The Full Wiki

Hryhorii Skovoroda: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hryhori Skovoroda

Hryhori Skovoroda
Born 1722
Village of Chornukhy, Kiev Governorate
Died 1794
Village of Ivanivka, Kharkov Governorate
Occupation Writer, Composer, Teacher
Nationality Ukrainian

Hryhorii Savych Skovoroda (Ukrainian: Григорій Савич Сковорода, Grigory Gavvich Skovoroda, Russian: Григо́рий Са́ввич Сковорода́; 1722-1794) was an ethnic Ukrainian living in the Russian Empire[1][2][3][4][5] [6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15]poet, philosopher and composer. Skovoroda often referred to himself the "Rusyn Socrates."[16] He lived and worked in Ukraine and passionately and consciously identified with its people, differentiating them from those of Russia and condemning Russia's interference in his homeland. [17]

Skovoroda received his education at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Kiev. Haunted by worldly and spiritual powers, the philosopher led a life of an itinerant thinker-beggar. In his tracts and dialogs, biblical problems overlap with those examined earlier by Plato and the Stoics. Skorovoda`s first book was issued after his death in 1798 in Saint Petersburg. Skorovoda`s complete works were published for the first time in Saint Petersburg in 1861. Before this edition many his works existed only in manuscript.



Skovoroda was born into a small-holder Ukrainian Cossack family in the village of Chornukhy in Kiev Governorate[18] (modern-day Poltava Oblast), which had recently been annexed to the Russian Empire, in 1722. He was a student at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (1734-1741, 1744-1745, 1751-1753) but did not graduate. From 1741 to 1744 he sang in the imperial choir in Moscow and St.Petersburg, where he studied music. He spent the period from 1745 to 1750 in Hungary and is thought to have traveled elsewhere in Europe as well. In 1750-1751 he taught poetics in Pereyaslav. For most of the period from 1753 to 1759 Skovoroda was a tutor in the family of a landowner in Kovrai. From 1759 to 1769, with interruptions, he taught such subjects as poetry, syntax, Greek, and ethics at the Kharkiv Collegium. After an attack on his course on ethics, he in 1769 decided to abandon teaching.

Skovoroda is known as a composer of liturgical music, as well as a number of songs to his own texts. Of the latter, several have passed into the realm of Ukrainian folk music. Many of his philosophical songs known as "Skovorodyski psalmy" were often encountered in the repertoire of blind itinerant folk musicians known as kobzars. He was described as a proficient player on the flute, torban and kobza.

In the final quarter of his life he traveled by foot through Ukraine staying with various friends, both rich and poor, preferring not to remain in one place for too long.

This last period was the time of his great philosophic works. In this period as well, but particularly earlier, he wrote poetry and letters in Ukrainian language, Greek and Latin and did a few translations from Latin.


There is much debate regarding the language Skovoroda used in his writings. Skovoroda used a form of written Ukrainian which differed somewhat from the vernacular Ukrainian. As a scholar studying in a religious institution that relied heavily on various forms of the Church-Slavonic language although the foundation of his written language was Ukrainian[19].

Apart from written Ukrainian, Skovoroda was known to have spoken and written in Greek, Latin, German and Hebrew. His poetry has been analysed for foreign non-Ukrainian elements. After an in depth study of Skovoroda's written works the Slavic linguist George Shevelov was able to deduce that apart from Ukrainian it contained 7.8% Russian, 7.7% non-slavic, and 27.6% Church Slavonic vocabulary, and that the variant of Church Slavonic he used was the variety used in the Synodinal Bible of 1751[20]. Skovoroda's prose however a higher content of non-Ukrainian vocabulary: 36.7% Church Slavonic, 4.7% other non-slavonic European languages, and 9.7% Russian[21].

After an in depth analysis of Skovoroda's language, G. Sheveliov came to the conclusion that the high incidence of Church-Slavonic and the occurence of Russian words reflect the circle of people with which Skovoroda primarily associated himself with, and on who he was materially dependent - and not the villagers and the village language that he knew and spoke[22].


Three days before he died, he went to the house of one of his closest friends and told him he had come to stay permanently. Every day he left the house early with a shovel, and it turned out that he spent three days digging his own grave. On the third day, he ate dinner, stood up and said, "my time has come." He went into the next room, lay down, and died. He requested the following epitaph to be placed on his tombstone:

The world tried to catch me, but didn't succeed.


Soviet stamp with portrait of H. Skovoroda (1972).
Skovoroda on Ukraine's largest banknote

On September 15, 2006, Skovoroda's portrait was placed on the largest banknote in circulation in Ukraine, the 500-hryvnia note.

The Hryhoriy Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy, founded in 1946, operates under the auspicies of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine (until 1991 Academy of Sciences of the UkrSSR).[23]


Skovoroda's works during his life were not printed, because the then censor found their his sacred writings were offensive to Monasticism. Brought up in a spirit of philosophical and religious studies, he became an opponent of dead church scholasticism and spiritual oppression of the Moscow centred Orthodox Church, based in its philosophy to the Bible. "Our kingdom is within us - he wrote - and to know God, you must know yourself." "People should know God like yourself enough to see him in the world." "Belief in God does not mean - belief in his existence - and therefore to give in to him and live according to His law." "Sanctity of life lies in doing good to people."

