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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

An odd anniversary

Kyiv-Mohyla Academy turns 395!
21 October, 2010 - 00:00

Just before the weekend the students of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy marked their “professional” holiday. As this year it coincided with the university’s 395th anniversary, it was particularly spectacular and fanciful.

The celebrations began with a press briefing with the participation of the “restorer” of the university Viacheslav Briukhovetsky and the incumbent president Serhii Kvit. Kyiv-Mohyla Academy is one of Eastern Europe’s oldest universities. It is believed to have been founded on October 15, 1615. That was when a monastery, a hospital, and a school were founded at the cost of a noble Kyivite Halshka Hulevychivna.

In 1632, Metropolitan Petro Mohyla initiated the merger of two schools, the Kyiv fraternity school and the Kyiv Lavra school, and thus the Kyiv Fraternity (Mohyla) Collegium was created. The bright, breathtaking story of this school cannot be told in just a few words. One should nevertheless note that in its heyday (the 17th-18th cc.) it exerted a colossal influence on the scholarly, educational, and spiritual life in Ukraine.

Moreover, the impact of the Mohylian intellectual and spiritual tradition has been felt by all Slavic nations. No wonder, since the list of outstanding Mohylians includes metropolitans Petro Mohyla, Dymytrii (Tuptalo), and Ioan (Maksymovych); the hetmans Ivan Vyhovsky, Petro Doroshenko, Mykhailo Khanenko, Ivan Mazepa, Ivan Skoropadsky, Pylyp Orlyk, Pavlo Polubotok, and Danylo Apostol; Stefan Yavorsky, the reformer of Slav-Greek-Latin School in Moscow, the first higher education institution in Russia; Nestor Ambodyk, the founder of domestic obstetrics and physiotherapy; the philosopher Hryhorii Skovoroda; the architect Ivan Hryhorovych-Barsky; composers Maksym Berezovsky and Artemii Vedel, and the “Cossack chroniclers” Samiilo Velychko and Hryhorii Hrabianka.

Reborn in 1991, the Mohyla Academy soon became one of the centers of Ukrainian intellectual live. At various points in time, Mohylians listened to talks given by Lina Kostenko, Ivan Dziuba, Mykhailyna Kotsiubynska, Valerii Shevchuk, Bohdan Havrylyshyn, Adam Michnik, Roman Shporliuk and, unfortunately, the now deceased Yurii Sheveliov and James Mace.

“One might say that a 395th birthday is an odd anniversary,” began Briukhovetsky. “The ‘right’ one will be marked in five years. We are going to speak about the achievements we will have had by then. But first of all I want to speak about what the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy has done for Ukraine over these 395 years.

“First and foremost, this is the best-known institution in all of our history. No other Ukrainian institution has ever existed this long. Even hetmanship lasted only a little more than one hundred years.

“Over nearly four centuries, Mohyla Academy has not only ‘produced’ numerous outstanding politicians, scholars, educators, and artists. There is something else that matters more. We have started a tradition: not that of conquering strange lands, usurping their spiritual heritage, or of dominating someone, but a tradition of building a European nation.

“Our problem is that we have few long-term projects, whereas serious positive results can only be achieved through continued processes.” “So, what tasks do we set before ourselves for the next five years?” Kvit went on. “We are planning to become an up-to-date Western-style university with considerable autonomy.

“Today, none of Ukraine’s universities is listed among the world’s top schools. Not because the faculty is not highly qualified, or the students are not smart, but because they have an outdated structure and infrastructure.

“For the implementation of such far-reaching plans three things need to be done: Ukrainian universities need autonomy in financial issues and human resources management; they need amenities for research, since today’s science is developing in research institutions; and a universal use of English.

“Now we announce the launch of a project entitled ‘Restoration at Mohyla Academy: from the foundations of buildings to the foundations of education in Ukraine.’ Because restoration is in effect the maintenance of up-to-date infrastructure.” This concerns, specifically, a unique historical architectural complex of the 16-19th cc. under state supervision (11 buildings), situated on the territory of the Academy: Starodukhiv (Refectory) Church, Old Academic (Mazepa) building, the kitchen of Fraternity Monastery, Annunciation Church, the seminary, the cells of the fraternity monastery. Until now, the university has been maintaining these buildings, saving them from destruction, virtually by itself.

Thus, in 1996-97, the academy had the ceilings and beams of Annunciation Church reinforced. In 2005-08, Starodukhiv (Refectory) Church and the kitchen of Fraternity Monastery were restored (the only project to which the government allotted funds, seven million hryvnias, and which still requires nearly 350,000 hryvnias more). Meanwhile, the restoration of Old Academic (Mazepa) building (and the remaining nine buildings) is going to cost 30 million hryvnias, based on preliminary estimates.

They say the restoration can be completed in three years, provided the money is available. As director for development of the NaUKMA Natalia Sumkova remarked, in order to raise additional funds, the university is going to cooperate with state bodies (the Cabinet of Ministers, Ministries of Culture and Tourism and of Education and Science, as well as with the Directory for Protection of Monuments); with domestic and international charitable foundations, in particular, with UNESCO office to obtain the status of a monument of worldwide importance for the Old Academic building; with business structures, and with the Ukrainian diaspora.

At the very closing, the journalists were invited on a mini sightseeing tour which set off from the Old Academic (Mazepa) building: its first brick was laid by Hetman Mazepa himself. Its Congregation Room resembles a study from the times of Hryhorii Skovoroda. Similar rooms were restored at the philosopher’s museum in Pereiaslav-Khmelnytsky, Kyiv oblast. The Congregation Room serves as the venue for the most important meetings. In particular, this is where the US presidents were received when they visited Ukraine, as were many European heads of state.

The next room held book collections presented by “local” and foreign Ukrainians, for instance, the outstanding translator Yevhen Popovych. From here it’s a stone’s throw to Annunciation Church, popularly known as the Students Church. There students can be wed or have their babies baptized, or at least just drop in to say a prayer and light a candle for a successful exam.

The narrow, long rooms further on looked more like corridors. Almost everywhere on both sides they are lined with original bookcases dating back to the 18th-19th cc. As you go on, you become more and more overwhelmed with a feeling that you are at a film set where a documentary is being made. Sumkova led us to a book depository where only the staff are allowed. The depository holds more than 300 editions printed before 1700. The Old Academic building also used to house a museum whose collections are now dispersed all over the former Soviet Union. By the by, the Egyptian mummies which are kept at the Lavra now also come from the local museum collection. The university is planning to renew the museum and restore the Mohylian heritage.

The tour ended at Halshka Hulevychivna’s museum (one of Kyiv’s oldest buildings, now housing the Bachelors’ Library and named in honor of its main sponsors, Omelian and Tetiana Antonovych). The library has access to wi-fi and an electronic catalog accessible from any computer on the campus. Today, this library is one of the best in Ukraine.

So, the project “Restoration…” has been launched. The first charitable fund-raising action is to take place on Epiphany Day.

By Nadia TYSIACHNA, photos by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day