virtual museum
Dissident movement in Ukraine

May 22, 1967. Volodymyr PETRUK & Oleg ORACH

04.02.2016 | Vasyl Ovsiyenko | Interview obtained on March 6, 2000. Edited on March 10, 2013

Volodymyr Ivanovych Petruk, researcher at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.


V.Ovsiyenko: What's the date today? March 6, 2000. Please, introduce yourself and tell us about May 22, 1967.

V.Petruk: Volodymyr Petruk. I am telling about 22 May. It was a great commemoration day, and for the first time in Kyiv a large column of people went from there [from the monument to Shevchenko] to the CC of the CPU. But it began quite traditionally. As usual, on May 22 the people came to the monument to Shevchenko, recited poems there, sang songs to the lyrics of Shevchenko. But among the people who came there, there were planted individuals, too. These were young people, usually tipsy. This was apparent from their behavior. Either they drank themselves, or somebody else made them tipsy, but without the slightest provocation they sought to run into trouble. They made a quick job of it. The people stood just opposite Shevchenko and someone, say, recited a poem. Then somebody standing on the verge began to jostle elbow a man to the turf. The moment they succeeded and a man found himself on a turf the militia made a fuss calling it a disorderly conduct. Everyone knew that the Shevchenko Park was cordoned off and militia cars were everywhere. Down the block there were two vans, too. This day was a holiday but nobody was allowed to walk through the park. But come what may, on this day you had to come to prove that Ukraine was still alive, that we were there, in Kyiv, that we remembered our national holiday, our genius Taras Shevchenko.

And that did they do? They pushed one man out--I do not know his last name--and when they began to drag him to the militia van he rested his feet on the ground and let them carry him. They pulled him and he shuffled his feet. So, one by one, they grabbed up to seven persons. And it was beyond 9 o'clock already. The people lost their patience and started telling, “Let’s go all to the CC of the CPU and stage a protest demanding their release, because we cannot fix it here.” The activists organized a column of marchers. They instructed the people to evade underground passageways, as it was easy to block people and bust them there. Therefore we decided to go up the Volodymyrska Street, then proceed down the Shevchenko Boulevard, turn left and go down the Repin Street (now Tereshchenkivska), then turn right to the present Bohdan Khmelnytskyi Street and go down to the Khreshchatyk Main Street. And so we went on. But the provokers also penetrated the column. Therefore the marchers took them by the arm to prevent them instigating brawls.

It was about 23:00 when we reached the CC. By this time they managed to ring round all precinct houses and inform them about the marchers. When we approached the head of the Bankova Street, where now the Union of Writers is situated (farther on there were old buildings), all gates were locked and blocked. We proceeded along the sidewalk, and they sent a watering machine which was riding along the curb and poured water over us. The driver intentionally stepped on accelerator and drenched the column. The column all wet reached the building of the CC of the CPU. The vans, carrier vehicles and militia blocked all approaches.

What do you think? At 23:00 they woke up Holovchenko, who headed the KGB of Ukraine at the time. (Ivan Holovchenko was the Minister of Law and Order. Later arrived General Kalash, Deputy KGB Head under the Council of Ministers of UkrSSR for ideology.--V.О.). It was the same Holovchenko, who later wrote good novels.

V.Ovsiyenko: Together with Olexa Musiyenko.

V.Petruk: Right, with Musiyenko. Just imagine that despite everything some such positions were filled by Ukrainians, including this Holovchenko. He tackled it humanly. It was 23:00. Some other official might get up to God knows what, while he said, "Well, guys, what’s boiling here?" They showed him the ropes, that it was a holiday, that we came to Shevchenko, we were doing nothing illegal: recited poems, sang songs, as usual. Our people stood those that stand in the middle of the street, the planted agents hang around.

Holovchenko asked, "Now what?”--"They grabbed our guys and drove them away somewhere; we want them to be released, because they are not guilty".--"Now, let’s arrange it as follows; you go downhill to the square now…” He meant the Kalinin Square which is the Maidan Nezalezhnosti now. So: "You go there, and we… Who will go with me?” There stood a few persons nearby, they got into the car and drove away to the militia district stations. Half an hour later we were near the fountain on the square...

