SEMINAR - HYBRID EVENT: Literary Translation behind Bars in the Context of 1970s–80s Political Repressions in Soviet Ukraine

  • Date: –16:00
  • Location: SCAS SCAS, Linnéanum, Thunbergssalen, Thunbergsvägen 2 Uppsala
  • Lecturer: Valentyna Savchyn, Fellow, SCAS Associate Professor of Translation Studies, Ivan Franko National University of Lviv
  • Website
  • Organiser: Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
  • Contact person: Klas Holm
  • Seminarium

Valentyna Savchyn, SCAS and Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, gives a seminar on "Literary Translation behind Bars in the Context of 1970s–80s Political Repressions in Soviet Ukraine". The talk will be followed by a Q&A session.


Translation in incarceration is nothing new, nor is it restricted to a particular place or historical period. However, this social and cultural phenomenon is marked by a far more frequent occurrence in totalitarian societies. This seminar examines the practice of literary translation in Soviet labour camps, where, as a result of political repressions, Ukrainian scholars, writers, translators, and lexicographers (aka prisoners of conscience) constituted a large part of the incarcerated population. The fact that translation activity thrived behind bars despite brutal and dehumanizing conditions testifies to the phenomenon of cultural resistance and translators’ activism, both of which deserve close scholarly attention. I will provide insights into practical, historical, psychological, and philosophical aspects of translation in extreme conditions. My talk seeks answers to the questions of why prisoners of conscience felt moved to translate, and how they pursued their work in situations of extreme pressure. Through the lens of translation in prison, I will offer a wider perspective on the issues of retranslation, pseudotranslation, translation editing, text selection, and the functions of literary translation. The focus of my talk is on Soviet Ukraine in the 1970s-80s, when a wave of political repressions led to the appearance of a new generation of prisoners of conscience. Case studies of Vasyl' Stus and Ivan Svitlychnyi will be discussed, drawing on their letters during the incarceration period and the memoirs of their inmates.

For more information and the webinar link, please see