Meeting of the Ukrainian Literary Club

The next meeting of the Literary club will be held at 11.00AM on May 26th at the Ukrainian Institute. The subject of discussion will be the works of Ukrainian Neoclassicists poets – Mykola Zerov, Pavlo Fylypovych, Mychailo Dray-Khmara, Oswald Burgardt (alias – Yuri Klen) and Maxim Rylsky.

Please feel free to read the poems of the Neoclassicists  (source from The Internet Library listed below) and  share your favourites at the Literary Club meeting on May 26th.

All Welcome!!

 The Ukrainian Neoclassicists

The nucleus of the group of the Ukrainian Neoclassicists of the 1920s consisted of Mykola Zerov, Maksym Rylsky, Pavlo Fylypovych, Mykhailo Drai-Khmara, and Oswald Burghardt (Yurii Klen). They never established a formal organization or program, but they shared cultural and esthetic interests. Mykhailo Mohyliansky, Viktor Petrov, and others are also included in this loose grouping. The group’s name is derived from their use of themes and images of antiquity and was given to them by their opponents in the Literary Discussion of 1925-8. The Neoclassicists were self-consciously concerned with the production of high art and disdained ‘mass art,’ didactic writing, and propagandistic work. Their opponents, in contrast, organized themselves around writers who were supported by the Communist party, and viewed literature in a primarily utilitarian fashion, that is, as a means of strengthening Soviet rule in Ukraine. In the 1930s Mykola Zerov, Pavlo Fylypovych, and Mykhailo Drai-Khmara were sent to Soviet concentration camps and perished there. Maksym Rylsky was forced to publish socialist-realist works, and Burghardt emigrated to the West, where he wrote under the pseudonym Yurii Klen. The tradition of the Neoclassicists was continued among emigre poets, most notably by M. Zerov’s brother, Mykhailo Orest.


A literary movement of the 1920s. The works of the Neoclassicists were anti-Romantic and antifolkloric. They sought universal themes and considered Ukrainian culture to be an organic part of Western European culture. The closest to what could be considered their program was set out by Mykola Zerov. ‘We should,’ he wrote, ‘assimilate the highest culture of our times, not only in its latest manifestations, but also in its original forms.’ From that commitment stemmed the demands the Neoclassicists made of a writer: (1) a comprehensive knowledge of the best works of Ukrainian literature; (2) a comprehensive knowledge of the achievements of world literature; and (3) poetic craftsmanship of the highest level. High art, in their view, could be conveyed only through clarity of thought and mastery of form. Their poetry, therefore, is characterized by balance, plasticity of image, and logical ordering of subject and composition. The main purpose of literature, as they perceived it, was esthetic.


Zerov, Mykola, b 26 April 1890 in Zinkiv, Poltava gubernia, d 3 November 1937 in the Solovets Islands. Poet, translator, and literary historian. He studied philology at Kiev University. He was a professor of Ukrainian literature at the Kiev Architectural Institute (1918–20), the Kiev Co-operative Tekhnikum (1923-5), and the Kiev Institute of People’s Education (1923–35). Zerov’s literary activity, both as a poet and as a translator, was in complete harmony with his ideals and theoretical postulates. An avowed classicist and Parnassian, he became the leader of the Neoclassicists. He concentrated on the sonnet and Alexandrine verse and produced excellent examples of both forms. He translated numerous works of Latin poetry. He wrote literary criticism on contemporary Soviet Ukrainian literary works, articles on literary translation, and introductions to editions of Ukrainian classics. He was arrested in April 1935 and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in the Solovets Islands. On 9 October 1937 he was resentenced, to death by firing squad.


