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"Ukrainskiy Visnyk" from underground

Vakhtang Kipiani, Kyiv
These August days of 1987 the first issue of the magazine „Ukrainskiy Visnyk“ („The Ukrainian Herald“) was the light in Lviv. This was the first uncensored edition in the republic, where „uskorenie“, „glasnost“(„acceleration“, „publicity“) and other new-fashioned perestroyka tricks were absent. And if in Moscow newspapers „Izvestiya“ and „Pravda“ („News“ and „Truth“) already appeared the fragments of news and truth, in the Ukrainian press the life was as before, as in Brezhnev’s times.

„Ukrainskiy Visnyk“ was for the history of the Ukrainian press as important and significant event as Lenin’s „Pravda“ for several generations of bolsheviks. The authorities did not permit the actually free press yet, but they were already unable to prohibit it.

The samizdatmagazine published in August 1987 was not printed on glossy paper. These 360 pages were type-written on different type-writers. The paper was different: from flimsy to Bristol board. It was typed through violet and black carbon paper, with different spaces. It was a typical samizdat. Coining of the term „samizdat“ is ascribed to a Russian dissident Vladimir Bukovskiy: „ Sam(by myself) izdat(edit), I myself censor it, distribute it, and do the term for it“.

People, who made samizdat, unlike modern editors, understood the genuine value of free word. There were no fines, no tax and prosecutor’s checks then. One had to pay with his liberty for honesty and critical views.

Thank God, in 1987 in Ukraine the authorities did not send to prison for mere words. After „Visnyk“ was published, the Lviv and Kyiv communist press were overfilled with indignant letters from „common readers“, who demanded to throw away from he country with depriving of citizenship such renegades as Viacheslav Chornovil, Mykhaylo Goryn and other authors of the magazine. The political system that ground the lives of Oleksa Tykhiy, Yuri Litvin, Valeriy Marchenko, Vasyl Stus and Ivan Svitlychny was just imitating threats.


The flyleaf of „Ukrainskiy Visnyk“ informed the reader that it was a literary and political magazine. The first issue of the „restored“ edition published in August 1987 was dedicated to the memory of Vasyl Stus. On the cover of the magazine the list of editors was printed: Ivan Gel, Mykhaylo Goryn, Pavlo Skochok, Viacheslav Chornovil (editor-in-chief). There were only first-rate contributions. Osadchiy, for example, published his essay about Ostap Vishnia, Gel – memories about V. Stus, his camp friend. „Lyrical digression from the poem „Mazepa““ by Volodymir Sosiura was published, which had not been printed before. Besides, many creative works of other authors were published, such as Evhen Sverstiuk, Atena Pashko, Oles Gonchar, Paruyr Ayrikian, Bogdan Goryn, Yuri Badzio, Yaroslav Lesiv, Ivan Sokulskiy, Mykola Rudenko, Stepan Sapeliak, Yaroslav Dashkevich.

According to the underground traditions, the run of the magazine was not indicated, but it hardly exceeded fifty copies. Very often the run was limited by the number of copies, which the typewriter could produce for one time. Nevertheless, the set of people, who new about such magazines was considerable owing to Western radio stations and publications abroad. The publishing house „Smoloskyp“ owned by Iosif Zinkevich published especially many such editions.

The program of „Ukrainskiy Visnyk“ compiled in December 1969 stated that the magazine was neither anti-Soviet not anticommunist edition, so they „did not intend to print the documents, which negate the democratically elected Soviets or anticommunist documents, that is such which do not accept the communist ideology as such“. The editors did not regard the criticism of individual persons and organs as anti-Soviet activities, but as a right and honorable duty of every citizen guaranteed by the Constitution and socialist democracy.

The first five issues of the magazine were published in 1970-71 by efforts of Viacheslav Chornovil. In January 1972 the all-Ukrainian purges initiated by the KGB tore the thread of the 60s. It seemed forever.


Chornovil managed to create such a successful magazine that there were at least three attempts to resume its edition.

The sixth issue of „Ukrainskiy Visnyk“ was published in 1972 by efforts of two friends Mykhaylo Kosiv and Yaroslav Kendzior (now they are elected to the Supreme Rada for the third term). They, with the advice of Slavko Pashko’s wife, Atena, tried to pull the leg of the crime investigators. The idea was trivial: Chornovil was indicated as editor, but staying in the preliminary prison he could not be responsible for the magazine that continued to be issued.

Kosiv wrote the preface about the latest repressions in Ukraine; all technical part of the work – printing, distributing and passing abroad – was made by Kendzior. They planned to issue the magazine in future too, but Chornovil passed a note for his wife from the prison. The note read: „Knitted socks are not needed any more, I have enough“. This meant that the investigation would son trace the publishers, and there inevitably would be new repressions.

