Many readers of Welcome to Ukraine Magazine have written to the editor to express their thanks for the publication in recent WU issues of an interesting interview with Professor Bryukhovetsky, President of the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy (NUKMA), and of a lecture given at NUKMA by Lina Kostenko, one of the most prominent cultural figures of Ukraine, on controversial issues of Ukrainian culture. The Kyiv Mohyla Academy once was a highly prestigious educational establishment of higher learning, then it was closed down. It was only in the early nineties of the twentieth century that, thanks to the efforts of a group of enthusiastic educators and cultural figures, it was revived. In response to the interest expressed by WU readers in learning more about NUKMA, we publish an article by Oles Ilchenko, a writer and a journalist, about the most important events in the NUKMA history.


Petro Mohyla (1594 - 1647).

As far as I am concerned, 15th-17th centuries are the most interesting period in the history of Ukrainian culture. It was the time of transition from the “heroic feudal” phase in Old Ukrainian culture, the culture of Kyivan Rus — Ukraine, to the culture of Renaissance, Baroque and of the New Age in Ukraine, marked by emergence of new nobility and Cossacks. Changes in society are brought about by people who aspire for things new and have the drive to bring them about. In the 15th-17th centuries, Ukrainians in their majority were ready to accept new ideas in politics, culture and science. The Ukrainian nation was ready to be integrated into the European cultural space. Ukrainian students went to study at leading European universities and their names can be found in university registries starting from the late 14th century (Ukrainians were usually referred to as “Ruthenians” or “Roksolanians”). At least 800 Ukrainian students are known to have been enrolled in European universities in the 15th-16th centuries.
Here is a couple of quotations from the Sorbonne University registers: “Master Petro Kordovan and his friends from Ruthenia [Ukraine], admitted in the year 1353”; “Herman Vilevych of the Ruthenian nation, registered in the year 1397.” Quite a few of the Ukrainians, who studied abroad, later became prominent educators, poets, and painters. Yuriy Drohobych, for example, was awarded a Ph.D. degree by the Bologna University in philosophy and medicine. In the years 1478 - 1482, he delivered lectures on mathematics at the Bologna University and was, at the same time, head of the department of medicine. Lukash from Nove Misto was a MS at the Krakow University; Pavlo Rusyn from Krosno taught at the same university the course of Roman literature. Rusyn wrote his own poetry and headed a group of humanists, and his writings exercised a considerable influence upon the development of the Polish Renaissance poetry of that time. 13 Ukrainian professors are known to have taught at the Krakow University in the 16th century. Stanislav Orikhovsky from Peremyshl was known in Italy and Poland as a writer and orator. Meanwhile, it was becoming ever more apparent that Ukraine should have its own schools of higher learning. Prince Vasyl Ostrozky, a promoter of education, was the first one to found a higher educational establishment. In 1578, he opened an “academy” in the town of Ostroh.
Bohoyavlenska Church in the
Kyiv Bratsky Monastery where the Academy was founded.
Herasym Smotrytsky, a writer and pedagogue, became the Ostroh Academy’s first president. Prince Ostrozky managed to bring to his school good teachers from Ukraine and from abroad. In 1586, in the city of Lviv, there sprang up a “brotherhood,” an organization that united Ukrainian culture enthusiasts, who established a school of higher learning to promote Ukrainian education. These “brotherhoods” mushroomed all over Ukraine and they made it a point to establish schools in which the level of education was considerably higher than that at other schools. The establishment of a printing house in the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra Monastery and emergence in Kyiv of a “brotherhood” that set up its own school in 1615 was a turning point in the development of education in Ukraine and in the whole of Eastern Europe.

Seal of the Kyiv
Mohyla Academy.

Coat of Arms of Kyiv,
18th century.

Magistrate’s Seal, 17th century, with Kyiv’s
old Coat of Arms.
Halshka (Yelyzaveta) Hulevychivna, a well-educated Ukrainian noblewoman and patron of education, gave a plot of land in her possession through hereditary right (it was situated in the section of town called Podil) to the Kyiv Brotherhood as a gift, putting forward a condition that “a school be built there to educate children of the nobility and of the petty bourgeois,” as well as a monastery and a hostel for pilgrims.
In 1620, Petro Konashevych-Sahaydachny, Hetman of the Zaporizhian Cossacks and an influential politician and military commander, joined the Kyiv Brotherhood in Podil “together with all his troops.” It immediately heightened the prestige of the Brotherhood and provided a considerable political backing. Metropolitan Petro Mohyla, an energetic promoter of Ukrainian culture, had the Lavra School established at the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra Monastery in 1631, and the Kyiv Brotherhood School in Podil merged with the Lavra school in 1632. The new educational establishment was called “Collegium” and after Mohyla’s death it was renamed “the Kyiv Mohyla Collegium.” In 1701, it was officially called “Kyiv Mohyla Academy.” It was the first university in Eastern Europe. The Academy admitted Orthodox Christian students from Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Greece, Moldova, Voloshchyna. There were some Christian students other than Orthodox studying at the Academy, one of them even from the far-away Scotland. The Academy is mentioned in writings of contemporary foreigners who visited Kyiv in the 17th and 18th centuries. The French engineer and cartographer Guillaume Levasser de Boplan who visited Kyiv in the 1630s, wrote that “...in Podil, there is a university, or, as it is locally called, ‘academy’, functioning at the Bratska (Brotherhood) Church.” Another Frenchman, Jeanne-Benois Cheraire, in his book The Annals of Malorossia (Ukraine), or a History of the Zaporizhian Cossacks, published in Paris in 1788, wrote: “There is an institution here, called ‘academy,’ it is what we would call a university.

