Sixtiers Museum Collection
The “Sixtiers Museum” Collection is located in a small museum in Kyiv, Ukraine in a building belonging to the Ukrainian political party Rukh. Nadia Svitlychna and Mykola Plakhotniuk founded this museum as way of honouring and documenting the struggles of a cohort of Soviet Ukrainian dissidents during the 1960s-1980s. Included in the permanent exhibition are paintings, graphics, sculptures, embroidery and other artworks produced by artists affiliated with the sixtiers movement. The museum also displays the poems, letters and literary works of the writers in their midst, as well as their typewriters, handcrafted items made while in the GULag, or clothes worn while living in exile, like Svitlychna’s own camp uniform. Also figuring prominently are posters for events and exhibitions organized by this group. The guided tour is a moving, concise rendition of their struggle, aimed at the museum’s target audiences, young students, scholars, and the general public.
These materials depict the lives of a dynamic group of Soviet Ukrainians engaged in a principled creative and ideological struggle with the Soviet regime in the 1960s and 1970s. They were poets, artists, graphic designers, historians, doctors, and even a Soviet army official, all of whom became deeply involved in human rights activism under late socialism. Many were members of large Soviet institutions—like the Ukrainian writers and artist unions, the Literary Institute in Kyiv, the Soviet armed forces. The Soviet government’s ideological retrenchment after Khrushchev transformed these dissidents, who had worked hard to try and reform the system and make it more humane, into individuals in open conflict with the authorities.
Name of collection
Provenance and cultural activities
Upon the initiative of Nadiya Svitlychna and Mykola Plakhotniuk in the years immediately following independence in 1991, an NGO was created called the “Sixtiers Museum” with the express intent of gathering materials that would eventually be displayed in a museum-archive, Members of the NGO, many of whom were themselves sixtiers, began collecting materials about prominent members of the movement. This museum took 18 years to open after these initial conversations between Svitlychna and Plakhotniuk in 1991. Victor Yushchenko issued a presidential decree in support of the Museum right after becoming president in 2004, but parliament and the local authorities stalled on their implementation, even after he reissued the decree a few times. Friendly MPs from Rukh, like Ivan Drach and Mykhailo Horyn, who could also be counted among the sixtiers, became advocates of the project in the Verkhovna Rada. The first tranche that was secured for the Sixtiers Museum was reallocated to open a different museum in Kyiv. Quite paradoxically, the museum finally opened under President Viktor Yanukovych in 2012. (Apparently, the mayor of Kyiv hoped to boost his ratings ahead of an upcoming election.) Within 6 months of that decision, the museum was opened, but only as an affiliate of the Kyiv History Museum, which actually encompasses a network of eight museums throughout the city. The curator believes that the Sixtiers Museum should be given the status of a national museum, given the scope and reach of the sixtiers work.
The museum is located on the bottom floor of the building occupied by the political party Rukh—organized first as a civic-political organization in 1988 called the People's Movement of Ukraine for Reconstruction during Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika—and then registering as a political party in 1990, to participate in the first semi-competitive elections held in the Soviet Union. Rukh began renting the space from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the aid Hennadiy Udovenko, who later succeeded Viacheslav Chornovil as party leader. As a former diplomat, Udovenko was able to persuade the ministry to allow Rukh to rent the building. The year following Chornivil’s death in 1999, Rukh, together with the Chornovil family and foundation, decided to transform his office into a small museum, at which point someone suggested to Udovenko that they allow the bottom floor—being used for storage—to the home of the Sixtiers Museum. Rukh was supportive, but the museum was able to finally open its doors on August 22, 2012, just before Independence Day.
