International Museum Exhibitions Bohdan Khmelnytsky: Symbols of Authority and Artifacts from Europe’s Museums

International Museum Exhibitions  Bohdan Khmelnytsky: Symbols of Authority and Artifacts from Europe’s Museums

From March to December 2002, a series of unique exhibitions were unveiled in the Kyiv, Chyhyryn, Lviv and Dnipro museums. 

For the first time in 350 years, Hetman Khmelnytsky’s personal belongings and insignias arrived in Ukraine and were presented in one exposition. Rare items associated with the famous Hetman were located and collected by The Foundation from six museums in four European countries: Ukraine, Poland, Russia and Sweden. 

About 200,000 Ukrainians viewed these national relics. During 2000-2002, The Foundation’s specialists worked on locating them and returning them to Ukraine.

The exhibition of the Hetman’s personal items opened at the National Museum of History of Ukraine, in Kyiv, on March 5, 2002 and held a special place on the cultural horizon of Ukraine.

The novelty, originality, and historical as well as cultural significance of this undertaking by the museum, far exceeded the boundaries of the average cultural event and gained a deep social resonance. It is important to note that this exhibition project served as a catalyst for further cultural developments and became a source of a number of other state and public actions; such as, a museum album that accompanied the exhibition which catalogues Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s items and is now a part of European museum collections; a joint issuance of an art block of postage stamps with Ukrposhta also entitled, Bohdan Khmelnytsky: Symbols of Authority and Artifacts from Europe’s Museums as well as a documentary entitled, Bohdan’s Standard.

This exhibition was the first international program implemented on such a broad scale and served as a form of cultural diplomacy, which the Foundation has been realizing for almost a quarter of a century.

The event, organized by the Foundation, has become very significant in recent history for Ukraine, and cannot be underscored enough. It is the first of its kind in Ukraine. 

For the first time since the middle of the 17th century, exhibits of collections that are sacred to Ukraine, are being displayed: 

  1. Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s signature flag (Army Museum; Stockholm, Sweden) 

An important expression of the hetman’s power. Probably made in 1649. Linen. White with crimson trim, painted with natural dyes. The affiliation of the flag to Bohdan Khmelnytsky is evidenced by the abbreviation of his name and Hetman’s title: “B. X. Г. E. K. MLO. В. 3. » (“Bogdan Khmelnytsky Hetman of His Royal Grace the Zaporizhian Cossack Host”). It came to Stockholm as a trophy of the Swedish army during the Second Polish-Swedish War (“Flood”) in 1655 – 1660. It has been in Sweden since the end of the 17th century, as stated in the register of trophies of Swedish kings in 1685.

  1. Mace,  attributed to Bohdan Khmelnytsky (Museum of the Polish Army, Warsaw (Poland)).

The mace is one of the most important representations of the Hetman’s rank. Made of rhino horn and inlaid with ivory. It dates back to the 17th century. Length – 32 cm. At the beginning of the 19th century the mace was in the private collection of the Polish magnate Vincent Krasinski. After the Second World War, it was found in the Museum of the Polish Army. During the bombings of 1944, the mace was damaged – the top cracked, the magnificent decoration of the ivory handle was destroyed. The undamaged mace is reproduced in a photo of a rare publication, dated 1881.

  1. The saber of Bohdan Khmelnytsky (Foundation of the Czartoryski Princes at the National Museum in Krakow (Poland)).

The saber’s particular inscription is proof of it belonging to the era of the National Liberation War. Contains significant damage. A brief description of it is given in the Catalog of Arms from 1877: “Common saber of that era. The saber has rust damage. In gold relief, a portrait of Bohdan Khmelnytsky (the saber was without the scabbard).” For a long time the saber was in private collections.

  1. Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s riding whip (Foundation of the Czartoryski Princes at the National Museum in Krakow, Poland).

Used to control a horse as well as a weapon for self-defense. The total length of it is over 1 meter. The handle is made of unfinished cherry wood and is wrapped in a strip of animal hide and measures 4 cm. The whip’s lash is made of raw ox hide and braided with horse hair.

  1. Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s mug (Foundation of the Czartoryski Princes at the National Museum in Krakow,  Poland). Silver. The portrait and initials of the Hetman are engraved on the mug. There is a trace of a bullet on the handle.
  1. Chalice (For Holy Water) (State Historical Museum; Moscow, Russian Federation). Silver with gold gilding. The coat of arms of the Zaporizhian Cossack Host  with the initials of Bohdan Khmelnytsky is reproduced on the chalice.
  1. Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s hat (National Museum of History of Ukraine, Kyiv).

Gift of the famous patron Varvara Khanenko to the Kyiv Art and Industrial Museum. During World War II, the Hat was exported to Germany. After the post-war restitution, it was transferred to the Belarusian State Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War, and in 1954, as a gift from the Belarusian people to Ukraine on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the Pereyaslav Council, the hat was returned to the main historical museum of Ukraine.

For the first time, such a large-scale international exposition was not limited to the capital’s museum space but was also exhibited at other museums throughout the country. Its itinerary is very symbolic in that it follows the route of unification of Ukraine under the Flag of Bohdan:

  1. Kyiv, National Museum of History of Ukraine: 05 / 03-17 / 04/2002
  2. Chyhyryn, National Historical and Cultural Reserve: 17/04 – 17/07 2002
  3. Lviv, Historical Museum: 17/07 – 20/08/2002
  4. Kyiv, National Museum of History of Ukraine: 20/08 –01/11/2002
  5. Dnipro, National Historical Museum named after D.I. Yavornytsky: 01/11 – 11/12/2002.

In total, about 200,000 people visited the exhibitions in these cities.

For the first time these historical relics, albeit temporarily, were returned home to Ukraine after centuries of being abroad.