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In this study, I examine a spatial dimension of the oppression of the Ukrainian intelligentsia in the early 1930s, and the creation of a place of surveillance, the Writers’ Home “Slovo” in Kharkiv. This building fashioned an important identity for Ukrainian intellectuals. This study analyzes how the meaning of the place was transformed from an oasis of intellectual freedom to one of the most agonizing and tragic cites in Kharkiv, a place of suffering, and how the changes in human perceptions of places and their meanings altered people’s group identity as well as individual convictions and behaviors. I demonstrate how external realities and personal fallacies facilitated the intellectual’s conformism which was encouraged and rewarded by the state. The study also illuminates how Stalin’s repressions leveled and in many cases erased individual identity. The research was conducted in Ukrainian libraries and archives.
Number 2302 Olga Bertelsen
e House of Writers in
Ukraine, the 1930s:
Conceived, Lived, Perceived
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Number 2302
ISSN: 2163-839X (online)
Olga Bertelsen
e House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s:
Conceived, Lived, Perceived
The Carl Beck Papers
Publisher: University Library System, University of Pittsburgh
Editors: William Chase, Bob Donnorummo, Robert Hayden, Andrew Konitzer
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Olga Bertelsen (Ph.D., University of Nottingham, 2013) is a Postdoctoral Fellow at
the Harriman Institute, Columbia University. Her research interests include Ukrainian
history and culture, the spatial dimensions of state violence in the Soviet Union and
in Ukraine, and the interactions between the state and the intelligentsia.
No. 2302, August 2013
2013 by  e Center for Russian and East European Studies, a program of the
University Center for International Studies, University of Pittsburgh
ISSN 0889-275X (print) ISSN 2163-839X (online)
Image from cover: e facade of the House of Writers “Slovo” (Budynok Slovo). Sum-
mer 2008 (Kharkiv, Ukraine).
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
e House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s:
Conceived, Lived, Perceived
In 1936, Mykhailo Proskuriakov, the interrogator assigned to the Ukrainian
artists known as the Boichukists, said of Ivan Lipkovs’kyi, an artist and professor at
the Kyiv Art Institute, that his guilt resided in “drinking his tea somewhere where he
should not have.1 e ”somewhere” in question was the home of Mykhailo Boichuk,
Lipkovs’kyi’s teacher. Boichuk once stated that a great wall, similar to the Great Wall
of China (“a barrier even for birds”), should be erected between Russia and Ukraine so
that Ukrainian culture had an opportunity to develop. When this statement reached
the NKVD,2 friends, colleagues, and guests of the world-famous artist began to disap-
pear one by one. Ivan Padalka and Vasyl’ Sedliar, both of whome were friends with
Boichuk, were arrested by the NKVD at that same time.  ey happened to live in an
equally dangerous place: Budynok Slovo (the House of Writers).3
In the early 1930s, having tea in potentially dangerous places like Boichuk’s
residence was considered a conspiratorial act; the Soviet secret police characterized
such gathering places as “nationalist nests” to be eradicated. In the 1920s, Ukraine
constituted a broad and largely indeterminate battleground in terms of geography,
culture, and intellect, but the 1930s  attened the social landscape and marked the
triumph of Stalinist values. Subsequently, political and cultural discourses adhered
to the most recent Party resolutions. State violence swept away thousands of people
in Ukraine.4 Precisely during this decade, the fate of the Ukrainian intelligentsia and
Ukrainian identity was ultimately forged for generations to come.  is temporal
context (the 1930s) is as important as the spatial one (the Budynok Slovo). A close
and thorough examination of places of state violence—where the creation of the new
Soviet intelligentsia and destruction of the national intelligentsia occurred—provides
us with a nuanced understanding of various human experiences under Stalinism.
Space and place are reasonably new concepts in contemporary historical analy-
sis. However, historians employ them more and more frequently as metaphorical
and methodological tools to investigate various topics ranging from state violence
and nationalism to festivals and food studies. Soviet studies, especially, has bene ted
from a spatial approach, as it has helped scholars analyze the complexity of the Soviet
Union/region/city as a geographical place and, most importantly, as a cultural phe-
nomenon.5 is approach proves to be particularly useful in the Ukrainian context
because it reveals the speci city of the place and the interplay of regions/borders/cit-
ies/places, peoples borderland experiences, ethnicity,  uid identity, and local politics.
Olga Bertelsen
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As Raymie E. McKerrow reminds us, “little imagination is needed to see space-
time as potential tools of regimentation and discipline: the ‘right place’ and ‘right time’
function ideologically to keep order within society. 6 e Soviet secret police divided
Kharkiv into “right” and “wrong” places in the early 1930s, and any a liation with
these places could be bene cial or fatal for those who chose to be there.  is study
considers Budynok Slovo as a space and place of societal control and manipulation.
Despite the stigma attached to the building as a “nationalist nest,” the residents, known
as slov’iany, invested the place with special meaning.  eir physical home shaped their
self-identi cation, which, in turn, tied them to the Ukrainian cultural landscape and
determined their social and political behavior.7 A study of the material culture of the
building, the social status of the residents, and spatial regimentation implemented
by the state helps to explicate the behavior of members of the intelligentsia when
facing the threat of violence in prison.  e confusion and dismay they experienced
in relation to Budynok Slovo overlapped, ampli ed, or caused the confusion and
dismay they experienced in relation to their own identities.  is subsequently led
to moral degradation and suicides.8
Despite their di erent ethnic backgrounds (Russian, Ukrainian, and Jewish)
and di erent aesthetic, artistic, and social values, the slov’iany—among whom were
writers, theater directors, artists, and state o cials—represented for the state a
multi-bonded group who shared the same space, and more importantly, the same
language.  ese spatial and linguistic ties molded their identities both individually
and collectively; for the secret police their potential for local solidarity and patriotism
was ultimately read as local nationalism.  e nationalism of a vast populated region/
area/place such as Ukraine/Kharkiv/Budynok Slovo was a major concern for the
Party in general, and Stalin in particular.9 e signi cance of the regional/national/
spatial in the intelligentsia’s cultural makeup helped state o cials locate places where
nationalist saturation had reached what they considered a critical level.10 In their view,
repression would help prevent the further dissemination of nationalist tendencies
that had allegedly been produced and cultivated in Budynok Slovo.
e spatial practices, traditions, and aesthetics of Budynok Slovo and the secret
police prison became intertwined and entangled in the 1930s. Disillusioned and
frightened, the intelligentsia shouldered and perpetuated the terror, which shaped
their future in many ways.  e spatial  xation of the state and the secret police on
Budynok Slovo led to a certain emotional condition among the slov’iany: denun-
ciations and betrayals became commonplace. All residents were categorized by the
secret police as “nationalists” and “fascists” whether they were loyalists, staunch
Communists faithful to the Soviet system and ready to combat local nationalism, or
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
oppositionists” who had earned a reputation as Ukrainian nationalists (even those
who were not ethnic Ukrainians).  e history of the House of Writers reveals that
the physical removal of the slov’iany was a state operation designed to eliminate the
nationally conscious and critically thinking section of Ukrainian society.  e state
applied this disciplinary measure in order to clarify the rules of existence in Soviet
(not Ukrainian) space for all other literary practitioners in Ukraine or elsewhere
who served as propagandists of Soviet culture and institutions.
Information about the Budynok Slovo and human experiences in that place is
fragmentary. Approximately 90 percent of its residents were repressed in the 1930s.
ose who survived changed their last names, place of residence, and in most cases,
country of residence.  e last of those who remember what happened in the House
of Writers in the 1930s have passed away or are nearing the end of their lives; with
their passing a piece of their family history and, importantly, national and regional
history, will disappear. Previous historical studies have been primarily focused on
individual histories of several particular intellectuals, and as a result several dozen
literary  gures who lived in this building still remain in the shadows.
In 1923, the Soviet government announced the policy of Ukrainization as part
of the broader campaign of “indigenization,” according to which the Ukrainian lan-
guage and culture would be promoted in the republic. However, a er 1926, the Soviet
secret police began to methodically arrest, exile, and execute those Ukrainians who
were active advocates of Ukrainization.  ey were labeled Ukrainian “nationalists
and deviationists.
Western scholarship on this topic is currently dominated by a narrative that
portrays the Soviet government as making sincere attempts to promote national cul-
tures. For instance, Terry Martin has o ered the term “the a rmative action empire,
and Yuri Slezkine uses the notion of “ethnophilia” to illustrate this point.11 Similarly,
the terror against national minorities is o en explained as a result of Communist
leaders who lacked experience in socialist construction and cultural knowledge
about the periphery.  e violence and vigor of the secret police in hunting down the
Ukrainian intelligentsia is interpreted as a product of chaotic, ad hoc measures that
stemmed from local bureaucratic misrepresentation and misunderstanding of the
center’s decisions. Contrasting scholarship representing the polar opposite of this view
considers repression as a carefully planned operation in the context of the growing
centralization of power in Moscow.12 e ongoing discussion of the question “why
terror?” has produced heated scholarly debates, and the issue of the intentionality
of state violence, with various accompanying rationales, remains largely unsettled.
Olga Bertelsen
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New archival data—especially state archival materials, the secret polices op-
erational documents, and rehabilitation materials obtained from the former KGB
archives—suggest that the idea of “ethnophilia” is inconsistent with what was hap-
pening in Moscow and Ukraine in the 1920s–1930s. According to this evidence,
the state and secret police viewed the Ukrainian intelligentsia as a potential force of
resistance against the complete subjugation of Ukraine as an independent political
and economic entity. State power was not invisible or subtle; it was open, aggressive,
violent, and persistent in demanding loyalty to the center, and it shaped the secret
organs as an instrument of its political will. Secret police records demonstrate that
the state launched counter-Ukrainization in 1926 (not in 1932–1933 as many Western
commentators argue), and police considered it one of the major secret operations in
Soviet Ukraine. Bolshevik policies toward national minorities exhibited the features
of a “distinctive ethno-national cleansing13 rather than an “ethnophilic” nature.  ese
policies led to tremendous cultural disruption in Ukraine, evidence of which can be
found even today in Ukrainian society.
e notions of space and place highlight the speci city of Soviet policies that
were intrinsic to Ukraine/Kharkiv/Budynok Slovo. Other spatial concepts (such as
region, border, and boundary) alongside aesthetic notions (such as talent, feelings,
emotions, and patterns) prevail in the discussion about the experience of Ukrainian
intellectuals under Stalinism.14
A multiplicity of sources suggest an interpretation of Soviet policies in Ukraine
that di ers from the Russocentric views that dominate Western discourse and are
rarely challenged. Yet all sources comprise particular complexities. Memoirs and dia-
ries o en misremember or overlook experiences that are painful or shameful for the
narrator. Moreover, they are usually constrained by o cial discourse or the narrator’s
fear of punishment for telling the truth, which was a common concern in socialist
societies.15 To mitigate these problematic aspects of memoirs, they are analyzed here
in combination with an appraisal of the conditions and circumstances under which
they were produced.16 Moreover, to avoid a one-sided view, the memoirs of people of
various social status, educational background, and professional a liation have been
included. Among them were individuals who immigrated and those who did not,
those who survived the terror and those who were never repressed, those who were
rehabilitated and those who were not, those who were staunch Stalinists, Ukrainian
nationalists, and apolitical individuals, and  nally those who lived in Budynok Slovo
or who were a part of the literary and artistic discourse in the 1920s–1930s.
Major works by poets and writers of the Red Renaissance (also known as the
Cultural Renaissance of the 1920s) shed light on the worldview of the slov’iany, as
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
well as on their understandings of aesthetic, ethical, and moral issues. Narrative
topics and forms of creative expression were especially instructive in analyzing the
e ects of repression by the regime. Personal archives of the Ukrainian intelligentsia
from the State Archives of Literature and Art (TsDAMLiMU), the Kharkiv Literary
Museum, and the State Archives of Kharkiv Oblast (DAKhO) helped identify im-
portant biographical points previously unknown to scholars.
Individual and group criminal  les of the Soviet secret police, located in the
HDA SBU archive in Kyiv and the AU SBUKhO archive in Kharkiv, and especially
rehabilitation materials that are included in these  les were of great importance
for this study. GPU/NKVD criminal  les present some di culties for researchers
because these documents are compromised by forgery and fabrication. However,
despite concerns about the reliability of GPU documents, they reveal the timeframe
of events and the Soviet agenda on Ukrainization policies. GPU/NKVD strategies
in prosecuting the slov’iany play a signi cant role in an analysis of the norms and
aesthetics of the Soviet secret police and its agenda. Operational materials helped
identify the modus operandi of the secret police, and the correspondence between
the Lubianka, the OGPU headquarters in Moscow, and the Kharkiv GPU illuminated
the center’s role in planning mass repression against “oppositionists.” GPU-NKVD
documents constitute amazing supplementary material for studying the methods used
in repressing the intelligentsia and the ideological motivation of their tormentors.
Rehabilitation testimonies collected at the height of the Khrushchev  aw, a period
of relative freedom, shed new light on peoples subjectivities, and their perceptions
of Stalinism.
For the purpose of this study, the terms “purges,” “repression,” “terror” and
exile” should be clari ed. As far as Soviet terminology was concerned, “purges”
(chistki) commonly referred to Party reprimands and the so-called administrative
penalties (administrativnye vzyskaniia) that o en were extended to exclusion from
Party membership.17 ese chistki were implemented in the primary Party cells of
various institutions and factories by special regional Party commissions. Precisely
this meaning of this term is employed in this study.
Although Stalins protégé in Ukraine, Pavel Postyshev, identi ed “repression
as a “crucial method of ‘administration,18 this term should be understood here as
acts of political prosecution that were carried out by the GPU/NKVD in the form of
arrests, imprisonment, subsequent preliminary investigations, and punishment by
rudimentary court organs. In the context of Stalins acts of repression, imprisonment
and preliminary investigations are associated with physical and mental abuse, torture,
and brutality to which prisoners were subjected by the secret police.  e notion of
Olga Bertelsen
The Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies | DOI 10.5195/cbp.2013.170 | Number 2302
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repression implies here criminal cases, usually fabricated against individuals, and
large-scale operations/criminal cases, fabricated against a substantial number of
people (dozens, hundreds, or thousands).19
Repression was the “subsystem of terror,” as Oleg Khlevniuk has emphasized,
and aimed, among other things, to ensure complete control and regimentation of
society through fear. In other words, the regime sought to suppress all dissenting
and opposition voices in order to maintain the “sole authority of the leader.20 e
Soviet terror therefore provided an opportunity to fully exercise power in order
to accomplish ideological, political, and economic tasks in ways that the dictator
envisioned them.
e term “exile” is employed here in the context of the verdicts by dvoikas,
troikas, and the Military Collegium that prescribed punishments for “nationalist de-
viations” and membership in various nationalist organizations to which the slov’iany
allegedly belonged.  e Ukrainian “nationalists” were usually exiled to Northern labor
camps, the Urals, and Kazakhstan for three,  ve, seven, or ten years.  e majority
found themselves in the infamous Solovets’ki Islands, known as Solovki.
Careful scrutiny of the logistics of events, critical attention to the language of
GPU o cials, and a constant alertness to underlying motives are necessary to appreci-
ate the documents of the Soviet secret police. What has helped in the present research
in  ltering half-truths, part-truths, and lies is what might be called cross-reading.  e
same factual detail was checked in a range of sources, and texts composed by the GPU
were analyzed and compared in hundreds of group and individual criminal cases.
e internal intricacies, human behaviors, and relationships in Budynok Slovo
were examined through the protocols of the Ukrainian Writers’ Association “Slovo”
(stenographic reports that convey the speeches of the writers verbatim), Party docu-
ments, and documents of the Union of Writers from the former Party archives in Kyiv
(TsDAHOU). Ukrainian periodicals helped analyze the cultural and political atmo-
sphere in Ukraine during the 1920s–1930s, which will be brie y introduced below.
e Ukrainization campaign proclaimed by the XII Congress of the RKP(b)
in April 1923 facilitated the unprecedented development of the Ukrainian culture
and language known as the Red Renaissance.21 It culminated during 1925–1928, the
period of the Literary Discussion, when many new names emerged on the Ukrainian
cultural landscape; one of these was the Ukrainian writer Mykola Khvyl’ovyi, who
became the central  gure of the polemics.  e discourse embraced not only literary
topics and new visions of Ukrainian culture, but also focused on Ukrainian national
liberation and anti-colonial sentiment in Ukraine.22 For the  rst time, the Ukrainian
intelligentsia could reach the peasants who were rapidly proletarianized in big urban
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
centers such as Kharkiv and the Donbas region.  e
center feared these in uences.23 Moreover, for the
Bolsheviks, esthetics was tightly linked to politics,
and art was considered subservient to the regime.
Those who disregarded this requirement were
attacked by the state through literary critics and
amateurs who were encouraged to vilify political
dissent on the pages of the Soviet press.
Indeed, the participants of the Literary Dis-
cussion were concerned with a broad spectrum of
fundamental national, economic, and political ques-
tions related to Ukraine.  eir discourse included
social and political implications of the Ukrainization
campaign and focused on two painful questions:
Ukraines speedy industrialization, as formulated at
the  eenth conference of the VKP(b), and collec-
tivization, which was launched in December 1927.
e underlying essence of these debates was the
dilemma of whether to pursue independence from
Moscow and the preservation of cultural distinctive-
ne ss o r to a ect a complete surrender to the center in
the political, economic, and cultural spheres.24 Un-
der pressure from Moscow, the necessity for writers
to take sides in these debates gradually became clear.
Khvyl’ovyi’s ideas of a culturally sovereign Ukraine, which were expressed in his
publications during 1925–1926, infuriated Stalin as well as the Party and “o cial”
writers, although the Ukrainian Party leaders Oleksandr Shums’kyi and later Mykola
Skrypnyk supported Khvyl’ovyi’s ideas.25 In Stalins eyes, the Ukrainization campaign
had gotten out of control and produced a rather dangerous phenomenon for the
center: a Ukrainian intelligentsia that “looked” to the West and spoke of a culturally
independent Ukraine. On April 26, 1926, Stalin wrote a letter to Lazar Kaganovich
and the members of the Politburo of the KP(b)U Central Committee criticizing the
position of Khvyl’ovyi. Stalin suggested that Shums’kyi did not fully understand the
danger of Khvyl’ovyi and like-minded individuals:
[I]n the Ukraine, where the Communist cadres are weak, such a movement
[Ukrainization], led everywhere by the non-Communist intelligentsia, may assume
Mykola Khvyl’ovyi. Courtesy of the
TsDAMLIMU. 271-1-301-1.
Olga Bertelsen
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in places the character of a struggle for the alienation of Ukrainian culture from All-
Soviet culture, a struggle against “Moscow,” against the Russians, against the Russian
culture and its greatest achievement, Leninism, altogether. I need not point out that
such a danger grows more and more real in the Ukraine. I should only like to mention
that even some Ukrainian Communists are not free from such defects. I have in mind
that well-known article by the noted Communist Khvyl’ovyi in the Ukrainian press.
Khvyl’ovyi demands that the proletariat in the Ukraine be immediately de-Russi ed,
[. . .] his ridiculous and non-Marxist attempt to divorce culture from politics—all this
and much more in the mouth of this Ukrainian Communist sounds (and cannot sound
otherwise) more than strange. [. . .] Khvyl’ovyi has nothing to say in favor of Moscow
except to call on Ukrainian leaders to run away from Moscow as fast as possible. [. .
. T]he extreme views of Khvyl’ovyi within the Communist ranks must be combated;
comrade Shums’kyi does not understand that only by combating such extremisms is
it possible to transform the rising Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian social life into a
Soviet culture and Soviet social life.26
Several months later on September 4, 1926, following Stalins order to combat
Ukrainian national tendencies in the republic, the Ukrainian GPU issued a secret
circular entitled “On Ukrainian Separatism,” which marked the starting point of
counter-Ukrainization.27 Erroneously, many historians date the sharp reconceptual-
ization of Moscow policies of indigenization to the year 1933.28 However, as studies
such as the one by Iurii Shapoval have demonstrated, counter-Ukrainization was
launched in 1926, and by 1933 it was largely completed:
[F]or Moscow, what was of primary signi cance was not the analysis of real
national-cultural processes, but the constant struggle with di erent kinds of ‘national
deviations,’ and manifestations of ‘bourgeois nationalism.’ [. . .] When did the actual
counter-Ukrainization really begin? For a long time scholars thought the beginning
to be 1933, the struggle with so-called Skrypnykism, that is, with the consequences
of ‘nationalistic deviations.’ [. . .] However, the document [“On Ukrainian Separat-
ism,” 1926] proves that the countervailing force to the policy of ‘Ukrainization’ began
signi cantly earlier.29
rough a cascade of criminal cases fabricated by the GPU, thousands of people,
especially those who promoted and implemented Ukrainization policies, were ar-
rested and exiled to labor camps.  e GPU created a narrative of conspiracy, according
to which there was a nationalist underground network, members of which plotted
assassinations of Party leaders and the secession of Ukraine from the Union.30 Con-
spiracies were fabricated one a er another under code names: the SVU, the UNTs,
the UVO, the OUN, the UNFO, the AOUE, and hundreds of others.31 A witch hunt
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
for nationalists followed a precise plan outlined in the 1926 GPU circular and was
closely supervised via orders from Moscow.32 e repression targeted the adherents
of Ukrainization, the Ukrainian intelligentsia, and those who returned or planned
to return to Ukraine to work for Ukrainization.
