Volodymyr Antonovych

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Volodymyr Antonovych
T. Meyerhoffer. Portrait of V. Antonovych, late 19th century.
T. Meyerhoffer. Portrait of V. Antonovych, late 19th century.
Born(1834-01-30)January 30, 1834
Makhnovka, Berdichev uyezd, Kiev Governorate, Russian Empire
DiedMarch 21, 1908(1908-03-21) (aged 74)
Kiev, Russian Empire
Resting placeBaikove Cemetery, Kiev
Occupationarcheologist, paleographer, historian, ethnographer, and civil activist
LanguageUkrainian, Polish, Russian
Alma materKiev University
Notable worksArchives of South-Western Russia (8 volumes)
SpouseKateryna Melnyk-Antonovych
ChildrenDmytro Antonovych

Volodymyr Antonovych

Volodymyr Antonovych (Ukrainian: Володимир Боніфатійович Антонович, tr. Volodymyr Bonifatijovych Antonovych; Polish: Włodzimierz Antonowicz; Russian: Влади́мир Бонифа́тьевич Антоно́вич, tr. Vladímir Bonifát'evich Antonóvich; 1834-1908) was a prominent Russian-Ukrainian historian, archivist and archaeologist, who was known as one of the most prominent figures of the Ukrainian national revival movement in the Russian Empire. Antonovych was a longtime Professor of Russian history at Saint Vladimir Imperial University of Kiev and a correspondent-member of the St. Petersburg Imperial Academy of Sciences. His main work was an edition of the eight-section Archives of South-Western Russia.

Early life[edit]

Antonovych was born as Włodzimierz Antonowicz on January 18, 1834 in the village of Makhnovka, in the Kiev Governorate, (now Vinnytsia Oblast, Ukraine) to a landless family of impoverished teachers descended from Polish gentry; Antonovych claimed ancestry to the princely Lubomirski family through his mother.[1] According to his contemporary Franciszek Rawita-Gawroński, Antonovych on various occasions claimed his father was either a Pole named Bolesław Antonowicz or a Hungarian wanderer named János Diday.[2][3] Viktor Korotkyi, a historian specializing in the history of Kiev University, believed the latter to be Antonovych's biological father.[4]

His mother, Monika Gurska, was a governess.[4] She married Bonifacy Antonowicz, whose surname Włodzimierz would adopt.[4] The couple lived in Makhnovka, and worked as tutors for the children of local wealthy families.

His childhood was spent with his grandmother in Makhnovka.[4] From 1840 to 1844, he was educated by his mother alongside her students.[4] In 1844, Antonowicz continued his studies in the Richelieu Lyceum, Odessa, moving to the 2nd Odessa Gymnasium in 1848.[4] In 1850, he enrolled into the Medical Academy of St. Vladimir Imperial University in Kiev at the insistence of his mother; he graduated in 1855.[4] During his studies, he joined the circles of Polish democratically-minded students and took part in the preparations for what became the January Uprising, under the auspice of the London-based Polish Democratic Society.[5][5]

From 1855 to 1856, he practiced medicine at Berdichev and Chornobyl.[4] After the death of his mother in 1856, he returned to St. Vladimir where he studied history and philology under professor Vasily Shulgin. In 1860, he defended his dissertation About the Trade of Negroes.[4]

Foundation of the Triple Society[edit]

In 1857, he co-founded[6] the Związek Trojnicki ("Triple Society"), named after the three Polish territories acquired by Russia in the 18th century: Volhynia, Podolia and the Kiev area. The society's goal was promoting the abolition of serfdom and persuading the peasants to support Polish independence, while preparing the members for their role in the planned all-national uprising.[7] Due to his involvement, Antonowicz became one of the prominent examples of the "peasant-lovers" (or "Reds"), a loose group of young artists and liberal thinkers fascinated with the peasantry as the "core of the nation".

However, when the January Uprising finally started, the Society divided.[8] Antonowicz, highly critical of the bourgeoisie and the szlachta, sided with the lower classes and left the society, instead forming a Ukrainian society called the Kiev Community (Київська громада).[9][10] The conflict between Antonowicz and his university colleagues was further aggravated by the conflict over the Polish language. While most democratic societies decided to appeal to the tsar and ask for the Polish language to be promoted to the status of language of instruction, Antonowicz ultimately opposed those plans.[3][11] This conflict further strengthened Antonowicz's pro-Ukrainian stance on one side, and the animosity between him and his colleagues on the other, to the extent that he was considered a "renegade" by some.[12]

In 1861 he changed his name to its Ukrainized form and converted to the Orthodox faith, common among the peasants living around Kiev, as opposed to the Catholicism of the higher class of local society.[3] He also married Varvara Ivanovna Mikhels, and started to teach Latin in the 1st Kiev Gymnasium.[4] During that time, Antonovych was under investigation for traveling with Tadei Rylskyi around Ukrainian villages.[4]


In July 1863, Antonovych was appointed as a chancellery official to the Governor General of the Southwestern Krai, with an official designation to the Provisional Commission for Review of Ancient Acts (now the Russian Archaeographic Commission). In April 1864, he became its chief editor and held this role until 1880.[4] During his work in the commission, Antonovych edited and published nine volumes of his "Archives of South-Western Russia", a compendium of the history of Right-bank Ukraine during the 16th-18th centuries.[4]

In 1871, he participated in the 2nd Archaeological Congress in Saint Petersburg, he also had role in preparing and conducting the 3rd (1874) and the 9th (1899) archaeological congresses in Kiev where he made 36 reports.[4] In 1880, Antonovych participated in the Archaeological Congress in Lisbon[4] (so-called the 9th International Congress of Anthropology and Prehistoric Archaeology, predecessor of IUAES).

