15 Best Ukrainian Authors Everyone Should Know

Discover our guide to explore the literature of Ukraine with these top 15 Ukrainian authors.

Ukraine has a storied history fraught with wars, occupations, and revolutions. From that, history has grown into a literary tradition that tries to capture the struggle and culture of oppressed people. This literary history includes many poets, essayists, and novelists worth studying. Similar to Australian authors and authors from other cultures, studying these writers will help you understand the people of the country.

As you delve into the world of Ukrainian literature, here are the top Ukrainian authors to add to your reading list. From the days of the tsars to the Soviet Union era and modern Ukraine, you will get a rich sense of the country’s history while studying these works.

1. Serhiy Zhadan

Serhiy Zhadan is a modern Ukrainian poet and essayist. He is from Kharkiv and has over a dozen books of poetry and seven novels to his name. He also performs in a band and is working to preserve Ukrainian culture even during times of political unrest and war.

Orphanage: A Novel is one of his more recent prose works. It looks at the human collateral damage that the recent conflict in eastern Ukraine has caused.

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“He wants to sit down and relax. Not look at anyone, not see anything. Forget all the sounds and smells. Forget the train station, forget the bus, the crumbling road, the moonlit landscapes out the window, the hapless travelers trudging through the January fields, the black, scorched forest, the dark houses, the frightened voices, the lifeless windows, the inter-sections where death may be waiting for you.”

Serhiy Zhadan
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The Orphanage: A Novel (The Margellos World Republic of Letters)
  • Zhadan, Serhiy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages - 02/23/2021 (Publication Date) - Yale University Press (Publisher)

2. Oksana Zabuzhko 

Oksana Zabuzhko is a modern Ukrainian author who writes poetry, fiction, and non-fiction books. She is also a political activist, fighting against book taxation laws and similar political movements that hurt the Ukrainian people’s culture. She was born in 1960 and graduated from Kyiv Shevchenko University with a Ph.D. in 1987.

Her novel Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex, published in 1996, is considered the most influential book in the country’s history. It sat on the Ukraine bestsellers list for over ten years and was the most successful book in the Ukrainian language in the 1990s. While it’s a love story at its heart, the book is also autobiographical and explores the Ukrainian people’s history.

“that the Ukrainian choice is a choice between nonexistence and an existence that kills you, and that all of our hapless literature is merely a cry of someone pinned down by a beam in a building after an earthquake—I’m here! I’m still alive!”

Oksana Zabuzhko
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Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex
  • Zabuzhko, Oksana (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 168 Pages - 06/06/2011 (Publication Date) - Amazon Crossing (Publisher)

3. Andrey Kurkov

Author of 19 novels, Andrey Kurkov, won the International Booker Prize in 2009. He was born in Russia in 1961 before moving to Kyiv. His books explore important political topics but use humor to do so. His work, Death and the Penguin, is currently in 37 languages and published in 65 countries.

Grey Bees is another famous work, following a beekeeper trying to help bees amid the political violence of modern Ukraine. The English translation of this work was published in 2022.

“The silence grew louder, more evident. One could stroke it, as one would a cat or a dog; it was warm, and it brushed up against Sergeyich gently, pleading for his involvement, his participation in its life, its sounds.”

Andrey Kurkov
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Grey Bees
  • Kurkov, Andrey (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 360 Pages - 03/29/2022 (Publication Date) - Deep Vellum Publishing (Publisher)

4. Taras Shevchenko

Born in 1814 in Kyiv, Russia, Taras Shevchenko lived until 47, dying in Saint Petersburg. He deserves a spot on this list because he was among the first Ukrainian authors, and his work is the foundation of Ukrainian literature traditions. He wrote works in both Ukrainian and Russian languages. Unfortunately, due to his ridicule of the Russian Imperial House, he was exiled in 1845 and died due to illnesses he received due to his time in exile.

Shevchenko was most famous for his poetry, and Kobzar is the collection of his works. “Testament,” written in 1845, has been translated into over 150 languages and made into a song.

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“When I die, then make my grave
High on an ancient mound,
In my own beloved Ukraine,
In steppeland without bound:
Whence one may see wide-skirted wheatland,
Dnipro’s steep-cliffed shore,
There whence one may hear the blustering
River wildly roar.”

