Ukrainian Сulture of the Times of the Cossacks Hetmanate (mid-XVII-end of the XVIII century) – Kiev Private Tours
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Ukrainian culture
8 Jan

Ukrainian Сulture of the Times of the Cossacks Hetmanate (mid-XVII-end of the XVIII century)

In the middle of the XVII century almost all the territory of Ukraine was under Polish domination.

The southern lands suffered from devastating raids of the Tatar and Turkish hordes. Numerous peasants and Cossacks revolts prepared the ground for a national struggle, which broke out in 1648 as a result of difficult historical conditions. The national liberation war of the Ukrainian people did not end with the formation of its own independent state, but with unification with the Russian state in the conditions of a military and political union.

In the second half of the XVI century, violating the terms of the Pereyaslav agreements, Russian autocracy tried to turn Ukraine into a completely subordinate territory, reducing its autonomy and destroying the foundations of self-government. Therefore, the unification of Ukraine with Russia had conflicting consequences for Ukrainian culture: on the one hand, Left-Bank Ukraine got rid of Polish feudal and national-religious oppression, for some time the situation of peasants improved, the national intelligentsia gained new opportunities for cultural creativity. But, on the other hand, the territory of Ukraine was again divided: Right-bank remained under the authority of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; Russian tsarism gradually strengthened the colonial policy and was preparing for offensive against Ukrainian language and church. Ukrainian culture nurtured Russian culture, but at the same time there were processes of “loosing” the national intelligentsia, subordinating its creative abilities to the task of asserting the autocracy. In general, it should be noted that the national liberation struggle of the XVII century became a great impetus to national and cultural development, a stimulus to raise the self-awareness of the Ukrainian people, the formation of brightly unique artistic values, the progress of science and philosophical thought. But the times of “ruins” (60-80-ies) had a negative impact on the cultural life of the region.

Cossacks Writing a Mocking Letter, I.Repin, 1891

Rituals and customs, most of which preserved the traditional Slavic features are important for the characteristics of Ukrainian culture in the second half of the XVII century. The family in Ukraine had an ancient patriarchal character, its head was a father or grandfather, under whose leadership economic activities and family life took place. Together with the so-called small family there was big family, which consisted of three to four generations. Very often parents decided the issue of the marriage of children, although the peculiarities of everyday life and the constant danger of enemy attacks stimulated the development of independence in solving personal matters both among men and women. Ukrainian woman of the XVI-XVII centuries felt freer from patriarchal regulation than her Russian contemporary.

Ukrainian Traditions

For the holidays in the villages, as before, traditional entertainment was organized: swings, games, dances and music, etc. Ukrainians kept ancient rituals that were of pagan origin. The paradox of the long parallel existence of Christianity and pagan beliefs is due to the fact that the Christian religion infringed primarily on the soul of the believer, and paganism regulated everyday life of a person, giving him a poetic sacral meaning. Therefore, Ukrainians still celebrate the holiday to honor the Slavic deity of Kupala; in the summer there is “trinity” holiday associated with various ceremonial actions and customs. The New Year’s ritual cycle was also characterized with significant riches and diversity. On the eve of Christmas, ceremonial dishes (porridge, compote) were cooked; after dinner people were singing carols. During the New Year night, children went to houses of other village inhabitants, sang songs, played folk games (“Goat”, “B”, etc.). The national puppet theater-den became popular; it became an integral accessory of Christmas holidays in Ukraine.

People going to sing Ukrainian carols

The traditional spring agricultural feast of fertility influenced the ritual of the main Christian holiday – Easter. On the eve of the holiday (on Saturday), women baked festive bread-cakes, made pysankas, sausages, etc. An important place in the life of the Ukrainian people was occupied by rituals related to the birth of a child, wedding (matchmaking, engagement, wedding) and burial. They were hardly changed over the next centuries.

Ukrainian wedding

Oral folk art of the second half of the XVII century reflected the main events of that era – the people’s liberation struggle, anti-feudal revolts, social relations in the then society. In the process of the liberation struggle, the worldview of Ukrainians has significantly expanded, their ethnic self-awareness has increased. The historical events of the middle of the century were reflected in the poems such as “Khmelnitsky and Barabasht”, “The Korsun Victory”, “Ivan Bohun”, and others, as well as in the songs. These works are characterized by a bright national-patriotic symbolism: “Glorious Ukraine” is compared to red arrow-wood – the embodiment of the native land. The second great cycle of folk songs was poems and songs with social themes. The people created vivid images of Hanji Andiber, Fedor Bezrodnyi, Cossack Holota. In the process of national revival folklore was the source of poeticized information about the historical past of the people and common historical destiny of its various layers.

