Exhibition on French investment in Ukraine at the turn of the XX century opens in Kyiv

Exposition offering an insight into the French investment in Ukraine’s industrial facilities in eastern and southern regions at the turn of the XX century opens in Kyiv and will later travel to the east of the country.

Exhibition “International investment in Ukraine. Part two: France 1870-1918” opened in Kyiv, in the media lounge of Ukraine Crisis Media Center. It comes as a second chapter of the research that looks into Ukraine’s ties with the European countries and with the rest of the world between the end of the XIX and the beginning of the XX centuries and ruins the myth on Soviet industrialization of Ukraine. The project suggests exploring Ukraine-France relations between 1870 and 1918 through a series of 20 posters – a collage of 230 historic documents, originals of which are stored at the Dmytro Yavornytskyi Dnipropetrovsk national history museum.

On the posters there are portraits and photographs of the French and Ukrainian entrepreneurs, founders and directors of the factories and mines established with the participation of the French capital. Among the unique documents featured in the exhibition are the shares issued in Paris, photos of mines and of the Hdantsivka plant, signatures of French entrepreneurs on securities from the museum collection. Among other unique items there are photos of the orthodox church built by the French and photos of the old French church in Druzhkivka, Donetsk region.

Pre-Soviet industrialization of Donbas used to be a forgotten topic for a century even for professional historians, said Valentyna Lazebnyk, author of the exhibition, head of scientific, research and exposition department of Ukraine’s history in XIV – beginning of XX centuries at the Dmytro Yavornytskyi Dnipropetrovsk national historic museum. The research shed light on the reasons behind the rapid economic growth of the region in the period in question, increase in number of foreign nationals in the Katerynoslavska region (huberniya) and emergence of a series of foreign representations. “This piece of history is of particular importance for the residents of Donbas. Neither Kharkiv, nor Poltava, Kyiv, nor even Odesa had such close historic ties with Europe as the Katerynoslav region did,” noted Valentyna Lazebnyk.

“I am happy that today the exhibition is bringing back to us part of our history that used to be unknown for a long time – the history of cooperation with France. […] It’s not only us who were brought up in the society that was imposing on us complete mental and financial dependency on the Russian or Soviet Empire, who are discovering our authentic history but also our friends from abroad are discovering this piece of history for themselves. It is a return back home for us. I am grateful to the scientists and to the designers who have collected the unique documents on the history of cooperation between Ukraine and France in 1870-1918. They may help us realize the scale of our interaction as well as make us confident that as the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement enters into force our cooperation will not only be completely restored but will also get a new powerful spin,” said Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration at the opening of exhibition.

“Ukraine is not known so well as France is, it is seen as a young, new state. However these posters show us, to both Ukrainians and French, that our common history is very deep. It is important for us to understand that our countries have long-standing ties from the political, economic, historic and psychological standpoints,” said Isabelle Dumont, Ambassador of France to Ukraine. She added that the new French President Emmanuel Macron will keep pursuing the course to support Ukraine, while respect to the values of liberty, equality and fraternity will become basis for further successful cooperation including business cooperation.

“These facts are more than just history in itself. It is important especially when the history has been being completely wiped out of the consciousness of people for too long. And it is important for all of us to discover, to join pages of history that were written together. […] It is an eye-opener, it is a door opener. In the Embassy [of Belgium] we still benefit from the fruit of that contact with the civil society, with the local communities and the local authorities in the east and in the south of Ukraine [made thanks to the first stage of project that focused on Belgian investment – UCMC],” said Luc Jacobs, Ambassador of Belgium to Ukraine. He emphasized the need to preserve and hold the works for renewal of the houses that were constructed by foreigners who came to start industrial production in the east and south of Ukraine.

The exhibition will be then showcased in the museums in eastern Ukraine in the framework of the program “Cultural diplomacy between the regions of Ukraine” of Ukraine Crisis Media Center under the auspices of Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, said Olha Honchar, communications coordinator at the Arts Department of Ukraine Crisis Media Center. The exhibition will then move from Kyiv to the Donetsk local history museum. Next editions of the exhibition will focus on foreign investment in Kharkiv, Odesa, Berdiansk and later on the cities of Halychyna, said Dmytro Pirkl, philanthropist, whose collection laid the basis for the exhibition.

The exhibition is open in the media lounge of Ukraine Crisis Media Center until July 9, working hours are from 10am till 6pm Monday through Friday.

The exhibition on the French investment into the industrial facilities of the south and east of Ukraine is the second part of the research. The basis of the project became the collection of the Dnipro patron of arts Dmytro Pirkl who was buying historic documents in Europe. He later passed the materials to the Dmytro Yavornytskyi Dnipropetrovsk national historic museum. The museum’s director Nadiia Kapustina started researching and analyzing the materials. Valentyna Lazebnyk continued the research. The exposition was formed by Valentyna Lazebnyk and designer Yurii Maliienko.

First part of the project was dedicated to the Belgian investment in Ukraine in the end of the XIX – beginning of the XX century and was publicly presented in Donetsk and Luhansk regions in summer 2016. The third part will focus on Ukraine’s relations with other countries of Europe and of the America.