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T. Meyerhoffer. Portrait of V. Antonovych, late 19th century.
|Born||January 30, 1834|
Makhnovka, Berdichev uyezd, Kiev Governorate, Russian Empire
|Died||March 21, 1908 (aged 74)|
Kiev, Russian Empire
|Resting place||Baikove Cemetery, Kiev|
|Occupation||archeologist, paleographer, historian, ethnographer, and civil activist|
|Language||Russian, Ukrainian, Polish|
|Alma mater||Kiev University|
|Notable works||Archives of South-Western Russia (8 volumes)|
Volodymyr Antonovych (Russian: ? ?; 1834-1908) was a prominent pro-Ukrainian historian, archivist and archeologist of Polish descent, who was known as one of the leaders of the Ukrainian national revival movement in the Russian Empire. As a historian, Antonovych was a longtime Professor of Russian history at the Kiev Imperial University of Saint Vladimir and a correspondent-member of the St. Petersburg Imperial Academy of Sciences. His main work was an edition of the Archives of South-Western Russia in 8 volumes.
He was born on January 18, 1834 in the village of Makhnovka, Kiev Governorate, Russian Empire (now Vinnytsia Oblast, Ukraine). His parents were local teachers of Polish gentry heritage, though Antonovych later claimed ancestry to the Lubomirski family. According to Antonoych's contemporary Franciszek Rawita-Gawro?ski, Antonovych on various occasions claimed his father was either Boles?aw Antonowicz or a Hungarian wanderer named János Diday. Viktor Korotkyi, a historian specialising in the history of Kiev University, believed János Diday to be Antonovych's father.
His childhood was spent with his grandmother in Makhnovka. Between 1840-1844 he was educated by his mother alongside the children of the noble family. In 1844, Antonovych continued his studies in the Richelieu Lyceum in Odessa, moving to the 2nd Odessa Gymnasium in 1848. In 1850 Antonovych enrolled into the Medical Academic Faculty of St. Vladimir Imperial University (Kiev) at the insistence of his mother, from where he graduated in 1855. During his studies he joined the circles of Polish democratically-minded students and took part in the preparations for what became the January Uprising under the auspice of the London-based Polish Democratic Society.
Between 1855-56, he practiced medicine at Berdichev and Chornobyl. After the death of his mother in 1856, he returned to further studies at St. Vladimir Imperial University where under professor Vasily Shulgin he studied history and philology. In 1860, he defended his dissertation About the Trade of Negroes.
In 1857, he co-founded the Zwi?zek Trojnicki ("Triple Society", named after the three Polish territories absorbed by Russia in the 18th century: Volhynia, Podolia and the Kiev area). The society was aimed at promoting the abolition of serfdom and persuading peasants of the case for Polish independence. At the same time, it prepared the members for their role in the planned all-national uprising. As such, Antonowicz became one of the prominent examples of the "peasant-lovers", a loose group of young artists and political thinkers fascinated with the peasantry as the "core of the nation" and stressing the need to win the peasants for the cause.
However, when the January Uprising finally started, the Society divided. Antonowicz, highly critical of the szlachta, sided with the lower classes and left the society, instead forming a "Ruthenian" (Ukrainian) society called Kiev Hromada. The conflict between Antonowicz and his university colleagues was further aggravated by the conflict over the Polish language. While most democratic societies decided to appeal to the tsar and ask for the Polish language to be promoted to the status of the language of instruction, Antonowicz ultimately opposed those plans. This conflict further strengthened Antonowicz's pro-Ukrainian stance on one side, and the animosity between him and his colleagues on the other, to the extent he was considered a "renegade" by some.
In 1861 he also changed his name to its Ruthenized form and converted to Orthodox faith, common among the peasants living around Kiev, as opposed to the Catholicism of the higher strata of local society. He also married Varvara Ivanovna Mikhels (Russian: ? ?), and started to teach Latin in the 1st Kiev Gymnasium. During that time Antonovych came under investigation for traveling with Tadei Rylskyi around Ukrainian villages.
In July 1863, Antonovych was appointed a chancellery official to the Governor General of Kiev, Podolie, and Volhynia (now Southwestern Krai) with an official departure to the Provisional commission for review of ancient acts (see Kiev Archaeographic Commission, part of the Russian Archaeographic Commission) and in April 1864 (1864-1880) he became its chief editor. During his work in the commission, Antonovych edited and published 9 volumes of the "Archives of South-Western Russia" that relates to history of the 16-18th centuries of Right-bank Ukraine. Introductory articles of Antonovych to those volumes dedicated to Cossack history ("Contents of acts on Cossacks" (Russian: "? ? ? (1500-1648)"), 1863; Last days of Cossackdom on the right bank of the Dnieper according to the acts from 1679 to 1716 (Russian: " ? ? ? 1679 1716 ?."), 1868); haidamaka movement; peasantry; szlachta; cities and their residents; church.
In 1871 he participated in the 2nd Archaeological Congress in Saint Petersburg, also took active role in preparation and conducting the 3rd (1874) and the 9th (1899) archeological congresses in Kiev where he made 36 reports. In 1880 Antonovych participated in the Archaeological Congress in Lisbon (so-called the 9th International Congress of Anthropology and Prehistoric Archaeology, predecessor of IUAES).
Throughout his career, the imperial censors and oppressive political atmosphere prevented Antonovych from openly expressing his political views which tended to be egalitarian and somewhat anarchistic. In addition to being a populist, he was a pioneer of positivist methodology in history, the founder of the so-called "Kiev Documentalist School" of Ukrainian historians, and mentor of the most famous of these, Mykhailo Hrushevsky.
In 1870 Antonovych was awarded the Order of St. Stanislav, 2nd degree. In February 1870 the Kiev University stewardship council confirmed him as a magister of Russian history for his dissertation "Last days of Cossackdom on the right bank of the Dnieper". In the spring of 1870 he was elected to the position of staff docent of Kiev University at the Russian history department.
Volodymyr Antonovych is the father of the former Ukrainian minister Dmytro Antonovych and the grandfather of Maryna Rudnytska, the Canadian professor in the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Maryna Rudnytska was the wife of Jaroslav Rudnyckyj.
His wife was Kateryna Mykolaivna Antonovych-Melnyk (Dec. 2, 1859 - Jan. 12, 1942) who was a Ukrainian historian and archeologist from the city of Khorol (today - Poltava Oblast). In the 1880s she participated in the archeological excavations near Shumsk (today - Ternopil Oblast) and in 1885, she visited Ternopil during her travel around the region. Since 1919, Kateryna worked in the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.