Harvest of Despair



b. 14 December 1893 Trostianets, Kharkiv gubernia, d. 13 May 1933 Kharkiv

Khvylovyj (born Mykola Fitilev) was a leading writer and publicist during the Ukrainian cultural renaissance of the 1920s. After graduating from the Bohodukhiv Gymnasium in 1916, he joined the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine [CP(b)U]. In 1921, along with Sosiura and Yohansen, Khvylovyj signed the literary manifesto “Our Universal to the Ukrainian Workers and Ukrainian Proletarian Artists.” His poetry collection Molodist (Youth) was published in the same year.

Khvylovyj influenced a generation of Ukrainian writers. He focused his creative talents on depicting the socialist revolution in Ukraine and the first signs of the degeneration of the revolution. Many of his later works, for example, stories such as Redaktor Kark (Editor Kark)  were biting satires of the transformation of former revolutionaries into bureaucrats and parasites. Khvylovyj was very active and influential in the life of literary circles and organizations. In 1923 he became one of the founding members of the proletarian-writers’ group Hart.

An outspoken critic of the Russification that began to permeate Soviet culture in the late 1920s, Khvylovyj was an important member of the nationally conscious opposition within the CP(b)U. He called on the Ukrainian intelligentsia to model itself after progressive elements in Europe. His slogan “Away from Moscow!” was seen as a dangerous threat by the Soviet leadership, which was exhibiting more and more the Russian chauvinism prevalent in pre-revolutionary days. From 1927 Khvylovyj  was subject to relentless harassment and persecution by the Soviet authorities.

By the first years of the 1930s it became almost impossible for Khvylovyj to work. Already in 1928, he was forced to renounce his slogan “Away from Moscow!” Denounced as a bourgeois nationalist, he was increasingly marginalized and every opportunity was used to fight his ideas. As the Famine and the Postyshev terror swept Ukraine, Khvylovyj had only one way left to protest – in May 1933 he committed suicide as a symbol of his concern for his nation. During the Khrushchev thaw, many writers of the 1920s were rehabilitated – the works of Khvylovyj, however, remained banned in the USSR.