The Hutsuls of Hutsulschyna

The Hutsul (or Hutsulschyna) region in the southeast Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains is home to an ethno-cultural group known as the Hutsuls (also Hutzul or Huzul). It is believed that this group moved into the Carpathian highlands between the 14th and 18th centuries. Despite the many changes in government over the years, the Hutsuls have preserved their unique identity and traditional way of life. With their strong community ties and a measure of self-sufficiency, the Hutsuls have achieved and maintained a good standard of living.

The Hutsuls are well-known for their crafts, which many families continue to produce in workshops at their homes and sell through the popular craft markets in the towns of Yaremcha and Kosiv. These crafts include woodcarvings, sculpture, metalworking, leatherwork, embroidery, pottery, egg decorating and rug weaving. These crafts have been used by the Hutsuls in their everyday lives, but they are generally sold for decorative purposes.

The city of Kolomyia serves as a center of Hutsul culture and has a museum featuring the crafts and folk art of these interesting people. The museum was opened in December 1934, but due to pressure from the Polish government, who were the governing power at the time, the museum was closed for a while. It reopened in 1937, but many valuable exhibits were destroyed during World War II by the occupying German forces. Despite all these obstacles, the Museum of Hutsul and Pokutia Folk Art continues to this day, with many new exquisitely crafted items on display.

One of the displays in the museum, which features the interior of a village house from the 19th century, is an excellent example of how self-sufficient the Hutsuls are. The house itself was built from wood, with the stove made from hand crafted ceramic tiles. There is an intricately carved wooden bed and baby’s crib, covered with hand-woven and embroidered fabric and many household items including ceramic dishes, sticks, a hat and leather bags. Virtually every item in the house has been made by the Hutsuls.The Hutsuls are also known for their pysanka skills. This is the decorating of eggs using a wax resist or batik method where the designs are written on with beeswax in a technique which has been passed down through generations. The eggs are mainly used in Easter celebrations and it is believed that once the egg has received the Easter blessing, it holds powers to ward off evil.

Among Hutsuls there are skilled musicians who are determined to preserve their distinct folk music traditions. In 2004 the Eurovision Song Contest was won by Ukrainian pop singer Ruslana with her song “Wild Dances” which incorporated elements of Hutsul folk music.

In addition to getting to know the Hutsuls and their artistic skills, visitors to the Hutsulschyna region of Ukraine can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, river rafting, fishing and snow skiing, with the emphasis on eco-tourism. So, when touring in the fascinating country of Ukraine, be sure to include a trip to meet the Hutsuls.