The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived

Olga Bertelsen


In this study, I examine a spatial dimension of the oppression of the Ukrainian intelligentsia in the early 1930s, and the creation of a place of surveillance, the Writers’ Home “Slovo” in Kharkiv. This building fashioned an important identity for Ukrainian intellectuals. This study analyzes how the meaning of the place was transformed from an oasis of intellectual freedom to one of the most agonizing and tragic cites in Kharkiv, a place of suffering, and how the changes in human perceptions of places and their meanings altered people’s group identity as well as individual convictions and behaviors. I demonstrate how external realities and personal fallacies facilitated the intellectual’s conformism which was encouraged and rewarded by the state. The study also illuminates how Stalin’s repressions leveled and in many cases erased individual identity. The research was conducted in Ukrainian libraries and archives.

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