Engravings showing scenes from the life of the Academy in the 17th-18th centuries.
Kyiv University was the only one in Velykorossia (Russia) and in Malorossia up to the times of Peter the Great. It was founded a long time ago; classes have always been attended well. The number of students is about four thousand, or maybe more. Among other subjects, they teach here philosophy and theology. ” It should be mentioned here that “among other subjects” taught at the Academy were Latin, Greek, Hebrew, new European languages, theory of poetry and drama, history, mathematics, music and drawing. The course of philosophy included ancient and modern philosophy. All of these subjects were taught at a very high level. Textbooks, written by professors of the Kyiv Mohyla Academy, were used by students both of the Academy and of other educational establishments in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, for several decades.

Professor conducting a class. Engraving, 1760.
A list of famous graduates of the Academy is a long one indeed: Hryhoriy Skovoroda, philosopher and writer; M. Dovhalevsky, H. Konysky, M. Kozachynsky, I. Nekrashevych, writers, to mention but a few. A theatre functioned at the Academy; plays performed there were written by teachers and professors, among them Feofan Prokopovych, president of the Academy and one of the first Ukrainian playwrights. Soon enough after its establishment the Academy theatre began staging plays not only on the premises of the Academy but elsewhere in Kyiv. Students were the principle actors. A number of the Academy graduates, among them D. Tuptalo, Ye. Slavynetsky, S. Polotsky, F. Leshchynsky, H. Konysky, M. Kozachynsky and others, promoted theatrical performances in the countries they travelled to and worked in, mostly Russia, Belarus, Serbia. For Russia, the Kyiv Mohyla Academy provided access to European culture. A great number of the Academy graduates were invited to come to Russia to work in the spheres of education, science and religion. No wonder, Feofan Prokopovych, who after moving to St Petersburg became the head of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church, and Professor Stefan Yavorsky who after moving to Moscow became there vice-president of the Slavo-Greco-Latin Academy, assisted Peter the Great in carrying out educational and church reforms.
It will not be an exaggeration to say that all the Ukrainian elite was educated in the Kyiv Mohyla Academy in the 17th-18th centuries. Nestor Ambodyk-Maksymovych, a graduate of the Academy (born in 1774) was a Ukrainian scientist of encyclopaedic learning. He was one of the founders of Ukrainian obstetrics, botany and phytotherapy. Martyn Terekhovsky (1740-1796) refuted some of the French naturalist G.-L. Buffon’s theories concerning the nature of life on earth. His experiments brought him close to the discovery of bacteria. Louis Pasteur conducted similar experiments in France at a later date (it was after him that a way of “pasteur-izing” food products was named). Danylo Samoylovych (1742-1805) discovered that man was the carrier of bacilli and suggested a way to provide immunization against plague.
Manual for singers, 1700, from the Academy’s library.
He was an honorary member of twenty-five (!) foreign academies. P. Shumlyansky, another graduate of the Kyiv Mohyla Academy, in later life became professor and dean of the Department of Medicine of the Kharkiv University. His research led him to the discovery of certain structures in the nephron, a single excretory unit of the vertebrate kidney, which were named after him. The Kyiv Mohyla Academy was famous for turning out not only outstanding philosophers, scholars and scientists, but painters and graphic artists as well.

Building of the Academy; an 18th century engraving.
Engravers Ivan Shchyrsky, Danylo Halyakhovsky, Hryhoriy Levytsky, Leontiy Tarasevych made a worthy contribution to the development of the art of engraving in Ukraine and in Europe. Among the students and graduates of the Kyiv Mohyla Academy one can also find many would-be composers, some of whom attained wide fame. Maksym Berezovsky, a member of many academies, including the one in Bologna where he continued his studies, was one of the leading composers of the 18th century, and Artemiy Vedel made his name as a composer, director and singer.

Most of the choirs at the Imperial court in St Petersburg were made up of Ukrainians. Foreign travellers to Ukraine in the 17th-18th centuries could not help noticing a high level of musical culture in Ukraine, vocal and choral singing in particular. In 1677, Mykola Dyletsky, a composer from Kyiv, had a music reference book published (Hramatyka Musikiyska — “Grammar of Music”), and for many years to come, it was the only reference book of its kind in Eastern Europe, giving information on music in general, and on counterpoint and composing in particular. The Russian Imperial power (and the Bolshevik power in the twentieth century) conducted a policy of suppressing Ukrainian culture by banning Ukrainian language and book publishing in Ukrainian, by political and cultural assimilation. In the 18th century, gradually, all the liberties and freedoms were taken away from the Cossacks and the complete loss of Ukrainian autonomy resulted in the further suppression of all Ukrainian cultural institutions. The closure of the Kyiv Mohyla Academy in 1817 completed the process. Russinized universities were set up instead. In 1819, a religious school was opened on the premises of the former Kyiv Mohyla Academy. In the Soviet times, the religious school gave way to a navy political school. Only after Ukraine gained independence, it became possible to resurrect the Kyiv Mohyla Academy as a national university. A group of enthusiasts of Ukrainian culture and education, headed by Professor Bryukhovetsky, managed to do what seemed impossible — they gave new life to the once famous educational establishment. The National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy today, a successor of the Kyiv Mohyla Academy of the former times, has succeeded in reviving the spirit of the old Academy, and follows the general line of academic policies set forth in the Academic Instructions published in 1734: “Any free person of the Orthodox Christian faith, regardless of his or her social status, material condition, or place of birth, shall be enrolled by the Academy, provided he has abilities for studies.”

By Oles Ilchenko