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Pavlovych, Aleksander

Pavlovych, Aleksander (b. September 19, 1819, Sarisske Cierne [Hungarian Kingdom], Slovakia; d. December 25, 1900, Beloveza [Hungarian Kingdom], Slovakia) — priest, poet, publicist, and Rusyn national awakener in the Presov Region. Orphaned as a young child, Pavlovych was raised by his mother’s family in the *Lemko Region north of the Carpathians. He began his education in Galicia, completing the Polish- and German-language elementary school in L’viv (1833-1835). When he returned to the Presov Region Pavlovych was a Rusyn of Polish cultural orientation. He completed his gymnasium studies in the Hungarian Kingdom, beginning in nearby Bardejov, then Miskolc, and spending his last two years in Eger. He wanted to study law, but the Greek Catholic bishop of Presov, Iosyf *Gaganets’, sent him instead to the theological seminary in Trnava (1843-1847). In this essentially conservative environment Pavlovych came under the influence of fellow students and future Slovak national activists Jan Palarik and Martin Hattala, as well as a professor from Charles University in Prague, all of whom encouraged in him an interest in the national awakenings then taking place among the various Slavic peoples in the Habsburg Monarchy. Aside from new Slavic literary works, Pavlovych was well read in Hungarian and German literature, and at the Trnava seminary he learned to use the *Cyrillic alphabet. Upon completion of his studies Pavlovych returned to the Presov Region Rusyn village of Chmel’ova/Komlosha, where he wrote his first poem in Rusyn, “Stav bidnoho selianyna” (The Status of a Poor Villager”), a pragmatic statement of sympathy for his downtrodden Rusyn people.

In 1848 Pavlovych was ordained a Greek Catholic priest. The anti-Habsburg revolution in Hungary had already begun and the young priest, welcoming this turn of events, proclaimed that “Kossuth’s war has brought us freedom and the government-regulated serfdom has come to an end.” It was also at this time that Pavlovych met the leading Rusyn national awakener, Aleksander *Dukhnovych, who was to have a profound impact on him. Pavlovych participated actively in the *Presov Literary Society Dukhnovych had founded in 1850. After ordination Pavlovych worked first as a tutor for the Szirmay noble family (1848-1850), then briefly as archivist and official stenographer for the *curia/chancery office of the *Greek Catholic Eparchy of Presov (1850-1851). He turned down an offer to teach Rusyn at the Kosice gymnasium in favor of a post as a parish priest, first in Beloveza (1851-1864), a Rusyn village next to his own birthplace and the town of Bardejov, then for nearly four decades in Svidnik (1864-1900).

Aside from his priestly duties Pavlovych collected folkloric and ethnographic materials and wrote numerous poems which earned him the epithet: “bard of the Rusyn *Makovytsia region.” Most of his poems and ethnographic studies were published in Russophile newspapers in L’viv and in Subcarpathian newspapers (*Svit, *Novyi svit, *Karpat), journals (*Listok), and the annual almanac (*Misiatsoslov) of the *St. Basil the Great Society. He also wrote historical sketches (“Opisanie Makovitsy”; “Makovitsa”) and proposed a research program for the systematic study of the history and culture of Rusyns in Hungary (1874) to result in an encyclopedic publication (Ugro-russkii sbornik). Nothing came of this proposal, however, given the government’s policy of magyarization and national assimilation.

While in Svidnik Pavlovych maintained a wide range of contacts with contemporary Rusyn writers as well as with *Russophiles and *Old Ruthenians in Galicia (Iakiv *Holovats’kyi, Bohdan Didyts’kyi), Slovak national activists (Jan Andrascik, Jonas *Zaborsky, Bohus Nosak-Nezabudov), and the Russian Orthodox priest and church historian Konstantin *Kustodiev. In theory, Pavlovych favored the two-language principle of his mentor Dukhnovych: Rusyn vernacular for popular and elementary materials; Russian for serious writing and scholarship. But since Pavlovych did not know Russian, nor did he try (like other Subcarpathians) to write in a local variant of Russian (the so-called *iazychiie), in practice he wrote for the most part in vernacular Rusyn. No single publication of Pavlovych’s works appeared during his lifetime, although collections were subsequently compiled and published by Ivan *Polivka (1920), Georgii Myravchyk (1942), Ivan S. *Shlepets’kyi (1955), and Olena *Rudlovchak (1984). Widely recognized after Dukhnovych as the leading Rusyn national poet, Pavlovych was memorialized with a life-size statue erected in Svidnik, Slovakia (1970).

Bibliography: Dionyzii Zubrytskii, Aleksander Pavlovych: opysanie ieho zhytia y kharakterystyka eho poezii (Uzhhorod, 1925); Andrii Shlepets’kyi, Oleksander Pavlovych: zhyttia i tvorchist’ (Bratislava and Presov, 1982); Olena Rudlovchak, Andrii Shlepets’kyi, Mykhailo Hyriak, Iosyf Shelepets’, Fedir Naumenko, and Mykhailo Rychalka, “Materialy iz seminaru... z nahody 160-richchia z dnia narodzhennia O.I. Pavlovycha,” in Naukovi zapysky KSUT, No. 10 (Presov, 1982), pp. 9-139.

Ivan Pop

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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