Ivan Franko

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Franko, Ivan Iakovlevich


Born Aug. 27, 1856, in the village of Naguevichi, now the village of Ivano-Frankovo, Drogo-bych Raion, L’vov Oblast; died May 28, 1916, in L’vov. Ukrainian writer, scholar, and public figure.

Franko was the son of a village blacksmith. He graduated from a Gymnasium in Drogobych and enrolled in the faculty of philosophy at the University of L’vov in 1875. He was persecuted and arrested for revolutionary activity.

Franko began writing while at the Gymnasium and became seriously involved in literature and journalism when he was a student at the university. In 1878, together with M. Pavlik, he published the journal Gromads’kyi drug (Friend of Society), which was twice suppressed by the police and then published as Dzvin (The Bell) and Molot (The Hammer), respectively. Franko published articles in several progressive periodicals, including the Ukrainian journal Svit (The World), the Polish newspaper Kurjer Lwowski (L’vov Courier), the Polish journals Przyjaciel ludu (Friend of the People) and Praca (Labor), and the German newspaper Die Zeit (Time).

After his release from prison in 1890, Franko founded the Russian-Ukrainian Radical Party in Galicia together with Pavlik and O. Terletskii. The party united Ukrainian peasants and artisans. Franko published the journals Narod (The People, 1890) and Khliborob (The Plowman, 1891). From 1894 to 1897, Franko published the journal Zhyttie i slovo (Life and the Word) in collaboration with his wife, Ol’ga. Franko’s topical, critical, and scholarly articles in these publications supported revolution and friendship among peoples and attacked clericalism and reactionism.

In 1891, after having been away from the university for ten years, Franko passed the final examinations at the University of Chernovtsy. In 1893 he defended his doctoral dissertation, “Barlaam and Josaphat: An Early Christian Religious Novel and Its Literary History,” at the University of Vienna. He was given the post of dotsent in the department of Ukrainian literature and ethnology at the University of L’vov, but was forbidden to teach by the reactionary authorities. In 1906, Franko was awarded the degree of honorary doctor of Russian literature by the University of Kharkov.

Franko’s activity as a journalist and literary critic intensified during the Russian Revolution of 1905–07. After the revolution he devoted his energies mainly to scholarly work, translation, and the writing of prose and poetry. Franko translated works from Russian, Polish, German, English, French, Czech, and Slovak, including works by Heine, Shakespeare, and Pushkin. He published studies on history, economics, folklore, ethnology, and literature. Franko was an innovator who made important contributions to Ukrainian intellectual development, poetry, prose, and dramaturgy.

Franko’s first mature verse collection, From the Heights and Depths (1887), contained the most outstanding Ukrainian poetry since that of T. G. Shevchenko. The poem “Hymn” extolled the “eternal revolutionist” and the creative spirit of those who transform the world. The cycles of political lyrics constituting the nucleus of the collection—“Thoughts of a Proletarian,” “Free Sonnets,” and “Prison Sonnets”—were imbued with the spirit of revolutionary struggle and contained echoes of the Communist Manifesto and the Internationale. Both From the Heights and Depths and Franko’s other collections of poetry and narrative poems—Faded Leaves (1896), From Days of Sorrow (1900), and Semper tiro (1906)—were marked by an abundance of original themes, ideas, genres, meters, and rhythms and by an innovative use of traditional verse forms. Franko also wrote a number of important socially oriented philosophical narrative poems, including The Death of Cain (1889), Ivan Vishenskii (1900), and Moses (1905).

Franko’s prose inaugurated a new stage in the development of Ukrainian realism. His sketches, short stories, novellas, and novels were imbued with socialist ideology. Franko introduced new themes into Ukrainian prose, including the proletarization of the peasantry, the formation of a working class and its transition to organized class struggle, and the struggle between labor and capital. His innovative heroes were socially aware defenders of the interests of intellectuals, peasants, and workers.

Franko’s most important prose works were the novellas Boa Constrictor (1878) and The Laughing Borislaw (1881–82), the historical novella Zakhar Berkut (1883), several sociopsychological novellas, and the novels Lel’ and Polel’ (1887) and Crossroads (1900). Franko’s poetry continued the lyric traditions of N. A. Nekrasov and Heine; his prose was influenced mainly by the Russian writers L. N. Tolstoy, G. I. Uspenskii, and M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin. Franko’s play Stolen Happiness (1891) was inspired by the dramas of A. N. Ostrovskii.

Franko’s literary criticism and aesthetics continued the traditions of the Russian revolutionary democrats and of Russian realistic literature. Franko also translated and popularized the works of K. Marx and F. Engels. He was the first Ukrainian writer to interpret literature and art in the light of socialist ideals, and his own works adhered to some of the principles that later formed the basis of socialist realism. Franko’s publicist writings and critical articles attacked Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism, decadence, and the theory of art for art’s sake.

Franko’s best works have been translated into many national languages of the USSR and into foreign languages. Some of his lyric poems have been set to music; an example is the hymn “The Eternal Revolutionist,” with music by N. V. Lysenko. The composer B. N. Liatoshinskii wrote an opera based on Franko’s novella Zakhar Berkut. Screen versions have been made of several of Franko’s novellas. The biographical motion picture Ivan Franko, directed by T. V. Levchuk, was filmed in 1956.

The oblast administrative center of Ivano-Frankovsk (formerly Stanislav) and Ivano-Frankovsk Oblast were named after Franko, as were the I. Franko University of L’vov and the I. Franko Academic Ukrainian Dramatic Theater in Kiev. A literary memorial museum devoted to Franko was opened in L’vov in 1940, and there are Franko museums in the villages of Ivano-Frankovo and Krivorivnia and in the city of Ivano-Frankovsk. The 100th anniversary of Franko’s birth was observed in the Soviet Union and abroad by a resolution of the World Peace Council.


Tvory, vols. 1–20. Kiev, 1950–56.
Vybrani tvory, vols. 1–3. Kiev, 1973.
In Russian translation:
Soch., vols. 1–10. Moscow, 1956–59.
Stihotvoreniia ipoemy, rasskazy, Borislav smeetsia. Moscow, 1971.


Kotsiubyns’kyi, M. M. Ivan Franko. Kiev, 1917.
Parkhomenko, M. N. Ivan Franko i russkaia literatura, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1954.
Parkhomenko, M. N. Dramaturgiia Ivana Franko. Moscow, 1957.
Parkhomenko, M. N. Esteticheskie vzgliady Ivana Franko. Moscow, 1966.
Bilets’kyi, O. I., I. I. Bass, and O. I. Kysel’ov. Ivan Franko: Zhyttia i tvorchist’. Kiev, 1956.
Ivan Franko u spohadakh suchasnykiv, books 1–2. L’vov, 1956–72.
Kolesnyk, P. I. Syn narodu. Kiev, 1957.
Stebun, I. Pytannia realizmu v estetytsi Ivana Franka. Kiev, 1958.
Zhuravs’ka, I. Iu. Ivan Franko i zarubizhni literatury. Kiev, 1961.
Doroshenko, I.I. Ivan Frankoliteraturnyi krytyk. L’vov, 1966.
Bass, I. I. Khudozhestvennaia proza Ivana Franko. Moscow, 1967. (Translated from Ukrainian.)
Iankovs’kyi, Iu. Z. Zhyvotvorni zv’iazky: Ivan Franko i rosiis’ka realistychna proza. Kiev, 1968.
Moroz, M. Ivan Franko: Bibliografiia tvoriv, 1874–1966. Kiev, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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