By the late 1920s, the general Party line was  rmly established, broadly publi-
cized and propagandized in Ukraine, and impossible to misread: Ukrainian literature
provided space only for the glori cation of the revolution, the Party, and the new
socialist future.33 e borders of the permissible were strictly identi ed, and the
rigidity of the message made it easy for the Party to trace those who deviated from
this course. Moreover, active advocates of the Ukrainization campaign were treated
as “nationalist deviationists” and “counterrevolutionaries.34 As a result, many writers
were asked to estimate the ideological value of a work to ensure that it was consistent
with the Party line and avoided national spirit or  avor. Khvyl’ovyi was no exception.
By the time he moved into Budynok Slovo, he had become “quieter.35 Nevertheless,
Stalins growing concerns that art in Ukraine had become more national than so-
cialist and that the in uence of the Ukrainian intelligentsia on the Ukrainian Party
leadership had increased resulted in a number of repressive operations initiated by
Moscow and implemented by the secret police.36
Under these circumstances, writers publically repudiated their views and pub-
lished repentance letters in the central Ukrainian press. To avoid Party ostracism
and repression, they began to join the ranks of VUSPP (the All-Ukrainian Union
of Proletarian Writers—Vseukra’ins’ka Spilka Proletars’kykh Pys’mennykiv), which
was perceived by the Party dogmatists as propagating a legitimate view of culture.37
e turning point for Ukrainian artists and intellectuals was the SVU show
trial. While it took only a few weeks to play out in Kharkiv’s Opera  eatre between
March 19, 1930, and April 9, 1930, it represented three years of work and preparation
by the secret police. Forty- ve individuals associated with the government of the
Central Rada and Ukrainian Peoples Republic (UNR) of 1917–1920 were accused
of SVU membership.
e trial launched a mass operation against Ukrainian intellectuals: thirty
thousand “nationalists were arrested as UVO members all over Ukraine. 38 e un-
predictability of the lives of those who resided in Budynok Slovo produced collective
chronic stress. Memoirs of residents there during the 1930s reveal that the scale and
barbarity of the terror were so great that it became paralyzing; when confronted
with state power, the intellectual elite practiced acquiescence and conformism and
exhibited moral resignation.39 For the slov’iany, the discrepancy between their hopes
of creating a new Ukrainian culture and the terror to which they were now subjected
Olga Bertelsen
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was more than sobering; most were plunged into deep personal crises and depres-
sion.40 By 1930, many of the slov’iany were blacklisted, and from 1931 on, publishing
houses (both state and private) stopped accepting their works, even for translation.41
us, these writers could not support their families. In the 1930s, the Budynok Slovo
became a place of con ict and painful inner turmoil.
It had not, however, always been that way.  ere was a time in which Budynok
Slovo epitomized the writers’ hopes for a new Ukrainian culture.
In the middle of the 1920s, housing cooperatives and private apartments were
seen as a progressive step forward in Soviet state schemes for arranging peoples byt
(everyday life).42 e August 19, 1924, Law “On Housing Cooperatives” launched
the popular cooperative movement that reduced the socialist value of the commune
and communal life.43 By October 1, 1925, there were  een housing cooperatives in
Kharkiv, and people began to move from communal apartments to their own pri-
vate apartments. In 1926, forty- ve apartment buildings were built, and 441 people
received new apartments. By April 1, 1927, 114 housing cooperatives were created,
and Kharkiv became a massive construction site.44
e 1925–1928 literary debates about the future of Ukrainian culture produced
animosities among writers.  e intellectual elite desired calm, comfort, and privacy.
ey took advantage of the mass cooperative move-
ment, and in February 1927, a group of Kharkiv writ-
ers created a cooperative association called “Slovo,
whose purpose was to build a  ve-story apartment
compound for writers—Budynok Slovo.45 is dream
was encouraged by the fact that the state granted
greater bene ts to private builders who constructed
cooperatives to help solve the housing problem in
Many literary clubs and organizations focused
on the material needs of writers and artists and
nourished the idea of building living quarters for
intellectuals.  e Kharkiv literary organization Pluh,
led by Serhii Pylypenko,47 Ostap Vyshnia, and oth-
ers, managed to realize this dream  rst. Established
in 1924, Pluh built a one-of-a-kind, exclusive home
for Ukrainian intellectuals—the first apartment
compound for writers and journalists in the Soviet
Union within the cooperative scheme.
Serhii Pylypenko--the founder
of the cooperative Slovo.
Courtesy of TsDAMLIMU.
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
Although in Russia, the intelligentsia created many centers of cultural life, such
as the House of Litterateurs (Dom literatorov) and the House of Arts (Dom iskusstv) in
Petrograd and the All-Russian Union of Writers and the Free Academy for Spiritual
Culture in Moscow,48 there had been no apartment buildings constructed by a com-
munity of writers.  e cooperative movement was curtailed by the state in the early
1930s, although it was not abolished until 1937.49 Too much autonomy seemed like a
dangerous phenomenon to the Party, and the House of Writers in Kharkiv remained
a unique project in the history of the Soviet cooperative movement.
In later years, the Soviet intelligentsia, mostly writers favored by the state, resided
in buildings specially erected for them within the state scheme. A er the creation of
the Union of Writers of the USSR in 1934, the Litfond constructed several buildings
and resorts, using an initial state donation of one million rubles that the Union of
Writers received in 1934.50
Interestingly, the cooperative “Slovo,” which assumed communal and common
professional values, produced a residence that physically separated its members
in private, secluded, luxurious apartments.  e material logic of the intellectuals’
existence and their needs for solitude and comfort (in order to be able to create)
outweighed the writers’ ideological upbringings and their faith in collective values.
In the same way that Moscow and Petrograd became artistic and literary mec-
cas in Russia, Kharkiv became “the capital of arts” in Ukraine.51 A er 1923, when
the Soviet policy of Ukrainization generated an emotional and creative upheaval in
the intelligentsia, many Ukrainian intellectuals moved to Kharkiv with new expec-
tations and hopes. Numerous Ukrainian literary associations and groups that were
founded in Kharkiv in the 1920s attracted a constellation of talented youth. Many
scholars have argued that the overall cultural atmosphere in Kharkiv in the 1920s
was optimistic and promising, despite the Party’s attempts to condemn “nationalistic”
groups. However, some authors caution against such a view. During the turbulent
1920s, many writers had already buried their enthusiasm and their hopes for the
free development of Ukrainian culture.  ey skillfully hid their artistic intentions as
external and internal censorship forced them to codify their individual understand-
ings of aesthetics. State pressure on intellectuals created the “foundation for [their]
pessimism, alienation, [and] the deterioration of personality.52 e disillusioned
artists craved spatial isolation, trying to avoid the sensational cacophony of artistic
and political debates.
e competition for working and living space in Kharkiv was  erce in the 1920s.
In 1927, the population in Kharkiv increased from 155,000 tо 409,000 people. Ac-
cording to the calculations of Kharkiv statisticians, the average living space was 5.7
Olga Bertelsen
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square meters per person, which constituted approximately two-thirds of the space
needed to be considered sanitary.53 Most people shared communal  ats that were
wildly overpopulated. Sheds, summer houses, cellars, and attics were inhabited by
several families each.54
e communal lifestyle, so favored by the state in the early 1920s, was now
criticized for fostering potential anti-Soviet conspiracies, “petit-bourgeois self-
absorption, anti-social-mindedness, vulgar egalitarianism, egotism and Trotskyism,
and therefore lost its attractiveness to the populace.55 According to Victor Buchli,
the housing cooperative movement—manifested largely as self-su cient apartment
buildings with domestic services including a laundry and a cafeteria—survived
longer than other state approaches to organizing byt.56 e expediency of housing
cooperatives for the state was quite obvious: while communal living had depended
upon the funds of the state or Party, the construction and maintenance of apartment
buildings were fully supported by a collective of like-minded people or a union.57
Recent studies on the Soviet housing cooperative movement show that although
the state promised many freedoms to Soviet members of housing cooperatives, mul-
tiple laws and regulations actually constrained people’s slightest collective or indi-
vidual initiatives.58 Housing cooperative members had to report administrative and
nancial decisions to the All-Union Organization Bureau on Housing Cooperation
and obtain o cial approvals for construction repairs, even though such maintenance
was  nanced by members’ monthly fees. Any residential moves or housing exchanges
were supervised by the chief of the building (usually a GPU associate). State decisions
and approvals were based on political and ideological evaluations of each petitioner
and o en depended on his or her Party membership and connections. Housing
cooperatives were required to join the Central Union of Housing Cooperatives and
to pay state fees; moreover, according to state injunctions, cooperatives were to hire
only state construction companies.59
ese constraints, however, were not part of the conception or planning stages
of the Budynok Slovo; they surfaced only in the early thirties. In the 1920s, prior to
the cooperatives start, most future members were living in poor conditions, shar-
ing tiny rooms with friends or strangers. For instance, Iurii Smolych recalled that in
the early 1920s, before he became a professional writer, he was an actor in the Ivan
Franko Drama  eatre in Kharkiv and lived in a dormitory. His room, which held
his bed, a little table, and a chair, was three meters long and two meters wide.  ere
were no windows that faced the yard, and above his door was a narrow transom open
to the common corridor. In the past, this room had served as a storage room for a
cafeteria. At night, a er rehearsals or performances in the theater, Smolych would
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
sit in this tiny room and write.60 Similarly, Mykhailo Bykovets’ and Vasyl’ Sokil lived
in extremely poor conditions, sharing a tiny guard room in a secondary school.61
Already famous by 1923, the Ukrainian poet Pavlo Tychyna resided in a small room
in the editorial headquarters of the newspaper Visti.  e room was near the public
toilet and previously served as a shower room.  ere was space only for a table and a
chair. Tychyna slept atop a pile of old issues of Visti which he covered with a blanket.
To prevent the resident rats and mice from devouring his manuscripts, which were
piled on the table, the inventive Tychyna placed the tables legs in condensed milk
cans  lled with water.  ese mini-moats guarded his work as the rodents regularly
drowned, trying in vain to climb to their supper. Tychyna later moved to a bigger
room, which was in fact a kitchen.  e stove served as his table and the oven as his
bookcase. For his manuscripts, he found a safer place: he stored them in a large
metal pot for bleaching linen that was embedded in the wall over the stove.62 During
the same period, the Ukrainian writer Teren’ Masenko and his wife rented a room
through which the owners of the apartment regularly marched and then moved to
a four-room apartment (with three other writers, Pavlo Tychyna, Leib Kvitko, and
Ezra Fininberg) where they enjoyed a separate room and shared only a communal
kitchen and bathroom.63 Budynok Slovo as conceived by the writers was clearly an
improvement and a privilege for the Ukrainian intelligentsia.
e construction of Budynok Slovo was completed in December 1929, and
the  rst residents moved to their private, spacious apartments. It is intriguing that
the construction was handled by Ukrpaistroi (the All-Ukrainian Shareholding
Construction Association), which nominally was created and maintained under the
NKVD umbrella. In the 1920s, there were a great number of construction companies
in Kharkiv, state and private; whether Ukrpaistroi was assigned this project by the
writers of the cooperative Slovo, the city authorities, the bank administration that
loaned the initial funds for the project, or the Komhosp (the state administration
that supervised the cooperative movement) remains unknown. Rumors have circu-
lated for decades that the GPU embedded special surveillance equipment (including
special wiretapping and telephone circuits) within the walls of the building, but an
expert evaluation of the building codes, of the materials, and somewhat unusual
architectural features has never been performed. 64
Everything inside and outside the building promised comfort and luxury.
Structurally, the House of Writers went beyond the accepted construction norms
and standards— despite Party suggestions to economize on materials and construct
no more than four-story buildings.65 e rooms were three-and-one-half meters
in height. To make the walls soundproof, a thick layer of wool fabric was installed
Olga Bertelsen
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between the two constituent parts of the wall.  e staircase was wide and not steep,
and its oaken handrails still survive.66 Su cient room was le to install elevators in
every staircase, though this idea never materialized due to a lack of funds.67
In contrast to the plain barrack-like buildings in the neighborhood, the Budy-
nok Slovo included balconies.  ese served as social meeting places and helped the
residents be involved in the communal life. Five entrances (pid’izdy) adorned the
building: the back entrances were accessed through the courtyard, and massive, oak
façade entrances faced the street.68 Imitating the European tradition, an elegant board
was installed downstairs near the façade doors including the names and apartment
numbers of—and doorbells for—each resident.
e two wings of the building created a cozy and safe internal yard, which
could be theoretically accessed from the front doors (although, according to some
accounts, the façade entrances were o en locked).69 e internal yard played a sig-
ni cant role in residents’ lives.  ere, children played while their mothers watched
from balconies, wooden tables and benches accommodated chess competitions,
visitors discussed the latest news and rumors, volleyball games ensued in summer,
and, in winter, children skated in a seasonal ice rink.70
ere were sixty-eight apartments, made bright by the big windows in each
room. Each apartment contained a living room, a study, one or two bedrooms, a
kitchen, a pantry, a separate bathroom, and a long hallway that o en served as a bicycle
race track for children.71 e heating system was centralized for the whole building
and ran on coal that was piled high in the basement to last for the entire winter.
e most luxurious and rare objects were the telephones in each apartment and
the solarium shared by all the residents.  ese amenities were unheard-of phenomena
in 1930.72 e solarium, which had ten showers and a locker room for ten to  een
people, was extraordinarily popular, especially with the children who suntanned
and played with the water on the roof during summers. For them, the solarium was
a special subject in conversations with their peers who could not believe that such
a miracle existed in Kharkiv.73
Another remarkable feature in Budynok Slovo was a kindergarten, which many
children of resident families attended. Sta took excellent care of the writers’ children;
they were regularly fed and provided with a daily dosage of vitamin D ( sh oil), a
substance hated by all pupils collectively without exception. 74
e cooperative also established and subsidized a cafeteria speci cally for the
residents of the building. Raia Kotliar, the wife of Jewish poet Iosif Kotliar, was in
charge of the cafeteria, and the meals it provided for the slov’iany were of excellent
quality. 75 Residents also enjoyed the a ordable prices of the food and the cafeterias
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
convenience and atmosphere.  e cafeteria reinforced the feeling of belonging to
a club of intellectuals where people could casually chat without paying attention to
the literary ranks or honored achievements of their colleagues.
Other common facilities in Budynok Slovo included a beauty salon and a
laundry room. Few details are available about the speci c features and patterns of
work of these facilities but the services that the residents received were subsidized
and having them readily available saved a great deal of time. Since many slov’iany
were employed simultaneously in two or three places and used night hours for their
writing, they appreciated such conveniences.
e euphoria of 1930 that accompanied the move by residents into Budynok
Slovo was followed by hopes for better lives, new literary achievements, and improved
nancial statuses.  e epoch of minimalism and modesty in private life began to
fade away, and proletarian writers and artists felt entitled to some  nancial security
Budynok Slovo 2[1].
Olga Bertelsen
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for all their su ering during WorldWar I, the revolution, the Civil War and the  rst
Soviet years of material deprivation and hunger.
However, in order to maintain the building, the cooperative established high fees
for the apartments, and monthly payments became una ordable for many families.
In order to pay for their comfortable lives, some families shared apartments to reduce
the burden of payments.76 us, although the apartments provided apparent privacy,
many residents in fact lived in a big dormitory and were involved in common activi-
ties during everyday life.  is generally prevented isolation or estrangement or at
least made such feelings di cult to maintain. Greeting and talking to their neighbors
several times a day, the slov’iany knew everyone’s daily schedule and usually were
aware of local rumors, family scandals, and the slightest changes in the private lives
of all residents.  eir living conditions were incomparable with most Kharkivites,
who shared rooms with between  ve and eight relatives in communal apartments
with twenty- ve to forty strangers, quarreled in lines while waiting for one collective
bathroom, and prepared meals in a shared kitchen.77
Budynok Slovo. Kharkiv, Ukraine (2012).
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
Previously, the slov’iany had been impoverished artists—unsettled and poor, but
in many ways free. Edward W. Said maintained that the lonely condition of intellectu-
als, unburdened by material possessions and awards from the state, was always better
for their mind, soul, and art than the conformism they developed in the process of
turning into literary dignitaries.78 Belonging to Budynok Slovo codi ed the behavior
of writers and in uenced habits and tastes. Stepping over its threshold, they became
members of the middle-class elite who were involved in intellectual labor, and many
led a privileged lifestyle. Many writers were o ce holders and entitled to special food
rations (paiky).  e jobs of the slov’iany who had to support their families became
an anchor that held them in one place. Budynok Slovo was also a place where many
close and distant relatives of the writers resided.  e slov’iany invited them to share
their spacious apartments because in rural areas and small towns they had a poor
chance of surviving the hardships of collectivization.  ese conditions made the
Ukrainian intelligentsia “immovable.79 ey were tied to their desks and salaries80
and, a er 1930 when they moved to Budynok Slovo, they became hostages of the
bigger burdens of a luxurious apartment and family members to support.
The internal yard of Budynok Slovo. Kharkiv, Ukraine (2008).
Olga Bertelsen
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Fancy clothes, hunting guns, writing implements (typewriters, pens, paper)
and big libraries became an inseparable part of the material world for the slov’iany.
e culture and practices of the building prescribed the material norms, and the
residents became accustomed to them. For some writers, the “myth” and prestige
of the building, and therefore of their social status, became more important than its
“reality.” Many slov’iany worked at night, writing and translating in order to pay for
their lifestyles, which were barely a ordable for most of them.81 Yet consumerism did
not dominate their behavior. According to the slov’ianyn Teren’ Masenko, although
hedonism and the bohemian lifestyle were not alien, most writers were “ascetically
modest,” and their desires were not limited by a comfortable byt. ey borrowed
money from each other unconditionally, without any expectations of collecting or
returning debts in the future.  eir minds were preoccupied with art, and Masenko
characterized the writers’ existence as “the happiness of joyful lightness.82
Indeed, for many slov’iany, the desire for intellectual freedom and creativity was
more powerful and unwavering than material wealth.  ey believed that the right
to individual freedom and prosperity had been granted them by the revolution.83
Although their everyday needs grew more than those of other Soviet citizens, their
passion for fashion, expensive habits, and comfortable lifestyle hardly produced
anti-intellectualism. It did, however, generate social fragmentation and a hierarchy
among them.
eorists of byt and socialist material culture have argued that during this pe-
riod, the meaning of private property was easily manipulated and adjusted by dema-
gogues to  t the pro le of either a true
Bolshevik or an enemy of socialism.84
Such discourse manipulations unrav-
eled before the eyes of slov’iany and were
also adopted by them in their intergroup
literary struggle. Luxury items or clothes
could be seen as de ning either petit-
bourgeois consciousness or proletarian
consciousness; the emphasis and mean-
ing shi ed depending on which person
became the center of the discussion.
While the  rst months in Budynok
Slovo were joyful for most slov’iany, a
rising hysteria against “nationalist de-
viationists” in the press destabilized their
Ukrainian writers--slov’iany. Courtesy of the
TsDAMLIMU. 815-1-10-1 COVER.
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
existence. Most residents of Budynok Slovo embraced Ukrainian culture and spoke
Ukrainian. Yet several slov’iany spoke Russian. Among them were the Russian and
Jewish writers Volodymyr Iurezans’kyi, Raisa Troianker, Leib Kvitko, and David
Fel’dman, who used the Russian language in their everyday lives.85 ey also felt
vulnerable. Although they mastered several languages, including Yiddish, Russian,
and Ukrainian and had multiple identities by virtue of being born in Ukraine, they
were fully immersed in Ukrainian culture and could be accused of “nationalist de-
viations.”  e Literary Discussion of the 1920s helped to identify “nationalists” and
to strengthen the Party’s distrust of Ukrainian writers, among whom the national
ferment proved to be so powerful that it could not be simply exorcized or banished
by invoking the sacred ideals of the revolution or mitigated by concessions granted
in the form of temporary freedom in artistic space. From the states perspective, the
“souls” of the writers were corrupt because they had been exposed for a decade to a
harmful “nationalist deviationist” thinking that was the product of Ukrainization.
e changing political climate catalyzed a momentous con ict for artists, re-
ected in a compartmentalization between artistic and social spaces. George O. Liber
noted, “unlike Russian writers, who were committed to Bolshevik state-building in the
1920s, Ukrainian writers were involved in nation-building,” which in the early 1930s
was branded as “nationalism.86 Party purges and routine administrative harassment
in the late 1920s transformed the behavior of the slov’iany, producing bifurcated per-
sonalities that were outwardly conformist and inwardly resistant. Under the fear of
Party purges, the writers’ enthusiasm and rebellious spirits survived in their limited
social space but disappeared from art. Such divisions marked the  rst step toward
the pliability that manifested itself later in the writers’ surrender to the state during
GPU interrogations.  e drastic contrast between their lives in Budynok Slovo and
the realities that were occurring in interrogation rooms confused and quickly broke
Constant surveillance and the  rst arrests in early 1930 transformed the building
into a dismal place. “Outsiders” had started gaining residence through connections,
and their presence exacerbated the writers’ feelings of insecurity and fear. Many
slov’iany attributed the constant presence of two individuals in the internal yard of
Budynok Slovo to the GPU’s surveillance. Observing the same solitary individual
smoking under their balconies for days, some decided to act before it was too late.87
Hryhorii Epik wrote the novel Petro Romen glorifying the new proletarian man.
