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Taras Shevchenko

Encyclopedia of the life and works


Cyril and Methodius society

Cyril and Methodius society (brotherhood) – adopted in historiography name of group of progressive Ukrainian intelligentsia, which was formed in Kyiv in late 1845 or early 1846. The team included senior representatives of the Ukrainian creative youth of that time: Nicholas Gulak, Nikolai Kostomarov, Basil Belozersky, Panteleimon Kulish, Taras Shevchenko and other less known figures.

The task of group was to propagate education among the Ukrainian people by laying schools, publishing popular science and literary books, journals and proceedings of scientific research in the field of Ukrainian history, language, ethnography and folklore. The main form of group's activities was friendly meetings in private trustees, discussions by participants on their articles, talks about Ukraine and the Slavs, exchange of manuscripts. Attempts of publishing and educational activities ended on projects and conversations.

Group had not acquired any organizational forms. Statute was drafted, but it has not been implemented (in particular, because such societies were prohibited by the laws of the Russian Empire).

Ideas of group were vague and contradictory. The main contradiction shared idea of Ukraine (which later showed as constructive and progressive) and the idea of slavic federation. Slavophilism in the next 30 years fully manifest as destructive and reactionary, becoming ideological "justification" of aggressive wars of Russian empire. (Note in brackets that any Slavophile could not explain how the expansion of empire would lead to the emergence of federation, and Cyril-Methodians could not it too).

The group's activities came to joined tea-drinking, but when denunciation by student O.Petrov came to his superiors, gendarmes began a large-scale investigation. All members of the group were arrested, brought to St. Petersburg and called parties of "Ukraine-Slavic society". This "society" appeared on investigator's paper in the 3rd Division. Investigators were experience in fighting with Polish rebel movement, so they most interested, whether the brothers had intention to raise armed uprising. In response, that brothers intended only in education, investigators answered: "Oh, did not pull the wool over our eyes! We know that by spreading of education you prepared separation of Ukraine from the Russian Empire in the independent state!"

For 2.5 months (mid March – end of May 1847) gendarmes fully figured out that all the brothers' "guilt" lay in conversations and writing some articles ("manuscripts of most criminal content", as they called by investigation). Brothers judged on the basis of the conclusions of the 3rd Division personally by Czar Nicholas 1st. Instead of the expected appreciation (for the proposal to connect all Slavs to the Russian Empire) on the heads of the brothers hit heavy penalty: Shevchenko was given to the soldiers (on a common basis, ie for 25 years), and the Czar himself forbade him to write and draw (in the draft judgment this was not mentioned!). Gulak sentenced to three years in prison, Kostomarov – up to one year (you should know that the pre-trial detention not considered at that time). Eight brothers (Gulak, Kostomarov, Belozersky, Kulish, Navrotsky, Andruzky, Posjada, Markovych) were sentenced to exile with a special prohibition to return to Ukraine. The term of exile was not determined – "until the time when the gendarmes convinced of harmlessness" of exiled.

On a personal punishment of brothers case was not stopped. All the separate editions of Kostomarov, Kulish and Shevchenko were banned and withdrawn from sale (despite the fact that these works at the time were meticulously censored). It was strengthened by the police supervision over students in Ukraine, as well as purely academic studies Slavs acknowledged as undesirable.

The whole flow of repression clearly shows royal tyranny. During the investigation never mentioned the "laws", does not appear they are accusing the findings, and awarded penalty do not rely on them. The administrative unit of the empire worked well without any "laws".

Recognizing the contact group for the "society", talks – for a political offense, severely punishing members, the royal government by own hands created an "Ukrainian problem" and turned the brothers into the apostles of the new Ukraine. A ban phenomenon is recognition of the existence of the phenomenon, even more – its importance and danger.

P.Kulish and O.Navrotsky were amnestied in 1850 to mark the 25th anniversary of the reign of Nicholas 1st. Earlier in the same 1850 released from supervision O.Markovych. I.Posjada was released from exile in 1852. The fate of prominent brothers began to soften after the death of Nicholas 1st, when the new emperor Alexander 2nd was forced to liberal steps. M.Gulak and M.Kostomarov was released from exile in 1855; V.Bilozersky – in 1856. G.Andruzky in 1857 allowed to serve in Poltava but released on police supervision only in 1864.

Shevchenko was released with soldiers in July 1857, but with the prohibition to live in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Only in March 1858, these restrictions were lifted and Shevchenko could return to St. Petersburg, but the gendarmes still kept him – the last document in its investigative file turned up nearly a year after his death.

The case of "Ukraine-Slavic society" which is now the basis of our judgments, long remained inaccessible to researchers. Therefore, the views of the authors in 2 half 19 – early 20 cent. about the society relied on the fact of government repression, Kostomarov's autobiography (published in different versions in 1885 and 1890) and the political poetry of Taras Shevchenko.

While some copies were published since 1889, this case was declassified only in 1906 (as a result of the revolution in 1905) and all restrictions were lifted only in 1917. Primary program document – "Genesis of the Ukrainian people" – was published by P.Zajtsev only in 1918 in Kyiv magazine "Our past" and reprinted in Lviv in 1921 by M.Voznjak. Both publications were banned in the Soviet Union, and the first "completely legitimate" publication of this work was carried out only by P.Zayonchkovsky in 1959. In 1960 Kyiv historians prepared full publications of investigating case, but the political weather soon changed, and the work was not published. It was published only 30 years later (in 1990), during another political revolution which put an end to Soviet Union.

Thus, the stages of larger and thorough acquaintance of scientists and public in Cyril and Methodius society coincide with the stages of the revolutionary struggle of the Ukrainian people against the Russian empire – the Soviet Union.

Meaning of Cyril and Methodius case for Russia is that the Russian government found a universal key to solving any aspect of Ukrainian issue: new and new repressions. This way the Russian government can not leave up today (eg, closing of Ukrainian Library in Moscow in 2010).

For Ukraine, Cyril and Methodius society was the first episode of the struggle for independence (this goal is poorly regarded by the brothers, but well formulated by gendarmes). Despite all the deficiencies noted above Cyril and Methodius case for a long time – until the boundary of 19 – 20 cent. – was flag of Ukrainian competition.

M. Zh., October 24, 2012


Voznjak M. . – Lviv: 1921. – 240 p.

Zayonchkovsky P.A. Cyril and Methodius society (1846 – 1847). – Moskow: 1959.

Sergienko G. Ja. Shevchenko and Cyril-Methodius society. – Kyiv: 1983.

Saltovsky O. Concept of Ukrainian statehood in the history of national political thought (from the origins to the early XX century). – Kyiv: 2002 – section "'

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