Teras Shevchenko
Kobzar
  • Hardcover Book
  • Shevchenko, Taras (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 452 Pages - 10/11/2013 (Publication Date) - Glagoslav Publications B.V. (Publisher)

5. Yuri Andrukhovych

Yuri Andrukhovych was born in 1960 in Stanislav and graduated from the Ukrainian Printing Institute in 1982. He became famous in the mid-1980s as a member of the burlesque-farce-buffoonery (Bu-Ba-Bu) group of poets who tried to weave some rebellious writing into the Ukrainian literature world.

After publishing several poetry collections, Andrukhovych began writing prose through short stories, screenplays, and essays. He translated many famous works, like Hamlet, into the Ukrainian language. The Moscoviad is one of his most famous works, using slapstick to explore the joys of youth.

“The army is no longer capable of fulfilling the orders left by our ancestors: it only simulates. It is too squeamish to kill. This is no longer an army.”

Yuri Andrukhovych
The Moscoviad
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Andrukhovych, Yuri (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 198 Pages - 12/10/2008 (Publication Date) - Spuyten Duyvil (Publisher)

6. Maria Matios

Maria Matios was born in the Bukovina region in 1959 and currently lives in Kyiv. She has 12 works to her name, including a novel, short stories, and a poetry compilation. Her first poetry works were published when she was just 15. Matios is most famous for Banquet at Maria Matios’, the first cookbook written by a modern Ukrainian writer. She also published Sweet Darusya: A Tale of Two Villages.

“Monday? Tsvychok asked lazily. – Monday, dear, a difficult day. I want winter, even if it’s summer. So Monday is off.”

Maria Matios
Sweet Darusya: A Tale Of Two Villages
  • Matios, Maria (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 01/24/2019 (Publication Date) - Spuyten Duyvil Publishing (Publisher)

7. Ivan Franko

Born in 1865 in the Austrian Empire, Ivan Franko wrote epic poetry, short stories, and dramas in the Ukrainian language. He also translated many classic works of literature. His work greatly impacted political thought and modern literature in Ukraine. Franko was famous for his epic poetry, including Moses, many of which are now English translations. He died in 1916 in what is today Lviv.

“My people, tortured utterly and shattered,
Like a poor cripple at the cross-roads lying,
By man’s contempt, as if with scabs, bespattered!”

Ivan Franko
Moses and Other Poems
  • Hardcover Book
  • Ivan Franko (Author)
  • 11/26/1973 (Publication Date) - Shevchenko Scientific Society (Publisher)

8. Lesya Ukrainka

Born in 1871, Lesya Ukrainka was among the few female authors of historic Ukrainian writers. She was a feminist activist and was well-known for her poems and plays. Her prose pieces include fairy tales and stories or rural life that eventually became folk songs. Many of Ukrainka’s poetic works are now in English in Spirit of Flame. Her poetry, like “Contra Spem Spero!” had quite a bit of optimism, even though her life had significant hardship through political trouble and health concerns.

“Away, dark thoughts, you autumn clouds!
A golden spring is here!
Shall it be thus in sorrow and in lamentation
That my youthful years pass away?”

Lesya Ukrainka
Lesya Ukrainka - Spirit of Flame / by Lesya Ukrainka : A Collection of the Works of Lesya Ukrainka (Bookman Pub. Poems/Poetry) --- in English
  • Hardcover Book
  • Lesya Ukrainka (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 11/27/2022 (Publication Date) - Bookman Publishing (Publisher)

9. Ilya Kaminsky

Born in 1977, Illya Kaminsky is a Ukrainian-Russian-Jewish-American poet and professor. He is hard of hearing, and one of his poetry works, Deaf Republic, plays on this reality in its title. In 2019 the BBC called him one of the “12 Artists Who Changed the World.” According to critics, the best book by Kaminksy is Deaf Republic, which he published in 2019. It presents a play in two acts, showing a country in crisis and the censorship and apathy that afflict it.

“At the trial of God, we will ask: why did you allow all this?
And the answer will be an echo: why did you allow all this?”

Ilya Kaminsky
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Deaf Republic
  • Kaminsky, Ilya (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 96 Pages - 03/05/2019 (Publication Date) - Graywolf (Publisher)

10. Volodymyr Arenev

Volodymyr Arenev is a pen name for Ukrainian science fiction writer Volodymyr Puziy. He was born in 1978 in Kyiv, where he still lives today. His writing includes multiple fantasy novels, short stories, and short story collections. Arenev has multiple works to his name. However, he does not yet have many English translations. Many of his works, like the short novel Souluary, have Russian translations.