Maik Iohansen created a poem about Lenin, contributing signi cantly to literary
Leniniana. Khvyl’ovyi publicly denounced several writers as bourgeois sponges, and
Olga Bertelsen
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in a 1932 foreword to his own book lamented that his disarmament (rozzbroiennia)
occurred too late.88
By 1931, the state had destroyed almost all free literary associations in Ukraine.89
e writers began to realize the danger of stubborn adherence to artistic and political
principles and the bene ts of ideological elasticity.  eir professional integrity and
personal dignity were undermined by fears of being eliminated as “formalists” and
counterrevolutionaries.” Repentant public letters published in the Soviet press and
self-criticism in various literary forms became a common practice among writers.
e fear felt by slov’iany was not ungrounded. Declassi ed GPU operational
materials demonstrate that several secret agents (seksoty) followed each slov’ianyn
from the moment people inhabited the building.90 e reports re ect the residents’
regular contacts, habits, and daily working schedules. It appears that Moscow paid
special attention to those who understood the central power and its intentions and
could articulate and convey their thoughts to others.  e danger emanated from
those who had an indisputable reputation as talented writers, scientists, and scholars,
especially those who had established themselves as independent original thinkers
and who had knowledge of three or more languages.91
Mass arrests of alleged UNTs members in 1930–1931 and arrests at the same
time in Budynok Slovo itself fragmented its community into groups and subgroups.
Some were united by their closeness to the Party elite, others by their distance from
it. For instance, Ivan Mykytenko—leader of the pro-Soviet literary organization
VUSPP—together with Ivan Kyrylenko, Ivan Kulyk, and Ivan Le represented the
group of o cial writers and Party functionaries. Among slov’iany, they were called
the “four Ivans” because of their ideological unity and equally perceived medioc-
rity. Mykola Kulish, Mykola Khvyl’ovyi, Arkadii Liubchenko, Oles’ Dosvitnii, Iurii
Ianovs’kyi, and others belonged to a group of writers who saw the development of
Ukrainian culture proceeding along a di erent path from that prescribed by the Party
line.92 e harassment of the latter group by the Party eventually led to the writers’
complete compliance and surrender. Cerebral and talented, they gradually lost their
roles as independent thinkers. Chained by material possessions and by a place that
they could not abandon, they no longer could be, in Marshall Sahlinss terms, free
“hunters and gatherers,” for whom movement meant life.93 ey became settlers, and
Budynok Slovo became for them a space from which they could not escape.
By mid-1933, following the suicides of Mykola Khvyl’ovyi and Mykola Skrypnyk,
GPU activity ceased to be clandestine.  e authorities announced that the façade
doors would be locked “for safety reasons and in the interests of the residents, respect-
ed writers of Ukraine” to prevent robberies; subsequently, the beautiful doors were
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
shut and cross-nailed
with two rough wooden
planks. Residents could
enter the building only
from the internal yard,
on both sides of which
there were always at least
two young individuals,
whose faces after some
time became familiar
to the residents.94 ese
additions to the build-
ing’s population occupied
their places twenty-four
hours a day.
Daily and overt surveillance intensi ed fear among the residents; a friendly
conversation between two neighbors was considered by the GPU a group conspiracy,
and the appearance of three people talking in the internal yard was classi ed as
an organizational meeting.95 e famous writer Ostap Vyshnia stopped going out
for any reason other than o cial publishing a airs. His wife Varvara always kept
him company.96 Mykola Bazhan, who each night expected visitors from the GPU
to in ltrate his apartment, spent a year sleeping in his clothes and always had a
small suitcase packed with necessities nearby. He rejected the very likely possibility
of standing naked in front of GPU agents.97 e residents began to burn personal
correspondences, manuscripts, and books that could compromise them.  eir fear
paralyzed them to the point where they could not write.98
From a place  lled with joy, laughter, and comfort, Budynok Slovo had been
transformed into a prison for its residents; the slov’iany referred to it as “the building
of preliminary imprisonment,” or the BPU (budynok poperednioho uv’iaznennia).99
Escape was virtually impossible. No one, with a suitcase or without, could leave the
building unnoticed. Even if someone decided to run, his or her actions would only
con rm their alleged guilt and desire to avoid punishment. Each family member
was a potential hostage for the GPU. In Walter Benjamins terms, residents began to
expect a “very de nite death [, , ,] at a very de nite place.100
e slov’iany realized that their status and privileges were provisional and
meaningless in the face of being arrested, deported, or shot. Nights spent wakeful
and writing were replaced by a tortured waiting for arrest.101 e life of the mind was
Mykola Khvyl’ovyi committed suicide on May 13, 1933. Courtesy
of the TsDAMLiMU. 271-1-301-2.
Olga Bertelsen
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reduced to the elementary existence of physical bodies in a physical place, which
they called survival.
e writers developed distrust toward their neighbors; almost all oral contacts
and social activities were cut o . People stopped inviting their neighbors and col-
leagues over for a cup of tea or for a game of chess.  e internal yard was abandoned
and appropriated by GPU agents on duty. For writers, who o en perceived reality
through a tragic lens, fears were magni ed to the point of delirium.102 Montaigne
posited that escaping from the cruel world or changing a place of residence forces
people to negate their inner core and to discover it again in isolation, reawakening
desire for the future as opposed to brooding on the past. Only then might isolation
free an individual instead of enslaving him.103
e fates of the slov’iany became unexpectedly entangled with the fates of their
interrogators, and this fact vested Budynok Slovo with a tragic—and simultaneously
mystical—aura.  e involuntary synchronism of their lives and deaths provides some
foundation for the future analysis of the third party involved, the State, and its role
in mass repression.
e slov’iany doubted the states primacy and challenged it through their art and
thinking; the interrogators, to use Henri Lefebvres terms, “prepared themselves to
hold on to the State [. . .] preserving its importance [. . .] [and] maintain[ing] the State
as an absolute.104 e state clashed with the preexistent cultural space in Ukraine and,
in its attempts to reshape it, de ned its own circle of “insiders” and “outsiders” and
its system of values. It simultaneously hierarchized, homogenized, and fragmented
social spaces and places, and then consigned residents of these places to the trash
bin of history as an obstinate, aging, used, and unnecessary material.  us, spaces
that were originally conceived and utilized as opposing social spaces—creative: the
intelligentsia/ destructive: the secret police—rapidly and unswervingly approached
each other until they collided, di using all aesthetics and practices.105
Pressured by the states regulatory mechanisms, the slov’iany and their interro-
gators produced a new common space of social interaction in which each party le
its mark and in which realities on either side bordered on the phantasmagoric. Yet,
perceptions of the new common space di ered. For the slov’iany, it was fragile and
confusing due to fear of the state’s “monumentality” and power; for the interrogators,
it was durable and emboldening because the interrogators identi ed themselves with
the state. Few sincerely believed in the future of such a space, and by 1937 the lies
about “national conspiracies” had become transparent for both parties.106
Nevertheless, the narrative of alleged conspiracy and crime constructed by the
GPU had been written into detailed individual dossiers of residents of Budynok Slovo
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
and was solidly embedded in the existing practices of the secret police.  e dossiers
were not an invention of the 1930s. Surveillance practices had been established dur-
ing the preceding decade when the Kharkiv GPU had gained valuable experience
in dealing with all kinds of enemies of the Soviet regime: kurkuli, religious  gures,
Zionists, wreckers, nationalists, and the bourgeois intellectual elite.107 ese materi-
als were collected over a period of two or three years. In interrogation rooms, GPU
operatives worked e ciently and quickly to obtain confessions from prisoners. As
Merle Fainsod has stated, “the extraction of real confession to imaginary crimes
became a major industry.108
In 1930, the GPU began to arrest the slov’iany.  eir confessions facilitated the
elimination of Ukrainian society’s intellectual base, which represented, in the NKVDs
view, fertile soil for the growth of resistance movements.  e psychological breaking
began during the night of the arrest.  e procedure of searching an apartment and
arresting an individual was designed to discredit and humiliate the suspect in front
of his neighbors and family members. In many cases during arrests, all written or
printed materials, cash, and personal possessions were con scated, and o en no
receipts were provided to relatives of the arrested.109
ose under arrest commonly surrendered to interrogators and fully confessed
to anti-Soviet activities. In her book Police Aesthetics, Cristina Vatulescu has examined
the reasons for mass confessions in Soviet prisons in the 1930s and has concluded
that many were rooted in feelings of spatial disorientation produced by the loss of
familiar cues and connections to the everyday environment. Such confusion was
skillfully created and manipulated by GPU interrogators.  e absence of familiar
routine practices, recognizable faces, and even personal material possessions induced
inner tension and even panic in prisoners.110
Vatulescu’s example of the 1963 CIA Kurbak Counterintelligence Interrogation
manual is instructive: it mirrors the GPU tactics employed in the 1930s, although
Soviet secret police interrogators outdid their CIA counterparts in barbarity.111 e
manual outlines important steps and techniques that interrogators employed in their
daily practice to break the suspect’s will.  e most signi cant point emphasized is
the importance of cutting “the suspect’s ties to the outside world.112 GPU agents
exacerbated prisoners’ inner moral su erings by creating physical and bodily in-
conveniences, even con scating underwear.  e level of demoralization in Kharkiv
prison cells produced prisoners’ stupor or even suicide.113
Under Prosecutor General Andrei Vyshinskii, confessions determined the
sentence of the arrested. In this vein, GPU associates designed special techniques
for extorting confessions.114 Several months of detention, isolation, and humiliation
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exhausted the physical and moral inner resources of even the strongest individual.
Daily screaming and shouting by the interrogators o en plunged the suspects into a
hysterical state, and prisoners willing to sign pre-prepared self-indictments. Physical
torture became an indispensable dimension of preliminary investigation for the most
obstinate prisoners in the Kharkiv GPU prison.115 If prisoners resisted the torture and
proved recalcitrant, intimidating tactics, such as verbal threats of retaliation against
family members, were employed.116 Mock murders of relatives in front of the suspect
or the real raping of relatives in their presence, as in Kosior’s case, became favorite
methods of extracting confessions.  e suspect was subjected to multiple personal
confrontations (ochnye stavki) with his former friends and coworkers who betrayed
him in his presence for fear and exhaustion from similar physical and mental tortures.
ese methods provoked a certain “twilight” state in which the prisoner became
indi erent to everything and everyone.
A written admission of guilt by the arrested was usually preceded by several
days, weeks, or months of “persuasion” and torture.  e disruption of the suspect’s
perception of reality through “conveyer” interrogations (sleep deprivation) or physi-
cal and chemical irritants (such as high or low room temperature, bright light or
complete darkness, loud cries or noises, or excessively salty or sweet drinking water),
led to psychiatric conditions in which normal mental control and moral judgments
became di cult to retain.117 As many memoirs reveal, prolonged exposure to bright
light or darkness caused pathological psychiatric symptoms such as hallucination,
Behind the fence--the former Kharkiv GPU prison. Kharkiv, Ukraine (2012).
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
aggressive behavior, irritability, delusions, paranoia, memory lapses, the desire to
be alone, and so on. Even natural darkness in prison cells, if there were external
windows, seemed extremely depressing to prisoners.118
Violent beatings were common in the Kharkiv GPU/NKVD prison, but in
1937–1938 these methods became mandatory and were encouraged by the inter-
rogator’s supervisors. Fiodor Fiodorov-Berkov, former assistant head of the fourth
UNKVD [the administration of the secret police] department in the Kharkiv region
and the Gulag inspector of the NKVD in the USSR, stated that the main GPU/NKVD
headquarters in Kharkiv was awash in blood especially in that year, when screams,
moaning, beating noises, shouting, and puddles of blood and urine in interrogation
rooms were a routine everyday experience.119 e evidence collected in Berkov’s
criminal case con rmed many witness accounts about the secret police’s treatment of
prisoners and also demonstrated that agents were engaged in falsifying investigative
materials. Berkov, Lev Reikhman, and Abram Simkhovich were especially inventive.
Berkov testi ed that unfounded arrests were a common practice and that the prison
was so crowded that he systematically arranged what he called avraly days, when he
gave twenty-four hours for a special troika to try  y to one hundred cases.120
e responsibilities of the interrogators were precisely identi ed and carefully
planned.  e brigade of Drushliak, Kamenev, and Gorokhovskii was responsible for
providing physical “assistance” to prisoners who denied accusations.  e investiga-
tor Gol’dshtein was put in charge of the process of the falsi cation of interrogation
protocols, and the NKVD associate Epel’baum checked and approved “confessions
fabricated by the interrogators. Epel’baum’s own portfolio from the early 1930s
contained more than one hundred criminal cases against intelligentsia and religious
gures. V. I. Lenskii, the former NKVD associate and a witness in Fiodorov-Berkov’s
criminal case, con rmed that all members of all NKVD sectors and departments
administered beatings.  ere were no exceptions.121
Boris Frei, former assistant head of the fourth NKVD department in the Kharkiv
region, employed particularly bizarre methods of extracting false confessions.  e
former regional prosecutor M. I. Bron testi ed that Frei systematically called Bron
“a fascist dog” and forced him to crawl into a tiny space and bark or simply stand
there for days. Bron testi ed: “On the  h or sixth day of standing there, blood went
through my throat and I fell unconscious.122
Similarly, in his appeal to the prosecutor of the UkrSSR, former prisoner
Timokhin wrote that Frei, together with two other associates, tied him to a chair,
burned his nose and ears, and forced him to eat paper, dance, and imitate a rooster.
e three of them systematically beat and kicked him with their boots.123 Testifying
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in court against Frei, Lenskii noted that in 1937–1938, “the situation in the GPU/
UNKVD was such that the entire building was shaking from screams and moans.124
Ivan Drushliak, known as the most vicious interrogator in the Kharkiv NKVD
prison, interrogated several slov’iany. Several people died in prison from lethal inju-
ries caused by Drushliak’s beatings. He had his own favorite tool, a thick stick made
of oak that he called “Rondo” and used routinely. Knowing that Lidiia Bodans’ka,
the former associate of the Kharkiv obkom, was pregnant, Drushliak forced her to
stand in his o ce for hours, run around the room, or bark like a dog while staring
at the light bulb in the ceiling. He also had a habit of spitting into the mouths and
faces of the arrested.125
A er a confession was obtained, another stage usually followed; the prisoner
had to disclose the names of all accomplices with whom he had planned to assas-
sinate leaders of the Ukrainian government and Party or with whom he conspired
to organize a military uprising against Soviet power in Ukraine.126 Intimidation and
threats to wipe out the prisoner’s entire family led to the required depositions.
Although the personalities of chekists in the 1930s should not be overlooked,
their methods were shaped under the in uence of the central secret organs at an early
stage of their development.127 In the 1930s, the NKVD agency was multifunctional
and implemented not only investigative and punitive functions but also supervised
educational, economic, and agricultural activities in the republics through various
Peoples Commissariats.128 But certain departments that executed repressive and
punitive policies of the Soviet government occupied special positions within the
structure of the Soviet secret police and had extraordinary privileges and freedoms.129
e NKVD in the USSR supervised all structural changes, functions, and everyday
activities of the regional secret organs through written correspondence, phone calls,
and combined meetings of central and regional authorities.130 e center, through the
constant rotation of secret police cadres on the republican level, encouraged an atmo-
sphere of distrust and denunciation within the secret organs. In turn, GPU/NKVD
associates adjusted their activities to the changeable politics of the agency, which
was manifested in the degree and intensity of repression and violence in Ukraine.
In 1937–1938, many chekists, including top leaders in the NKVD in Ukraine, were
executed as part of conspiracy plots in the Ukrainian secret organs.131
Several Ukrainian writers survived arrests and labor camps, including Ivan
Bahrianyi, Hryhorii Kostiuk, and Ivan Maistrenko, described the Kharkiv GPU
prison. In the early 1930s, a newly built prison in the internal yard of the Kharkiv
headquarters in Radnarkomivs’ka Street was hidden from the public eye.  e ad-
ministrative building surrounded the entire perimeter of the prison.  e large cells
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
had parquet  oors and big windows, features that seemed absolutely inappropriate
to the inspection commission from Moscow.
e commission characterized the prison as a resort, and the administra-
tion immediately found a solution.  e most “dangerous” individuals were kept at
Radnarkomivs’ka Street, while those who were under preliminary investigation were
placed in an older, less comfortable prison in the Kholodna Hora district. Every day,
a truck delivered the prisoners to Radnarkomivs’ka Street for interrogation.  e
Kholodna Hora prisons poor conditions and moldy cells were more suited to the
Moscow inspectors’ conception of a proper prison environment. However, the com-
mission was dissatis ed with the beautiful view from the cells’ windows. Its members
ordered all trees in the internal yard of the prison to be cut and the windows to be
covered by special hoods. Green grass, trees, and blue sky connected prisoners with
the external world, which was in clear violation of police norms, rules, and aesthet-
e arrests of 1930–1935 in Budynok Slovo followed a pattern common
throughout the republic. In addition to Stalins “long-standing suspicions of Poles,
xenophobia, and general distrust of foreigners, the Galician Ukrainian intelligentsia
that immigrated to Soviet Ukraine en masse from the mid-1920s to the early 1930s
were perceived as Ukrainians with a strong sense of national identity.  ese attitudes
were re ected in the early arrests in Budynok Slovo and within the scheme of group
cases fabricated against Ukrainian nationalists by the secret police.133 In fact, in 1933,
at the November Party Plenum, the General Secretary of the Central Committee of
the KP(b)U, Stanislav Kosior, proclaimed: “ e Ukrainian nationalists are preparing
an intervention against the USSR.  e majority of those counterrevolutionaries and
nationalists that have been uncovered recently came to us from abroad, from Prague,
Galicia and other places [. . .] those Galician nationalists [. . .] were sent here to prepare
the intervention from inside.134 ousands of Galicians were arrested and exiled to
labor camps, and many were executed.135 Mykhailo Iashchun, who received ten years
in prison as a Galician member of the UVO, suggested the reasons for such tactics:136
e arrival of Galicians in Ukraine and their occupation of leading positions on
the cultural front were not politically expedient for Moscow’s imperial politics, and
therefore, it was necessary to eliminate Galicians who were authentic carriers and
promoters of Ukrainian culture. Moscow is not interested in [the cultural domination
of Galicians], and the Party slogans about Ukrainian culture are a screen behind which
the russi cation of Ukraine occurs. Arrests of Galicians are the continuation of tsarist
politics, and are aimed at the extermination and oppression of national minorities.
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Russia has always been famous for violent feudal massacres, and now its violence is
aimed at Galicians.137
Recent studies of the repression of the Galician Ukrainian intelligentsia and
the ethnic composition of Solovky prisoners in the beginning of the 1930s support
Iashchuns analysis.138 Some observers noted that those Galicians who survived the
terror into the mid-1930s were recruited by the secret police or were protected by
some in uential  gures in the GPU.139
e arrests of Western Ukrainians began in various
cultural institutions in July and August 1929.140 In Budy-
nok Slovo, the GPU began to arrest the residents three
weeks a er they moved into their new apartments. During
the night of January 19, 1930, the secret police came to
apartment 27 to arrest the Ukrainian actress, writer, and
teacher Halyna Orlivna (Mnevs’ka). She was born in the
village of Kalandentsi in Poltava oblast’ in 1895 and in
1920 moved abroad to Lviv. She published her  rst prose
in Ukrainian journals in Vienna, Prague, and Lviv, and,
before returning to Soviet Ukraine in 1925, published
two collections of short stories.141 She married the young
writer Klym Polishchuk in 1920 while living in Poland.
e Lviv period became very productive for both writ-
ers. Ukrainization encouraged the couple, together with
their daughter Lesia, to move to Kharkiv; the capital of
Ukrainian culture was perceived to be the perfect place
for young literary talents. Klym was hesitant and reluctant;
he anticipated repressions. Halyna was optimistic and
adamant in her decision to move to Kharkiv. Later Klym
rebuked Halyna for her thoughtlessness and shortsighted-
ness. In his December 14, 1934, letter to Halyna, he wrote:
I should have done what I thought was right [. . .]
