Monday, June 4, 2012

City self-government flag comes back to Kyiv from Stockholm for the first time after a 360-year absence

A total of 21 items, including ancient seals and parchment pictures, a flag and an armorial, are part of the exhibit “Old Kyiv Self-Government Relics” which was recently opened at the National Museum of the History of Ukraine. Many of them are being displayed in Kyiv for the first time. What really astonishes one is the scope of the exhibit. According to the organizers, eight institutions, including museums, archives, and libraries, from five countries – Sweden, Germany, Russia, Poland, and Ukraine – took part in preparing the event.
“It was planned to hold about 350 events as part of the 1,530th anniversary celebrations, but this exhibit is of special importance because some relics are coming home after a long absence,” Kyiv’s Mayor Oleksandr POPOV says. “We would like as many people as possible, especially the younger generation, to see these unique things.”
The oldest relic exhibited is a Kyiv seal that dates back to the first half of the 16th century. This rarity, furnished by the Sheremetievs family museum, is being displayed for the first time in public. What is also coming back to Kyiv from Stockholm after a 360-year break is the city self-government flag kept at Sweden’s State Trophy Collection.
One of the most valuable artifacts, which, incidentally, came from Germany, is Georg Ortenburg’s Armorial of 1602-04 (part of Conrad Gruenenberg’s Wappenbuch, 1408). The massive paper manuscript comprises 20 drawings and about 2,000 coats of arms, including the oldest known picture of Kyiv’s coat of arms.
Also among the exhibited items there is a plaque from the burial place of Kyiv Burgomaster Ivan Skazka, dated 1647. The exhibit also displays two unique documents: the rescript of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich on appointing Danylo Polotsky as Kyiv vogt (reeve), dated June 20, 1667), and the rescript of Peter I on approving Dmytro Polotsky’s appointment as Kyiv vogt under the decree of Hetman Ivan Mazepa.
There also are such important historical sources as copies of mid-17th century drawings by Abraham van Westerfeld, a participant in the military campaign of Lithuania Hetman Janusz Radziwill. Among the other mementos of that period are sketches of Cossack flags from Radziwill’s archive, which were captured in 1651 in Kyiv and are currently stored at the Russian National Library. The German Ambassador to Ukraine, Hans-Juergen Heimsoeth, said in his welcoming address:
“This exhibit proves that, from the 15th century onwards, Kyiv was deeply involved in European history and enjoyed medieval self-government. This shows European traditions in Ukraine’s legislation and governance.”
The Swedish Ambassador, Stefen Gullgren, also emphasized the importance of such exhibits as a factor of integration and cooperation:
“We have been fruitfully cooperating with Ukraine, including the National Historical Museum, for many years. On the whole, it is 15 years of cooperation between Swedish and Ukrainian academics. A profound study of history is of paramount importance because it contributes to a better understanding of the present day. And it is important that we are the masters of history, not the other way round.”