“No critic has answered the main question: how can one and the same person write poetry and shoot people at the same time?”

Volodymyr Arenev
Future Science Fiction Digest, Issue 15
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Shvartsman, Alex (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 100 Pages - 06/13/2022 (Publication Date) - UFO Publishing (Publisher)

11. Andriy Valentynov

Andriy Valentynov is an archaeologist and novelist from Ukraine. He was born in 1958 in Kharkiv, and he writes science fiction works in the Russian language. He is sometimes listed among top Russian authors, but his nationality is Ukrainian. Valentynov got his start writing poetry in 1970. Then, he wrote his first novel. The Oversteps, in 1995, and since that time, has published over 20 novels.

Nebesa likui͡u︡t (Russian Edition)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Valentinov, Andreĭ (Author)
  • Russian (Publication Language)
  • 393 Pages - 11/27/2022 (Publication Date) - Ėksmo-press (Publisher)

12. Vasyl Shkliar

Vasyl Shkliar won the Shevchenko Prize Laureate title in 2011 for his writing. He is one of the most widely-read of contemporary Ukrainian writers, and many of his works take on modern-day culture in Ukraine. Because of Shklia’s popularity, many of his works have English translations. Raven’s Way, published in 2009, is one of these. It tells the story of the insurgents who tried to fight an occupying army in the 1920s.

Raven's Way
  • Shkliar, Vasyl (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 416 Pages - 07/01/2015 (Publication Date) - Kalyna Language Press Ltd. (Publisher)

13. Liubko Deresh

Born in 1984 in Lviv, Ljubko Deresh writes novels and stories. He is considered one of the top representatives of Ukrainian literature in the post-Soviet union. He published his first novel when he was just 16 years old. His second novel, Kult, published in 2011, talks about how young Ukrainians tried to find their cultural vibe after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Kulʹt: [roman (Biblioteka z͡h︡urnalu "Chetver") (Ukrainian Edition)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Deresh, Li͡u︡bko (Author)
  • Ukrainian (Publication Language)
  • 206 Pages - 11/27/2022 (Publication Date) - Knyz͡h︡nyk (Publisher)

14. Les Podervianskyi

Les Podervainsky is a poet and playwright from Ukraine. His short plays feature a lot of satire and obscenities, and he has a cult following among the intellectuals of Kyiv. One of Podervainskyi’s popular works was a retelling of Hamlet in satirical form. He pokes fun at the Soviet Union in this tale.

Heroi nashoho chasu
  • Poderv'ianskyi, Les (Author)
  • 165 Pages - 11/27/2022 (Publication Date) - " Kalvariia " (Publisher)

15. Nataliya Kobrynska

Nataliya Kobrynska was a social feminist and author from Ukraine. Born in 1851, Kobrynska lived until 1920 and wrote short stories and novellas. She also correlated many of the short stories of fellow Ukrainian female authors and helped work on their English translations. The Spirit of the Times was translated into English in 1998, followed by Warm the Children, O Sun. These collections of works showcased some of her best pieces.

The Spirit of the Times: Selected Short Fiction by Olena Pchilka and Nataliya Kobrynska (Women's Voices in Ukrainian Literature, Vol. I)
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Kobrynska, Nataliya (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 472 Pages - 10/15/1998 (Publication Date) - Language Lanterns Publications (Publisher)

Ukrainian Authors FAQs

Who is the greatest Ukrainian writer?

Outside of Ukraine, Andrey Kurkov is considered the most well-known Ukrainian writer. However, when considering Ukrainian literature from a historical perspective, Taras Shevchenko is the greatest due to his influence on the country’s writing.

How old is Ukrainian literature?

The earliest known works in Ukrainian literature dated back to the 11th to the 13th century and came from Kievan Rus.

What is the most famous Ukrainian book?

Because of its influence on the culture of the Ukrainian people and its controversy, Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex is the most famous Ukrainian book.

What is the Ukrainian alphabet?

Ukraine has a Cyrillic alphabet. It has many similarities to other Slavonic alphabets, including Bulgarian and Russian. However, the characters are different from the Latin alphabet.

Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the 11 best 20th-century authors!

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