Markovich, Mariia Aleksandrovna 1833-1907

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MARKOVICH, Mariia Aleksandrovna 1833-1907

(Marko Vovchok, a pseudonym)


Born December 10, 1833, in Orel, Russia; died July 28, 1907; daughter of an army officer; married Opanas Markovich (an ethnographer), 1851. Education: Schooled at home and in a private school for girls.


Writer, translator, and editor. Ran a translation company.



Narodni opovidannia (stories), 3 volumes, P. A. Kulish (St. Petersburg, Russia), 1858-1859, translation by N. Pedan-Popil published as Ukrainian Folk Stories, edited by H. B. Timothy, Western Producer Prairie Books (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada), 1983.

Rasskazy iz narodnogo russkogo byta, Izd. K. Soldatenkova i N. Shchepkina (Moscow, Russia), 1859.

Institutka (novel), 1860, translation by Oles Kovalenko published as After Finishing School, Dnipro Publishers (Kiev, USSR), 1983.

Novye povesti i rasskazy, Izd. D. Kozhanchikova (St. Petersburg, Russia), 1861.

Povistki (narodni opovidannia), Izd. N. Tiblena (St. Petersburg, Russia), 1861-1862.

Sochineniia, 3 vols., I. Papin (St. Petersburg, Russia), 1867.

Sbornik rasskazov v proze i stikhakh, Tip. A. M. Kotomina (St. Petersburg, Russia), 1871.

Skazki i byl', Tip. A. A. Kraevskogo (St. Petersburg, Russia), 1874.

Also author of Skazki, 1864; Opovidannia, 1865; Zhivaia dusha. Roman, 1868; Zapiski prichetnika, 1869; V glushi. Roman, 1875; and Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 1896-98.


Marusia, 1896, translated by I. H. Sudorenko, illustrated by M. Levytsky, Association of Ukrainian Writers for Children and Youth, 1971.

Melasia and the Bear, translated by Mary Skrypnyk, Veselka (Kiev, USSR), 1980.

Karmelyuk: A Tale, translated by Oles Kovalenko Dnipro Publishers (Kiev, USSR), 1981.

Otechestvennye zapiski (title means "Notes of the Fatherland"; newspaper), foreign literature editor, 1868-70; Perevody luchshikh inostrannykh pisatelei (title means "Translations of the Best Foreign Writers"), editor, 1871-72.

Vovchok's papers and manuscripts are held primarily in the Institute of Russian Literature and Art (Pushkin House) in St. Petersburg. There are also holdings in the Shevchenko Institute and in the Central Academic Library of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, both in Kiev. Family archives in Moscow (Lobach-Zhuchenko) and Kiev (Doroshkevich) also include some relevant materials.


Ukrainian writer Mariia Aleksandrovna Markovich, who wrote under the pen name Marko Vovchok, is best remembered for the stories about the Ukrainian peasantry of mid-nineteenth century Russia that are collected in Narodni opovidannia. Through these tales she criticizes the institution of serfdom by showing the difficult conditions under which serfs—members of Russia's lowest feudal class—then lived. English-language readers have access to her stories through the 1983 translation of Narodni opovidannia as Ukrainian Folk Stories, as well as three picture-book renditions of individual tales.

Born Mariia Aleksandrovna Vilinskaia, in the Orel region of west-central Russia, Vovchok was the daughter of an army officer and a member of the provincial gentry. After her father died in 1840, she lived with various relatives, receiving an education at home and for a short while at a private school for girls. In the 1850s she met Opanas Markovich, a young Ukrainian nationalist and ethnographer who with other Ukrainian nationalists had been exiled from the Ukraine. The two married in 1851 and moved to Kiev, where they both did ethnographic work, with Vovchok conducting interviews of Ukrainian peasant women to record their songs and stories. When she began publishing these tales in Ukrainian, following them with her own Russian translations, she did so under the pseudonym Marko Vovchok.

Each of the tales is told in the first-person narration by a peasant woman, and, making good use of her ethnographic research, Vovchok creates a narrative voice that suggests the peasant diction that she had come to know so well. As with tales from other countries, the Ukrainian stories often revolve around questions of good and evil and the abusive use of power. Vovchok consistently portrays the peasants as noble, while the masters are portrayed as evil. There are no happy endings in these tales.