Description of content
Not all the materials they have are cataloged, and the archive continues to grow, but they have a lot more material than staff and space to process, hold, and display. The foundational base of the archive were the materials donated by Nadiya Svitlychna: 106 uncatalogued boxes were sent from the United States of her archive and materials belonging to Petro Grigorenko. Among Svitlychna’s documents are Radio Liberty materials about political prisoners, including dossiers collected by Nadiya Svitlychna during her work at RFE/RL, articles written in the west about Soviet political prisoners, as well as her family archive. She also passed along personal papers of Petro Grigorenko, which include materials relating to the activities of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, articles, memoranda, other official documentation spanning the years 1980-2000, as well as a family photo album. Grigorenko was a major general in the Soviet Army, born in Zaporizhia, who due to the fervour with which he embraced post-Stalinist efforts to return to Leninism and reinvigorate politics through democratization, became a person of interest for the KGB. He was deeply critical of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. He was arrested several times, and was forced into psychiatric clinics, after he was released. He and Svitlychna met in the US after both had emigrated. Also from the US was sent part of the library of Lyuba Drazhevska and the personal archives of Nina Strokata-Karavanska, a Ukrainian microbiologist, member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, who was sentenced to 4 years of hard labour for refusing to denounce her husband.
The museum has a vast samizdat collection, much of which has KGB archive stamps, meaning these materials were seized during searches and used to build court cases against these individuals. These materials were returned to the original owners, or family members, during the rehabilitation process after independence in 1991. Vasyl Ovsienko and Vasyl Lisovyi retrieved their own files and in the process were also able to photograph the entire “Operation Bloc” file about the wave of arrests that swept through Ukraine in 1972. Many materials confiscated by the KGB and housed in its archives have in this way been transferred to the Sixtiers Museum, including almost the entire samizdat oeuvre of the poet Vasyl Stus, decadent mid-century Russian poetry, many works by Ivan Svitlychny, Vasyl Symonenko, the political writings of Viacheslav Chornovil, open letters written by individuals or groups in defense of political prisoners. There are also many photographs of all these figures. Three photo archives have been cataloged—photos of Ivan Svitlychny, Nadia Svitlychna, and Alla Horska—and one box from Nadiya Svitlychna’s papers.
In addition to documents and photos they also have artifacts from labor camps as well as everyday items, and special items—like Alla Horska’s embroidered blouse, which had been kept by Liudmila Semykina. Larysa Ivanova, an artist and sixtier also donated a woolen headscarf (shovkova khustka) given to her by Horska. Nadiya Svitlychna preserved her dress from Mordovia, as well as a collection of embroidery made by the cohort of Ukrainian women sentenced along with Svitlychna to years of hard labour. All these materials were donated to the museum as well.
The museum also collects materials from everyday life, in order to recreate a typical apartment from the 1960s, with furniture and other household items from that time.
- artifacts: unknown quantity
- graphics: 100-499
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): unknown quantity
- paintings: 10-99
- photos: 500-999
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
Show on map
Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- Horska, Alla. Vasyl Symonenko, 1963. Painting.
- Sevruk, Halyna. Crucifixion, 1969. Ceramics.
- Stus, Vasyl. Poems smuggled out of Ukraine, 1979. Manuscript
- Svitlychna, Nadia. Bookmark embroidered in Mordovia, 1970s. Applied arts object.
- Svitlychna, Nadia. Dress adorned with embroidered collar, 1970s. Clothing.
- Zalyvakha, Opanas. Billiards (Tabirne), 1989. Painting
- Zalyvakha, Opanas. Zone (Zona), 1972. Painting.
- completely open to the public
Author(s) of this page
- Kulick, Orysia Maria
Achilli, Alessandro. "Vasyl' Stus and Death: On the Thirtieth Anniversary of his Death." Krytyka, no. 7-8 (August 2015), 10-12. https://krytyka.com/en/articles/vasyl-stus-and-death-thirtieth-anniversary-his-death.
Achilli, Alessandro. "Vasyl’ Stus and Russian Culture: A Complex Issue." Australian and New Zealand Journal of European Studies 5, no. 2 (2013).
Karasyk, S. "СВІТЛИЧНА НАДІЯ ОЛЕКСІЇВНА - Український національний рух - Дисидентський рух в Україні." Ukr - Дисидентський рух в Україні. Last modified April 20, 2005. http://museum.khpg.org/index.php?id=1113995960.
