Ukrainian banknote featuring Vladimir the Great and religious figures

Ukraine – Vladimir the Great, 10th Century

Ukraine Hryvnia Banknotes – Face and Back

Vladimir Putin will never give up Ukraine, for, you see, among other reasons, his namesake is Ukrainian.

Below is the story of Vladimir the Great, followed by a brief history of the present.

Ukraine Hryvnia Banknote, featuring portrait Vladimir the Great
Vladimir The Great
Ukraine 2 Hryvnia Banknote front, featuring Yaroslav The Wise
Yaroslav The Wise

Vladimir, afterwards known as “The Great”, and his son Yaroslav, afterwards known as “The Wise”, brought the kingdom of Kiev-Rus to its zenith in the 10th and 11th centuries.   The modern states, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus all draw upon them for their heritage.

ukraine vladimir
Vladimir the Great

Historians consider the Kievan state to have been founded around 880. A hundred years later, Vladimir, upon the death of his father and a subsequent fratricidal war, fled the region, to his kinsmen in Norway. Returning in 978 with as many Norse soldiers as he could muster, he quickly captured Kiev, (present day capital of Ukraine), and expanded his dominion throughout the region. Within a few years, Vladimir consolidated the regions of eastern Europe from Kiev to the Baltic Sea, including present day Ukraine, Belarus, and a portion of Russia. During his reign and that of his son, Yaroslav, the kingdom known as Kiev-Rus reached its zenith.

ukraine vlad and religious

A little later, Vladimir, having known great military success, and his dominion at peace around him, grew troubled in his thoughts and his mind pondered. Sensing the inferiority of his pagan shrines to the religions flourishing in the world, he sent emissaries to all parts to learn of the great religions that he may determine the best. Of Islam, upon learning that alcoholic drinks were forbidden said, “Drinking is the joy of all Rus. We cannot exist without that pleasure.” Upon questioning the ambassadors from the Jews, and learning of their loss of their home city Jerusalem, he concluded that they had been abandoned by God. His emissaries visiter the Christian church of Germany and were unimpressed. But upon visiting the Byzantine church in Constantinople, and witnessing the majesty of their ceremonies during the festival, his emissaries reported back, “We know longer knew whether we were in Heaven or on Earth.”

His decision made, he was baptized, wed the daughter of royalty, returned to his land, destroyed the pagan landmarks, and commanded his people to follow Christian faith. Thus, was the Russian Orthodox Church born.

ukraine 2
Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev

Yaroslav encountered family battles too following the death of his father in 1015, but by 1019, he had became the grand prince of Kiev, and by 1036 uncontested ruller of Kievan-Rus.  Culture expanded in his days.  He built Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev and Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novogrod.  He was a great patron of learning and books, also promulgated the first east Slavic law code, the Rus Justice, which was further advanced by his sons upon his death in 1054.

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In 2016, Vladimir Putin presented a statue honoring his namesake.  The statue was erected in Moscow where Putin declared him a “unifier and defender of Russian lands.”

As one contemporary has noted, “Russia without Ukraine is a country; Russia with Ukraine is an empire.”  Putin will never give up on Ukraine.

Ukraine 1 Hryvnia Banknote, featuring portrait Vladimir the Great
Portrait of Volodymyr the Great (c. 958 – 1015), the Grand Prince of Kyiv (Kiev), also known as Vladimir Sviatoslavich the Great, the Prince of Novgorod. Orthodox saints and acolyte during church ceremony. Tryzub, the national coat of arms of Ukraine. Stylised grivna from the times of Kievan Rus as registration device.
Ukraine 1 Hryvnia Banknote back
Diorama of Volodymyr’s Burg in Kyiv (Detynets; Citadel) with the Church of the Tithes or Church of the Dormition of the Virgin (built by the order of Volodymyr the Great) in the front. Artistic composition depicting a battle axe, a fullered arming sword, a cross, a flail and an eagle as elements of design from the times of Volodymyr the Great. Logo emblem of the National Bank of Ukraine.
Ukraine 2 Hryvnia Banknote  back
Diorama of the original Holy Saint Sophia’s Cathedral (Sobor Svyatoi Sofii) in Kiev where Yaroslav the Wise was buried. Artistic composition depicting two different battle axes, a ceremonial bowl and the legal code of Kievan Rus’ “Pravda Rus’ka” as elements of design from the times of Yaroslav The Wise. Logo emblem of the National Bank of Ukraine
Ukraine 10 Hryvnia Banknote, front

