Poltava region: people on the moon, the most important dough, and a fair that became a legend

Poltava region (Ukr. oblast) is a region located in the center of Ukraine. It is a colorful and hospitable region with picturesque nature and centuries-old history. The Poltava city was among the easternmost points of Europe where the Magdeburg self — governing tradition was recorded. And among the outstanding citizens of Poltava, there are both classics of Ukrainian culture and outstanding scientists who helped to conquer space.

Nowadays, Poltava region continues to give birth to strong personalities, and right now many of them are defending their motherland and democratic traditions in the hottest spots. And on Poltava region, as in the whole of Ukraine, there is definitely something to protect — we suggest you see it for yourself!

A person who helped new literature be born

In many nations, it is possible to single out people who made a key contribution to the formation and popularization of the literary language. In English it is Geoffrey Chaucer, in Italian it is Dante Alighieri, in German you can mention Martin Luther. But in Ukraine, such literary and philological fanfare sounds for Ivan Kotliarevskyi.

In 1798, Kotliarevskyi’s “Eneida” was published, the first popular work written in folk Ukrainian and not in the complex and archaic language used by other local writers before that. The Ukrainian author translates the famous plot of Virgil to local realities and writes about the famous free Cossack warriors. After all, they, just like the Trojans in the ancient epos, were just looking for a new home the heart of the Cossacks, Zaporozhian Sich, had been destroyed by the Russian Empire not long before.

The classic plot in the current version, burlesque humor, and a language understandable to everyone so impressed everyone that “Eneida” immediately became a kind of bestseller of its time. And the language of this work became a new standard. By the way, despite the fact that Kotliarevskyi spent his entire life in Poltava, in the poem he used not only Poltava dialect but also words that were common in the Chernihiv region, Sumy region, Kharkiv region, and other regions. Thus, vocabulary from different parts of Ukraine and neologisms by Kotliarevskyi himself formed the modern literary language of the state.

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Art with millennia of experience

The main source of knowledge for most people in the modern world, the English-language Wikipedia, speaks of folk crafts as follows: “Economic and decorative objects are made entirely by hand or with the help of only simple, non-automated tools.” But behind this dry formulation are centuries of human stories, development, and inspiration.

Poltava region (Ukr. obllast) is one of the centers of Ukrainian folk arts. So, for example, the town of Reshetylivka is located here, where embroidery, weaving, carpet weaving, etc., have long been practiced. It was in Reshetylivka that a unique, especially complex type of embroidery was developed: white on white.

This place is so artistic that as many as five laureates of the main Ukrainian cultural award named after Taras Shevchenko, come from here, although Reshetylivka received the status of a city only a few years ago, and before that it was considered a village. And when the Ukrainian delegation had to present something to the UN headquarters, they chose a Reshetyliv handmade carpet.

But Opishnia, another Poltava village, decided to choose a specialized activity for itself and is now considered the capital of Ukrainian pottery. A few thousand years ago, people found colorful ceramic clay here, and since then they have not stopped sculpting something beautiful and useful.

At the end of the 19th century, in the village, where about 6,000 people lived, about 1,000 families were involved in pottery—that is, almost all of them. Pottery in Opishnia was usually created without preliminary sketches, and the entire production cycle took more than a month, from mixing the clay to firing and painting with floral designs.

Opishnia is still considered the capital of Ukrainian pottery—this is confirmed by the local museum with the largest collection of works by folk master potters and ceramic artists in Ukraine. Well, the importance of this industry for Ukrainians was probably best formulated by the Polish diplomat Jerzy Bar. After a visit to Opishnia, he said: “I thought I would see clay, but I saw people.”

In recent decades, folk crafts in Ukraine have experienced a real revival. Specialized stores were opened all over the country, unique things created by craftsmen using ancient technologies became popular gifts, and vyshyvanka can be seen every day on people in villages, megacities, and even on Hollywood stars on red carpets.

Dough, which has become one of the main dishes of Ukrainian cuisine

If you Google the word “halushky”, you will find about 5 million results. All because it is one of the most famous dishes in Ukrainian cuisine. Although, it would seem that this is just pieces of dough boiled in water. However, in Ukraine, this simplicity has been turned into a really tasty, appetizing, and satisfying dish that was once eaten almost every day.