The official Moscowite stance divided humanity into more or less blessed by God and blessed, and those that are cursed, such as the serfs. Skovoroda taught that "all work is blessed by God", but distribution of wealth outside the circle of God called unforgivable sin. The Muscowite Orthodox clergy was intolerant to Skovoroda's teachings as considered them heretical. Skovoroda taught that the only task of philosophy was to seek the truth and to pursue it. But in terms of human life, this goal is unattainable, and human happiness lies in the fact that everything has to find the truth. This goal can go in different directions, and intolerance of those who think differently, has no justification. Similarly, religious intolerance does not find justification for eternal truth revealed to the world in different forms. In relation to himself he was utterly uncompromising however in complete harmony with their teaching and their lives. He was very gentle and observant in relation to others.

Skovoroda defended the right of the individual in each person, but translated this into concrete political language of the time. This meant a strong democratic trend that was associated with sympathy for enslaved peasant masses, with sharp hostility to the Muscovite oppressors.

It was only in 1798 that his "Narsisis or Know thyself" was published in the Russian Empire and even then without the inclusion of his name. In 1806 the magazine "Zion Vyestnyk" printed some more of his works. Then in Moscow in 1837-1839 a few of his works were published under his name, and only in 1861 the first almost complete collection of his works was published. The best and most complete, was published in 1896 in Kharkiv under the editorship of Professor. D. Bahaliy. Here 16 of his works, with 9 of them appearing for the first time! Also published here Pans biography and some of his poems. Another edition of the works in December. A full academic publication of Skovoroda's works still does not exist, because manuscripts are held in various archives and libraries where access to them is difficult.


  • Skovoroda, Gregory S. Fables and Aphorisms. Translation, biography, and analysis by Dan B. Chopyk (New York: Peter Lang, 1990) Review: Wolodymyr T. Zyla, Ukrainian Quarterly, 50 (1994): 303-304.
  • Skovoroda, Hryhorii. Piznay v sobi ludynu. Translated by M. Kashuba with an introduction by Vasyl' Voitovych (L'viv: S$vit, 1995) Selected works (original: Ukrainian language).
  • Skovoroda, Hryhorii. Tvory: V dvokh tomakh, foreword by O. Myshanych, chief editor Omelian Pritsak (Kiev: Oberehy, 1994) (original: Ukrainian language, translated from other languages).
  • Skovoroda, Hryhorii (Gregory), "A Conversation Among Five Travelers Concerning Life's True Happiness" (original: Russian language).
  • Skovoroda, Hryhorii (Gregory), "Conversation about the ancient world". (original: Russian language).


  1. ^ Wilhelm Goerdt, Russische Philosophie: Zugänge und Durchblicke (Freiburg: Verlag Karl Arber, 1984). See also a "Review" of this work in: Studies in Soviet Thought 30 (1985) 73.
  2. ^ Konrad Onasch, Grundzüge der russischen Kirchengeschichte(Göttingen: Hubert & Co, 1967), vol. 3, p. 110. See also on-line version
  3. ^ (Russian) G.S. Skovoroda in History of Russian Culture by Aleksei Losev.
  4. ^ (Russian) On-line encyclopedia «Кругосвет»
  5. ^ (Russian) Skorovoda`s biography on
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ James H. Bilington, The icon and the Axe. An Imperative History of Russian Culture (New York, 1967, p. 239).
  17. ^ Stephen P. Scherer. (1994). Skovoroda and Society. In Hryhorij Savyč Skovoroda: an anthology of critical articles edited by Richard H. Marshall, Thomas E. Bird. University of Alberta, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, pp.63-65. One of several examples written by Skovoroda: "The hunter does not sleep. Be alert. Carelessness is the mother of misfortune...indeed Great Russia considers all of Little Russia as so many grouse."
  18. ^ Указ об учреждении губерний и о росписании к ним городов, Электронная библиотека Исторического факультета МГУ им. М. В. Ломоносова
  19. ^ George Y. Shevelov. Skovoroda's Language and Style. In book: Hryhorij Savyč Skovoroda. An Anthology of Critical Articles, Toronto, 1994, P.131
  20. ^ George Y. Shevelov. Skovoroda's Language and Style. In book: Hryhorij Savyč Skovoroda. An Anthology of Critical Articles, Toronto, 1994, P.131
  21. ^ George Y. Shevelov. Skovoroda's Language and Style. In book: Hryhorij Savyč Skovoroda. An Anthology of Critical Articles, Toronto, 1994, P.131
  22. ^ George Y. Shevelov. Skovoroda's Language and Style. In book: Hryhorij Savyč Skovoroda. An Anthology of Critical Articles, Toronto, 1994, P.131
  23. ^ (Ukrainian) "About the Institute." Hryhoriy Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy at NASU. URL accessed 19 October 2006

Further reading

External links



Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address