Fedir Aristov: Creative Endeavours Devoted to Lemkos

One hundred years have passed since the birth of Fedir Aristov. He belonged to the circle of those progressive scholars whose scientific, literary and pedagogical activities began in pre-revolutionary Russia and continued to Soviet times.

F. Aristov
Professor F. Aristov with his children — Nikolai, Tatiana and Tamara.

Fedir Aristov (born October 14, 1888, in Varnaya, Kostroma township; died November 5, 1932 in Moscow) was an historian, literary critic, ethnographer ana archaeologist. In 1907 he graduated from the Moscow Commercial Institute, Department of Economics, and simultaneously from the History and Philology Department of the Moscow University. His doctoral thesis was defended after the October Revolution of 1917. He was among the founders and teachers of the State University of Tbilisi (1918-1920). Aristov taught at the Officers’ Training Center in Feodosia in the Crimea from 1920-1922. From 1922 Fedir Aristov was a Professor at Moscow University, specializing in the history and literature of the Czech, Slovak and Polish peoples as well as those of other Slavic nations.

Credit should be given to Fedir Aristov for his great contribution to the studies of the Carpathian area and its population.

It was in 1907, in Moscow, that Fedir Aristov founded the Carpatho-Rusyn Museum which boasted about 100,000 exhibits narrating the history, literature, ethnography, geography, and art of Carpathian Rus. These materials were used by the scholar when he was working on the three-volume edition "Carpatho-Rusyn Writers." The first volume came off the press in 1916 and was reprinted in 1918. The author was awarded the Shakhmatov Prize by the Russian Academy of Sciences for this work. The book included “The History of Carpathian Rus” and biographical sketches on D. Zubrytsky, A. Dukhnovycn, M. Ustyjanovych, Ya. Holovatsky, I. Ranovsky, A. Dbbriansky, A. retrushevych, I. Hulashevych in addition to 32 portraits — 21 of which were presented to the reader as originals.

The second volume which remained in the form of galleys only, carried the biographical essays of I. Naumovych, B. Didytsty, I. Sharanevych, V. Zalozetsky, O. Kralytsky, I. Silvai, V. Khvlyak, E. Fentsyk, F. Svystun, O. Markov, N. Kupchanko, у. Shchavynsky and A. Polyansky. The third volume contained essays on O. Monchalovsky, V. Lutsyk. I. Protsyk, I. Makarov, I. Verhun, Yu. Yavorsky, M. Hlushkevych. In addition it contained “The History of All-Russian Literature” in Carpathian Rus. Such outstanding Russian scholars as O. Pokrovsky, I. Grot and I. Linchenko highly regarded this work.

No less important was the Carpatho-Rusyn card index compiled by the scholar. It numbered over ten thousand cards in which were reflected different materials on the spiritual and material culture of this ethnic group of the Carpathian area.

The idea of creating such a card index came to Fedir Aristov years back when he was still a young man and started to collect the materials for the Carpatho-Rusyn Museum. This set of cards constantly increased in size. However, both the card index and the museum exhibits faced their bad luck. In the summer of 1917 the museum premises were transformed into a hospital for sick and wounded servicemen. The card index and exhibits were packed and deposited in the local bond shop. Those were the times when devastation reigned in the country. The bond shop was plundered and the scholar’s priceless materials perished.

Fedir Aristov wanted the wide circles of Russian public to be better acquainted with the works of Carpatho-Russian authors. Having this in mind he decided to publish the “Library of Carpatho-Rusyn Writers” which was to include the best creations of poets and prosaists of the Carpathian area. The Library’s number of volumes was planned to be thirty. After the painstaking work of collecting the materials and numerous consultations with literary critics, the best works were selected for printing. Every volume was dedicated to one author only. In 1905 works by A. Dukhnovych, O. Polyansky, F. Svystun and O. Monchalovsky came otf the press. Writings by M. Hlushkevych and V. Zalozetsky were also prepared for printing but failed to appear on the shelves because of a lack of funds.

Fedir Aristov collected the materials personally,and edited them, supplementing each volume with the necessary literary and historic commentaries and short biographies of the authors.

Some manuscripts of the scholar which can be found in the archives are dedicated to the Carpathian them. They include "The History of Carpathian Rus" and "The Literary Processes in Subcarpathian (Hungarian) Rus."

The frontiers of the states, with Halychyna, Subcarpathia and Transcarpathia as part of their territory, were constantly changed during the centuries. Only after World War II did these lands, excluding Lemkovina, Kholmshchyna and Pryashivshchyna enter the USSR.

Fedir Aristov’s works vividly acquaint us with the wonderful culture of our people of the past. The scholar was the first in Russia to collect and present as a whole the great riches of Carpatho-Russian literature. Besides, he studied the national roots of these riches and their social value.

The Lemko people are grateful to Fedir Aristov for his tireless work for their benefit — for the valuable materials he collected reflecting the history, literature and culture of the Carpathian area.