The war and economic problems in Ukraine have complicated, but not ended, the annual excavations conducted by the Canada-Ukraine archaeological expedition in the town of Baturyn, Chernihiv Oblast, since 2001. This is thanks largely to the sponsors of the Baturyn historical and archaeological project: the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) at the University of Alberta, the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies (PIMS) at the University of Toronto and the Ucrainica Research Institute in Toronto. Prof. Zenon Kohut, a distinguished historian of the Hetman state and former director of CIUS, serves as the academic adviser of this undertaking. Orest Steciw, the managing director of the national executive of the League of Ukrainian Canadians, is the president of the Ucrainica Research Institute.
The W. K. Lypynsky East European Research Institute Inc. in Philadelphia awarded a generous grant for the archaeological investigations of early modern Baturyn in 2016-2017. In 2005-2017, the Chernihiv Oblast State Administration also contributed annual subsidies for the excavations in the town.
In 2016, nearly 70 students and archaeologists from the universities of Chernihiv, Hlukhiv and Sumy were involved in the Baturyn excavations. This past summer, the archaeological expedition there decreased to 50 members due to the absence of students from Sumy. The expedition was headed by archaeologist Yurii Sytyi of Chernihiv National University. Archaeologist Dr. Volodymyr Mezentsev (CIUS, Toronto) is the Canadian executive director of the Baturyn project. The notable historian of Ukraine-Rus’, Prof. Martin Dimnik (PIMS), has also collaborated in this research.
Baturyn then and now
In 1625, during Polish rule over the Chernihiv-Siversk land, the Baturyn castle, the nucleus of the emerging town, was founded. Subsequently, a sizeable and sturdy fortress was constructed around the castle. It became the political, military and administrative capital of the Kozak state in 1669. Baturyn flourished and reached the peak of its urban development during the reign of Hetman Ivan Mazepa (1687-1709), who was the best known and most respected in the West of all the Ukrainian hetmans.
In 1708, in alliance with Sweden, Mazepa led a revolt for the liberation of central Ukraine from increasing Russian domination. In retaliation, tsarist forces, aided by a traitor, broke into the Baturyn fortress, looted and burned down the hetman capital, and annihilated its Kozak garrison, as well as all the residents – from 11,000 to 14,000 Ukrainians in total. By the order of Tsar Peter I, the complete destruction and depopulation of Mazepa’s capital served as a demonstration of the severe price to pay for disloyalty to the tsar’s authority. His intent was to terrify and demoralise all of Ukraine.
Half a century later, Hetman Kyrylo Rozumovsky (1750-1764) privatized and rebuilt Baturyn, and renewed its status as the capital of the Hetmanate. Although in 1764 the Russian Empire abolished this Kozak realm, he continued to reconstruct and repopulate the town, and promoted its economic growth until his death in 1803. After this last upsurge, the former hetman capital fell into decline, but it is being revitalized in independent Ukraine.
Since 2009, following the reconstruction of the impressive fortress citadel, the hetmans’ palaces, the state treasury house, the court hall and churches, as well as the establishment of several modern museums of antiquities, Baturyn has become a popular tourist attraction. Over the past three years, the influx of visitors to the town’s museums and historical sites from Ukraine and abroad has increased, reaching up to 150,000 sightseers in 2016.
Excavations in Honcharivka
In 2016-2017, archaeologists continued their excavations in Honcharivka, the suburb of Baturyn. In the late 1690s, Mazepa constructed his principal residence there – an imposing brick palace (20 by 14.5 meters) with three stories and an attic. In 1708, Russian troops plundered and burned this outstanding piece of Ukrainian architecture.
An analysis of the data from excavations of the Honcharivka palace’s debris and written sources, along with a 1744 drawing of its ruins, have allowed researchers to establish the design and decoration of this structure. At Mazepa’s behest, his main residence was likely built and adorned primarily in the style of the mature Central European baroque. However, my research has shown that the embellishment of this palace’s façades with glazed ceramic rosettes represented a distinctive attribute of the architecture of the Hetmanate.
