July 18, 1863
For some time there has been discussion in our press about the possibility of the establishment of an independent Little Russian literature. This discussion was occasioned by the works of certain writers who distinguished themselves by their more-or-less outstanding talent or their originality. But lately, the question of the Little Russian literature has changed character, resulting from purely political circumstances, without any relationship to strictly literary matters. Previous works in the Little Russian language were aimed only at the educated classes of southern Russia, but now the proponents of Little Russian ethnicity have turned their attention to the uneducated masses, and those who seek to realize their political ambitions have, under the pretense of spreading literacy and education, taken to publishing reading primers, alphabet books, grammar and geography textbooks, etc. Among those activists were many individuals whose criminal activities were under investigation by the special commission.
In St Petersburg, they even collect donations for the publication of inexpensive books in the south Russian dialect. Many of these books have already come under the scrutiny of the St Petersburg Censorship Committee. Quite a few of such books turn up at the Kiev Censorship Committee. The latter has particular difficulties with approval of the mentioned publications, due to the following circumstances:
- instruction in all schools without exception is in the common Russian language, and the use in schools of the Little Russian language is not permitted;
- not only does the question of the benefit and possibilities of using the dialect in schools remain unsettled, but even the mention of this question prompts indignation from most Little Russians, as is frequently expressed in the press.
They thoroughly corroborate that a separate Little Russian language has never existed, does not exist and cannot exist, and that their dialect, used by commoners, is just the Russian Language, only corrupted by the influence of Poland; that the common Russian language is as intelligible to the Little Russians as to Great Russians, and even more intelligible than the one now created for them by some Little Russians and especially by Poles, the so-called Ukrainian language. Persons of this circle, who are trying to prove the contrary, are reproached by the majority of Little Russians themselves for separatist plots, hostile to Russia and disastrous for Little Russia.
This phenomenon is even more regrettable and deserving of attention, because it coincides with the political plans of the Poles, who might be credited with its origin, judging by the manuscripts submitted to censorship and by the fact that most of the Little Russian works are actually submitted by Poles. Finally, the Kiev Governor-General finds the public release of the Little Russian translation of the New Testament currently under consideration by the ecclesiastical censor to be dangerous and harmful.
Taking into account on the one hand the current worrisome state of society agitated by political events, and on the other hand bearing in mind that the question of teaching literacy in local dialects has not yet reached a conclusive resolution in the legislative establishment, The Interior Minister recognizes the need, pending agreement with the Minister of Education, the Chief Procurator of the Holy Synod, and the Chief of Gendarmes regarding the publication of books in the Little Russian language, to order the censors to only allow publication of those works in this language which fall into the category of belle-lettres; the approval of books in the Little Russian language of a spiritual nature, as well as educational books and those intended for the initial reading by the commoners, is suspended. This order was conferred under the attention of the Highest Sovereign Emperor, and His Majesty was pleased to confirm it with his royal approval.