O. Orach: There is a militia station there.

V.Petruk: No, on the Maidan of Independence, opposite the main post office… they brought the detainees there. Everyone was happy about it! It lifted everybody’s spirits, because this was the first victory. And it’s fine that rational person like Holovchenko fixed it.

V.Ovsiyenko: Is it true that he wore an embroidered shirt? Rumor had it…

V.Petruk: I do not remember and I did not notice. But, to our surprise, after these drenching and rough methods when they grabbed and detained many participants…. And, by the way, the word shame sounded like a slogan for the first time then. Now it sounds like an outcry, but at the time it was a powerful yell: "Shame!" They dragged a man along the ground and the crowd uttered this exclamation. Afterwards it became a tradition, and before nobody cried it out in public. It became a powerful exclamation ever since. It was a striking word. Such loud utterance was born then.

V.Ovsiyenko: I know that Victor Mohylnyi was one of those grabbed then. Do you remember who else was grabbed?

V.Petruk: It’s hard to say, because in such situation, when you stand in a crowd, the last name isn’t the first thing to remember.

V.Ovsiyenko: Mykola Plakhotniuk played a leading role there. Oksana Meshko was there; it was she who spoke with Holovchenko. (Mykola Plakhotniuk. Whirlpool: Articles, Remembrances, Documents / Arrangement and comments by V. Chornovil.--Кyiv: Smoloskyp Publishers, 2012.--P. 314: “Indeed, those grabbed near the monument to Shevchenko they brought to the general post-office at 01:30. They were Ihor Luhovyi, Rotshtein, poet Victor Mohylnyi, student of theater institute Volodymyr Koliada).

V.Petruk: Maybe she was there. It seems to me there also was… He is in the city rada now...

V.Ovsiyenko: Oles Serhiyenko. He is Oksana Meshko’s son.

V.Petruk: he was there then all right, because I remember him from those times; he was tall, a man of handsome presence. I remember him very well, he was there. Who else should I mention?

V.Ovsiyenko: Well, at least somebody else. Thank you for such information, because I am interested in these facts. I write down the names of former political prisoners and participants of national liberation movement, because I collect material for the Dictionary of Dissidents. Well, and you, Mr. Oleg, will you add anything?

O. Orach: No, not now. I want to touch on some other subject. Maybe, --I am sure you know it--you may tell me, because I’ve already asked Mykhailyna [Kotsiubynska] and Dmytro [Stus]. Last month in the presence of two serious men at the Ukrayinskyi Pysmennyk Publishers carried on negotiations with Vadym Skomorovsky who showed a surprising understanding and liked the idea to put out a new edition of the book of memoirs about Vasyl Stus, where Your, Mr. Vasyl, remembrance is included as well. (And I still love my earlier desire...: Vasyl Stus: Poet & Nan: Remembrances, Articles, letters, Poetry / Compiled by Orach (Komar) O.Yu.--Kyiv: Ukrayinskyi Pysmennyk Publishers, 1993.--400 p.). Three or four years ago he told me that if there were new memories, it would be possible to put out a new revised and enlarged edition. It should be done. We talked with him and he said, "I do not back down on my words, though circumstances conspire so unhappily against us, but Vasyl is history. We’ll see to it.” When it will go out, what will come out of it, who will sponsor it, what awaits the publishing house… anyway we should prepare the file first. I call for help. Please, take notes of all possible publications. Let those who haven’t written yet put their memories to paper. I rang two Armenians who stayed at the hotel but could not get through. They promised, but did not give me their memoirs.

V.Ovsiyenko: You mean Paruir Airikian? Airikian visited us in the fall 1999. Mykhailo Horyn, he, I and Vakhtang Kipiani visited the grave of Vasyl Stus, he told his story there. I recorded his story. I’ve transcribed it already.

O. Orach: Oh, God! So we’ve fixed it. You will give me Airikian’s recollections. We will make a note: recollections of Airikian recorded by Vasyl Ovsiyenko.

V.Ovsiyenko: Tell me your phone number, please.

