International Exhibition: Ukraine – Sweden: at the Crossroads of History (17th-18th centuries), in Kyiv

International Exhibition: Ukraine – Sweden: at the Crossroads of History (17th-18th centuries), in Kyiv

On October 1, 2008 the grand opening of the international exhibition, Ukraine – Sweden: at the Crossroads of History (17th-18th centuries), took place at the National Museum of History of Ukraine in Kyiv. The official ceremony was attended by President of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko and His Royal Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf, of Sweden.

The exhibition was a major state event marking the 300th anniversary of the Ukrainian-Swedish military-political union, which became an important factor in the struggle for Ukraine’s independence.

In total, 124 exhibits from 19 Ukrainian and Swedish institutions and collections of 3 private collectors were presented at the exhibition.

The Swedish side was represented by 64 unique monuments belonging to seven institutions. Among them, Cossack possessions such as: (mace, flags), letters by Hetmans Bohdan Khmelnytsky, Ivan Vyhovsky, Pylyp Orlyk, maps, engravings, diplomatic correspondence. The Exhibition included the painting Mazepa and Charles XII on the Dnipro, by the 19th century Swedish painter, Gustav Cederstrom.

On the Ukrainian side, twelve museums, archives and libraries took part in the exhibition. The highlight of the Ukrainian part of the exposition was Hetman Ivan Mazepa’s flag (1686 to 1688) from the collection of the Kharkiv Historical Museum. The unique monument was specially restored for the Exhibition by the Bogdan Gubsky Foundation “Ukraine – 21st Century”,  at the National Museum in Krakow. (cross-reference to 2.1) 

In 2008, the exhibition took second place (in the authoritative rating) Museum Event of the Year’s  ratings in Ukraine.

Work on the exhibition took three years (2006 – 2008). It became the first “Mazepa” museum exhibit in the Hetman’s homeland. It is noteworthy that it took place only recently in independent Ukraine at the beginning of the 21st century. Exhibitions dedicated to Mazepa have been presented to the world for the past two centuries in three countries – France, the United States and only more recently in Ukraine. The first Exhibition was scheduled to correspond with the 250th anniversary of the election of Ivan Mazepa as Hetman and opened in 1937, in Paris. 

The second Exhibition was scheduled for the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Poltava in 1959 in New York; and the third – the 300th anniversary of the military-political Union of Ukraine and Sweden – in 2008, in Kyiv. The latter was supplemented in 2010 and moved to New York.

State, political, cultural, trade and business Ukrainian-Swedish contacts have more than a thousand years of history. The path “from the Vikings to the Greeks”, which passed through Kyiv, is one of the oldest communication routes of European civilization. The oldest Swedish holiday, known as St. Anna, known to Ukrainians as Ingigerda, was the wife of Prince Yaroslav the Wise of Kyiv.

The creators of the Exhibition dedicated it to the times, which was full of energy and optimism regarding nation-building and the dramatic period of Ukrainian-Swedish relations during the 17th-18th centuries. This chapter in European history has yet to find proper scientific study, cultural comprehension and exposure to the general public.

The Exhibition has become a significant focus on memorable historical events that determine the current state development of Ukraine. In October 2007, 350 years of the Korsun Agreement passed;  in March 2009 – 300 years of the military-political union 1708 – 1709, which was formalized in the Treaty of Velykobudyshchansky, signed on March 28, 1709.

These international agreements served as important diplomatic tools for the political legitimization of the newly formed Cossack State, which was in search of military guarantees, and the establishment of an independent Ukraine. Hetmans Bohdan Khmelnytsky, Ivan Vyhovsky, and Ivan Mazepa highly valued political commitment, loyalty to allied commitments, and the good will and mutual respect from the Northern Kingdom. According to Ivan Vyhovsky, the Ukrainian Hetmans saw the future alliance much more broadly than temporary military alliances: they saw it as “a matter of uniting the hearts of both our peoples with a strong bond.”