The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)

The Collectivization-Famine Kobzar? Illustrations and Quotations Focus on Stalin's Crimes, not Tsarist Russia Illustrations by Vasyl Sedliar, Edited by Andriy Richytsky, 1931 and 1933 Second Edition [Andriy Richytsky and Vasyl Sedliar were both later murdered by the Soviet secret police. Richytsky in 1934 and Sedliar in 1937, see biographical information below]

KOBZAR by Taras Shevchenko, 1931 and 1933 Second Edition
Edited and Forward by Andriy Richytsky (1890-1934)
Illustrations by Vasyl Sedliar (1889-1937)
Second Edition: Literatura I Mystetstvo
Kharkiv and Kyiv, Ukraine, 1933

The following information is from The Ukrainian Museum-Archives Website, Cleveland, Ohio,




In 1932-33, Ukraine had bountiful crops of grain, yet the country was gripped by famine. This was the result of Joseph Stalin's collectivization policy. In order to force people to give up their land to the state, he ordered an army of Communist Party activists to seize grain and other food from Ukraine's independent farmers.


In one of the greatest crimes in history, more than seven million Ukrainian peasants were deliberately starved to death. This coincided with a period of terror that was unleashed against Ukrainian artists and cultural figures.


For more than fifty years afterward, any mention of the Famine and the Terror was subject to total censorship in Soviet Ukraine. Eyewitness accounts and other records from this period were suppressed and destroyed.


One of the few surviving works illustrating these horrible times can be found in the UMA's collection. This is the extraordinary edition of Taras Shevchenko's Kobzar, featuring drawings by Vasyl Sedliar (1899-1937).


Although the Kobzar was written in the 19th Century, the 48 full-page sketches and the accompanying quotations from Shevchenko's poems, make it clear that Sedliar and his editor Andriy Richytsky (1890-1934) were commenting on Stalin's Famine and not Tsarist Russia.

The Prince carouses, his guests carouse, The palaces on high are full of revelry while in the village famine groans.....[page 197]
(Click on image to enlarge it)


Reminiscent of Henri Matisse, Sedliar in these long-forgotten drawings, shows great technical skill as well as breathtaking artistic courage. Despite inquiries, we have been unable to determine the location of the originals of these drawings or whether they still exist.


Both Sedliar and Richytsky were arrested and shot by the NKVD (Soviet Secret Police).


EDITORS NOTE: The website of the Ukrainian Museum-Archives in Cleveland shows eight-one illustrations by Vasyl Sedliar from the 1933 edition of the book with some text also.

To see the illustrations click on:


Upon the Apostolic throne, The Friar sits well-fed
(Click on image to enlarge it)



From: Andy Fedynsky, Director
Ukrainian Museum-Archives, Cleveland, Ohio
[In response to a request for additional information]
To: Morgan Williams, Publisher  Information Service (ARTUIS)
Washington, D.C., Thursday, June 5, 2003



The text is Shevchenko's verse from the 1840-60s. Much is it selected from his harsher anti-Moscow verse--"The Dream," "Excavated Mound," etc. but that doesn't necessarily draw a connection to Collectivation and the Famine.


The drawings, however, do. They were done by Vasyl Sedliar, one of Mykhailo Boichuk's students. Like Boichuk, Sedliar eventually succumbed to Stalin's terror. He was shot in 1937. The author of the introduction to this Kobzar was executed in 1934.


I came across the Kobzar-one of hundreds that we have-a few years ago when I serendipitously opened it to p. 197 with the reference to "famine groaning in the village," illustrated by a drawing of privileged diners contrasted with starving children. (All the drawings are identified by page number on our web site.)


Given the publishing date-1933-the extreme politicization of the civic landscape, particularly the on-going campaign against "kulaks," the drawings and selection of text would have unmistakably been evocative of the events of the time.


Today, when I show the Kobzar to visitors from Ukraine, including then- Governor Dyomin from Kharkiv and his entourage, without exception I hear gasps-instinctively people get the reference and ask how such a work could have been published in 1933 Ukraine.


Just look how the drawing on page 197 can be juxtaposed against the one on p. 117, where the "friar sits well fed." (You might want to print that drawing off our web site and then draw a bushy mustache on the friar and see if it reminds you of anybody.) The drawing on p. 301, about the gravediggers in the village is certainly evocative of the famine and would have been unmistakable in 1933, given what was happening in the surrounding countryside.

.....Over the tilled fields. The Gravediggers in the village Drag Corpses Hung from chains [page 301]
(Click on image to enlarge it)


In putting the exhibit together, we called it "The Famine Kobzar" because of the context and the date when it was published. To be strictly accurate, though, the book might more properly be called the "Collectivization Kobzar."