I would not have done this [. . .] if not for your desire to
return as soon as possible there [. . .] I had to agree because
I loved you and Lesia, and could not allow myself to stay
there by myself [. . .] I could not allow this but I knew the
consequences of this decision, I could predict them, and
saw them in my dreams.142
Halyna Orlivna. Courtesy
of the Holobs’ka Village
Library. Volyn’ oblast,
Klym Polishchuk. Courtesy
of the SBU Archive in
Kharkiv oblast. File no.
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
In Kharkiv, Klym wrote only what seemed to him insipid and colorless prose.
e theme of the revolution, a feature of his earlier work, disappeared. His characters
became hesitant and confused.143 On the other hand, Halyna advanced her talent and
grew professionally.  e year 1929 was extremely productive for her and marked a
qualitative change in her literary skill. She joined the literary association Pluh and
published the novel Emihranty (Emigrants), which Pavlo Tychyna edited.144 Halyna
conceived a novel about collectivization, a popular subject among writers at the time,
and traveled to many collective farms in Poltava, Kharkiv, and Myrhorod oblasts to
study the problems and successes in the countryside.  e result was unexpected.
In the beginning of 1930, she published two works—Nove pole (New Field) and
Babs’kyi bunt (Women’s Uprising)145—that depicted the peasants’ distrust of Soviet
collectivization and resistance to the methods of forcible collectivization employed
by the regime.  e publications had tragic consequences for both Halyna and Klym,
although their marriage was deteriorating and they eventually separated. Klym was
arrested on November 4, 1929, accused of Ukrainian nationalism and counterrevo-
lutionary activity.146 Halyna was “doubly” guilty. She was identi ed as a relative of
a counterrevolutionary and, because of her novels, as a Ukrainian nationalist. She
was arrested in Budynok Slovo three weeks a er she moved there with the Russian
writer Volodymyr Iurezans’kyi, her new inspiration and love.147 e GPU put her in
Kholodna Hora prison, and not long a er she was exiled to Kazakhstan for  ve years.
Halyna continued to write in Kazakhstan and even sent some of her work to
Kharkiv but soon realized that she would never be published. Her mother brought
Lesia to Kazakhstan but died soon a er making the trip. Halyna served her sentence
and then went on to teach in the Martunsk high school in Aktiubinsk oblast.  e
GPU/NKVD prohibited her return to Ukraine. She was able to visit Kyiv and Lubny
only a er the war in 1948. She died in Kyiv on March 21, 1955, and was buried in
the village of Holoby in Kovel’ region (Volyn’ oblast), the native village of her second
husband, Iakov Voznyi.148
Klym never lived in Budynok Slovo, but through Orlivna his life is obliquely
connected with the place and its residents. Some commentators argued that Hal-
yna denounced her ex-husband, but Klym’s warm letters from labor camps give no
indication of his wifes betrayal.149 On January 29, 1930, he was sentenced to ten
years in labor camps by the OGPU Collegium.150 Before that sentence was served,
however, Klyms case was reopened, and, along with many other slov’iany and Ukrai-
nian intellectuals, he was shot as a Ukrainian nationalist on November 3, 1937, in
Sandarmokh (Karelia).  at date is one of the most tragic for Ukrainian culture; in
total, 265 people were shot on this day when the UNKVD troika in Leningrad oblast
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issued order no. 103010/37. Of those executed, 134 were Ukrainian literary  gures
and artists; the reason for the executions given by the NKVD was to “celebrate the
twentieth anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution.151
Although neither Klym Polishchuk nor Halyna Orlivna was born in Galicia,
each had spent time abroad and was considered to have absorbed Galician in uences.
e secret police included them in a dangerous circle of nationalists from Western
Ukraine who had to be neutralized, along with their “nationalist” art. Moscow
understood that even under Polish occupation, and perhaps because of it, Western
Ukrainians had preserved a strong sense of national identity.  ey cherished their
cultural roots and national heritage, and could stimulate Soviet Ukrainians to follow
a similar path; that in uence, as far as Moscow was concerned, had to be prevented.152
e repression of Galician intellectuals became a strategic operation with intense
and vigorous dynamics in Soviet Ukraine.153
Although he had lived with Halyna Orlivna, Volodymyr Iurezans’kyi survived
the terror without ever being targeted and continued to live in Budynok Slovo af-
ter Halyna was arrested. In late 1933, when Budynok Slovo was being shaken by
nightly arrests, he le for Moscow.154 Apparently, the GPU had reasons for granting
him freedom, despite the fact that Halyna had been accused of being a Ukrainian
nationalist. He spoke Russian, wrote extensively about Dniprobud, glori ed Soviet
industrialization, and became an expert in the history of that construction site.155
e Party needed him to promote Soviet successes in industrialization.156 Before the
Great Terror, Iurezans’kyi moved to the Urals and worked for various newspapers.
A er World War II, he resided in Moscow. He died there on February 9, 1957. In his
biographical statements, the Ukrainian period is totally erased; one can only learn
about his career in Ukraine by examining his body of work.157
e changing political climate in Ukraine and witch hunts for Ukrainian na-
tionalists, o en highlighted in the press, disillusioned writers. Many su ered from
depression and an inability to write. Self-denunciations did not protect the slov’iany
from further Party reprimands and harassment. In January 1928, Khvyl’ovyi wrote to
Mykhailo Ialovyi: “We wrote a ‘repentant letter,’ didn’t we? Yes, we did. What else do
they want from us? To suck someones ass, or what? As for Va l’d sh ne py [Khvyl’ovyi’s
novel], I am certain that if Val’dshne p y had not been written, they would  nd some-
thing else to accuse me of. 158 is letter, as well as years of friendship with Khvyl’ovyi,
played a signi cant role in Ialovyi’s life.
In fact, Mykhailo Ialovyi was the  rst slov’ianyn to be accused of anti-Soviet
activity and membership in the Ukrainian Military Organization (UVO). He was
a recognizable  gure in Kharkiv’s literary community: in 1926, he was the  rst
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
president of VAPLITE (Free Academy of Proletarian Literature/Vil’na Akademiia
Proletars’koi Literatury), the literary group that gained fame for its opposition to
the state-sponsored literary associations Molodniak and VUSPP. As a vaplitianyn,
Ialovyi fought against anti-Ukrainian attitudes and, in 1929, he published his novel
Zoloti lyseniata (Golden Fox-cubs), which deals with the Ukrainian revolution and
the Borot’bists.159 He also edited the journal Chervonyi Shliakh and was an editor
at publishing houses Literatura i mystetstvo (LIM) and Derzhavne vydavnytstvo
Ukrainy (DVU).160 Most importantly, he was a person who had close relationships
with Khvyl’ovyi and was associated with the latter’s seditious views on the develop-
ment of Ukrainian culture. He was arrested in Apartment #30, on the night of May
12, 1933, the day before Khvylovyi committed suicide.161
e accusations under which Ialovyi was arrested had been
developing for several years. In 1931, the national sentiment
among Ukrainians and national minorities—as well as frequent
peasant uprisings in response to Soviet collectivization policies—
encouraged the OGPU in Moscow to create the SPV (Secret Po-
litical Department/Sekretno-politychnyi viddil). In Ukraine, the
department was formed on April 5, 1931. From 1931 to 1934, the
SPV fabricated thousands of criminal cases against the Ukrainian
intelligentsia and peasants who, in the states view, obstructed the
modernization of Soviet society and strove to create an indepen-
dent bourgeois Ukrainian state.  rough individual and group
criminal cases, the secret police increasingly added to a multivol-
ume narrative of conspiracy, according to which people belonged
to one or another nationalist organization that was preparing to
overthrow the Soviet regime in Ukraine. Ukrainians—along with
Poles, Germans, Jews, Armenians, Romanians, and other nation-
alities—were accused of conspiring against the Soviet state and
undermining socialist construction from within.162
e SPV, under the leadership of Henrikh Liushkov, Iukhym Kryvets’, Mykailo
Oleksandrovs’kyi, and Borys Kozel’s’kyi, “uncovered” hundreds of alleged counter-
revolutionary organizations in Ukraine. One of its major operations was the arrest of
hundreds of Ukrainian intellectuals, immigrants from Galicia, and local Ukrainian
intelligentsia who worked in various cultural institutions.163 In January 1933, Pavel
Postyshev, sent by Stalin to Ukraine along with thousands of Party functionaries to
combat Ukrainian nationalism and resistance to grain procurements, claimed that
cultural institutions were counterrevolutionary nests of Petliurites, Makhnovites,
Mykhailo Ialovyi.
Courtesy of the
Korolenko State
Scienti c Library.
Kharkiv, Ukraine.
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and foreign spies. He thanked the secret police for eliminating dangerous tenden-
cies in Ukraine and attributed the failure to ful ll bread procurements in 1932 to the
destructive activities of nationalists who occupied leading positions in the Peoples
Ialovyi’s active membership in the Borot’bist Party before 1920, his close rela-
tionships with former Borot’bists (Vasyl’ Ellan-Blakytnyi, Oleksandr Shums’kyi and
Mykhailo Poloz), and his interactions with Khvyl’ovyi and the Ukrainian futurists
(Mykhailo Semenko, Oleksa Slisarenko, Volodymyr Iarovenko and Vasyl’ Aleshko)
were su cient grounds for the GPU to arrest him.165 Moreover, the secret police
considered the project of the systemization of Ukrainian spelling—a project com-
missioned by the state and led by the Peoples Commissar of Education, Oleksandr
Shums’kyi—a nationalist conspiracy. Ialovyi’s active participation in it and his col-
laboration with other members of the commission, among whom were the slov’iany
Maik Iohansen, Mykola Khvyl’ovyi, and many prominent Ukrainian scholars who
were not favored by the center, also contributed to his image as a nationalist.  e
All-Ukrainian Academy of Science received secret instructions from Moscow that
the scholars should “do everything they could to make the Ukrainian language as
similar to Russian as possible.166 Yet shortly a er, most of the members of the com-
mission were harassed, including Ialovyi.167
Surveillance materials on Ialovyi had been collected for several years prior to
his arrest.168 Several testimonies by those previously arrested claimed that Ialovyi was
an UVO member who took an active part in preparing a military uprising against
Soviet power in Ukraine. One such denunciation was written by Ievhen Cherniak,
the director of the Kharkiv Institute of the History of Ukrainian Culture. Cherniak,
arrested as an UVO member, supposedly said that he regularly attended UVO meet-
ings at the homes of members, including Ialovyi’s apartment in Budynok Slovo.
Ukrainian intellectuals were alleged to have attended these meetings and discussed
the urgency of a military uprising in Ukraine before the GPU could conduct mass
arrests of the UVO members.169
On June 8, 1933, Ialovyi provided a detailed report about the goals of the
UVO, its composition, and its international support and connections. However, his
depositions during the interrogations can hardly be taken at face value because the
conditions of his interrogation remain unknown.  e interrogator in Ialovyi’s case
was GPU/NKVD operative plenipotentiary Serhii Pustovoitov, whose name appears
in many interrogations of the Ukrainian intelligentsia, and who was famous for his
vicious and sadistic nature. When he was arrested in 1937 for counterrevolutionary
activity in the secret organs, his July 27 deposition revealed the mechanisms used
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
in criminal cases against the Ukrainian intelligentsia. According to Pustovoitov, the
GPU received great assistance in fabricating criminal cases from those among the
Ukrainian intelligentsia who were recruited by the GPU through fear, blackmail, and
intimidation.  ey included Iurynets’, Bilen’kyi-Berezyns’kyi, Shtein, Karbonenko,
Borodchak, and Onishchuk. 170 e names of those who “needed” to be denounced
were provided by the GPU. Pustovoitov stated: “No one read their reports carefully—
we knew they were false. It was important to receive the material so that we could
justify arrests and show that we combat terrorism.171 Moreover, when it became
apparent that GPU agents were in danger of exposure, the secret police helped them
hide in the RSFSR and  nancially supported them.172
In Ialovyi’s case, his self-incrimination had little to do with the historical truth.
Rehabilitation materials revealed that the UVO never existed in Soviet Ukraine,
and all “members” of this imaginary organization were rehabilitated in the 1950s,
1980s, and 1990s. Ialovyi’s  le exempli es what author Cristina Vatulescu has called
a “priceless representation of the values, apprehensions, and fantasies entertained by
the secret police.173 Ialovyi’s  le may conceal the particulars of his behavior during
the preliminary investigation, but it discloses valuable details about how the GPU
operated, how the secret police understood evidence, guilt, the ethics of investiga-
tion, and the signi cance of collected testimonies. In other words, police records
convey the interrogators’ perceptions about the appropriateness of the materials col-
lected during preliminary investigations.  ey also reveal shockingly low standards
of professionalism and the manner in which the interrogators interpreted those
standards. Several supervisors accepted Ialovyi’s interrogation minutes as su cient
incriminating evidence, which demonstrates the law’s crude debasement at the time.
Many Soviet individual  les are attempts to write a suspect’s biography.174 e
biographies in the criminal  les lack almost any description of childhood years; a
prisoner’s early years were reduced to the “social origin” of his or her family. Yet the
conscious life of the individual had to be re ected in detail and shaped in a certain
way to emphasize his or her “belonging,” “membership,” “participation,” “ideological
inclinations,” “political views,” and other indicators to help the secret police build a
case and subsequently bring the suspect to a confession. Ialovyi’s case is no exception;
in the 108 pages of his autobiography, which at the same time serves as his confes-
sion, there is very little about Ialovyi’s early years but an extensive narrative about
his criminal activities and nationalist views as a conscious adult.
e document has the features of a dialogue, not a monologue. Ialovyi’s an-
swers appear fully scripted and carefully structured; his narrative e usively re ects
the needs of the secret police. Perhaps Ialovyi was aware of what was expected of
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him in advance, and this knowledge helped him produce a book-length confession
within three days.175 e writer very accurately conveyed a sense of his own doom,
as if he were eager to expiate his guilt. His narrative includes every imaginable self-
incriminating detail. Political expectations shaped the obsessive description of how
Ialovyi’s identity was “formed” and “transformed.176
As later testimonies of those who survived the Kharkiv GPU prison and labor
camps demonstrate, interrogators promised a “so ” punishment or even freedom in
exchange for a detailed narrative about counterrevolutionary activity, and this promise
shaped the depositions of many victims.177 Ialovyi’s interrogator clearly demanded
psychological explanations of what brought the suspect to this point.  e interroga-
tion seems to have been constructed along Freudian lines and schemes; there was
a “pathological” and “morbid” (nationalist) condition that had to be “treated,” but
the “doctor” needed full self-disclosure and self-analysis in a written form to expose
weaknesses, vices, fallacies, and pernicious in uences that had provoked the suspect.
Mykhailo Ialovyi’s deposition. Courtesy of the DAKhO. R6452-4-1-1844-108zv-109.
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
Prisoners were given ample time to write as much as possible in their au-
tobiographical confessions. No one limited them in terms of the length of their
compositions or the time it took to create them. Ialovyis criminal  le contains 414
pages of tiny handwriting, written on both sides of many pages (roughly 600–700
pages in all).178 During the Great Terror (1937–1938), a er years of  le fabrication
and experience, the GPU/NKVD cra smen downsized their  les, reducing the time
and e ort invested in these creations. Only group  les consisted of several volumes
of documents.  e GPU’s work became sloppy, a fact that is re ected in the quality
of evidence collected for criminal cases (or rather its virtual absence) and in the
size of criminal  les.179 Ialovyi’s confession, however, constitutes 108 pages of the
criminal  le.  is is one of the lengthiest and most detailed among criminal  les of
the Ukrainian intelligentsia. For Ialovyi, writing such a lengthy confession must have
seemed like protracted torture and death, as it le no avenue for him to escape the
death penalty.  is deposition became the last text that he created as a writer.
As the  le progresses, the  rst-person narrative alternates with third-person
depositions, which produces an e ect of personal estrangement. For the reader, Ialovyi
represents a person who has become judgmental and critical toward himself and his
alleged criminal actions.180 However, another scenario is possible: the interrogator
kept forgetting that Ialovyi was supposed to be the sole author of his own confession.
Such third-party digressions can be observed throughout many criminal  les and re-
veal a common thread: the more believable the authorship of the suspect’s confession
might be at the outset, the more striking becomes the stylistic dissonance between
the  rst-person original narrative and the later ubiquitous third-person references.
Such a stylistic transition heightens the reader’s concerns about authorship, and so
other changes in a narrator’s style become more perceptible and more noticeable.
Mykhailo Ialovyi’s second verdict. Courtesy of the DAKhO. R6452-4-2-1844-11.
Olga Bertelsen
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Moreover, Ialovyi’s confession and interrogation minutes were written by hand,
a practice largely discontinued by the GPU/NKVD a er 1934. Ialovyi did not sign
each page of the written documents, as he should have, and even an untrained eye can
easily detect inconsistencies in the handwritten testimonies on di erent days.  ese
inconsistencies might have occurred because as time progressed, Ialovyi’s handwrit-
ing changed as his physical condition deteriorated under torture, or because some
sections were written by someone else. Alternatively, in much of the  le, it seems
possible that the apparent di erence in handwriting between questions and answers
is meant to persuade readers that the questions were written by the interrogator and
the answers by Ialovyi.181 However, the last section of minutes reveals a clear similarity
between what had previously seemed to be two separate sets of handwriting. Might
it be possible that by page 133 of the criminal case, the GPU agent was tired of being
a careful imitator because the investigation was to be completed and the  le had to
be transferred to the prosecutor?
Additionally, linguistic di erences (Ukrainianisms employed by the author in
Russian texts, vocabulary, manner of expression) between the earlier testimonies
and the later ones are rather drastic, which inviting further questions about the au-
thenticity of Ialovyi’s later pages.182 From page 83 on, the original voice of the writer
seems to fade away, replaced by bureaucratic standard slang, a trademark of GPU
interrogators. In other words, the language of the  rst 82 pages of Ialovyi’s criminal
le is very di erent from the language of the remaining pages of his protocols, and
readers need not be linguists to notice this di erence.
Ialovyi’s case was one of the  rst against Ukrainian intellectuals in which the
GPU/NKVD used a “principle of escalation.” A plethora of names, individual con-
nections, and group links emerges from the interrogation minutes. With each new
set of minutes, the alleged counterrevolutionary organization expands and includes
new representatives of various cultural institutions in Ukraine. By the last interro-
gation, almost all signi cant cultural  gures and representatives of the Ukrainian
intelligentsia have been mentioned as participants in anti-Soviet activities.  e
escalation principle was broadly employed in all subsequent criminal cases, and by
the late 1930s, everyone involved in Ukrainian cultural institutions could expect to
nd themselves mentioned in condemning testimonies.  ey were swept away and
replaced by new, more obedient, cadres.183
In prison, Ialovyi asked Pustovoitov to spare his life because of his sincerity and
openness during interrogation. On September 23, 1933, Ialovyi was sentenced to ten
years in labor camps by the GPU troika. According to the decision of the NKVD
troika in Leningrad oblast, he was shot as a Ukrainian nationalist and a member of an
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
anti-Soviet organization
on November 3, 1937,
in Sandarmokh (Kare-
lia).184 Four years later,
on September 7, 1937,
Pustovoitov was likewise
sentenced to death by
the Military Collegium
of the Supreme Court
of the USSR.185 Ironi-
cally, Pustovoitov was
rehabilitated as a victim
of Stalins repressions
earlier than Ialovyi—on
June 3, 1997. Ialovyi at-
tained this distinction
only on February 25,
2003.186 Stalins reign desynchronized their individual histories, revealing one of
many insidious facets of cultural disruption in Ukraine caused by the terror of the
1930s: torturers and tormentors were released from their ignominious fates prior to
those they had condemned.
In early November 1936, Vazonov, the assistant to the district prosecutor, as-
signed to investigate special cases, signed the order to arrest a group of slov’iany:
Ivan Kovtun, Oleksii Savyts’kyi, Ivan Kaliannykov, and Samiilo Shchupak. All but
Shchupak were arrested in Budynok Slovo.187 Shchupak, who in 1934 moved to Kyiv,
resided in Rolit (a similar building for the Ukrainian intelligentsia) where he was
arrested on November 10, 1936. All of these individuals were accused of member-
ship in a Ukrainian nationalist fascist organization and of terrorist activity against
Party members.
Vukhnal’ was a talented novelist and Savyts’kyi was a gi ed playwright. In addi-
tion, both authors wrote humorous short stories and feuilletons, a genre that became
popular in the 1920s–1930s but always remained suspect in the eyes of the Party
establishment.  e Party viewed humor as counterproductive, since it de ated the
obligatory heroism, seriousness, and grandiloquence required of cultural producers.