Especially in the Poltava region, because this region can be considered particularly “halushky-like”—this dish is also mentioned by the outstanding Kotliarevskyi in his “Eneida”.

Of course, the recipe has relatives in other countries, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. However, confirmation of the cult status of Ukrainian dumplings itself is cast in concrete. In 2006, a whole monument to this dish was erected in Poltava in the form of a huge plate with 17 concrete dumplings.

Over time, it turned out that halushky attracted halushky—a themed festival with the eloquent name “Poltava halushka” began to be held near the monument every summer. So sometimes even simple dough can turn into something that unites people.

Stolen treasure

Once in 1912, near Poltava, a teenage shepherd tripped over something and fell into a hole. However, it became clear almost immediately that he tripped over a golden dish and fell, not into a hole at all, but into a burial ground containing Eastern Europe’s richest treasure. It was named Pereshchepynske, after the name of the nearest village. During the excavations, more than 800 objects were found here — dishes, jewelry, and weapons — among which there were 17 gold and 19 silver ones. Altogether, it weighed a couple of tens of kilograms of gold and 50 kilograms (110 lbs) of silver.

A jeweled sword stood out among the finds. Unique weapons, as well as the wealth of the entire treasure, gave scientists reason to assume that the famous Khan Kubrat was buried in this place. He was a descendant of the formidable leader of the Huns, Attila, and is revered as one of the founders of Bulgarian statehood. According to legends, his burial place was located somewhere in the area of modern Poltava, so the Pereshchepyn treasure may be the same grave of the great ruler.

However, now Kubrat’s sword and other relics of the Pereshchepyn treasure are not in Ukraine or Bulgaria but in the Russian Hermitage, as one of the many cases of the appropriation of foreign culture and history by Russians. Other examples of what was exported from the territory of Ukraine include gold from the Scythian barrows of Solokha, Kul-Oba, and Chortomlyk; the Vyshhorod icon of the Mother of God, which was stolen from the Kyiv region and renamed Volodymyrska and made the main icon of the Russian Orthodox Church; Cossack artifacts and archives, as well as ancient mosaics of Kyiv temples.

Looting continued even in the days of the full-scale invasion. The occupiers stole Scythian gold from the museum in Melitopol (Zaporizhzhia region), from Mariupol (Donetsk region) – paintings by the famous painter Arkhip Kuindzhi, and from the Shovkunenko Kherson regional art museum they stole almost 90% of the collection.

At all times, Russia, as an audacious empire, exported various valuables from Ukraine. She exported and appropriated, trying to make Ukrainian culture, history, and artifacts that rightfully belonged to this land her own.

A trade that has become iconic

In ancient times, trade was one of the most popular ways of interaction between people. However, at that time, it was somehow necessary to do without shopping centers, so people came up with a kind of mobile supermarket called a “fair”. For centuries, people agreed to come to certain places to sell what they had and buy what was missing.

In Ukraine, jewelry, clothes, livestock, household items, and products were sold at noisy fairs, and Ukrainian, German, Polish, Armenian, and Hebrew languages could be heard. These events served as arteries for goods to be distributed to various cities and villages. Acquaintances, meetings, discussions, quarrels, and invitations to holidays took place here, and in order to attract people, theatrical performances, magician performances, acrobats, and dancers were arranged. Foreigners were surprised that fairs are held in Ukraine almost every day, and in general, even 200 years ago, there were thousands of them in these lands.

Kharkiv region and Poltava region hosted the most fairs in Ukraine. One of them took place in the village of Velyki Sorochyntsi, near Poltava. However, he was neither the most popular nor the most famous. Instead, one of the most popular and famous was the Ukrainian writer Mykola Hohol, who was born in 1809 in Sorochyntsi. In his works, he glorified the local fair.

The development of industrial production and trade routes turned fairs into an atavism, and about a hundred years ago they practically died out in Ukraine. However, in 1966, it was the Sorochynskyi fair that revived this tradition—no longer as a necessary link of trade, but as a cultural phenomenon and a place for meetings.