Drai-Khmara, Mykhailo, b 10 October 1889 in Mali Kanivtsi, Poltava gubernia, d 19 January 1939, Kolyma region, Siberia. Poet, linguist, literary scholar, translator. Drai-Khmara studied at the Galagan College (1906–10), Kiev University (1910–15), and Petrograd University (1915–17). He became a specialist in Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Serbian literatures and the history of the Serbian and Belarusian languages. He was professor of Ukrainian studies at Kamianets-Podilskyi Ukrainian State University (1918–21) and at the Kiev Medical Institute (1923-9). He began writing poetry in 1910, and in the 1920s was a member of the Neoclassicists. His early poetry was lyrical, emotive, and essentially symbolist. His later poetry combined symbolist elements with an increasing attention to form, language, and imagery reminiscent of Kievan neoclassicism. He was first arrested in February 1933. Rearrested in September 1935, he was sentenced for ‘counterrevolutionary terrorism’ in March 1936 and perished in a Kolyma labor camp.


Fylypovych, Pavlo, b 1 September 1891 in the village of Kaitanivka, Kiev Governorate, d 3 November 1937. Poet and literary scholar. Fylypovych studied at Galagan College and at Kiev University (1910-5), where he later was a professor (1917–35). His first poems were published in Russian journals beginning in 1910. After the Revolution of 1917 Fylypovych switched to writing poetry in Ukrainian. In the 1920s he became a member of the Neoclassicists and published two collections of poetry. Fylypovych was an associate member of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and secretary of its Historical-Literary Society. He made a major contribution to the comparative study of Ukrainian literature, particularly to the study of Taras Shevchenko and Ukrainian romanticism. Fylypovych was arrested in August 1935 during the Stalinist terror, presumably for his critical attitude to official Soviet cultural policies, and sentenced to 10 years in concentration camps. He died in a camp in the Ukhta-Pechorsk region of Siberia.

 Maksym Rylsky 

Rylsky, Maksym, b 19 March 1895 in Kiev, d 24 July 1964 in Kiev. Poet, translator, and community activist. He studied at Kiev University, initially in the medical faculty and later in the historical-philological faculty. Rylsky started to write early in life (he published his first poem in 1907), and by 1910 he had published his first youthful collection. His poetic talents reached full bloom with the publication of several poetry collections in the 1920s. Rylsky’s lyric poetry grew out of the best achievements of Ukrainian poetry at his time, and out of his broad knowledge of world poetry, French writers in particular. He often used motifs and images from ancient mythology and adhered to classical forms, which practices linked him to the group of Neoclassicists. In many other respects, however, his philosophical and contemplative lyric poetry did not fit the narrow definition of Neoclassicism. Rylsky’s apolitical poetry provoked fierce attacks from official critics. He was arrested in 1931, but then proclaimed his acceptance of the official Soviet view of reality.

 Yurii Klen

Klen, Yurii (pseud of Oswald Burghardt), b 4 October 1891 in Serbynivtsi, Podilia gubernia, d 30 October 1947 in Augsburg, Germany. Writer, poet, literary scholar, and translator. After graduating from Kiev University, he published in Russian a study on the latest analyses of poetic style (1915). Because he was the son of German colonists, he was exiled during the First World War to the Arkhangelsk region of northern Russia. Returning to Ukraine after the Revolution of 1917, he worked as a teacher in Baryshivka. There he renewed his friendship with the scholar and poet Mykola Zerov and began writing poetry in Ukrainian. Klen became one of the unofficial five-member group called the Neoclassicists. Although his poems began to appear in the periodical press beginning in 1924, his major contributions were his translations of German, French, and English poetry. In 1931 Klen managed to emigrate to Germany and taught Slavic literatures at the universities of Munster, Innsbruck, and Prague.

Наступне засідання нашого Читацького клубу відбудеться 26-го травня. Предметом обговорення стане творчість українських поетів-неокласиків – Миколи Зерова, Павла Филиповича, Михайла Драй-Хмари, Освальда Бургардта (псевдонім – Юрій Клен) та Максима Рильського.

Пропонуємо, щоби кожен учасник зустрічі ознайомився із поезіями неокласиків

(джерела з інтернетівської бібліотеки УкрЦентру подані нижче) та запропонував іншим присутнім кілька найулюбленіших.