While excavating the remnants of Honcharivka’s villa in 1995-2013, many fragments of such rosettes were found. These plate-like ceramic details have a semi-spherical central part and flat circular rims. Their convex facing is ornamented with relief rosettes, i.e., stylized flowers of various patterns, and covered by the white, yellow, green, turquoise, and light or dark blue enamel.
In 2017, this writer and the graphic artist Serhii Dmytriienko of Chernihiv examined numerous photos of the unearthed rosette fragments and prepared hypothetical color reconstructions of six types of intact rosettes using computer graphic techniques. Each type has its own specific relief flower or geometric ornament and predominantly three or four subtypes with variations of color glazing, up to 21 subtypes altogether.
These details were nailed to the frieze of entablature in row alternating different types or subtypes. According to the author’s reconstruction of the Honcharivka palace’s exterior, these friezes on each of its three stories were decorated with rosettes of various diameters, ranging from 30 to 40 centimeters. Mr. Dmytriienko has estimated that approximately 264 rosettes were mounted on the palace’s façades.
Specialists have pointed to the high technical and artistic level of the heating stove tiles or “kakhli”, the rosettes, and the slabs bearing Mazepa’s coat of arms from the Honcharivka palace. They recognize them as valuable pieces of Ukrainian baroque architectural majolica. The rosettes represented one of the most numerous and typologically diverse categories of the ceramic embellishment of this edifice.
My conclusions regarding the ornamentation of the Honcharivka palace by six types and from 16 to 21 subtypes of rosettes with a palette of six colors of enamel complement the results of earlier research on the application there of seven to nine patterns of floor pavements or inlays with glazed and terracotta tiles, about 30 kinds of fine glazed multicolored stove tiles, and two versions of terracotta and glazed heraldic plaques. These findings attest to the exceptionally refined, expensive and diversified ceramic adornment of Mazepa’s main residence in Baturyn.
I contend that the method of decorating the façades of this structure with ceramic rosettes was borrowed from Kyivan ecclesiastical architecture between 1696 and 1700. This corresponds with Mr. Sytyi’s assertion about the production of all the ceramic ornamental details of the Honcharivka palace, including the rosettes, stove and floor tiles, and heraldic slabs by experienced artisans, or “kakhliari,” whom the hetman summoned from Kyiv. Undoubtedly, they made these ware from local clay while in Baturyn. Yet these masters could have brought with them the carved wooden molds that they employed to fashion rosettes for some contemporaneous churches in Kyiv.
In the 17th-18th centuries, in keeping with the Kyivan model, and possibly with the involvement of Kyivan craftsmen, several monastic churches in the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Poltava regions were also embellished with ceramic rosettes. In fact, the Honcharivka palace was the only known residential building in Ukraine that was ornamented with ceramic rosettes (excluding the later imitations on the dwellings or “kamianytsi” of the Kozak era).
Thus, the exclusive application of this specific method of adorning churches of the leading Kyivan architectural school for finishing Mazepa’s palace in Baturyn shows the unique nature and national flavor of the structure. By its three-story design, highly artistic glazed ceramic polychrome revetments, and unusual combination of Western and Ukrainian baroque ornamentations the principal hetman residence stood out among the secular buildings of the Kozak state.
In 2017, archaeologists partly excavated the foundation of some hitherto unknown destroyed brick structure at Mazepa’s manor in Honcharivka. Its investigation and identification will be completed next summer.
Remnants of dwellings, artifacts
The 2016 excavations in the former fortress and the southern suburb of Baturyn discovered the remnants of wooden dwellings of the burghers and Kozaks, 11 silver and copper Polish and Russian coins, three fragments of copper rings, four copper buttons, four bronze and brass clasps, and six decorative appliqués from Kozak leather belts, saber-knots and horse harnesses, the fragment of a bronze saber hilt guard, four lead musket bullets, four flint pieces from flint-lock rifles, an iron horse stirrup, a lead seal and a ceramic game chip of the 17th-18th centuries.
Last year, in the southern suburb, a 17th-century bronze neck cross was unearthed. It bears the relief of a three-barred Golgotha cross with the symbols of the Passion of Christ on both sides. In the fortress, a carved stone mold for casting neck crosses was also found. Mr. Sytyi has maintained that these items were manufactured in Baturyn before its destruction in 1708.
