The Ukrainian Impact on Russian Culture, 1750-1850


415 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-920862-32-2




Reviewed by Terrence Paris

Terrence Paris is Public Services Librarian at Mount St. Vincent
University in Halifax.


If a Canadian scholar were asked to name a Ukrainian who had contributed most to the cultural awakening of his people, Taras Shevchenko, the nationalist poet of the 1840’s would most likely first come to mind. David Saunders, a Lecturer in History at the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, sketches the career of Shevchenko, but his main concern lies with the previous generations who discovered and celebrated the Russian national identity (narodnost) at a time when some intellectuals promoted the secular Western model for government and society. Writers like Nikolai Gogol used Ukrainian themes to reveal the richness of a common Slavic heritage. Iuzhnaia Rus (Southern Rus) was perceived as closer to the roots — a sort of Ark of the Covenant for the Slavic spirit. Linguists like M. Maksymovych studied Ukrainian for clues to the old Russian language; historians like I. Markovych favoured South Slavic foundations against the Scandinavian origin of Rus. Saunders also profiles “highly placed Ukrainians,” (V.P. Kochubei was one), who devoted their lives to imperial administration in St. Petersburg, and who helped their countrymen advance to influential positions.

Saunders’s history is more accessible than its base in a doctoral dissertation might suggest. He does assume some knowledge of Slavic languages and geography. A few maps could have helped readers identify right — and left — bank Ukraine and the borders of the Hetmanate. His labours in the archives of Moscow and Leningrad are in the tradition set by the estimable N.P. Rumiantsev and should result in a wider and less partisan understanding of a neglected aspect of Russian history.


Saunders, David, “The Ukrainian Impact on Russian Culture, 1750-1850,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,