Because of the severe criticism to which these two writers were subjected in 1933, and
because of the famine of 1932–1933 and the arrests of the intelligentsia that silenced
Mykhailo Ialovyi’s verdict. Courtesy of the DAKhO,
Olga Bertelsen
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many slov’iany, both men
stopped writing and pub-
lished almost nothing
during this period.188
With the exception
of Shchupak, this group
of slov’iany were friends
who lived in one place,
spent time together, and
worked for the same jour-
nals at di erent times of
their literary career. For
the NKVD, any group-
ing, personal or profes-
sional, posed the risk of a
conspiracy. Close human
links and connections
became the pretext for
sweeping away those who
did not seem to be a part
of Soviet cultural con-
struction. Despite the fact
that this group included
individuals of Russian
(Kaliannyk) and Jewish
(Shchupak) origins, to
the secret police they all
shared a Ukrainian iden-
tity because they shared
a space, a spoken lan-
guage (Ukrainian), and
an interest in Ukrainian
cultural traditions.
Vukhnal’ made
as many friends as he did
enemies because of his
epigrams and short sto-
List of books con scated and destroyed by the NKVD (Vukhnal’s
criminal  le)-I. Courtesy of the AU SBUKhO. File no. 017800.
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
ries, in which he mocked
writers who successfully
adjusted themselves to
Party demands and were
therefore promoted and
praised. His unforget-
table character Sashko In-
dyk, who bragged about
his “red” inspiration, his
peasant origin, and his
talentless but optimistic
poetry, was severely criti-
cized by o cial writers.189
Prior to Vukhnal’s arrest,
he had been thrown out of
the Party as a nationalist
and counterrevolution-
ary. During a search of
his apartment, the NKVD
operatives found in his
library “counterrevolu-
tionary” publications by
those slov’iany who had
already been arrested by
the secret police, which
served to con rm Vukh-
nal’s reputation. Para-
doxically, instead of keep-
ing these publications
as evidence of Vukhnal’s
political unreliability, the
Kharkiv NKVD decided
to burn his library.190 is
seemingly insignificant
detail demonstrates that
the decision about Vukhnal’s verdict had been made prior to the completion of the
preliminary investigation or the court verdict, which made evidence unnecessary.
List of books con scated and destroyed by the NKVD (Vukhnal’s
criminal  le)-II. Courtesy of the AU SBUKhO. File no. 017800.
Olga Bertelsen
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Vukhnal’s Novem-
ber 4, 1936, interroga-
tion minutes reveal the
concerns of an open and
sincere person who la-
mented that the Party-
appointed chief editors of
leading Ukrainian jour-
nals understood nothing
about literature. More-
over, he expressed con-
cerns about the elimina-
tion of the best Ukrainian
writers by the NKVD. Ten
days later, on November
14, 1936, Vukhnal’s tone
changed dramatically:
he confessed that un-
der the in uence of the
slov’iany Kulish, Epik,
and Valerian Polishchuk
he had become a mem-
ber of a nationalist anti-
Soviet group. All of the
individuals he named had
previously been arrested.
Vukhnal’ apparently did
not want to blemish the
reputation of those who
were still free.  ese tac-
tics made sense.  e ar-
rested o en provided the
NKVD with the names
of individuals already dead, imprisoned, or exiled. However, during the next inter-
rogation, Vukhnal’ denounced writers who were not in the custody of the NKVD,
his neighbors Mykhailo Semenko, Antin Dykyi, and Ivan Plakhtin.191
List of books con scated and destroyed by the NKVD (Vukhnal’s
le)-III. Courtesy of the AU SBUKhO. File no. 017800.
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
On February 3, 1937, under unknown circumstances, Vukhnal’ again changed
his story and testi ed that as a member of the literary associations Pluh, Molodniak,
and Prolitfront, he was in uenced by anti-Soviet propaganda conducted on the
pages of the journals with the same names. He assertively stated, however, that he
had dropped his counterrevolutionary stance a er 1935. A er this sudden turn of
the preliminary investigation, the NKVD operative Lysyts’kyi le Vu kh na l’ al on e f or
approximately three and a half months.  ere is no way to know what happened to
Vukhnal’ during this time in prison, but in the middle of April he was convoyed to
Kyiv to the Luk’ianivs’ka prison.192
e NKVD operative Akimov replaced Lysyts’kyi in the cases of both Vukh-
nal’ and Kaliannyk. Unsigned pages of interrogation minutes became a frequent
phenomenon under Akimov.  ese pages could have been easily forged by inter-
rogators. Sometimes the signature of the arrested appeared on the last page of the
minutes. On May 13, 1937, Akimov met Vukhnal’ in the interrogation room with
the statement: “You are continuing to resist. [We] strongly suggest that you should
stop your disavowal.” As Akimov explained, Vukhnal’s resistance made little sense
because his guilt was con rmed by the depositions of Savyts’kyi and Chechvians’kyi.
ese individuals also claimed that Vukhnal’ was linked to a member of the Ukrainian
nationalist underground named Mykola Bazhan, who was the brother of Vukhnal’s
mistress. Vukhnal’ denied all of the charges.193
e interrogators had no interest in cleansing the  le to eliminate evidence
of their negligence, such as unsigned pages of protocols and illogical gaps during
interrogations.  ey also failed to erase their concerted e orts to ensure Vukhnal’s
guilt. For instance, Chechvians’kyi’s depositions about regular meetings in Vukhnal’s
apartment and discussions about terrorist activities against Party leaders proved to be
false. Vukhnal’ testi ed that during the time period identi ed by Chechvians’kyi, he
was on a business trip to Leningrad and Odesa, but this information was ignored by
Akimov as insigni cant. Furthermore, Akimov  led and retained Vukhnal’s written
protest against his interrogator’s manipulative tactics; this serves as a testament to
Akimov’s belief in his impunity. In this protest, Vukhnal’ stated that Akimov denied
permission to include relevant information in the  le, including his questions to
Chechvians’kyi, and the latter’s responses, which contradicted his earlier depositions
against Vukhnal’. Vukhnal’ demanded that these sessions be held in the presence of
the prosecutor, but this demand was ignored. Instead of addressing these complaints,
Akimov initiated a discussion about the guns that were in Vukhnal’s possession.
Akimov claimed that Vukhnal’ had a revolver in his apartment that was likely to be
used as a weapon during planned assassinations. Vukhnal’ rejected the supposition
Olga Bertelsen
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stating that he had received permission from the GPU in 1929 to have a gun and,
furthermore, in August 1933 his apartment had been robbed and the gun stolen,
which he had reported in writing to the NKVD.194
ese details and the interrogator’s tactics reveal the type of organizational and
procedural patterns, culture, and aesthetics that were established in the interrogation
rooms. Extensive descriptive literature on interrogation practices, as well as analy-
sis of the criminal records of the slov’iany, con rm the existence of a preconceived
agenda followed slavishly by the NKVD, despite the persistent and adamant denial
of all charges. Vukhnal’ experienced exactly this situation with Akimov.
e materials of the 1950s rehabilitation commission and the correspondence
between the KGB and relatives of the slov’iany shed light on the NKVD methods of
obtaining confessions in the 1930s. Vukhnal’s brother Leonid testi ed that he es-
caped from a little window in the bathroom (the apartment was located on the  rst
oor) when the NKVD came to arrest Vukhnal’. Leonid saw his brother in prison the
day before Vukhnal’ was shot. According to Leonid, it was di cult to recognize his
brother, who was mutilated and beaten. Vukhnal’ told him: “Lenechka, brother, I am
not guilty.”  e last statement in Leonids July 23, 1989 letter to the KGB authorities
reads: “Your archive is a total fabrication. 195
Oleksii Savyts’kyi, Vukhnal’s fellow humorist, fell subject to similarly brutal
practices in prison at the hands of NKVD operatives Iakushev and Lysyts’kyi. On
the second day a er his arrest, Savyts’kyi confessed that he belonged to a Ukrai-
nian nationalist fascist organization that worked in the deep underground.196 Be-
sides Chechvians’kyi and Vukhnal’, Savyts’kyi named Mykhailo Semenko, Terentii
Masenko, Ivan Kaliannyk, Amvrosii Buchma, Maksym Ryl’s’kyi, Antin Dykyi, and
Ivan Plakhtin as members of the anti-Soviet organization.197 Savyts’kyi supposedly
con rmed that he was ideologically recruited in 1927 when he joined the editorial
board of the journal Chervonyi Perets’ (Red Pepper). According to Savyts’kyi’s pro-
tocol of November 28, 1936, he stated, “ ey cultivated an enemy of Soviet power
in me.198 He allegedly characterized Ivan Kaliannyk as an “active fascist,” noting
that there were cases when Kaliannyk assaulted other writers in Budynok Slovo,
and hence was capable of terrorist acts against Party leaders.199 e authorship of
these accounts is of course doubtful.  e level of reasoning assigned to Savyts’kyi,
an individual with a sharp mind, great sense of humor, and poise, appears rather
childish, crude, and—even under the extreme stressful circumstances of interroga-
tion—highly incongruous.
e accounts of conspiracy constantly changed depending on the needs of the
NKVD. In October 1937, Mykhailo Semenko, who had been named by Savyts’kyi in
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
1936 as one of the members of a nationalist fascist organization, was listed instead as
the person who in 1933 had recruited Vukhnal’, Chechvians’kyi, and Savyts’kyi and
created one of many terrorist groups that aimed to assassinate Kosior.200 Savyts’kyis
story about his recruitment by Chechvians’kyi and Vyshnia had been abandoned by
the secret police.201
Lysyts’kyi was also assigned to investigate Ivan Kaliannyk, a subtle poet and a
former member of the literary association Prolitfront. 202 In late 1934, Kostiuk remem-
bered Kaliannyk, who was usually emotional and  amboyant, as sad and depressed
because of routine arrests in Budynok Slovo. 203 Kaliannyk earned a reputation as a
thug because he assaulted a bureaucrat from the State Literary Publishing House who
insulted his wife. A chorus of voices accused Kaliannyk of terrorism and compared
him to Nikolaev, the assassin of Kirov. Ivan Kyrylenko, especially, actively harassed
and condemned Kaliannyk as a “relative” of Nikolaev, and on November 15, 1935
Kaliannyk was expelled from the Union of Writers.204
Kaliannyk was an ethnic Russian, as was his wife Oleksandra Sherbakova. He
had changed his name to drop the Russian ending –ov, following Pavlo Tychynas
advice to write in Ukrainian.205 But he admired Russian poetry, and could recite works
by Pushkin from memory (as well works by Shevchenko, Heine, Byron, Schiller and
Shakespeare).206 Kaliannyk’s transformation into a Ukrainian poet and Ukrainian
speaker was su cient grounds for the secret police to accuse him of membership in
a Ukrainian terrorist organization. In light of his arrest during the night of November
3–4, 1936, this detail is darkly ironic. Kaliannyks favorite revolutionary hero was
Felix Dzerzhyns’kyi, the founder of the Cheka.207 Among books deemed counterrevo-
lutionary—including titles by Epik, Vukhnal’, Masenko, and Hrushevs’kyi—NKVD
operatives found a portrait of Alexander I, a fact considered outrageous and one that
was used as evidence of Kaliannyks political unreliability.208
In the Kharkiv prison, Kaliannyk rejected the accusations and managed to tol-
erate the torture for approximately a month. On November 28, 1936, he confessed
that Kulish and Epik enticed him into anti-Soviet activities and that the writers
Savyts’kyi, Masenko, Serhii Borzenko, Chechvians’kyi, Vukhnal’, Ivan Shutov, and
Ivan Khutors’kyi were his accomplices and members of the Ukrainian nationalist
underground.209 Interestingly, some of those whom Kaliannyk identi ed as members
of the organization and counterrevolutionaries—Mykola Nahnibeda, Ivan Shutov,
Serhii Borzenko, Teren’ Masenko and Borys Kotliarov—had never been targeted
by the NKVD.210 Like Vukhnal’, Savyts’kyi, and Chechvians’kyi, Kaliannyk was also
convoyed to Kyiv in the middle of April, where he con rmed his deposition to his
new interrogator, Akimov. Akimov encouraged Kaliannyk to include in the list of
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enemies Antin Dykyi and Mykhailo Semenko, who were arrested shortly a er Ka-
liannyks confession.211
e code names for di erent Ukrainian nationalist groups were used inter-
changeably, and the treatment of members of all these imaginary organizations was
virtually the same.  e July 1937 statement (signed by the assistant to the Peoples
Commissar of Internal A airs in Ukraine, Vasyl’ Ivanov, and the assistant to the
Prosecutor in the USSR, Andrei Vyshinskii) stated that the NKVD had uncovered a
Ukrainian counterrevolutionary Trotskyist terrorist organization.  is organization
had never appeared before during the preliminary investigation of this particular
case.  e conclusion alleged that members of the conspiracy not only had connec-
tions with the Trotskyite-Zinov’evite center in Moscow but also implemented Kirov’s
murder on December 1, 1934, and, during subsequent years, prepared terrorist acts
against the leaders of the VKP(b).212
On July 14, 1937, Vukhnal’s, Savyts’kyi’s, Kaliannyk, Chechvians’kyi and other
“members” of the “terrorist conspiracy” were sentenced to death (with con scation
of their possessions) by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR.
On that same day, twenty people were sentenced to the highest degree of punish-
ment in accordance with Stalin’s June 26, 1937, order, also signed by Kaganovich and
Voroshilov, which was issued prior to the completion of the preliminary investiga-
tion and court hearings.  ose executed included the Boichukists. Vukhnal’ was the
only one who denied the accusations during the closed court hearing. Kaliannyk
con rmed his guilt (as did others) and asked the court to spare his life because, he
stated, he had “behaved well during the preliminary investigation.”  e verdicts were
implemented the next day.  e conspirators were shot on July 15, 1937, in Kyiv.  e
place of their burial remains unknown.213
As a routine practice, the families of the accused were evicted from Budynok
Slovo, and the NKVD expropriated their possessions. Vira Mykhailivna, Savyts’kyi’s
wife, was also repressed and exiled to the Gulag.214 Oleksandra Vasyl’ivna, Kaliannyks
wife, was arrested in October 1937 and sentenced to eight years in labor camps. In
the 1950s, both were rehabilitated.215 Kaliannyk’s daughter Zhanna was allowed to
see her father’s criminal  le, (which had been fabricated by the secret police) only
a er a prolonged battle with the authorities in 1990.216
Samiilo Shchupaks fate was similar, although he established himself as an of-
cial literary critic and journalist who vigorously supported the Party line. A former
slov’ianyn, he was arrested in Kyiv on November 10, 1936. A longtime editor of the
Kyiv newspaper Proletars’ka pravda (Proletarian Truth) and a past leader of the Kyiv
chapter of the literary association Pluh,217 Shchupak actively participated in the Lit-
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
erary Discussion of the 1920s and criticized Khvyl’ovyi and “fellow traveler” writers
for their ideological deviations.218 e Party and its prominent spokesmen—Andrii
Khvylia, Vlas Chubar, Ievhen Hirchak, and even Joseph Stalin—sheltered him. His
arrest embodied a new NKVD practice that would blossom during the Great Terror:
the elimination of servants who had completed their tasks and were no longer needed.
Shchupak had lived in Kharkiv since 1930 but moved to Apartment 5 in Budy-
nok Slovo in 1933 a er the death of the writer Leonid Chernov-Maloshyichenko.219
Khvyl’ovyi lived two  oors above, in Apartment 9.  e brief time they shared as
neighbors did not facilitate their rapprochement; on the contrary, it exacerbated
their mutual dislike. Likewise, members of the Futurists group were especially frus-
trated with Shchupak’s attacks. In 1928, Oleksa Vlyz’ko characterized Shchupak as
a person who “de nitely disgusts us all.220 Shchupak edited the journals Kritika and
Literaturna Hazeta and joined the literary association VUSPP, which aggressively
imposed the views of its Party overseers in art.  is further aggravated Khvyl’ovyi,
but he was no longer in a position to challenge them.221 e relationship between
Shchupak and Khvyl’ovyi remained quite inimical. In 1933, the latter committed
suicide. A year later, Shchupak moved to Kyiv to live in Rolit, as did other members
of the cultural and Party elite.222
On February 10, 1935, Shchupak published an article in the newspaper Komunist
titled “Vorozhe spotvorennia istorii literatury” (A Hostile Distortion of the History
of Literature), which was fully in tune with Postyshev’s guidance regarding Ukrai-
nian culture and literature. With an accountants precision, Shchupak challenged all
combat forays” undertaken by nationalist writers in Ukraine. He mentioned the
works written by the slov’iany Pavlo Khrystiuk, Vasyl’ Desniak, Andrii Richyts’kyi,
and many others, and characterized the authors as “double-dealers.”  e slov’iany
Ivan Lakyza and Volodymyr Koriak were identi ed as class enemies and bourgeois
counterrevolutionaries. Shchupaks work in the 1920–1930s personi ed a literary
criticism marked by “primitive stereotypes” and the desire to establish a “dead police-
like order in literature. 223 His thinking was highly politicized and conformed to the
most current Party resolution, while his criticism, in the words of Iurii Sheveliov,
applied the “logic of an ax” and invented “the genre of political denunciation.224
e state strove to control not only people’s public and private spheres but
also their personalities. Shchupak became a product of the Soviet experiment in
social engineering, although his political  exibility and  agrant defense of Soviet
principles did not save his life. A faithful Communist who followed Party directives
unquestionably and persistently, he became another November 1936 victim of the
NKVD.  e preliminary investigation was rather brief. A er three interrogations,
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Shchupak was accused of membership in the counterrevolutionary Trotskyist orga-
nization that had implemented Kirov’s murder and recruited young literary cadres
into this organization.  e Ukrainian writer Oleksandr Kopylenko was allegedly
one of those recruited. Shchupak’s past membership in the Bund, of course, did not
count in his favor, but the only evidence of his guilt were books con scated from
his library authored by L. Kamenev, H. Zinov’ev, M. Tomskii, and M. Skrypnyk.
ey were identi ed as “ideologically harmful and counterrevolutionary literature.
e March 10, 1937, ten-minute closed meeting of the Military Collegium of the
Supreme Court in Moscow recounted a litany of falsehoods.  e confession of the
accused was considered su cient proof of guilt, as Vyshinskii’s 1936 Kurs ugolovnogo
processa (Handbook on Criminal Procedure) had suggested. In accordance with this
manual, the main participants of the meeting, Vasilii Ul’rikh and Andrei Vyshinskii,
sentenced Shchupak to death. He was executed the same day.225
Technically, Shchupak was accused of being a Ukrainian nationalist because
he was a member of the same anti-Soviet organization as the slov’iany Piddubnyi,
Svashenko, the Boichukists, Vukhnal, Savyts’kyi, and others. Although of Jewish
background, Shchupak was fully immersed in Ukrainian culture and the Ukrai-
nian literary discourse. Another aspect of his self-identi cation was as Marxist or
Communist, which conditioned his dispositions and beliefs. However, he wrote in
Ukrainian, spoke Ukrainian, and was associated with a place that housed a “nest
of nationalists,” Budynok Slovo.  ese factors were decisive for the NKVD o cials
who decided his fate.226
In late 1929, when the writers moved to Budynok Slovo, they were involved in
creating a unique space and distinctive social practices and attitudes.  e uniqueness
of their social and material conditions encouraged the state to perceive Budynok Slovo
as a place of co-producers of a new socialist society. For the Soviet government, the
place represented an extension of the free Ukrainian national spirit that blossomed
among Ukrainian writers in the 1920s and manifested itself in their creative work.
During the 1920s, the Literary Discussion had (as far as the authorities were con-
cerned) identi ed the politically unreliable writers, most of whom were to be found
in one place, Budynok Slovo.
A er the extermination and displacement of residents, the original meaning
of the building as a home of writers was erased. New residents created a new cul-
ture that resembled a military base rather than a space of art and intellectual life.227
Paraphrasing Lefebvre’s terms, the culture of Budynok Slovo was murdered by the
anti-culture of the GPU and the new residents, many of who now worked for the
Soviet secret agency.228
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
e Great Terror of 1937–1938 re ected the continuity of the violent traditions
and aesthetics of the secret police. It swept away the remaining slov’iany.  ose writ-
ers who adhered to the Party line were allowed to move to Kyiv a er 1934, when it
became the new capital of the Ukrainian SSR.  ose who remained in Budynok Slovo
were members of the newly created Union of Writers.  eir literary talents could
not match those of the individuals who created the Red Renaissance, a generation
that Jerzy Giedroyc called the Executed Renaissance.229 e NKVD report of January
16, 1938, reveals that from June 2, 1937, to January 15, 1938, out of 183,343 people
arrested in Ukraine, 15,669 were “Ukrainian nationalists” who allegedly belonged
to various counterrevolutionary organizations and groups. According to the report,
939 such organizations and groups had been liquidated during this period alone. Out
of the 136,892 repressed, more than half, or 72,683 people, were sentenced to death.