O. Orach: With pleasure: 227-1998. Well, I called him and he promised… There was a Greek Catholic Parish in West Ukraine, they collected 1000 hryvnias or karbovanetses for the monument to Vasyl… Kobza-player Mykola Lytvyn and I appeared on stage there. It was a town, a regional center, he sat beside Stus...

V.Ovsiyenko: And then it had to be Zorian Popadiuk from Sambir…

O. Orach: Right, Zorian Popadiuk. Zorian failed to fulfill his promise to put his recollections to paper.

V.Ovsiyenko: We’d better hurry him. I’ve recorded his autobiographic story recently.

O. Orach: Vasyl, how can I contact Zorian?

V.Ovsiyenko: Very simply... [The Dictaphone is switched off].

V.Ovsiyenko: Now, a question for Mr. Volodymyr Petruk. Who were you then, how old were you, when were you born?

V.Petruk: I was born in 1943, but in Kyiv I live from 1960. In 1960 I entered Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. First two years I was a night-school student, worked at a factory, now it is named after Koroliov, and then it was a secret plant called POB, radio factory situated in Khutir Vidradny District. In my third year I became a day-time student. At my factory I received training allowance. I received it during three last years as a working student. In my third year, in 1963, I began to visit the House of Scientists; there was a chorus, if you know, it was named Zhaivoronok, which means Lark.

V.Ovsiyenko: Right, I know it.

V.Petruk: All Kyiv Ukrainian community gathered there. Somewhere then I visited the Museum of Ivan Makarovych Honchar[1].

O. Orach: Stus took me there.

V.Petruk: Then I read the poems of Lina Kostenko. I loved poems of Vasyl Symonenko very much. As a culture organizer I made arrangements for a poetical evening at my factory and recited poems of Vasyl Symonenko. I liked it very much. His poems appealed to a young man. In 1964 I came to my factory to receive my allowance, and there two men approached me and ordered, “Let’s go”. For the first time, I was not arrested, but they detained me for three days on Rosa Luxemburg Street [oblast KGB], conducted preventive instruction, as they called it. There were no obvious grounds to punish me. I went back to my studies and graduated from the KPI and the only one in my group… You may remember that Shelest at the time… There was such period, when they allegedly, even in the KPI, tried to introduce instruction in Ukrainian. But, unfortunately, all of it was soon wound up. It happened as follows: the lecturers were assigned six months to prepare their lectures. And in six months Shelest was transferred to another job and his book My Soviet Ukraine was denounced as nationalistic and restoring the association with the UNR. As a result, in my fifth year, when Shelest had been already transferred, I was the only student of the radio department who defended the cutting-edge graduate work “Electronic Organ” in Ukrainian. It is interesting that when I brought in my application in Ukrainian (containing main calculations), the professorate more or less… Well, at the time there were publishers in Kyiv bringing out technical books in Ukrainian and so it was okay. But when I hung my drafts, ten sheets in all with captions in Ukrainian, it created furor! The professorate was gaping at it: how come? Captions in Ukrainian?

As I was a factory grant holder, I returned to my factory. At the factory I worked at first in the design-engineering department and then as the main technologist in the workshop. I felt I was shadowed there. I started telling you about the events of May 22 and now I’ve ended with this story…

I marched at the head of the column. At the time Yurko, my friend from Lviv stayed with me. He and I held hands of one of those instigators to prevent him playing tricks. Maybe this and maybe the fact that they had known me before, but here is such a fact. The people were released somewhere at 00:30 on the present Maidan Nezalezhnosti. We with joy went off to our respective homes, but it was too late and there was no municipal transportation available already. I went home on foot; I lived on Industrialna Street beyond the former plant Bilshovyk. I rented an apartment of one family, private house, old, pre-revolution one. It was so situated that one could reach it only through a garden gate on a side-street. I reached my place already: it was three o'clock in the morning, I turned round the five-storey building and caught sight of a militia a GAZ car near the garden gate. The guys were having a smoke. Usually they never stopped there, but here they were now.

Obviously, my guess was they were waiting for me. I reckoned I’d better go elsewhere now. So I turned about and walked down the street to Harmatna Street where the workers’ dorm was situated. I entered the dorm, leaned against the radiator and so spent the night. To my factory I went before time, not at eight o'clock: I passed the clock-house at seven thirty.

