"Treasures of Ukraine": a manifesto of beauty and freedom featured picture
Category: Reflections

“Treasures of Ukraine”: a manifesto of beauty and freedom

The British publishing house Thames & Hudson published the book “Treasures of Ukraine. A Nation’s Cultural Heritage”. According to the New York Times, it was included in the list of Best Art Books of 2022. All proceeds from sales of the book go to PEN Ukraine to support museums and authors writing about art.

an image from the book "Treasures of Ukraine"
an image from the book “Treasures of Ukraine”

Why does the appearance of such a book today look like a manifesto?

A similar publication on the cultural heritage of France, Brazil or Japan will be welcomed more quietly – yes, it is informative, beautiful, and of the highest quality polygraphy. The situation in Ukraine is completely different. Ukraine loses objects of cultural heritage every day in the fire of war (and also because of Russia’s looting of the occupied territories). Ukraine is reassembling its history and culture anew through the prism of decolonisation. Ukraine is opening up to a world that does not yet know much about it. And here is Treasures of Ukraine, 250 pages, 45,000 years of this land’s history.

content of the book "Treasures of Ukraine"
content of the book “Treasures of Ukraine”

Yes, don’t be surprised, the first section is devoted to ancient discoveries on the territory of contemporary Ukraine, in which the renowned architectural researcher and culture expert Andriy Puchkov describes treasures dating from ancient times to the 9th century CE. The book finishes with a contemporary perspective – Victoria Burlaka, art historian and curator, expert on contemporary art, highlights the last 40 years of Ukrainian culture and tells us about its present state – being in daily danger, under bombardments, in shelters. A total of eight Ukrainian experts and the American medievalist Christian Raffensperger, who spoke about the heritage of Kyivan Rus, contributed to the book. A separate chapter by Alisa Lozhkina addresses the traditions of Folk Art. A foreword to the book was written by the famous Ukrainian writer Andrij Kurkow, author of Death and the Penguin 

After reading this book, will the reader be fully enlightened as to the cultural heritage of Ukraine? No. This country has a long and complicated history with many tragic twists and turns and, of course, it is impossible to talk about everything in 250 pages. The authors of each chapter had a difficult task – to select objects in “their” period that are the brightest, the most original and iconic.

“Treasures of Ukraine” is first of all a “showcase” on which the treasures are skillfully arranged: steppe stone idols, Scythian gold, icons of Byzantine tradition, ancient temples, richly illuminated manuscripts, elegantly painted eggs (pysanka), avant-garde theater costumes, modern paintings and much more. And whoever is interested in the ‘showcase’ can continue his acquaintance with the cultural heritage of Ukraine – a European country, a country that knows how to create beauty. 

a cover of the book "Treasures of Ukraine"
a cover of the book “Treasures of Ukraine”

Share this post