In 2016-2017, the expedition continued excavating the site of the household of Judge General Vasyl Kochubei (after 1700) in the town’s western end. After 1750, Rozumovsky owned this manor and commissioned three wooden edifices there. In Mr. Sytyi’s view, these served as offices for the hetman’s administration, which were dismantled in the 19th century.
Archaeologists have uncovered some portions of brick foundations, which supported the timber walls of two of Rozumovsky’s buildings. The heating stoves (“hruba”) there were faced with artistic ceramic tiles. Last summer, two fragments of narrow tiles from the second part of the 18th century were unearthed there. They feature elaborate floral motifs executed in dark-blue enamel on white and yellow backgrounds.
In 2016, within the fortress, archaeologists unearthed half of a small rectangular flat ceramic stove tile that was glazed cobalt blue and white, and bears the images of a house and large flower in a baroque Dutch style. Stove tiles of the same shape, size, coloring and manner of glazed painting from the second half of the 18th century have been found in a considerable number in Kyiv and Nizhyn, and in Rozumovsky’s buildings in Baturyn. At the museum in his Baturyn palace, five intact analogous stove tiles are on display. They feature depictions of early modern Western European country houses, towers, stylized birds and flowers.
Perhaps these narrow and small rectangular tiles discovered at Baturyn in 2016 were applied as decorative horizontal bands and cornices between rows of larger tiles revetting heating stoves of Dutch design. Representative finds of such sizeable tiles from Rozumovsky’s buildings in Baturyn are exhibited in his palace-museum. They are glazed predominantly cobalt and white, but occasionally brown, green, yellow and beige. These tiles boast of skillful realistic and stylized drawings of people in 18th century European dress, flowers and landscapes of early modern Western European cities and ports with sailboats, as well as sophisticated plant and geometric ornaments, all executed in the late baroque Dutch style.
Rozumovsky likely imported the best and most expensive tiles glazed cobalt and white from Holland for finishing the heating stoves and fireplaces at his ambitious palatial residences and offices of the hetman administration. He could have also used some cheaper imitations of the fashionable Dutch tiles, which were manufactured in Russia from the early 18th century and possibly locally in Baturyn since 1750. Conceivably, the flat tiles glazed brown, green, yellow and beige of Rozumovsky’s era that have been found in Baturyn represent Ukrainian ware. In their paintings, some influences of the style, images, and ornaments of Dutch glazed ceramics along with its national folk interpretations in the multi-colored enamel techniques are visible.
Last year, in the fortress, for the first time in Baturyn, archaeologists found a remarkable tiny porcelain figure of a gentlemen in 18th century European clothing. This statuette was masterly fashioned in a realistic manner, although without small details, and painted in blue, red, apple-green, gold, dark-bronze and black colors. I believe that it was a product of the porcelain factory in Meissen, Saxony, and was brought to Baturyn during Rozumovsky’s time. The figurine could have stood on display in the house of either a Kozak officer (“starshyna”), member of the gentry (“shliakhta”) or a well-to-do burgher, and served as a child’s toy. These finds of valuable German porcelain sculpture and Dutch-style glazed ceramic stove tiles provide insight into the European commercial and cultural connections of Baturyn, as well as the Westernization and prosperity of its elite during the last town’s vibrancy under Rozumovsky.
Excavations of cemeteries
Mr. Sytyi published an important article this year about the excavations by our expedition of the cemeteries in the Baturyn outskirts. He argues that the majority of the 25 buried inhabitants of the 17th-18th centuries exhumed in the Teplivka suburb in 2005 were victims of the 1708 Russian attack on the hetman capital. Archaeologists uncovered there the skeletons of children, men and women of various ages – members of several families.
In a southern suburb, in 2006, they excavated the remains of a child inside a timber structure that was burned in 1708. In previous years, in several parts of Baturyn, archaeologists also uncovered human remains buried near or amidst the ruins of burned dwellings of the 17th or early 18th centuries. Mr. Sytyi has positively identified these buried residents as casualties of Tsar Peter’s punitive action.