V.Ovsiyenko: Ahead of time.

V.Petruk: Right, ahead of time. I went to my workshop, made the round and kept thinking over what I’d got. But things settled this time. But next year, when the Czech events took place in 1968, a KGB agent was snooping around in the workshop. There was I and one such Vovchak in our workshop…

O. Orach: What was this agent monitoring? Attitude of minds?

V.Petruk: They knew that in the workshop there were two such Ukrainians who were well in with the workers and had influence on personnel. On the day, when they invaded Czechoslovakia—which I came to know later—there was an order to send agents to all establishments and institutions to block any possible protests. And here he was walking in the workshop all day, doing nothing, hither and thither, to and fro. Whiled away his time.

O. Orach: It was his job.

V.Petruk: Right, it was their job. He did not approach us, but in the workshop all and everybody knew each other and what everyone lived by.

V.Ovsiyenko: In order to establish contacts, please, tell your present phone number.

V.Petruk: 268-0633. Volodymyr Ivanovych Petruk, researcher at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.

V.Ovsiyenko: Please, tell the date of your birth and place.

V.Petruk: I was born in Zhytomyr on February 13, 1943 into the family of Soviet guerillas and members of underground organization. My father and my mother are combat vets.

O. Orach: Let Volodymyr Ivanovych tell the date of publication of his philological article in Literaturna Ukrayina. He is a techie, but he snubbed many our philologists. Once I heard his speech at the theoretical and practical conference of Democratic party of Ukraine about tribes and nations. He felt at ease with terms that I, historian-philologist, do not know while he, a techie, coped with his task telling about migration of people in Europe, history of Slavism. Let Volodymyr Ivanovych tell the title of the article and date of publication.

V.Petruk: The title of the article was "Are there articles in Ukrainian"? This was the problem article you remember.

V.Ovsiyenko: Right, I remember something like it. When was it?

V.Petruk: I have got a copyright certificate for it, because this was the untrodden expanse in language. I brought this material to the Copyright Agency, and two weeks they said that they had found no precedent for this kind of ideas in reliable sources. Therefore I obtained my copyright certificate at once.

V.Ovsiyenko: Then when was the article published?

V.Petruk: It happened in April, but in what year? April 17 or 22, because I had different publications there.

O. Orach: It seems it was in 1998. Or 1997.

V.Petruk: Do you have my book? I will give it to you now, I think I have an extra book. If not, you will excuse me and you’ll have it next time.

As far as the talk has turned to humanities… The point is that I after graduation from the radiotechnical department of KPI in 1965, I at once, in 1966, went to the philosophical department of the Kyiv National University and graduated from it. That is I am a twice university graduate: technical and humanitarian education. Therefore I take interest in two domains: cybernetics and mathematics and at the same time I am already a member of the Union of Writers.

O. Orach: He has been recently admitted.

V.Petruk: I wrote a book: The Country of Great Chud.

V.Ovsiyenko: Great Chud?

V.Petruk: Right, The Country of Great Chud. It is a study. I began it as a response of a publicist to different publications and then it took the shape of a monograph. Because at work I participate in creation of computer atlas of the history of Ukraine. Tackling these problems, I wrote a book about our history prior to the period of the Kyiv State and especially determination of three contemporary countries: Russian Federation, Belarus and Ukraine. I showed that all this structure had been formed before the Migration Period… At the time not a single Slav secured a firm footing on Finnish land that is now under Russia, but such country had already existed. This all was an enormous zone from Finland to the Urals. Stalin was terribly afraid—I quote him there--when in 1939 he tried to substantiate his invasion of Finland; then he maintained that Finland wanted to occupy all northern Russia to the Urals and make a Great Finland. He even suggested such slogans. And do you remember popular Russian slogans in 1991: "And where is our Motherland?” Do you remember such slogans? "And where is our Motherland?” And they also asked, "Where will we set up Russian Republic?” Do you remember this?

V.Ovsiyenko: Right, so it was.

V.Petruk: Such question arose. In this book I entered into a controversy with Leonid Zalizniak, there is such a theorist in Kyiv.

V.Ovsiyenko: I know him.

