Ukrainian heraldry history
Coat of arms (an emblem) is a symbolic portrayal which is a symbol and a distinctive sign of a state, a land, a town, a family or a person.
The origin of emblems dates back to the time of remote past. Their prototypes were the portrayals of different totems which were the distinctive family (kin) symbols. On the territory of Ukraine such emblems were already used in the last centuries BC. Later on their bases the symbols of Kyiv Rus' were formed.
The most ancient prince's emblem of Russia is the portrayal of the letter "III" on the seal of Sviatoslav Igorevych. The majority of the researchers of Ukrainian symbolics consider that Russian historian Karamzin has introduced the name "Trident" in the XVIII century. Archeological discoveries testify that the portrayal of Trident of different kinds can be seen on many things of Kyiv Rus' times. In all the cases we see a sign of one and the same kind which was used on coins, building materials, arms, jewelry, metal goods, in miniatures of manuscripts. Trident is widespread on a large territory - from the walls of the Khersones (Sevastopol') in the south to Chernihiv in the north and it is a mute testimony and a safe-sign of Ukrainian territory.
Disintegration of Kyiv Rus' into separate principalities was legalized by Lubets'kyi congress of princes in 1097. It was the beginning of formation of historical Ukrainian lands. The largest state formation of the period of political disunity was Galyts'ko-Volyns'ky principality. It occupied the territory from the Carpathian Mountains in the south-west to the Sluch River in the north-east, from the Danub in the south to the Prypiat' in the north. Here the formation of Ukrainian lands has begun. And those lands were Galychyna, Volyn', Bukovyna and Podillia. The Left-bank territory was part of two principalities - th Pereyaslavs'ke and the Chernihovo-Sivers'ke. The middle of the by-Dnipro territory belonged to the Kyiv principality. There are no facts about any symbols of such towns of that period as Kyiv, Chernihiv, Lubech. That period in the history of our home heraldry is called pre-heraldic.
The next period in formation and developing of Ukrainian heraldic symbols is classified as so called early heraldic period, when Ukraine was part of the Great Lithuanian principality. For some time there were preserved not only the traditions but the territorial divisions as well: the Kyivs'ke, the Novhorod-Sivers'ke, the Chernihivs'ke, the Starodubs'ke, the Volyns'ke and the Podils'ke principalities. The only difference was that the princes' thrones were occupied by Lithuanians. They adopted the faith and knew the customs and the language of the local inhabitants. At that period different parts of the Ukrainian territory were influenced by foreign traditions. From the stand point of heraldry that fact decisively influenced on the formation of symbolics of any region.
German colonies of craftsmen and tradesmen on the territory of Ukrainian lands were part of the Polish Kingdom. Those colonies extended to the east and thanks to that fact there was used the Magdeburg Right. That juridical deed took its name from the German town of Magdeburg where it was used for the first time. And that juridical deed was of great importance for any settlement which got after that the status of a town, the right for self-government, its own court of justice, the right to organize fairs and the right to reduce or even wipe out taxes, the right to build fortifications and many other privileges. Among them there was a right to have an emblem and a seal. An emblem of a town was represented in color on special grease-proof paper . An emblem was also placed on town gates and on town halls. The first Ukrainian towns to get the Magdeburg Right were Sanok (1339), L'viv (1356), Kamianets'-Podil's'kyi (1374), Luts'k (1432), Smotrych (1448), Kyiv (1497).
After Krevs'ka Union (1385) the Great Lithuanian principality and the Polish Kingdom united and formed a unified state - Rech Pospolyta. After that Lithuanian and Ukrainian feudal lords got Polish emblems. So called "granted" emblems had been giving by a king. That's why heraldic symbols were not connected with the local history. Those were stars, arms, different crosses. Sometimes there were passed emblems from the ancient times. Those symbols were more specific. A picture of a crescent and a cross could symbolize the struggle of the Christians with the Moslems, a picture of a fortress meant self-government in a town, figures of saints symbolized patrons of a town. An emblem of a family often became an emblem of a town for in those days the majority of towns belonged to feudal lords.
