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Dukhnovych, Aleksander

Dukhnovych, Aleksander (b. April 24, 1803, Topol’a [Hungarian Kingdom], Slovakia; d. March 29, 1865, Presov [Hungarian Kingdom], Slovakia) — priest, belletrist, historian, ethnographer, publicist, and publisher in the Presov Region and Subcarpathian Rus’. Known as the “national awakener of the Carpatho-Rusyn people,” Dukhnovych was born into a family of priests; he was educated at the gymnasium in Uzhhorod (1813-1821), the academy in Kosice (1821-1823), and the Theological Seminary in Uzhhorod (1824-1827). After ordination as a Greek Catholic priest (1827) he was assigned to work in the chancery office of the *Greek Catholic Eparchy of Presov. But his conduct clashed with the conservative views of Bishop Hryhorii *Tarkovych, who in 1833 sent him to serve as a parish priest in the remote *Presov Region Rusyn villages of Chmel’ova/Komlosa and Beloveza. In 1838 he was transferred to the *Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo and worked for the next five years in the eparchial administration in Uzhhorod. After the death of Bishop Tarkovych Dukhnovych’s relationship with the Eparchy of Presov improved and in 1843 he was appointed eparchial *canon; the following year he returned to the city of Presov, with which he was to remain closely associated for the rest of his life. There he was to become the central figure in the Rusyn national awakening (see also Literature).

During his younger years Dukhnovych’s poetic works, whether odes or intimate lyrical verse, were written in Hungarian and characterized by a sentimentalism influenced by Hungarian Romanticism. His later literary works were determined more by practical than aesthetic concerns. Because these writings were basically intended to enlighten and educate the population at large, they have value only in the context of the Rusyn national awakening. Of particular importance in this regard is a series of school texts written in Rusyn (Knyzhytsia chytalnaia dlia nachynaiushchykh, 1847—repr. 1850, 1852, 1967; Kratkyi zemlepys dlia molodykh Rusynov, 1851—repr. 1967), a russified grammar (Sokrashchennaia grammatika pis’mennago russkago iazyka, 1853; repr. 1967), a pedagogical guide for teachers (Narodnaia pedagogiia v pol’zu uchilishch i uchitelei sel’skikh, 1857; repr. 1967), and several Rusyn-language prayerbooks and liturgical texts Liturgycheskii katekhyzys, 1851, 1854; Molytvennyk dlia russkykh ditei, 1854), including the most popular of all: Khlib dushy yly nabozhnyia molytvy y pisny dlia vostochnyia tserkvy pravoslavnykh-khristiian (1851; 8th ed., 1877; expanded editions, 1922, 1926).

In 1850 Dukhnovych established the first Rusyn cultural association, the *Presov Literary Society, which published a series of books, including the first Rusyn literary *anthologies, issued annually and entitled *Pozdravlenie Rusynov. The anthology for 1851 included his poem “Vruchanie,” whose opening lines, “I Was, Am, and Will Remain a Rusyn/ Ia Rusyn byl, esm’ i budu,” were to become the national credo of all Rusyns. Dukhnovych is also traditionally credited with having written the text which later became the Rusyn national *anthem, “Subcarpathian Rusyns, Arise From Your Deep Slumber,” although recent scholarship suggests he was not its real author. Among his scholarly works were a history of the Eparchy of Presov, originally written in Latin and published posthumously in Russian (Istoriia Priashevskoi eparkhii, 1877; repr. 1967) and in English (The History of the Eparchy of Prjasev, 1971), and a general history of Carpatho-Rusyns, completed in 1853 and published posthumously in the Russian original, Istinnaia istoriia Karpato-Rossov ili Ugorskikh Rusinov (1914; repr. 1967) and in a Vojvodinian Rusyn translation (1981).

Dukhnovych considered that his main task was to enlighten or raise the educational and cultural standards of the Rusyn people, which first required the codification of a literary language. He did not, however, opt to create a literary language on the basis of the most widespread spoken dialects, as his contemporary friends and colleagues, the Slovak national awakeners, had done for their language. Instead, Dukhnovych accepted the principle of two styles. He used the “low style,” or Rusyn vernacular, for works intended for mass consumption, including school texts, patriotic poetry, and plays like the very popular Dobroditel’ prevyshaet’ bohatstvo (Virtue is more Important than Riches, 1850, 1921, 1923; English translation 1994). For scholarly and other more “serious” texts he used the “high style,” that is, the Slaveno-Rusyn language. This was an amalgam of Russian, *Church-Slavonic, and Rusyn, which his later disciples called the “traditional Carpatho-Russian language” but critics derided as the *iazychiie (macaronic jargon). Dukhnovych categorically rejected the language used by the *Ukrainophiles and the idea that Ukrainians form a distinct nationality. While he did maintain contacts with brethren “beyond the mountains who were not foreign to him,” those contacts were exclusively with *Old Ruthenian and *Russophile activists (Bohdan Didyts’kyi, Iakiv *Holovats’kyi) and with cultural organizations in L’viv, such as the Rus’ National Center/Narodnyi Dom, the Stauropegial Institute, and the Galician-Rus’ Cultural Foundation/Matitsia, all of which rejected the view that Ukrainians formed a distinct nationality. Dukhnovych also maintained close contacts and learned from the experience of Slovak national awakeners (Jonas *Zaborsky, Jan Andrascik, Jan Francisci-Rimavsky, Andrej Radlinsky, Viliam Pauliny-Toth) and Russian scholars (Izmail *Sreznevskii, Mikhail *Raevskii).