Ukraine – The Age of the Cossacks, 17th Century

Ukraine 5 and 10 Hryvnia Banknotes – Face and Back
Ukraine 5 Hryvnia Banknote, Year 2013, front

Portrait of Bohdan Khmelnytsky (1595 – 1657), Hetman of Ukrainian Cossacks . Coat of arms of Bogdan Khmelnitsky. Tryzub, the national coat of arms of Ukraine. Stylised grivna from the times of Kievan Rus’ as registration device.
Ukraine 10 Hryvnia Banknote, front
Front: Portrait of Ivan Mazepa (1639 – 1709), Hetman of Ukrainian Cossacks . Coat of arms of Ivan Mazepa. Tryzub, the national coat of arms of Ukraine. Stylised grivna from the times of Kievan Rus’ as registration device. Signature: Sergiy G. Arbuzov (Golova – Governor, Dec. 2010 – Dec. 2012).

The Ukrainian steppes were dominated by two countries in 16th through 19th century European History.  But between these two, for a hundred years, the Cossacks stood up and made a bid for independence.

map of 17th century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
17th century – Extent of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, extending from Baltic Sea almost to Black Sea, overlaid of contemporary political map.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, spanning from the Baltic Sea in the North, to the Black Sea in the South, was one of the largest countries of 16th and 17th century Europe.  It controlled over 400, 000 square miles, and almost all of the territory of present day Ukraine.

The 18th and 19th century Russian Empire grew to be the third largest empire in history.  It also controlled essentially all the territory of modern Ukraine.

map of 19th century Russian empire

19th century – extent of Russian Empire in 1880 (shaded area) overlaid over contemporary political map. Ukraine is outlined

The 17th century declaration of an independent state on Ukrainian territory by the Cossacks, marked the beginning of the end of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  And the 17th century signing of the Pereiaslav Treaty of 1654 marked the end of Ukrainian independence, and the beginning of the subsummation of Ukrainian territory under the growing empire of Russia.

But, for a hundred years, the Cossacks formed Ukrainian history.  This is celebrated in the banknotes on this page.

Bohdan Khmelnytsky

closeup detail of Ukraine 5 Hryvnia Banknote, Year 2013, front, featuring portrait of Bohdan Khmelnytsky
Bohdan Khmelnytsky, detail from front of banknote.

Bohdan Khmelnytsky owned a modest estate in Subotiv, and lived there with his wife and children.  A powerful local magnate tried to seize his estate and Khmelnytsky resisted, writing numerous letters to various representatives of the Polish crown, who could, or would do nothing.    The magnate invaded his estate twice causing significant property damage, and, badly beating his son.  Finally Bohdan Khmelnytsky was evicted from his own land.

Although the crown showed little interest, Bohdan Khmelnytsky found great interest among his fellow Cossacks.  Traveling from one Cossack regiment to another, he found simmering unrest and great support. They had been restless for years, and Bohdan was to prove to be a gifted leader.

In a short time, unrest led to uprising, and uprising led to battles, and battles led to victories, and victories led to a decree of independence from the Polish crown.

Before I was fighting for the insults and injustice caused to me, now I will fight for our Orthodox faith. And all people will help me in that all the way to Lublin and Krakow, and I won’t back off from the people as they are our right hand.” – Khmelnytsky

From Wikipedia:

“At Christmas in 1648, Khmelnytsky made a triumphant entry into Kiev, where he was hailed as “the Moses, saviour, redeemer, and liberator of the people from Polish captivity… the illustrious ruler of Rus.” [citation needed] The Patriarch of Jerusalem Paiseus, who was visiting Kiev at this time, referred to Khmelnytsky as the Prince of Rus, the head of an independent Ukrainian state, according to contemporaries….
“After the period of initial military successes, the state-building process began. His leadership was demonstrated in all areas of state-building: military, administration, finance, economics and culture. Khmelnytsky made the Zaporozhian (Cossack) Host the supreme power in the new Ukrainian state and unified all the spheres of Ukrainian society under his authority. Khmelnytsky built a new government system and developed military and civilian administration.”

