Vasiliy Stus

Vasiliy Stus

Ukrainian poet, human rights activist, political prisoner, since 2005 - Hero of Ukraine.
Date of Birth: 08.01.1938
Country: Ukraine

Biography of Vasyl Stus

Vasyl Stus was a Ukrainian poet, human rights activist, and political prisoner. He was born on January 8, 1938 (according to other sources - January 6, 1938) in the village of Rakhovka, Vinnytsia region. He was the youngest son in a peasant family that became impoverished as a result of collectivization and eventually moved to the Donetsk region.

During his high school years, Stus worked part-time at the railway and was introduced to the banned Ukrainian literature of the "Executed Renaissance" in the USSR. After graduating from school in 1954, he entered the historical and philological faculty of the Donetsk State Pedagogical University, where he studied in the literary studio under the guidance of T. Dukhovna. He later worked as a teacher of Ukrainian language and literature in a rural school.

In 1963, Stus became a graduate student at the Taras Shevchenko Institute of Literature in Kyiv. The so-called "Khrushchev Thaw" became a new starting point for Stus, from which he began his active creative and political activities. He participated in protests against the arrest of Ivan Svitlichny and publicly accused the KGB of the murder of artist and dissident Alla Horska. As a result, Stus was expelled from graduate school and was forced to seek temporary employment.

On September 7, 1972, he was arrested for anti-Soviet activities. The reason for his arrest was a quatrain he had written while still in the army: "A gang of bandits, Chekists, thieves and rapists settled in the capital city like the Bolshevik Party." After serving five years in a labor camp and two years in exile in the Magadan region, the poet returned to Kyiv, where he continued his activities, speaking in support of "prisoners of conscience" with the backing of Western organizations. Since 1978, he was an honorary member of the English PEN Club.

In early 1980, Stus was arrested for the second time and received a 10-year prison sentence. On September 4, 1985, on the second day of a dry hunger strike in the solitary confinement of labor camp 389/36 near the village of Kuchino in the Perm region, he died under unexplained circumstances, just a few months before the implementation of the main provisions of Gorbachev's perestroika.

In 1989, Vasyl Stus' remains were solemnly transferred to Ukraine and buried in Kyiv. On November 26, 2005, "for indomitable spirit, sacrificial service to Ukraine and the national Idea, high humanistic ideals of creativity," Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko posthumously awarded Vasyl Stus the title of Hero of Ukraine.

Vasyl Stus was the author of numerous poems and critical articles. He translated the works of Kipling, Goethe, and Rilke into Ukrainian. In 1985, while in prison, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but he died before the question of its award could be considered. In 1993, he was posthumously awarded the State Shevchenko Prize.