Published in Ukrainian Echo, Vol. 35, No. 7, Toronto, March 9, 2021, pp. 1-3.




Zenon Kohut (Edmonton), Volodymyr Mezentsev (Toronto), Yurii Sytyi (Chernihiv)


Despite the pandemic, the Ukrainian and Canadian archaeologists and historians continued their research of the early modern town of Baturyn, Chernihiv Oblast, in 2019-20.

In 2001, Prof. Zenon Kohut, the former director of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) at the University of Alberta, founded the Canada-Ukraine Baturyn Archaeological Project. He directed it until 2015 and currently serves as its academic adviser. Archaeologist Dr. Volodymyr Mezentsev, research associate of CIUS Toronto Office, is the Canadian executive director of the Baturyn project.

The 2019 excavations in Baturyn involved 45 students and scholars from the National University of “Chernihiv Collegium”, Hlukhiv Lyceum of enhanced military training, and the Institute of Archaeology at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in Kyiv. Past summer, the archaeological expedition there increased to 75 members thanks to the participation of many volunteers. Archaeologist Yurii Sytyi of the National University of “Chernihiv Collegium” leads the annual Baturyn excavations.

            In 1648-54, Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky liberated central Ukraine from Polish domination and founded the Cossack state, or Hetmanate. Baturyn became one of its major towns. In 1669, it was appointed as the capital of the Cossack realm and flourished during the reign of the powerful Hetman Ivan Mazepa (1687-1709).

In 1708, with Sweden as an ally, this hetman resisted militarily Moscow’s growing authority over central Ukraine and proclaimed the Hetmanate an independent principality. In attempts to suppress Mazepa’s revolt, on November 2, 1708, the prevailing Russian army, aided by a traitor, stormed and seized Baturyn’s fortress. Tsarist troops pillaged and burned down the insurgent town and ruthlessly annihilated with fire and sword the garrison fighters as well as all of the civilian inhabitants from 11,000 to 14,000. No quarter was given to women, children, the elderly, and clerics in the devastated Mazepa’s capital. This massive demonstrating punitive measure was ordered by Tsar Peter I to terrify all of Ukraine. In total, Muscovite forces exterminated about 30,000 participants of Mazepa’s uprising and members of their families throughout the Hetmanate and the Zaporozhian Host in 1708-09.

            The enlightened Hetman Kyrylo Rozumovsky (1750-64) repopulated and rebuilt Baturyn as the capital of the Cossack polity on the eve of its abolition and merging by the Russian Empire in 1764. Until Rozumovsky’s death in 1803, the town experienced its last urban revival, but subsequently declined while Ukraine remained stateless.

In independent Ukraine, Baturyn has become the main centre for preservation, study, reconstruction, and popularization of the historical and cultural legacy of the capital of the Cossack state and its rulers. It also serves for patriotic education of the Ukrainians, notably the youth. The town’s five advanced museums of antiquities, 30 sites of historical and cultural heritage, and impressive sculptural monuments dedicated to the hetmans, Cossacks, and victims of Mazepa’s ravaged stronghold attract many tourists.

In 2019, some 200,000 Ukrainian and Western sightseers visited the Baturyn National Historical and Cultural Preserve including 53,600 students. That year, the Canadian historian Prof. Antony Littlewood from University of Western Ontario travelled to Baturyn and published his reflections in the bulletin of the University of Ottawa in 2020. He strongly urged other Western scholars to visit the former Cossack capital and explore its rich museum collections of our archaeological finds, reconstructed citadel, hetman palaces, and churches. (See: Canadio-Byzantina, No. 31, January 2020, p. 4. https://uottawa.scholarsportal.info/ottawa/index.php/cb/issue/view/514).

In 2017-20, in the northwestern suburb of Baturyn, the expedition partly excavated debris of the residence of Pylyp Orlyk, the chancellor general of the Hetmanate. He was a personal secretary, chief counsellor, and chargé d’affaires of Mazepa. Orlyk succeeded him as the hetman in exile (1710-42) and headed the first Ukrainian political emigration.

Yu. Sytyi posits that Orlyk constructed and decorated his Baturyn home and its heating stoves modelling on those in Lithuania, his motherland. It was a spacious one-story house made of logs with several rooms and no cellar. Orlyk’s dwelling was burned down during the Muscovite sack of Baturyn in 1708.

            Archaeologists have unearthed the foundations of two brick heating stoves (pechi, hruby) as well as many shards of glazed ceramic, plain terracotta, and some lime washed tiles (kakhli) of high technical and artistic quality from their facing. These plaques are ornamented with elaborate floral, geometric, and heraldic relief motifs in the Ukrainian baroque style. Many of them bear the family coats of arms (herby) of both Orlyk and Mazepa.

