Kiev, 1960s.

Dates: 1960s

Place: Kiev

Components: Mykola Vorobiov, Vasyl’ Holoborod’ko, Mykhailo Hryhoriv, Viktor Kordun, Mykhailo Sachenko, Stanislav Vyshens’kyi and others

The poets of the Kyiivs’ka shkola (Kyiv School) have affinities with contemporary non-conformist Russian literary groups. None of the members of the group were originally from Kiev, although they chose the Ukrainian capital as their place of residence, frequenting cafés such as The Khreshchatyk Gorge or the Kiev Café (cf. Solovei 2007: 197-198). Rather than a true literary school marked by a common feeling and shared artistic intentions, the Kievan poets were a group of authors very different from each other in terms of style (cf. Achilli 2013: 26).
The basis for the juxtaposition of such different artistic personalities is the isolated position they occupy compared to almost all the writers of the time, legitimised by a conspicuous presence in the official publishing industry. In a historical period that was undoubtedly more open than the dark Stalinist years (cf. Pakhlovska 1998: 862 ff.), the members of the Kiev School proved to be less inclined to aesthetic and professional compromises accepted by the so-called shistdesyatnyky (generation of the sixties) (cf. Solovei 2007: 199).
As in Russia, the leadership of the Ukrainian party during the years of the Thaw, oscillated between relative permissiveness and seemingly inexplicable reaction. It was at this time that dissemination of samvydav (samizdat in Ukrainian) publications became increasingly widespread; initially the works were of a literary nature but from the second half of the 1960s they became more political. Among the best-known titles is Ivan Dzyuba’s essay Internatsionalizm chy rusyfikatsiia? (Internationalism or Russification?). A few years younger than the shistdesyatnyky, the poets of the Kiev School did not adhere to preexisting political precepts or the  didactic-moralistic tone of published authors –  the critic Morenets’ describes their work as “pure poetry” (cf. Achilli 2013: 26).
Viktor Kordun sees the most significant period for the Kyiivs’ka shkola to be the three-year period from 1965 to 1968 (cf. Solovei 2007: 197). In taking a determined stance against outside interference in their work, many of the group’s members had no choice but to accept that they would never be officially published: Vasyl’ Holoborod’ko, for example, saw his first collection of poems, The Flying Window, destroyed when it was already at the printing house (cf. ibid.: 199). For Valentyna Kolesnyk, the Kiev poets were able to innovate the Ukrainian poetic language like no others in the second half of the 20th century by recovering the linguistic and stylistic heritage of modernism (especially free verse), reworking the folklore tradition and rejecting stylistic solutions that had become rigid.
The poets of Kiev have been referred to as ‘pagans’, because of their ties with the culture of the past (cf. ibid.: 201-202). Due to their lack of official publications and thus of full legitimacy, the group only entered literary-critical discourse in the 1980s (cf. ibid.: 199).
Because of its resistance to external influences, the Kiev School has been associated with the New York Group of poets who emigrated to the United States, including Iurii Tarnavs’kyi, Vira Vovk, Emma Andiievs’ka, and Bohdan Boichuk (cf. Achilli 2013: 45-6, 27), whose work is also considered by some to be in opposition to the shistdesyatnyky.

Federico Iocca
[30th June 2021]

Translation by Marta Capossela


  • Achilli A., Dialogo e sperimentazione: la lirica di Vasyl’ Stus, tesi di dottorato, Università degli Studi di Milano, a.a. 2012/2013.
  • Pakhlovska O., Civiltà letteraria ucraina, Carocci, Roma 1998.
  • Solovei E., La poesia della Scuola di Kiev come accusa contro il sistema, trad. by G. Brogi Bercoff e M. Prokopovych, in M. G. Bartolini, G. Brogi Bercoff (eds.), Kiev e Leopoli: il testo culturale, FUP, Firenze 2007: 197-203.

To cite this article:
Federico Iocca, Kiev School, in Voci libere in URSS. Letteratura, pensiero, arti indipendenti in Unione Sovietica e gli echi in Occidente (1953-1991), a cura di C. Pieralli, M. Sabbatini, Firenze University Press, Firenze 2021-, <>.
eISBN 978-88-5518-463-2
© 2021 Author(s)
Content license: CC BY 4.0