Among those who were repressed, 30,111 people came from Poland, particularly
from Galicia.230 e February 17, 1938 resolution of the Central Committee of the
VKP(b) decreed an increase in the quota of arrests of the “anti-Soviet element” in
Ukraine to 30,000 people.231
e House of Writers gathered under its roof talented individuals who dreamed
of creating a new Ukrainian culture. People of various ethnic backgrounds identi-
ed themselves with this drive for renewal, which ran counter to the states plans for
a new Soviet culture.  e place conceived by the writers seemed the “right place
for them, a place that would embody their collective identity and free spirit, but it
was “the wrong place” in the eyes of the state, which characterized it as a place of
transgression and “nationalist deviations.” Terror transformed the original meaning
of the building for the slov’iany. Some internalized the myth of conspiracy hatched
in Budynok Slovo and helped the secret police. A few estranged themselves from it
and adamantly denied the charges.
Experts in distortion and what George Orwell called double-speak, the GPU/
NKVD operatives used the charge of nationalism and the slogan of strengthening
social cohesion to  rst segregate and then isolate the slov’iany.  ey distorted the ideas
and principles espoused by writers and artists, loudly proclaiming their reactionary
nature while concealing the essence of their own activities.  rough deception and
intimidation, the secret police eroded the civil cohesiveness of slov’iany and reforged
the human psyche of those who were chosen to survive into a psyche with an anemic
national consciousness and personality.  e bold creativity and individualism that
was characteristic of the 1920s was dismissed as a bourgeois phenomenon; the obliga-
tion to think on an “All-Union” level replaced thinking on the “All-Ukrainian” one.
Olga Bertelsen
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A well-policed state such as the Soviet Union perceived cultural bonds among
the intelligentsia in Ukraine as a politically sensitive issue and a factor that could
be lethal to the Soviet project.  e state made no distinction between demands for
cultural and political freedoms and rejected the existential aspirations and ambitions
of Ukrainians.  ese aspirations and ambitions had to be destroyed along with their
proponents. Ultimately, the center had no expectation that an all-union state patrio-
tism would develop in a nation that had been conquered by force in 1919.  erefore,
the language that served to reinforce national and cultural bonds was to be reduced
to a minimal level. Both its quality and reach were to be limited.  is political agenda
was e ectively implemented by repressing supporters of Ukrainization.
By 1933–1934, through carefully planned operations, the secret police, guided
by the center, destroyed the foundation of Ukrainian society—the intelligentsia and
the peasantry. Marochko and Hillig have suggested that the prerevolutionary “intel-
lectual potential” of the nation that survived a revolution and wars was irreversibly
lost in this period. Sociologists, anthropologists, and historians usually characterize
human losses on this scale as an event that eventually leads to a society’s “cultural
and spiritual collapse.232
e absurdity of accusations, the absence of concrete evidence, and the scale
of the mass repression in Ukraine in the 1930s and in Budynok Slovo in particular,
reveal the misconduct that was implemented by the secret police but inspired and
guided by the center, whose purposes it suited. Brandishing weapons in interroga-
tion rooms and beating the arrested until they were unconscious, the interrogators
destroyed any illusions the slov’iany may have had about their privileged status.
Prison changed people in many unpredictable ways. People who were betrayed by
their friends and loved ones (or were persuaded that they had been) carried a burden
that was beyond physical su ering; they carried a ruined faith in morality, love, and
friendship, which o en crippled them for life. Many of those who survived repres-
sion never fully recovered in a psychological sense.233
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
I wish to thank Myroslav Shkandrij, Nick Baron, Matthew Schwonek, and Dale
A. Bertelsen for their thoughtful suggestions on earlier dra s of this manuscript. I am
also grateful to Roman Senkus, Marko Pavlyshyn, and Halyna Hryn for their general
support of the study and patient readings of the manuscript. I am indebted to the sta of
the Ukrainian archives for their assistance, and to the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian
Studies, British Royal Historical Society, Shevchenko Scienti c Society (U.S.A.), and
the University of Nottingham (U.K.) for their support of this project. Special thanks to
the Ukrainian journal editors Liudmyla Shalaeva and Aliona Varets’ka who provided
me with their friendly support in Ukraine.
e “conceptual triad” set forth in this article (spatial practice, representations of
space, and representational spaces) is borrowed from Henri Lefebvre, e Production
of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 1991).
Olga Bertelsen
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1. HDA SBU, f.6, spr.46293fp, t.2, ark.4.  e term Boichukists refers to artists, students of the
Boichuk School (in this case, the Ukrainian artists Vasyl’ Sedliar and Ivan Padalka).
2. HDA SBU, f.6, spr.46293fp, t.2, ark.59.  e Soviet secret police was named the OGPU or
GPU (acronyms for Obedinennoe gosudarstvennoe politicheskoe upravlenie or gosudarstvennoe
politicheskoe upravlenie/Joint State Political Administration or State Political Administration) in
the years 1923–34. In 1934 this agency was renamed the NKVD (an acronym for Narodnyi Komis-
sariat Vnutrennikh Del SSSR/People’s Commissariat for Internal A airs in the USSR).  e more
recognizable Russian acronyms are used here instead of the Ukrainian acronyms DPU and NKVS.
e Ukrainian GPU was never independent. Founded on December 3, 1918, it was dissolved on
July 23, 1919, and complete control was transferred to Moscow. See Iurii Shapoval, Volodymyr
Prystaiko and Vadym Zolotar’ov, ChK-GPU-NKVD v Ukraini: Osoby, Fakty, Dokumenty (Kyiv:
Abris, 1997), 9–10.
3. HDA SBU, f.6, spr.46293fp, t.2, ark.4–5. Lipkovs’kyi perished in the Gulag, and on Decem-
ber 10, 1937, his wife, Piasets’ka, was exiled to labor camps for eight years.
4. On state violence in Ukraine see, for example, Lynne Viola, e Unknown Gulag:  e Lost
World of Stalins Special Settlements (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 71. See Violas
statistics on those exiled to the Northern camps from Ukraine, Russia and Belorussia in 1930–31;
on the ethnic composition of prisoners in the Gulag system, see Anne Applebaum, GULAG: A His-
tory (New York: Doubleday, 2003), 495; on the 1937–38 NKVD arrest quotas of the Ukrainians, see
Oleg V. Khlevniuk, GULAG: From Collectivization to the Great Terror, trans. V. Stalko (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 2004), 162, and Paul R. Gregory, Terror by Quota: State Security from Lenin to
Stalin (An Archival Study) (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 72, 192, 233, 236, 265–66; on
ethnic dimensions of Stalins terror in Ukraine in 1937–38, see Hiroaki Kuromiya, e Voices of the
Dead: Stalins Great Terror in the 1930s (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 218–19.
5. Mark Bassin, Christopher Ely, and Melissa K. Stockdale, eds., Space, Place, and Power in
Modern Russia: Essays in the New Spatial History (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press,
2010); Nick Baron, Soviet Karelia: Politics, Planning and Terror in Stalins Russia, 1920–39 (New
York: Routledge, 2007), and “New Spatial Histories of Twentieth-Century Russia and the Soviet
Union: Surveying the Landscape,Jahrbucher fur Geschichte Osteuropas 55, no. 3 (2007): 374–401;
Kate Brown, A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 2004); Svetlana Boym, Common Places: Mythologies of Everyday
Life in Russia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994); Tanya Richardson, Kaleidoscopic
Odessa: History and Place in Contemporary Ukraine (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008);
Miron Petrovskii, Gorodu i miru: Kievskie ocherki, 2nd ed. (Kiev: Izdatel’stvo Dukh i litera, 2008);
Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, e Anti-Imperial Choice:  e Making of the Ukrainian Jew (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 2009); Dmytro Vedeneev and Serhii Shevchenko, Ukrains’ki Solovky (Kyiv:
“EksOb,” 2001).
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
6. Raymie E. McKerrow, “Space and Time in the Postmodern Polity,Western Journal of Com-
munication 63, no. 3 (1999): 273. On the “right place” and “right time,” see P. M. Rosenau, Postmod-
ernism and the Social Sciences: Insights, Inroads, and Transitions (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univer-
sity Press, 1992), 67–69.
7. On relations between human emotions, the geographical landscape (a place), and identity,
see Yi Fu Tuan, Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perception, Attitudes and Values (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1974).
8.  e residents called themselves slov’iany, a term that illuminated an interplay between these
two words, Slovo (word), the name of a writers’ cooperative, and slov’iany (Slavic people).
9. For details on how Stalin envisioned the development of Ukraine, Georgia and other “states
and nationalities, see Iosif Stalin, Natsional’nye momenty v partiinom i gosudarstvennom stroitel’stve:
Doklad na XII s’ezde RKP(b) 23 aprelia 1923 (Moskva: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo politicheskoi
literatury, 1938); on Stalin’s views about national sentiments of Galicians, see Terry Martin, e
A rmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939 (Ithaca, NY:
Cornell University Press, 2001), 281; on Stalin’s views about the signi cance of Ukraine, see his 11
August 1932 letter to Kaganovich in R. W. Davies et al., eds., e Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence:
1931–36, trans. Steven Shabad (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 180.
10. On discursive practices mediating between physical places and spatial ideas, see Nick
Barons book review, “New Spatial Histories of 20th-Century Russia and the Soviet Union: Exploring
the Terrain,Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 9, no. 2 (2008), 436–37.
11. Martin, A rmative Action Empire; Yuri Slezkine, “ e USSR as a Communal Apartment,
or How a Socialist State Promoted Ethnic Particularism,Slavic Review 53, no. 2 (1994): 414–52.
12. Olga Bertelsen and Myroslav Shkandrij, “ e Secret Police and the Campaign against
Galicians in Soviet Ukraine, 1929–34,Nationalities Papers, forthcoming; Myroslav Shkandrij,
“Ukrainianization, Terror and Famine: Coverage in Lviv’s Dilo and the Nationalist Press of the
1930s,Nationalities Papers 40, no. 3 (2012); Elena Borisionok, Fenomen Sovetskoi ukrainizatsii
(Moskva: Evropa, 2006); Vasyl’ Marochko and Götz Hillig, Represovani pedahohy Ukrainy: zhertvy
politychnoho teroru (1929–1941) (Kyiv: Vyd. Naukovyi svit, 2003); Andrew Wilson, e Ukraini-
ans: Unexpected Nation, 2nd. ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002); George O. Liber, Soviet
Nationality Policy, Urban Growth, and Identity Change in the Ukrainian SSR. 1923–1934 (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1992); James Mace, Communism and the Dilemmas of National Libera-
tion: National Communism in Soviet Ukraine, 1918–1933 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1983).
13. Marochko and Hillig, Represovani pedahohy Ukrainy, 26.
Olga Bertelsen
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14. Secondary sources on anthropology, philosophy, and the psychology of human behavior
have greatly bene ted this study.
15. Richardson, Kaleidoscopic Odessa, 23; Ruby Watson, “Memory, History and Opposition
under State Socialism: An Introduction,” in Memory, History and Opposition under State Social-
ism, ed. Ruby Watson (Santa-Fe: School of American Research Press, 1994); Bruce Grant, “New
Moscow Monuments, or States of Innocence,American Ethnologist 28, no. 2 (2001): 332–62; David
J. Bodenhamer, “ e Potential of Spatial Humanities,” in e Spatial Humanities: GIS and the Future
of Humanities Scholarship, ed. David J. Bodenhamer et al. (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana
University Press, 2010), 26.
16. Similar attempts were undertaken in works such as: Richardson, Kaleidoscopic Odessa;
Jochen Hellbeck, Revolution on My Mind: Writing a Diary under Stalin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 2006); and Alexei Yurchak, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More:  e Last
Soviet Generation, Information Series (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006).  ese narra-
tives shed some new light on peoples subjectivities and constraints.
17. DAKhO, f.P20, op.3, spr.219, ark.1. See, for instance, the October 5, 1934 stenographic
report of the regional Party purge commission that investigated “transgressions” of the slov’ianyn
and writer Hryhorii Piddubnyi.
18. Oleg V. Khlevniuk, Master of the House: Stalin and His Inner Circle, Yale-Hoover Series
on Stalin, Stalinism, and the Cold War, trans. Nora Seligman Favorov (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 2009), 88.
19. See a similar explanation in Khlevniuk, Master of the House, 168–69.
20. Khlevniuk, Master of the House, 168.
21.  e Ukrainization campaign was a part of broader Soviet indigenization policies in all
Soviet republics designed to promote the Ukrainian national culture and language, which had been
suppressed under tsarism. Such “a rmative action” aimed to strengthen Soviet power in Ukraine,
although it was quickly reversed to counter-Ukrainization to pursue the very same goal.
22. For more on the Literary Discussion, see Myroslav Shkandrij, Modernists, Marxists, and
the Nation:  e Ukrainian Literary Discussion of the 1920s (Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrai-
nian Studies Press, University of Alberta, 1992).
23. Wilson, Ukrainians, 140.
24. Iurii Sheveliov, “Lit Ikara (Pam ety Mykoly Khvyl’ovoho),” in Literaturoznavstvo: Vybrani
pratsi, ed. Ivan Dziuba (Kyiv: KMA, 2008), 2:290–92.
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
25. George S. N. Luckyj, Literary Politics in the Soviet Ukraine, 1917–1934 (Durham: Duke
University Press, 1990), 66, and Wilson, Ukrainians, 162. Oleksandr Shums’kyi was the people’s
commissar of education in 1924–27 in Ukraine. In 1927, he was severely criticized by the Party
and the Komintern about his position on the national question in Ukraine and was transferred to
Leningrad. On May 13, 1933, he was accused of being a member of the illegal UVO (the Ukrainian
military organization) and was sentenced to ten years in prison at Solovky. In September 1946, he
was released, and on his way to Kyiv was murdered by NKVD associates. Mykola Skrypnyk (1872
–1933) was a leader of Ukrainian Communists and a senior government o cial in Soviet Ukraine.
Working for the Soviet government as the peoples commissar of internal a airs (1921–22), of
justice (1922–27), and at the end of his life, of education (1927–33), Skrypnyk vigorously advocated
the Soviet policy of Ukrainization. He was accused of Ukrainian nationalism and, according to the
o cial version, on July 7, 1933, he committed suicide. On Shums’kyi, Skrypnyk, and Ukrainian
Communism, see Mace, Communism and the Dilemmas, 86–119, 192–231.
26. For an English translation of Stalin’s letter of April 26, 1926 to Lazar Kaganovich and the
members of the Politburo of the KP(b)U Central Committee, see Luckyj, Literary Politics, 66–68.
27. See the full text of the document in Yuri Shapoval, “‘On Ukrainian Separatism’”: A GPU
Circular of 1926,Harvard Ukrainian Studies 18, no. 3–4 (1994): 291–302.
28. Terry Martin, “Author’s Response to ‘Professor Raymond Pearsons review of e A rma-
tive Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939,” Reviews in History,
review no. 278,
29. Shapoval, “‘On Ukrainian Separatism,’” 284–85.
30. Myroslav Shkandrij and Olga Bertelsen, “Fabricated Nationalist Plots, 1929–34: Evidence
in the Secret Police Archives,Canadian Slavonic Papers, under review.
31. See, for instance, the statistics on the NKVD’s operational work from June 2, 1937, to
January 15, 1938, in HDA SBU, f.16, op.31, spr.105, ark. 11–22.  e acronyms used in the text
represent, respectively: SVU—Spilka Vyzvolennia Ukrainy/League for Liberation of Ukraine,
1929–30; UNTs—Ukrains’kyi Natsional’nyi Tsentr/Ukrainian National Centre, 1930–32; the
UVO—Ukrains’ka Viis’kova Orhanizatsiia/Ukrainian Military Organization, 1932–34; the OUN—
Ob’iednannia Ukrains’kykh Natsionalistiv/Association of Ukrainian Nationalists, 1934–35; the
UNFO—Ukrains’ka Natsional’na Fashysts’ka Orhanizatsiia/Ukrainian Nationalist Fascist Organiza-
tion, 1936–37; the AOUE—Antyradians’ka Orhanizatsiia Ukrains’kykh SRov/Anti-Soviet Organiza-
tion of the Ukrainian SRs, 1937–38.
32. Shapoval, “‘On Ukrainian Separatism,’” 285.
33.  e most explicit was the 1927 resolution of the Central Committee of the VKP(b) on
Soviet literature that proclaimed full Party control over creative writing, literary organizations and
Olga Bertelsen
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the writers themselves. See the resolution in A. M. Lejtes, and M. F. Jasek, Desiat’ Rokiv Ukrajins’koji
Literatury (1917–1927): Orhanizacijni ta ideolohicni dijachy ukrajins’koji radjans’koji literatury. Lit-
eraturna dyskusija 1925–28. Charkiv. 1928 (Munchen: Verlag Otto Sagner, 1986), 2:290, 306–10.
34. Halyna Hryn, “Executed Renaissance Paradigm Revisited,Harvard Ukrainian Studies 27,
no. 1–4 (2004–5): 71.
35. HDA SBU, spr.C–183, ark.107. See also Iurii Shapoval, Poliuvannia na Val’dshnepa: Ro-
zsekrechenyi Mykola Khvyl’ovyi (Kyiv: Tempora, 2009), 180–81.
36. Ronald Grigor Suny and Terry Martin, “Introduction,” in A State of Nations: Empire and
Nation-Making in the Age of Lenin and Stalin, ed. Ronald Grigor Suny and Terry Martin (New York:
Oxford University Press, 2001), 12. See also Stalin, Natsional’nyie momenty; and “Tov. Kaganovi-
chu i drugim chlenam PB TsK KP(b)U,” in Sochineniia (Moskva: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo
politicheskoi literatury, 1946) 8:149–54.
37. In 1932, a Party resolution advised all literary organizations to join the same union,
the Union of Soviet Writers.  e VUSPP in Ukraine was favored and promoted by Moscow, and
maintained its dominating position among di erent literary groups up until 1932. For some writers,
membership in VUSPP constituted an open and conscious explicit aesthetic choice.
38. See approximately 250 volumes of the SVU group criminal  le in HDA SBU, f.6,
39. See Uliana Pasicznyk, ed., e Ever-Present Past:  e Memoirs of Tatiana Kardinalowska,
transcr. Assya Humesky, trans. Vera Kaczmarska (Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian
Studies Press, 2004); Volodymyr Kulish, A Word about the Writers’ Home ‘Slovo:’ Memoirs (Toronto,
Canada: “Homin Ukrainy,” 1966); Natalka Dukyna, Na dobryi spomyn: Povist’ pro bat’ka (Kharkiv:
Vudannia zhurnalu “Berezil’,” 2002); Arkadii Liubchenko, Vertep (Povist’). Opovidannia. Shchoden-
nyk (Kharkiv: “Osnova,” 2005); Iurii Smolych, Rozpovid’ pro nespokii: deshcho z knyhy pro dvadtsiati
i trydtsiati roky v ukrains’komu literaturnomu pobuti (Kyiv: Radians’kyi Pys’mennyk, 1968); Vasyl’
Sokil, Zdaleka do blyz’koho (spohady, rozdumy), (Edmonton: Kanads’kyi instytut ukrains’kykh
studii, Al’berts’kyi universytet, 1987); Hryhorii Kostiuk, Zustrichi i proshchannia: Spohady u dvokh
knyhakh (Kyiv: Smoloskyp, 2008).
40. Stepan Kryzhanivs’kyi, My piznavaly nepovtornyi chas: Portrety, ece, spohady (Kyiv:
Radians’kyi pys’mennyk, 1986), 149.
41. TsDAMLiMU, f.72. op.1, spr.12, ark.24 (the slov’ianyn Valerian Polishchuk’s letter of com-
plaint to the head of the Kul’tprop TsK KP(b)U M. Killeroh). For a comparative analysis, see statis-
tics of published translated works in the 1920s and the writers’ publications in the early 1930s in M.
Hodkevych, “Ukrains’ke pys’menstvo za 10 lit,Pluzhanyn no. 11–12 (1927), and Sokil, 112–14.
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
42.  e term byt means “daily life,” “domesticity,” “lifestyle,” or “way of life.” On the notion of
byt, see Boym, 29–40; Irina Gutkin, e Cultural Origins of the Socialist Realist Aesthetic, 1890–1934
(Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1999), 81–84; Victor Buchli, An Archaeology of So-
cialism (New York: Berg, Oxford International Publishers Ltd., 2000), 23–39, and Iurii Trifonov, Kak
slovo nashe otzovietsia . . . , ed. A. P. Shytov (Moskva: “Sovetskaia Rossiia,” 1985), 102–05.
43. Timothy Sosnovy, e Housing Problem in the Soviet Union (Ann Arbor, MI: Edwards
Brothers, Inc., 1954), 22.
44. DAKhO, f.P1401, op.1, spr.33, ark.67.
45. Chervonyi Shliakh, no. 2 (1927): 247 and Pluzhanyn, no. 2 (1927): 31.
46. Such bene ts included exemption from assessment and taxation for ten years from the
date of a building’s completion. On bene ts to housing cooperatives, see Sosnovy, 48.
