George Shevelov

Ukrainian-American linguist
George Yurii Shevelov
German: George Yurii Schneider

(1908-12-17)17 December 1908
Łomża, Łomża Governorate, Russian Empire (now Poland)
Died12 April 2002(2002-04-12) (aged 93)
Other namesYurii Sherekh, Hryhory Shevchuk, Šerech, Sherekh, Sher; Гр. Ш., Ю. Ш.
Known forLinguist & literary historian of Ukrainian language
Scientific career
Doctoral advisorLeonid Bulakhovsky
Notable studentsOles Honchar
InfluencedOksana Zabuzhko

George Yurii Shevelov (name at birth German: George Yurii Schneider, Ukrainian: Юрій Володимирович Шнайдер, romanized: Yurii Volodymyrovych Shnaider) also known by his numerous literary pseudonyms Yurii Sherekh, Hryhory Shevchuk, Šerech, Sherekh, Sher; Гр. Ш., Hr. Sh., Ю. Ш., Yu. Sh., etc. (December 17, 1908 – April 12, 2002) was a Ukrainian-American professor, linguist, philologist, essayist, literary historian, and literary critic of German heritage. A longtime professor of Slavic philology at Columbia University, he challenged the prevailing notion of a unified East Slavic language from which Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian later developed, instead proposing that these languages emerged independently from one another.

Early life

George Yurii Shevelov was born Yurii Shneider in Łomża, Poland, then part of the Russian Empire in 1908. Some sources however, indicate Kharkiv as his place of birth (his mother incorrectly stated his birthplace in order to escape persecution).[1][2][3] His family moved to Kharkiv in 1910. His father, Vladimir Karlovich Shnaider (Schneider) was a high ranking Russian Imperial Army officer who held the rank of major-general. His father and mother (Varvara Meder, who originally was of noble birth from an established Moscow family) were both ethnic Germans. When Russia declared war on the German Empire in 1914, his father – a fervent Russian monarchist – decided to russify the family name. Shnaider chose the Russian equivalent of his surname = Shevelov, and also changed the patronymic “Karlovich” to “Yuryevich”. Such changes required a personal petition to the Tsar, and in his case it was personally granted by Nikolai II in 1916. During the World War I, Yurii and his mother moved to Kharkiv. At the beginning of 1918, Shevelov's father was missing in action and was presumed killed.

In Kharkiv, Yurii initially attended the E. Druzhkova Private School, then at 3rd State Boy's Gymnasium, and then continued his education at the Technical School #7 (Ukrainian: 7-а трудовa школa).

In Soviet Ukraine

In 1925 Shevelov graduated from the First Kharkiv Trade and Industry Union school (Ukrainian: Перша харківська торговельна промислова профспілкова школа). From 1925 till 1927 he worked as a statistician and archive keeper for South Chemical Trust. In 1927–1931 he attended classes at the literary-linguistic branch of the Kharkiv People's Education Institute. From August 1931 he was employed as a Ukrainian language school teacher. From 1932 till 1938 he was employed as a Ukrainian language teacher at the Ukrainian Communist Newspaper Technical School (Ukrainian: Український комуністичноий газетний технікум). From 1933 till 1939 he also taught Ukrainian language at the Ukrainian Communist Institute for Journalism. From September 1936 he was a postgraduate student under the guidance of Leonid Bulakhovsky. In 1939 he taught the history of the Ukrainian language and literature. From November 1939 he became the assistant professor and deputy chair of the philology department of the Kharkiv Pedagogical Institute. In 1941 he became a research fellow at the Linguistic Institute of the Academy of Science of the Ukrainian SSR. In that same year he was pressured to become an NKVD informer.[4][5]

In 1934 Shevelov was the co-author of a Grammar of the Ukrainian language in two volumes. This text was reprinted in 1935 and 1936.[6]

During WWII

Shevelov was able to avoid induction into the Red Army and remained in Kharkiv following the Soviet evacuation, and after the Wehrmacht troops entered Kharkiv on 25 October 1941. He joined the “New Ukraine” in December 1941, a Ukrainian language newspaper partially controlled by OUN.[7] Later Shevelov also worked at the “Ukrainian Sowing” newspaper (Ukrainian: «Український засів»}. From April 1942 Shevelov worked for the city administration and collaborated with the educational organization Prosvita. In his memoirs, one of his former students Oles Honchar claimed that when as a Soviet POW he was detained in a Nazi Camp in Kharkiv, Shevelov refused his pleas for assistance [8][failed verification]. Shevelov answered the allegation in an interview stating that he never received the letter "...А потім у нас відбулася ще одна зустріч віч-на-віч. Гончар почав на мене нападати – ідеологічно, згадувати якісь факти, про які я нічого не знаю. Ніби-то коли в роки війни він потрапив до харківської в'язниці, то передав мені лист, в якому просив посприяти його визволенню, а я міг, та не захотів. Можливо, такий лист і справді був, але до мене він ніколи не потрапляв.".[9] Honchar escaped death to become a renowned and influential Ukrainian writer.[10] Shevelov has been critical of Soviet novels including Honchar's major work.[11]

Shevelov and his mother fled the returning Red Army's advance on Kharkiv in February 1943. He resided for a brief period of time in Lviv where he continued his work in the study of Ukrainian language, including the creation of a new Ukrainian grammar until the Spring of 1944, when the Soviets continued their drive Westwards. Shevelov with the assistance of the Ukrainian Central Committee moved to Poland (Krynica) and then to Slovakia, then Austria and finally to Saxony.