Because the fate of serfdom in Russia was uncertain during the latter part of the nineteenth century, Ukrainian Folk Stories elicited controversy due to its literary quality and its role as a work of social criticism. "Contemporary critics' descriptions [of the stories] ranged from 'poetic' to 'saccharine' in characterizing the tone of Vovchok's prose," noted Jane Costlow in the Dictionary of Literary Biography. Viewing the stories primarily as social criticism, such radical critics as Aleksandr Ivanovich Herzen, Nikolai Aleksandrovich Dobroliubov, and Serhiy Yefremov praised Vovchok as a champion of human rights. Ukrainian Folk Stories "combines all of the following: a nice and attractive artistic form, a beautiful and truly conversational language, a deep and serious meaning, the ability to touch the most sensitive chords in the reader's heart, knowledge and life experience, liberal and humane views," lauded Yefremov in an obituary of the author for the Rada newspaper, as quoted in the Day Online. "All the stories by our author are like a call to liberate people from captivity," Yefremov concluded, begging other authors to follow Vovchok's example. On the other hand, in an essay included in Dostoevsky's Occassional Writings, noted Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky harshly criticized the stories, maintaining that Vovchok's portrayal of Russian peasantry rings false.

Controversy about the stories continued even after Vovchok's death in 1907. Several critics, including Panteleimon Kulish and Omelian Ohonovsky in the latter's History of Ruthenian Literature, expressed the belief that Vovchok and her husband had jointly written the folktales. As quoted for the Day Online, Ohonovsky wrote that "Mariaya painted pictures of social life in Ukraine, and Opanas himself decorated them with beautiful colors." This contention struck Ivan Franko as false. In Vovchok's obituary in Literaturno-naukovy Visnyk, as quoted by Costlow, Franko argued that "Vovchok's oeuvre is too rich and broad to fit such a narrow formula." He praised Vovchok highly for her "brilliant, clear, and rich" language. Scholar Vasyl Domanytsky hoped to put the authorship matter to rest once and for all by studying unpublished materials by the author and her husband, which were made available by Vovchok's son and legal executor. When Domanytsky compared and contrasted the unpublished writings of Vovchok and her husband, he discovered that Markovich's prose style differs markedly from that of his wife. Thus Ukrainian Folk Stories is truly the work of Vovchok, he contended in several articles published in Literaturno-naukovy Visnyk in 1908.

From 1859 until 1866 Vovchok traveled abroad, visiting Dresden, London, Paris, Brussels, and Heidelberg, among other places. During this time she tried her hand at longer forms, different subjects, and different styles. For example, she wrote novels in which she used more a realistic style and satirized the Russian provincial gentry. One such work is her 1860 Institutka, which appeared in English translation as After Finishing School. In it Vovchok portrays a young and spoiled woman at a private school and in her later life. Other novels also portray the unhappy lives of women of the Russian gentry, who are trapped in outmoded roles after the emancipation of the serfs. After returning to Russia in 1867, Vovchok worked as an editor for several journals and as the director of a translation firm, while she continued writing satirical novels. Despite her accomplishments in other genres, Vovchok remains almost uniquely known outside her native land for Ukrainian Folk Stories.



Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 238: Russian Novelists in the Age of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.

Dostoevsky, Fyodor, Dostoevsky's Occasional Writings, selected, translated and with an introduction by David Magarshack, Random House (New York, NY), 1963), pp. 86-137.


Booklist, January 15, 1981, review of Marusia, p. 707.

Canadian Slavonic Papers, 1972, Victor O. Buyniak, "Marko Vovchok and Leo Tolstoi," pp. 300-314.

Literaturno-naukovy Visnyk, 1908, Vasyl Domanytsky, "Mariya Oleksandrivna Markovych, Author of Folk Stories (Based on New Materials)."

Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 7, 1985, Wanda Urbanska, review of After Finishing School, p. 4.

Zapysky nautkovoho tovarystva im. Shevchenka, issue 4, 1908, Vasyl Domanytsky, "Marko Vovchok's Authorship."


Day Online (Ukraine), (July 22, 2004), Yevheniya Sohatska, The Marko Vovchok Firm.*

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Markovich, Mariia Aleksandrovna 1833-1907

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