47. Founder and head of the literary association Pluh, Serhii Pylypenko, was also the director
of the Taras Shevchenko Scienti c Research Institute, and organizer and chief editor of the State
Publishing House of Ukraine (DVU).
48. Stuart Finkel, On the Ideological Front:  e Russian Intelligentsia and the Making of the
Soviet Public Sphere (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 89.
49. DAKhO, f.P1401, op.1, spr.3, ark.1–2.
50. Literaturnomu fondu SSSR 125 let, Litfond (Moskva: Vneshtorgisdat, 1984), 17.  e Litfond
(the Literary Fund, created in 1859 by Russian writers and inherited by the Bolshevik) was an
organization within the Union of Writers that was “in charge” of the writers’ welfare. A er World
War II, the Litfond built several resorts known as Houses of Creativity (Doma tvorchestva) in the
Crimea, the Baltic republics, Armenia, Azerbaidjan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and other Soviet
republics, including the famous Peredelkino Dom tvorchestva near Moscow.  ese resorts belonged
to the Union of Writers (and ultimately to the state) and functioned as retreats for writers where
they rested and worked on their new projects.  ey were heavily subsidized by the state, and the
privilege of being a regular guest there was allocated to literary dignitaries and their close rela-
tives. On state perks to Soviet writers, see John and Carol Garrard, Inside the Soviet Writers’ Union
(New York:  e Free Press, 1990), and the novel by Vladimir Voinovich, e Fur Hat, trans. Susan
Brownsberger (New York: A Harvest/HNJ Book, 1989).
51. Ihor Bondar-Tereshchenko, U zadzerkalli 1910–30-kh rokiv (Kyiv: Tempora, 2009), 386.
In 1919, Kharkiv became the de facto capital of Ukraine and remained the capital of the Ukrainian
Soviet Socialist Republic until 1934. In January 1935, the capital of the UkrSSR was moved to Kyiv.
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52. For various views about the 1920s and writers’ attitudes toward the state’s policies during
this period, see George O. Liber, Soviet Nationality Policy, Urban Growth, and Identity Change in the
Ukrainian SSR. 1923-1934 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Shkandrij, Modernists,
Marxists, and the Nation; Iurii Shevel’ov, Narys suchasnoi Ukra’ins’koi literaturnoi movy ta inshi linh-
vistychni studii (1947-1953 rr.) (Kyiv: Tempora, 2012), 514-22; Solomiia Pavlychko, Teoriia literatury
(Kyiv: Vydavnytstvo Solomii Pavlychko “Osnovy,” 2009), 179; Vira Aheeva, Mystetstvo rivnovahy:
Maksym Rylskyi na tli epokhy (Kyiv: Knyha, 2012), 261-85; Shapoval, Poliuvannia na Val’dshnepa.
53. DAKhO, f.P1401, op.1, spr.33, ark.93. See also Sosnovy, Housing Problem, 47.
54. Living conditions in Kharkiv were similar to those of Magnitogorsk described by Stephen
Kotkin in “Shelter and Subjectivity in the Stalin period: a case study of Magnitogorsk,” in Russian
Housing in the Modern Age: Design and Social History, ed. William Cra Brum eld and Blair A.
Ruble (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 171–210.
55. Buchli, Archaeology of Socialism, 29.
56. Buchli, Archaeology of Socialism, 30, 79.
57. DAKhO, f.P5, op.1, spr.36, ark.90.
58. M. G. Meerovich, Kvadratnyie metry, opredeliaiushchie soznanie: Gosudarstvennaiia zhyl-
ishchnaiia politika v SSSR. 1921–1941 gg., ed. Andreas Umland (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2005); M.
G. Meerovich, Kak vlast’ narod k trudu priuchala: Zhylishche v SSSR—sredstvo upravleniia liud’mi.
1917–1941 gg., ed. Andreas Umland (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2005); and Myroslav Borysenko,
Zhytlo i pobut mis’koho naselennia Ukrainy u 20–30 rokakh XX stolittia (Kyiv: Vydavnychyi dim
“Stylos,” 2009).
59. DAKhO, f.P1401, op.1, spr.3, ark.18–19, 26, 34.
60. Iurii Smolych, Ia vybyraiu literaturu: Knyha pro sebe (Kyiv: Radians’kyi pys’mennyk, 1970),
286, 296–97.
61. Sokil, Zdaleka do blyz’koho, 84.
62. Iurii Smolych, Rozpovid’ pro nespokii tryvaie: deshcho z dvadtsiatykh, trydtsiatykh rokiv i
doteper v ukrains’komu literaturnomu pobuti (Kyiv: Radians’kyi Pys’mennyk, 1969), 2:274–75.
63. Teren’ Masenko, Roman pam’iati (Kyiv: Radians’kyi Pys’mennyk, 1970), 72–74.
64. DAKhO, f.R1777, op.2, spr.192, ark.1a, 3.  e possibility of a “special” architectural design
employed for the building’s surveillance cannot be fully dismissed. Moreover, the original idea of
the creation of living quarters for the Ukrainian intelligentsia might have been born in the Soviet
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
secret organs and transmitted to the top leaders of literary circles in Kharkiv in 1926, the year of the
project’s conception. Keeping intellectuals in one place would have facilitated their surveillance, and
precisely these intentions might have been at the root of the plan to transform Budynok Slovo into
one of the most closely-watched sites in Kharkiv in the early 1930s. On the importance of space,
place, and family ties for the GPU’s operational practices, see Tamara Vrons’ka, Upokorennia strak-
hom: Simeine zaruchnytstvo u karal’nii praktytsi Radians’koi vlady (1917-1953 rr.) (Kyiv: Tempora,
65. See P. M. Kozhanyis report at the 1st All-Union Congress on Housing Cooperation in
DAKhO, f.P1401, op.1, spr.3, ark.5.
66. DAKhO, f.R1777, op.2, spr.192, ark.25, and also TsDNTAU, f.1–24, spr.7, ark.16.
67. Sokil, Zdaleka do blyz’koho, 85.
68. DAKhO, f.R1777, op.2, spr.192, ark.27 zv.  ere were  ve sets of façade doors for each
entrance.  e high-quality doors cost 300 extra karbovantsi that the cooperative Slovo had to pay
on top of the estimated budget price. See also TsDNTAU, f.1–24, spr.7, ark.19, and the memoirs by
Sokil, Zdaleka do blyz’koho, 85.
69. Kulish, Word about the Writers’ Home, 10.
70. Sokil, Zdaleka do blyz’koho, 85.
See the blueprints of the building in TsDNTAU, f.1–24, spr.7; Sokil, Zdaleka do blyz’koho. 85.
72. Kostiuk, Zustrichi i proshchannia, 1:310.
73. Kulish, Word about the Writers’ Home, 11–12. See also DAKhO, f.R1777, op.2, spr.192,
74. Dukyna, Na dobryi spomyn, 83, 358–59.
75. Sokil, Zdaleka do blyz’koho, 172.
76. Dukyna, Na dobryi spomyn, 68, 74; Sokil, Zdaleka do blyz’koho. 84; Pasicznyk, Ever-Present
Past, 105, 111–12, 114.
77. See Meerovichs works mentioned above; Katerina Gerasimova, “ e Soviet Communal
Apartment,” in Beyond  e Limits:  e Concept of Space In Russian History And Culture, ed. Jeremy
Smith (Helsinki: Finish Historical Society, SHS, 1999), 107–30.
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78. Edward W. Said, Representations of the Intellectual (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), xviii.
In Russian, this condition can be described by the term zamaterenie.
79. Some slov’iany had more than thirteen square meters of living space per person in Budy-
nok Slovo, more than they were entitled to by law.
80. Although the writers’ salaries were moderate, the honorariums for their publications were
substantial. For instance, for his novel V Stepakh, Sava Bozhko received six-thousand karbovantsi
which was a very large sum then. See Masenko, 183.
81. Kulish, Word about the Writers’ Home, 19, and Smolych, Rozpovid’ pro nespokii, 2:86. On
self-identity and home, space and social order, see Murray Edelman, From Art to Politics: How Ar-
tistic Creations Shape Political Conceptions (Chicago:  e University of Chicago Press, 1995), 79.
82. Masenko, 93, 168.
83. See Arkadii Liubchenko, Ioho taiemnytsia (His Secret) in Mykola Khvyl’ovyi, Arabesky
Mykoly Khvyl’ovoho: opovidannia ta novely, ed. Vira Aheeva (Kyiv: Hrani, 2010), 147.
84. Buchli, Archaeology of Socialism, 59.
85. On Iurezans’kyi, see Kulish, Word about the Writers’ Home, 30; on Troianker, Kvitko, and
Fel’dman, see Myroslav Shkandrij, Jews in Ukrainian Literature: Representation and Identity (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 100–1, 104, 123–24, 133; Petrovsky-Shtern, Anti-Imperial
Choice, 86, 111–64, 121–22, 155, 179, 216; Gennady Estraikh, “ e Kharkiv Yiddish Literary World,
1920s–Mid–1930s,East European Jewish A airs 32, no. 2 (2002): 70–88.
86. Liber, Soviet Nationality Policy, 123.
87. Sokil, Zdaleka do blyz’koho, 100–3, 106, 116.
88. Iurii Shapoval, “Zhyttia ta smert’ Mykoly Khvyl’ovoho u svitli rozsekrechenykh dokumen-
tiv GPU,Z Arkhiviv VUCHK, GPU, NKVD, KGB 1/2 (30/31), Kyiv (2008): 328–29.
89. Stephen White, “Stalinism and the Graphic Arts,” in John Channon, eds., Politics, Society
and Stalinism in the USSR (London: Macmillan Press LTD, 1998), 139. On the destruction of free
literary and artistic organizations in Ukraine, see Luckyj, Literary Politics.
90. See, for instance, Khvyl’ovyi’s operational  le (papka-formuliar) in HDA SBU, spr.C–183,
which contains reports of seksoty and GPU agents about the daily activity of Mykola Khvyl’ovyi
from 1930 to May 1933 (when Khvyl’ovyi committed suicide). See also Shapoval, Poliuvannia na
Val’dshnepa, a work based on  le C183 from HDA SBU.
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
91. Vedeneev and Shevchenko, Ukrains’ki Solovky, 64.
92. Kostiuk, Zustrichi i proshchannia, 1:250, 277, 284, 369. Kyrylenko characterized his closest
friend Mykytenko as a person who would “sell his own father for a Party career.” Among slov’iany,
Mykytenko, infamous for his doubtful literary gi s, was called “o cial dramorob,” a derogatory
term for a talentless playwright. See Kulish, Word about the Writers’ Home, 40–41.
93. Marshall Sahlins, Culture in Practice: Selected Essays (New York: Zone Books, 2005), 108.
94. Sokil, Zdaleka do blyz’koho, 110; Ivan Senchenko, “Notatky pro literaturne zhyttia,” in his
Opovidannia. Povisti. Spohady (Kyiv: Naukova Dumka, 1990), 549.
95. Sokil, Zdaleka do blyz’koho, 103.
96. Iosyp Hirniak, Spomyny, ed. Bohdan Boichuk (New York: Vydavnytstvo “Suchas-
nist,’”1982), 373.
97. Pylyp Selihei and Stanislav Tsalyk, “Bez kanoniv, abo pro shcho zmovchaly biohraphy
Mykoly Bazhana,Dzerkalo tyzhnia 39 (514), November 2–8, 2004.
98. On depression and fear among the slov’iany, see Dukyna, Na dobryi spomyn, 86; Antonina
Kulish, “Spohady pro Mykolu Kulisha” in Mykola Kulish, Tvor y, ed. Hryhorii Kostiuk (New York:
Ukrains’ka Vil’na Akademiia Nauk u SShA, 1955), 420.
99. Sokil, Zdaleka do blyz’koho, 111.
100. Walter Benjamin, “ e Storyteller: Re ections on the Works of Nikolai Leskov,” in Walter
Benjamin, Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books,
1968), 101.
101. Kostiuk, Zustrichi i proshchannia, 1:336–37, 458, 460.
102. According to many memoirs, the same trend was observed in Budynok Slovo in the early
1930s. See memoirs by Sokil (Zdaleka do blyz’koho); T. Kardinalowska (Ever-Present Past, ed. Pasic-
znyk); V. Kulish (Word about the Writers’ Home); and A. Liubchenko (diary).
103. Montaigne, “Of Solitude,” in e Essays of Montaigne, trans. E. J. Trechmann (New York:
e Modern Library, Random House, Inc., 1946), 203–4.
104. Henri Lefebvre, State, Space, World: Selected Essays, ed. Neil Brenner and Stuart Elden,
trans. Gerald Moore, Neil Brenner and Stuart Elden (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,
2009), 159.
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105.  e intelligentsia, recruited by the GPU (seksoty), serves as an example of “amalgamated
aesthetics and practices that were generated and reinforced by the State in the 1930s.
106. On production of a space and a national territory, see Lefebvre, 224. For more on subjec-
tivities of those who worked for the secret police, see Alexander Weissberg, e Accused (New York:
Simon and Schuster, 1951), 410–11. (See also as Conspiracy of Silence, London: Hamish Hamilton,
Kurkul’ (kulak in Ukrainian) refers to a wealthy peasant who usually resisted collectivization.
108. Merle Fainsod, How Russia is Ruled, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
1963), 440.
109. Shkandrij and Bertelsen, “Fabricated Nationalist Plots.
110. Cristina Vatulescu, Police Aesthetics: Literature, Film, and the Secret Police in Soviet Times
(Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2010), 177–80.
111. Vatulescu, Police Aesthetics. On the barbarity of NKVD interrogators see also DAKhO,
f.R6452, op.1, spr.7641; Robert Conquest, e Great Terror: A Reassessment (New York and Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1990), 75, 87, 89, 121–27; Orlando Figes, e Whisperers: Private Life in
Stalin’s Russia (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007), 248; Ivan Maistrenko, Istoriia moho pokolin-
nia: Spohady uchasnyka revoliutsiinykh podii v Ukraini (Edmonton, Canada: Kanads’kyi Instytut
Ukrains’kykh Studii, Al’berts’kyi Universytet, 1985), 269–89; Ivan Bahrianyi, Sad Hetsymans’kyi
(Kyiv: Vydavnytstvo “Shkola,” 2008), 114, 120, 154, 160–63, 184, 190, 213–14, 402, 412, 501.
112. Vatulescu, Police Aesthetics, 177–80.
113. DAKhO, f.R 6452, op.6, spr.1118, ark.13–13 zv.
114. Boris Levytsky, e Uses of Terror:  e Soviet Secret Police 1917–1970, trans. H. A. Piehler
(New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc., 1972), 120. Andrei Vyshinskii was the Prosecutor
General and is famous for his active participation in Stalin’s show trials.
115. Maistrenko, Istoriia moho pokolinnia, 263–89.
116. AU SBUKhO, spr.010318, t.2, ark.7.  e writer Petro Svashenko told his wife, when she
visited him in the camps, “that the interrogators threatened to repress and shoot all his family,
including their children.
117. AU SBUKhO, spr.017800, t.1; Vatulescu, Police Aesthetics, 178–79.
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
118. Tatiana Tchernavin, Escape from the Soviets, trans. N. Alexander (New York: E.P. Dutton
& Co., Inc., 1934), 139–40.
119. DAKhO, f.R 6452, op.1, spr.7641 (see Fiodorov-Berkov’s deposition about beating prison-
ers). On March 8, 1940, Fiodorov-Berkov received ten years in a correctional labor camp (ITL).
He was incriminated for using his position for personal purposes and fabrication of criminal cases
against innocent Soviet citizens. See also Bahrianyi, Sad Hetsymans’kyi, 104, 120–21, 135.
120. DAKhO, f.R 6452, op.1, spr.7641, ark.120.
121. DAKhO, f.R 6452, op.1, spr.7641, ark.121.
122. DAKhO, f.R 6452, op.1, spr.7641, ark.127.
DAKhO, f.R 6452, op.1, spr.7641, ark.128. P. P. Kipenko, a cellmate, con rmed these allegations.
124. DAKhO, f.R 6452, op.1, spr.7641, ark.125–26, 132. On April 2–3, 1940, Frei was sen-
tenced to six years in the ITL; others were sentenced to the VMN (to be shot).
125. AU SBUKhO, spr.016310, ark.98–103. See also Shkandrij and Bertelsen, “Fabricated Na-
tionalist Plots.” Drushliak was arrested on June 7, 1939 as a counterrevolutionary and was sentenced
to death. However, on April 11, 1940, the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court in the USSR
changed his verdict to ten years in labor camps without disenfranchising him and his family.
126.  e knowledge about this is available to us through the testimonies of those who survived
the purges and through interrogation protocols of GPU/NKVD interrogators who were arrested
during the Great Terror as conspirators of an anti-Soviet plot in Ukrainian punitive organs.
127. On the VCHEKA’s control of the Ukrainian secret organs, see A. A. Plekhanov and A. M.
Plekhanov, eds., Vserosiiskaia chrezvychainaia komissiia SNK: (7(20) dekabria 1917–6 fevralia 1922)
(Moskva: Soiuz veteranov gosbezopasnosti, 2011); and Vadym Zolotar’ov, Sekretno-politychnyi vid-
dil DPU USRR[SPV]: Spravy ta liudy (Kharkiv: Folio, 2007).
128. Volodymyr Okipniuk, “Rozvytok orhanizatsiinoi struktury orhaniv derzhavnoi bezpeky
SRSR i Radians’koi Ukrainy u 1934–41 rr., Z arkhiviv VUChK, GPU, NKVD, KGB, no. 1/2 (30/31)
(2008): 293.
129. Okipniuk, “Rozvytok orhanizatsiinoi struktury orhaniv,” 294, 295, 297. On the SPV, see
also Zolotar’ov, SPV, 39–41.
130. Okipniuk, “Rozvytok orhanizatsiinoi struktury orhaniv,” 295, and Olga Bertelsen,
“Repressions of Zionist Political Parties in Ukraine, 1920–30s,Europe-Asia Studies, no 6 (2013):
Olga Bertelsen
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131. Shapoval, Prystaiko and Zolotar’ov, ChK, 63–78.
132. See Maistrenkos description of Kharkiv prisons in Istoriia moho pokolinnia, 263–89.
133. On Stalin’s xenophobia and reasons for distrust of political émigrés, including Poles, who
lived in the USSR, see William Chases study and a collection of archival documents in “ e Search
for ‘Hostile Elements’ and ‘Suspicious’ Foreigners,” in Enemies Within the Gates?  e Comintern and
the Stalinist Repression, 1934–1939 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001), 102–45.
134. Nataliia Titova, “’Sanatsiia’ prykordonnia USRR: poboriuvannia ‘pol’s’ko-ukrains’koho
fashyzmu’ na Podilli, 1930-ti roky, Z arkhiviv VUChK, GPU, NKVD, KGB, no. 1 (28) (2007): 228.
Kosior’s speech was delivered in the Russian language and also o cially marked the change of the
VKP(b) course of Ukrainization. Kosior called it “petliurite Ukrainization.
135. AU SBUKhO, spr.021551, t.1, ark.83–86. See also studies by Oleksandr Rubl’ov,
Zakhidnoukrains’ka intelihentsia u zahal’nonatsional’nykh politychnykh ta kul’turnykh prostesakh
(1914–1939) (Kyiv: Instytut istorii Ukrainy, NANU, 2004); and Bertelsen and Shkandrij, “Secret
Police and the Campaign.
136. Mykhailo Iashchun was an economist in Vukopromrada in the Ukrainian SSR. Previously
connected to the GPU/NKVD, Iashchun was a Bolshevik-oriented state bureaucrat, and only when
imprisoned did he reconsider his views. He was shot by DB captain Matveev on November 3, 1937,
as were many other representatives of the Ukrainian intelligentsia in Sandarmokh (Karelia). DB
(Ukrainian) or GB (Russian) refers to “derzavna bezpeka” or “gosudarstvennaia bezopasnost’ “which
stands for “state security.” See Oleksandr Rubl’ov, “Zakhidnoukrains’ka intelihentsiia u taborakh
SSSR, 1930-ti roky: Liuds’ki biohra i u konteksti ‘perekovky’,available at
JournALL/gpu/gpu_2004_22_1/9.pdf, 257.
137. Quoted in Rubl’ov, “Zakhidnoukrains’ka intelihentsiia u taborakh SSSR,” 258. On NKVD
materials about M. Iashchun in the Solovky, see Iurii Shapoval, ed., Ostannia adresa: Do 60-richchia
solovets’koi trahedii (Kyiv: Sfera, 1998), 2:170–71.