Applying the computer photo collage and graphic techniques, the Baturyn project’s artist Serhii Dmytriienko (Chernihiv) has prepared hypothetical reconstructions of the assemblages of broken and burnt heraldic tiles and defined their size, to approximately 30 by 30 cm. The recreated Orlyk’s colour armorial bearings was published and examined by V. Mezentsev in his article in Ukrainian Echo, Vol. 33, No. 4, February 19, 2019, pp. 1-2 (http://www.mazepa.name/cms/wp-content/uploads/Гомін_України_додаток.pdf). In the present work, the authors publish and discuss the hypothetical computer reconstruction of the fragmented burnt glazed ceramic stove plaque featuring Mazepa’s coat of arms in relief prepared by S. Dmytriienko in 2019-20.

      In its centre is a massive light-green baroque shield surrounded by decorative garlands or leaves (namet) of darker green enamel. On this shield, a dark-green anchor-like six-barred cross with a white crescent moon and a six-pointed star on both sides are depicted, i. e., the principal heraldic symbols of Mazepa’s family arms referred to as Kurch. Hung around the crossbar, between the crescent and the star, is a white ribbon with the Order of St. Andrew. The hetman received this award in 1700. The shield is surmounted by a helmet crested with a princely crown.      

      Around the shield are relief images of symmetrically placed stylized Cossack standards with horsetails (bunchuky), banners (korohvy), hetmans’ large globular maces (bulavy), flanged maces (pirnachi), military trumpets (surmy), spears, partisans (protazany), flags, cannons on wheels, ramrods (bannyky), musket barrels, sabres, oval and figured shields, a baroque suit of armour and a helmet, all glazed green and set against a white background. Only the cannonballs, a gunpowder barrel, and two Cossack kettle-drums (litavry) at the bottom of this composition are situated asymmetrically.

      V. Mezentsev has observed that the representations of various weapons, munitions, and Cossack or hetman insignias of power (kleinody) on the recreated tile resemble those found in many engravings and silver-gilt icon covers (oklady) featuring the armorial bearings of Mazepa, which were created in Kyiv and Chernihiv during his reign. The closest analogies are the designs of the hetman’s heraldic emblems depicted on the 1695 silver and gilt cover (shaty kiotu) of the Troitsko-Illinska Mother of God icon which is preserved at the Chernihiv Historical Museum and on Ivan Myhura’s etching glorifying Mazepa, 1706. Images of many kinds of armaments, accoutrements, and kleinody there are particularly similar to those on the reconstructed stove tile. In Myhura’s engraving, the Order of St. Andrew is also hung around the crossbar of the anchor-shaped cross, between a star and a crescent.

      Probably at Orlyk’s behest, a professional draftsman from the Kyiv-Chernihiv art school prepared the original graphic designs for his own and Mazepa’s arms. He may have modelled some distinguished earlier versions of the hetman’s heraldic emblem enveloped by the military attributes and symbols of power. On the base of these graphic originals, Baturyn tile-makers or kakhliari carved the wooden moulds for fashioning the clay tiles.

     The distinct relief representation of a trefoil princely crown surmounting the helmet on Mazepa’s coat of arms deserves special attention. V. Mezentsev contends that similarly shaped crowns are depicted on many early modern armorial bearings of princes of Ukraine and Western countries. He has suggested that Orlyk commissioned the heraldic emblem of the hetman with this specific crown to honour him as Prince of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. On September 1, 1707, Kaiser Joseph I of this Empire awarded Mazepa with such title (Reichsfürst in German) for his vigorous defence of the Christendom from the Turkish and Tatars’ aggressions. This allows V. Mezentsev to date the recreated stove tile with the hetman’s arms, as well as the finishing of Orlyk’s home, to between that time and the destruction of Baturyn and his dwelling on November 2, 1708. The designer of this tile could borrow the image of a trefoil princely crown from the best known heraldry of the Ukrainian, Polish, or Lithuanian princes. 

      The eminent historian of the Cossack state Z. Kohut dignifies Mazepa as Prince or kniaz’ of Ukraine. He maintains that before and after concluding the political and military alliance between Ukraine and Sweden in 1708 in Western European, American, and most frequently in Austrian official documents and press, the hetman was referred to as a prince (princeps in Latin and fürst in German). The treaty between Hetman Mazepa and King Charles XII has declared Ukraine a sovereign principality under the protection of the Swedish Empire. The hetman became its prince (kniaz’) with the right to bequeath his title and the Principality of Ukraine to his heirs. Mazepa’s title, rights, and privileges as Prince of the Holy Roman Empire were widely recognised in contemporaneous Europe.   

