Ukrainian Philatelic and Numismatic Society

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The Ukrainian Museum marks Ukraine’s independence anniversary with two exhibits

The Ukrainian Museum in New York City is marking two significant chapters in Ukraine’s modern history – 25 years since its declaration of independence in 1991 and the approaching centennial of the liberation struggle and short-lived independence in the early 20th century – with two parallel exhibitions.

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In Metal, On Paper: Coins, Banknotes, and Postage Stamps of Independent Ukraine, 1991-2016 is curated by Yuri Savchuk, Ph.D., senior research associate at the Institute of History of Ukraine, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (NANU). The Ukrainian Museum organized this exhibition in partnership with the National Bank of Ukraine, Ukrposhta and the Institute of History of Ukraine.

Money, Sovereignty and Power: The Paper Currency of Revolutionary Ukraine, 1917-1920 is curated by Bohdan Kordan, professor and director of the Prairie Center for the Study of Ukrainian Heritage (PCUH) at St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan. This traveling exhibition was organized by PCUH in cooperation with the Ukrainian Museum of Canada.

The exhibitions will be open to the public from September 11 through November 27.

IN METAL, ON PAPER
Coins, Banknotes, and Postage Stamps of Independent Ukraine, 1991-2016

The exposition In Metal, on Paper showcases 212 coins out of the 700 that were put into circulation by the National Bank of Ukraine from July 10, 1996, to August 24, 2016; 24 banknotes out of the 50 that have been in circulation from September 1996 until today; and 50 items of philately representative of the 1,500 postal stamps that were released by Ukrposhta from March 1992 to September 2016. Exhibits include selections from UPNS member Sev Onyshkevych's banknote collection.

The selection of showcased items illuminates the thousand-year history of Ukraine, from its early Kyivan-Rus’ period to the present day, its spiritual and cultural heritage, prominent activities and achievements of Ukrainians throughout the world. In addition, it also serves to highlight the rapid evolution of national identity within Ukraine, the crystallization of historical memory of the Ukrainian people, as well as illumination of the most important stages of Ukraine’s state-building process.

The exhibition showcases coins, banknotes and postal stamps as original works of art, the creation of which requires not only a special knowledge but also substantial creative effort. Fifty artists are represented in the exhibition, 37 of whom worked on coins – 24 painters and 13 sculptors. The team working on postal designs is similarly varied and consists of 15 artists.

The chief designer and co-author of this project is Volodymyr Taran, a well-known artist in the numismatic world and in museum circles.

The opening of this exhibition іn September 2016 is not incidental. Twenty years ago, during the period September 2-16, 1996, the National Bank of Ukraine successfully implemented a monetary reform and introduced the historical hryvnia as the national currency. This name itself signified a new historical orientation and direction for the country.

The national currency is counted among other recognized symbols of statehood such as the country’s national emblem, flag and anthem. It is the embodiment of national and economic state sovereignty, and solidifies the irreversibility of historical events.

MONEY, SOVEREIGNTY AND POWER
The Paper Currency of Revolutionary Ukraine, 1917-1920

Issued at various times during 1917-1920 by several Ukrainian governments, the 25 banknotes featured in the exhibition Money, Sovereignty and Power include hryvni, karbovantsi, kupony and rubles, most showing the obverse and reverse sides. Several postage stamps from the period are also highlighted in the show.

In the wake of the Great War, from the detritus of imperial collapse, a new political order of nation-states emerged. Among the newly established entities appeared an independent, sovereign Ukraine. From the outset, Ukraine was the object of invasion and its survival was in doubt. Nevertheless, in the search for legitimacy, extraordinary efforts were made to affirm the state’s sovereign, national character. This was to be accomplished by consciously connecting with Ukraine’s historical past both to invoke precedence and to encourage a narrative of political continuity. The symbols introduced in the currency of Ukraine during this revolutionary period were examples of this process.

The Ukrainian Revolution of 1917-1920 was distinguished by the rise and fall of successive governments – each ideologically different, each short-lived. The social-democratic Central Council or Tsentralna Rada was overthrown in a coup by the arch-conservative Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky, whose regime in turn fell to the quasi-dictatorial Directory. These various governments produced their own currency, co-opting the talents of gifted artists who would invoke specific images and design elements that spoke to the political character of each – populist, conservative or republican. But these images also necessarily cut across ideological lines, signifying a larger commitment to independence as a natural and logical expression of the sovereign will of the people. For this reason, the successor governments were prepared to issue or re-issue currency of their predecessors despite the ideological differences.

The goal of the Ukrainian Revolution, which aimed at national independence, was an ephemeral achievement. But the legitimizing efforts increased the conditions by which society in Ukraine would become progressively aware and accepting of an identity consonant with the idea of the nation. It also infused the public’s imagination and consciousness with a sense of its own destiny. Once engaged, a national alternative became a distinct and real possibility – one, however, that would have to wait for a different time and moment to be realized.

Tours, school groups, family programs

Together, these two exhibitions provide a unique opportunity for visitors to take a walk through Ukraine’s 1,000-year-old history, from ancient to contemporary times. Docent tours offer greater depth and understanding of the objects on display.

The Ukrainian Museum is located at 222 E. Sixth St. (between Second Avenue and The Bowery); telephone, 212-228-0110; e-mail, info@ukrainianmuseum.org; website, www.ukrainianmuseum.org. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and students, free for children age 12 and younger.

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