TARAS SHEVCHENKO’S LIFE AND WORK
Taras Shevchenko's second arrest (1850). The story of Shevchenko's life, by C.H. Andrusyshen
(Introduction of "The poetical works of Taras Shevchenko. The Kobzar" by Constantine Henry Andrusyshen and Watson Kirkconnell)
Life in Orenburg was a mixed blessing for Shevchenko. He was no longer forced to live in barracks, drill, or wear a uniform. The number of his acquaintances in the town increased, particularly among the Polish political prisoners, and he was able to earn some money by painting portraits of local celebrities.
A. F. Chernyshyov, "Tatar girl"
(possibly, Shevchenko's friend,
Zabarzhad, is painted in this picture)
He was heartily accepted in the higher society and for a time was intimately connected with a beautiful Tartar woman called Zaborzhada who accompanied him to many a social gathering. Being on friendly terms with the Governor-General of the Orenburg region, V. Obruchev, afforded him a soothing feeling of protection. The reverse side of the medal, however, was not so bright: he continued to labour under the stress of a man whose movements were fettered and who had to perform even his duties for the good of the state clandestinely, for the authorities in St. Petersburg were stubbornly adamant in their silence as to whether or not they were favourably disposed to grant him permission to pursue his artistic bent freely. If he still was connected with Butakov in the same capacity, it was on the latter’s insistence that Shevchenko was indispensable to him in order to complete his part of the work in connection with the Aral expedition.
In the meantime Shevchenko persisted in pressing his local friends and those in Russia to prevail upon the Tsar by all means at their disposal to relieve him from this plight. In March of 1850, after months of trial, General Orlov informed Governor Obruchev that Nicholas had refused the petition. This was a hard blow to the poet, but, encouraged by his numerous friends, who assured him that they would seek other means of approach to the Tsar on his behalf, his despondency was not too grave, and he continued to live seemingly as a free man and to arrange his life as best he could under the circumstances.
Taras Shevchenko, "Self-portrait 1850"
At that time Shevchenko lived at the home of Captain K. Gem, who was attached to the Governors suite. It was actually through the good offices of his host that the poet enjoyed the benevolence of the Governor. However, he was not one to let well enough alone. For some time he noticed that a certain lieutenant, M. Isayev, was paying intimate visits to Gern's wife. When the matter became clear to him beyond any shadow of doubt, Shevchenko, outraged at such an injury to his benefactor, brought Gern home to reveal to him the flagrant misdeed. To revenge himself on the delator, the very next day Isayev reported to Governor Obruchev that Shevchenko, contrary to the prohibition, wore civilian clothes, lived outside the military quarters, wrote verses, and painted. All that was perfectly well known to Obruchev, but, although he would have preferred to let the matter rest there, now that it was made public, he dared not for fear that Isayev might report on his lenience to the authorities at St. Petersburg. He therefore ordered a search of Shevchenko's apartment. There the police found the compromising articles: the civvies, correspondence, paints, and objects necessary for painting. The "bootleg” books were saved, for when Shevchenko learned that his rooms were to be searched, he gave them to Gern for safekeeping. On April 27, 1950, Shevchenko was arrested and imprisoned in Orenburg. After three weeks of detention, he was sent back to the Fortress of Orsk and there remained under strict surveillance, while the investigation of his case was being conducted in Orenburg and St. Petersburg. In the capital, Orlov came to the conclusion that nothing subversive was to be detected in the correspondence, and if Shevchenko did draw and paint, it was his superiors who were to blame for practically forcing him to do so by appointing him a member of the Aral expedition. Still, Tsar Nicholas, on Orlov's advice, again refused to remove the ban and, in addition, ordered that Shevchenko be transferred to another, more distant fort to continue serving his sentence. And so, after two and a half months' imprisonment at Orsk, on October 8 Shevchenko was taken to the relatively recently established Fortress of Novopetrovsk situated on a peninsula of the Caspian Sea. Sailing down the Ural River and then across the Caspian, he was brought there on October 17, 1850.
Introduction written by Professor C.H. Andrusyshen
Source: The Poetical Works of Taras Shevchenko. The Kobzar. Translated from the Ukrainian by С.H. Andrusyshen and Watson Kirkconnell. Published for the Ukrainian Canadian Committee by University of Toronto Press, 1964. Toronto and Buffalo. Printed in Canada, Reprinted, 1977, p. 32 - 34.