Mykola Riabchuk is a Ukrainian poet, translator, prose writer and essayist, honorary president of the Ukrainian PEN Centre and a senior research fellow at the Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Born in 1953 in the city of Lutsk, he spent his adolescent years in Lviv. In 1970-1973, he studied at the Lviv Polytechnic Institute, but was expelled for unauthorized literary activity, and had to take various odd jobs – of a railway builder, theatre electrician, loader at a book factory and alike.
In the 1980s, as ‘perestroika’ advanced, he made his M.A. in the Gorky Literary Institute in Moscow, and took position of an editor in the Kyiv-based journal of international literature “Vsesvit” where he was eventually promoted to the rubric editor and the deputy editor-in-chief. His numerous articles in the best Ukrainian and Russian magazines brought him the reputation of the leading Ukrainian literary critic and publicist. Then, he received a number of awards for the best articles of the year, starting from “Literaturna Ukraina” (1981) and “Literaturnoe obozrenie” (1984), “Ukrainska kultura” (1988) and “Suchasnist” (1993). ‘Perestroika’ also enabled the publication of his earlier works illegally disseminated in the 1970s – early 80s in ‘samvydav’.
In 1997, he co-founded (with the Harvard Professor George Grabowicz) the “Krytyka” monthly edition and managed it as editor-in-chief till 2000. Since then, he has been increasingly engaged in the academic work, both as a lecturer and researcher, defended his PhD in political science, and published a number of scholarly works – primarily in Ukrainian, but also in Polish, English and Russian – three other languages he operates in.
His many books include a collection of poetry “Winter in Lviv” (1989), two collections of literary criticism – “A Need for Words” (1985) and “Sisyphus and Stones” (2016), three collections of short stories – “Anywhere, But Here” (2002, 2nd edition in 2017), “Previous Life” (2013, Polish translation in 2018), and “A Hundred Anecdotes” (2014), and numerous collections of essays, in particular – “From Little Russia to Ukraine” (2000, Polish translation in 2002, French and Serbian in 2003), “Dilemmas of the Ukrainian Faustus” (2001), “Two Ukraines” (2003, Polish translation in 2004, 2nd edition in 2006), “Die reale und die imaginierte Ukraine” (Ukraine: the real and the imaginative) (original in German, 2006), “Metternich’s Garden” (2008, Polish translation in 2010), “Mrs. Simpson’s Favorite Gun” (2009), “Postcolonial Syndrome” (2011, Polish translation in 2015, Hungarian – 2016), “Gleichschaltung: Authoritarian Consolidation in Ukraine” (2012, in both Ukrainian and English).
Mykola Riabchuk was distinguished with the POLCUL Award in 1998, Polish-Ukrainian Capitula Award in 2002 (with Jacek Kuroń) and the Bene Merito medal of the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2009 for the contribution into Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation. As a Fullbrighter, he taught at Penn State University in 1994-95, University of Texas at Austin in 1996 and carried out research at George Washington University in 2016. He was a visiting professor at Columbia University in 2006 and University of Alberta in 2007-2008, and recurrently, since 2002 up to the present day, at the University of Warsaw.
Since 2014, he heads the jury of the Angelus Literature Award endowed by the city of Wroclaw for the best book by a Central East European writer published in Poland, and the Yurii Sheveliov Prize for the best book of essayistic, endowed by the Ukrainian PEN Centre.
Honorary President of PEN Ukraine.
He demonstrates a high level of analytical thought – still rare it must be admitted, in his native country. He does not hesitate to break historical myths, always animated by an intellectual joy that makes the pages we are going to read so stimulating. His irony and freedom of tone remind me of the best of recent Polish literature. He jostles the usual categories, the most inveterate clichés. The picture of the country he depicts, looks very dire and the prospects disturbing. But the very existence of such free and intelligent minds in Ukraine offers a good reason not to lose hope.
Alain Besançon, preface to Mykola Riabtchouk’s “De la petit Russie à l’Ukraine” (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2003)
The reading of Riabchuk’s book is a valuable experience. The essays included are undoubtedly great pieces of analytical work and reveal the masterful style of the author’s essayistic skills. It is worth mentioning, the conclusions presented in the book are a result of Riabchuk’s own reflections and observations, and are also a part of the wider, international debate, on the current political system in Ukraine […] This feature of the book puts it on the wider spectrum of international discourse on political systems in the Eastern Europe, and allows us to conjure that it will probably be regarded as one of the key texts on Yanukovych’s regime.
Maryana Prokop, New Eastern Europe, no. 2, 2013.
Mykola Riabchuk, one of a few excellent Ukrainian essayists…
Ryszard Kapuscinski, Imperium, Knopf, 1994.
Mykola Riabchuk’s book should definitely be translated [into Polish] and become the must-read for everybody who is interested in Ukraine.
Piotr Pogorzelski, Nowa Europa Wschodnia, nr. 1, 2010
…the excellent political commentator Mykola Ryabchuk…
Alexander Motyl, World Affairs, August 12, 2011
Mykola Riabchuk constructs his texts very skillfully and attractively. In a sense, they resemble a chess game where every next step (a narrative twist, an argument, an example) is neither random nor incidental, but rather a part of a well-conceived strategy of engagement.
Roksolana Sviato, Litakcent, no. 2, 2008
The articles by Mykola Riabchuk are a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the political-sociological situation in Ukraine.
Will Zuzak, GRC Report, 2.03.2011