A year later the Moscow underground „The Chronicle of Current Events“ fixed still another attempt to continue the edition of Chornovil’s „Visnyk“. „In 1973-75 the Ukrainian samizdat was replenished with the 7 th-9 thissues of „Ukrainskiy Visnyk“. These issues substantially differ from the previous ones. Its compilers did not act anonymously, but used a penname Maksim Sagaydak. The issues are not just compilations of informational messages and samizdat documents, they contain topical materials, for example, Maksim’s Sagaydak’s verses dated by December 1972-Ocotber 1973, his article about secret diplomacy and anonymous article „Ethnocide of Ukrainians in the USSR“. The latter article is a well-founded statistical investigation on physical extermination of the Ukrainian people from 1918 to 1950 and on the russification, which lasts up to now, on the suppression of the national self-consciousness and the destruction of the Ukrainian culture“.

Only several years later, at the Kyiv trial of 1980, it became known that under the penname „Maksim’s Sagaydak“ medical doctor from the Lviv oblast Stepan Khmara and his friends, Kyivan journalists Oles and Vitaliy Shevchenko (they were not relatives, but namesakes), published their creations. The editors, who issued Nos. 1-6 and Nos. 7-9, did not work jointly, they even hardly knew each other.

And, at last, the third attempt to publish „Ukrainskiy Visnyk“ (Nos. 10 and 11) was made by the members of an underground organization „Ukrainian national front“. Mykola Kraynik, one of the heads of this organization, was condemned for samizdat in August 1980.


After the August putsch of 1991 was suppressed, former KGB officers began to come to Viacheslav Chornovil, the head of Lviv oblast council, offering their services: they assured that the new power would need reliable and capable to keep secrets people. Among the gifts there were several typewritten sheets. So, we accidentally learned the contents of several unique documents of the Fifth directorate of the KGB, which, as it is known, was fighting „Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists“, „uniats“, „zionists“ and other anti-Soviet elements.

It appeared that in 1976 a case having the code name „Blok“ was developed by the Lviv oblast KGB directorate of the Council of Ministers of the UkrSSR against the editorial board of „Visnyk“ and the people, who distributed samizdat. It becomes obvious from the note that the main idea was to destroy the circle of editors, distributors and readers of the magazine edited by Chornovil.

„Foreign nationalistic centers popularize the personages of the case „Block“ in radio features and the press, they tried to create the illusion of the existence of the „opposition“ to the Soviet regime and the organized nationalistic underground. Separate personages maintain contacts with the so-called „Group on the fulfillment of Helsinki agreements in the USSR“. In 1975-76 32 emissaries of the Organization of Ukrainian nationalists visited Lviv. The KGB fixed the contacts of these persons with some personages of the case „Block“, some of whom continue to conduct their hostile activities, although in deep secret“.

The Lviv KGB, basing on the special decision of the collegium of the KGB of the UkrSSR of 24 July 1996, realized a number of measures „directed at splitting of the nationalist groups“. In particular, a campaign of compromising „Boris“ – Mykhaylo Goryn, „Semen“ – Bogdan Goryn and „Sviazistka“ – Liubomira Popadiuk (mother of Zorian Popadiuk) was started. The KGB also „initiated operative contacts“ with „Lector“ (Sviatoslav Maksimchuk, an actor of the Zankovetskaya theater), „Krot“ (Mykhaylo Kosiv), „Sportsman“ (Yaroslav Kendzior) and „Giena“ (Chornovil’s wife). A „Khameleon“, who „had numerous contacts among so-called „Moscow democrats“ was made an agent. He presented important information“.

The special term „operative contact“ means tailing, wiretapping, perlustration of letters, etc. The KGB knew much, but not all. Kendzior has the nickname „Sportsman“ not in vain – he passed the magazine with the Lviv sportsmen, who were going abroad to some competition.

Now some necessary words about politics. During the election campaign-2002 the activists of the project „National Rukh of Ukraine for unity“ and Andrey Chornovil (Viachesav’s elder son), who, alas, joined them, blackmailed Taniuk, Kosiv and Kendzior, friends of the editor of „Ukrainskiy Visnyk“, with some compromising materials. The hysterics concerning the „KGB agents“ finished without any result. It is strange that in the heat of the fight the unmaskers did not declare Chornovil as a stool-pigeon. In the secret KGB documents Chornovil had the nickname „Restless“.


A year after the first publication of „Ukrainskiy Visnyk“ a real samizdat boom began in the republic. Independent magazines, newspapers and bulletins were distributed in dissident boiler-houses, intelligentsia salons and miner’s barracks. In Kyiv „Golos Vidrodjennia“ was published, in Lviv – „Postup“, in Kherson – „Plug“, in Kharkov – „Slobidska Ukraina“, in Nikolayev – „Chornomoriya“…
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