Book Review by John-Paul Himka
Fall, 2002

Fedyk, George D., and Kuzych, Ingert J. Handbook of Modern Ukrainian Philately: A Catalog of Stamps, Stationery, and Cancellations 1991-2000. Springfield, Virginia: Ukrainian Philatelic Resources, 2002. v + 227 pp.


There are certain reference books that are more than just convenient repositories of information. They themselves function as certificates of maturity. For instance, when Mykhailo Hrushevsky began publishing his multivolume history of Ukraine, this meant much more than a summary of the facts of the past: it also implied that the Ukrainian nation had reached that stage in its existence when it could reflect on itself and codify itself in relation to the past. It meant that the nation had an infrastructure that produced professional history and professional historians and could undertake a massive publishing project.

Similarly, when the late Volodymyr Kubijovyc launched the encyclopedia of Ukraine, first in Ukrainian and then in English, this was not just a matter of collecting a mass of information on Ukraine into an accessible format (although this was an incredible accomplishment). He also meant to demonstrate that Ukrainians had the intellectual resources to produce and a complex enough vision of who they were to warrant the publication of this reference book of references.

In its own way, this Handbook belongs to the same category as the works mentioned above. It is both a testament to the maturation of Ukrainian stamp collecting as a hobby and an indication of the progress of Ukrainian statebuilding. It is a full, illustrated listing of all the stamps and related philatelic material issued by the Ukrainian postal authorities since independence and through the year 2000.

Let's first consider what transpired to allow such a fundamental work of philately to appear. What are the foundations, in other words, upon which this particular edifice is erected? To begin with, it reflects the fact that Ukrainian philately now has a distinguished pedigree in the English-speaking world.

The Ukrainian Philatelic and Numismatic Society, based in North America, has over 50 years of existence under its belt. Both co-authors of the Handbook are associated with it. Ingert Kuzych is currently president of the UPNS and George Fedyk is the vice-president for Australia. Kuzych was long the editor of the UPNS journal Ukrainian Philatelist (1985-96), and now Fedyk holds that position. Fedyk was also a founding member of the Ukrainian Collectibles Society, based in Australia, and long the editor of its excellent journal The Southern Collector (1995-99). In short: Ukrainian stamp collecting has produced cadres with years of accumulated organizational and editorial experience.

Turning to the "Select Bibliography" at the end of the volume, where the authors list the sources on which they drew for information, one sees an impressive array of other publications and catalogs that paved the way for the arrival of the Handbook.

Of course, most publishing on Ukrainian philately is now done in Ukraine, and the authors used extensively the announcements and studies in the Ukrainian philatelic press. The Ukrainian post office itself issues a philatelic journal, which has improved considerably since the first issue appeared in 1995 (called Poshta i filateliia Ukrainy until 2000, when it changed its format and its name to Filateliia Ukrainy).

The Association of Philatelists of Ukraine publishes a small, but very useful newsletter. And Roman Byshkevych in Lviv has a largely one-man operation, the journal Halfilvisnyk, which collectors find quite informative.

(Missing from the bibliography is the oldest running philatelic journal in Ukraine, Ukrains'kyi filatelistychnyi visnyk, which began to appear in 1989 under the editorship of Viktor Mohyl'nyi, later joined by Viacheslav Anholenko. Since this journal has a historical focus and is little concerned with the official issues of Ukraine today, the omission is a sensible one.)

The bibliography also generously lists the other major catalogs in existence. Two of these are particularly noteworthy. One is the series of Ukrainian-language catalogs published in Ukraine by Ukraine Post and Marka Ukrainy, at first edited by Volodymyr Bekhtir, but now published without attribution to an editor. These have about as much information as our Handbook, but omit the former Soviet stamps overprinted with tridents in 1992.

Their illustrations are in color (the Handbook, which does not have the same kind of financial backing, makes do with black and white). The Ukrainian series is a bit inconvenient to use, because it is spread over five volumes, while the Handbook puts everything together. Obviously, the Ukrainian series can only bring information about Ukrainian stamps to a Ukrainophone audience.