Taras Shevchenko: What he was? What he is? And what he will be?

Author : 112.UA 112.UA

Source : 112 Ukraine

He wrote poems and verse, painted pictures and loved Ukraine. Today Ukraine marks the 204th anniversary of Taras Shevchenko's birth
22:30, 9 March 2018

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It’s been 204 years since the Great Kobzar was born. On March 9, Ukrainian society marks the anniversary of Taras Shevchenko the prominent poet and painter of the 19th century. 

The person of Taras Shevchenko has been examined, reinterpreted and re-estimated .many times since then by different biographers and historians.

His historic portrait repeatedly acquired new data, usually controversial (though Shevchenko himself was a contradictory personality), and his literature portrait was expanded with new masterpieces.

Years after, Taras Shevchenko with his legacy is an integral part of modern Ukrainian society. Many of his quotations have become traditional ones, his poems are being read over and over again, people go on looking for new hidden and direct senses in them.

That’s why today in 2018 it’s hard to say aloud that Taras Shevchenko died. He is alive. The Kobzar and his words are a part of a present-day Ukraine.

In this article, we are attempting to gather at least a part of the facts about this person in order to answer three key questions, in our opinion: What Shevchenko was? What Shevchenko is? And what will Shevchenko be?


What Shevchenko was?

Taras Shevchenko was born in a village of Moryntsi (Cherkassy region, central Ukraine now, Kyiv Governorate of the Russian Empire back then) in a multiple children family of Hryhoriy Ivanovych Shevchenko, a household servant with a Russian aristocrat lord Pavel Engelhardt.

When speaking of the son, his father said: “He may become either a prominent person or a real bone-idle fellow”.

Taras become an orphan in his early years. His mother died when he was 9 y.o., father died when Taras was 12.

He served as a houseboy of a clerk teacher, where he became literate, then served to the clerk house painters (this when he mastered drawing skills) at the nearby villages, tended sheep, worked as a cattle driver. He had a gift and passion for painting, which he would pursue during his leisure time.

When Taras Shevchenko turned 16, he became a domestic servant to Pavel Engelgardt. Engelgardt noticed his propensity to drawing and sent him to study painting to Jan Rustem, a professor at the University of Vilna, for 6 months. Later Taras moved to Saint Petersburg together with Pavel Engelgardt and his people. There he learnt painting from the painter Vasily Shiryaev.

In the result, Taras got acquainted with many people Petersburg’s beau-monde. And this very “beau-monde” decided to buy him out of the serfhood and to manumit him.

The painter Karl Bryullov made a portrait of Russian poet Vasily Zhukovsky, which was sold for 2500 rubles. The whole sum was spent to pay the bail.

Taras Shevchenko was set free on April 22, 1838. He entered the Imperial Academy of Arts the same year.

In 1840 Shevchenko’s first poetry collection Kobzar was published in St. Petersburg.

His biggest poem “Haydamaky” was published in 1842.

In early 1840-s another big poems were published: “Kateryna”, “Naymychka” (literally – maidservant), “Caucasus”, etc. “Zapovit” (translated as “testament") was published in 1845.


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Shevchenko moved to Kyiv in 1846 where he gained contact with Nikolay Kostomarov, a historian and a publicist, and gets acquainted with the members of the Brotherhood of Saints Cyril and Methodius, who were later arrested and charged with creating a political organization.

Investigators failed to prove Shevchenko’s involvement into the activity of the brotherhood, however, he was found guilty of “personal separate actions”.

At the end of 1847, a 33-year-old Shevchenko was sent for military service in Orenburg region,

He was released due to persistent soliciting of Taras’s affluential friends and came back to Saint Petersburg in 1857, hosted by the family of the Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy.

Taras Hryhotovych was keen on poetry and arts, he tried to set up his ownn family, but never succeeded in this.

He died of dropsy in St.Petersburg in 1861. Shevchenko was re-buried on May 8 on the Chernecha hora (Monk's Hill; today Taras Hill) near the Dnipro River and Kaniv, Cherkassy region, central Ukraine.


What Shevchenko is?

Shevchenko’s words, quotations, masterpieces are a part of today’s Ukraine. Artist keep modernizing his portraits, scientists and literary artists as well as students of all ages go on studying his legacy.

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Shevchenko’s portraits can be met on the streets and inside people’s homes.

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“The Kobzar” is a set piece of many libraries both in Ukraine and abroad.

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Shevchenko’s paintings and engravings are the less recognizable part of his legacy, but still very popular.

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The many-sided legacy of the Great Kobzar is still interesting to explore, even 204 years after.

What will Shevchenko be?

He will remain as it is. A modern Kobzar from the past, who will continue to provoke discussions, disputes and just attract attention by his works, his life and impact on the life of Ukrainian nation. Even several hundred years to come.

Interesting facts

  1. Taras Shevchenko left his trace in the space. In 1973-1975 an unmanned station Mariner 10 took photos of the Mercury from a close distance for the first time. On the planet there appeared to be craters of different sizes.
  2. They were named after artists, musicians, writers and poets. One of the 300 craters of Mercury got the name of Taras Shevchenko. The diameter of the Shevchenko crater is 137 kilometers.
  3. 3. Everyone knows the most popular image of Kabzar among the painters. But historians assure that while living in Saint Petersburg, Shevchenko was a fashionable man and wore somewhat different clothes.
  4. Taras Shevchenko liked to drink alcohol. At least, his contemporaries said so. For example, Nikolay Kostomarov. He was the one who told about a favourite drink of the poet: tea with rum:
  5. "I never saw him drunk, but only noticed that when he was served tea, he poured in so much rum, that any other, it seemed, would not be able to stand straight".
  6. After his death, Taras Shevchenko was buried in Saint Petersburg. And only several months later he was re-buried on Chernecha Hora (or Taras Hill) near Kaniv.
  7. Many poems of Shevchenko became songs. You remember singing "Reve Ta Stohne Dnip Shypokij" (Mighty Dnieper roars and bellows), right?


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