      The earlier compositions of his coat of arms, which have survived to the present, include only crowns crested with three or five points, i. e., the standard heraldic symbol of nobility, sometimes topped with three ostrich feathers. Hence, the reconstructed design of the hetman armorial bearings with a trefoil princely crown on the stove plaque discovered at Orlyk’s residence in Baturyn and dated to 1707-08 is unique and chronologically one of the latest known to us.

V. Mezentsev asserts that the combination there of Mazepa’s arms together with weapons, munitions, and hetman’s insignias is also unique. Other ceramic heraldic stove tiles manufactured in the Hetmanate, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and Muscovy lack this military motif. It was likely an innovation of Orlyk to introduce this into Mazepa’s armorial bearings on some stove tiles at his home. Unfortunately, the existence of these stoves was too brief. It would appear that the razing of Baturyn as well as Orlyk’s residence in 1708 put an end to the continued use and spread of his innovation in the ceramic tile decoration of early modern Ukraine and its neighbours. Excavations of remnants of this dwelling will continue.

The rare stove plaques found at Orlyk’s home in Baturyn represent valuable pieces of Ukrainian baroque applied and heraldic arts. Their reconstructions and analysis provide an important insight into the heraldry and culture of the Cossack elite in the hetman capital, particularly into the hitherto little-known unique design and adornments of Mazepa’s princely arms and its Ukrainian prototypes.

The sheer destruction of Baturyn by Russian troops in 1708 disrupted its economic and cultural development for half a century. After this onslaught, the local manufacturing of stove tiles with heraldic and ornamental reliefs in the Ukrainian baroque style never recovered in the town. For a detailed Ukrainian language academic article by V. Mezentsev on the heraldic stove plaques unearthed at Orlyk’s residence in Baturyn, please visit the website “Ivan Mazepa Name” under the following link: http://www.mazepa.name/baturynski-kahli-z-herbamy-mazepy-y-orlyka-prodovzhennya-doslidzhen/

            In 2019-20, archaeologists also excavated further the sites of Mazepa’s ruined villa (before 1700) and an early 18th-century dwelling of a Cossack in the Baturyn environs as well as unearthed important artefacts. The recent detailed examination of the town’s history and antiquities is presented in the richly illustrated booklet by these authors Розкопки у Батурині 2019 року. Кахлі гетьманської столиці XVII – початку XVIII ст. (Excavations at Baturyn in 2019. Stove Tiles of the Hetman Capital, 17th and Early 18th Centuries), Toronto: “Homin Ukrainy”, 2020, 36 pp. in Ukrainian, 70 colour and B&W illustrations. This and earlier booklets of the Baturyn series are available for purchase for $10 from the office of the National Executive of the League of Ukrainian Canadians (LUC) in Toronto (tel.: 416-516-8223, email: luc@lucorg.com) and through the CIUS Press in Edmonton (tel.: 780-492-2973, email: cius@ualberta.ca, web:

https://www.ciuspress.com/product-category/archaeology/?v=3e8d115eb4b3). For the reports on annual excavations at Baturyn in 2001-20 in English, please see Canadio-Byzantina, nos. 13-32 (https://uottawa.scholarsportal.info/ojs/index.php/cb/index).


* * *

For two decades, CIUS, the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies at the University of Toronto, and the Ucrainica Research Institute in Toronto have sponsored the historical and archaeological research of Baturyn during the Cossack era. In 2020, CIUS supported this project with a grant from the Dr. Bohdan Stefan Zaputovich and Dr. Maria Hrycaiko Zaputovich Endowment Fund. The Ukrainian Studies Fund in New York supports the Baturyn project with annual subsidies. The Chernihiv Oblast State Administration during the 2005-20 and the Vasyl Tarnovsky Chernihiv Regional Historical Museum (Serhii Laievsky, director) in 2013-20 funded excavations in this town with their grants.