But he feared that the new state’s military strength was not enough to secure their position.  Seeking an ally, Khmelnytsky reached out to the Ottoman’s unsuccessfully, and then, reluctantly, to the growing Russian state.   The subsequent treaty with the Tsar in 1654 would be much disputed ever after. The Treaty of Pereyaslav would subsequently be interpreted by many as a military alliance, but by Russia, as a suzerainty, a complete incorporation of Ukraine into the Empire of Russia.

Left Bank, Right Bank Ukraine, and “The Ruin”

Khmelnytsky, charismatic and influential leader though he was, established no rules of succession.  Upon his death the region fell into civil strife which lasted for thirty years until the rise of Ivan Mazepa.  This time period is called “The Ruin” in Ukrainian history.  It was during this time that Ukraine became to be known as Left Bank Ukraine and Right Bank Ukraine, in reference the Dnieper River as one looked downstream towards the Black Sea.

Ivan Mazepa

closeup detail of Ukraine 5 Hryvnia Banknote, Year 2013,, featuring portrait of  Ivan Mazepa
Portrait of Ivan Mazepa (1639 – 1709)

Ivan Mazepa, a Zaporozhian Cossack, arose to lead the Cossacks thirty years after the death of Khmelnytsky.  During the intervening period, known as “The Ruin”, many of the advances under Khmelnytsky were dismantled.  Mazepa, one of Europe’s largest landowners, Built churches throughout Ukraine, founded printing houses and schools, and expanded the primary educational institution of Ukraine to nourish 2000 students, the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

In the later years of his rule, Russia increasing sent the Cossacks to far off fields of battle, leaving their Ukrainian homeland unprotected.  Mazepa considered this a breach in the treaty with Russia.  When the Tsar of Russia refused to send defensive support when the Polish king threatened to attack the Cossacks homeland, Mazepa made his fateful decision.   Mazepa effectively switch sides and allied with the Poles who were marching with the Swedes towards Ukraine.  He was hoping to bring Ukraine under control of Sweden, which, in a separate treaty, had promised independence to Ukraine.  Russia won the battle against Poland and Swededn the following year effectively destroying Mazepa’s hopes.   Ukraine was under the control of Russia.

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Bohdan Khmelnytsky changed his world, and altered the course of history; and much controversy surrounds his memory.
In much of Ukraine he is celebrated is a national hero. His statue is in Kiev and a city and a region are named after him. But he is also criticized for the treaty with Russia which some consider disastrous for the history of Ukraine.
Khmelnytsky is a celebrated as a hero in Russia, as he was in the Soviet Union. Russian history stress their interpretation of the treaty as expressing Khmelnytsky’s desire to reunify Ukraine with Russia.
Poland views Bohdan Khmelnytsky in a very poor light, as his rebellion proved to mark the end of their golden age.
The Khmelnytsky uprising is viewd by Israel as one of the most traumatic events in Jewish history. History has it that he used Jews as scapegoats and sought to eradicate Jews from the Ukraine. Khmelnytsky’s rebels associated with him murdered tens of thousands of Jews between 1648 and 1656.

Ivan Mazepa is regarded as a traitor in Soviet and Russian history.  Among Ukrainian’s the remembrance is mixed.  During Perestroika, many documents came to light that portrayed Mazepa differently. Since Ukraine’s recent 1991 independence, Mazepa has been proclaimed a national hero. He is considered the first Cossack leader to take a stand against the Tsar who had failed to abide by the Treaty of Pereyaslav. This view however is disputed by pro-Russian Ukrainians; and Ukraine has been repeatedly condemned by Russia Ukraine for its celebration of Ivan Mazepa.