Responding to the political crisis in the Habsburg Empire and the increase in magyarization during the late 1850s and early 1860s, Dukhnovych, together with the political activist Adol’f *Dobrians’kyi, attempted to consolidate Rusyn national forces by creating new cultural organizations, such as the *St. John the Baptist Society in Presov (1862) and the *St. Basil the Great Society in Uzhhorod (1866). Their efforts met with only limited success, however, because the traditional Rusyn *patriarchal society, whose educated elite, for the most part Greek Catholic clerics, were becoming increasingly favorably inclined toward the Hungarian state and the idea of belonging to a single Hungarian political nation.

Some of Dukhnovych’s correspondence with Galician Russophiles has been published by Mykhailo *Demko (1927); his autobiography first appeared in 1928. In recent years many of his other writings have been republished in general anthologies as well as in volumes devoted specifically to him; the most important among the latter is the planned four-volume Tvory (Works) edited by Mykhailo *Rychalka and Olena *Rudlovchak, of which three volumes have already appeared (1967-89).

Soon after his death Dukhnovych was considered by an albeit gradually decreasing number of national patriots as the “father” and national symbol of the Rusyn people. During these same pre-World War I decades scholars in the Russian Empire (Konstantin *Kustodiev, Fedor *Aristov) saw Dukhnovych as the preserver of a “Russian identity” in what they described as the so-called Rus’ Abroad (Zagranichnaia Rus’).

After World War I and during the “second” Rusyn national renaissance, which took place under Czechoslovak rule, numerous books and articles were dedicated to Dukhnovych. Statues or busts were erected to him in Sevliush (1925), Khust (1932), Presov (1933), Kolochava (1930), Poliana (1993) near Svaliava, and in his native village of Topol’a (1965), and one of Subcarpathia’s leading cultural societies was named after him: the *Dukhnovych Society/Obshchestvo im. Aleksandra Dukhnovicha (1923). His name also served as a catalyst and symbol of national unity among Rusyn immigrants in North America; a statue of him was erected in Cleveland, Ohio (1939), and in the 1970s a society in Toronto, Canada was renamed in his honor, the *Duchnovich Society of Carpatho-Russian Canadians.

During the four decades of Communist rule following World War II Marxist scholars were allowed to treat Dukhnovych as an acceptable, “progressive” national awakener from the past. His career as a Greek Catholic priest went virtually unmentioned, however, as was his open rejection of the Ukrainophile movement. Instead, literary scholars in both the Soviet Union (Vasyl’ *Mykytas’, Oleksa *Myshanych) and Czechoslovakia (Iurii *Bacha, Olena Rudlovchak, Mykhailo Rychalka) transformed Dukhnovych into a “Ukrainian writer” and a “national awakener of the Transcarpathian Ukrainians.” This view continues to be espoused by Ukrainophiles in the post-Communist era.

The years since the Revolution of 1989 have also seen Dukhnovych become the primary symbol for the “third” Rusyn national revival, not only in the Presov Region and *Subcarpathian Rus’, but also for Rusyns in the *Lemko Region, Hungary, and Yugoslavia. In Presov, the professional Ukrainian National Theater was renamed the Aleksander *Dukhnovych Theater (1990); in Uzhhorod, the Dukhnovych Society (banned by the Soviet regime) was revived (1994) and a monumental statue to him was erected (1997); and an annual international Dukhnovych Prize for the best work in Rusyn literature was established by the Canadian-Rusyn philanthropist Steven Chepa (1997).

Bibliography: Oleksander Dukhnovych (1803-1865): bibliohrafichnyi pokazchyk (Uzhhorod, 1996); Fedor F. Aristov, “Aleksandr Vasil’evich Dukhnovich,” in idem, Karpato-russkie pisateli, Vol. I (Moscow, 1916; repr. Trumbull, Conn., 1977), pp. 49-61—3rd rev. ed. (Uzhhorod, 1929); Kyrylo Studyns’kyi, “Aleksander Dukhnovych i Halychyna,” Naukovyi zbornyk tovarystva “Prosvita,” III (Uzhhorod, 1924), pp. 28-94; Aleksandr V. Popov, Aleksandr Vasil’evich Dukhnovich: kritiko biograficheskii ocherk (Mukachevo, 1929); Nikolai A. Beskid, A.V. Dukhnovich i ego poeziia (Uzhhorod, 1930); Nikolai A. Beskid, Dukhnovichi (Homestead, Pa., 1934); Vasyl’ L. Mykytas’, O.V. Dukhovych (Uzhhorod, 1959); Mykhailo Rychalka, O.V. Dukhnovych: pedahoh i osvitnii diiach (Presov, 1959); Iurii Bacha, Literaturnyi rukh na Zakarpatti seredyny XIX stolittia (Bratislava and Presov, 1961); Fedir I. Naumenko, Osnovy pedahohiky O.V. Dukhnovycha (L’viv, 1964); Literaturna i pedahohichna spadshchyna O. Dukhnovycha (Uzhhorod, 1965); Mykhailo Rychalka, ed., Oleksandr Dukhnovych: zbirnyk materialiv naukovoi konferentsii prysviachenoi 100-richchiu z dnia smerti (Presov, 1965); Olena Rudlovchak, “Priashivs’ka literaturna spilka Dukhnovycha i literaturni problemy,” Duklia, XIII, 1, 2, 3, 4 (Presov, 1965), pp. 88-93, 56-68, 79-88, and 76-87; Oleksii V. Mashtaler, Pedahohichna i osvitnia diial’nist’ O.V. Dukhnovycha (Kiev, 1966); Olena Rudlovchak, “Oleksandr Dukhnovych: zhyttia i diial’nist’,” in Oleksandr Dukhnovych, Tvory, Vol. I (Bratislava and Presov, 1968), pp. 15-168; Aleksander Dukhnovich i rusinske pitanie/Studia Ruthenica, Vol. II (Novi Sad, 1990-91).

Paul Robert Magocsi

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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