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    Volodymyr Vynnychenko’s Nietzschean Revolutionary Hero

    Andrew Kaspryk, Ph.D
    Department of Slavic and Baltic Languages and Literatures
    University of Illinois at Chicago
    Chicago, Illinois (2000)

    The Ukrainian writer Volodymyr Vynnychenko (1880-1951) depicted revolutionary artists and intellectuals of the Empire, who regarded themselves as Nietzscheans. They espoused a popularized form of Nietzsche’s ideas: a pursuit of self-realization, which involved a revaluation of moral values, a desire for psychic integration of mind and body, and a striving for self-transcendence. Vynnychenko modified the Nietzschean hero by making his will-to-power egalitarian. Like the Russian Nietzschean Marxists, Vynnychenko was dissatisfied with Russian Marxists’ one-sided focus on politics and concomitant instrumental valuation of the individual for his political worth. The Nietzschean Marxists believed, as did Nietzsche, that an internal revolution within the individual must precede the revolution in society. Marx and many Ukrainian and Russian Marxists did not see this step as necessary or practical. Vynnychenko attempted to demonstrate by his heroes that those Nietzschean revolutionaries who had undergone an internal psychic revolution, would better serve the revolutionary cause.

    Vynnychenko’s Nietzschean-revolutionary hero provoked controversy because of his applying Nietzsche’s demand for "a revaluation of all values" so dramatically and vividly. His affirmation of sexuality opposed the prevailing ascetic revolutionary ideal; his recognition of the irrationality of instinctual forces challenged the prevailing revolutionary faith in the power of reason. Vynnychenko’s heroes advanced the existential imperative "honesty with oneself" - which compelled them to pursue personal fulfillment and social duty. In Vynnychenko’s early texts, they meet this goal, but face more obstacles in its realization later. Such a development of his own ideas finally compelled Vynnychenko to repudiate the model of the Nietzschean hero. Vynnychenko’s contribution to the pre-revolutionary literature has not been fully recognized. In his treatment of the theme of the troubled revolutionary, Vynnychenko went further than other revolutionary writers in breaking the code of self-censorship that revolutionaries had adopted. By means of a perspectivist approach to moral valuation, borrowed from Nietzsche, and the inherent irony of the polyphonic structure of the novel, borrowed from Dostoevsky, Vynnychenko criticized the shortcomings of Marxist ideology. He made a prescient critique, informed by Nietzsche, of revolutionary Marxist ideology, which too readily sacrifices the individual in the name of ideas and overestimates the power of reason.

    The dissertation will be available through UMI Dissertation Services in early June 2000; contact us via email at or visit the website for information on obtaining a paper or microfilm copy.

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