It should be noted that Polish heraldic traditions had their influence not on all the territory of Ukraine. Some ethnic Ukrainian lands were out of the bounds of Rech Pospolyta. The Trans-Carpathian lands belonged to Hungarian kings, the south belonged to the Tartars. The modern east Ukraine was simply a Wild Field, practically a non-settled territory because of the Tartar raids. As the result of wars with Moscow at the beginning of the XVI century Lithuania lost the territories of the Chernihivs'ke and the Sivers'ke principalities. The Magdeburg Right began spreading on those territories only in 1618 when according to Deulins'k armistice the territories became part of Rech Pospolyta. In the first quarter of the XVII century the Magdeburg Right was given to Starodub, Novgorod-Sievers'kyi, Chernihiv and Nizhyn. Later it was given to Pochep, Pohar, Mhlyn, Poltava, Lubny, Myrhorod, Borzna, Korop, Hadiach, Hlukhiv, Pyriatyn, Krolevets', Oster, Kozelts'.
During the National Revolution in the middle of the XVII century a new administrative division (regimental) was adopted in Ukraine. A number of towns got status of regimental and hundreds. But such status was not a reason for creation of an emblem. In 1667 essential territorial changes took place. According to Andrussivs'k armistice Ukraine was divided between Poland and Russia. Those states bordered on the Dnipro. While the Polish heraldic traditions were kept on the Right bank of the river, the Left bank was influenced by the traditions of Russia.
Since 1722 specially formed Heralds' College was engaged in studing the problems of heraldry. That was the time of late heraldic period of getting new or confirmation (with some changes) of the old emblems of Ukrainian towns on a Russian-wide scale. Confirmation of Ukrainian emblems of a late heraldic period began in the second half of the XVII century. In spite of the attempts of unification of heraldic symbols and bringing them to unified system excessive centralization often made just the contrary. That was when a chance symbol or an association with a name could became an emblem of a town. But most towns of the Left bank avoided that because the answered the forms which were specially sent by Heralds' College. In those forms they asked questions about the history of a town, about the origin of a name and the existence of an emblem, about any outstanding events in a town, about developing of trade. So, Starodub, Pryluky, Khorol, Lokhvytsia, Zin'kiv, Borzna, Myrhorod, Pohar and a number of other towns saved the symbols given to them by Polish kings.
In the XVIII century new changes took place in territorial division of Ukraine. Zakarpats'ka (Trans-Carpathian) land was part of Hungary and since 1711 it was brought under the power of Austria. At the end of the century after three divisions of Poland Kyivshchyna, Podillia and Volyn' became members of Russian Empire. Galychyna was a member of Austrian Empire. As a result of Russian-Turkish wars the south of Ukraine joined Russia and Bukovyna passed into the hands of Austrian jurisdiction. According to territorial belonging the approaches in solving the problems of heraldry also changed. Thus confirmation of emblems of the towns which joined Russia very often was of a superficial character and had many mistakes from the stand-point of the rules of heraldry. The principle of impossibility of being the emblem of a state in the emblem of a town was violated. So, very often they took an emblem of a Polish period as the basis and put it in the lower part of a per fess shield. In the upper part there was an eagle as a symbol of joining the Empire. The first half of the XIX century is characterized in Russia by a comparative decay in heraldry. The repeal of the Magdeburg Right in 1831 influenced on reduction of the importance of an emblem as a symbol of comparative freedom of a town. It lasted till 1856 when the Heralds' College was headed by B.Kene. In a short period of time he worked out the principles of creation of emblems. He looked through all the existing emblems including the emblems of the towns of Ukraine. There was worked out a corresponding system of ornaments which helped to define the status of a town and its administrative subordination. The Empire emblem was replaced by a canton in which there was the emblem of a province in which a town was situated. The existence of a mural crown symbolized the significance of a town. An or crown with five embattlements was used for the emblems of towns of provinces and for the towns with the population of more than 50 thousand inhabitants (Berdychiv, Elyssavetgrad, Zhytomyr, Katerynoslav, Kremenchuk, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Poltava, Rivne, Taganrog, Kharkiv, Kherson ). An or crown with five embattlements crowned with an emperial eagle was used for the towns with the population of more than 50 thousand and which were also fortresses (Sevastopol'). An or crown with three embattlements was used for the towns of provinces with population of less than 50 thousand and which were also fortresses (Kamianets'-Podil's'kyi). An argent crown with three embattlements was used for district towns, a gules crown with three embattlements was used for supernumerary and a gules crown with two embattlements was for famous small settlements. The ribbon of the Order of St.Alexander with two or spikes decorated the emblems of towns famous for agriculture and corn trade. The same ribbon with two or anchors decorated the emblems of seaside towns and such ribbons with two vines were on the emblems of towns famous for viticulture. The ribbons with two argent pick-axes were on the emblems of towns the inhabitants of which were occupied with mine trade. There was also the ribbon of the Order of St.George with two banners in pale. The banners were decorated with a monogram of that emperor who lived in a period of any siege and such a ribbon was intended for fortresses which withstood a siege. All the emblems were subject to thorough divisions but not all of them were changed. Excessive centralization of the Empire led to a complete liquidation of the rest of self-government. In 1892 in town regulation there were not a mention about emblems.