Every year, approximately a million people, as well as thousands of businesses and folk craftsmen from all over the world, visit Poltava region to preserve ancient trade traditions. And in a small Ukrainian village, like many centuries ago, they get to know each other again, meet, quarrel, and invite each other to holidays.

Outstanding people of Poltava region

Poltava has always had a high concentration of talented people. In fact, no matter what field you choose, there are outstanding Poltava citizens everywhere. You have already read about Ivan Kotliarevskyi and Mykola Hohol, but it is also worth mentioning Hryhorii Skovoroda. This thinker of the 18th century is considered one of the main philosophers in the history of Ukraine. However, you would be mistaken if you imagined a respectable, bearded luminary sitting at a desk.

For almost half of his life, Skovoroda led the life of a traveling philosopher. People throughout Ukraine respected him for his wisdom, welcomed him, and called him a “traveling academy”. And his famous words, “The world was catching me, but it didn’t catch me,” are etched on the thinker’s grave — indeed, they have become the slogan of Ukrainians’ desire for freedom, which the Russians, of course, don’t like too much. As a result, the Skovoroda museum was destroyed by bombs in 2022.

Another native of Poltava region would definitely have a record-breaking business card. After all, it had to fit all this: a writer with popular works for children and adults, a publicist, a translator, a patron, an ethnographer, a folklorist, a participant in the national liberation and feminist movements, a corresponding member of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. All this regalia is about Olena Pchilka, who fought for Ukrainian culture all her life. And she always suffered for it — first from tsarism and then from the Bolsheviks. Despite being ideological enemies, the monarchy and communism turned out to be allies in suppressing Ukrainian identity.

If Kotliarevskyi became an important figure for the Ukrainian literary language, Skovoroda for philosophy, and Pchilka for literature, then Mykola Lysenko is deservedly considered the patriarch of Ukrainian music. The outstanding composer wrote works for symphony orchestras and choirs, romances and music for plays, arrangements of folk songs, and opera. At the same time, in his work, Lysenko, a descendant of a well-known Cossack family, persistently appealed to Ukrainian authors, contrary to the royal decree of Ems, which directly forbade virtually any use of the Ukrainian language, including the printing of texts for sheet music. By the way, this was only one of 150 repressions and bans on Ukrainian culture that Moscow has carried out over the past centuries.

It is not surprising that the composer caused the displeasure of the Russian authorities, and in 1907 he was even arrested. And when Lysenko died in 1912, the funeral turned into a powerful political demonstration — thousands of people from all over Ukraine gathered in Kyiv for the ceremony. This frightened the authorities of the Russian Empire so much that after the funeral, photos, and videos of the farewell procession were removed and destroyed.

Mykola Lysenko suffered from the terror of tsarism. But the fate of another prominent Poltava citizen, Yurii Kondratyuk, probably turned out to be tragic because of another Moscow government — the Soviet one.

Global science owes him outstanding discoveries in cosmonautics. It was he who, at the beginning of the 20th century, calculated the optimal trajectory of a spaceship’s flight to the Moon. He calculated it so successfully that it was this route that the USA used for flights to the Earth’s satellite, and the trajectory itself is now called the Kondratyuk Route. One of the leaders of the Apollo space program, John Houbolt, recalled:

“When, at dawn in March 1968, with a sinking heart, I watched at Cape Canaveral the launch of the rocket that carried the Apollo spacecraft towards the moon, I was thinking at that time about the Ukrainian Yurii Kondratyuk, who 50 years ago developed the same route on which our astronauts were supposed to fly…”

However, outstanding scientific achievements did not save the Ukrainian from repression. According to the popular version, he died in a Soviet concentration camp.

Poltava region knows perfectly well what the reign of terror can mean because this region has suffered from it more than once.

So now, as always, the people of the region are fiercely fighting for their values. In particular, for the language, because Poltava region can well consider its contribution to Ukrainian extremely significant, and there is no doubt that this struggle for one’s own culture with the support of the world will be victorious.


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Last updated 24.02.2023

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