Book printing contributed to strengthening of cultural relations of Ukraine with other peoples. During this period the printing house of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra printed such well-known political documents Pereyaslavsky agreements. The first Eastern European textbook on history was published here: “Summary”*. The Lviv printing plant took a prominent place in the Western lands; at the same time the factory performed the functions of the school for qualified workers of publishing field. Books from printing houses in Kiev, Lviv, Novgorod-Seversky and Chernigov were distributed in Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Romania, Poland and other countries. In 1672, a store where books from Ukraine were sold was opened in Moscow.

Ukrainian Baroque style

In the second half of the XVII century Baroque style is spreading in Ukraine (from the Portuguese barroco – “pearl of a whimsical form”), which became the style of the era, an integral artistic system. It influenced all kinds and genres of art, philosophical and scientific creativity. The dynamism that was inherent in Baroque art was conditioned by its propensity to metaphorically allegorical comprehension of reality, to contrasts and clear antitheses. Emblems and concepts were popular forms of artistic research. Various types of dramatic literature play a leading role in the system of genres, a kind of theatricalization of art takes place; it causes an increase in emotional impact, the formal side of art acquires an independent significance.

Today Ukrainian Baroque style you can see in Kiev:

and others.

Kiev-Pechersk Lavra – Ukrainian Baroque style

What the Ukrainian people created for a short time of statehood and independent political life has not disappeared, but became inherited by the future generations. The recognition of national identity, love of  native land, the value of freedom, individual development and Christian virtues, knightly spirit, relatively high level of education – these are the achievements Ukrainian society stepped into XVIII century with.


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During this period, Ukrainian culture continued to develop under difficult conditions. The territory inhabited by Ukrainians still belonged to different states. The attempt of Hetman Ivan Mazepa to get out of the power of the Russian Empire and gain independence in alliance with Sweden was not successful. As a result of this defeat, the colonial policy of tsarism became more violent. With the growth of centralization and the strengthening of bureaucratic levers, the rulers of the state restricted the cultural rights of the Ukrainian people, the hetman power weakened, and was later abolished (1764), the tsarist proceedings spread to Ukraine, Zaporizhzhya Sich (1709, 1775) was abolished, serfdom introduced (1783). Peter I forbade publishing books in Ukrainian; Ukrainian language was no longer allowed in administrative institutions and schools. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church lost its autonomy, became part of the Russian Church. Due to the above circumstances, Ukrainian culture of the second half of the XVIII century began to lose its former importance. There was a crisis of the forms of cultural life that were formed at the end of the XVI – XVII centuries; at the same time, the newest European influences could not directly affect Ukraine.

The first University of Ukraine

Kiev remained the main scientific and cultural, political and religious center in the XVIII century. By the end of the century, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy was an authoritative educational institution.

Kyiv-Mohyla Academy – then

Kyiv-Mohyla Academy – now

A notable place in the development of philosophical thought in the eighteenth century belongs to Skovoroda. His moral teaching, the theory of “related labor,” his humanism – all this still attract the attention of readers and researchers.

Fiction of the XVIII century continued to develop in line with the traditions of the previous period. Art and architecture developed intensively. Artists expanded the themes of their work, moved on to the artistic embodiment of the human personality.

The conditions for the development of Ukrainian culture in the Right-Bank and Western Ukraine were more difficult. The working people were struggling against economic, political and national oppression on the part of the Polish gentry. The Gaydamak movement, the Koliivshchina, the struggle of the rebels were reflected in folk songs, described by writers of a later time.

As a result of the three divisions of Rzeczpospolita (1772, 1793, 1795), Polish domination in Ukraine ended, but a significant part of Ukrainian territories became part of the Austrian Empire, which determined further cultural development of Galicia and Transcarpathian region.

Thus, in the middle of the XIX century, old traditions and ideological and aesthetic concepts in Ukrainian culture are gradually disappearing. It becomes more original and national. The conditions of cultural development were rather difficult; the separation of Ukrainian lands, which complicated the creative contacts of artists and scientists, was extremely unfavorable. However, even in these conditions, the creative genius of the Ukrainians created a number of original works that enriched not only the domestic but also the world spiritual treasury.

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Kate Dobromishev

Tour Guide in Guide me UA / English language / Private Tours in Kyiv

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