Thursday, July 09, 2009

More On Ivan Mazepa, Ukraine, Russia, Sweden, Poland And Old And New Europe As Post-1989 Renaissance Proceeds Despite Current Economic Slowdown

"Lord Byron, Pushkin, and Victor Hugo wrote poems about him. Liszt composed a symphonic work in his honor, Tchaikovsky devoted an opera to him, and Gericault painted him tied naked to a horse. In centuries past he was a historical superstar --a poster child for the Romantic era.

His name was Ivan Mazepa, a Ukrainian Cossack chieftain who allied with Sweden's Charles XII to fight Russia's Czar Peter the Great at the Battle of Poltava, 300 years ago this week.

The swashbuckling subject of Romantic-era adulation is once again attracting attention, this time as the subject of a dispute over history between the leaders of Russia and Ukraine. In the eyes of the Russian state and its propagandists, Mazepa is Public Enemy No. 1 -- a turncoat who betrayed Peter the Great, Orthodox Christianity and the unity of Slavic peoples. Most Russian historians have judged Mazepa a traitor.

Acting under the instruction of Czar Peter, the Russian Orthodox Church excommunicated him and placed an anathema on him, and still vilifies him in annual Poltava services. In turn, many Ukrainian historians regard Mazepa as an honored fighter for Ukraine's statehood.

President Viktor Yushchenko extols Mazepa as a heroic precursor of Ukraine's independence and his image is emblazoned on the 10 hryvnia note ($1.30).

Passions over Mazepa have not been as heated in three centuries as this year. In recent days, amid ceremonies, costumed reenactments, conferences and television programs on the Poltava battle, Russian demonstrators have burned him in effigy.

Ukrainian patriots rallied in Poltava on June 27 and unfurled a 30-meter by 45-meter Ukrainian flag in his honor. And a security force of nearly 1,000 has been deployed in Poltava and successfully staved off conflicts between the two sides." ...

Adrian Karatnycky and Alexander J. Motyl "WHY IS RUSSIA AFRAID OF A 300-YEAR-OLD UKRAINIAN HERO?" The Wall Street Journal July 9, 2009

Photo credits: Still from Yuri Illienko’s 2002 film "A Prayer for Hetman Mazepa (Molytva za Hetmana Mazepu)" and (c) Society for Historical Archeology 2007. With thanks.


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