Restoration of the Flag of Hetman Ivan Mazepa

Restoration of the Flag of Hetman Ivan Mazepa

The unique work done on the restoration of Hetman Ivan Mazepa’s flag, was carried out by the Bogdan Gubsky Foundation “Ukraine – 21st Century”.

Three hetman’s flags have survived to this day, and only one of them is in Ukraine.

By 2006, it was in poor condition, with about 50 percent of the flag’s fabric destroyed. The Foundation involved the best specialists -academics, museum curators and restorers from Italy, Poland and Ukraine to attribute and save this national shrine. The restoration of the flag took place in Krakow during 2007-2008.

On September 4, 2008, a special ceremony of handing over the restored flag to Ukraine took place in Krakow.

The Hetman’s flag was made in 1686–1688. Originally, the area of ​​the banner was about six square meters. The flag is sewn from white and yellow silk – painted and gilded on both sides. In the center of the banner is a double-headed eagle with symbols of power held in its claws and a coat of arms on its chest. The shield depicts a horse and rider slaying a serpent with a spear. Next to it are three cartouches with different texts. In the middle of the upper part of the flag there is an image of Jesus Christ.

Ivan Mazepa’s flag was originally intended for the Ukrainian Hetman Ivan Samoilovych, but after the latter’s removal from power, the flag was handed over to Mazepa. In 1708 the flag was inherited by Hetman Ivan Skoropadsky.

The importance of this monument cannot be underscored enough as it is only one of three surviving hetman’s flags located in Ukraine (the other two are in collections abroad–one in Moscow, and one in Stockholm).

Work on the search, attribution and restoration of the flag continued through 2006–2008. Due to its age, (damage from war, and the elements), the flag was in poor condition, with deterioration of up to 46 percent. In 2007, the Foundation initiated the restoration and conservation of the flag.

The Foundation involved a team of specialists – academics, museum curators and restorers from Italy, Poland and Ukraine, who carried out the attribution and restoration of the flag at the National Museum in Krakow (Poland). This difficult and delicate restoration process lasted an entire year: from September 2007 to September 2008, artists-restorers, textile experts, as well as specialists in the fields of chemistry, art history and linguistics were involved.

After the restoration was complete, the flag was transferred from Krakow to Ukraine on the 4th of September 2008,  with the participation of the Chairman of the Board of the Foundation Bogdan Gubsky; the Minister of Culture of Ukraine, Vasyl Vovkun; and the Minister of Culture of Poland, Bogdan Zdrojewski.

Polish museum specialists Zofia Golubiew and Janusz Czop, who helped preserve this unique monument, were presented with state awards of Ukraine.

With the initiative and full support of the Foundation, the Hetman’s flag was fully restored. All those involved in the restoration of the flag took great pride in the persistent joint efforts of Ukrainian and Polish museum curators and conservators who preserved the national relic and its historic significance to Ukraine and the world,  as a nation on its path to freedom.  

After the restoration, the flag was first shown in Ukraine at the exhibition Ukraine – Sweden: at the Crossroads of History (17th-18th centuries), which opened at the National Museum of History of Ukraine on October 1, 2008. The opening ceremony was attended by President Victor Yushchenko and His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. This was the first official visit of the Swedish Royal Family to Ukraine in the last 300 years.

After the restoration and exhibition, the flag was returned to the Kharkiv Historical Museum’s collection on a permanent basis.