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Luchkai, Mykhail/Lutskay, Michael

Luchkai, Mykhail/Lutskay, Michael (b. Mykhail Pop, November 19, 1789, Velyki Luchky [Hungarian Kingdom], Ukraine; d. December 3, 1843, Uzhhorod [Hungarian Kingdom], Ukraine) — priest, historian, linguist, and national awakener in Subcarpathian Rus’. Luchkai began the gymnasium in Uzhhorod, completed it in Oradea/Nagyvarad (1805-1812), and then studied at the *Stadtkonvikt Greek Catholic Seminary in Vienna (1813-1816), where he also participated in a study circle at the St. Barbara Church/*Barbareum conducted by the renowned Slavist, Jernej Kopitar. While in Vienna Luchkai learned about other Slavic peoples living in the Austrian Empire and became a believer in pan-Slavic unity. After ordination as a Greek Catholic priest (1816) he served briefly in his native village, then in 1818 was brought to the episcopal offices in Uzhhorod, where he served as secretary to the bishop, archivist-librarian, notary, and chairman of the eparchial *consistory. He was later appointed the priest (1827) of the Tsehol’na parish in Uzhhorod. These intense administrative duties were interrupted in 1829, when he began a 14-month stay at the court of Prince Carlo Ludovico Bourbon in Lucca, Italy. A pretender to the throne of Greece, the prince invited Luchkai to his court in order to learn more about the Byzantine rite.

While in Lucca, Luchkai had time to work on a grammar for his countrymen. As a proponent of *pan-Slavism, he proposed that *Church Slavonic be used as the common Slavic literary language, much the same way that Latin functioned as a common literary language linking diverse peoples in the West. He did not believe that the vernacular spoken language (lingua communis) was appropriate for literary works, and thus he wrote in Latin a grammar of the Subcarpathian variant/recension of Church Slavonic (Grammatica Slavo-Ruthena: seu Vetero-Slavicae et actu in montibus Carpathicis Parvo Russicae, seu dialecti vigentis linguae, 1830; repr. 1989).

In 1831 Luchkai returned to Uzhhorod, where he was soon removed from his eparchial duties, although he remained the priest in the Tsehol’na parish. Despite his conviction that Church Slavonic should be used for literary purposes, Luchkai urged priests to preach in the Rusyn vernacular. To assist them, he published two volumes of his own sermons in Rusyn (Tserkovnyia besidy na vsi nedily roka na pouchenie narodnoe (1831), and in 1840 he began work on a Rusyn-Latin-Hungarian-German dictionary. The work of greatest significance for his people’s national self-identity was a six-volume history of Carpatho-Rusyns from earliest times to the nineteenth century: Historia Carpato-Ruthenorum (History of Carpatho-Rusyns, 1843). Although his history remained in manuscript for over a century, it was known and consulted by all leading nineteenth-century Rusyn national activists. While focusing on the evolution of the *Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo, Luchkai argued that Rusyns were the indigenous population of the Carpathian region and that they had received Christianity in the 860s from the Byzantine missionaries *Constantine/Cyril and Methodius. The work also included the texts of several old documents that later disappeared.

Luchkai was so well known to the Slavic world that the influential pan-Slavist Jan Kollar, in his epic poem Slava dcera, included him alongside Dobrovsky, Obradovic, and Karadzic as a member of the ultimate pantheon of Slavic activists. Luchkai’s scholarly heritage has been preserved through a reprinting of his Slaveno-Rusyn grammar in Latin, together with a Ukrainian translation and a linguistic analysis by Petro Lyzanets’ (1989), and by the publication of the full text of his History of Carpatho-Rusyns in Latin with a Ukrainian translation by Iurii *Sak and his colleagues in several issues of the *Naukovyi zbirnyk Muzeiu ukrains’koi kul’tury u Svydnyku (1983-99). The Ukrainian translation is being published in a separate six-volume edition (1999- ).

Bibliography: Vasylii Hadzhega, “Mykhayl Luchkai: zhytiepys y tvory,” Naukovyi zbornyk Tovarystva ‘Prosvita’, VI (Uzhhorod, 1929), pp. 1-128; Georgii I. Gerovskii, “Russkii iazyk v tserkovno-slaviansko-russkoi grammatikie M. Popa-Luchkaia,” in Karpatorusskii sbornik (Uzhhorod, 1930), pp. 259-311; Vasyl’ Simovych, “Grammatica Slavo-ruthena M. Luchkaia,” Naukovyi zbornyk Tovarystva ‘Prosvita’, VII-VIII (Uzhhorod, 1931), pp. 217-306; Frantisek Tichy, “Lidove pisne v Luckajove gramatice,” ibid., pp. 307-314; Valerii Pogorielov, Karpatorusskie etiudy: I. Literaturnaia dieiatel’nost’ Mikhaila Luchkaia, karpatorusskago pisatelia nach. XIX vieka (Bratislava, 1939); Oleksander Badan, Homiletychni ‘Besidy’ Mykhaila Luchkaia z 1830 r. (Winnipeg, 1977); Petro M. Lyzanets’, “Mykhailo Luchkai i ioho hramatyka,” in Mykhailo Luchkai, Hramatyka slov”iano-rus’ka (Kiev, 1989), pp. 5-39; Olena Rudlovchak, “Bilia vytokiv bahatovodnoi riky: do 200-littia vid dnia narodzhennia Mykhaila Luchkaia, “Naukovyi zbirnyk Muzeiu ukrains’koi kul’tury u Svydnyku, XVI (Bratislava and Presov, 1990), pp. 7-27; Dmytro Danyliuk, Mykhailo Luchkai—patriarkh zakarpats’koi istoriohrafii (Uzhhorod, 1995).

Paul Robert Magocsi

Ivan Pop

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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