In 2017, in Honcharivka, our expedition investigated the remnants of a wooden dwelling of the early 18th century that was burned together with the neighboring Mazepa villa in 1708. Inside this structure, an iron cannon ball from the artillery shelling of the town that year was found.
The 2016 excavations in Baturyn have yielded several rare and significant artifacts for the study of the ceramic decorations of residential and administrative buildings of the hetman capital as well as the culture and lifestyle of the hetmans, Kozak officers, gentry and burghers there. New archaeological data have also advanced our knowledge about the local manufacturing of metal ornaments, neck crosses, arms and accoutrements of the hetman’s Kozaks and their horses, and the architectural majolica in the town, as well as its trade imports and artistic influences from Western Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. The review of findings from the graves excavated by our expedition in the suburbs has provided archaeological evidence of the killing of entire families during the extermination of the population of Mazepa’s capital.
The recent detailed examination of its history and antiquities is presented in the richly illustrated Ukrainian-language booklet “Arkheolohichni Doslidy Baturyna 2016 Roku. Keramichni Ozdoby Palatsu Ivana Mazepy” (“Archaeological Research of Baturyn in 2016. Ceramic Decorations of Ivan Mazepa’s Palace” Toronto: Homin Ukrainy, 2017, 32 pp. in Ukrainian, 75 color illustrations). This publication is available for purchase for $10 from the office of the national executive of the League of Ukrainian Canadians in Toronto (telephone, 416-516-8223; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org) and through the CIUS Press in Edmonton (telephone, 780-492-2973; e-mail, email@example.com; web address, http://www.ciuspress.com/catalogue/history/361/arhaieologheichni-deoslidei-baturina-2016-r).
Funding the explorations
Next summer, archaeologists will renew their field explorations in Baturyn. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government, burdened with heavy military expenses, will likely suspend its funding of this scholarly project from 2018 onwards. In a time of peace, the benevolent support of the Baturyn research by Ukrainians in the United States and Canada was very important, and in the present situation it will keep this project alive.
The most generous patrons of the study of Baturyn are the late poetess Volodymyra Wasylyszyn and her husband, artist Roman Wasylyszyn (Philadelphia), Andrew Maleckyj and Motria Kyzycz (New York), Alexandra Zolobecky-Misiong (Livonia, Mich.), and Dr. George Iwanchyshyn and Dr. Wilhelmina Degroot (Toronto).
In 2016-2017, the archaeological research on the hetman capital and the preparation of related publications were supported with donations by the Canadian contributors to the Ukrainian Studies Fund Inc. at Harvard University, the Ukrainian History and Educational Center in Somerset, N.J. (Natalia Honcharenko, director), the National Executive of the League of Ukrainian Canadians (Roman Medyk, president), the League of Ukrainian Canadians – Toronto branch (Borys Mykhaylets, president), the League of Ukrainian Women in Canada – Toronto branch (Halyna Vynnyk, president), the Kniahynia Olha Branch of the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada (Natalia Jemetz, president), the Buduchnist Credit Union (Oksana Prociuk, CEO, and Chrystyna Bidiak, personnel manager), the Prometheus Foundation (Maria Szkambara, president), the Ukrainian Credit Union (Taras Pidzamecky, CEO), the Golden Lion Restaurant (Anna Kisil, owner) and the Healing Source Integrative Pharmacy (Omelan and Zenia Chabursky, owners) in Toronto.
Continued support for archaeological investigations in Baturyn and the publication of their findings by Ukrainian organizations, foundations, companies and private benefactors in the U.S. and Canada will be most welcome. They are kindly invited to send their checks with donations to: Stan Kamski, Treasurer, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 59 Queen’s Park Cr. E., Toronto, ON, Canada, M5S 2C4. Please make your checks payable to: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies (Memo: Baturyn Project). The institute will issue official tax receipts to all American and Canadian donors, and they will be gratefully acknowledged in related publications and public presentations.
For more information about the Baturyn project, readers may contact Dr. Mezentsev in Toronto at 416-766-1408 or e-mail