Autonomy Lost and Regained: The Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolia of Kyiv, 1633-2019

Ukrainian translation of the Gospels (Moscow, 1913)

At first glance, the very existence of this book seems implausible, given that essentially all Ukrainian-language publications had been banned in the Russian Empire since 1876. But yet, it does exist, and represents one of the first glimmers of Ukrainianization in the Russian Empire.

The title page reads (in Ukrainian): "The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to John, in the Ukrainian language. Moscow. Synodal Printing House. 1913"
The colophon (left-hand page) reads (in Russian): "With the blessing of the Most Holy Governing Synod."
Although the book does not identify the translator, the text follows the 1861 translation by Pylyp Morachevs'kyi (1806-1879), at the time a virtually unknown retired secondary school inspector.

Interestingly, it was this very translation that in all likelihood led to the issuance of the 1863 Valuev Circular, which ordered Russian Imperial censors to disallow the printing of any religious or educational material in Ukrainian, and went as far as to insist that the Ukrainian language "never existed, does not exist, and cannot ever exist". The fear was that such publications, like this translation of the Gospels, would stoke "separatist" or anti-tsarist sentiment among Ukrainians.

The publication of literary fiction in Ukrainian was still allowed, but this loophole was closed by the Ems Ukaz issued by Tsar Alexander II thirteen years later. With these two edicts, the colonial status of Ukraine within the Russian Empire was fully solidified.

Only after the Revolution of 1905 were these bans lifted, and Morachevs'kyi's translation was first published with the approval of the Most Holy Synod in 1906 in an edition of 5,000, which sold out almost instantly. This copy is an example of the second 1913 printing.

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