people: “Break the chains, and sprinkle the will of the villainous enemy’s blood.” Angrily exposing the great power oppression of the Russian landowners and the Tsar, Shevchenko fought for friendship between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples, praised the glorious of the glorious Bohdan Khmelnitsky, a fighter for the reunification of Ukraine with Russia, advocated the unification of the Slavic peoples on a democratic basis. An ardent patriot who gave his whole life to the people, he exposed cosmopolitans, spoke out against Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists (Kulish, Kostomarov). Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists tried to falsely portray Shevchenko as a nationalist, liberal and “Christian”. Shevchenko did not consider the existing social system to be unshakable, he was convinced that the serf system would be destroyed everywhere, that this was due to the development of the steam engine, a technique that would devour the landlord-inquisitors, and that the most important role in a radical change in social life would be played the masses. A materialist in his outlook, he argued that the strength of the spirit cannot manifest itself without matter. At that time, Shevchenko did not call his philosophical position materialism, mistakenly understanding by this word a vulgar form of materialism. Shevchenko exposed the lies of religion, the hypocrisy and self-interest of the priests, building their well-being on the blood of the people.

The atheist Shevchenko strongly denied the other world. In the poem The Heretic Shevchenko shows how Jan Hus fights for the interests of ordinary people, for the unity of the Slavs, bringing peace and glory to the world, and how the fat monk on the apostolic throne, the Pope, stands against him, hiding behind religion. Roman, along with princes, barony and crowned heads and blood, as in a shinny, trades. This speech of the poet against the Vatican has not lost its topicality to this day. Shevchenko’s atheism has its own characteristics. He often uses words such as god, saint, etc. But he did not put religious content in them at all, Shevchenko’s “God” is, as a rule, the truth in the minds of the people. He also solved the main question of aesthetics materialistically: the source of beauty is nature; any attempts to deviate from the eternal beauty of nature make the artist a moral monster. Fighting for the truthfulness of life, for nationality, for the high ideological nature of art, Shevchenko opposed idealism in painting as a hostile ideological trend. These views of Shevchenko are clearly reflected in his Diary.

In the 1840s and then in the 1850s, in the era of Chernyshevsky, in the struggle between two camps – materialism and idealism – Shevchenko was on the side of the Russian revolutionary democrats and materialists. His battle poetry, which spread underground, was a sharp weapon in the fight against serfdom. Shevchenko had a great influence on the further development of revolutionary social thought in Ukraine and Ukrainian culture (Ivan Franko, M. Kotsyubinsky, Lesya Ukrainka, etc.).

Ivan Franko

Franko Ivan Yakovlevich (1856-1916) – the great Ukrainian writer-thinker, scientist and public figure. Born into the family of a peasant blacksmith in the Drohobych region. After numerous ordeals and disasters, he graduated from the gymnasium; studied at the Lviv University. The Austrian authorities persecuted Franko, threw him in prison three times on charges of socialism, the creation of secret societies, sympathy for the Russians, and ties with the peasant movement. His worldview was formed under the influence of Taras Shevchenko and Russian revolutionary democrats: Herzen, Belinsky, Chernyshevsky, Dobrolyubov, Pisarev, Saltykov-Shchedrin and Nekrasov.

The spread of Marxism influenced the development of his revolutionary democratic ideology towards scientific socialism. He studied and popularized the Manifesto of the Communist Party of Marx and Engels and Das Kapital of Marx; first translated into Ukrainian the 24th chapter of the I volume of Capital and selected sections from Anti-Duhring of F. Engels. His worldview is closely connected with the liberation movement of the working people, with the awakening to the political life of the proletariat in the areas of oil fields and in the cities of Western Ukraine, with the achievements of natural science, with the teachings of Sechenov and Darwinism. Franko criticizes false Darwinists who apply biological laws to interpret the development of human society and draw reactionary conclusions from this. He calls for the democratization of science, for its transformation into an instrument of struggle for the interests of the working people.

His philosophical views are set out in the works: A few words about how to organize and maintain our popular publications, Thoughts on evolution in the history of mankind, Literature, its purpose and most important features, Critical letters about the Galician intelligentsia, and also in a number of works of art. Franko sees the basis of all that exists in matter. Nature is immortal, eternal, in constant motion, seething. Spirit is not a second world-creating principle, but only a reflection of moving matter, a function of the material brain and nervous system. Franko interprets human knowledge as a reflection of reality, nature. He refuted agnosticism and relativism.

Franko expressed some dialectical ideas, he saw the continuous change of the world, its contradictoriness, was guided by what was going forward. He is an atheist, a fighter against fideism and open clericalism, against clericalism and religious education of youth. The brightest publicistic works of the writer are directed against the Vatican, Catholicism, Uniatism, sectarianism. Franko criticized the false theory of the eternity of capitalism, exposed capitalist society as a predatory society, devouring generations and destroying the health and morality of the masses. This is a world of deceit and violence. Bourgeois democracy, proclaiming equality before the law, “looks as if they are comforting the hungry that he has the right to be full without giving him bread.” Franko firmly believes in the triumph of the revolution. Referring to Marx’s teaching on socialism, Franko calls for the elimination of the “wall” separating the working man from the instruments of production, for the transformation of the instruments of production into public property, for the elimination of “between,” this synonym for private property, for collective labor and distribution according to work.

In the struggle for the ideological nature of literature, Franko opposes the idealistic aesthetics with its metaphysical ideas about the eternal norms of art to the materialistic aesthetics of Belinsky, Chernyshevsky, Dobrolyubov and Shevchenko. He emphasizes the historical character of art, claims that life is the main engine in art. For Franko, as well as for Shevchenko, poetry is “condensed, concentrated, crystallized reality.” He mercilessly criticizes the theory of art for art and decadence in literature. In his works of art, Franko deeply realistically reflected the servitude of the working people of Western Ukraine. He first introduced the image of a worker into Ukrainian literature. Maxim Gorky highly appreciated his work. Being an outstanding patriot, champion of friendship between the Ukrainian and Russian peoples, Franko believed that “the hour will come! – and Ukraine will sparkle in a crimson halo in the circle of free peoples.”

He fought for the reunification of Ukraine as part of Russia, where, in his opinion, the spring of mankind began with the revolution of 1905. Speaking for the equality of peoples, Franko wrote: “Whoever oppresses, strangles and stops another nation in free development, digs a grave for itself and for the state, which seems to be served by this oppression.” He argued the impossibility of solving the national question without solving the social question. Franko was a resolute opponent of both bourgeois Ukrainian nationalism and rootless cosmopolitanism. He was the first in Ukraine to expose Mykhaylo Hrushevsky as the ideologue of Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism, his false theory without the bourgeois character of the Ukrainian nation, denounced the activities of an espionage organization, which demagogically called itself the Union for the liberation of Ukraine, he condemned the book by Mykhaylo Hrushevsky on the history of Ukraine, written to please the German aggressors who were preparing a plan to seize Ukraine and tear it away from Russia. Franko’s book directed against Mykhaylo Hrushevsky (1912) is of scientific interest.

In the ideological development of Franko, there were also erroneous views. He did not always manage to avoid national narrow-mindedness, as Lenin pointed out in the interests of the democratic national liberation movement in Ukraine. Franko did not become a Marxist in his views, but his whole glorious life, his enormous artistic talent, which he put in the service of the working people, his military activity in the interests of the liberation of the Ukrainian people and the strengthening of friendship between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples, brought him universal love; not only the Ukrainian people, but all the peoples of the Soviet Union honor the memory of Ivan Franko.