The one we have is a second edition. The first edition was published in 1931, during the 3rd year of Collectivization. By then, the war against the peasantry-"liquidation of the kulaks as a class"-was well under way. (See Conquest's Harvest, Chap. 6.")


Sedliar's drawings and the accompanying texts from pp. 55, 61, 66, 93, 95, 99, 101, 147, 211, 217, 267, 349, 375, 387 can all be viewed in the context of repressive "dekulakization, (rozkorkuliuvannia)" which was a common slogan at the time. []


Not having seen the 1931 edition of this Kobzar, I can't say whether each of the drawings in the second (1933) edition also appeared in the 1st edition or whether Sedliar added any new ones. The 2nd edition, which we have at the Museum, was submitted for publishing (and official review) on June 1, 1932. It wasn't actually published until March 8, 1933, more than nine months later.


At the time, the fate of Ukrainian culture was still being contested in a few literary circles, some party publications, but it was a losing cause what with show trials (Conquest, Chap. 11) and NKVD torture chambers.


The battle for the direction of Ukraine's culture was ultimately lost with Mykola Khvylovy's suicide on May 13, 1933 (two months after the publication of the Sedliar Kobzar) and Education Minister Mykola Skrypnyk's suicide in July 1933.


As for the drawings, I saw an original drawing (the one on p. 167) at the exhibit of Ukrainian Avant Garde that was held in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in the Spring of 2002.

...As if people had gone mad-They march dumbstruck into serfdom And take their children with them........ (page 267)
(Click on image to enlarge it)


Hope this helps somewhat. Andy [Fedynsky][Cleveland, Ohio]



The Ukrainian Avant-Garde exhibition in Canada and the book, "The Phenomenon of the Ukrainian Avant-Garde 1910-1935" which was the catalogue from the exhibition published in 2002 has in it an illustration by Vasly Sedliar (1899-1937).

The Sedliar illustration, number 59 on page 171, is entitled "Bury Me and Arise!" It is an illustration for Taras Shevchenko's "Kobzar" and was drawn in 1930. It is tempera and ink on paper, 27.4 x 19.5.

The exhibition and publication in Canada in 2002 were made possible by the support of the AIM Funds Management, Inc., The Winnipeg Art Gallery Foundation Inc., Museums Assistance Program, Department of Canadian Heritage, Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko, and Dr. Taras Y. and Mrs. Emilia Snihurowycz. The catalogue was edited by Myroslav Shkandrij.

"Bury Me and Arise!"
Vasyl Sedliar, 1930
(Click on image to enlarge it)



The book published in Kyiv in 1996, "Ukrainian Avant-Garde Art, 1910- 1930," was the first and most comprehensive publication that dealt with the evolution of Avant-garde art in Ukraine. It contains 400 reproductions of the finest works of Ukrainian Avant-garde artists.

The book was compiled by Prof. Dmytro Horbachov, a leading Ukrainian art critic who has devoted many years of research to Ukrainian Avant-garde art.

This book has in it five examples of the artwork of Vasyl Sedlyar (1889-1937). Four of them were painted in 1931 and were for the 1931 edition of Taras Shevchenko's "KOBZAR." The other one was a sketch drawn in the late 1920's. The Sedlyar works are shown in the section of the book entitled neoprimitivism & naive style. This book spells his last name Sedlyar and not Sedliar as most other publications.

Some of the works by Vasyl Sedlyar:


Vasyl Sedlyar (1889-1937), Tempera on printed impression, Private Collection, Kyiv, Ukraine, [Illustration number 300]


Vasyl Sedlyar (1889-1937), Tempera on printed impression, Private Collection, Kyiv, Ukraine [Illustration number 301]
(Click on image to enlarge it)


SKETCH, Late 1920's
Vasyl Sedlyar (1889-1937), Tempera on paper, State Museum of Fine Arts, Kyiv, Ukraine [Illustration 304]
(Click on image to enlarge it)


Encyclopedia of Ukraine-Edited by Danylo Husar Struk
University of Toronto Press, 1993


SEDLIAR, VASYL [Sedljar, Vasyl'], b 12 April 1899 in Liubech, Horodnia county, Chernihiv gubernia, d 13 July, 1937 [executed during Stalinist terror]

Painter and graphic artist. Sedliar studied at the Kiev Art School (1915-1919) and then at the Ukrainian Academy of Arts (1919-22) under M. Boichuk. He worked on large-scale murals, illustrated books, designed packaging and produced ceramic works.

He was part of a team that decorated the Lutske regimental army barracks in Kiev under Boichuk's direction (1919) and he did the murals at the Kiev Institute of Plastic Arts (1924) and the Mezhyhiria Art and Ceramics Tekhnikum (1924) with O. Pavlenko.