Belarus 100 Ruble 2000 banknote back featuring ballet scene from E.A. Glebov's "Izbrannitsa"

Belarus – Poetry Celebrated

Belarus 100 Rubles Banknote, Year 2000 – Face and Back
Belarus 100 Rubles Banknote, Year 2000 back, featuring  the 1969 Ballet entitled Vybrannitsa, “The Chosen Lady”
100 Rubles banknote, year 2000, back, Belarus.

Belarus celebrates Ballet set to the music created by the legendary Eugene Aleksandrovich Glebov, the stellar talent from Belarus.  Born September 10, 1929, he received essentially no musical training until he was 20.  But then he burst upon the musical scene like a bright shining star.  He was accepted into the prestigious Belorussian Conservatory at age 21 based upon evidences of prodigious organic talent exhibited by music written in his uneducated youth.  And he did not disappoint.  For much more on the life and work of Eugene Aleksandrovich Glebov (1929 – 2000), click here.

closeup detail of Belarus 100 Rubles Banknote, Year 2000 back, featuring 1969 Ballet entitled Vybrannitsa, “The Chosen Lady”
Detail from the Belarus 100 Ruble banknote, year 2000.

Depicted, is a scene from the 1969 Ballet entitled Vybrannitsa, “The Chosen Lady”.  The Ballet was created based upon the poems of Yanka Kuprala.  Some poems of Yaknka Kuprala are reproduced below.

Belarus 100 Rubles Banknote, Year 2000 front, featuring  the National Academic Grand Opera and Ballet Theater of the Republic of Belarus
100 Rubles banknote, year 2000, front, Belarus.
closeup detail of Belarus 100 Rubles Banknote, Year 2000 front, featuring the National Academic Grand Opera and Ballet Theater of the Republic of Belarus
Detail from the Belarus 100 Ruble banknote, year 2000.

This is the National Academic Grand Opera and Ballet Theater of the Republic of Belarus.

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The following poem is by Yanka Kupala and is  entitled “Young Belarus”.  It is reproduced from here.

The free wind has sung free songs to thy name,
Green woods caught them with friendly voices, The sun called with its flame to a seed-time far-famed,
The stars poured faith into broken forces.

And in time of storms, troubles and mighty desires,
Thou hast budded and bloomed, long-awaited, In a life-freshet, over the land of thy sires,
Thou hast flooded and poured, unabated.

Thou has flooded and poured, in a bright tale of life,
Through field, woodland, hill and vale streaming… From thy native flower-copses thy crown is made bright,
Like a swan’ plumage, brilliant gleaming.

Thou dost quiver and echo with songs of the bards,
Long-past years thou dost raise up and nurture, Today’s forward leap thou wouldst never retard,
Boldly facing mysterious futures.

In the sun thou goest bold, lovely flower of fire,
Gently sowing forth dreams, gold-adornéd; Thou fearest no neighbour, though great be his ire,
Thou fearest no path briared and thorny.

From end unto end, frontier mound unto mound,
On the breezes renewal is borne now, And, embracing the soul, without limit or bound,
Mother-joy for the better day born now.

Now there are no axes among forests green,
Felling young pine-trees in frosty winter, Now there are no reapers from dawn to dark seen
In summer with scythes ringing, glinting.

Strength is known in the hands, without tears songs are blithe,
Desirous of glory, breasts quiver, In their books a new law, with pens of sun-scythes,
New people are writing for ever.

Blossom them, and raise, soaring upon eagle’s wing,
Souls, hearts and thoughts slumbering dully, Awaken and forth into great spaces, bring
Strength by the witch-noose unsullied.

Send messengers forth, send unto the world’s bound,
As falcon from falcon-nest winging. Let them fly, fly away unto warriors sound,
Set the thunder of good news far-ringing.

Enough, dearest country, in field, wood and brake,
Hapless orphan, thou spendst night’s long glowering, Enough of thy heart’s-blood wrong drank as a snake,
And cold winds blew, through thy bare bones scouring.

