“Prosvita” [“Enlightenment”] was a civic organization for mass education and inculcation of the ideas of national self-awareness.  It involved publishing centres and a network of clubs and reading rooms. The first organizations of ‘Prosvita’ arose in 1868 in Lviv, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, through the efforts of the narodniki, and spread to other cities and villages of Halychyna. After the revolution of 1905, ‘Prosvita’ groups began to appear in various cities of Ukraine under Russian control, largely in cities, though with branches in rural areas. By summer 1917 central and eastern Ukraine were covered by a dense network of such groups. On 20 August 1917, the Fourth National ‘Prosvita’ Congress was held in Kyiv, at which a National ‘Prosvita’ Union was created and a Central Bureau set up to coordinate the work of village and district ‘Prosvita’ branches.  A fair number of ‘Prosvita’ groups appeared also in Ukrainian settlements in Kuban, in Central Asia, Canada, the USA, Argentina, Paraguay and other countries.  In all, by that time, there were around 5000 ‘Prosvita’ groups  in Ukraine involved in publishing, organizing libraries and reading rooms.

In 1922 all ‘Prosvita’ groups in the USSR were disbanded and the reading rooms and libraries reorganized into Soviet institutions. In Western Ukraine, under Poland, ‘Prosvita’ existed until 1939 despite oppression by the Polish authorities. During the Second World War, ‘Prosvita’ was, through the efforts of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) revived in Ukraine, especially in Western Ukraine, however after the War, all ‘Prosvita’ groups in the Ukrainian SSR were again closed, and those active in it repressed. The foreign network of ‘Prosvita’ continued its work.

In 1988 centres of the Ukrainian Language Society began being formed. On 11-12 February 1989 in Kyiv a founding conference of the Ukrainian Language Society named after T. Shevchenko was held. In January 1992 this was registered as the All-Ukrainian “Prosvita” Society named after T.H. Shevchenko. Its branches are active in all regions of Ukraine.