In Bulgakov's novel "The White Guard" one of the characters, Turbin alleges that Simon Petlura does not speak Ukrainian language himself despite the measures he took to promote it.

Are there any historical sources about what language Petlura in fact preferred to speak?

  • The wikipedia page says that Petlura was educated to join the Orthodox Russian clergy and published in Russian and Ukrainian; I'd assume that Turbin was asserting that Petlura preferred Russian to Ukrainian.
    – MCW
    Apr 7, 2014 at 13:57

1 Answer 1


Given that he was born to a Cossack family, and one of his first jobs out of school was helping a library organize its Kuban Cossack material, my money would be on Balachka.

Technically that may just be a dialect of Ukrainian, but that distinction gets kind of muddy (specifically political) in Europe. Given some of his known writings, he certainly did know Ukrainian. This could have just been an incident of someone being snobby about his Balachka accent.

As near as I can tell, the concept of Little Russia (essentially Ukrainians being nothing more than an off flavor of Russians, rather than their own people) was a bit of a political marker at the time. In Czarist times, it was a popular viewpoint, but after the revolution that view became discouraged. So it could well be that this particular dismissive attitude toward the local languages/dialects was meant to tell you where on the political spectrum the character Turbin lay.

  • Bulgakov isn't known for either chauvinism or being dismissive of other slavic cultures.
    – DVK
    Apr 7, 2014 at 17:31
  • @DVK - Yeah, the more I read up on this, the more I'm thinking the writer quite likely did this with a character of his on purpose.
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 7, 2014 at 17:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.