Like Boichuk, he worked in a style combining the techniques and large simplified forms of traditional icon and folk art with formalist theory and contemporary subject matter. He used fresco in his murals and egg tempera in works such as Portrait of the Artist O. Pavlenko (1927) and In the Liknep School (1924-5).

The director of the Mezhyhiria Art and Ceramics Tekhnikum (1922-30) and a teacher at the Kiev State Art Institute (1930-6), he was arrested and executed during the Stalinist terror. (Vol. IV, Page 575)


Encyclopedia of Ukraine-Edited by Danylo Husar Struk
University of Toronto Press, 1993


RICHYTSKY, ANDRII [Ricyc'kyj, Andrij] (pseud of Anatolii Pisotsky), b 1890 in Richytsia, Radomyshl county, Kiev gubernia, d 1934 in Bashtanka, now in Mykolaiv oblast.

Political leader, publicist, and literary critic. After the February Revolution he was a member of the Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers' party, a representative in the Ukrainian Central Rada (1917-18) and a member of its Little Rada, and the chief ideologue of the Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers' party (Independentists; 1919) and the Ukrainian Communist party (UKP, 1920-25).

He controlled the UKP organ "Chervonyi prapor," in which he criticized the CP(B)U as a party of Russian occupation. In 1920 he was elected a member of the All-Ukrainian Central Executive Committee. After the Comintern abolished the UKP in 1925, Richytsky joined the CP(B)U and was elected a candidate member for its CC.

He directed the statistical division of the co-operative Ukrainbank and then was editor in chief of the Stgate Publishing House of Ukraine (DVU). From the second half of the 1920s he was also a professor at the Ukrainian Institute of Marxism-Leninism and headed the Commission of Shevchenko Studies at the Taras Shevchenko Scientific Research Institute.

Richytsky was a major interpreter and popularizer of M. Skryptyk's Ukrainization policies. Although he had been an official critic of the views of O. Shumsky, M. Vvnnychenko, M. Hrushevsky, M. Khvylovy, and the emigre V. Vynnychenko, after Skrypnyk's suicide in 1933 he himself was denounced in the Party press as an apologist for Vynnychenko and for allowing the DVU to publish large runs of Vynnychenko's works, labeled a spy and a traitor, and then arrested in Bashtanka, where he was tried on fabricated charges of "overfilling" grain quotas in famine-stricken villages and shot.

Richytsky wrote a book about T. Shevchenko and his works from sociological Marxist approach (1923; 2nd edn 1925), a collection of articles criticizing Vynnychenko as a writer and politician (1928), a refutation of Volobuiev's views (1928), a booklet about the Central Rada (1928), a monograph on the foundations of Ukrainian studies (1929), an interpretation of Skrypnyk as a theoretician of the national question (1929), a biography of K. Marx (1929), and a booklet on the national question in the light of the directives of the 16th congress of the Bolshevik party (1931).

He also edited the first Ukrainian edition of Marx's "Kapital" (1927-9). After his repression all of his works were banned in Soviet Ukraine.


Biographical material written by V. Holubnychy, and A. Zhukovsky and published in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, Vol IV, edited by Danylo Husar Struk, University of Toronto Press, 1993, page 367.



The Ukrainian Museum-Archives in Cleveland was founded in 1952 by displaced scholars who took on the mission of collecting and preserving items from Ukrainian history and culture during an era when this kind of material was being deliberately destroyed in Soviet Ukraine. Over the course of its first quarter century, the UMA compiled a huge collection that includes many rare, even unique items.

The UMA has been located in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood throughout its entire existence. In the late 1970s, and throughout most of the '80s, the UMA mirrored the neglect of the Tremont neighborhood. Starting in the early 1990s, the institution and the neighborhood began to experience renewal and growth. A second generation of Ukrainian-Americans assumed responsibility for the UMA in the late 1980s and have continued to maintain and enhance the collection.

We developed exhibits and hold regular events, both free-standing and in cooperation with the neighborhood. Much of the work is done by volunteers. In 1991, with the break-up of the Soviet Union and the independence of Ukraine, the UMA's collection began to attract attention from other institutions, including the Library of Congress, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Ohio State University's Slavic Studies Department and the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

In 1998, the Government of Ukraine requested that the UMA prepare a Pilot Project that has been incorporated into the U.S.-Ukraine Agreement on the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage. Within the framework of the Bilateral Agreement, the UMA, Ohio State University and Cleveland State University are collaborating on a course, Introduction to Ukrainian History and Culture.

All of these developments are complemented by the on-going improvement of the Tremont neighborhood. The UMA is working with the Tremont West Development Corporation locally, with Ohio State University on a state-wide level, with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Congress nationally and the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine internationally. This requires us to accept the dual challenge of contributing both to the development of the Tremont neighborhood, which is our home, and to the growing interest in Ukraine as a cultural, scholarly and geopolitical factor, which is our mission.