The most generous benefactors of the Baturyn study are the late poetess Volodymyra Wasylyszyn and her husband, artist Roman J. Wasylyszyn (Philadelphia), Dr. George J. Iwanchyshyn (Toronto), and Michael S. Humnicky (Murfreesboro, TN). In 2019-21, the historical and archaeological explorations of the hetman capital and the preparation of associated publications were supported with donations from the Ucrainica Research Institute (Orest Steciw, M.A., president, executive director of LUC), National Executive of LUC (Borys Mykhaylets, president), LUC – Toronto Branch (Mykola Lytvyn, president), the National Executive of the                                                                         League of Ukrainian Canadian Women (LUCW, Halyna Vynnyk, president), LUCW – Toronto Branch (H. Vynnyk, president), the Kniahynia Olha Branch of the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada (Vera Melnyk, president), the BCU Financial (Oksana Prociuk-Ciz, CEO, Chrystyna Bidiak, personnel manager), the BCU Foundation (Roman Medyk, chair, Lada Kozak, managing director), the Prometheus Foundation (Maria Szkambara, president), the Ukrainian Credit Union (Taras Pidzamecky, CEO) in Toronto, and the Zorya Inc. in Greenwich, Connecticut.

The researchers of Baturyn in Ukraine and Canada plan to resume excavations there this coming summer. However the Chernihiv Oblast State Administration may suspend its funding of the field research in this town during the pandemic quarantine. Thus, the continued benevolent support from the Ukrainian organizations, foundations, companies, and private benefactors in North America would be vital to sustain further archaeological investigations of Mazepa’s capital and the publication of its findings this year. Canadian citizens are kindly invited to send their cheques with donations to: Mr. Orest Steciw, President, Ucrainica Research Institute, 9 Plastics Ave., Toronto, ON, Canada M8Z 4B6. Please make your cheques payable to: Ucrainica Research Institute (memo: Baturyn Project).

American residents are advised to send their donations to: Ukrainian Studies Fund, P. O. Box 285, North Billerica, MA 01862, USA. Please make your cheques payable to: Ukrainian Studies Fund (memo: Baturyn Project). These Ukrainian institutions will issue official tax receipts to all donors in Canada and the United States. They will be gratefully acknowledged in related publications and public lectures. 

For more information about the Baturyn project, readers can contact Dr. Volodymyr Mezentsev in Toronto (tel.: 416-766-1408, email: v.mezentsev@utoronto.ca). The authors kindly thank the Ukrainian communities in North America for their generous ongoing support of the historical and archaeological study of the Cossack capital, especially during the challenges of the pandemic.





1. Students and teachers of the Hlukhiv Lyceum of enhanced military training, Sumy Oblast, participants of the Baturyn excavations in 2019-20.


2. 17th-century Baturyn citadel, reconstructed on the basis of archaeological data in 2008. Aerial photo from the archives of the Baturyn National Preserve. Photo of the wooden defences with the tower gate by Olha Serhiienko.


3. Baturyn fortress with the citadel and adjacent suburbs before its destruction in 1708. Reconstruction by Oleksander Bondar, 2019.


4. Richly illustrated booklet providing the update on excavations in Baturyn, published by “Homin Ukrainy” in 2020.


5. 2018 excavations of the remnants of Pylyp Orlyk’s residence and the brick foundations of its tiled heating stoves in Baturyn, 1707-08. These and next photos by Yu. Sytyi.


6. Fragment of the terracotta lime washed stove plaque unearthed at the site of Orlyk’s home in 2018 featuring Ivan Mazepa’s coat of arms with a helmet crested by a princely crown in relief. 


7. Hypothetical reconstructions of the broken and burnt ceramic stove tile with the unique relief princely armorial bearings of Mazepa surrounded by the stylized weapons and Cossack or hetman insignias glazed green and white, 1707-08. Computer photo collage and graphic by S. Dmytriienko, 2019. Excavations of Orlyk’s dwelling.


8. Mazepa’s heraldic emblem enveloped with armaments, munitions, and symbols of power in reliefs on the 1695 silver-gilt cover (shaty kiotu) of the Troitsko-Illinska Mother of God icon. Chernihiv Historical Museum. Photo by V. Mezentsev.


9. Mazepa’s family arms surrounded by the military attributes on the engraving glorifying the hetman by I. Myhura, 1706.


10. Armorial bearings of Mazepa as Prince of the Holy Roman Empire. (Johann Siebmacher, Grosses und allgemeines Wappenbuch, Bd. I. 3. III, Nürnberg, 1887, Taf. 186). 


11. Hetman Ivan Mazepa of Ukraine with his coat of arms as Prince of the Holy Roman Empire. Computer collage by S. Dmytriienko, 2017.   


12. Lubomirski princes’ heraldic emblem topped by a princely crown. This slab has preserved on the façade of their 18th-century palace in the Dubno Castle, Rivne Oblast. Photo from the Internet.