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Hutsul Art or “Hutsul Art”?

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Ukrainians, Poles, and the “Discovery” of the Hutsul Kilim in the Interwar Period

image of Canadian-American Slavic Studies

This article is concerned with the fate of the Hutsul kilim and, by extension, Polish-Ukrainian relations in the interwar period. This was a period when the Hutsul highlanders of the Eastern Carpathians (today citizens of modern Ukraine), the traditional weavers of these geometrically-patterned woolen rugs, found themselves within the newly established Second Polish Republic. Most commercial weaving was in Jewish hands at this time, and this production was far inferior to that done by Hutsuls themselves, primarily for their own domestic use. The decline of the Hutsul kilim was arrested by a Ukrainian émigré from Soviet Russia, whose “Hutsul Art” collective reinvigorated the form. This development brought the Hutsul kilim to the attention of those who would wish to appropriate it, or at a minimum consider it part and parcel of interwar Poland’s artistic production. The article demonstrates that, while Ukrainians were keen on integrating the Hutsul kilim into the Ukrainian kilim tradition, Poles preferred to keep the Hutsul kilim distinct, thus allowing it to be seen as part of the heritage of the multiethnic interwar Polish state.

Affiliations: 1: University of Vienna


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