World Academy of Carpatho-Rusyn Culture


Kostel’nik, Havriil, Gabor

Kostel’nik, Havriil, Gabor (June 15, 1886, Ruski Kerestur [Hungarian Kingdom], Yugoslavia; d. September 20, 1948, L’viv [Soviet Union], Ukraine) — priest, pedagogue, belletrist, publicist, linguist, theologian, philosopher, and church leader of Ukrainian national orientation in Galicia and founder of the Vojvodinian Rusyn literary language and literature. After completing the gymnasia in Vinkovtsi and Zagreb (1898-1906) Kostel’nik studied at the Faculty of Theology at the University of Zagreb, the Greek Catholic Seminary in L’viv, and the University of Freiburg in Switzerland (Ph.D., 1913). He returned to L’viv, where he was to spend the rest of his life. Ordained a Greek Catholic priest (1913), he taught theology at the Greek Catholic seminary and later Academy in L’viv (1920-1930) and was editor (1920-1929) of Niva, the religious journal of the Metropolitan Archeparchy of L’viv.

Throughout these years Kostel’nik, as a close disciple of Metropolitan Andrei Sheptyts’kyi, was opposed to latinization and favored a renewal of the Byzantine rite and Eastern Christian practices in the Greek Catholic Church. After the death of Metropolitan Sheptyts’kyi in late 1944 and the imposition that same year of Soviet rule in eastern Galicia Kostel’nik was singled out by the new authorities for participation in their campaign to abolish the Greek Catholic Church. In line with his Eastern orientation, he became the leading figure at the L’viv Church Council (Sobor), which in 1946 abolished the *Unia/Church Union with Rome. Kostel’nik converted to Orthodoxy and encouraged other priests to do so as well. Branded as a traitor by Ukrainian nationalists, he was murdered in mysterious circumstances in 1948. Soviet ideologists subsequently described him as a victim of extremist Ukrainian nationalists; his apologists in the West have suggested he was eliminated by the Soviet authorities once he was no longer necessary in their campaign against Greek Catholicism.

Kostel’nik began his literary career while still a gymnasium student. He published in Galicia at his own expense a volume of poetry, Z moioho valala (1904, repr. 1975), which has been described as an epic and an “idyllic cycle.” He sent a second book of poetry (1904) to academician Aleksander A. Shakhmatov in St. Petersburg, where it remained until discovered by Aleksandr *Dulichenko, who published it in the journal *Shvetlosts (1991) and then separately (Zhalostsinki—serenchi i milei, 1994). Written in a traditional manner and utilizing elements of native folklore, these poems revealed Kostel’nik’s artistic talent. Most of his subsequent poems appeared in the Vojvodinian Rusyn press and annual almanacs between 1922 and 1936. Imbued with the spirit of Croatian renaissance poetry, their principal themes are love for one’s native land, patriotism, and pacifism.

As well, Kostel’nik wrote about 20 stories and “sketches in prose” in Rusyn and an equal number in Ukrainian. In these works biblical motifs predominate, as they do in his works for children, which consist largely of edifying poems and stories with religious subjects. Kostel’nik is also considered to be the founder of Rusyn drama. Apart from his children’s play, Gu Khristovi (1923), he wrote a poetic tragedy in five acts, Ieftaiova dzivka (1924), based on the eleventh part of the Book of Judges, which at time seemed something of an anachronism.

While still a student Kostel’nik published two volumes of poetry in Croatian: Romance i balade (1907) and Zumberak: gorske simfonije (1911). He subsequently published numerous essays and scholarly studies on religion and theology in Ukrainian, as well as prose and poetry, of which Pomershii donechtsi (1921) and Pisnia Bohovi (1922) deserve particular attention. Kostel’nik seems to have believed his work in Ukrainian would win him fame, but his Rusyn writings have become the very cornerstone of a modern Slavic micro-literature and have been hailed as classics of Vojvodinian Rusyn.

Kostel’nik played an especially important role in the development of the Vojvodinian (Backa) Rusyn literary language. He wrote the first grammar (Hramatika bachvan’sko-ruskei beshedi, 1923), which for several decades was used as the standard in all Vojvodinian Rusyn publications. In a series of articles on the language question, published primarily in the almanac Ruski kalendar in the 1920s and 1930s, he argued that the Vojvodinian (Backa) Rusyn language was a dialect of Ukrainian and called on his compatriots to study as well the “knizhkovi iazik,” that is, the literary Ukrainian language, and to approximate it in their own writing.

Kostel’nik is considered the “father” of the Vojvodinian Rusyn language and literature, and as such his career has been the subject of numerous studies. His works have been republished by the *Ruske Slovo Publishing House in Novi Sad, including an anthology of his Rusyn poetry (Antologiia ruskei poezii, 1984) and collections of his poetry (Poeziia, 1970) and prose (Proza, 1975) written in Rusyn. The Orthodox Church in Ukraine published a selection of his religious studies (Vybrani tvory, 1987).

Bibliography: Diura Papharhai, “Havriil Kostel’nik: zachatnik umetnitskei literaturi iugoslavianskikh Rusnatsokh,” in Havriil Kostel’nik, Poeziia na bachvansko-srimskim ruskim literaturnim iaziku (Novi Sad, 1970), pp. 7-87; Aleksander D. Dulichenko, “H. Kostel’nik i ioho ‘Hramatika bachvan’sko-ruskei beshedi’,” Shvetlosts, XI, 1 (Novi Sad, 1973), pp. 67-76; Ilarion Karpiak, Protopresviter otets’ d-r Havryil Kostel’nyk: narys relihiino-tserkovnoi ta literaturno-naukovoi diial’nosti (L’viv, 1996); Iuliian Tamash, “Literaturna tvorchosts Havriila Kostel’nika na ruskim iaziku,” Shvetlosts, XVIII, 2 (Novi Sad, 1980), pp. 129-153—also in Iuliian Tamash, Istoriia ruskei literaturi (Belgrade, 1997), pp. 74-97, 547-559; Iuliian Tamash, Havriil Kostel’nik medzi doktrinu i prirodu (Novi Sad, 1986).

Aleksander D. Dulichenko

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.

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