Arise from the depths, thou of falcon-born race,
O’er sires crosses, their woes, degradations, O young Bie³aruœ, come thou forth, take thy place
Of honour and fame among nations.
—– Yanka Kupala

The following poem is by Yanka Kupala and is  entitled “From Forebearers’ Ages, Long Since Gone”.  It is reproduced from here.
From forebears’ ages, long since gone,
A heritage has come to me,
Among strange folk, among my own,
Me it caresses, motherly.

Of it to me dream-fables sing
Of first thaw-patches, vernally,
The woods’ September murmuring,
An oak-tree lone, half burned away.

Memories of it, like storks aclack
Upon the line have woken me,
Of a mossed fence, old, gone to wrack,
Fallen near the village, brokenly;

The dreary bleat of lambs that pours
Out in the pasture, endlessly,
The caw of the assembled crows,
On the graves in the cemetery.

And through black night and through white day
I keep, my watch unceasingly,
Lest this my treasure goes astray,
Lest by drones it should eaten be.

I bear it in my living soul
Like torch-flame ever bright for me,
That through deaf darkness to my goal,
Midst vandals it may lighten me.

With it lives my thought-family.
Bringing dreams of sincerity . . .
And its name, all-in-all must be
My native land, my heritage.
—–Yanka Kupala

For other stories from Eastern Europe on this website, click here.

Belarus 1000 Ruble 2011 banknote front featuring parts of the picture "Portrait of the wife with flowers and fruits" by I.Khrutskyi, showing fruits and flowers

Belarus – Art

Belarus 1000 Ruble Banknote, Year 2000 – Face and Back
Belarus 1000 Ruble Banknote, Year 2000 back, featuring painting by Ivan F. Khrutski, “Wife with Flowers and Fruits”.
Belarus 1000 ruble banknote, front, 2000.

The banknote features the flowered fragment from the larger painting by Ivan F. Khrutski, “Wife with Flowers and Fruits”.

closeup detail of  Belarus 1000 Ruble Banknote, Year 2000 back, featuring painting by Ivan F. Khrutski, “Wife with Flowers and Fruits”.
closeup of Belarus postage stamp featuring painting by Ivan F. Khrutski, “Wife with Flowers and Fruits”.

The renowned artwork has been featured on the stamp issue shown here.

Ivan Fromer Khrutsky, 1810-1885, appears to have painted mostly still lifes.  His first known works date from 1832, when he was about 22 years old.  By the time he was 26 years old, he was receiving awards for his works.  And here you and I are, centuries later, conversing about him, considering his work.  Indeed, his work is beautiful.

closeup detail of Ukraine 5 Hryvnia Banknote, Year 2013, front, featuring portrait of Bohdan Khmelnytsky

Ukraine – 2013

Ukraine 5 Hryvnia Banknote, Year 2013 – Face and Back
Ukraine 5 Hryvnia Banknote, Year 2013, front
Ukraine 2013 banknote, front
Ukraine 5 Hryvnia Banknote, Year 2013, back
Ukraine 2013 banknote, back
closeup of detail from Ukraine 5 Hryvnia Banknote, Year 2013, front
Detail from Ukraine 2013 banknote, back
closeup of detail from Ukraine 5 Hryvnia Banknote, Year 2013, back
Detail from Ukraine 2013 banknote, back
Belarus 1000 Ruble 1998 banknote back featuring architecture of National Academy of Sciences of Belarus in Minsk

Belarus – 1998

Belarus 1000 Ruble Banknote, Year 1998 – Face and Back
Belarus 1000 Ruble Banknote, Year 1998 front
Belarus 1000 1998 front
Belarus 1000 Ruble Banknote, Year 1998 back
Belarus 1000 1998 back
Belarus 25 Ruble 1992 banknote face featuring a moose in profile

Belarus – 1992

Belarus 25 Ruble, Year 1992 – Face and Back
Belarus 25 Ruble, Year 1992 front, featuring moose
Belarus 1992
Belarus 25 Ruble, Year 1992 back, featuring mounted knight
Belarus 1992