In Europe

After the fall of Nazi Germany, Shevelov worked for the Ukrainian émigré newspaper “Chas” (“Time”). In 1946 he enrolled in the Ukrainian Free University in Munich and defended his doctorate dissertation in philology in 1947, continuing on his pre-war research and work "До генези називного речення" (1941)[citation needed]. He was also vice-president of the MUR (Ukrainian: Мистецький український рух), a Ukrainian literary association (1945–49). In order to avoid repatriation to Soviet Union from Germany, he moved to neutral Sweden, where he worked in 1950–52 as Russian language lecturer at Lund University.

In the US

In 1952, together with mother, he emigrated to the USA. After settling in the United States he worked as a lecturer in Russian and Ukrainian at Harvard University (1952-4), associate professor (1954-8) and professor of Slavic philology at Columbia University (1958–77). He was one of the founders and president of the émigré scholarly organization “Ukrainian Free Academy of Sciences” (1959–61, 1981–86) and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Alberta (1983) and Lund University (1984).[12][13] He was a founding member of the Slovo Association of Ukrainian Writers in Exile and was published in numerous émigré bulletins and magazines.

Return to Ukraine

Shevelov was almost unknown to Ukrainian academic circles after 1943. In 1990, after an extended absence, he visited Ukraine where he was elected an international member of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. In 1999 he received an honorary doctorate from the Kharkiv University and from the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.[14][15]

In 2001 he published two volumes of his memoirs “Я – мене – мені…(і довкруги).”: Спогади.

He died in 2002 in New York.


Intellectual contributions

Shevelov prepared and published more than 600 scholarly texts concerning different aspects of the philology of the Ukrainian and other Slavic languages. From 1943 he developed the concept of the distinct establishment and development of Ukrainian and, later, Belarusian languages. Shevelov argued against the commonly held view of an original, unified East Slavic language from which Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian languages diverged and instead proposed the existence of several dialectical groups (Kyivan-Polissyan, Galician-Podillian, Polotsk-Smolensk, Novgorodian-Tversk, Murom-Ryazansk) that had been distinct from the beginning and which later formed into separate Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian languages. According to Shevelov, the beginnings of a separate Ukrainian language could be traced to the 7th century while the language formed in approximately the 16th century [16]

Heritage and legacy

On 4 September 2013 memorial plaque to Shevelov in his native Kharkiv was unveiled.[17] On 25 September 2013 the city council of Kharkiv, after an appeal by the Anti-Fascist Committee of Kharkiv, voted with 65 deputies for and four against (all four members of Batkivshchyna) that the memorial plaque to Shevelov in Kharkiv was placed there illegally.[18] According to Mayor Hennadiy Kernes Shevelov "proved to be a Nazi henchman".[18] Kharkiv Oblast Governor Mykhailo Dobkin suggested that Shevelov during World War II "took an apartment of a Jewish family which, most likely, was shot".[18] In an open letter addressed the Kharkiv city council scientists from the University of Cambridge, Columbia University, the University of Kansas, Rutgers University, Northwestern University and the University of Alberta had pleaded that the allegations that Shevelov was a Nazi collaborator "were thoroughly investigated by numerous US government agencies and Columbia University who completely and unequivocally rejected these acquisitions".[18] Half an hour after the Kharkiv city council had established that the memorial plaque to Shevelov was illegal (citizens who identified themselves as) public employees destroyed the memorial plaque.[18] On 5 January 2015 the Kharkiv Administrative Court of Appeal reversed the decision of the Kharkiv city council to dismantle the memorial plaque for Shevelov.[19] In 2021 the memorial plaque was reinstated after a public fundraiser.[20]