V.Petruk: So, he worked out a conception and repeated it in different variants. There exists his recommended textbook on ancient history; I bought it the other day; he repeats there the same theory. According to this traditional conception, the Slavs settled moving up north. From Ukraine, the dominating people--he draws analogy with other European empires–settled up north. Although Zalizniak tries to unmask the concept of “the cradle of three brotherly people”, he asserts it once again, only in a different way. It follows that Ukrainians settled up north. That Russians are the same Ukrainians, only mixed with Finns. Such a paradox. In this book I relied on official sources. Intentionally. During the disintegration of empire, in science or in art epochal things may happen. In particular, the twenty-volume edition of the Archeology of the USSR had to be published, although only several volumes were out. The volumes that were very important for our history did go out: Scythians and Sarmatians and on. Finno-Ugric peoples, Slavic volume, which is very important, were published. So, obviously in the Slavic volume the authors tried in every way to adapt the new material to old conceptions, and it simply offends the eye.

O. Orach: Right, it.

V.Petruk: Hurts the eyes. Siedov was the editor-in-chief of this edition. Evidently, one can see for himself that no Ukrainians migrated there either in the eighth or ninth century. People began to transmigrate there from Poland, from the present Baltic States, only German, from there, where an Island of Rügen is now, where the European outflow began. At first the people rolled from the north southward to the Roman Empire, and then this process went out and they flowed back, already Christianized. So the present Germans rolled back and pressed Slavs, Polabian Slavs. At the time there was a strong commotion in Scandinavia, as you know. We call them Varangians and they were Northmen. They settled everywhere, conducted raids and involved Slavs in this process. They reached Spain, Rome and Sicily. It was no trouble at all for them to capture the nearby bays of the Baltic Sea. They knew them all by heart. And this was the beginning of lake colonization as I call it. What did they manage it? They steered their boats to the lakes, e.g. Lake Ilmen. In this way, to begin with, they founded not Novgorod, but Pskov… There lived many Finnish tribes from Finland to the Urals, enormous woodland. They used rivers and sounds to get to a lake, erected a fortress there, established military factories, and provided them with defensive military works. They used them as centers for further conquests and expansion. So they went to the next lake, and on and on. All of it may be proved with archaeological data. I quote Siedov that there was nothing in common with the south, with Ukraine; everything was different: weapons, clothing, and buildings. They had a lot in common with Kashubia, i. e. Poland and former East Germany. The territory of present North Russia was populated from there. Then they began expansion southward. They involved Oleg in their campaign. Who participated in it? Their allies included Krivichs and Merya. Their alliance combined local tribes of Ves, Merya and Chud. Why did I entitle my book The Country of Great Chud? In Europe, the people spoke different languages; nevertheless they felt that their language was Indo-European[2], so they could understand each other. But they could not communicate with Finnic people, because they could not make out a single word. Therefore the newcomers called the locals Chud which meant “strange, funny”. These Finnic peoples or Chud had no time to form their own common state. They were forest hunters. The word “finn” in Scandinavian, in Swedish means “a hunter, forest hunter”[3]. So all these Finnic peoples had not created a single state by the time these Scandinavian-Slavic invaders come.

O. Orach: They crushed them.

V.Petruk: Right, from the side of Europe. And from the other side the Turkic peoples reached the Volga. The Old Great Bulgaria was the first one. The pressure was applied from both sides. The Great Chud is the Great Finland. I named it the Great Chud not for fun, but because Russia must be named the Great Chud.

V.Ovsiyenko: I thank you. Here is the address and phone number.

O. Orach: Mr. Vasyl, if you transcribe the text… I think Vasyl Ovsiyenko recorded a wonderful interview…

V.Ovsiyenko: On March 6, 2000, on the way from the Union of Writers up Khreshchatyk Street and up to the Tolstoi Square…

O. Orach: In the presence of Oleg Orach, who certifies the authenticity of recording.

V.Ovsiyenko: Thank you.


[1] At the time it wasn’t a museum, but a private collection of Ivan Honchar (translator’s note).

[2] Thomas Young coined the term "Indo-European" in 1813 (translator's note).

[3] This etymology is the author’s invention. See: (translator's note).

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