In 1897, together with the Ukrainian nobleman Oleksandr Konysky, he established the All-Ukrainian Public Organization.[citation needed]

Personal views[edit]

Throughout his career, the imperial censors and oppressive political atmosphere prevented Antonovych from openly expressing his political views, which tended to be egalitarian and somewhat anarchistic. In addition to being a populist, he was a pioneer of positivist methodology in history, the founder of the so-called "Kiev Documentalist School" of Ukrainian historians, and mentor to Mykhailo Hrushevsky.[citation needed]


In 1870, Antonovych was awarded the Order of St. Stanislav, 2nd degree.[4] In February 1870, the Kiev University stewardship council confirmed him as a magister of Russian history for his dissertation "Last days of Cossackdom on the right bank of the Dnieper".[4] In the spring of 1870, he was elected as a staff teacher at St. Vladimir Imperial University in the Russian history department. From 1880-1883 he served as the dean of the Faculty of History and Philology.[4]

In 1871, the Imperial Senate's department of heraldry confirmed Antonovych as a Court councilor (Надворный советник, nadvorniy sovetnik) the 7th rank in the Table of Ranks, the system that regulated positions and ranks in the military, government, and court of Imperial Russia.[4]

Among Antonovych's students were Pyotr Golubovsky,[13] Dmytro Bahaliy,[14] Mykhailo Hrushevskyi, Mytrofan Dovnar-Zapolsky and Ivan Lynnychenko.[15]

Personal life[edit]

His wife was Kateryna Mykolaivna Antonovych-Melnyk (Dec. 2, 1859 – Jan. 12, 1942) who was a Ukrainian historian and archaeologist from the city of Khorol (today – Poltava Oblast). In the 1880s she participated in the archaeological excavations near Shumsk (today – Ternopil Oblast) and in 1885, she visited Ternopil during her travel around the region. Since 1919, Kateryna worked in the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

Volodymyr Antonovych is the father to former Ukrainian minister Dmytro Antonovych and the grandfather to Maryna Rudnytska, professor in the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. Maryna Rudnytska was the wife of Jaroslav Rudnyckyj, a Ukrainian-Canadian linguist.[citation needed]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Franciszek Gawroński (1912). Włodzimierz Antonowicz : zarys jego działalności społeczno-politycznej i historycznej (in Polish). Lwów: Gebethner i Ska. pp. 11–12.
  2. ^ One of Antonovych's letters supports the earlier version, while his memoirs support the latter. See: Gawroński, op.cit., pp. 14-18
  3. ^ a b c Gawroński, op.cit., p.22
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Korotkyi, V.A. Antonovych Volodymyr Bonifatiyovych (АНТОНОВИЧ Володимир Боніфатійович). Encyclopedia of History of Ukraine
  5. ^ a b Gawroński, op.cit., pp.54-56
  6. ^ Together with Leon Głowacki, Włodzimierz Milowicz, Władysław Henszel, Stefan Bobrowski and others
  7. ^ Jan Tabiś (1974). Polacy na Uniwersytecie Kijowskim, 1834-1863 (in Polish). Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Literackie. pp. 90–121.
  8. ^ Paweł Jasienica (1992). Dwie drogi: o powstaniu styczniowym (in Polish). Warsaw: Czytelnik. pp. 124, 172–177. ISBN 8307022991.
  9. ^ Initially Antonowicz's Hromada was composed mostly of Poles,[clarification needed][citation needed] much like other student societies named after various regions of former Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, as there were few Ukrainians at the university at the time; see for instance Jan Tabiś, op.cit.
  10. ^ Andrzej Walicki (January 2003). "Ideologia narodowa powstania styczniowego (2)". Przegląd (in Polish) (4/2003).
  11. ^ Franciszek Rawita-Gawroński (1902). "Włodzimierz Antonowicz". Rok 1863 na Rusi (in Polish). Lwów: H. Altenberg. pp. 143–153.
  12. ^ Franciszek Rawita-Gawroński, op.cit., p.142
  13. ^ Petr Golubovsky. [Encyclopedia of Ukraine: Volume II: G-K].
  14. ^ Bahaliy Dmytro I. (07.11.1857-09.02.1932 ). National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
  15. ^ Oleksander Ohloblyn. Antonovych, Volodymyr. Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984)

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