Crimean Tatar ornament now part of UNESCO World Intangible Heritage list

Headwear Fez and fabric embroidered with the Ornek ornament. Source: Authentic Ukraine 

Culture of Ukraine

Editor’s Note

The Ornek Crimean Tatar ornament and knowledge about it have been officially added to the UNESCO World Intangible Heritage list at the 16th session of the Intergovernmental Commission in Paris, becoming Ukraine’s fourth element in the list. Overall, 46 items worldwide were inscribed in this list this year.

This is a clear victory for Ukraine. For it clearly shows that the culture of Crimea is wonderful and it must be protected. On the international level. I am grateful to [former minister of culture] Yevhen Nyshchuk for starting this initiative, and to the teams of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for completing this important task,” Oleksandr Tkachenko commented.

He served as the Minister of Culture until November 2021.
Ornek is a traditional Crimean Tatar ornament, used in closing, furniture and dishes, one of the cultural symbols of the Crimean Tatar people who have been living in Crimea since the 13th century. They survived massive repressions and were deported from Crimea in 1944 but then returned in the 1990s. The ornament tradition was revived.

The Ornek ornament embellished various items of everyday life and worship: clothes, fabrics, jewelry, furniture, architectural objects and tombstones. Ornek is one of the oldest cultural achievements of the Crimean Tatar people. This unique phenomenon of world culture is connected by its theme and symbolism with the ancient history of Crimea, ethnologist Olena Sobolieva writes about Ornek for portal Authentic Ukraine.

She explains further that the Crimean Tatar ornament is an important element of self-identification, an integral part of the life of every Crimean Tatar family. For a long time, Crimean Tatars used to decorate the house with ornamented decorative and utility items.
Such goods have always been the pride of the family, they were carefully stored and inherited. Items, decorated with traditional ornamentation, were important attributes in many rites. During the circumcision and wedding, the winners of the traditional wrestling or horse racing received embroidered vests, scarves and livestock.

The ornament also transmits knowledge from generation to generation. The traditional ornament, in addition to its artistic and aesthetic value, had an important magic and symbolic function. The information encoded in it, which, with the help of special signs symbolizing magical content, was believed to protect against evil forces.

Towel embroidered with two-sided stitch “tatar ishleme” symmetrical type of Ornek. Private collection. Photo by O. Soboleva ~

Towel embroidered with two-sided stitch “tatar ishleme” symmetrical type of Ornek. Private collection. Photo by O. Soboleva

The deportation of 1944 caused irreparable losses to the ornamental art of the Crimean Tatars as the people were put in the conditions of survival. The revival of various folk crafts (jewelry, pottery, weaving and embroidery) began in the early 1990s.
The ornament was included in the list of Intangible Heritage of Ukraine in 2018 and to the UNESCO list in 2021. Besides the Ornek ornament, there are three other Ukrainian items of UNESCO Intangible Heritage list included earlier, namely Cossack songs, Petrykivka decorative painting, and the tradition of Kosiv painted ceramics. Also, UNESCO protects eight World Heritage Sites in Ukraine.

Some examples of the use of the Ornek:

To discover more, you can visit the Authentic Ukraine portal, dedicated to the cultural heritage of Ukraine.

Explore Ukrainian traditional culture with interactive site “Authentic Ukraine”

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