The principles of Austrian government about heraldry were somewhat different. They considered an emblem to be a historical legacy which everyone should respect. On a state level a number of ancient emblems were confirmed by emperial privileges. The example is the emblem of Chernivtsi (1908). There were also formed land emblems of Austrian-Hungary, among which there were emblems of Galychyna and Bukovyna.
After the disintegration of the Austrian-Hungary Empire and the Russian Empire some new independent states appeared on their places. The Ukrainian People's Republic (UPR) was among them. Under the control of the UPR were nearly all the Ukrainian lands - Podillia, Kyivshchina, Katerynosslavshchyna, Khersonshchyna, Chernihivshchyna and Slobozhanshyna and after the consolidation with the West-Ukrainian People's Republic - Galychyna, Volyn' and partly Bukovyna. The Crimea was a member of Ukraine on the federal basis. At the 22nd of March 1918 the old prince's symbol "Trident" was confirmed as a small emblem of the UPR. But the short period of existence of the UPR gave no opportunities to solve the problems of heraldry. There was a design of Kyiv emblem suggested by G.Narbut. It was a consolidation of two Kyiv emblems - Archangel Michael and a picture of a crossbow.
The period of 1920-1940 from the stand point of heraldry deserves attention only on two regions of Ukraine - Zakarpattia and Bukovyna. Zakarpattia as an administrative formation caused on the territory of former four districts of Austrian-Hungary under the name of Pidkarpats'ka Rus' became part of Czechoslovakia and got a new land emblem. Bukovyna and Besarabia being under the Romanian jurisdiction were divided into 11 districts. For all of them and for populated areas which had the status of town communes there were worked out emblems confirmed by a royal decree.
The soviet period in Ukrainian heraldry is considered to be not only unsuccessful but even unscientific. A traditional triteness (a gear-wheel and a spike, gules-and-azure colors) as well as ideological, incompetent interference in the process of creating emblems has made most of soviet emblems only propaganda symbols.
In 1991 after the reconstruction of the independence of Ukraine our heraldry came out on an absolutely new level. The small national emblem has been confirmed. Our heraldry is characterized by two tendencies. The first tendency is reconfirming of historical emblems which were used by towns many centuries ago. The second tendency is the creation of new emblems according to the rules of heraldry. On the 28th of June 1996 Article 20 of the Constitution of Ukraine has confirmed a small national emblem - Trident.
It is very difficult to take into consideration and to describe all the circumstances which have influenced the development of Ukrainian heraldry. It is not always possible to establish the date of confirming of an emblem and its picture exactly. Rapid territorial divisions sometimes complicate and sometimes make it impossible to classify belonging of this or that town to a certain region. That is why the emblems of towns are placed according to modern administrative divisions fixed up in the Constitution. Some populated areas have earlier belonged to Ukraine (Chernihivs'ka, Khersons'ka and Katerynoslavs'ka province) but now they are on the territories of other states - Mhlyn, Nove Misto, Novozybkiv, Pohar, Starodub, Surazh, Khotmyzhs'k in 1923 and Taganrog in 1924 have been taken away from Ukraine and given to Russia according to the resolution of RCP(b) Central Committee. Grygoryopol' and Tyraspol' are in Moldova. The description of these towns is given in a separate chapter.