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The Splendor of the Cossack Era in the Historic Context of the Ukrainian-Swedish Alliance on Display for First Time
Installation view. Photo: Volodymyr Taran, © The Ukrainian Museum.

NEW YORK, NY.- Having traveled to North America for the first time, the unique objects in the exhibition Ukraine–Sweden: At the Crossroads of History (XVII–XVIII Centuries) are now on view at The Ukrainian Museum in New York. Ukraine–Sweden explores a pivotal period of European history through the prism of the alliance between Sweden, then a preeminent European power, and Ukraine whose Cossack leaders (Hetmans) were striving to establish an independent state. The exhibition originated in Kyiv, where it was chosen the best exhibition in Ukraine for 2009. It is presented at The Ukrainian Museum in an expanded format. Comprising the exhibit are more than 100 unique and historically significant items from 28 museums, library and archives in Ukraine, Sweden and the United States, as well as private collections.

An era of treaties, shifting alliances and glorious battles whose victories and defeats had lasting consequences, comes to life in the exhibit. Visitors stand before authentic Cossack flags, including the imposing flag of Hetman Ivan Mazepa, armor, and original historic documents written by the prominent leaders of the period.

The exhibition also conveys the achievements and splendor of the era with magnificent works of religious, cultural and political significance. Many of the items were commissioned by Hetman Mazepa and bear his coat of arms. They are testimony to his generosity and vision. His immense contribution had a powerful, lasting impact on the Ukrainian people. Works in the exhibition include Mazepa’s exquisite book of Gospels, silver and gilded Royal Gates from the early 18th century iconostasis of Saints Borys and Hlib in the Cathedral in Chernihiv — a splendid example of metalwork, and the majestic eleven-foot high silver icon enframent from the Troitsko–Illinsky Monastery in Chernihiv. Regalia such as Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s hat, Hetman Pylyp Orlyk’s mace (bulava), and a camisole belonging to Peter I of Muscovy (Russia) are also on display.

The exhibition opens at a propitious time of key anniversaries related to the period. Dr. Yurii Savchuk, Senior Research Associate at the Institute of History of Ukraine of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and curator of Ukraine–Sweden notes that “October 2007 marked the 350th anniversary of the 1657 Treaty of Korsun in which Sweden recognized Ukraine as ‘a free people, subject to no one.’ March 2009 saw the 300th anniversary of a 1709 treaty that sealed their military–political union and included Sweden’s agreement not to accept peace with Moscow until Ukraine was free from Russian rule. Aimed at legitimizing the newly founded Cossack state and providing it with military guarantees, the two agreements were defining moments in Ukraine’s development as a modern sovereign state.” Later in 1709 the allied forces of Ukraine and Sweden lost the decisive Battle of Poltava against Peter of Muscovy, which changed the course of history and saw the emergence of Russia. The battle is remembered by Ukrainians as a noble and heroic act of self–determination — one that has never been forgotten. April marked the 300th anniversary of Hetman Orlyk’s constitution of 1710 — one of the most advanced legal documents where for the first time governing functions are divided into three branches. Orlyk’s constitution predates the American and French revolutions by many decades.

Ukraine–Sweden: At the Crossroads of History will be on view through October 31, 2010.

The Ukrainian Museum | Dr. Yurii Savchuk | New York | Ukrainian-Swedish Alliance |

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