138. See studies by Rubl’ov, Cherchenko, Shapoval; Bertelsen and Shkandrij.
139. Maistrenko, Istoriia moho pokolinnia, 283.
140. Petro Mirchuk, Narys istorii OUN: 1920–1939 roky, 3rd ed. (Kyiv: Tsentr doslidzhen
vyzvol’noho rukhu, 2007), 161, 163, 167–68; on the UNTs operation conducted by the secret police,
see Serhii Bilokin’, Masovyi teror iak zasib derzhavnoho upravlinnia v SRSR (1917–1941): Dzhere-
loznavche doslidzhennia (Kyiv: Fundatsiia “Volia,” 1999), 240–41; V. Prystaiko and I. Shapoval,
Mykhailo Hrushevs’kyi i GPU-NKVD: trahichne deciatylittia 1924–1934 (Kyiv: Vydavnytstvo
“Ukraina,” 1996); and I. Shapoval and I. Verba, Mykhailo Hrushevs’kyi (Kyiv: Vydavnychyi Dim
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
Al’ternatyvy,” 2006).
141. Leites and Iashek, 1: 346.
142. Oleh Kotsariv, “Fatal’na pomylka Klyma Polishchuka,Litaksent, available at http://litak-
143. See Myroslav Shkandrij’s analysis of Polishchuk’s works in Jews in Ukrainian Literature,
144. Chervonyi Shliakh, no. 7–8, 9–10 (1927).
145. Jurij Lawrynenko, Nashi vtraty: materialy do biohra chnoho slovnyka represovanykh u
1930-ykh rokakh diiachiv v URSR (Kyiv: Tvim-Inter, 2005), 83.
146. AU SBUKhO, spr.035261, ark.2.
147. See also Borys Kostyria, “Ternysti shliakhy Klyma Polishchuka,Literaturna Ukraina,
November 6, 2011. According to the Ukrainian scholar Petro Rotach, Iurezans’kyi’s and Orlivna’s
a air began in 1927, ending the relationship between Halyna and Klym.
148. S. Iakovenkos forword in Klym Polishchuk, Vybrani tvory, ed. V. Shevchuk (Kyiv:
Smoloskyp, 2009).
149. Oleh Kotsariv, “Fatal’na pomylka Klyma Polishchuka.
150. P. T. Tron’ko et al., eds., Reabilitovani istorieiu: Kharkivs’ka oblast (Kharkiv: Oryhinal,
2008), 2:286.
151. Bilokin, Masovyi teror, 136–37. During the period from October 27 to November 4, 1937,
1111 people were shot. Leningrad NKVD captain Matveev personally shot most of them. On No-
vember 3, 1937, M. Matveev shot people in the back of their heads. When he ran out of bullets, he
crushed the heads of prisoners with a stick. He lived until 1974 and never regretted his past. He was
proud of his honorable and honest service to the state.
152. Myroslav Prokop, Ukraina i ukrains’ka polityka Moskvy: Period pidhotovy do Druhoi svito-
voi viiny, 2nd ed. (Munich: Suchasnist’, 1981), 82.
153. Bertelsen and Shkandrij, “Secret Police and the Campaign.
154. Dukyna, Na dobryi spomyn, 533–34; DAKhO, f.P20, op.3, spr.219, ark.127.
155. For details about Dniprobud, see O. O. Ihnatusha, “Mistse Zaporiz’koho industrial’noho
kompleksu v bil’shovyts’kii industrializatsii 20–30-ykh rokiv,Naukovi pratsi istorychnoho fakul’tetu
Olga Bertelsen
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Zaporiz’koho natsional’noho universytetu, no. XXX (2011): 134.
156. TsDAHOU, f.1, op.20, spr.6218., ark.147.
157. V. P. Biriukov, Zapiski ural’skogo kraeveda (Cheliabinsk: YUKI, 1964), 57–61.
158. TsDAMLiMU, f.815, op.1, spr.5a, ark.3–4 (Khvyl’ovyi’s open repenting letter). See also
HDA SBU, spr.C–183, ark.15,19; and Shapoval, Poliuvannia na Val’dshnepa, 20, 98.
159. Shkandrij, Modernists, 91, 116–17. Vap li ti a ny n is a member of VAPLITE, in which
Khvyl’ovyi was a leading  gure.
160. DVU refers to the State Publishing House of Ukraine. On Ialovyi, see Oleksandr and
Leonid Ushkalovy, eds., Arkhiv rozstrilianoho vidrodzhennia: materialy arkhivno-slidchykh sprav
pys’mennykiv 1920–30 rokiv (Kyiv: Smoloskyp, 2010), 13–14.
161. DAKhO, f.R6452, op.4, spr.1843, t.1, ark.353.
162. See a collection of archival documents in L.S. Gatagova, ed., Sovetskaia etnopolitika, 1930-
1940-e gody: Sbornik dokumentov (Moskva: Rossiskaia Akademiia Nauk, Institut Rossiiskoi istorii,
2012); studies by Zolotar’ov, SPV, 11; and Kuromiya, e Voices of the Dead.
163. Zolotar’ov, SPV, 14, 39, 42, 104, 186, 234; Shapoval, Prystaiko and Zolotar’ov, ChK, 53;
Bertelsen and Shkandrij, “Secret Police and the Campaign.
164. Literaturna hazeta, June 25, 1933, and June 18, 1933.
165. For more details on Ialovyi’s biography, see I. Shpol, Vybrani tvory, ed. O. Ushkalov (Kyiv:
“Smoloskyp,” 2007), 6–27.
166. Pasicznyk, Ever-Present Past, 160.
167. For more details on this project, see L. Masenko, ed., Ukrains’ka mova v XX storichchi:
Istoriia linhvotsydu (Kyiv: KMA, 2005).
168. DAKhO, f.R6452, op.4, spr.1843, t.1, ark.2.
169. DAKhO, f.R6452, op.4, spr.2048, ark.22.
170. HDA SBU, f.6, spr.69860fp, ark.96–98.
171. HDA SBU, f.6, spr.69860fp, ark.103.
172. HDA SBU, f.6, spr.69860fp, ark.98.
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173. Vatulescu, Police Aesthetics, 13.
174. On biographies and autobiographies in criminal  les, see Vatulescu, Police Aesthetics, 13,
39–40, 170.
175. On the political character of autobiographical expression, see Terrell Carver and Matti
Hyvä rinen, eds., Interpreting the Political: New Methodologies (New York: Routledge, 1997), 21–24;
on the implications of producing autobiography in the context of interrogation, see Nick Baron,
“Remaking Soviet Society:  e Filtration of Returnees from Nazi Germany, 1944–49,” in Warlands:
Population Resettlement and State Reconstruction in the Soviet-East European Borderlands, 1945–50,
edited by Peter Gatrell and Nick Baron (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 100–5.
176. Carver and Matti Hyvä rinen, Interpreting the Political, 18.
177. Bahrianyi, Sad Hetsymans’kyi, 106, 112.
178. DAKhO, f.R6452, op.4, spr.1843, t.1.
179. See, for instance, the slov’ianyn Mykhailo Bykovets’s criminal  le in AU SBUKhO,
spr.035463.  e NKVD began investigation on September 7, 1937 and completed it on October
20, 1937. Bykovets’ was accused of anti-Soviet activity and shot the day a er the verdict was an-
nounced. Moreover, the original 1937 case consists of only 80 pages, and the remaining pages (the
entire  le length was 139 pages) are rehabilitation materials, attached to the original criminal  le in
180.  e number of testimonies revealing Ialovyi’s anti-Soviet activity is overwhelming. All
belong to famous political and literary  gures arrested before Ialovyi. Many of these  gures came
from Western Ukraine or from abroad (they worked in Soviet embassies and polpredstva before
their arrests).
181. Compare pages in DAKhO, f.R6452, op.4, spr.1843, t.1, ark. 116, 118, 340, 342.
182.  e term Ukrainianisms refers to an unconscious use of a Russian word that was slightly
Ukrainized (modi ed) by a person whose native language was not Russian, but Ukrainian. O en
this modi ed language (in its extreme form) is called surzhyk.
183. Interestingly, even those who were never repressed were mentioned in individual and
group  les during di erent periods in the thirties. Among them were also the slov’iany Tychyna,
Smolych, Holovko, Petryts’kyi and Pervomais’kyi.
184. DAKhO, f.R6452, op.4, spr.1844, t.2, ark.1, 2, 10–13.
Olga Bertelsen
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185. Bilokin, Masovyi teror, 20.
186. DAKhO, f.R6452, op.4, spr.1844, t.2, ark.12.
187. Ivan Kovtun’s penname was Iurii Vukhnal’, Oleksii Savyts’kyi’s pennames were Iukhym
Hedz’ or Oles’ Iasnyi, and Ivan Kaliannykov’s penname was Ivan Kaliannnyk.
188. Dmytro Chub, Liudy velykoho sertsia (statti, rozvidky, spohady), (Mel’born, Avstralia: Vy-
davnytstvo “Lastivka,” 1981), 240; and Volodymyr Polishchuk, ‘Oleksii Savyts’kyi—Iukhym Hedz’—
Oles’ Iasnyi,Slovo i chas, no. 12 (1999): 42.
189. Iurii Vukhnal’, “Pohyb talant,Molodyi Bil’shovyk, no. 9 (1926): 8.
190. AU SBUKhO, spr.017800, ark.17–19.  e resolution was signed by the assistant to the
head of the 3rd sector of the 4th department of the Kharkiv regional administration of the NKVD
Zamkov, and the operatives of the 3rd sector of the 4th department, Antonov and Barakhman. Burn-
ing Vukhnal’s library evokes associations with Ray Douglas Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451(1953),
in which special  remen burn any house that contains books which are outlawed.  ose who still
read books are considered criminals.  e extermination of the slov’iany’s books continued a er
Stalin’s death. Lohvyn, a friend of the slov’ianyn and writer Hryhorii Epik, who served as a proto-
type for one of Epiks characters in his novel Persha vesna (First Spring) remembered that in 1956
in Kharkiv the NKVD came to ordinary peoples apartments, and con scated and destroyed books.
Once Lohvyn returned home from work (he had a large library with many books autographed by
slov’iany) and found several NKVD agents who in silence removed his books from the shelves,
quickly looked inside them and, without looking at Lohvyn, ripped the covers o and threw the
books on the  oor. A er their work was done, they carried the pile downstairs and burned it. Loh-
vyn lost books with Khvyl’ovyi’s, Epiks, Vyshnias and many other slov’iany’s autographs. See Iurii
Lohvyn, “Pam’iat’, ukarbovana slovom,Literaturna Ukraina, October 4, 2012.
191. AU SBUKhO, spr.017800, t.1, ark.24–25, 35–36.
192. AU SBUKhO, spr.017800, t.1, ark.54–58, 227 zv.
193. AU SBUKhO, spr.017800, t.1, ark.72–74.
194. AU SBUKhO, spr.017800, t.1, ark.99, 226–27zv, 100.
195. AU SBUKhO, spr.017800, t.2, nn.
196. AU SBUKhO, spr.017800, t.1, ark.115.
197. AU SBUKhO, spr.017800, t.1, ark.111–12. See also HDA SBU, f.6, spr.44961fp, ark.94–95.
198. AU SBUKhO, spr.017800, t.1, ark.134. See also Savyts’kyi’s November 16, 1936 interroga-
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tion protocol in HDA SBU, f.6, spr.44961fp, ark.92.
199. AU SBUKhO, spr.017800, t.1, ark.138–39.
200. HDA SBU, f.6, spr.44961fp, ark.105.
201. Polishchuk, “Oleksii Savyts’kyi,” 42.
202. AU SBUKhO, spr.014519, ark.12–61.
203. Kostiuk, Zustrichi i proshchannia, 1:280, 312, 388.
204. AU SBUKhO, spr.014519, ark.8, 19, 75–76.
205. AU SBUKhO, spr.014519, ark.125–29.
206. Mykola Nahnibyda, “Storinka poetychnoho litopysu,” in Ivan Kaliannyk, Poezii (Kyiv:
Radians’kyi pys’mennyk, 1967), 9.
207. See Serhii Borzenko’s June 17, 1957 testimony to the rehabilitation commission in AU
SBUKhO, spr.014519, ark.125zv.
208. AU SBUKhO, spr.014519, ark.4–7.
209. AU SBUKhO, spr.014519, ark.35–39.
210. AU SBUKhO, spr.014519, ark.12, 13, 21, 37, 39, 60.
211. AU SBUKhO, spr.014519, ark.9, 73.
212. AU SBUKhO, spr.017800, t.1, ark.232, 235.
213. AU SBUKhO, spr.017800, t.1, ark.236–40; AU SBUKhO, spr.014519, ark.100–2, 123. See
Stalin’s lists on the o cial website of the “Memorial,” available at
dex.htm, or in AP RF, op.24, d.409, l.214.
214. See Polishchuk, “Oleksii Savyts’kyi,” 43.
215. AU SBUKhO, spr.014519, ark.152, 155.
216. See the October 10, 1990, report by Murzin, an associate of the Kharkiv KGB in AU
SBUKhO, spr.014519, n.p.
217. Kostiuk, Zustrichi i proshchannia, 1:127; Oleh S. Ilnytzkyj, Ukrainian Futurism, 1914–
Olga Bertelsen
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1930 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), 64.
218. Ivan Dziuba, Z krynytsi lit (Kyiv: KMA, 2006), 1:211. See also Shevel’ov, Literaturoznavst-
vo, 2:311, 324; and Shkandrij, Modernists, 86, 89.
219. Dukyna, Na dobryi spomyn, 526.
220. Quoted in Ilnytzkyj, Ukrainian Futurism, 130.
221. Shkandrij, Modernists, 135.
222. Budynok Slovo served as a model for one similar project—the building “Rolit” in Kyiv
(built in 1934) which had been implemented under the supervision of the state and which was  -
nanced by the state.  ose “o cial” Ukrainian writers who had never been repressed resided in Rolit.
223. Samiilo Shchupak, “Vorozhe spotvorennia istorii literatury,Komunist, February 10, 1935.
See also Dziuba, Z krynytsi lit, 1:242, 403–4.
224. Shevel’ov, Literaturoznavstvo, 2:329, 355.
225. O. H. Musienko, ed., Z poroha smerti . . . Pys’mennyky Ukrainy—zhertvy stalins’kykh
represii (Kyiv: Radians’kyi pys’mennyk, 1991), 476–77. For more details on Vyshinskii, see Adam
Bosiacki, “Andrei Yanuarevich Vyshinsky: Paragon of the Totalitarian Conception of the Law and
Political Organization,” in Stalinist Terror in Eastern Europe: Elite Purges and Mass Repression, eds.
Kevin McDermott, and Matthew Stibbe (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010), 177–87.
Vasilii Ul’rikh was a senior judge in the Soviet Union during Stalins era. Ul’rikh served as the pre-
siding judge at many of the major show trials in 1937–1938.
226. On multiple identities of Jewish writers who resided in Budynok Slovo, such as Kulyk and
Troianker, see Petrovsky-Shtern, Anti-Imperial Choice.
227.  e eviction of writers’ families from Budynok Slovo was facilitated by a set of instruc-
tions “About evicting citizens from their residencies” within the January 13, 1924 decree, issued
by VTsIK and SNK, and updated in June 1926. See Meerovich, Kak vlast’ narod k trudu priuchala,
60–61, 104–7, and Meerovich, Kvadratnyie metry, 163–64, 168, 172, 174–75. On GPU decisions
to appropriate apartment buildings, the displacement of their residents, and the GPU cooperation
with the Kharkiv Housing Union (Gorzhylsoiuz), see DAKhO, f.P1402, op.3, spr.6, ark.1, 11, 17, 19,
21, 22.
228. Lefebvre wrote: “nature is being murdered by ‘anti-nature’—by abstraction, by signs and
images, by discourse, as also by labor and its products.” See Lefebvre, e Production of Space, trans.
Donald Nicholson-Smith (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 1991), 71.
229. Jerzy Giedroyc was a Polish journalist, activist and the editor of the journal Kultura (Par-
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The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived
is) who suggested this term as a title for the diaspora literary critic Jurij Lawrynenkos anthology of
1917–33 works by Ukrainian writers, (Paris: Instytut Literacki, 1959; repr., 5th ed., Kyiv: Smoloskyp
Publishing House, 2007).
230. HDA SBU, f.16, op.31, spr.105, ark.11–22. Not all of those arrested were repressed (sen-
tenced to various terms in labor camps or to death). Of 183,343 people arrested, 136,892 people
were repressed. By January 16, 1938, the NKVD still continued to investigate 611 “Ukrainian na-
tionalists,” as the report reads. See also Bertelsen and Shkandrij, “Secret Police and the Campaign.
231. See the text of the document in Gatagova, Sovetskaia etnopolitika, 175.
232. Marochko and Hillig, Represovani pedahohy Ukrainy, 286.
233. See Misha Perlmans story (a well-known poet in the twenties and early thirties) in Janusz
Bardach and Kathleen Gleeson, Man Is Wolf to Man: Surviving the Gulag (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1998), 342–44. Hryhorii Kostiuk also admitted that learning about the “confes-
sions” of those writers he closely knew was a traumatic experience for him, although he did not
believe these confessions were authentic. See Kostiuk, Zustrichi i proshchannia, 1:490.
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This study analyzes the foundations of unity developed by the Kharkiv multi-ethnic community of writers, and explores post-Khrushchev Kharkiv as a political space and a place of state violence aimed at combating Ukrainian nationalism and Zionism, two major targets in the 1960s-70s. Despite their various cultural and social backgrounds, the Kharkiv literati might be identified as a distinct bohemian group possessing shared aesthetic and political values that emerged as the result of de-Stalinization under Khrushchev. Archival documents, diaries, and memoirs suggest that the 1960s-70s was a period of intense covert KGB operations and “active measures” designed to disrupt a community of intellectuals and to fragment friendships, bonds, and support among Ukrainians, Russians, and Jews along ethnic lines. The history of the literati residing in Kharkiv in the 1960s-70s, their formal and informal practices and rituals, and their strategies of coping with state antisemitism, anti-Ukrainianism, terror, and waves of repression demonstrate that the immutability of ethnic barriers, often attributed to Ukrainian-Russian-Jewish encounters and systematically reinforced by the KGB, seems to be a myth and a stereotype. The writers negated them, escaping from and at the same time augmenting the politics of the place. Their spatial and social practices and habits helped them create a cohesive community grounded in shared history, shared interests in literature and dedication to it, and shared threats emanating from city politics and the KGB. They transcended ethnic boundaries constructed by the authorities, striving for unity, free from Soviet definitions.
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This study examines Soviet nationalities policies and the elimination of Ukrainian intellectuals during the Great Terror in Ukraine by exploring the individual history of the Ukrainian literary figure Mykhailo Bykovets', one of the founders of the literary association “Pluh” (Plough) and one of the initiators of the Literary Discussion that emerged in the mid-twenties. The research explores the modus operandi of a key Soviet institution, the GPU/NKVD, and its proactive methods of the de-nationalization of Ukrainian society. Bykovets’s criminal case seems to be axiomatic of the Great Terror, exhibiting common patterns of the secret organs’ procedural and investigative tactics. Through an analysis of Bykovets’s archival file, and the themes and questions that were central to the investigation of Bykovets’s “crimes,” the study illuminates the persistent national vector of repression against the representatives of the Ukrainian intelligentsia during the Great Terror. Keywords: The Great Terror, Secret Police, Kharkiv, Ukrainian Intellectuals, Mykhailo Bykovets'
Having emerged, exhausted but triumphant, from the bloody and divisive Russian Civil War, V. I. Lenin and his colleagues turned to eliminating perceived ideological foes from within. In On the Ideological Front, Stuart Finkel tells the story of the 1922 expulsion from Soviet Russia of almost one hundred prominent intellectuals, including professors and journalists, philosophers and engineers, writers and agronomists. Finkel's meticulously researched and persuasively argued study sets this compelling human drama within the context of the Bolsheviks' determined efforts to impose ideological conformity, redefine the role of the intelligentsia, and establish a distinctly Soviet public sphere. The book demonstrates that the NEP period was not a time of intellectual pluralism and ideological retreat on the part of the Bolsheviks. On the contrary, from its formative years, the Soviet regime zealously policed the ideological front and laid the institutional and discursive foundations for the Stalinist state.
Le nationalisme est un sentiment directement lie a l'ideologie sovietique, qui contrairement a l'unite apparente, pronait les droits nationaux et la creation des nations toujours oppressees. La liberation nationale ne concernait pas seulement la Russie, mais bien toutes les communautes qui partageaient histoire, territoire, langue et culture. L'effort de l'A. se concentre sur la vehemence des efforts bolsheviks au nom du particularisme ethnique, qui hostiles et sans concession pour les droits individuels ont favorise les droits de groupes, qui ne coincidaient pas forcement avec les attentes du proletariat. Curieusement, le premier Etat des travailleurs et des paysans, fut aussi le premier Etat a institutionnaliser le federalisme ethnoterritorial, a classifier tous les citoyens en fonction de leurs nationalites biologiques et a prescrire officiellement des traitements preferentiels a certaines populations definies ethniquement x