Karasyk, S., and V. Ovsienko. "СТУС ВАСИЛЬ СЕМЕНОВИЧ - Український національний рух - Дисидентський рух в Україні." Ukr - Дисидентський рух в Україні. Last modified April 20, 2005. http://museum.khpg.org/index.php?id=1114000126.
Kharkiv Human Rights Group. "SVITLYCHNY, Ivan Oleksiyovych - Ukrainian National Movement - Dissident Movement in Ukraine." Ukr - Дисидентський рух в Україні. Last modified April 20, 2005. http://museum.khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1113995727.
Kotsiubynska, Mykhailyna. Lysty i liudy: rozdumy pro epistoliarnu tvorchistʹ. Kyïv: Dukh i Litera, 2009.
Kotsiubynsska, Mykhailyna. Moï obriï. Kyïv: Dukh i Litera, 2004.
Lubchak, Vadym. "The Sixtiers' Movement Museum: An Open and Shut Case?" Den' (Kyiv), May 24, 2012. https://day.kyiv.ua/en/article/day-after-day/sixtiers-movement-museum-open-and-shut-case.
Ovsienko, Vasylʹ. Svitlo ljudej: Spohady-Narysy pro Vasylia Stusa, Yuriya Lytvyna, Oksany Meshko. Kyïv: Biblioteka Zhurnalu YRP "Respublika": Seriya: Politychni Portrety, No 4, 1996.
Ovsiyenko, Vasyl. "Death of Vasyl Stus." The Kharkiv Human Rights Group. Last modified September 2, 2015. http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1441192456.
Steffen, James. The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov. Madison: the University of Wisconsin Press, 2013.
Struk, Danylo H. "The Summing-up of Silence: The Poetry of Ihor Kalynets." Slavic Review 38, no. 01 (1979), 17-29. doi:10.2307/2497224.
Stus, Vasylʹ, and Oksana Dvorko. Lysty do ridnych. Lʹviv: Prosvita, 1997.
Stus, Vasylʹ, and Mykhaĭlyna Kotsiubynsʹka. Lysty do druziv ta znaĭomykh. Lviv: Vydavnycha spilka "Prosvita", 1997.
TROMLY, BENJAMIN. "An Unlikely National Revival: Soviet Higher Learning and the Ukrainian “Sixtiers,” 1953-65." The Russian Review 68, no. 4 (2009), 607-622. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9434.2009.00541.x.
Yekelchyk, Serhy. "The early 1960s as a cultural space: a microhistory of Ukraine's generation of cultural rebels." Nationalities Papers 43, no. 1 (2014), 45-62. doi:10.1080/00905992.2014.954103.
Zinkevych, Osyp, editor. "Plakhotniuk, Mykola." In Rukh oporu v Ukraïni 1960-1990: entsyklopedychnyĭ dovidnyk, 2nd ed., 568-570. Kyiv: Smoloskyp, 2012.
Zinkevych, Osyp, editor. "Sevruk, Halyna." In Rukh oporu v Ukraïni 1960-1990: entsyklopedychnyi dovidnyk, 2nd ed., 654-655. Kyiv: Smoloskyp, 2012.
Zinkevych, Osyp, editor. "Svitlychna, Nadiya." In Rukh oporu v Ukraïni 1960-1990: entsyklopedychnyi dovidnyk, 2nd ed., 642-645. Kyiv: Smoloskyp, 2012.
Zinkevych, Osyp, editor. "Svitlychny, Ivan." In Rukh oporu v Ukraïni 1960-1990: entsyklopedychnyi dovidnyk, 2nd ed., 646-649. Kyiv: Smoloskyp, 2012.
Zinkevych, Osyp, editor. "Symonenko, Vasyl." In Rukh oporu v Ukraïni 1960-1990: entsyklopedychnyĭ dovidnyk, 2nd ed., 664-667. Kyiv: Smoloskyp, 2012.
Lodzynska, Olena O., interview by Kulick, Orysia Maria, March 23, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection