The Mykola Bazhan Literary Memorial Apartment Museum in Kyiv

The opening of the Literary Memorial Apartment Museum of Mykola Bazhan in Kyiv, subsidiary of the National Museum of Literature in Ukraine, was timed to the centennial of the poet in October 2004.

Микола Бажан (1904-1983)


The museum is located in the apartment where the family of Mykola Platonovych and Nina Volodymyrivna Bazhan lived for 40 years. The basis of the collection was formed with the things, documents, materials, art collection and the library of M. Bazhan which were demised to the country by the will of N.V. Bazhan-Lauer .

The apartment museum presents reconstructed interior appearance of rooms where this famous poet, philosopher, brilliant translator, literary scholar, art critic and scriptwriter lived and created. Poet’s work-room, sitting-room, library, rooms of the poet’s wife and father re-create atmosphere of the second half of the ХХ century, the world of artist’s spirit, manifoldness of his life. Exhibition includes personal belongings and documents of Mykola Bazhan, his manuscripts and autographs, original photographs, original publications of his works and translations, unique library and art collection.

The apartment museum exhibits collection of works of pictorial and decorative arts of Western European and Oriental craftsmen collected by the poet himself and his wife. Collection of paintings comprises pictures by Ukrainian and Russian artists, such as K. Trutovskyi, S. Vasylkivskyi, M. Pymonenko, V. Krychevskyi, I. Trush, K. Bilokur, M. Deregus, M. Glushchenko, I. Makogon, as well as works of West-European artists of ХVІІ-ХVІІІ centuries. Collection of graphic art shows deep knowledge and interest of the poet in this form of pictorial art. Walls of entrance hall and corridor are decorated with Italian engravings of ХVІІІ and ХХ centuries, graphic art works of Ukrainian artists, Central Asian miniature paintings of ХVІІІ-ХІХ centuries. By virtue of classic taste of the mistress, the atmosphere of cosy home is created by antique furniture and dishware, arts-and-crafts ware made by Ukrainian craftsmen and well-known Western European manufacturers. Visitors can see antique ceramics from North Black Sea region, Ukrainian glassware, Italian majolica, old Ukrainian faience ware and Kosov ceramics.

The Bazhan apartment museum’s stock comprises twelve thousand pieces.

Фрагмент меморіальної експозиції _Вітальня Миколи Бажана

Mykola Bazhan was born on October 9, 1904 in the city of Kamianets-Podilskyi of Khmelnytskyi region in the family of a military topographer. He spent his childhood years first in Kamianets-Podilskyi, and later in Uman – two ancient Ukrainian towns with rich history. He studied in Uman Boy’s Gymnasium and later in the Cooperative Institute and the Institute of International Relations in Kyiv. However, he didn’t graduate from any of them. The first one he didn’t graduate because he took dislike to commerce, and the second one – due to its closure.

His first verse “Let the treacherous sea ruffle” he wrote when he was fifteen. His first book of poetry called “Contrasts of the mood” with the dedication “To my mother” is dated 1920-1921. These poetries reflect not only memories about distant thunder of cannons, but also his boyish feelings excited by first love and first bitter disillusions.

Mykhayl Semenko, a leader of the Ukrainian futurists, was the person who led Mykola Bazhan into the life of literature. But expressionistic dramatic performances of Les Kurbas in “Berezil” (Ukrainian studio theatre in Kharkiv, founded in 1922) and later acquaintance with Oleksandr Dovzhenko, whom M. Bazhan met at All-Ukrainian photo and film administrative body, might have had more influence on the boy. At the turn of 20’s-30’s, Mykola Bazhan experienced his creative ardour. One after another, several books of his poems – “17th patrol” (1926), “Carved shadow” (1927), “Buildings” (1929) were published. These works are notable for their passionate pathetics, rich lexicon, striving for comprehending Ukrainian past in the context of world history. Severely criticized for digressing from the revolutionary themes, Mykola Bazhan in his poem called “Hoffman night” (1929) uncovers the tragedy of debility of an artist in the hostile environment.

During this period of his life M. Bazhan put lots of his vigour and time into the youngest of Ukrainian arts – cinematography (in 20’s-30’s he was an author of over 10 scripts for feature and documentary films, became an editor of the magazine “Cinema”).

In 1929-1930, Bazhan creates his epochal creations “Getto in Uman” and “Blind men” (only two parts of this work are extant). After publication of the first part, where the poet prophesied the future renaissance of Ukraine, further its publishing was prohibited and the author was labeled by communist critics as a “nationalist”.

In the early 30’s the art of literary translation replaced his interest in cinematography. GeorgianSovietRepublic entered into his life for a long time. There he found a lot of friends; the Georgian theme is noticeable in many of his works. Georgia awarded him with the Shota Rustaveli State Prize and conferred a title of “Honoured Art Worker of Georgian SSR” for amazing translations of “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin” and D. Guramshvili’s “Davitiani”. In 1939, thanks to the translation of Shota Rustaveli’s famous poem M. Bazhan receives the Order of Lenin, instead of an arrest warrant…

Фрагмент меморіальної експозиції Кабінет Миколи Бажана

Starting from the first days of the war, in 1941, M. Bazhan became an editor of the frontline newspaper “For Soviet Ukraine!” distributed in the territories occupied by fascists. At that time M. Bazhan published a historical poem “Danylo Galytskyi”, series of verses “Stalingrad notebook”, “Kyiv etudes” and others.

In 1943-1949 M. Bazhan held a post of Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Ukrainian SSR; the Chairman of the Board of Union of Writers of Ukraine (1953-1959). As an official person he frequently travelled abroad, appeared at the United Nations General Assembly in London and New York; took part in numerous conferences and jubilee celebrations. The results of these travels were series of verses “English impressions” and “Italian meetings”. Italy took special place in poet’s life and work. He held a post of Vice-president of the European Community of Writers for almost a decade (1960-1968). M. Bazhan paid special attention to the wide popularization of Ukrainian language and culture in European countries.

From 1957 and till the end of his days M. Bazhan was the Editor-in-Chief of the Chief Editorial Board of the “Ukrainian Soviet Encyclopedia”. By his initiative and under his supervision Ukrainian Soviet Encyclopedia was published twice, also he supported publishing of “History of Ukrainian Art” and Taras Shevchenko Dictionary. He also started work on Ukrainian Literature Encyclopedia. Altogether, by the end of M. Bazhan’s life over a hundred volumes of encyclopedic, lexical and other scientific literature were published. As the chief editor of the Ukrainian Soviet Encyclopedia he was striving for permission to include the articles about repressed Ukrainian art personalities, who had been persecuted for political reasons, such as O. Arkhypenko, I. Padalka, brothers M. and T. Boichuk, Les Kurbas, M. Semenko and others.

M. Bazhan was also author of the poems “Flight through thunderstorm” (1964), “Four tales about hope. Variations on Rainer Maria Rilke theme” (1966), “Night thoughts of the old master” (1976), collections of poetry “Mitskievych in Odesa. Year 1825” (1957), etc. Series of poetry “Night concerts” (1977) is an original verbal interpretation of music of M. Leontovych, D. Shostakovych, F. Schubert, H. Villa-Lobos, Jean Sibelius and songs of French singer Édith Piaf.

Фрагмент меморіальної експозиції_Бібліотека  Миколи Бажана

In the last years of his life M. Bazhan most of his time worked on the translation of works of the XVIII-XX century poets little-known in Ukraine: German poet Friedrich Hölderlin, Polish poet Cyprian Norwid, Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke etc. Being a masterly translator he acquainted Ukrainian reader with the works of A. Navoi, A. Mickiewicz, Ju. Słowacki, Ja. Iwaszkiewicz, H. Heine, J. Goethe, R. Tagore and many others.

In 1951, for his literary and scientific achievements M. Bazhan was elected a member of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR.

Фрагмент меморіальної експозиції_Мистецька бібліотека Миколи Бажана

M. Bazhan is the author of memoirs, essays, publicist articles and critical surveys: “People, books, dates. Articles on literature” (1962), “People’s ways” (1969), “Thoughts and recollections” (1982).

In 1970, at the request of Nobel Committee, HarvardUniversity nominated M. Bazhan for Nobel Prize. However, M. Bazhan refused it, knowing the fate of B. Pasternak and his Nobel Prize.