Select bibliography

  • "Головні правила українського правопису" (Neu-Ulm, 1946),
  • "До генези називного речення" (Munich, 1947),
  • "Галичина в формуванні нової української літературної мови" (Munich, 1949),
  • "Сучасна українська літературна мова" (Munich, 1949),
  • "Нарис сучасної української літературної мови" (Munich, 1951),
  • "Всеволод Ганцов – Олена Курило" (Winnipeg, 1954),
  • "A Reader in the Hіstory of the Eastern Slavіc" (New-York 1958, співав.),
  • "The Syntax of Modern Lіterary Ukrainian" (1963),
  • "Не для дітей. Літературно-критичні статті і есеї" (New-York, 1964),
  • "A Prehіstory of Slavіc: The Historical Phonology of Common Slavіc" (1964, Heidelberg; 1965, New-York),
  • "Die ukrainіsche Schrіftsprache 1798–1965" (Wiesbaden, 1966),
  • "Teasers and Appeasers" (1971),
  • "Друга черга: Література. Театр. Ідеології" (1978),
  • "A Historical Phonology of the Ukrainian Language" (1979» «Історична фонологія української мови», перекл. укр., 2002),
  • "Українська мова в першій половині двадцятого століття(1900–1941): Стан і статус" (1987) and many other.
  • «Історична фонологія української мови». пер. Сергія Вакуленка та Андрія Даниленка. Харків: Акта, 2002.


  1. ^ "text Пам'яті Юрія Шевельова (Шереха)". Archived from the original on 2009-12-14. Retrieved 2010-02-23.
  2. ^ "Rieger J., Hnatiuk A. Jurij Szewelow (George Y. Shevelov, Jurij Szerech) 1908–2002 // Slavia Orientalis. – 2002. – T. LI. – Nr. 3. – S. 351–360". Archived from the original on 2009-12-14. Retrieved 2010-02-23.
  3. ^ "Shevelov, George Yurii".
  4. ^ Шевельов (Шерех), Ю.В. “Я – мене – мені…(і довкруги)”: Спогади. – Х.; Нью-Йорк: Вид-во М.П.Коць, 2001. – Т.1. p 8- 290
  5. ^ Боґуміла Бердиховська. Україна: люди і книжки . КІС, 2009. p 167-169
  6. ^ "Юрій Шевельов. Українська мова. Енциклопедія".
  7. ^ А. В. Скоробогатов Харків у часи німецької окупації (1941—1943). — Харків: Прапор, 2006. — ISBN 966-7880-79-6
  8. ^ Гончар Олесь. Катарсис. — К.: Український світ, 2000
  9. ^ "Юрій Шевельов: "Я хотів сказати до побачення всім, кого знав і любив..."".
  10. ^ "Server Login".
  11. ^ End of a Svitlana Matvienko. Mirror Weekly. 20–26 April 2002.
  12. ^ "University of Alberta". Archived from the original on 2011-05-27.
  13. ^ "Hedersdoktorer vid humanistiska fakulteten - Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna, Lunds universitet".
  14. ^ "Шевельов Юрій (Shevelov George) (довідка)".
  15. ^ Почесні професори НаУКМА
  16. ^ Great Ukrainian Philologist[permanent dead link] On the 100 year Anniversary of the Birth of Yuri Shevelov by Roxolana Zorivchak, professor of the University of Lviv
  17. ^ (in Ukrainian) In Kharkiv, despite obstacles opened Yuri Sheveleva board. PHOTOS, Ukrayinska Pravda (4 September 2013)
  18. ^ a b c d e (in Ukrainian) "Shevelov - Nazi henchman" - members of the Kharkov City Council, Ukrayinska Pravda (25 September 2013)
    In KHARKIV axes erase board Sheveleva. Photo, Ukrayinska Pravda (25 September 2013)
    Kernes did not listen to scientists at Cambridge and Columbia, Ukrayinska Pravda (25 September 2013)
  19. ^ (in Ukrainian) In Kharkiv, the court reversed the decision of the board demotazh "accomplice fashystov", Ukrayinska Pravda (5 January 2015)
  20. ^ (in Ukrainian) Vavelov's board was vandalized in Kharkiv, Istorychna Pravda (28 January 2022)

Book references

  • Шевельов (Шерех), Ю.В. “Я – мене – мені…(і довкруги).”: Спогади. – Х.; Нью-Йорк: Вид-во М.П.Коць, 2001. – Т.1.
  • Боґуміла Бердиховська. Україна: люди і книжки / Переклад з польської Тетяна Довжок. КІС, 2009. p 167-178
  • А. В. Скоробогатов Харків у часи німецької окупації (1941—1943). — Харків: Прапор, 2006. — ISBN 966-7880-79-6

External links

  • GEORGE Y. SHEVELOV Homer's Arbitration in a Ukrainian Linguistic Controversy: Alexander Potebnja and Peter Niscyns'kyj
  • Rieger J., Hnatiuk A. Jurij Szewelow (George Y. Shevelov, Jurij Szerech)1908–2002 // Slavia Orientalis. – 2002. – T. LI. – Nr. 3. – S. 351–360
  • George Y. Shevelov biography and bibliography at Kharkiv University
  • George Y. Shevelov biography and bibliography at Kharkiv University
  • George Y. Shevelov Papers at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University, New York, NY
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