Geographic distribution and formation of ethnos

The ancient Slavic Land of Ukraine is situated in the southwest of the Eastern Europe, “against the Sun, head to the Ursa Mayor and legs to the blue sea” as people used to sing. The origin of name in its sense “edge” or “edging” dates back to the period of the Ancient Russian State  - The Kievan Rus’. In XII-XIII cc. it was the name for its southern and south-western lands: the right bank of the Dnieper Region, the Kiev Area, the Principality of Pereyaslavl, the Principality of Chernihiv and the Severia which became the center of formation of the Ukrainian ethnicity. Later the name Ukraine was spread to the entire ethnic territory.

Main occupations

The main occupation of Ukrainians − agriculture determined the lifestyle of peasant family and community in a whole.  Grains and grain products: porridge, kutya, karavay were essential attributes of almost every calendar festival and every ritual related to the man’s life circle. As among other peoples bread was the symbol of hospitality.  In home bread and salt were always on the table. The eye-witnesses observed that Ukrainians received their guests wholeheartedly and warmly sparing nothing for a dear visitor. Livestock breeding prevailed in the mountain areas of the Carpathians.

Settlements and house

Ukrainian villages were located near rivers occupying the lands unfit for ploughing. In steppe areas farms were constructed.  The main dwelling of Ukrainians was mud-brick whitened house with high four-pitched roof covered with straw or cat-tail grass, which edged significantly protruded over the walls protecting house inhabitants against   cold in winter and hot in summer.  In winter house walls were covered with straw for additional warming. Clean, whitened houses were almost everywhere surrounded with orchards. Light fences and non-blind gates made of poles allowed to see the backyard and its inhabitants.  House mistress and her daughter re-whitened their home after every strong raining and also thrice in a year by the Easter, the Pentecost and the Protection of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos  

Interior space of house

The oven occupied almost one-fourth of a house and was situated in the left corner from the entrance.  This corner was called napechny and the empty place under the oven pidpichcha was used to store fuel or to place a cage for poultry kucha
The Red Corner pokuttya was situated opposite to the oven one. There on the special shelves bozhnitsi stood the icons called “the blessed ones”, because the master and the  mistress of the house  and their sons were blessed with them before the wedding ceremony in church.   The icons were covered with patterned towels — bozhniks. The corner to the right of entrance called “the deaf one” had exclusively practical importance. The space over a door or upper part of “the deaf corner” was occupied with a shelf polytsya where a supply of pots put upside down was kept.  Numerous woman adornments were stored in ceramic vessels closer to the corner.  The shelves with best house utensils painted glazed ceramics and wooden bowls, spoons, plates and flasks were located lower.

The Hutsul ceramics

Natural and geographical conditions of the Carpathian Region determined the cultural specifics of its population known as Rusyns or Hutsuls. Although due to their territorial and political isolation these groups of Ukrainian people lived separately, it conserved its cultural and historical unity with their ethnos.  The Hutsulshchyna was famous by its ceramics.  Every visitor of a Hutsul house was particularly impressed by an oven the inner side of which chimney the kamin was covered with tiles kakhli. Kamin was made of two or three levels of tiles framed in upper and lower parts by rows of narrow cornices.  The upper edge of the kamin was ended by two front pieces skrizhali and shishki put under a corner.  Tiles depicted scenes from Hutsul life, churches, and crosses, faces of saints, the Austrian coat of arms and flowers.

The decorum of oven chimney was corresponded by a  small cupboard of three or four shelves mysnik put in the space between house door and side wall, and namysnik —  a shelf over the door where earthenware gleki or dzbanki, chersaki (pots), ban’ki,  and kalachi- the vessels for beverages, pleskanki, bowls and etc, stood. The most decorative bowls used only for embellishing of interior  were placed on the namysnik which  for this reason was decorated with carving and burnt patterns.

Ceramics attracted attention by perfectness of their form, diversity of ornamentation and combinations of colors brown, yellow and green. All the products were glazed which glittered creating festive and decorative atmosphere in house even in cloudy days. 

The Hutsuls potters from Kosovo and Pistyn made ceramics. The most famous among them were I. Baranbk, O. Bakhmatyuk, P. Tzvilyk and P. Koshak.  As a rule all of them were hereditary ceramists who  not only incarnated in their works the best achievements of their predecessors, but definitely expressed their individuality.

Although main occupations of Hutsuls were livestock breeding, predominantly sheepherding and timber cut and floating, many of them practiced crafts, in particular those who lived in towns and had neither land nor livestock. There wasn’t anything more honorable for a Hutsul girl than to marry craftsman.

The Ukrainian fair

In the most of Ukrainian villages fairs took place in great church feasts. The most active of them were carried out in autumn after harvesting. Fair was placed on a church square or a pasture behind a village.

For peasants fair was a sort of “club” to maintain public relations and acquaintances. Fair rows were put in strict order: in one row pottery, plant-made utensils and icons were sold; grocery and tea shops were placed in another; in other place manufactured goods, haberdashery, male caps, woman kerchiefs, and footwear were traded; in another   wood products: wheels, bows, chests, etc. and in the last one  tar and fish were offered.

Places for sale of cattle and horses stood separately. There the Romani were dealers.  Consuming of alcoholic beverages was usual act after successful deal. После удачной купли-продажи обычным делом было распитие магарыча: Beggars exchanged their crutches but took alcohol for three days — people used to say.

Wandering gymnasts and actors, but more frequently performers of popular songs with accompaniment of lyre or blind musicians playing harmonium entertained people at fairs.  Trade lasted three-four hours,  then everything was removed and by night nothing remained of gaudy noisy crowd and jumble except fair thrash. Big fair lasted two or three days.  

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